A leading Republican Senator told reporters on Thursday that President Trump “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was at the Rotary Club of Chattanooga and spoke to local reporters there. In video posted by Chloe Morrison of Nooga.com, Corker added, “And we need for him to be successful. Our nation needs for him to be successful.”
Referring to the president’s response to the violence that came with white supremacist demonstrations in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, Corker said, “He also recently has not demonstrated that he understands the character of this nation. He has not demonstrated that he understands what has made this nation great and what it is today.”
Corker also warned that without that, “our nation is going to go through great peril,” and called for “radical change” at the White House.
Trump said at an impromptu news conference on Tuesday at Trump Tower in New York City that there was blame on “both sides” for the violence in Charlottesville between white supremacists and counter-protesters, and that there were “very fine people” on both sides, including some who the president said were just there to peacefully object to the removal of a Confederate statue.
Those statements came after Trump’s initial response in the hours after clashes resulted in the death of Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old woman killed when a car slammed into a group of demonstrators on Saturday. In those first comments, Trump said, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence,” but then added “on many sides.”
He was roundly criticized for not focusing his condemnation on the white supremacists, nor calling out such hate groups by name. He changed course in remarks at the White House on Monday, where he said, “Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
Trump reverted to his tone from Saturday in his remarks at Trump Tower, inviting a new and more intense backlash. He was also praised by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.
Corker, a Tennessee Republican, is a respected GOP voice on Capitol Hill, serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Corker was said to be on the short-list of possible running-mates for Trump in 2016 before he chose Mike Pence, who was then the governor of Indiana.
Corker appeared to be selecting his words carefully as he spoke to local press at the event in Chattanooga on Thursday. Corker joins a handful of GOP senators — including Marco Rubio of Florida, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina — who have called Trump out by name.
Republican leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have put out statements criticizing the conduct the president has exhibited without mentioning his name.
In a statement on Wednesday, McConnell said in part, “There are no good neo-nazis, and those who espouse their views are not supporters of American ideals and freedoms. We all have a responsibility to stand against hate and violence, wherever it raises its evil head.”