Posts Tagged ‘John Kelly’

Trump Finds Loopholes in Chief of Staff’s New Regime — Trump is Impulsive, Undisciplined, and Not Very Obedient

December 3, 2017

Kelly establishes control, but the president’s ‘workarounds’ show its limits

WASHINGTON—Chief of Staff John Kelly over the past five months has imposed discipline and rigorous protocols on a freewheeling White House. But President Donald Trump has found the loopholes.

The president on occasion has called White House aides to the private residence in the evening, where he makes assignments and asks them not tell Mr. Kelly about the plans, according to several people familiar with the matter. At least once, aides have declined to carry out the requested task so as not to run afoul of Mr. Kelly, one of these people said.

The president, who values counsel from an informal group of confidants outside the White House, also sometimes bypasses the normal scheduling for phone calls that give other White House staff, including Mr. Kelly, some control and influence over who the president talks to and when.

Instead, some of his friends have taken to calling Melania Trump and asking her to pass messages to her husband, according to two people familiar with the matter. They say that since she arrived in the White House from New York in the summer, the first lady has taken on a more central role as a political adviser to the president.

“If I don’t want to wait 24 hours for a call from the president, getting to Melania is much easier,” one person said.

A spokeswoman for Mrs. Trump said: “This is more fake news and these are more anonymous sources peddling things that just aren’t true. The First Lady is focused on her own work in the East Wing.” The White House declined to provide comment.

Mr. Kelly has frequently said that it is his job to control the White House below the president, rather than the president himself. The president’s penchant for what one confidant dubbed “workarounds” to the new White House protocols shows the limits of Mr. Kelly’s approach.

“John has been successful at putting in place a stronger chain of command in the White House, requiring people to go through him to get to the Oval Office,” said Leon Panetta, a White House chief of staff under President Bill Clinton who worked with Mr. Kelly, a four-star Marine general, in the Department of Defense. “The problem has always been whether or not the president is going to accept better discipline in the way he operates. He’s been less successful at that.”

Still, White House staffers say that Mr. Trump’s working relationship with Mr. Kelly remains strong and that the two men appear to have found an equilibrium that suggests Mr. Kelly could be in place for a long time, with the chief of staff focusing on running White House operations while the president takes a freer hand with his own agenda and communications, even if that at times leaves the chief of staff out of the loop.

“This is all just inevitable,” said one person close to Mr. Trump. “It’s not that Mr. Kelly is wrong—we all know he’s terribly competent.”

Presidents have long made a point of staying in contact with friends and outside advisers; former President Barack Obama successfully argued with handlers to keep his BlackBerry to remain in touch with the world beyond the White House. What’s striking about Mr. Trump’s actions is that he is circumventing protocols that advisers say are intended to help him.

Since arriving in July, Mr. Kelly has clamped down on a number of practices that aides say made the White House’s internal operations chaotic in the first several months of the Trump presidency. He has told staff there will be no more patching through calls from Trump friends outside the White House who wanted to weigh in on the news; instead they would need appointments. And he stopped aides from wandering into the Oval Office to try to get time with the president.

Mr. Kelly has never aspired to control the president’s Twitter feed, however, which continues to create news, promote the president’s agenda and draw criticism. Just last week, Mr. Trump’s tweets prompted top congressional Democrats to cancel a meeting to discuss the looming deadline for a deal to avoid a government shutdown. He also​ drew a rebuke from British Prime Minister Theresa May for retweeting videos posted by a far-right British nationalist group that purported to show violence committed by Muslims.

On Nov. 12, with many of Mr. Trump’s senior military and diplomatic advisers arguing for diplomacy with North Korea, the president tweeted that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was “short and fat.” Asked about the tweet, posted during the president’s trip to Asia, Mr. Kelly shrugged.

“Believe it or not—I don’t follow the tweets,” he said, adding that he urges White House policy staff not to be influenced by the missives and does not himself use Twitter. “We develop policy in the normal traditional staff way.”

Those who have watched the two men interact said their personalities are too different to ever be very close. “Kelly is too much of a general, and Trump is too much Trump,” one White House official said. But Mr. Trump continues to hold Mr. Kelly in high regard, these people say. He frequently calls out Mr. Kelly during his public appearances.

At a briefing on Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rico earlier in the fall, Mr. Trump noted Mr. Kelly’s presence in the back of the room.

“He likes to keep a low profile; Look at him sitting in the back,” Mr. Trump continued. “But, boy, is he watching—you have no idea.”

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-finds-loopholes-in-chief-of-staffs-new-regime-1512302400

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Does Donald Trump Have a Middle East Strategy?

December 1, 2017

By JOTAM CONFINO

Can Trump’s advisers persuade the president to think about long-term US policy goals in the Middle East instead of succumbing to impulsive decisions?

The increase of US military personnel in the Middle East over recent months reflects President Donald Trump’s promises, as well as the fact that he has surrounded himself with military men such as John Kelly, James Mattis and H.R McMaster. It is no coincidence that Trump chose to appoint these generals to high positions in his government. All of them are experienced and highly respected veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they all seem to agree that leaving the Middle East to Russia is a mistake. Although he has been widely criticized for a lack of clear policies, it seems as if the administration finally knows what it wants in the Middle East.

A Pentagon report has revealed that US military presence in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates has increased by more than 50% in the past four months, which is significantly higher than in any other country in the region. The most plausible reason is that Washington has been mediating in the diplomatic crisis between the Gulf countries and Qatar, which is part of a broader strategy of building a strong coalition to contain Iran.

The US co-signed the recent ceasefire agreement in Syria, and the latest public statements from President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin that “there is no military solution” to the civil war also included a comment about foreign troops having to leave Syria, though without specifying a time frame. In addition, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s demand that the US must stop funding Kurdish fighters in Syria was accepted by the Trump administration, which only confirmed the widespread belief that the US is handing Syria’s future over to Russia, Iran and Turkey.

NEW APPROACH

The days of vast US deployments to the Middle East are over, but the Trump administration seems to be devising a new plan. The latest developments in the region have been more dramatic than usual, most notably the actions taken by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS). MBS has taken it upon himself to push back Iranian influence in a number of ways. The seemingly forced resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, announced during a visit to Riyadh, was probably the most significant decision by the crown prince, but it is premature to assess whether this plan will work. The decision was an attempt to expose the true intentions of Hezbollah and Iran to the Lebanese people by letting the Iranian regime cement its power in Lebanon further. At the same time, MBS is trying to break the Iranian Shia axis by reaching out to Iraq, punishing Qatar for its ties to Iran, and continuing to support the Syrian opposition at the negotiating table with Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Behind this Saudi-led effort stands the Trump administration. Saudi-US relations are as good as ever, with President Trump supporting King Salman and Prince Mohammed in every possible way. Washington is also providing military assistance to the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has developed a close relationship with MBS. In an unprecedented interview with a Saudi newspaper based in London, Israeli military chief Gadi Eisenkot revealed that, “We are ready to exchange experiences with Saudi Arabia and other moderate Arab countries and exchange intelligence information to confront Iran,” contributing to the Trump administration’s and Saudi Arabia’s broader strategic goal of containing Iran.

 

Interestingly, both Saudi Arabia and the US have more or less handed Syria over to Russia and Iran, which could mean two things: Either it is part of a long-term strategy where Syria is not the key to confronting Iran, or it is a simple coming to terms with the facts on the ground. Given Trump’s rather chaotic first year in office, with scandals, the resignation of key staff and an overall confusing foreign policy, it is more likely that the generals have advised the president to leave Syria alone for now.

When Trump took office, Russia and Iran were already deeply involved in Syria, which meant that he would have to confront President Putin right away in what could have escalated into a war between the US and Russia. When King Salman chose his son, Prince Mohammed, to be the new Saudi defense minister, he made a strategic choice of going to war in Yemen instead, which seemed far less risky and more important at the time. Now, the crown prince has even given up his demand that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad step down, which caused the leader of the Syrian opposition bloc, Riyad Hijab, to resign. The Syrian opposition might be unhappy with the lack of effort and consistency by Saudi Arabia, but the kingdom has made a clear cost-benefit analysis and made up its mind on Syria. Like the US, it is not in the interest of Saudi Arabia to waste more energy on Syria when it can counter Iran in other areas.

DISAGREEMENTS

It is difficult to speculate about what actually goes on in the Oval Office when Trump discusses matters like the US strategy in the Middle East with his staff, but the official statements from his closest advisers, Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, indicate disagreements on several issues, such as Iran and North Korea. Mattis is known for his hawkish views on Iran, but he has stated that it is in US interests to honor the nuclear deal. This is contrary to Trump who decided to decertify the agreement in October, leaving it to Congress to decide if sanctions should be reimposed.

Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, has been more supportive of the “new Iran strategy” laid out by the president, aiming to fix the fundamental flaws that the nuclear deal contains: “It’s a weak deal that is being weakly monitored. … what the president has done is he has laid out a strategy for dealing with Iran’s destabilizing and dangerous hate filled behavior.” McMaster further said that the US should pay attention to its allies in the region, namely Israel and Saudi Arabia. He thus echoes President Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Prince Mohammed’s rhetoric, backing the broader strategy by the US toward Iran.

Another common ground between the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel is an old but always relevant theme: combating terrorism. MBS has declared it a top priority for Saudi Arabia, and Israel’s history of fighting terrorism speaks for itself.

The question remains of whether the advisers can persuade Trump to think about the long-term goals of US foreign policy in the Middle East instead of succumbing to impulsive decisions he is known for. It is clear that the US is now moving in a direction where confronting Iran — by backing Saudi Arabia and Israel’s actions — is preferable to engaging directly against the Iranians in Syria. Perhaps the recent increase in US military personnel should be seen as America’s attempt to reengage in the region.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Photo Credit: The White House  

https://www.fairobserver.com/region/middle_east_north_africa/donald-trump-middle-east-policy-iran-saudi-arabia-latest-news-28615/

Trump Reverses, Backs U.S. Intelligence Agencies When Asked About Russian Meddling — John Kelly: “The tweets don’t run my life—good staff work runs it.”

November 12, 2017

But the president wouldn’t say definitively whether he believes the report that Russia interfered in 2016 election

HANOI, Vietnam—President Donald Trump said he had full confidence in U.S. intelligence agencies, indicating that he believed a report earlier this year that concluded Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Still, asked to answer with an affirmative yes or no about whether he believed that report was true, Mr. Trump declined. Instead, he expressed confusion that there was any question about his confidence in the intelligence agencies and again cast doubt on the previous administration, which initially assembled the report.

“I am with our agencies, especially as currently constituted,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday in Hanoi, Vietnam. “I believe very much in our intelligence agencies.”

Standing outside the Presidential Palace in Hanoi with Vietnam President Trần Đại Quang, Mr. Trump begrudgingly acknowledged his acceptance of the intelligence report a day after casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community.

Flying from Da Nang, Vietnam on Saturday, Mr. Trump told reporters that Russian President Vladimir Putin was irritated by repeated questions about his country’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and called a trio of former heads of U.S. intelligence agencies “political hacks.”

On Sunday, Mr. Trump was asked to definitely assert—yes or no—whether he believed that Mr. Putin and/or Russia interfered in the election, Mr. Trump did neither.

Instead, he said he was “with our agencies,” and added the caveat that he meant his cabinet. The report was assembled under the Obama administration, but Mr. Trump’s top intelligence officials have all unequivocally said they believe the findings.

“I’m surprised there’s any conflict on this,” Mr. Trump said.

Mr. Trump has struggled to put to rest questions about the report. He faced almost the exact same question at a January news conference, shortly before taking office. “As far as the hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said at the time. ”But I think we also get hacked by other countries and other people.”

He has also said the meddling—which the intelligences community says was a campaign of disinformation, data thefts and leaks—could have been someone “sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.” He has also suggested, as he did again on Saturday, that Russia wouldn’t have gotten caught if they were the source of the interference.

Mr. Trump is in the midst of a 10-day swing through Asia. At the press conference with Mr. Quang, Trump hailed Vietnam’s growing middle class as “a key market for American goods and services,” listing American energy, agriculture, financial services, aviation, digital commerce and defense products as industries where Americans “are able to meet all of your many commercial needs.” The U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam has widened over the past decade, exceeding $30 billion last year.

Mr. Trump has focused many of his public comments on urging China to put more pressure on North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, and to point out the trade imbalances between the U.S. and Asia’s economic powers.

Asked about North Korea on Sunday, Mr. Trump said it was a “possibility” that he could have a friendly relationship with Kim Jong Un. The two leaders have engaged in a contingent war of words, with each disparaging the other’s looks and mental capacity.

“Strange things happen in life—That might be a strange thing to happen, but it’s certainly a possibility,” Mr. Trump said. “If that did happen, it would be a good thing for, I can tell you, for North Korea. But it would also be good for lots of other places, and it would be good for the world.”

After the news conference, White House chief of staff John Kelly said Mr. Trump spoke with Mr. Putin about the North Korea issue. The two leaders crossed paths on Friday and Saturday at the APEC conference in Da Nang, Vietnam.

“Any port in the storm,” Mr. Kelly said about seeking Russia’s help. “Any friend we can get on that regard is a good thing.”

Asked whether Mr. Trump’s tweets helped the nuclear crisis with North Korea, Mr. Kelly said he tells White House staff not to react the president’s social media posts. Mr. Trump on Sunday suggested on Twitter that Mr. Kim was “short and fat.”

“The tweets don’t run my life—good staff work runs it,” Mr. Kelly said. “We develop policy in the normal, traditional, staff way.”

—Natasha Khan contributed to this article.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com

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John Kelly calls Confederate general an ‘honorable man’ — Chelsea Clinton attacks

October 31, 2017

The New York Post

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“Men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

Chelsea Clinton blasted Kelly’s version of history in a tweet Monday night.

“General Kelly, there is no “compromise” regarding slavery. Ever,” Clinton tweeted. “And, the Constitution’s original 3/5ths Compromise was an abomination.”

More then 600,000 Americans are estimated to have died in the Civil War.

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Gold Star Widow Releases Trump’s Call After Husband Was Killed In Afghanistan

October 20, 2017

 

 

ARLINGTON, VA – JUNE 19: Allie Marie Hasenwinkel (L), widow of Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean E. Brazas, becomes emotional after she received a U.S. flag from Navy Captain Mark Olson as her sister-in-law Kelly Nance (2nd L), and parents-in-law Patricia (3rd L) and Ed Brazas Jr. (R) look on during the burial of Petty Officer Brazas June 19, 2012 at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia. Petty Officer Brazas, a K-9 handler, was killed while being ambushed as he was helping a fellow officer into a helicopter in Afghanistan on May 30, 2012. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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By Henry Rodgers

Political Reporter
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Gold star widow Natasha De Alencar released the audio of a phone conversation she had with President Donald Trump in April about the death of her husband who was killed in Afghanistan.

“I am so sorry to hear about the whole situation. What a horrible thing, except that he’s an unbelievable hero,” Trump told her in the call about her husband Army Staff Sgt. Mark R. De Alencar, which The Washington Post released.

No automatic alt text available.

“Thank you. I really, really appreciated it,” she said. “I really do, sir.”

WATCH:

https://player.washingtonpost.com/prod/powaEmbed.html?adBar=true&autoinit=true&org=wapo&playthrough=true&uuid=a8ef3736-b515-11e7-9b93-b97043e57a22

Trump also told the widow if she is ever in Washington D.C. that she is welcome in the Oval Office.

“If you’re around Washington, you come over and see me in the Oval Office,” he said. “You just come over and see me because you are just the kind of family … this is what we want.”

“Say hello to your children, and tell them your father he was a great hero that I respected,” Trump said. “Just tell them I said your father was a great hero.”

The phone call was released after White House Chief of Staff Gen. John Kelly pushed back against Florida Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson’s criticism that Trump told a Gold Star widow “he knew what he signed up for.”

WATCH:

http://dailycaller.com/2017/10/20/gold-star-widow-releases-trumps-call-after-husband-was-killed-in-afghanistan/

NOW WATCH: GENERAL KELLY REACTS TO COMMENTS MADE BY FREDERICA WILSON AND URGES AMERICANS TO REMEMBER WHAT IS ‘SACRED’

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White House chief of staff John Kelly talks about the “sacred” nature of honoring the nation’s war dead

October 20, 2017

Image result for John Kelly, October 19, 2017, photos

White House chief of staff John Kelly addresses the media in the White House briefing room, October 19, 2017.  (Benjamin Chasteen/The Epoch Times)

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — He started by describing the reverent handling of America’s war dead, bodies packed in ice and shipped home in the dark to an Air Force base in Delaware.

From that opening, White House chief of staff John Kelly delivered a raw and searing monologue Thursday about the reality and pain of war sacrifice, praising those who serve and summoning the 2010 death of his own son to defend President Donald Trump against accusations of insensitive outreach to a grieving military family.

In an unannounced appearance at the White House, Kelly, a retired three-star general whose son was killed while serving in Afghanistan, dressed down the Democratic congresswoman who had criticized Trump for comments she said he had made in a condolence call to the pregnant widow of a Green Beret killed in Niger.

Kelly called Rep. Frederica Wilson of Florida an “empty barrel” who “makes noise,” but he did not deny the lawmaker’s account of the phone call, as the president had this week. Throughout his remarks, Kelly lamented what he said was lost respect for military service, women, authority and more.

Image result for John Kelly, October 19, 2017, photos

“I was stunned when I came to work yesterday morning, and brokenhearted at what I saw a member of Congress doing,” Kelly said. “Absolutely stuns me. And I thought at least that was sacred.”

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly said he was ‘stunned and broken-hearted’ by Dem lawmaker’s criticism of Trump’s call to widow. (Oct. 19)

The remarkable scene underscored Kelly’s singular role as an authoritative adviser and now spokesman for a president who is prone to false claims, exaggerations and misstatements. Kelly, who joined the White House to restore internal order, has increasingly become a public figure himself, employed to project calm and reassurance in times of crisis.

The uproar over Trump and how presidents should or shouldn’t try to console families of the fallen has rattled the White House and overshadowed the rest of Trump’s agenda in recent days.

Kelly personally absolved Trump of blame in his call to the family of Sgt. La David Johnson, a conversation that prompted Wilson to declare that the president had been disrespectful to the grieving family and couldn’t remember Johnson’s name.

“If you’re not in the family, if you’ve never worn the uniform, if you’ve never been in combat, you can’t even imagine how to make that call,” Kelly said. “I think he very bravely does make those calls.”

Trump — who has frequently struggled with showing empathy — has emphatically rejected claims that he was disrespectful. But he started the latest controversy this week when he boasted about his commitment to calling service members’ next of kin and brought Kelly into the issue by wondering aloud if President Barack Obama had called the former Marine general after the death of Kelly’s son.

Kelly confirmed Thursday that Obama had not called him, but he made clear “that was not a criticism.”

“That’s not a negative thing,” he said. “I don’t believe all presidents call. I believe they all write.”

In fact, the chief of staff said that when Trump took office, he advised him against making those calls: “I said to him, ‘Sir there’s nothing you can do to lighten the burden on these families.’”

But Trump wanted to make the calls, and asked Kelly for advice on what to say. In response, Kelly told him what General Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told him when Robert Kelly was killed. Kelly recalled that Dunford told him his son “was doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what the possibilities were because we’re at war.”

And Kelly added that Dunford told him that “when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends. That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

Kelly said the Defense Department is investigating the details of the Oct. 4 ambush that killed four American soldiers, including Johnson, in Niger.

Islamic militants on motorcycles brought rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns, killing the four and wounding others after shattering the windows of unarmored U.S. trucks. The attack happened in a remote corner of Niger where Americans and local counterparts had been meeting with community leaders.

Kelly said Thursday that small groups of U.S. military personnel are being sent overseas, including to Niger, to help train local people to fight the IS group “so that we don’t have to send large numbers of troops.”

His speech was a rebuke to Wilson, who was in the car with the family of Johnson when Trump called on Tuesday. She said in an interview that Trump had told Johnson’s widow that “you know that this could happen when you signed up for it … but it still hurts.” Johnson’s aunt, who raised the soldier from a young age, said the family took that remark to be disrespectful.

The call came in as they drove to Miami’s airport to receive the body. At the airport, widow Myeshia Johnson leaned in grief across the flag-draped coffin after a military guard received it.

A spokeswoman said Thursday that Wilson stood by her earlier comments. The congresswoman herself, asked by WSVN-TV in Florida about Kelly’s remarks, replied only indirectly.

“Let me tell you what my mother told me when I was little,” Wilson said. “She said, ‘The dog can bark at the moon all night long, but it doesn’t become an issue until the moon barks back.’”

Kelly also accused Wilson of grandstanding at the dedication of a Miami FBI office in 2015.

The White House chief of staff said he was so upset by her criticism of Trump’s call that he went to walk “among the finest men and women on Earth” in a 90-minute visit to nearby Arlington National Cemetery, among the graves of service members, including some who died under his command.

Kelly began his remarks by recounting in painstaking detail what happens after a soldier is killed in overseas combat. The dead soldier’s body is wrapped in a makeshift shroud by his colleagues, Kelly said, and then flown by helicopter to a nearby air base, where it is packed in ice. It is then flown to a second base, often in Europe, and put in more ice before it is transported to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The body is then embalmed and dressed in military uniform, complete with medals before heading home.

Kelly said the next of kin are notified by a casualty officer, who “proceeds to break the heart of a family member.”

Robert Kelly, 29, was killed when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan’s remote Helmand province. Kelly said his family got calls from Robert’s friends in Afghanistan attesting to his character. Those calls, he said as he fought back tears, were the most important.

After his dramatic opening statement, Kelly then took questions from reporters, asking first if any of them were Gold Star parents or siblings, meaning relatives of slain service members. When no one raised a hand, Kelly then said he would take questions only from those who knew a Gold Star family.

Kelly, whose frustration with the distractions created by Trump on other subjects led him to deny last week that he was considering quitting, also bemoaned how the nation no longer held things sacred, from life to religion to women. He said the respect given to Gold Star families “left in the convention over the summer,” an apparent reference to the bitter election exchanges between the Trump campaign and a family whose military son had been killed.

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Lemire reported from New York. Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman in Washington and David Fischer in Miami contributed reporting.

Tillerson Balances Trump’s Goals With His Own

October 20, 2017

In interview, secretary of state reflects on his role in administration, warns China on trade and territory

WASHINGTON—Secretary of State Rex Tillerson described how he seeks to manage an often-fraught relationship with President Donald Trump, saying he tries to deliver short-term victories to an impatient commander-in-chief while focusing on a longer horizon himself.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Thursday, Mr. Tillerson acknowledged the contrasting styles of the two men and described his effort to bridge the gaps, while rejecting swirling rumors of his impending departure. “I see those differences in how we think,” Mr. Tillerson said in his State Department office. “Most of the things he would do would be done on very short time frames. Everything I spent my life doing was done on 10- to 20-year time frames, so I am quite comfortable thinking in those terms.”

His solution: “Delivering the incremental wins,” he said. “Incremental progress is taking you toward the ultimate objective, which is, as I say is eight, 10 years down the road.”

Mr. Tillerson said one of his top long-term priorities is shifting the balance of the trade and national-security relationship with China, even as he adopted Mr. Trump’s stern tone on Asia’s economic power.

On Thursday, Mr. Tillerson warned China that the U.S. has an arsenal of economic weapons to force Beijing to address trade imbalances and a continuing territorial dispute in the South China Sea.

“We can do this one of two ways,” Mr. Tillerson said during the interview, seeming at times to speak directly to his Chinese counterparts. “We can do it cooperatively and collaboratively, or we can do it by taking actions and letting you react to that.”

Tools he might apply include tariffs, World Trade Organization actions, quotas and other mechanisms, he said.

The president and Mr. Tillerson are scheduled in November to visit Asia for a 10-day trip through five countries, including China, where the two former businessmen—both first-time public office holders—will push these issues.

Mr. Tillerson said the race to stem North Korea’s nuclear program, as well as trade issues with Japan and South Korea, will also dominate the trip. His tough talk on China came as the country’s leaders are meeting at the Communist Party Congress, a summit that takes place every five years.

Related

  • Tillerson to Travel to Mideast, South Asia Next Week

In a response to Mr. Tillerson’s recent tough talk, the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Wednesday released a statement. “Through dialogue and cooperation with the countries in the region, the situation in the South China Sea is generally stable. Countries outside the region should fully respect these efforts to safeguard regional peace and stability,” it said.

“The track record demonstrates that China and the U.S. are better together. We hope the U.S. side can work in the same direction with China to ensure the healthy and sound development of the China-U.S. relationship,” the statement continued.

Mr. Tillerson’s comments follow a rocky summer in his relationship with Mr. Trump. Signs of tension between them have continued to overshadow the insistence from both men that all is well.

“If I were a world leader—doesn’t matter who—I wouldn’t talk to Tillerson,” said Larry Wilkerson, who was chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, citing the public divide between the two men. “The president must feel that this person can do the work for him…this is not the case here. It’s becoming antagonistic.”

During a meeting at the Pentagon one weekend in July, Mr. Tillerson rolled his eyes as he reluctantly acquiesced to the president’s criticism of the Iran nuclear pact. “It’s your deal,” Mr. Tillerson said in his Texas drawl as he peered in the direction of other cabinet officials, instead of Mr. Trump.

After that meeting, Mr. Tillerson referred to the president as a “moron,” according to people familiar with the conversations. Mr. Tillerson’s spokeswoman has denied he made the remark.

Mr. Trump has also disparaged his top diplomat, complaining that Mr. Tillerson doesn’t understand his “Make America Great” philosophy and has few original thoughts. “Totally establishment in his thinking,” he has told aides.

Asked Thursday if he believed Mr. Trump should be re-elected, Mr. Tillerson paused for a beat, then said, “Well, of course.”

“I mean, I don’t think about it, quite frankly, right now,” he said. “We’ve got these things we’re dealing with, but yeah.”

Early on in the administration, Messrs. Trump and Tillerson seemed to have an easy rapport. They are both successful businessmen, and Mr. Tillerson’s global experience as the CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp. was a major appeal for the new president as he put his cabinet together.

When they first arrived in their new jobs and their wives had yet to join them in Washington, they often ate dinner together, joined by a combination of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis ; John Kelly, now the White House chief of staff; and General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

While those dinners have largely stopped, Mr. Tillerson and the president continue to meet, as they did in the Oval Office on Thursday, in what was at least their second meeting this week. In what a State Department spokeswoman described as a “positive,” they had lunch together earlier this month after initial reports of name-calling between them.

Mr. Tillerson’s openness to speaking to reporters comes after he was prompted to hold a news conference to address rumors that he was on the verge of quitting and had made derogatory remarks about the president. On Thursday, Mr. Tillerson expressed confusion about rumors of his departure. “Who in the world is telling you that stuff?,” he said.

He said he would remain in the job “as long as the president thinks I’m useful.”

The secretary pointed to successes on strengthening capabilities of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, particularly on counterterrorism, a peaceful pressure campaign on North Korea, the campaign to defeat Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the administration’s approach to South Asia.

“Look, I’m my own person, I’m a serious person,” Mr. Tillerson said. “And I’m not of any use to the president if I’m not that. If I try to be anything other than that, I’m no use to him.”

Mr. Tillerson said Thursday he likes to view foreign-policy problems according to region.

“I believe you solve a problem in Afghanistan not by just dealing with Afghanistan,” he said. “You solve it by solving a regional problem, and that’s the way we’re looking at the Middle East.”

He has honed that approach in brainstorming sessions that have evolved over his time at Foggy Bottom. In his first months in office, Mr. Tillerson and a small circle of aides convened weekend sessions during which they kicked around policy approaches by sketching ideas on a white board. Those sessions are now twice a week, sometimes on Saturdays when convenient, and include career state department officials, an official said.

The Texas oilman turned chief diplomat said he spends the bulk of his time concentrating on North Korea, Iran, counterterrorism, China and Russia.

Noting that U.S. and China officials have long been able to negotiate their differences peacefully, he repeatedly said China “went too far” in its push to claim resources in the South China Sea, one of the most ​important trade arteries for the world’s largest economies.

“Our view is you’re going to have to walk some of that back,” he said.

Mr. Tillerson said the Trump administration is seeking agreement on a code of conduct in the region, noting that other countries “are guilty of having done the same thing to a lesser extent” as China. He said the Philippines is looking for “mutually agreeable ways” to share disputed areas without conflict.

“Look, some things have gotten out of whack,” Mr. Tillerson said about U.S.-China relations. “We’ve got to address them.”

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

Trump May Be Following Palin’s Trajectory

October 20, 2017

Support for her cooled due to antic statements, intellectual thinness and general strangeness.

Sarah Palin announcing her 2016 endorsement in Ames, Iowa, Jan. 19, 2016.
Sarah Palin announcing her 2016 endorsement in Ames, Iowa, Jan. 19, 2016. PHOTO: AARON P. BERNSTEIN/GETTY IMAGES
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The president has been understandably confident in his supporters. They appreciate his efforts, admire his accomplishments (Justice Neil Gorsuch, ISIS’ setbacks), claim bragging rights for possibly related occurrences (the stock market’s rise), and feel sympathy for him as an outsider up against the swamp. They see his roughness as evidence of his authenticity, so he doesn’t freak them out every day. In this they are like Sarah Palin’s supporters, who saw her lack of intellectual polish as proof of sincerity. At her height, in 2008, she had almost the entire Republican Party behind her, and was pushed forward most forcefully by those who went on to lead Never Trump. But in time she lost her place through antic statements, intellectual thinness and general strangeness.

The same may well happen—or be happening—with Donald Trump.

One reason is that there is no hard constituency in America for political incompetence, and that is what he continues to demonstrate.

The first sign of political competence is knowing where you stand with the people. Gallup this week had him at 36% approval, 59% disapproval. Rasmussen has him at 41%, with 57% disapproving. There have been mild ups and downs, but the general picture has been more or less static. Stuart Rothenberg notes that at this point in his presidency Barack Obama had the approval of 48% of independents. Mr. Trump has 33%.

He proceeds each day with the confidence of one who thinks his foundation firm when it’s not—it’s shaky. His job is to build support, win people over through persuasion, and score some legislative victories that will encourage a public sense that he is competent, even talented.

The story of this presidency so far is his inability to do this. He thwarts himself daily with his dramas. In the thwarting he does something unusual: He gives his own supporters no cover. They back him at some personal cost, in workplace conversations and at family gatherings. They are in a hard position. He leaves them exposed by indulging whatever desire seizes him—to lash out, to insult, to say bizarre things. If he acted in a peaceful and constructive way, he would give his people cover.

He acts as if he takes them for granted. He does not dance with the ones that brung him.

Asked by reporters why he hadn’t issued a statement on the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger, he either misunderstood or deflected the question by talking about how he writes to and calls the families of the fallen. Other presidents, he said, did not do as much—“some presidents didn’t do anything”—including Mr. Obama. When former Obama staffers pushed back he evoked the death of Chief of Staff John Kelly’s son Robert, a Marine first lieutenant, in Afghanistan: “You could ask Gen. Kelly, did he get a call from Obama?” Mr. Kelly, a private and dignified man, was said to be surprised at the mention of his son.

Soon after, Mr. Trump called Myeshia Johnson, widow of Army sergeant La David T. Johnson, and reached her in the car on the way to receive her husband’s casket. Someone put the call on speakerphone. A Democratic congresswoman in the car later charged that Trump had been disrespectful. In fairness, if the congresswoman quoted him accurately, it is quite possible that “He knew what he was signing up for” meant, in the president’s mind, “He heroically signed up to put his life on the line for his country,” and “But still it must hurt,” meant “I can’t imagine the grief you feel even with your knowledge that every day he put himself in harm’s way.”

And indeed Mr. Kelly, in a remarkable White House briefing Thursday, recounted what Gen. Joseph Dunford, now chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had told then-Gen. Kelly in 2010, when Robert died: “He was doing exactly what he wanted to do. . . . He knew what he was getting into by joining that 1%. He knew what the possibilities were, because we were at war.”

Mr. Kelly was moving, fully credible, and as he spoke you had the feeling you were listening to a great man. It was unfortunate that when the controversy erupted, the president defaulted to anger, and tweets. News stories were illustrated everywhere by the picture of the beautiful young widow sobbing as she leaned on her husband’s flag-draped casket. Those are the real stakes and that is the real story, not some jerky sideshow about which presidents called which grieving families more often.

This week Sen. John McCain famously gave a speech in Philadelphia slamming the administration’s foreign-policy philosophy as a “half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems.” Fair enough—the famous internationalist opposes Trumpian foreign-policy notions. There are many ways presidents can respond to such criticism—thoughtfully, with wit or an incisive rejoinder.

Mr. Trump went on Chris Plante’s radio show to tell Sen. McCain he’d better watch it. “People have to be careful because at some point I fight back,” he said. “I’m being very nice. I’m being very, very nice. But at some point I fight back, and it won’t be pretty.”

FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan were pretty tough hombres, but they always managed to sound like presidents and not, say, John Gotti. Mr. McCain, suffering from cancer, evoked in his reply his experience as a prisoner of war: “I’ve faced far greater challenges than this.”

That, actually, is how presidents talk.

I must note I get a lot of mail saying this is all about style—people pick on Mr. Trump because he isn’t smooth, doesn’t say the right words. “But we understand him.” “Get over these antiquated ideas of public dignity, we’re long past that.” But the problem is not style. A gruff, awkward, inelegant style wedded to maturity and seriousness of purpose would be powerful in America. Mr. Trump’s problem has to do with something deeper—showing forbearance, patience, sympathy; revealing the human qualities people appreciate seeing in a political leader because they suggest a reliable inner stature.

Meanwhile Steve Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, goes forward with at least partial support from the president and vows to bring down the Republican establishment. But Mr. Trump needs to build, not level. He needs a Republican House and Senate if for no other reason than one day Robert Mueller will file his report, and it will be leaked, and something will be in there because special counsels always get something. It is Republican majorities—the Republican establishment—that the president will need to help him. He will need the people he’d let Mr. Bannon purge.

Meanwhile polls say the Republican nominee for Republican Alabama’s open Senate seat is neck and neck with his Democratic opponent.

Meanwhile the president absolutely has to win on tax reform after his embarrassing loss on ObamaCare. He shouldn’t be in this position, with his back to the wall.

None of this speaks of competence. And again, in America there is no hard constituency for political incompetence. Mr. Trump should keep his eye on Sarah Palin’s social media profile. She has 1.4 million Twitter followers, and her Facebook page has a “Shop Now” button.

What Bob Corker Sees in Trump

October 13, 2017

His concerns are widely shared. The senator deserves credit for going on the record with them.

Sen. Bob Corker in the Capitol, June 20.
Sen. Bob Corker in the Capitol, June 20. PHOTO: TOM WILLIAMS/CQ ROLL CALL

In early March I met with a dozen Republican U.S. senators for coffee as part of a series in which they invite writers, columnists and historians to share what’s on their mind. The consuming topic was the new president. I wrote some notes on the train down, seized by what I felt was the central challenge Republicans on Capitol Hill were facing. The meeting was off the record, but I think I can share what I said. I said the terrible irony of the 2016 campaign was that Donald Trump was the only one of the 17 GOP primary candidates who could have gone on to win the presidency. Only he had the uniqueness, the outside-the-box-ness to win. At the same time Mr. Trump was probably the only one of the 17 who would not be able to govern, for reasons of temperament, political inexperience and essential nature. It just wouldn’t work. The challenge for Republicans was to make legislative progress within that context.

It was my impression the senators were not fully receptive to my thought. Everyone was polite but things were subdued, and I wondered later if I’d gone too far, been too blunt, or was simply wrong. Maybe they knew things I didn’t. Since then I have spoken to a few who made it clear they saw things as I did, or had come to see them that way.

I jump now to the recent story involving Sen. Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. In August he said publicly that Mr. Trump had not yet demonstrated the “stability” and “competence” to be successful as president. Last weekend Mr. Trump, in a series of tweets, mocked the senator, calling him gutless and “Liddle Bob Corker.” Mr. Corker tweeted in response: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

After that he turned serious, in an interview with Jonathan Martin of the New York Times.

Mr. Martin asked if Mr. Corker was trying to “sound some kind of alarm” about the president. Mr. Corker said “the president concerns me.” He likes him, it isn’t personal, but “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House it’s a situation of trying to contain him.” He said there are “some very good people” around the president, “and they have been able to push back against his worst instincts. . . . But the volatility is, to anyone who has been around, is to a degree alarming.” In particular, he observed: “The tweets, especially as it relates to foreign policy issues, I know have been very damaging to us.”

Mr. Martin asked if Mr. Corker has Senate colleagues who feel the same way. “Oh yeah. Are you kidding me? Oh yeah.”

Mr. Martin asked why they did not speak out. Mr. Corker didn’t know: “Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here. There will be some—if you write that, I’m sure there will be some that say, ‘No, no, no I don’t believe that,’ but of course they understand the volatility that we are dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes from people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

Among them are Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chief of Staff John Kelly : “As long as there’s people like that around him who are able to talk him down, you know, when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision is made. I think we’ll be fine.” He said of the president: “Sometimes I feel like he’s on a reality show of some kind, you know, when he’s talking about these big foreign policy issues. And, you know, he doesn’t realize that, you know, that we could be heading towards World War III with the kinds of comments that he’s making.”

This is all pretty striking from a sitting senator, even one not running for re-election.

At roughly the same time, some sharply critical pieces on the president were coming from the nation’s newspapers. The Los Angeles Times had a story on Mr. Trump’s reaction to Mr. Kelly’s efforts at imposing order on the White House: “The president by many accounts has bristled at the restrictions.” The article quotes allies of the president describing him as “increasingly unwilling to be managed, even just a little.” A person close to the White House claimed Messrs. Kelly and Trump had recently engaged in “shouting matches.” In the Washington Post, Anne Gearan described the president as “livid” this summer when discussing options for the Iran nuclear deal with advisers. He was “incensed” by the arguments of Mr. Tillerson and others.

Also in the Post, Michael Kranish interviewed Thomas Barrack Jr. , a billionaire real-estate developer and one of the president’s most loyal longtime friends. Mr. Barrack delicately praised the president as “shrewd” but said he was “shocked” and “stunned” by things the president has said in public and tweeted. “In my opinion, he’s better than this.”

Thursday, Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman said he’d spoken to a half-dozen prominent Republicans and Trump associates, who all describe “a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.” Mr. Sherman reported two senior Republican officials said Mr. Kelly is miserable in his job and is remaining out of a sense of duty, “to keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.” An adviser said of Trump, “He’s lost a step.” Two sources told Mr. Sherman that several months ago, former chief strategist Steve Bannon warned the president the great risk to his presidency isn’t impeachment but the 25th Amendment, under which the cabinet can vote to remove a president temporarily for being “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”

There are a few things to say about all this. First, when a theme like this keeps coming up, something’s going on. A lot of people appear to be questioning in a new way, or at least talking about, the president’s judgment, maturity and emotional solidity. We’ll be hearing more about this subject, not less, as time goes by.

Mr. Corker deserves credit for going public with his reservations and warnings. The U.S. is in a challenging international environment; it’s not unfair or unjust to ask if the president is up to it and able to lead through it.

But we are a nation divided on the subject of Donald Trump, as on many others, and so this is a time to be extremely careful. Unnamed sources can—and will—say anything. If you work in the White House or the administration and see what Mr. Corker sees, and what unnamed sources say they see, this is the time to speak on the record, and take the credit or the blows.

What a delicate time this is. Half the country does not see what the journalists, establishment figures and elites of Washington see. But they do see it, and they believe they’re seeing clearly. It’s a little scary. More light is needed.

 https://www.wsj.com/articles/what-bob-corker-sees-in-trump-1507847033

Trump Risks Inciting World War III — Republican Senator says

October 9, 2017

By 

The New York Times

Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, last week in Washington. Credit Tom Brenner/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III.”

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Mr. Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.”

“He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Mr. Corker’s comments capped a remarkable day of sulfurous insults between the president and the Tennessee senator — a powerful, if lame-duck, lawmaker, whose support will be critical to the president on tax reform and the fate of the Iran nuclear deal.

It began on Sunday morning when Mr. Trump, posting on Twitter, accused Mr. Corker of deciding not to run for re-election because he “didn’t have the guts.” Mr. Corker shot back in his own tweet: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

The senator, Mr. Trump said, had “begged” for his endorsement. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement),” the president wrote. He also said that Mr. Corker had asked to be secretary of state. “I said ‘NO THANKS,’” he wrote.

Mr. Corker flatly disputed that account, saying Mr. Trump had urged him to run again, and promised to endorse him if he did. But the exchange laid bare a deeper rift: The senator views Mr. Trump as given to irresponsible outbursts — a political novice who has failed to make the transition from show business.

Mr. Trump poses such an acute risk, the senator said, that a coterie of senior administration officials must protect him from his own instincts. “I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it’s a situation of trying to contain him,” Mr. Corker said in a telephone interview.

The deeply personal back-and-forth will almost certainly rupture what had been a friendship with a fellow real estate developer turned elected official, one of the few genuine relationships Mr. Trump had developed on Capitol Hill. Still, even as he leveled his stinging accusations, Mr. Corker repeatedly said on Sunday that he liked Mr. Trump, until now an occasional golf partner, and wished him “no harm.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment on Mr. Corker’s remarks.

Mr. Trump’s feud with Mr. Corker is particularly perilous given that the president has little margin for error as he tries to pass a landmark overhaul of the tax code — his best, and perhaps last, hope of producing a major legislative achievement this year.

If Senate Democrats end up unified in opposition to the promised tax bill, Mr. Trump could lose the support of only two of the Senate’s 52 Republicans to pass it. That is the same challenging math that Mr. Trump and Senate Republican leaders faced in their failed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Corker could also play a key role if Mr. Trump follows through on his threat to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal, kicking to Congress the issue of whether to restore sanctions on Tehran and effectively scuttle the pact.

Republicans could hold off on sanctions but use the threat of them to force Iran back to the negotiating table — a strategy being advocated by Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican. But that approach could leave the United States isolated, and it will be up to Mr. Corker to balance opposition to the deal with the wishes of those, including some of Mr. Trump’s own aides, who want to change the accord but not blow it up.

Beyond the Iran deal, Mr. Corker’s committee holds confirmation hearings on Mr. Trump’s ambassadorial appointments. If the president were to oust Rex W. Tillerson as secretary of state, as some expect, Mr. Corker would lead the hearings on Mr. Trump’s nominee for the post.

In a 25-minute conversation, Mr. Corker, speaking carefully and purposefully, seemed to almost find cathartic satisfaction by portraying Mr. Trump in terms that most senior Republicans use only in private.

The senator, who is close to Mr. Tillerson, invoked comments that the president made on Twitter last weekend in which he appeared to undercut Mr. Tillerson’s negotiations with North Korea.

“A lot of people think that there is some kind of ‘good cop, bad cop’ act underway, but that’s just not true,” Mr. Corker said.

Without offering specifics, he said Mr. Trump had repeatedly undermined diplomacy with his Twitter fingers. “I know he has hurt, in several instances, he’s hurt us as it relates to negotiations that were underway by tweeting things out,” Mr. Corker said.

All but inviting his colleagues to join him in speaking out about the president, Mr. Corker said his concerns about Mr. Trump were shared by nearly every Senate Republican.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said, adding that “of course they understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road.”

As for the tweets that set off the feud on Sunday morning, Mr. Corker expressed a measure of powerlessness.

“I don’t know why the president tweets out things that are not true,” he said. “You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does.”

The senator recalled four conversations this year, a mix of in-person meetings and phone calls, in which he said the president had encouraged him to run for re-election. Mr. Trump, he said, repeatedly indicated he wanted to come to Tennessee for an early rally on Mr. Corker’s behalf and even telephoned him last Monday to try to get him to reconsider his decision to retire.

“When I told him that that just wasn’t in the cards, he said, ‘You know, if you run, I’ll endorse you.’ I said, ‘Mr. President, it’s just not in the cards; I’ve already made a decision.’ So then we began talking about other candidates that were running.”

One of the most prominent establishment-aligned Republicans to develop a relationship with Mr. Trump, the senator said he did not regret standing with him during the campaign last year.

“I would compliment him on things that he did well, and I’d criticize things that were inappropriate,” he said. “So it’s been really the same all the way through.”

A former mayor of Chattanooga who became wealthy in construction, Mr. Corker, 65, has carved out a reputation over two terms in the Senate as a reliable, but not overly partisan, Republican.

While he opposed President Barack Obama’s divisive nuclear deal with Iran, he did not prevent it from coming to a vote on the Senate floor, which exposed him to fierce fire from conservatives, who blamed him for its passage.

Mr. Trump picked up on that theme hours after his initial tweets, writingthat “Bob Corker gave us the Iran Deal, & that’s about it. We need HealthCare, we need Tax Cuts/Reform, we need people that can get the job done!”

Mr. Corker was briefly a candidate to be Mr. Trump’s running mate in 2016, but he withdrew his name from consideration and later expressed ambivalence about Mr. Trump’s campaign, in part because he said he found it frustrating to discuss foreign policy with him.

To some extent, the rift between the two men had been building for months, as Mr. Corker repeatedly pointed out on Sunday to argue that his criticism was not merely that of a man liberated from facing the voters again.

After a report last week that Mr. Tillerson had once referred to Mr. Trump as a “moron,” Mr. Corker told reporters that Mr. Tillerson was one of three officials helping to “separate our country from chaos.” Those remarks were repeated on “Fox News Sunday,” which may have prompted Mr. Trump’s outburst.

In August, after Mr. Trump’s equivocal response to the deadly clashes in Charlottesville, Va., Mr. Corker told reporters that the president “has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

He said on Sunday that he had made all those comments deliberately, aiming them at “an audience of one, plus those people who are closely working around with him, what I would call the good guys.” He was referring to Mr. Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

“As long as there are people like that around him who are able to talk him down when he gets spun up, you know, calm him down and continue to work with him before a decision gets made, I think we’ll be fine,” he said.

658COMMENTS

Mr. Corker would not directly answer when asked whether he thought Mr. Trump was fit for the presidency. But he did say that the commander in chief was not fully aware of the power of his office.

“I don’t think he appreciates that when the president of the United States speaks and says the things that he does, the impact that it has around the world, especially in the region that he’s addressing,” he said. “And so, yeah, it’s concerning to me.”

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