Senate Republicans sharply pushed back on President Donald Trump’s reported demeaning comments about Attorney General Jeff Sessions, with one top GOP senator comparing the President’s tirades to a “whining” teenager.
“If the President doesn’t like his service, he can look him in the eye and terminate him,” Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker told CNN. “Whining is pretty unbecoming of a 13-year-old. But it’s very unbecoming of a 71- or 72-year-old President.”
Corker, a retiring Tennessee Republican, added that Trump’s disdain for institutions like the Justice Department shows his “lack of appreciation for democratic values and institutions,” warning he would turn the country into Venezuela “if left to his own accord.”
As a retiring Republican, Corker often is a rare voice criticizing a number of the President’s controversial statements and actions. But on Tuesday, more Republicans began to speak out about Trump’s comments attacking Sessions, which were reported in the book by journalist Bob Woodward. In the book, the President reportedly called the attorney general, who is from Alabama, a “dumb southerner” and “mentally retarded.” Trump has for months lashed out at Sessions because he recused himself from overseeing the Russia probe since the former senator served as a top surrogate for the Trump campaign in 2016.
As senators on Tuesday began to digest the new comments, more began to push back.
“Totally inappropriate,” said Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, a Trump ally and chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
“I resent that,” added Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican.
Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, told CNN that the President’s tweet Monday and reported comments in the Woodward book amount to a “continuing humiliation” of Sessions that is “deeply inappropriate,” and said it’s “inappropriate” for the President to comment about the GOP indictments.
“I’m appalled by those comments,” she said.
And Sen. Richard Shelby, who served alongside Sessions as a fellow Alabama senator, said: “I’ve known Sessions for a long time. He’s a good man. He’s got a lot of integrity. I know they’ve got a strained, toxic relationship. I wish they didn’t.”
Corker, in particular, has been unsparing in his criticism of Trump at times, including warning that the President is “debasing” the United States and saying the country would descend into “chaos” if several top administration officials were not in their posts. Woodward, in his book, reports that aides at times would remove papers from Trump’s desk out of fear he would take steps to undercut the country’s security.
In Tuesday’s interview, Corker also pushed back at Trump’s Monday tweet that Sessions should have prevented two Republican congressmen from being indicted on federal charges to save their seats in the midterms.
“If left to his own accord, our country would look somewhat like Venezuela,” Corker said, referring to the authoritarian regime there. “It shocks me, some of the things, as if you treat your friends in one way and your political enemies in another way. Most presidents understand their role is different than this one does. He’s remarkable in his lack of appreciation for democratic values and institutions. And I think that’s where some of the greatest damage is being done to this country.”
The 448-page book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” is slated for public release on September 11. CNN obtained a copy of the book, which Woodward says is drawn from hundreds of hours of background interviews with dozens of firsthand sources, including people in Trump’s inner circle.
CNN’s Ted Barrett contributed to this report.