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1. Lisa Mascaro previously covered Congress in Washington, D.C., for the Los Angeles Times. She left in February 2018. A Los Angeles-area native, she has reported across Southern California, edited, traveled the States and worked in Texas. While the Washington correspondent for the Las Vegas Sun, she contributed as the paper won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. An economics and political science graduate of UC Santa Barbara, she also studied in Budapest, Hungary.|
The following are excerpts from Lisa Mascaro's October 24, 2017 article headlined "In stunning rebuke of Trump, two GOP senators accuse him of undermining American values".
President Trump on Tuesday endured one of the most searing rebukes of a chief executive by members of his own party in modern history, with one Republican senator accusing him of “debasing” the nation and another declaring he would rather retire than be “complicit” in the “compromise of our moral authority.”
Senate Republicans had hoped a Tuesday lunch with Trump would showcase GOP unity as they push for tax cuts. But the meeting was largely lost amid Trump’s remarkable war of words with Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the announcement by Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake that he would not run for reelection because he refuses to accommodate the “new normal” of the president’s behavior.
The successive attacks, one before senators even sat down for lunch and the other afterward, showed once again how the president’s unpredictable outbursts and willingness to belittle his allies not only distracts from the administration’s policy agenda, but also threatens to undercut Trump’s image at home and abroad.
“The debasement of our nation will be what he’ll be remembered most for, and that’s regretful,” Corker told CNN.
Flake lamented the “reckless, outrageous and undignified” behavior emanating from the “top of our government.”
Presidents have never been immune to criticism from their own party in Congress. But the stinging words from Flake and Corker ricocheted even in a Washington that has grown accustomed to escalating spats since Trump took office.
“This is different in the type of very fierce and pointed personal language [Corker] is using — calling him a liar and child — and the way, via Twitter and cable — this carried out on a national stage instantly,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a Princeton professor of history and public policy who writes extensively about Congress and the White House.
Corker, once considered to be Trump’s secretary of State, questioned the president’s honesty and expressed regret for supporting his candidacy, saying he would never do so again.
Flake, who was facing a tough reelection and a primary challenger backed by Trump’s former advisor Stephen K. Bannon, took to the Senate floor and said, “I rise today to say: enough.”
His commitment to American values, he said, overrode his party loyalty.
“The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined, and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is historic and, I believe, profoundly misguided,” Flake said. “We must stop pretending.”...
But the political fallout could do lasting damage to the uneasy relationship between the president and GOP-led Congress, one that has never quite settled into dependable partnership.
The day started, as it often does, with a presidential tweet. Apparently miffed by Corker’s dismissal, during a morning TV show interview, of Trump’s Senate lunch as a “photo op,” Trump lashed out at his onetime ally, who has since become one of the president’s most outspoken critics.
Trump tweeted that Corker “couldn’t get elected dog catcher,” and repeated a claim, disputed by Corker, that the senator begged for his endorsement before Corker announced he would not seek reelection. Corker says that, in fact, the opposite is true and that Trump promised his support in multiple conversations.
“Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president,” Corker shot back, renewing his taunt that Trump required adult supervision, “#AlertTheDaycareStaff.”
But it didn’t end there. Corker, in a hallway interview back in the Senate, unleashed some of his darkest concerns about Trump’s presidency.
Corker said he has tried to work with Trump, in private talks and counsel, but could go no further. "I think that he's proven himself unable to rise to the occasion,” Corker told CNN. He said “world leaders are very aware that much of what he says is untrue.”... (End excerpts)