Despite Backlash, Corker Says He's Hopeful Criticism Can Turn Trump Around | Nashville Public Radio

Despite Backlash, Corker Says He's Hopeful Criticism Can Turn Trump Around

Aug 18, 2017

Internet pranksters — and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — have been inundating Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker with calls after he criticized President Trump's response to the violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Va.

But Corker isn't expressing any regrets.

A day after Corker complained that Trump isn't showing the "competence" or "stability" needed to be president, the Tennessee Republican spoke again to reporters following a breakfast engagement at the Omni Nashville Hotel. Corker said he isn't sorry he supported Trump in the general election or for his past praise of the president, but he does want Trump to become a unifier, rather than a divisive figure.

"People expect a president to grow in his office and to step up, and I hope that's going to be the case," he said.

Corker appeared to break with Trump after the president insisted the so-called "alt-left" shares blame with white supremacists for the turmoil that shook Charlottesville. The remark has been widely condemned for lending legitimacy to marchers who carried torches through the University of Virginia campus and chanted anti-Semitic and racist messages.

But Corker's criticism has also sparked a backlash. His cell phone number has been published online, he said, and critics have been calling. Gingrich, a frequent ally of Trump, has also been trying to reach him.

Corker said he spoke up, though, on behalf of those in the Trump administration who agree change is needed.

"The things that I say, I say hopefully to influence him and to influence the people around him," Corker told reporters. "I'm aware of many frustrations internally and, look, there's such a great opportunity."

Corker said the strengthening economy should make it easier for Republicans to enact their agenda, but Trump seems more focused on appealing to his political base.