Donald Trump

Corker says his criticism of Trump is ‘constructive,’ not ‘destructive’ — and gets White House cheers

While Sen. Bob Corker may be gaining a reputation as one of few Republican congressmen willing to publicly criticize Donald Trump – a notable example being his recent declaration that the White House is in a “downward spiral” – the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman tells BuzzFeed he makes the same points to Trump and his staff in frequent private discussions.

Coincidentally(?), Corker issued a press release Sunday basically praising Trump’s first trip overseas — after speaking with the president “at length.”

Excerpt from BuzzFeed:

Days (before the “downward spiral” remark), Corker had spoken to Trump over the phone about the firing of FBI director James Comey — an incident the Tennessee Republican publicly said would “raise questions.” And in a previous late-April private dinner, Corker said he made it clear to Trump that the turmoil in the White House was making it harder for Republicans to move forward with anything in Congress.

“I actually shared many of the same concerns, OK? Respectfully, of course,” he said in a wide-ranging interview with BuzzFeed News Wednesday afternoon.

“We’ve got close relations and talked frankly with people (at the White House) often,” he continued, repeating two words for emphasis: “Frankly. Often.”

Continue reading

TVA to cut spending, employees under Trump budget plan

The Tennessee Valley Authority’s preliminary budget plan for fiscal 2018, unveiled Tuesday by the Trump White House,  projects the agency will trim its capital spending next year by $677 million, cut its operating expenses by $263 million and trim its staff by another 316 employees compared with the current year.

Further from the Times Free Press:

Continue reading

Rick Perry visits Oak Ridge as Trump pushes cuts to Department of Energy budget

Newly appointed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry toured several labs at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 National Security Complex Monday, reports the News Sentinel. The former Texas governor rode around in 3D-printed vehicles and talked about President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts for the Department of Energy.

According to Science Magazine, Trump’s proposed budget would cut $900 million, some 17 percent, of the $5 billion budget for DOE’s Office of Science. And it would eliminate DOE’s roughly $300 million Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

“I know how to budget, I know how to manage and I know how to prioritize. Obviously what you see here, I happen to think is a high priority,” he said. “I have not been in the job long enough to go through line item by line item, but because the budgeting process is nigh upon us here, I’m doing my homework every day.

“Hopefully, we will be able to make that argument to our friends in Congress, that what DOE is involved with, particularly on the economic development side, plays a vital role not only in the security of America, but in the economic well-being of this country as we go forward,” he said.

Perry said the budgeting process was not his first rodeo, something ORNL Lab Director Thom Mason could relate to.

“I mean we’re an Office of Science lab, so if you reduce Office of Science budget by 17 percent we’re going to feel that … if that was the final answer I would be quite worried with how we would respond,” Mason said after the tour. “Having been through the budget process many, many times now I kind of recognize that you need to let things play out.”

Perry agreed and said he expects to see the proposed budget change before it is passed.

With Trump ‘shouting death spiral’ for Obamacare, TN insurance commissioner wonders who’s in charge

Tennessee’s commissioner of commerce and insurance and Sen. Lamar Alexander are both quoted in a New York Times article bearing the headline, “Trump, Shouting ‘Death Spiral,’ Has Nudged Affordable Care Act Downward.” An excerpt:

Frustrated state officials have ideas for stabilizing the individual insurance market, but they say they cannot figure out where to make their case because they have been bounced from one agency to another in the Trump administration.

“We have trouble discerning who has decision-making authority,” said Julie Mix McPeak, the Tennessee insurance commissioner and president-elect of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which represents state officials. “We reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services. They referred us to the Office of Management and Budget, which referred us to the Department of Justice. We reached out to the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.”

Continue reading

Democratic candidate faults Corker for ‘timid words of hollow (Trump) disapproval’

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate James Mackler campaigned in Chattanooga and Williamson County Wednesday, reports The Tennessean, contending that Republican incumbent Sen. Bob Corker did not go far enough in his recent statement saying the Donald Trump White House is in a “downward spiral.”

“I think at this point we heard that we are in a downward spiral, and it’s important to note he said ‘they’ … Sen. Corker tried very hard to become a part of this administration, and now he’s trying to distance himself from it. But we need more than timid words of hollow disapproval,” Mackler said.

Continue reading

Hagerty breezes through first Senate step in becoming ambassador to Japan

Nashville businessman Bill Hagerty, former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development,  diplomatically deflected a few potentially dangerous questions as he breezed through his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, reports The Tennessean, bringing him one step closer to becoming the U.S. ambassador to Japan.

Most of the questions Hagerty, 57, faced were about how to open up Japan for more U.S. exports and how to deal with a nuclear North Korea and a China looking to expand its influence.

For Sen. John Barasso, R-Wy., it was how to get more Wyoming beef into Japan while Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., asked about removing barriers to the sale of the state’s chicken in Japan and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, lamented that few American cars are sold in Japan.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” Hagerty told Portman in what was a typical response during the hearing.

The hearing lasted only about an hour but the hearing room was packed, mostly with Japanese media and members of the diplomatic corps, including Kenichiro Sasae, Japanese ambassador to the U.S.

Continue reading

Corker: Trump administration ‘downward spiral’ (UPDATE: Alexander kinda critical, too)

Among congressional Republicans, Tennessee’s Sen. Bob Corker had one of the stronger  negative reactions Monday to reports that President Donald Trump has revealed sensitive intelligence to Russia’s foreign minister and U.S. ambassador and is widely quoted today in national media.

From CNN:

“They are in a downward spiral right now and have got to figure out a way to come to grips with all that’s happening,” Corker told reporters. “You know the shame of it is there’s a really good national security team in place, there’s good productive things that are underway through them, and through others. But the chaos that is being created by the lack of discipline is creating an environment that I think — it creates a worrisome environment.”

From Politico:

“To compromise a source is something that you just don’t do,” Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee told reporters, adding that he didn’t know yet whether the report was true. “That’s why we keep the information that we get from intelligence sources so close, is to prevent that from happening.”

Corker was referring to a report in The Washington Post on Monday that Trump divulged highly classified information involving the Islamic State that officials had obtained through an intelligence-sharing arrangement with a U.S. partner. The arrangement was so sensitive that the information was not even shared with other U.S. allies, according to the Post.

The report, which the White House denied, came on the heels of Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey last week. Corker told other news outlets the White House is “in a downward spiral right now” and needs to get things “under control.”

UPDATE, via The Tennessean: In a cryptic statement Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander R-Tenn., described the global impact of White House actions.

“Those working in the White House would do well to remember that just a little tilt there can create earthquakes out in the country and around the world,” Alexander said.

UPDATED: Most TN GOP congressmen silent on FBI director dismissal

With the exception of Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, Tennessee’s Republican members of Congress – usually quick to send out press releases with commentary on most any matter getting some national attention — have been silent on President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI director James Comey (as noted by WPLN).

The state’s two Democratic congressmen, however, have been quick to criticize the presidential action publicly.

Continue reading

Brentwood business executive gets a job with Trump administration

Matthew Bassett, a former staffer for Republican congressmen who now works for a Brentwood home-based health care company, has been nominated by President Trump for a legislative liaison position in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Here’s the White House Press release

Continue reading

Green withdraws as Trump’s nominee for U.S. Army secretary

Tennessee state Sen. Mark Green announced has announced he is withdrawing President Donald Trump’s nominee to become Secretary of the Army, blaming the “distraction” caused by “false” attacks on his religious beliefs.

Green, a physician and former Army flight surgeon who lives in Clarksville, had declared himself a candidate for the Republican governor’s nomination in 2018, but put campaigning on hold after Trump nominated him to succeed Eric Fanning as Army secretary. Fanning, serving under President Barack Obama, was the first openly gay military service secretary.

From the Times-Free Press report:

“Tragically, my life of public service and my Christian beliefs have been mischaracterized and attacked by a few on the other side of the aisle for political gain,” Green said in a statement.

“While these false attacks have no bearing on the needs of the Army or my qualifications to serve, I believe it is critical to give the President the ability to move forward with his vision to restore our military to its rightful place in the world.”

…He noted he and his wife, Camie, “look forward to finding other opportunities to use our gifts to serve others and help Make America Great Again.”

There was no specific comment as to whether he would restart his gubernatorial campaign.

From the Washington Post report:

Green pulled out after a month of calls for the Trump administration to choose someone else. Advocacy groups for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people immediately launched an effort on Capitol Hill to block his nomination after it was announced April 7, saying his history of antagonism toward them made him an unacceptable choice.

… Among the comments that drew concern were Green saying last fall that if psychiatrists were polled, they would say that “transgender is a disease.” He added that while most millennials accept transgender people, he wanted to be a “light” that set the record straight.

“If you really want to bring this back to who’s at fault, I mean we’ve got to look a little bit inwardly,” he said. “I mean, we’ve tolerated immorality and we’re not reflecting light.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also opposed Green’s nomination, citing an appearance before the Chattanooga Tea Party last fall in which Green said that “we will not tolerate” teaching the “pillars of Islam” in textbooks. At that same event, Green responded to a man who said he was concerned about an armed insurrection by people who “don’t belong here, like Muslims in the United States” by saying he’d asked a “great question.”

… Green’s withdrawal marks the latest chapter in the White House’s ongoing turmoil as it tries to fill senior civilian positions at the Pentagon. He was selected after President Trump’s first Army secretary nominee, Vincent Viola, withdrew from consideration in February. Viola, a former Army officer who went on to become a billionaire on Wall Street, cited the complications of getting through the Pentagon’s conflict-of-interest rules.

A nominee for Navy secretary, Philip M. Bilden, also withdrew from consideration in February, facing difficulties similar to Viola’s. No replacement has been named.

…Several U.S. senators this week signaled opposition to Green becoming Army secretary, including Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.).

Schumer said in a statement that Green’s decision to withdraw is good news for all Americans, “especially those who were personally vilified by his disparaging comments toward the LGBTQ community, Muslim community, Latino community and more.” The senator credited advocacy groups with prompting Green to withdraw and said that he hopes Trump will select someone who can represent everyone in the Army.

From The Tennessean’s report:

Congressional Republicans from Green’s home state focused on praising their fellow Tennessean for his service, rather than directly acknowledging any controversy related to his nomination.

“Mark Green has served his country with distinction,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn said in a statement. “He has served his state with honor. I respect his decision to withdraw his nomination and look forward to his continued service in our community.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander also said he respected the decision, but expressed some disappointment that Green didn’t get the nomination.

“This would have been an opportunity for the Army to benefit from his leadership skills, military experience and dedication to service members,” his statement said.

Sen. Bob Corker said he spoke with Green on Friday afternoon to thank him for his willingness to serve and for his commitment to public service.

“Although he has withdrawn from the process, I have no doubt that he will continue to find ways to serve our country and state,” Corker’s statement read.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

Subscribe by Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
Email *