WASHINGTON — In a remarkable Republican war of words, Sen. Bob Corker declared Tuesday that President Donald Trump is "utterly untruthful" and debases the nation, then the president fired back that the two-term lawmaker "couldn't get elected dog catcher."
"#AlertTheDaycareStaff," tweeted Corker, an outspoken GOP critic of Trump.
The latest exchanged, blending serious criticism with playground-level name calling, came just ahead of Trump's planned lunch with Republican senators on Capitol Hill as Congress turns its focus to overhauling the nation's tax code. The public spat between Trump and Corker added to the heightened tension of the closed-door session.
Corker, R-Tenn., said on NBC's "Today" that the Republican-led Congress should set the course on taxes after Trump shot down at least one GOP idea on retirement plans on Monday.
Asked if Trump should leave well enough alone, Corker said, "I think that's the best way for us to have success."
That prompted an angry Twitter response from the president, who said, "Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts. ..."
Corker took to his own Twitter account to respond: "Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff." Trump then called Corker "lightweight."
Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations chairman, has previously dubbed the White House an "adult day care center" and suggested that Trump could be setting the nation on a path to World War III. Trump, who specializes in dismissive nicknames, has called Corker "Liddle' Bob Corker."
Corker is the only Republican senator who is not seeking re-election, free to speak his mind, and he did in several television interviews and on Twitter.
He said on CNN that Trump "is obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president."
Trump's presidential tenure will be remembered, Corker said, for "the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth-telling, the name calling. ... It's very sad for our nation."
"The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues," Corker said.
The comments prompted more tweets from Trump.
"...the entire World WAS laughing and taking advantage of us. People like liddle' Bob Corker have set the U.S. way back. Now we move forward!" the president wrote in one.
Lashing out, Trump said, "Sen. Corker is the incompetent head of the Foreign Relations Committee, & look how poorly the U.S. has done. He doesn't have a clue. ..."
Nonetheless, Republicans and the Trump administration are determined to get tax legislation into law this year, and all sides seem to think they can unite around that goal.
Trump is arriving on Capitol Hill after several other public fights with members of his party.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, clearly had Trump in mind Monday when he criticized a military draft system that allowed wealthy young people to avoid Vietnam with doctors' letters about such health issues as bone spurs. Trump got such a deferment.
The president spent much of August lashing at Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blaming him for the Senate's failure to pass legislation to repeal and replace "Obamacare."
No. 3 Senate Republican John Thune of South Dakota said before Tuesday's lunch he hoped to hear Trump "drive home the message that he wants to be a partner, a constructive partner that helps us get accomplishments that help everybody."
"If you have people who are running for re-election next year, whether it's a House member or one of the senators who's up this year, I think the best thing you can go back and talk about is that you got results," Thune added. "And I think that to the degree the president delivers that message it will be very well received by Republican senators."
The tax plan crafted by Trump and Republican leaders calls for steep tax cuts for corporations and potentially for individuals. It would double the standard deduction used by most Americans, shrink the number of tax brackets from seven to three or four, and repeal inheritance taxes on multimillion-dollar estates. But crucial details of the plan have yet to be worked out, notably what income levels would fit with each tax bracket.