GOP Sen. Corker, a Trump foil, has no idea what’s next

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who has delivered some of the most stinging criticism of President Donald Trump from within his own party, says he’ll jump in his car next month once his term is over and drive home from Washington.

Beyond that, he insists he has no idea what’s in store once he retires.

But questions linger whether the departing senator will challenge Trump for the 2020 Republican nomination. Corker, 66, hasn’t ruled out a run but cautioned that “it shouldn’t be written that I’m strongly considering.”

“We certainly have no plans today to be in New Hampshire or Iowa any time soon,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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The two-term senator and Chattanooga businessman said he’s still not sure whether there should be a primary challenge of Trump, by him or someone else.

“The Republican Party has been a party of fiscal conservatism and a party of free trade and a party of leadership around the world. We’re in a little different place right now,” Corker said. “But as to whether having a primary for the sake of touting those principles makes any sense, I don’t know. I think that probably if somebody were to run, then they probably ought to run because they think they can win and want to be president. But don’t put me in that category yet.”

During his 12 years on Capitol Hill, Corker played notable roles during the financial and auto industry bailouts, and in 2015 became chairman of the powerful foreign relations committee.

But his final act was shaped by run-ins with Trump.

Their feud broiled after the president said both sides were to blame for deadly violence surrounding a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017. Corker said Trump’s comments showed he had not yet been “able to demonstrate the stability, nor some of the competence, that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

After Corker announced he wouldn’t run again, in October 2017 he charged that Trump turned the White House into an “adult day care center” and was setting the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” He’s since been a foil to Trump on a range of topics: his tariffs, his response to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, his recent decision to withdraw troops from Syria, and more.

At times, Corker has downplayed the ongoing spat. He joined Trump on Air Force One in January on a trip to Tennessee and ultimately sided with Trump on his tax cuts law.

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation heads toward completion, Corker said it’s not “particularly prudent” for some in Congress to talk about possible impeachment.

“I have no reason to believe that the president is even considering trying to alter that (investigation),” Corker said. “Matter of fact, it’s so far down the road, I don’t even think that’s possible.”

Corker was first elected to the Senate in 2006. Two years later, as a Banking Committee member he played a key role in negotiations that bailed out the collapsing financial industry with the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. He later voted to shut it down and use the remaining money to pay down the federal debt.

He criticized the major U.S. automakers who sought a multibillion dollar bailout in late 2008. The Obama administration’s task force ultimately followed Corker’s proposal to impose stiffer requirements on auto companies.

In 2010, Corker reached across the aisle on provisions for the orderly liquidation of financial firms deemed “too big to fail” included in Dodd-Frank, the banking law created after the 2008 economic crisis.

And on foreign affairs, Corker has been willing to criticize policies under both President Barack Obama and Trump.

Once he’s out of Washington, Corker said he will probably take some time off. Corker, who works in construction and development, also said he still has a business base.

But he said he will figure out the specifics later.

“I want it to be the most productive chapter of my life, if that’s possible,” Corker said. “And yet, I have no idea what that means. I truly don’t.”

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