Corker: Tillerson, Mattis, Kelly protecting country from 'chaos'

Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerTax Foundation: Senate reform bill would cost 6B GOP senators raise concerns over tax plan Dem House candidate apologizes for saying it 'shouldn't take brain cancer' for McCain to show courage MORE (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday accused members of the Trump administration of not supporting Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonWhite House: Trump will not meet formally with Putin Trump meeting with Putin expected to take place Friday: report Flake: 'Conspiracy theorist' Flynn never belonged as national security adviser MORE, adding that Tillerson, Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAfter Texas shooting, lawmakers question whether military has systemic reporting problem In Africa, defense without diplomacy and development is a losing strategy McCain pledges 'rigorous oversight' after Air Force failure to report Texas gunman's conviction MORE and chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE are protecting the country from “chaos.”

Corker was responding to a report that Tillerson was close to resigning this summer and called President Trump a “moron” after a Pentagon briefing.

ADVERTISEMENT

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he had no firsthand knowledge of whether the reports are true. But he said he supports Tillerson, who he described as being in a “frustrating” situation.

“I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and chief of staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos,” Corker told reporters. “And I support him very much, and I don’t know what he may have said after the briefing. I watch, and I see what’s happening, and I deal with people throughout the administration, and he, from my perspective, he is in an incredibly frustrating place, where as I watch, and I can watch very closely on many occasions, he ends up not being supported in a way that I would a hope a secretary of State would be supported, and that’s just from my vantage point.”

Asked by The Hill whether the chaos he was referring to is Trump, Corker said there are “people within the administration” working against the interest of the country.

Tillerson, Mattis and Kelly “work well together to make sure that the policies that we put forth around the world are sound and coherent, where other people within the administration, in my belief, are not,” Corker said. “I hope they stay because they’re valuable to the national security of our nation. They’re valuable to us putting forth good policies. They’re very valuable as it relates to our citizens feeling safe and secure, and I hope he’s here for a long time.”

Corker, who announced last week that he is retiring from the Senate after his current term ends in 2018, has become increasingly critical of Trump. After the August violence in Charlottesville, Va., Corker questioned whether Trump has the “stability” or “competence” to be a successful president.

On Wednesday morning, NBC News reported that Tillerson had to be talked out of resigning this summer by Vice President Pence. The news outlet said it spoke to a dozen current and former senior administration officials for its article, as well as others who are close to the president.

Tillerson responded to the report by denying that he has ever considered resigning. But he did not deny that he called Trump a moron, saying only that he did not want to “deal with petty stuff like that.”

The report comes after Trump said on Twitter over the weekend that Tillerson was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea on its nuclear and missile programs.

Asked by The Hill if Tillerson can stay in a job where the president has undermined him with such tweets and where he has called the president a moron, Corker said that's up to Tillerson.

“This is me talking, me talking, but I think sometimes people stay in incredibly frustrating positions … because they feel like they know what it is, what kind of policies they are putting in place,” Corker said. “So I’m thankful that he’s there. I’m thankful that Kelly’s there. I’m thankful that Mattis is there. And I’m thankful that they work together as a team.”