Corker: Trump ‘abused his authorities’ by claiming national security basis for tariffs

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said Tuesday that President TrumpDonald John TrumpA better VA, with mental health services, is essential for America's veterans Pelosi, Nadler tangle on impeachment, contempt vote Trump arrives in Japan to kick off 4-day state visit MORE went beyond his official authority by utilizing an obscure national security provision of U.S. foreign trade law to levy tariffs against steel and aluminum imports.

Speaking to Hill.TV, Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerJeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump Corker: 'I just don't' see path to challenge Trump in 2020 Ex-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' MORE (R-Tenn.) hailed the trade agreement the administration recently announced with Canada and Mexico.

But Corker also said he believed the Senate should have the ability to override presidential tariff levies "if a president is going to abuse his authorities" by citing national security to justify them.

"What has concerned me most from the very beginning has been the use of 232, Section 232, a national security section to say that we had national security issues with Mexico, and Canada, and Europe over steel and aluminum," he told correspondent Molly K. Hooper.

Corker, who is retiring from the Senate after his term ends in December, has repeatedly clashed with Trump over tariffs. He was among several GOP senators to strongly denounce the administration for raising prices on foreign imported goods, particularly after the president massively increased tariffs on steel and aluminum from Canada in May.

In June, Corker unveiled legislation that would have allowed the Senate to use its constitutionally granted power to reject or approve treaties to override presidential tariff assessments.

The legislation is unlikely to pass and Corker claimed that his GOP colleagues are afraid to take action on it for fear of offending the president and potentially making him lash out at them.

"'Gosh, we might poke the bear!' That is the language I've been hearing in the hallways. 'We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker amendment,'" Corker said in a June 12 speech from the Senate floor.

Corker attempted to revive his legislation in August and in his Tuesday interview with Hill.TV, Corker renewed his advocacy for his legislation.

"That's authority that we gave, Congress gave away in 1974," he said. "I want to have the ability for Congress to vote on that. So that's been the big one."

Administration officials, including the president, have defended tariffs as important negotiating tools to get other countries to lower barriers to American goods and services.

"Tariffs are the greatest! Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs," Trump wrote in a July tweet. "It’s as simple as that - and everybody’s talking! Remember, we are the “piggy bank” that’s being robbed. All will be Great!"

—Matthew Sheffield