Trump primary challenger Mark Sanford: Republican Party 'has lost its way'

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark SanfordMarshall (Mark) Clement SanfordTrump declines to participate in Weather Channel 2020 climate change special Weather Channel to talk climate change with 2020 candidates Trump accuses media, Democrats of going 'crazy' over G-7 at his Miami resort MORE (R) pushed back Friday on claims that his long-shot Republican Primary bid against President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE is a publicity stunt, claiming that he is running because he believes the party has “lost its way” since 2016.

“The Republican Party has lost its way under this administration — not just on debt and deficit but frankly with regard to are we inward- or we outward-looking,” Sanford told Hill.TV on Friday. “This whole ramp-up on tariffs is beginning to impact the economy in substantive ways.”

Sanford’s comments come amid a widening trade gap and Trump's ongoing tariff fights with China and Europe.

The U.S. trade deficit rose to $54.9 billion in August, a 1.6 percent increase from July and a 7.1 percent from the same period last year. Analysts have attributed Trump’s trade wars as a contributing factor.

U.S. and Chinese officials, meanwhile, are set to resume trade negotiations in Washington next week. The talks come just ahead of a delayed increase of tariffs on Chinese goods.

The Trump administration had moved a scheduled increase of Chinese tariffs from Tuesday to Oct. 15, just days after the negotiations. The latest round would increase tariffs from 25 percent to 30 percent on an estimated $250 billion worth of Chinese imports.

Trump has made his relationship with Beijing a centerpiece of his presidency, even as he becomes the focus of an impeachment inquiry led by House Democrats. The inquiry is centered on whistleblower's allegations that Trump sought to withhold hundreds of millions in dollars in aid to Ukraine to pressure the government there to open a probe into former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Warren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE, the Democratic 2020 front-runner, and Biden's son Hunter.

On Thursday, Trump publicly encouraged China and Ukraine to investigate the Biden family for unsubstantiated corruption allegations.

But the president maintained that he would keep issues related to Biden “separate” from his ongoing trade talks with Beijing.

“I want to do a trade deal with China but only if it’s good for our country,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Friday. “One thing has nothing to do with the other.” 

—Tess Bonn