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

Former South Carolina Gov. Mark SanfordMark SanfordTrump challenger Bill Weld rules out 2020 independent bid Judge throws out lawsuit against South Carolina GOP for canceling 2020 primary The Hill's Campaign Report: Late bids surprise 2020 Democratic field MORE (R) pushed back Friday on claims that his long-shot Republican Primary bid against President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president 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 BidenLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Ex-Obama official on Sanders-Warren feud: 'I don't think it played out well for either of them' Parnas says he doesn't think that Joe Biden did anything wrong regarding Ukraine 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