A top Republican senator on Wednesday charged that President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE’s comments on Russia, NATO and other topics have created “tremendous distrust” among the American people.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerCheney set to be face of anti-Trump GOP How leaving Afghanistan cancels our post-9/11 use of force The unflappable Liz Cheney: Why Trump Republicans have struggled to crush her MORE (R-Tenn.) made the remarks as he and other senators grilled Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoRepublican lawmakers raise security, privacy concerns over Huawei cloud services WashPost fact-checker gives Pompeo four 'Pinocchios' for 'zombie' claim about Obama Iran deal Poll: Biden, Trump statistically tied in favorability MORE on the president’s recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki.
“Much of what you’re hearing today has nothing whatsoever to do with you,” Corker said during a hearing. “It’s the president that causes people to have concerns.”
“For instance, at the Helsinki conference, to create an equivalence between our intelligence agencies and what Putin is saying – that shocks people,” Corker said.
The GOP senator was referencing comments made by Trump alongside Putin last week in which he cast doubt on the U.S. intelligence community’s conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump has continued to catch massive backlash over the remarks, which he attempted to walk back at the White House last week.
Corker, a frequent critic of Trump who is retiring after this year, suggested Wednesday that the comments are part of a broader pattern by the president to make public statements that “purposefully create distrust” in U.S. institutions and actions.
“The notion of even exchanging diplomats, sending diplomats over to be interrogated by Putin? To even think about that, to let that be said as an official statement coming out of the White House, this is my opinion –– and I believe it is right –– to purposefully cause the American people to misunderstand about the NATO contributions and to cause them to doubt NATO and to really drive public opinion against NATO,” Corker said.
“That to me was purposeful, and not unlike what happened right after Charlottesville,” Corker said.
Corker pressed Pompeo to explain whether there is any motivation behind the president’s actions.
“It’s the president’s actions that create tremendous distrust in our nation, among our allies. Its palpable,” Corker said.
Pompeo challenged the idea that Trump’s comments are out of step with the actions of his own administration. Trump, he said, has been tough on Russia, pointing to the fact the president himself signed off on sanctions on Moscow last year.
“Somehow there is this idea that this administration is free floating,” Pompeo said. “This is President Trump’s administration. Make no mistake who is fully in charge of this.”
Corker, however, accused Pompeo of dodging his questions.
“I notice that you are not responding to what I am saying,” Corker said.
“I think I responded to everything,” Pompeo responded.
“No, you didn’t,” Corker challenged. “You just didn’t.”