Tennessee Pals: Bob Corker’s Anti-Trump Speech Spree Endangers Bill Haslam’s Senatorial Prospects

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 10: Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) speaks to reporters about President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, on Capitol Hill May 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Mark Wilson/Getty

Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) attacked President Trump again on Tuesday, telling C-SPAN, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

“When you say that Tillerson, Mattis, and Kelly are separating this country from chaos do you mean from the president’s chaos?” a reporter asked Corker.

“Well they work together to make sure the policies we put forth around the world, you, know are sound and coherent. There are other people within the administration in my belief that don’t, I’m sorry,” Corker responded, then laughed.

Though he did not specifically name President Trump as one of the “other people within the administration” that don’t put forth sound and coherent policies, media outlets around the country took that to be Corker’s meaning.

In an article titled “Bob Corker just told the world what he really thinks of Donald Trump,” CNN’s Chris Cilizza referred to Corker’s comments as “a stinging criticism of President Donald Trump from a man once considered an ally in Washington.”

Corker’s resumption of his persistent pattern of attacks on President Trump comes at an inopportune time for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who he and Senator Lamar Alexander have encouraged to run to replace him in the Senate. Haslam is a long-time member of the Trump bashing club, having called on the president to withdraw from the Republican ticket one month before he won the November 2016 general election over Hillary Clinton.

Haslam vowed at the time he would not vote for President Trump.

Voters in Tennessee paid little attention to Haslam’s actions, overwhelmingly picking Trump over Clinton by a 61 percent to 35 percent margin. Trump won 92 of the state’s 95 counties.

Earlier this week, Haslam said he would announce his intentions about whether or not he will run for Corker’s Senate seat this Friday.

Grassroots conservative activist Andy Ogles is the only current announced candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate from Tennessee in 2018, but Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) is widely expected to enter the race soon.

Should she enter the race, the popular Blackburn, who got her start in Tennessee politics as a state legislator where she successfully led the opposition to former Republican Governor Don Sundquist’s proposal to introduce a state income tax, will become the standard bearer among Tennessee’s conservatives, just as Roy Moore was in Alabama. Unlike Gov. Haslam, Blackburn is a strong supporter of President Trump.

Corker has been a long time friend and ally of the Haslam family, which owns Pilot Flying J, the national truck stop chain founded by Gov. Bill Haslam’s father, Jim Haslam, in 1958 and one of the largest privately held companies in the country.

Pilot Flying J had more than $19 billion in sales in 2016, according to Forbes magazine, which also estimates that Gov. Bill Haslam’s current personal net worth is $2.5 billion, almost all deriving from his inherited interest in the company.

Corker’s college roommate was Jimmy Haslam, Gov. Haslam’s older brother and the current CEO of Pilot Flying J, who purchased the NFL’s Cleveland Browns in in 2012 for $1.05 billion.

Jimmy Haslam has been a leading critic of President Trump’s call for NFL players to stop kneeling in protest when the national anthem is played.

“We must not let misguided, uninformed and divisive comments from the president or anyone else deter us from our efforts to unify,” Jimmy Haslam said in a statement released last Sunday.

Earlier this week, the Haslam family shocked the business world when it announced that Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway had agreed to purchase its controlling interest in Pilot Flying J over a six year period. Many observers believed the sale of the company to Buffett was the only viable option available to the family, given the fallout from an ongoing illegal kickback scandal.

In 2014, Pilot Flying J agreed to pay a $92 million penalty to the Department of Justice due to the scandal. A number of top executives have been found guilty or agreed to plea bargains.

Later this month, Mark Hazelwood, the former president of the company who reported directly to CEO Jimmy Haslam, is scheduled to go on trial in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Corker offered several additional criticisms of the president in the brief two minute interview with C-SPAN on Tuesday

“He [Secretary Tillerson] from my perspective is in an incredibly frustrating place where, as I watch, ok, and I can watch very closely on many occasions I mean, you know, he ends up not being supported in a way that I would hope a Secretary of State would be supported, that’s just from my vantage point,” he said.

“I think he’s in a very trying situation trying to solve many of the world’s problems a lot of times without the kind of support and help I would like to see him have,” Corker added.

CNN’s Cilizza offered this analysis of those comments by Corker:

The sitting Republican chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee is suggesting that if Tillerson was removed from office (or quit), the national security of the country would potentially be in danger. And he’s refusing to knock down — and thereby affirming — the idea that Trump is an agent of chaos who pushes policies that are not always “sound” or “coherent.”

That. Is. Stunning.

Corker also blasted Trump for undermining Tillerson — most recently with a weekend tweet suggesting that the secretary of state’s diplomatic work to solve the North Korea crisis would fail.

Senator Corker announced his sudden retirement from the Senate two days after Breitbart News reported on his $3 million sweetheart real estate deal in McGowin Park, a Mobile Alabama retail center.

Breitbart News is continuing its ongoing investigation into Senator Corker’s investment in McGowin Park, LLC, the development company that secured an estimated $20 million in sales tax incentives from the City of Mobile and Mobile County and subsequently assigned those incentives to another company in which Corker has an interest, McGowin Park Incentive, LLC.

Corker has a 13 percent interest in both entities-McGowin Park, LLC and McGowin Park Incentive, LLC.

Breitbart News has repeatedly asked the City of Mobile’s director of media communications George Talbot and city attorney Ricardo Woods the legal basis upon which those sales tax incentive rebates were assigned by the City Council of Mobile from McGowin Park, LLC to McGowin Park Incentive, LLC in August 2014, but, despite two weeks of persistent requests, has not received any explanation as to whether there was any such legal basis for that assignment.


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