Republican Sen. Bob Corker says Trump's conduct "hurts our country"

Sen. Corker says Trump's conduct hurts the US

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee has had a series of clashes with President Trump, most recently on the administration's muted response to Saudi Arabia's killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is now preparing to step down. 

"CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson sat down with Corker in his home state of Tennessee to talk about how Washington works – or doesn't – and what worries him about the issues no one seems interested in addressing. 

"My introduction to public service I think when I was in my late 20s. I started working in this neighborhood," Corker said. "The good things that are happening in our country are happening in communities and cities like this….As I think about our current president, I don't think he knows that there are people all across this country that live in communities like this one just wanting to be engaged."

While Corker has tangled publicly with the president, as he readies to depart from Senate he admitted that he does like many of his policies. What he doesn't like? His behavior.

"I love the deregulation that has taken place. I love the animal spirits that have been released in our country…Obviously, I am a Republican. I love the number of judges that have been confirmed…But I think what the, where the president hurts himself and hurts our country, is his own personal conduct….It's unnecessary. It's an unforced error," Corker said.

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"CBS This Morning" co-host John Dickerson and Sen. Bob Corker at Corker's favorite restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  CBS News

What's more frustrating for Corker is that he believes President Trump's divisiveness is intentional.

"I think with President Trump, the part that's disappointing, is that it's – I know it to be purposeful…I mean, I think that's self-evident," Corker said. "I speak out because, yes, I do think there's a cost. I think there's a cost to our young people throughout the country. I think there's a cost to just the way people are relating to each other."

But Corker is operating with the freedom of a politician who no longer has to worry about his popularity. To run in a state like Tennessee and be publicly critical of a Republican president, as he put it, "would be bad for your health."

"Is that the pressure all your colleagues you leave behind face?" Dickerson asked.

"I've been told by candidates who did run in campaigns this year that no one asked them about any issues….They want to know one thing: 'Are you with Trump?'" Corker said. "I don't think it's healthy."

Senator Corker does see certain advantages, though.

"The unorthodox nature of the Trump presidency has in some ways caused people to be closer on each side of the aisle. In some ways. Still vast differences in policies…it's sort of like everybody's in the same boat. Right?"

The same boat but he says still unable to take a hard vote on the fiscal crisis facing the country.

Corker believes Saudi crown prince "directed" journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death

"Here's what happens, John. Is somebody'll have some 'my God. I don't want to vote on, if we have to vote on that I'll have to take a position on it.'… Boy, we're hired to vote. I mean, you know, express yourself," Corker said.

While the deficit used to dominate the conversation in Congress, talking about America's ballooning debt seems to have fallen to the wayside.

"We spend the entire year working on this appropriations process, which deals with 35 percent, let's say, of what we spend as a nation. And we don't spend a single day on the rest of it, which is what is going to be our undoing, right? Not a day is spent on it. That's what you call majoring in the minors," Corker said. "It's just not on the American people's mind. And it's sad. We're harming the next generation."

It's a crisis that Sen. Corker won't be in the Senate to help confront, as he returns home to Chattanooga. He's not sure what he's going to do next, but didn't rule out running for office again.

"I would rule nothing out at this time….I know that everybody, every person thinks every senator wakes up in the morning and thinks they're looking at the next president. I don't do that. I don't. I do though think about it sometimes."