WASHINGTON — Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has offered to help Donald Trump develop a foreign policy platform, making him one of the few senators to publicly embrace Trump as the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
The Tennessee Republican said Trump called him last week and he and Trump’s campaign staff have talked since then, most recently on Thursday night.
“I think he is well-aware now that he has to move into a period of really laying out more substantial policies and certainly as he evolves, to the extent we can be helpful and flesh those out, we are more than glad to do so,” Corker said in a Thursday interview.
Top Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have been slow to accept Trump as their party’s nominee over concerns about his shifting positions on key issues, his past support of Democrats, and his frequently offensive rhetoric.
But Corker said Republican voters clearly prefer Trump, so he stands ready to assist him in the general election.
Corker did not endorse in the crowded GOP presidential primary and repeatedly refused to comment on the race as it developed, except to say he would support the nominee. That changed last week when Corker surprisingly volunteered his assessment of Trump’s first formal foreign policy speech, delivered when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich were still in the race.
At the time, Corker called it “a very good foreign policy speech.”
Corker said Thursday that he decided to speak out, even before Trump became the presumptive nominee, because he welcomed Trump’s effort to move his campaign beyond personality and more toward issues.
He also was responding to Republicans who were plotting to use the party's national convention in July to nominate someone other than Trump, the leading vote-getter.
“We have a primary process and the notion that some group of people would get together and upend what the primary voters said was somewhat repulsive,” Corker said.
Despite wide criticism of Trump’s foreign policy speech as contradictory and muddled, Corker said he welcomed signals Trump may be willing to defy traditional Republican support for military interventions.
“Look, the foreign policy establishment in the last 15 or 16 years hasn’t gotten things exactly right,” Corker said. “What I hear in what he’s saying... is more of a George H.W. Bush view of the world. I hear him embracing more of a James Baker view of the world, and a larger degree of realism is making its way into his thinking, and I very much appreciate that.”
Baker was secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush, who formed a large international coalition to support the invasion of Iraq during the First Gulf War. By contrast, the second invasion of Iraq during the administration of Bush's son, President George W. Bush, was not backed by such a coalition.
Corker, also a member of the Senate Budget Committee, said he’s eager to hear more from Trump regarding the nation’s debt and how the economy can work better for lower- and middle-income families.