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CNN host Smerconish: Bob Corker building case for removing Trump from office

Sen. Bob Corker unloaded on Trump, saying his volatility is putting us 'on the path to World War III.'

President Trump and Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) are engaged in a surprisingly public fight between two prominent Republicans.
President Trump and Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) are engaged in a surprisingly public fight between two prominent Republicans.Read moreAP Photos

Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) announced in September that he wouldn't run for reelection when his term is over in 2018, freeing the two-term senator to speak his mind. Now, he's engaged in a public fight with President Trump, a fellow Republican, offering the harshest and most public rebuke yet of the chief executive from within his own party.

In an interview with the New York Times on Sunday, Corker unloaded on Trump, accusing the businessman and former television star of treating the presidency like "a reality show" and warning that his saber-rattling on Twitter could put the country "on the path to World War III."

"He concerns me," Corker told Times national political correspondent Jonathan Martin on Sunday night in a 25-minute phone interview. "He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation."

Corker told Martin that just about every Republican senator is alarmed at how Trump has treated the presidency during his nearly nine months in office, but that they  are afraid or unable to come forward due to political concerns.

"Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we're dealing with here. If you write that, I'm sure there will be some that will come to you and say, 'No, no, no. I don't believe that,' " Corker said. "But of course they understand the volatility that we're dealing with, and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around him to keep him in the middle of the road."

Echoing comments he made to reporters last week, Corker also claimed that Trump is prone to irresponsible outbursts, and, as a result, a group of senior administration officials, led by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary John Mattis, are forced to protect him from his own instincts.

"I know for a fact that every single day at the White House, it's a situation of trying to contain him," Corker said, specifically calling out Trump's tweets about the tense situation with North Korea. "A lot of people think that there is some kind of 'good cop, bad cop' act underway, but that's just not true."

CNN host and Inquirer columnist Michael Smerconish, responding to Corker's comments Monday morning, said the attorney in him hears the senator's comments as laying the foundation of a potential case to replace Trump by questioning his ability to adequately handle the responsibilities of the presidency.

"The lawyer in me hears something different. I'm thinking of the 25th Amendment, Section 4, which speaks to a president who is unable to discharge the powers of duties of his office," Smerconish said. "Let's just reflect on some of the word choices that senator made. Post-Charlottesville, he was questioning the stability of the president. Now he's using the word reckless, chaos. Now he is saying, 'he concerns me.' I think he's planting seeds for questioning the fitness, the mental fitness of the president pursuant to the 25th Amendment to continue with his responsibilities."

The hosts on Fox News' Fox & Friends saw it differently, choosing to criticize Corker for taking his issues with the president public.

"Whatever Bob Corker thought, he could have done it personally and privately," said cohost Brian Kilmeade. "So, to go public with these critiques are just … I think it's self-serving."

Cohost Ainsley Earhard agreed, calling Corker's comments "disrespectful."

Regardless, it's a stinging rebuke from one of Trump's earliest supporters and occasional golf partner. Corker even continued to support Trump after the infamous Access Hollywood video surfaced during the campaign, showing the candidate making lewd comments in 2005 about women.

Corker's comments Sunday night followed a heated back-and-forth earlier in the day that started when the president sent out three tweets in the morning claiming Corker "didn't have the guts" to run for reelection.

"Senator Bob Corker 'begged' me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said 'NO' and he dropped out," the president posted on Twitter. "I would fully expect Corker to be a negative voice and stand in the way of our great agenda. Didn't have the guts to run!"

A couple of hours later, Corker hit back at the president, referring to the White House as "an adult day care center" in a message that was retweeted more than 127,000 times.