Wednesday October 17th, 2018 7:48AM

The Latest: 2 Republican senators denounce Donald Trump

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on President Donald Trump and Republican senators (all times EDT):

9 p.m.

Two Republican senators are blistering President Donald Trump with criticism.

Jeff Flake of Arizona says he will not be "complicit" with Trump and has announced his surprise retirement.

Bob Corker of Tennessee has declared the president "debases our nation" with constant untruths and name-calling.

Corker, too, is retiring at the end of his term, and the White House is shedding no tears at the prospect of the two GOP senators' departures.

Flake challenged his fellow senators to follow his lead, but there were few immediate signs they would.


3:50 p.m.

The White House says Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake's decision not to seek re-election was "probably a good move," arguing that he lacks enough support in his home state to win in 2018.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is addressing reporters after Flake delivered a lengthy criticism of President Donald Trump in an extraordinary speech delivered from the Senate floor.

Sanders is also defending Trump in his bitter back-and-forth with Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker. She says the president is a "fighter" and "when he gets hit, he's going to hit back."

Sanders says both Corker, who is not running for re-election, and Flake would have struggled to win another term. She says Trump enjoys more support in Tennessee and Arizona than the GOP senators.


3:30 p.m.

Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, has announced he won't run for re-election in 2018. In a speech on the Senate floor that appears aimed at President Donald Trump, Flake criticized the "flagrant disregard of truth and decency" that he says is undermining American democracy.

Flake says, "There are times we must risk our careers. Now is such a time."

Flake has criticized the path that the Republican Party has taken under Trump. Flake says the impulse to "threaten and scapegoat" threatens to turn America and the GOP into a "fearful, backward looking people."

Flake was trailing in polls against a conservative challenger.


2:35 p.m.

The top Republican in the Senate says President Donald Trump was focused on his administration's priorities at a closed-door luncheon with GOP senators.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters shortly after the luncheon on Tuesday that they discussed the budget, taxes, confirmation of judicial nominees and Trump's upcoming announcement on the opioid crisis.

Sen. Lamar Alexander said they also discussed health care. Alexander said, "He wants to get it done and we're going to get it done."

Several Republicans said there was no interaction between Trump and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker after their angry exchange of insults Tuesday morning.

Trump spent about an hour and a half with Republicans at their weekly luncheon.

McConnell deflected any questions about the Trump-Corker feud.


2:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has ended his lunch with Senate Republicans and is headed back to the White House.

The president gave a wave as he exited the closed-door luncheon on Capitol Hill but he passed up a chance to comment

Earlier Tuesday, Trump was busy on Twitter, jabbing at Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

But Corker says Trump didn't call him out during the lunch, and they had no interaction.

The lunch latest about an hour and half.


1:30 p.m.

A yelling protester got several yards from Donald Trump as the president walked through a Capitol corridor on his way to a lunch with Republican senators.

The man was standing with reporters Tuesday outside the Senate chamber on the building's second floor. As Trump walked by accompanied by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others, the man tossed small Russian flags bearing the word "Trump" toward the president.

The man yelled, "Trump is treason. Why are you talking about tax cuts when you should be talking about treason?" He was grabbed by security officers.

He identified himself as Ryan Clayton from Americans Take Action, a group that wants Trump to be impeached.

In July, Clayton stood among reporters in a Senate office building and threw Russian flags at Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner.


1:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump has arrived for a lunch with Republican senators.

He walked into the Capitol with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at his side. His meeting with the GOP comes shortly after an escalating feud with Republican Sen. Bob Corker. The two men exchanged angry tweets and comments, with Corker saying Trump "debases our nation" with constant untruths.

Trump lashed back calling Corker "incompetent."

Corker, asked if he'll be at the GOP lunch since Trump will be there, said, "Of course, it's my lunch. He's coming to our lunch."

Despite tight security, a protester shouted as Trump arrived on the second floor of the Senate, yelling "Trump is treason."


12:05 p.m.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker says President Donald Trump is debasing the United States by "the attempted bullying that he does, which everybody sees through."

Corker, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman who is locked in a war of words with Trump, said Tuesday the president also is degrading the country by "standing up in front of the American people and stating untruths that everybody knows to be untrue."

Tennessee's Corker says it's unfortunate that young people in the United States and around the world have to witness Trump's behavior.

He says, "You would think he would aspire to be the president of the United States and act like a president of the United States. But that's just not going to be the case apparently."


10:30 a.m.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is telling the media and the public to "forget about" President Donald Trump's latest Twitter fight and focus instead on cutting taxes.

Ryan is trying to keep attention concentrated on the party's efforts to rewrite the tax code in a bid to boost incomes and U.S. competitiveness.

Asked about Trump's Tuesday broadsides against Tennessee GOP Sen. Bob Corker, Ryan said "put this Twitter dispute aside."

Instead, Ryan said "Let's focus on helping people, improving people's lives, and doing what we said we would do."

Trump is traveling to Capitol Hill Tuesday to lunch with Republican senators, including Corker, who Trump said "couldn't get elected dog catcher."

Corker responded by accusing Trump of "debasing" the U.S. and said he engages in "constant non-truth-telling."


10:15 a.m.

Sen. Bob Corker, the Foreign Relations chairman, says world leaders are "very aware" that much of what President Donald Trump says "is untrue." He says the president is "debasing our nation."

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday outside a congressional hearing room, Corker said, "The president has great difficulty with the truth on many issues."

The Tennessee Republican senator, who is retiring, says Trump "is obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president."

Trump's presidential tenure will be remembered, Corker says, for "the debasing of our nation, the constant non-truth-telling, the name-calling." He says "it's very sad for our nation."

Corker and Trump traded insults over Twitter Tuesday as Trump prepared to come to the Capitol for a luncheon with Republican senators. Trump said Corker "couldn't get elected dog-catcher."


9 a.m.

The tweets and counter-tweets are flying between Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee and President Donald Trump. After Corker went on NBC's "Today" Tuesday and said Trump's White House should let Congress decide how to pay for his tax cuts, Trump fired back.

Trump tweeted that Corker, who is retiring, "couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee."

Corker took to his own Twitter account to respond, saying "same untruths from an utterly untruthful president. #AlertTheDaycareStaff."

Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations chair, has previously dubbed the White House an "adult day care center" and charged that Trump could be setting the nation on a path to World War III. Trump has called Corker "Liddle' Bob Corker."


8:38 a.m.

President Donald Trump is accusing Sen. Bob Corker of fighting him on tax cuts, hours before he joins Corker and other Senate Republicans at their weekly Capitol luncheon.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that Corker decided to retire after Trump refused to endorse him "and now is only negative on anything Trump. Look at his record!"

The Associated Press has reported that Trump had urged Corker to run during a private meeting in September. Corker's chief of staff also said Trump called and asked Corker to reconsider his decision to retire.

Trump also says in the tweet that Corker helped "give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee."

Corker said on NBC's "Today" Tuesday, before Trump tweeted, that Trump shouldn't interfere with the work of lawmakers writing tax-cut legislation.


7:50 a.m.

Sen. Bob Corker says the White House should "step aside" and let Congress' tax-writing committees figure out how to pay for the $1 trillion tax cut President Donald Trump wants to sign by the end of the year.

The Tennessee Republican tells NBC's "Today" Tuesday that the tough, "spinach part" of the process is looming and suggests that recent White House decisions to take proposals off the table aren't helping. On Monday, Trump ruled out changes to popular 401(k) retirement plans to help pay for the tax cut.

Corker, who has announced plans to retire and has been critical of Trump, says he hopes the White House will let the committees do their work in a "normal process."

Trump heads to the Capitol on Tuesday to join Senate Republican lawmakers at their weekly policy luncheon.

On another topic, Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations chair, says Trump's tweets and heated rhetoric on North Korea have raised tensions and undercut Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's diplomacy. "When you kneecap that effort," Corker says, "you really move our country into a binary choice, which could lead to a world war."


3:40 a.m.

President Donald Trump is planning lunch with GOP senators on Capitol Hill as congressional Republicans turn their focus to overhauling the tax code.

It's to be Trump's first appearance as president at the Senate Republicans' regular Tuesday policy lunch. It comes as Trump has sparred with GOP senators such as John McCain of Arizona and Bob Corker of Tennessee, as well as with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — though McConnell and Trump had a joint press conference last week to try to smooth things over.

So the lunch has potential for awkward moments. Nonetheless, Republicans and the Trump administration are determined to get tax legislation into law this year, and all sides seem to think they can unite around that goal.

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