October 9, 2017

The panel on CNN was buzzing this morning on the meaning of what Senator Bob Corker is saying to the New York Times.

"This is extraordinary," Alisyn Camerota said. "Extraordinary. This is a top Republican who is unplugged now and saying things people have only said off the record or whispered about in the halls of Congress. And he's now saying them."

Daily Beast editor John Avlon agreed.

"And in 'drop the mike' terms," he said. "This is the head of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. When he said President Trump is courting World War III and every day is an exercise in containment because he treats it like a reality show, and it is like adult day care, he is not just criticizing the president. This is what many are saying in private. That's why it has the force of revelation and people should pay attention. This is what people in Washington in the know are saying every day."

Bill Weir said some of the Corker quotes are "staggering."

"I don't know why the president tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does it. Michael Smerconish, as John was saying, this is not a 'Never Trumper' cheerleader. He was a short lister for vice president and secretary of state.

Smerconish said the lawyer in him "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. Let's just reflect on some of the word choices that the senator made. Post Charlottesville, he was questioning the stability of the president. Now he's using the words '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."

Camerota asked if Corker is deliberately choosing words that will lay the groundwork.

"Take a look at the amendment and then say, Alysin, okay, how would you make an argument, what sort of things would you say in making a case to fulfill Section 4 of the 25th Amendment? Those words would be at the top of the list," Smerconish said.

Washington Post reporter Karoun Demirjian said Corker hasn't said anything on that directly.

"Who knows? This is a big turnaround with him," she said. "He's been playing a role in trying to bolster Trump surrogates, his secretary of state, his defense secretary, against the onslaught at various times, from the president.

"Things have been bubbling for a while and Trump's choice to attack Corker yesterday is what led him to decide to unleash this. The question is, if it's been this bad, where do you go from here? Why haven't you been letting this out of the bag before? So there's a lot that could be done between -- look, he laid out the spectrum, basically. You can get to the 25th Amendment. Or there's a lot more that members of Congress could be doing to block the president, frankly, if they are this frustrated with him."

Bill Weir said regardless of whether Corker's "just frustrated, or as you have seen in some chatter, this is Corker 2020. But regardless of the -- this president still has to work with this man who is the head of the Foreign Relations committee."

Avlon said that kind of normal calculus "doesn't seem to apply."

"He routinely goes out of his way to alienate allies, at home and abroad. It does create a stumbling block for any legislation. If he wants to kick the Iran deal into Congress, it doesn't help to attack the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"Michael makes a good point as to where the conversation may be going. This is something that's increasingly being acknowledged. Members of Congress, if they want to contain the president's worst impulses, they need to say not only what they mean, not just when they're not running for reelection. There's still a lot of folks who feel effectively held hostage to the base. Even though the president is at 36% or thereabouts, the base still loves him."

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