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‘I don’t waste a lot of time thinking about it’: Rubio downplays Trump attack on Corker

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AP analyzes news from the White House this weekend, dominated by President Trump’s back-and-forth with Sen. Bob Corker and his hard-line immigration priorities wanted in exchange for extending protection from deportation to young immigrants. (Oct. 9)
AP

Sens. Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake, both of whom have been on the receiving end of some harsh tweets from President Donald Trump, on Monday tried to stay out of Trump’s latest Twitter tirade against Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Rubio, a two-term senator from Florida and one of Trump’s 2016 Republican primary rivals, was in Scottsdale to headline a lunch fundraiser for Flake, R-Ariz., another one of Trump’s favorite GOP punching bags who is facing a tough 2018 re-election fight.

“I don’t waste a lot of time thinking about it,” Rubio told The Arizona Republic about the insults traded Sunday by Trump and Corker. “… It’s not unusual for presidents to have differences with members of their own party, particularly in the Senate. I think what’s unusual is it happens in real time in the 21st century because of Twitter and things of that nature.”

Both Rubio and Flake sit on the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is chaired by Corker, a two-term Republican who has announced his retirement.

Flake, who was once dubbed “a non-factor in (the) Senate” and “toxic” in a tweet by Trump, said he doubted the Trump-Corker rift would have any impact on Foreign Relations Committee business.

“Anybody who knows Chairman Corker knows he speaks his mind, maybe even more so now,” Flake said. “But he knows what he wants the committee to do, and we all have our franchise there, and I think it will be there as it was before.”

Rubio, once dubbed by Trump in a tweet as “Little Marco Rubio, the lightweight no-show Senator from Florida,” agreed that Corker won’t let the feud interfere with the committee. The body has broad jurisdiction over foreign-policy matters, including treaties and authorizations for use of military force, and has oversight on the State Department.

“I don’t believe Senator Corker is going to block something the president wants just because of that,” Rubio said. “He may be against it if he doesn’t agree with it, but it won’t be because of some tweet. That’s just not the way he operates. Quite frankly, it’s not the way most of us operate.”

In a series of brutal Sunday tweets, Trump ripped Corker as “a negative voice” standing “in the way of our great agenda” who “didn’t have the guts to run!”

Trump further claimed that Corker “begged” him to endorse Corker for re-election in Tennessee. “I said ‘NO’ and he dropped out,” Trump wrote.

“He also wanted to be Secretary of State, I said ‘NO THANKS,” Trump said in another tweet.

The president also blamed Corker for the Iran nuclear deal.

Corker fired back after Trump’s Sunday barrage: “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”

Corker also expressed concern that intemperate Trump remarks in the realm of foreign affairs could lead to “World War III.”

On another topic, Rubio also expressed optimism about a deal to save the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Trump is ending.

Rubio said a clean bill is the most efficient way to address DACA, which President Barack Obama’s administration created via executive action to shield from deportation young people brought into the United States illegally as children.

But he acknowledged that’s probably not realistic.

Flake last week introduced a compromise bill that would address the young immigrants’ situation with funding for border security.

“There’s a majority of members in the United States Senate — quite frankly, the president himself — who have said that they would like to see some accommodation (for) people that have grown up their whole lives in this country, who came as children, who are here illegally through no fault of their own, and who we’ve invested years of education,” Rubio said.

“These are people that meet the criteria of a merit-based immigration system the president has advocated for.”

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Rubio also pumped up Flake’s chances for re-election, despite early polls that show him trailing his 2018 GOP primary challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward of Lake Havasu City.

Rubio praised Flake as “a solid conservative” who is as principled as anyone in the Senate.

Early polls are “truly irrelevant because there’s going to be a campaign and campaigns are going to influence what the final outcome is in an election,” Rubio said.

TALKING POLITICS: Listen to our Arizona politics podcast, The Gaggle, on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher or Google Play.

Nowicki is The Republic’s national political reporter. Follow him on Twitter, @dannowicki.

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