NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam said today the latest public explosion between President Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., doesn't come as much of a surprise given that it involves "two very strong-willed and strong-minded people who don't mind speaking their mind."
"I think, like I said, my sense is that Bob has always been somebody that if he had a concern that he thought this was something I need to share with folks, he's going to do that," said Haslam, a fellow Republican and longtime friend of Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor. "I really don't know beyond that."
Tensions between Trump and Corker ignited yet again ahead of Trump's planned Capitol Hill visit with Corker sharply criticizing Trump in interviews on NBC's "Today Show" and CNN, charging the president has "great difficulty with the truth" and "debasing" the nation would be Trump's legacy.
Trump struck back via Twitter, calling the senator "incompetent" and someone who "doesn't have a clue."
Corker "couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee," Trump stated in a tweet.
Speaking to CNN, Corker said of Trump that he believed "many of us, me included, have tried to, you know, intervene, and I have had a private dinner and have been with him on multiple occasions to try and create some kind of aspirational approach, if you will, to the way that he conducts himself.
"I don't think that that's possible," Corker added. "He's obviously not going to rise to the occasion as president."
Haslam later told Nashville reporters that if Corker "feels something isn't right he's going to say that. I think he's doing that. I think the president's been pretty well known for saying what he thinks as well."
The governor has found himself at odds with Trump himself. During the 2016 campaign, Haslam called on then-GOP nominee Trump to step down after an "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced in which Trump crudely described reaching out and grabbing women.
"I still hear about that," Haslam said. "And I'm sure Sen. Corker hears a lot about that as well. But in the end you have to say what you really think."
Holders of public office are often "called on to give your opinion about a lot of things," Haslam said. "And you have to decide what are the things I feel strongly about, and obviously Bob felt strongly enough about this to say something."