McCain, in speech, denounces ‘spurious nationalism’

Sen. John McCain delivered a condemnation of “spurious nationalism” on Monday night in Philadelphia, using his acceptance speech for the National Constitution Center’s Liberty Medal to issue a call to American ideals.

The Arizona Republican, his voice wavering at points after a program celebrating his life and service in the military and Congress — former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz at one point called him “a founding father of our time” — joked about the path his own life has taken in a country that allowed a man who finished at the bottom of his class to become his party’s presidential nominee.

“I see now that I was part of something important that drew me along in its wake, even when I was diverted,” he said at one point.

But despite the lighter moments and spirit of thanks, his speech was one of warning, and seemed very much directed at the leadership approach of President Donald Trump and his supporters.

“To fear the world we have organized and led for three-quarters of a century, to abandon the ideals we have advanced around the globe, to refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain ‘the last best hope of earth’ for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems,” McCain said, “is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.”

America is about what America stands for, McCain said.

“We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil,” he said. “We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don’t. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn’t deserve to.”

McCain was introduced by former Vice President Joe Biden, who reflected on first seeing the future senator released from the Hanoi Hilton, and later coming to know him as the Navy’s liaison to the Senate, and then as a friend and colleague. He called McCain an inspiration to him, and to his beloved son Beau, who also followed military service with a career in politics, and also fought brain cancer, before dying in 2015.

“What you don’t really understand is how much courage you give the rest of us. It really matters,” Biden said.

“Everybody talks about these virtues, but this is what the guy did,” Biden added. “Duty. Duty. Duty. It’s the marrow running through the solid steel spine of this guy.”

In his introduction, Schultz echoed the themes of the evening.

“There are some who question what this nation has become, our commitment to our founding values,” he said. “Perhaps they do not know where to look.”

The answer, Schultz said, is McCain.

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Trump said to want bipartisan Senate Obamacare deal

President Donald Trump urged Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander to seek out an Obamacare deal with Democrats — encouragement that might help sway Republicans who are skeptical of a bipartisan agreement.

Alexander said Trump told him by phone Oct. 14 he’d like to see a bill that funds the Obamacare cost-sharing subsidies that he abruptly cut off last week. In return, he wants to see “meaningful flexibility for the states in providing more choices,” Alexander (R-Tenn.) said.

“He said he wanted to make sure that in this interim period while we’re still arguing about the long-term direction of health care, that people aren’t hurt — those were his words,” Alexander said of Trump.

Alexander, the chairman of the Senate health Committee, has been working with ranking Democrat Patty Murray for weeks on an Obamacare stabilization bill with similar parameters. But the talks had stalled over how to define state flexibility: Republicans want to let states modify their health systems under Obamacare, and Democrats are wary of anything that could unwind any of the consumer protections in the law.

The discussions sped up over the weekend after the White House on Oct. 12 said Obamacare’s cost-sharing reduction payments would end as soon as next week, according to Republican and Democratic sources. The cost-sharing program, which reimburses insurers to help low-income people pay out-of-pocket health costs, was the centerpiece of a 2014 lawsuit by House Republicans that contended the payments were illegal because they had not been authorized by Congress.

Alexander wants to craft a deal that has the support of a “significant number of Republicans and Democrats.” His goal is to hand the legislation off to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Alexander said Monday he wants to pass a bill as soon as possible so that consumers could see premium relief in 2018.

It’s unlikely that such a bill would pass on its own, particularly if it is poised to get more Democratic support than Republican votes. Democrats have already suggested attaching it to a larger bill, or even folding it into a year-end spending deal, but some worry that would come too late to have an effect on 2018 rates.

A White House official stressed the effort would have to deliver changes to the health law.

“We are willing to work with Congress to reach a legislative solution,” a White House spokesman said. “We will not provide bailouts to insurance companies until we provide the American people with relief from the Obamacare disaster.”

Alexander said he won’t agree to a deal that lacks expanded flexibility for states because he wouldn’t be able to get significant support from other Republicans.

Senate Republicans on Monday said they are open to seeing what Alexander and Murray can come up with.

“I’ve been encouraging Sen. Alexander to work with Sen. Murray all the way throughout the process, but there absolutely has to be some give on the part of the Democrats — the flexibility we need at the state level to lower the cost of premiums for families,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.).

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said he wants to “see some reforms” in a bill.

There is more skepticism about a bipartisan Obamacare deal in the House, where Republicans were able to pass an Obamacare repeal bill only to see the Senate fail at the task.

Alexander and Murray have been discussing a deal since the summer. But Trump on Monday suggested that lawmakers were holding “emergency meetings” on a bipartisan bill because of him.

“Republican are meeting with Democrats because of what I did with the CSRs — because I cut off the gravy train,” Trump told reporters.

Is Trump more media-accessible than Obama?

Jonathan Karl, the ABC White House reporter, had a surprising comment after Monday’s impromptu press conference by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “I have probably had more opportunities to ask questions of President Trump over the past two weeks than I had of President Obama during the last two years of his presidency.”

Not every member of the White House press corps – which has long been advocating for more White House press conferences – believes Trump is a media-friendly chief executive, but the president has seemingly decided that more interaction with reporters, albeit on his terms, serves his interests.

Monday’s press conference had not been listed on the president’s official schedule and, with scant time to set up chairs, reporters bunched in on the White House lawn. As Trump pointed out to call on different reporters, many took to shouting out their questions over each other.

It was the latest example of Trump shunning the traditional, formal press conference normally associated with the presidency in favor of more freewheeling, impromptu exchanges. Though reporters say they appreciate the opportunity to ask questions, the scene created by press conferences like today’s may provide the exact type of image that could help the president in his ongoing battle against the press.

“It maximizes his advantage. Less time to prepare, the press is a little caught off guard,” said one White House reporter. It’s not that reporters have a hard time coming up with questions on the fly, he said, but the scenes of reporters jostling with each other for space and shouting questions over each other—like they were today—creates “a visual that works for him.”

On the other hand, the reporter agreed with Karl that Trump takes questions from reporters more often than Obama.

Karl himself suggested that more questions – even in an atmosphere designed to make the media look more aggressive – are better than fewer questions.

“The President is taking questions much more frequently in recent weeks and that is a good thing,” the ABC reporter said. “There is no substitute for a formal press conference but, regardless of format, it is important to have the opportunity to ask the president questions and that is happening much more often.”

With McConnell standing by his side, Trump held forth for more than 30 minutes on topics from healthcare to Puerto Rico to the NFL. The only formal solo press conference he has held was back in February, shortly after he took office. According to UC Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project, Obama gave seven solo press conference in his first year, while George W. Bush gave four and Bill Clinton 11.

Meanwhile, Trump has taken to answering questions during pool photo ops and while departing from the South Lawn on Marine One, a move that Larry Sabato, the director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said he borrowed from Ronald Reagan — and used to contrast his own moving figure with an unruly mob of pursuers.

“We get a lot more formal news conferences from other presidents. Even recent ones tended to have more formal situations than Trump has or likes,” Sabato said. “He’s not very good in a formal setting. He doesn’t do well. He certainly doesn’t look or act very presidential. I think he’s aware of that.”

Sabato agreed that the spur-of-the-moment, off-the-cuff nature of Trump’s press availabilities puts reporters at a disadvantage.

“I don’t think it’s ideal,” he said, “You have people screaming and yelling, you don’t have follow ups. It makes the press look horrible, maybe that’s part of the reason.”

The White House reporter, who requested anonymity so that he could speak freely, said that reporters face an awkward dilemma: they risk not getting their question in if they don’t act in a way that comes off pushy or aggressive. Meanwhile, Trump can look presidential as he calls on the scrambling mass before him.

Some reporters, the White House correspondent said, “put their self-interest, their outlet’s interest before the greater good sometimes. A lot of screaming and shouting.”

“It’s a collective action problem. If every reporter were a little more dignified in that setting it would be a little bit better for everyone involved. It would produce more interesting answers, it would lower the spectacle and increase the news value. But it’s a challenging thing, it’s not for anyone to police. It requires to everyone to take a step back and calm down and take a breath.”

“I’m not criticizing the way people are asking questions,” he added. “I think everyone who saw that on television, there were moments when everyone cringed and thought, maybe we can do better.”

Margaret Talev, the senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg and White House Correspondents Association President, said in a statement, “The WHCA believes the president should regularly take questions from the reporters who cover him. We will continue to seek opportunities to ask the president questions, through official press conferences, shorter Q&As opportunities and photo opportunities.”

Spur of the moment press interactions were a staple of the Trump campaign as well, and Sabato said that we should expect them to continue.

“I think he was having a great time, certainly far more than McConnell,” Sabato said. “This is a presidency where only one person can speak for it, that’s Donald trump. That’s what so interesting about it.”

Trump White House fed up with the Senate

President Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell stood side-by-side at the White House Monday afternoon to declare they’re “together totally” and “very united” heading into this fall’s tax reform battle.

But behind the scenes, Trump, his administration and even some senators are increasingly worried that taxes will go the way of Obamacare repeal in the Senate: Months of bickering ending in extreme embarrassment.

The debate hasn’t even started on the GOP’s plan, yet some senators are pushing their own tax proposals, while others are increasingly emboldened to defy the Republican president. It’s a dangerous mix considering that McConnell can only lose two votes assuming Democrats band together in opposition.

“We look at the Senate and go: ‘What the hell is going on?’” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said in an interview Friday.

“The House passed health care, the House has already passed its budget, which is the first step of tax reform. The Senate hasn’t done any of that. Hell, the Senate can’t pass any of our confirmations,” Mulvaney fumed in an interview, slapping a table for emphasis. “You ask me if the Republican-controlled Senate is an impediment to the administration’s agenda: All I can tell you is so far, the answer’s yes.”

The revulsion for the Senate’s age-old traditions and byzantine procedure boiled over in public repeatedly on Monday. Trump complained in front of TV cameras that the Senate is “not getting the job done” and said he sees where Steve Bannon — his former chief strategist now planning to run primary challengers against incumbent Republican senators — “is coming from.”

And House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), when asked Monday to name the biggest impediment to tax reform, replied: “You ever heard of the United States Senate before?"

Shortly after, Trump and McConnell held an unusual 40-minute unity press conference, intended to sooth a jittery party that’s watched Trump attack “Mitch M” for failing on health care reform and McConnell assert that Trump had “excessive expectations” for Congress. Trump suggested he would try to get Bannon to back off on some of McConnell’s incumbents, and McConnell sought to keep the tax reform critics at bay after Trump said he wants it done this year.

“We’re gonna get this job done and the goal is to get it done by the end of the year,” McConnell said after lunching with the president. The meeting had been long-planned, but the impromptu press conference was Trump’s idea, two sources familiar with the event said.

McConnell is expected to hold a vote this week on the budget — a precondition for tax reform — and GOP aides expect it to pass. That will relieve some of the pressure on the chamber, which has been receiving flak nonstop from donors, House members and the president since the health care implosion this summer.

Administration officials are hoping that frustration produces enough pressure to force the Senate to pass tax reform. But already, there are signs of trouble.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) is so skeptical that the Senate can enact the GOP’s tax framework that he’s begun pitching his own tax plans to colleagues. It would shift the burden of corporate taxes onto shareholders and allow individuals to opt out of the existing tax code and into a system without the confusing array of tax preferences and deductions that people can now choose.

It’s radically different from what congressional leaders and the president proposed. But Johnson said in an interview that leadership’s plan “is going to be very difficult to pass. We’ve already seen with the outline now, with the principles given, that’s going to be a challenge.”

“I don’t want to be a problem child here, but what I’m offering is a plan B,” Johnson added. “If they can’t get the votes … I’ve got an alternative.”

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) brushed off any negativity about the Senate’s work, insisting that he never thought the party’s agenda is “off track.” But he said the sniping from Mulvaney and Ryan — and skepticism from some Republican senators about the prospects for tax reform — is not helpful.

"I don’t think that sort of thing is very constructive myself,” Cornyn said Monday.

The House is sure to labor to pass tax reform, too. Members from high-tax states are already rebelling against plans to gut the deduction for state and local taxes. But two White House officials said the most serious concerns are in the Senate.

“I was really not happy that this Congress couldn’t control its own members and get to a winning vote on health care,” said Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.). “This tax code is something we’ve got to do. We’ve got to do that this year. It’s a test of the Republican majority.”

But like with health care, the tax reform process is moving more slowly than many Republicans would like. There’s no bill yet, for starters. And White House officials have deliberately left some policy details vague because they’re unsure what it will take for various senators to get on board and want to leave their options open, one of these people said.

The White House officials expect a multitude of demands from Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) regarding the deficit, and from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on middle-class tax cuts. Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, perhaps the most endangered Republican senator on the ballot next year, is expected to have his own asks.

Other moderate Republicans senators are expected to hold major sway as well, including Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine. Another wild card is Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who’s voted against past tax cuts and cast the decisive vote against Obamacare repeal.

"We’re expecting to have to make some deals here," one official said.

Rattled that many senators are still on the fence, the Koch network encouraged their donors at a recent retreat to call Republican senators and push them to vote for tax reform. Vice President Mike Pence told donors at the Koch summit that they thought they could persuade Paul and that Trump planned to travel more to win wavering senators over.

And after working for months on an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill that went nowhere, senators say they feel more urgency than they ever have on taxes.

“If you just stand there you get run over,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.). “I don’t want to see what happened to us on health care happen to us on tax reform. Which is basically, we analyze it until we are paralyzed.”

If that happens again, Republicans are warning of dire consequences: Losing the House and possibly the Senate, and inviting a new wave of ire at incumbents. In an urgent plea over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) even suggested on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that if the party can’t pass tax reform and repeal Obamacare within the next few months, “it will be the end of Mitch McConnell as we know it."

People close to Trump said the White House isn’t there yet.

“We don’t get into leadership races down here,” Mulvaney said. But maybe, he suggested, the pressure on McConnell and “the Senate’s failure to pass health care might actually help us to get tax reform passed. Because I think they know they need to get something done.”

Undocumented pregnant girl in Texas tests Trump policy to stop abortions

AUSTIN, Texas — The Trump administration is preventing an undocumented, pregnant teenager detained in a Brownsville refugee shelter from getting an abortion in a policy shift with big implications for hundreds of other pregnant, unaccompanied minors held in such shelters.

She is not the first to be stopped, according to advocates who work with undocumented teenagers.

For the last seven months, the Health and Human Services Department has intervened to prevent abortions sought by girls at federally funded shelters, even in cases of rape and incest and when the teen had a way to pay for the procedure. The agency has instead forced minors to visit crisis pregnancy centers, religiously affiliated groups that counsel women against having abortions, according to documents obtained by POLITICO, interviews with sources involved in the Brownsville case and those familiar with the agency’s policy.

In some cases, a senior HHS official has personally visited or called pregnant teens to try to talk them out of ending their pregnancies.

“There is a pattern of unconstitutional overreach of power in a minor’s abortion decision,” said the teen’s lawyer, Brigitte Amiri of the ACLU.

The ACLU brought suit on Friday on behalf of the 17-year-old in the Brownsville shelter, contending HHS has barred the girl, now about 14 weeks pregnant, from getting the abortion even though she got a judge’s permission to have it without parental consent and has obtained the money to pay for it. Abortions after 20 weeks are illegal under Texas law.

The girl, identified in court papers only as Jane Doe, obtained a judge’s permission on Sept. 25 and had an initial abortion appointment scheduled for Sept. 28, at the end of her first trimester, Amiri said.

But officials at the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which is part of HHS, refused to transport her to her abortion appointment, instead taking her to a crisis pregnancy center, and calling her mother in her home country to tell her about the pregnancy, according to the ACLU suit and Amiri.

“What’s especially disturbing for us about this case, is that the child is in the custody of ORR [the Office of Refugee Resettlement], so she has no other choice, and she is stuck in a form of custody or detention,” said Michelle Brane of the Women’s Refugee Commission.

The Trump policy represents a sharp departure from the Obama administration, when the government reviewed an undocumented teen’s request for an abortion when she sought federal funding to pay for it, said Robert Carey, director from April 2015 until January of this year.

The funds were approved in cases of rape or incest or when a mother’s life was in danger, according to the agency’s guidelines. HHS didn’t get involved if the teen got funding for the procedure from another source, he said.

“I wasn’t approving their right to have the procedure,” Carey said.

The ACLU estimates that several hundred pregnant minors are currently in federal shelters throughout the country. Most are from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador and immigration experts believe many are victims of rape and sexual violence, either in their home countries or during the perilous journey here. If they are apprehended after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, they are housed in HHS shelters separate from adults until they are reunited with relatives or other sponsors, or else deported.

The Trump administration policy shift appears to have begun in early March, in the weeks leading up to Scott Lloyd, a lawyer with Knights of Columbus, a Catholic charitable organization, taking the helm of the refugee resettlement agency. On March 6, he and two HHS employees sent an internal memo detailing three cases of minors held in federal custody asking for abortions, according to documents shared with POLITICO.

They say that federally funded shelters must “provide immediate and continuing information” to the agency regarding abortion requests, that neither the agency, nor the facilities, may authorize the procedure and that punitive action would be taken against facilities that violate the protocol. The email also said the girls in those cases had changed their stories about whether the pregnancies resulted from rape or consensual sex with a boyfriend. The document also had “talking points” but they were blacked out in the copy shared with POLITICO.

Later, as director, Lloyd wrote in a March 30 email to another staffer: “Grantees should not be supporting abortion services pre or post-release; only pregnancy services and life-affirming options counseling.”

Lawyers who work with the teens say the policy appears to have been disseminated informally through email, rather than being formally codified in the agency’s policy guide.

They also note that Lloyd has personally visited and called pregnant girls in shelters, directed them to a list of approved crisis pregnancy centers, instructed staff to block minors from meeting with attorneys and told shelter operators to call a minor’s parents even if she receives permission to go to a judge to obtain authorization for an abortion without their consent. In many cases, parents are hundreds of miles away in their home countries, or minors worry that parents won’t approve of the procedure.

Susan Hays, an Austin attorney who helped the girl in the Brownsville shelter get a judge’s permission to have the procedure, said that the girl was worried about telling her parents because they had beaten her sister when she became pregnant out of wedlock.

Lloyd has also threatened to pull funding from shelters, which are under federal contract, for failure to comply, Hays said. “Shelters are scared,” she added.

Access to abortion has long been an issue for girls detained in refugee shelters, because many are religiously affiliated institutions that oppose the practice. But Amiri, Hays and others who work with refugees tell POLITICO that it’s unprecedented for an ORR director to personally attempt to dissuade minors from ending a pregnancy.

“Imagine you are an unaccompanied minor and this bureaucrat from Washington, D.C., in a suit comes to visit you,” Amiri said. She called it an “abuse of power to coerce and use immigration status as a bargaining chip.”

HHS did not to respond to questions about the agency’s policy regarding abortions among undocumented pregnant minors. Lloyd referred repeated calls and emails to the HHS communications team.

Calls and emails to several ORR staffers were unanswered. In response to questions about the Brownsville case, a spokesperson for HHS’ Administration for Children and Families said in an emailed statement “our paramount concern is the child’s safety and well-being.”

“While the child is in our custody, our goal is to provide food, shelter and care to her under federal statute,” the spokesperson said. “We are providing excellent care to the adolescent girl and her unborn child, who remain under our care until the mother’s release.”

The policy regarding what to do with undocumented minors in shelters that request abortions was first laid out in a 2008 Bush administration memo. That came at the end of the administration, so the Obama administration interpreted the policy.

“A considerable amount of time and energy was put into the development of that policy,” Carey said.

Carey estimated that he signed off about three or four times a month on the use of federal funds to help girls terminate their pregnancies in case of rape or incest or when her life was threatened.

“They were entitled to family planning services and left [on their own] to make those decisions to terminate those pregnancies,” he said about the decision of a pregnant minor in a federally funded shelter to have an abortion.

The new policy could have far-reaching consequences on all aspects of rules around pregnant unaccompanied minors, from how long they are held in federal shelters to how they are counted, say lawyers and advocates who work with them.

For example, HHS may keep girls until they can no longer legally get an abortion or release them to families that would also discourage abortions, rather than to family members or sponsors. In addition, HHS is considering counting fetuses as unborn children, which could change federal funding at shelters that house pregnant teens, according to sources.

The emergence of the policy is documented in a series of emails between Lloyd and other officials and shelters since March.

In one case, acting ORR director Kenneth Tota tried to stop a medication abortion, which involves taking two prescriptions in sequence. He asked that the girl be sent to the emergency room for an exam to determine if the fetus was still viable after she had taken the first pill, but before she took the second drug to complete the procedure. In the end, the agency let the procedure continue.

In another case, about 10 days before his official appointment, Lloyd visited a Honduran girl in a San Antonio shelter and sent an email to the shelter operator asking to accommodate her request for bananas and soup and a more comfortable mattress, according to the emails. He added that if things get “dicey” with her sponsor, a relative in the U.S., he knew families that would take her in and see her through her pregnancy and beyond. That potentially violates an agreement in which the government must quickly reunite the minor with family or other sponsor.

In another case this spring, described in the emails, Lloyd said he spoke with a girl requesting an abortion at a Southwest Key shelter in Phoenix. He directed ORR staff to send the girl to a specific crisis pregnancy center for an ultrasound and to keep her from meeting with an attorney regarding her desire to get a judge to give her permission for an abortion. Neither the shelter nor the crisis pregnancy center responded to requests to comment over the weekend.

Although the ACLU’s lawsuit applies only to one teenager, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a news release that he worries a decision in the case could have broad-ranging implications.

"No federal court has ever declared that unlawfully-present aliens with no substantial ties to this country have a constitutional right to abortion on demand," he said. "If ‘Doe’ prevails in this case, the ruling will create a right to abortion for anyone on earth who enters the U.S. illegally. And with that right, countless others undoubtedly would follow. Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions."

Corker: ‘I gotta believe I’ll talk to the president again’

Bob Corker has received an array of calls from the Trump administration since blasting the president: from Vice President Mike Pence, from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

But nothing from President Donald Trump himself.

The Tennessee senator, who said in the past eight days that the president’s tweets could lead to “World War III” and that Trump had castrated Tillerson, said in an interview on Monday that he wasn’t sure when he’d talk next to Trump and whether or not there would be a real attempt to mend fences with the president. He seemed sanguine about what he had wrought: a sitting Republican senator voicing real and urgent concern about the president of his own party.

“As always, some occasion will rise,” Corker said. “I’ll be here another 15 months. I gotta believe I’ll talk to the president again.”

Corker is retiring after 2018, and is thus far the only senator to offer such a comprehensive and blunt critique of Trump. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) doesn’t like Trump’s decision to end Obamacare subsidies, and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) dislikes the opacity to Trump’s military plans, but no one is joining Corker in blasting Trump’s “volatility” so forthrightly.

“I made the comments. I wasn’t expecting anything in particular,” Corker said of his public airing of grievances, which followed a series of more nuanced critiques intended to make Trump tone down some of his rhetoric. Corker said the White House is in a “downward spiral,” that the president needed to be more stable, that Tillerson was helping protect the world from “chaos.”

It didn’t work, and Trump instead called Corker out on Twitter as begging for the president’s political support. So Corker called The New York Times while he “was driving down to the beach,” and said what’s been on his mind for weeks.

“You know, it’s been building for a long time,” he said. “It’s been building over the last four months. Many of the things I’ve said publicly. I’ve had private conversations, too. So that’s kind of where we are. It’s been a week. We’ll see.”

Asked what he thought of Trump’s 40-minute news conference on Monday, in which he stated that other presidents didn’t often contact fallen soldiers, Corker said he hadn’t seen it.

“Was it good?” he asked.