The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was stunned Tuesday when told by reporters about President Trump’s tweets on Qatar.
Asked for his reaction, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) first said he hadn’t seen the tweets.
Told by a reporter that Trump accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism, Corker responded, in a notably lower register, “The president?”
Reporters responded yes, and five seconds of silence later, Corker followed up: “When did that occur?”
Told that it happened Tuesday morning, Corker stood silent for about another 10 seconds.
“I, um, I want to go back and see specifically what he has said,” Corker finally said.
“Our position generally as a nation has been that these things ebb and flow and they come up from time to time, but we work with all of the countries,” he continued.
Trump’s tweets on Tuesday appeared out of step with the initial U.S. reaction to the diplomatic fight in the Middle East. Trump took credit for Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries cutting off ties with Qatar, a longtime U.S. ally, over allegations of state support for terrorism.
“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” he tweeted Tuesday.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding …. extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” he continued later.
Asked what was going through his head as he reacted to the tweets, Corker said he was quiet because reporters were giving him new information.
“Unfortunately, you guys give me a lot of news that I don’t know about until I see you here in the hallway,” he said. “I’m just — I want to see more what was said.”
Later, he noted that Arab nations have different views on groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which was briefly a part of the government in Egypt but is seen as a terrorist group in Saudi Arabia.
“Some of our Arab friends have different sensibilities relative to groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and others, and it’s created some dissension, and it’s been my policy that we work with all of our — we work with everybody in the region in a way that’s constructive,” Corker said.