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Burr: Trump, Corker need to 'cool it'

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U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., holds up a smartphone as he talks about developing technologies during his speech to the Elizabeth City Rotary Club at Montero's Restaurant, Wednesday.

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Both President Donald Trump and Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker need to “cool it” in their ongoing verbal feud, U.S. Sen. Richard Burr said in Elizabeth City on Wednesday.

Corker, chairman of the Senate's Foreign Relations Committee, has drawn national attention for warning that the president, a fellow Republican, lacks the “stability” and “competence” to effectively serve as president.

Doubling down on those criticisms, Corker has also said in published reports that he believes Trump is making reckless threats toward other countries that could risk “World War III” and that top-level administration officials struggle daily to control the president's impulsive, unfocused behavior.

Trump, meanwhile, has contended that Corker, who is up for re-election next year, “begged” him for an endorsement, but Trump wouldn't provide it. Corker has decided not to run again.

In an interview Wednesday, Burr said he doesn’t share Corker's views, but also called on both men to tone their rhetoric down.

“I'm not sure I necessarily agree with Bob Corker's statement,” Burr said, referring specifically to claims that Trump needs to be controlled. “One, I think he and the president need to cool it.”

Burr also said he expected that Trump, with a background in business rather than politics, would do things differently than past presidents — “and he's certainly lived up to that.”

Burr also declined to criticize Trump's approach to North Korea, an approach that includes personally insulting dictator Kim Jong Un and threatening U.S. military action to halt North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Burr said that, after watching North Korea’s missile and nuclear technology continue to develop, “engaging them in dialogue isn't going to help.”

Burr continued that he believes Trump is trying to engage China to use its influence against North Korea, given it's a major benefactor for North Korea’s struggling economy.

Burr also didn't rule out military options – although that raises concerns of Kim’s regime retaliating, or even collapsing and causing chaos in the region.

“I think there are always military options; they may not be great, but you also can't allow North Korea to have an ICBM capability that can deliver nuclear weapons to the continental United States, it just can't happen,” Burr said.

Burr also briefly discussed the Senate's ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Burr is overseeing it as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. The inquiry has drawn intense scrutiny because it's exploring interactions between Trump associates and the Russian government.

As Burr said earlier this month, he said the question of “collusion” — or illicit collaboration between the Trump campaign and Russia – remains open. Asked to define what he'd consider collusion to be, Burr described it as “coordinated effort to try to influence the outcome of the election.”

Among the reported interactions between Trump associates and Russian officials is a meeting the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., had with a Russian lawyer in June 2016. Emails that Trump Jr. has released show he took the meeting on the premise of receiving information damaging to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and was told the meeting was offered “as part Russia and its government's support for Mr. Trump.” Trump Jr. stated later, as have Russians involved, that the meeting was actually to discuss a separate issue.

Asked if that met his definition of collusion, Burr said, “Well, I don't know, I don't want to prejudge it because I haven't interviewed Don Jr. yet, but I've interviewed some of the individuals that were in the room.” However, he added that if that meeting passed the threshold for collusion with a foreign government, the Clinton campaign would be guilty of collusion as well by accepting Ukrainian research against Trump.

Burr added he hopes the committee will finish its investigation by the end of the year.

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