John Cornyn: Works to Distance Himself from President Trump

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) speaks during the second day of the Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., October 13, 2020. (Stefani Reynolds/Reuters)

Senator John Cornyn (R.,Texas) on Friday worked to distance himself from President Trump, saying he had privately disagreed with the president on issues including budget deficits, trade agreements and border security.

The high-ranking Republican senator, facing a tougher-than-expected reelection race against Democrat M.J. Hegar, told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that his relationship with Trump was “maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.”

“I think what we found is that we’re not going to change President Trump. He is who he is. You either love him or hate him, and there’s not much in between,” Cornyn said. “What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.”

Cornyn pointed to former Senator Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) who decided not to run for re-election in 2018 after public disagreements with the president over issues such as a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico led him to become a frequent subject of Trump’s tweets.

The Texas Republican said he was comfortable praising the president publicly in situations where the pair had worked well, such as on judicial nominations, Hurricane Harvey relief, a U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal and tax cuts. 

“[W]hen I have had differences of opinion, which I have, [I] do that privately,” Cornyn said. “I have found that has allowed me to be much more effective, I believe, than to satisfy those who say I ought to call him out or get into a public fight with him.”

The senator said he disagreed with Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to use money from the defense budget to build segments of a border wall after Congress refused to allocate the funds. He said he also objected to how Trump handled trade agreements with China and other Asian countries, including the president’s move to pull the U.S. out of a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“I applaud him for standing up to China but, frankly, this idea that China is paying the price and we’re not paying the price here at home is just not true,” Cornyn said.

While Cornyn has rarely criticized the president, his recent comments come after telling the Houston Chronicle earlier this month that he believed the president had “let his guard down” on the coronavirus and created “confusion” about the severity of the pandemic in trying to paint a more rosy picture of the virus.

“I think he let his guard down, and I think in his desire to try to demonstrate that we are somehow coming out of this and that the danger is not still with us — I think he got out over his skis and frankly, I think it’s a lesson to all of us that we need to exercise self discipline,” he said then.

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