Sources: President encouraged Corker to seek re-election

Senator Bob Corker/ CNN

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is encouraging Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee to run for another term, according to two people familiar with a meeting between the two Republicans at the White House last week.

The Friday meeting was the first between Corker and President Trump since they clashed over the president’s comments about a violent white supremacist rally in Virginia last month.

The people familiar with the discussion declined to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss the conversation publicly. The White House declined comment on Monday.

Corker, the chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has so far declined to say whether he will seek a third term.

One conservative activist announced last week that he will run for the GOP nomination in Tennessee, and at least two others are considering bids.

Corker had a $6.5 million balance in his campaign account at the end of the last reporting period, the most among GOP senators facing re-elections next year. Corker has since increased his cash on hand by $1 million, according to his office.

Corker had criticized the President after he blamed both white nationalists and anti-racist protesters for the violence at the Charlottesville rally, questioning whether the commander-in-chief had shown the “stability” and “competence” to succeed in office.

President Trump responded on Twitter: “Strange statement by Bob Corker considering that he is constantly asking me whether or not he should run again in ’18.” Trump added, “Tennessee not happy!”

Corker’s detractors in Tennessee have been keen to highlight the discord between senator and the President, who remains highly popular in the state. But Corker has downplayed any notion of a rift between himself and President Trump, telling reporters last week that “for people to try to act as if there is daylight between us as a result is just not true.”

Corker, 65, has surprised political observers in Tennessee by refusing to divulge whether he will run again. Although the former Chattanooga mayor pledged before his election in 2006 to only serve two terms in the Senate, he has been widely expected to run again because of his seniority on the foreign relations and banking committees.

The senator said last week that he will announce his decision about his political future “very soon.”

Tennessee’s primary election is scheduled for August 2018.