WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump's attempt to build bridges in his own party has blown up spectacularly, with one senator announcing he was quitting Congress and another attacking the President for debasing the country.
Senator Jeff Flake on Tuesday assailed Mr Trump in a bombshell speech that sounded like a distress call, warning of a "reckless presidency", minutes after Mr Trump made a rare foray to Congress.
Mr Flake's surprise announcement came hours after a Republican colleague, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, reignited his war of words with Mr Trump, calling him an "utterly untruthful" leader who "debases" the nation.
The extraordinary developments on Capitol Hill only deepened the tensions between Mr Trump and his party, some of whose establishment members have grown increasingly concerned about his coarse and combative style of governing.
Mr Flake, an outspoken critic of Trump-era politics, showed visible emotion as he announced he would not seek re-election next year.
"The personal attacks, the threats against principles, freedoms and institutions, the flagrant disregard for truth and decency... none of these appalling features of our current politics should ever be regarded as normal," he said. "Reckless, outrageous and undignified behaviour is excused as telling it like it is, when it's actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified."
Mr Flake blasted Mr Trump for his unfettered tweeting, and attacked fellow Republicans for keeping quiet as "the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters".
The alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters.
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE, blasting US President Donald Trump for his unfettered tweeting.
Mr Trump attended a Senate Republican caucus lunch for the first time since his inauguration, to press for a unified front for passing a package of tax cuts before the year end. But the unity unravelled before he even arrived.
The focus swerved instead to a brutal back-and-forth between Mr Trump and Mr Corker, the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman who has excoriated the President as dangerously impulsive and branded the White House an "adult day care centre".
When Mr Corker urged the President to stand clear of the tax debate and "leave it to the professionals", Mr Trump rounded on him in a series of tweets, and the war of words was on. "Bob Corker, who helped President O give us the bad Iran Deal & couldn't get elected dog catcher in Tennessee, is now fighting Tax Cuts," Mr Trump tweeted.
"Same untruths from an utterly untruthful president," shot back Mr Corker, who opposed the Iran nuclear deal because he believed it was too weak. "I don't know why he lowers himself to such a low, low standard and debases our country in the way that he does, but he does," said Mr Corker, who is not seeking re-election next year. He also voiced regret for supporting Mr Trump's presidential bid.
In the past week, Mr Trump has been harshly criticised by two high-profile Republicans: former president George W. Bush, who said "bigotry seems emboldened" in the Trump era; and Senator John McCain, a war hero, who issued a searing rebuke to Mr Trump's ideas and politics.
The feud has further exposed Mr Trump's tensions with some Republicans in Congress, where a major legislative victory this year has proved elusive.