WASHINGTON • Mr Donald Trump has attacked a fellow Republican by ridiculing him for his height, even as advisers worried that the President was further fracturing his relationship with congressional Republicans just a week before a vote critical to his tax-cutting plan.
President Trump on Tuesday gave Senator Bob Corker, a two-term Republican from Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a derogatory nickname - "Liddle Bob" - after the two exchanged barbs in recent days.
He suggested Mr Corker was somehow tricked when he told a New York Times reporter that the President was reckless and could stumble into a nuclear war.
"The Failing @nytimes set Liddle' Bob Corker up by recording his conversation," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. "Was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!"
In labelling Mr Corker "liddle", Mr Trump was evidently returning to a theme. He had considered Mr Corker for secretary of state during the transition after last year's election but was also reported to have told associates that Mr Corker, at 1.7m, was too short to be the nation's top diplomat.
Instead, Mr Trump picked Mr Rex Tillerson, who is several inches taller but whose relationship with the President has deteriorated to the point that he was said to have called Mr Trump a "moron".
Mr Trump's jibe at Mr Corker echoed his name-calling during the presidential campaign when he labelled Senator Marco Rubio "Little Marco", dubbed Senator Ted Cruz "Lyin' Ted" and called his presidential race rival Hillary Clinton "Crooked Hillary".
It was not clear what Mr Trump meant when he said NYT set up Mr Corker by recording him.
After Mr Trump lashed out at the senator on Sunday by saying he "didn't have the guts" to run for another term, Mr Corker tweeted a biting retort: "It's a shame the White House has become an adult day care centre."
Later, in a telephone interview with NYT, the reporter recorded the call with Mr Corker's knowledge and consent. The senator's staff also recorded the call, and he said he wanted the newspaper to do the same.
Next week, the Senate plans to vote on a budget measure necessary to clear the way for Mr Trump's tax-cutting plan.
While White House officials bristled at Mr Corker's comments, they also recognised that alienating the senator was risky at a time when Republicans can afford to lose only two votes on any major issue where Democrats are lock step in opposition.
Some White House officials said they expected Mr Corker to support the budget measure next week because he had already voted for it in committee, but other advisers to Mr Trump have said privately they were worried the President was sacrificing his agenda for another round of personal sniping.
Mr Trump said on Tuesday that he was confident the rupture with Mr Corker would not sink his tax plan. "I don't think so at all," he told reporters. "I think we're well on our way. The people of this country want tax cuts. They want lower taxes."
NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST