The Dance of the Pro-Trump Republican

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Senator Bob Corker has called President Donald Trump a human “wrecking ball” for American foreign policy, and warned that Trump is bringing the world to the brink of “World War III.” But the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Corker chairs is about to get a lot more Trump-friendly.

Sen. Jim Risch, the conservative Idaho Republican who now stands to take over the panel next year, said in a new interview for The Global Politico that Corker is wrong about his Trump-as-wrecking-ball theory and that he plans to air disagreements with the White House far more privately than Corker has done. In his first extensive remarks about his outlook on Trump and foreign policy since Corker said last week he will definitely not run again, Risch praised Trump for “gaining traction,” “moderating” his views and having “picked up on how important diplomacy is.”

“I think he’s dealing with it substantially better than what he started with, which is to be expected because obviously, experience is a huge asset, particularly when you’re dealing with diplomacy,” the senator, a hawkish former critic of Trump’s, told me.

On North Korea, for example, Risch insisted that Trump is in fact now open to diplomatic talks with North Korea, but the senator, who had just returned from the Olympics in South Korea, warned that the president was also serious about military options that could bring a “cataclysmic” war on the Korean Peninsula. As for actual diplomats, the future Foreign Relations chairman downplayed the consequences of a Trump State Department still missing appointees in numerous key positions. Although the U.S. currently has no envoys to 41 nations, including key countries from South Korea to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, Risch responded that it did not matter. “Things are not a whole lot different when there’s an ambassador there,” he told me.

Like Corker, Risch used to be a very public Trump skeptic. He worked against him in the Republican primaries in favor of his Senate Foreign Relations Committee seatmate Marco Rubio, and when he went to the polls on Election Day in 2016, he told reporters he would only reluctantly vote for Trump, calling the future president a “distasteful” choice.

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