Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has recently emerged as a finalist in the search for Donald Trump’s running mate, told The Washington Post in an interview Wednesday that he has taken himself out of consideration for the position.
Corker said that he informed the presumptive Republican presidential nominee of his decision during their day together on Tuesday, when the senator had a series of meetings with campaign officials in New York and then flew with Trump to an evening rally in North Carolina.
“There are people far more suited for being a candidate for vice president, and I think I’m far more suited for other types of things,” Corker said in an extensive phone interview where he repeatedly praised Trump and said he is eager to serve as an informal adviser to the candidate in the coming months.
As they sat close together on Trump’s Boeing 757, Corker recalled telling Trump about how he’s more policy-oriented than political and how even though he has become friendly with Trump, he did not feel comfortable stepping fully into the role of political attack dog or rousing speechmaker.
“It’s a highly political job, and that’s not who I am,” Corker said. “We had a very open conversation about that, and actually, we have been very candid about it from the very beginning of our meetings. I left there feeling very good about him as a person but also realized that at age 63, I know the things I’m good at doing. And knowing what a candidate for vice president has to do, it’s just not the right thing for me, and I don’t think it’s the right thing for them.”
“So, I’m going to move on,” Corker said. “I am very positive about him as a person. It was incredible to be with him in Raleigh and see the way people react to him. They’re so excited, and I truly believe he has such an opportunity ahead.”
Corker added that he expects Trump to make a final decision on his pick by July 15, three days before the opening of the Republican National Convention.
Over the past month, Corker has been under serious consideration by Trump and had submitted personal documents to lawyer A.B. Culvahouse Jr., who is managing the vetting process.
Corker’s sudden departure from the campaign’s high-stakes deliberations over the selection leaves a group of Trump allies still in the running.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence remain near the top of the short list, according to multiple Trump campaign associates.
In the interview, Corker said he spent eight hours with Trump on Tuesday, starting with meetings at Trump Tower in Manhattan in the late morning and ending in the late evening.
“Yesterday tightened the bond and certainly a friendship has been created. It was a pretty remarkable day,” he said. “I spent a good deal of time with Ivanka and Jared,” Trump’s elder daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner. “I spent a good deal of time with Paul Manafort just about where things are going. Then there was time with Trump, in his office and on his plane.” He said he also spent time with Trump’s son Eric.
“I do wish people had an opportunity to visit there and see the people who work with him. They’re the kind of people I like to be associated with. You don’t get the caricature of Trump, if you will. You see he couldn’t be more of a gentleman and how he acts the same with both the most senior and the most junior people around him,” he said.
Corker first came into Trump’s orbit after praising aspects of the candidate’s foreign policy. Both men are not aligned with the GOP’s hawkish wing and found themselves at times echoing each other about how the United States should operate in the world.
Eventually, Corker found his way to Trump Tower in May for a private conversation with Trump, a visit that stoked vice-presidential speculation.
“I wasn’t going to say anything, I just came to visit,” Corker said onstage Tuesday alongside Trump. “But I have to tell you something. The rallies that I have back home aren’t quite like this.”
“Pretty good, pretty tough,” Trump interjected, smiling as he pointed at supporters.
“Pretty cool,” Corker said. “This is unbelievable, isn’t it.”