The Slatest

Sen. Cornyn Is Latest to Try to Take Distance From Trump, Says He Disagrees “Privately”

Cornyn covers the lower half of his face with his left hand as he listens during the hearing
Sen. John Cornyn on the third day of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Amy Coney Barrett on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. Pool/Getty Images

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is facing a tougher-than-expected reelection battle, has become the latest Republican lawmaker to try to take some distance from President Donald Trump. In an interview with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram editorial board, Cornyn claimed he has disagreed plenty with Trump over the years—including on trade agreements, budget deficits, COVID-19 stimulus, and border-wall funding—but insists he has always done so privately rather than publicly. Cornyn said his relationship with Trump was “maybe like a lot of women who get married and think they’re going to change their spouse, and that doesn’t usually work out very well.”

In the meeting, Cornyn was asked if he and other members of the Republican Party didn’t regret failing to push Trump more on certain issues, but the Texas senator said there’s little that can be done to change the president’s ways and he says it’s more effective to disagree privately than publicly. “I think what we found is that we’re not going to change President Trump. He is who he is,” Cornyn said. “You either love him or hate him, and there’s not much in between. What I tried to do is not get into public confrontations and fights with him because, as I’ve observed, those usually don’t end too well.”

Cornyn insisted he was opposed to taking money from the defense budget to build portions of the border wall, claiming he is “very much a defense hawk.” But, as the Dallas Morning News points out, Cornyn repeatedly defended the move publicly. In February, for example, he said Trump really had no other choice. “I believe border security is part of national security. So I support the efforts to accomplish that secure border,” Cornyn told reporters on Feb. 20. “The president’s left with a bad hand and has to play the best hand he can.” Cornyn’s Democratic challenger, MJ Hegar, sent a tweet pointing out this discrepancy: “Either John Cornyn’s a coward—or he’s a liar.”

Cornyn spoke up about his supposed disagreements with Trump shortly after Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska criticized the president during a town hall. Sasse’s more direct criticism led to a bit of a tweetstorm from Trump, who called the senator “rather stupid and obnoxious.”