- Associated Press - Monday, January 8, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Tennessee Republican officials stood by President Donald Trump on stage Monday and much of the party’s congressional delegation rode Air Force One into Nashville for his speech to America’s farmers.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Diane Black showed the range of Republicans who traveled with Trump and stood by him for an executive order signing at the American Farm Bureau Federation convention Monday.

In October, Corker charged that Trump had turned the White House into an “adult day care center” and was setting the U.S. “on the path to World War III.” His toughest criticisms came after he announced in September he wouldn’t seek re-election.

Trump hit back at Corker as a “lightweight” and charged that the former Chattanooga mayor and two-term senator “couldn’t get elected dog catcher in Tennessee.” Trump insultingly dubbed him “Liddle Bob Corker.”

If bad blood remains between the two, it didn’t show Monday. Trump handed Corker a marker he used to sign an executive order aimed at improving rural broadband access. The two talked about foreign policy on the flight in, Corker said.

“People don’t realize, we’ve been working together and talking together about numbers of issues for a long time,” Corker said. “All that’s being written is, like, old.”

Trump cruised to victory by 26 percentage points in Tennessee in 2016, though his poll numbers have slipped somewhat since. Republican hopefuls for Corker’s Senate seat and term-limited Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s job are making their support of Trump well-known.

Black, a Republican candidate for governor, said she’s proud of working with Trump on the budget and tax reform. Trump called her a “terrific woman.”

“I’ve had an incredible opportunity to work right there with the president, to be at the desk with him in talking about the issues and how we can bring those things together, and we will help the American people,” Black said.

Three of the four other leading Republican gubernatorial candidates also attended Trump’s talk Monday: former state Sen. Mae Beavers, state House Speaker Beth Harwell and businessman and farmer Bill Lee.

Businessman Randy Boyd couldn’t attend due to prior commitments, but released a statement praising Trump’s executive order.

The order is aimed at easing the process to put private broadband infrastructure on federal property. Trump also signed a memorandum directing the Interior Department to work on a plan to increase access to their facilities for broadband deployment.

Trump also gave a shout out to U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who faces Stephen Fincher in the Republican primary for Corker’s seat, for rural broadband initiatives.

Across the street Monday, protesters and Trump supporters squared off in the rain in ponchos and under umbrellas.


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