Working in the Trump administration must be particularly frustrating at times, especially when your unqualified boss constantly undermines your every move.
Evidence of tensions within the White House emerged today as Trump officials informed NBC News of a rift between the President and the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson was very close to quitting his post this summer over policy disputes and clashes with the White House.
Multiple unnamed senior officials have confirmed this.
Tensions increased dramatically around the time that Trump made the ill-fated speech to the Boy Scouts of America in late July.
Tillerson was in Texas for his son’s wedding when Trump gave the Boy Scouts speech and threatened not to return to Washington according to officials familiar with the issue.
It took the reassurances of Defence Secretary James Mattis and then retired General John Kelly to bring him back, although one official said “they did beg him to stay. They just wanted stability.”
The situation became so bad that Vice President Mike Pence had to give counsel to Tillerson when he returned to Washington, urging him to patch the rifts between himself and the administration, and pleading with him not to quit his post.Tillerson used to lead the organisation and supposedly became so enraged he called the President a “moron” after a meeting in the Pentagon on July 20th.
Tillerson used to lead the organisation and supposedly became so enraged he called the President a “moron” after a meeting in the Pentagon on July 20th.
Trump’s administration has already suffered thanks to the setbacks caused by multiple firings and resignations, and to have such a senior Cabinet secretary leave after less than a year would have been nothing short of a disaster for Trump.
It’s a shame Tillerson didn’t go through with it.
Officials have said that Pence’s advice has helped mend the situation, however last weekend the rift was once again out in the open after Trump seemingly undermined Tillerson in a tweet:
…Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
It would appear that Tillerson’s attempts at nuanced and pragmatic diplomacy do not conform to the President’s own views on how to solve the complex North Korean issue.
Individuals close to Tillerson have denied that any such occurrences took place and emphasised that there has never been a need to convince Tillerson to remain at his post.
But it’s likely that Tillerson’s frustrations are real. Alongside North Korea, there have been a number of other disagreements between the President and himself on foreign policy, especially on issues relating to Iran and Qatar.
Tillerson had urged the Gulf States to ease off their blockade on Qatar, however merely hours later Trump undermined him and said the Saudi-led sanctions were necessary.
On the Domestic side of things, Trump was also reportedly furious with Tillerson’s answer to an interview question in the wake of the political violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.
When asked about Trump’s comments on the matter, Tillerson replied: “The President speaks for himself.” Trump was angry that Tillerson had not leapt to his defence, even those his comments were inexcusable.
It would appear that the Trump administration did some effective damage control when they convinced Tillerson to stay. The turnover has been rapid in the White House since February and the subsequent disruptions have not helped streamline policymaking, although to be honest, that’s probably a good thing for America and the rest of the world.
As for Tillerson’s moron comment, well, I think we can all stand behind him on that one.