Prognosticators may try to predict the future by reading tea leaves or staring into a crystal ball, but they’ll need neither of those tools to see the writing on the wall from today’s announcement that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will not be in attendance at President Trump’s major foreign policy speech today at the National Press Club.
That the Trump administration sees his speech today as a major policy event is evident from the fact that they sent Ivanka Trump onto Fox News to hype it up this morning, where she called it “yet another amazing milestone for this presidency.”
“Normally, the president himself does not share the principles of the national security strategy,” she said.
For the Secretary of State to miss a speech promoted as heavily as this lends credence to the rumors that Tillerson is headed out the door at the State Department. Stories of tensions between the President and the former Exxon CEO have been leaking from nation’s capital since this summer when allegations of Tillerson calling Trump a “f*cking moron” emerged after the President gave a speech at the Boy Scout Jamboree that was widely seen as inappropriately politicized and self-aggrandizing.
The subsequent undercutting of the Secretary of State’s diplomatic efforts in dealing with North Korea didn’t help.
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
The White House has replied to questions regarding Tillerson’s absence from today’s foreign policy speech with a statement saying that:
“The Secretary had a previously scheduled event during this time. His deputy will be at the speech and the Secretary will be at the WH later today for meeting with the President.”
While Trump has denied that Tillerson is leaving anytime soon, his credibility is so shredded by his constant prevarication that it’s difficult to take his denials seriously.
The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://t.co/FrqiPLFJ1E
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
Calling Tillerson’s imminent departure “FAKE NEWS” in the same tweet that he claims that “America is highly respected again,” despite the fact that Trump has managed to alienate most of our closest allies, doesn’t help that credibility.
Just two weeks after Trump tweeted the denial above, The Washington Post published a story titled “Trump allies say Tillerson has ‘not learned his lesson’ and cannot continue in job for long” with this choice quote from an unnamed “Trump official”:
“I think our allies know at this point he’s not really speaking for the administration,” this Trump official said — a particularly sharp slap given that Tillerson has sought to be a buffer and interpreter for allies angry or bewildered by some of Trump’s actions.
The Post also quotes another advisor close to both the President and The Secretary of State as saying:
“…the president has treated the secretary of state ‘horribly’ and humiliated him unnecessarily. But this person said Tillerson also has made ‘enough mistakes of his own.’”
All of this White House in-fighting and rumor-mongering makes a prognosticator’s job fairly easy. Tensions are easier to read than tea leaves or crystal balls.
Given what’s been seen so far, the questions seem to be not if Tillerson will leave, but when, and whether it will be his own decision or not. Get ready to place your bets and stay tuned.