Report: Tillerson Threatened to Resign in July, Called Trump a ‘Moron’

According to a dozen current and former senior administration officials, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson grew increasingly frustrated with President Donald Trump this summer and even threatened to quit before Vice President Mike Pence, among other senior officials, spoke with him about his displeasure with the president.

That frustration, however, was mutual as the summer after Trump’s inauguration saw multiple points of contention between both the president and his secretary of state. Trump, for example, disapproved of Tillerson’s attempt to persuade him on foreign policy issues, as well as an apparent attempt by Tillerson to distance himself from the president’s comments on Charlottesville. Tillerson, according to NBC News, went so far as to call Trump a “moron” after a meeting with administration officials in July.

July was also the month when Tillerson threatened to not to return to D.C. from Texas, where he attended his son’s wedding. Just after Trump gave a speech to the Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson reportedly voiced his dismay, prompting his closest administration allies, Gen. John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis, to reassure him and at some point, “beg him to stay” for the sake of “stability.”

According to officials, Tillerson’s departure would have spelled trouble for a White House already reeling from a slew of high-level firings and resignations.

That was around the time State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert announced Tillerson was taking “private” days away from the State Department, a claim that added to speculation that Tillerson would soon leave the Trump administration.

Tillerson’s top spokesman at the State Department, R.C. Hammond, refuted NBC News’s anonymous sources, however, purporting that Tillerson never called Trump a moron. Nor did Tillerson, according to Hammond, consider resigning as secretary of state. Hammond also stated that Mattis’s and Kelly’s conversations with Tillerson shouldn’t be construed as attempts to convince him to remain in the administration.

As recently as Sunday, the president publicly complimented Tillerson but seemed to indicate he was pursuing the wrong approach to North Korea’s nuclear crisis:

It’s unclear how Tillerson took these comments but, as a former Bush administration official suggested, the optics only bolstered perceptions of Tillerson’s and Trump’s relationship as troubled. Former President George W. Bush’s former undersecretary of state for political affairs described Trump’s tweets as “completely undercut[ting] Tillerson.”

“This was a direct public, I thought, repudiation of what Tillerson said,” Burns added. “It feeds the perception that Tillerson does not have a trusting relationship with the president, and that’s very harmful.”

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