Rex Tillerson, the former US Secretary of State, gave a talk at the MD Anderson Cancer Center on Thursday night. During a back-and-forth with CBS News’s Bob Schieffer, Tillerson shared his views on Russia, social media, and of course, President Donald Trump. You can watch some of Tillerson’s remarks here.
Tillerson admitted that he and the president had a strained relationship almost from the moment he was appointed to be Secretary of State. The one-time oil executive said that not only did they disagree on major policy issues, they also had such different styles that it was a challenge for them to work together. But Tillerson also said that the the problem went deeper, explaining that the president didn’t seem to understand the law, or the limits to his own powers. Tillerson said,
“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.”
Apparently the president found this hugely frustrating and — according to Tillerson — it put a tremendous strain on their relationship, since Trump didn’t like being reminded of what he could and could not do. Tillerson added, “I’d say here’s what we can do. We can go back to Congress and get this law changed. And if that’s what you want to do, there’s nothing wrong with that. I told him I’m ready to go up there and fight the fight, if that’s what you want to do.”
Tillerson didn’t explain exactly which actions he had to talk the president out of taking. The two men had very public differences about foreign policy, especially on how to address the nuclear threat in North Korea, how to address climate change, and how to deal with the Kremlin.
Trump Fired Back, Calling Tillerson ‘Dumb as a Rock’
It didn’t take long before the president heard that his former Secretary of State was putting him down. On Friday afternoon, Trump responded by slamming Tillerson on Twitter. The president didn’t directly address Tillerson’s claim that Tillerson often had to talk Trump out of illegal actions. Instead, Trump wrote that things are going great with his current Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. And then he called Tillerson “dumb” and “lazy.”
Trump wrote, “Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!”
Social media users quickly pointed out that back in 2016 when Tillerson was first hired, Trump called him one of the great business leaders of the world. That tweet survives here:
Tillerson Called Vladimir Putin a ‘Very Calculating’ Leader Out to Undermine US Influence
Tillerson told the crowd in Texas that he absolutely believed that the Russian government had tried to influence the US election. “There’s no question,” Tillerson said. He added, “What Russia wants to do is undermine our confidence and undermine the world’s confidence in us.”
Tillerson didn’t say whether he thinks the Trump campaign had any ties to Russia. But the former Secretary of State called Russian President Vladimir Putin a “very calculating” and “very opportunistic” leader whose goal is to undermine US influence around the world.