WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson firmly denied Wednesday that he had fallen out with Donald Trump and vowed to remain in post to pursue the president’s “America First” agenda.
Trump and Tillerson’s relationship has been the subject of media speculation for months, and on Wednesday an explosive report suggested the top diplomat had even considered resigning. According to the NBC News story, which cited “multiple senior administration officials,” Tillerson had also referred to Trump as a ‘moron’ in front of colleagues at a July 20 Pentagon meeting.
Afterward the secretary had, the report alleges, met with Vice President Vice Pence, who urged him to show more respect but also persuaded him not to resign. Appearing before reporters at a hastily organized news conference in the State Department, Tillerson denied the report and pledged full support for the president and his agenda.
“There’s never been a consideration in my mind to leave,” the former oil executive said. “I serve at the appointment of the president and I am here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.” The former ExxonMobil chief executive’s tenure at the State Department has drawn scorn from Trump’s opponents, from former diplomats and from the Washington policy elite.
He has also been faced with an extraordinary array of foreign policy challenges – from North Korean nuclear threats to Russian subversion to attacks on US diplomats in Cuba. But his efforts have been overshadowed – some would say undermined – by Trump’s un-diplomatic style and his streams of taunting tweets stirring international tensions.