Rex Tillerson 'could quit as Secretary of State amid frustration at Trump administration'

The exasperated Secretary of State is reportedly considering a 'Rexit'

Emily Shugerman
New York
Monday 24 July 2017 22:35
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at the Capitol to join Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in briefing House members on the situation with ISIS
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives at the Capitol to join Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis in briefing House members on the situation with ISIS

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is considering resigning his position amid a rash of staffing changes at the White House, reports have claimed.

Sources familiar with Mr Tillerson's conversations tell CNN the Secretary of State has grown increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration, and may be pondering an exit strategy.

The sources say Mr Tillerson was especially troubled by President Donald Trump’s recent New York Times interview, in which he lamented hiring Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr Tillerson reportedly saw the comments – in which Mr Trump called Mr Sessions “unfair” for recusing himself from the Justice Department's Russia probe – as unprofessional.

While the sources caution that Mr Tillerson may have just been venting after a tough week, they also say it seems increasingly unlikely that he will finish out the year as planned.

Mr Trump and his Secretary of State have clashed on several key issues, such as Mr Trump’s insistence on pulling out of the Paris climate accord. Mr Tillerson said in his Senate confirmation hearing that he supported staying in the agreement, while Mr Trump campaigned on getting the US out.

The Secretary of State has also made it a point to assure other Nato countries that the US remains committed to Article Five, the alliance's promise of mutual protection. Sources told Politico Mr Tillerson was shocked when the President failed to mention the article in his speech at the new Nato headquarters.

The two men’s differences played out publicly last month, after several Gulf countries chose to cut ties with the nation of Qatar. Mr Tillerson urged cooperation between the countries; Mr Trump, meanwhile, praised the blockade, accusing Qatar of “fund[ing] terrorism at a very high level”.

Mr Tillerson at the time was reportedly frustrated with the influence of Mr Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, on foreign policy – both Qatari and otherwise. One close associate told the American Conservative the diplomat was “exhausted”.

“He can’t get any of his appointments approved and is running around the world cleaning up after a president whose primary foreign policy adviser is a 36-year-old amateur,” the source said.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani at a press conference in Doha on 11 July, 2017

The issue of personnel appointments has been a thorn in Mr Tillerson’s side ever since the President rejected his choice of Elliott Abrams as his second in command. Mr Trump reportedly vetoed the pick because Mr Abrams had been critical of him in the past.

Mr Tillerson’s frustration with the slow pace of nominations reportedly boiled over last month, when the diplomat erupted at Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, for “torpedoing” his proposed nominees.

The outburst was apparently so intense that it prompted Mr Kushner, a witness to the event, to deem Mr Tillerson’s conduct “unprofessional”.

The news of Mr Tillerson’s latest complaints comes amid a tumultuous week in White House staffing. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stepped down on Friday, after Mr Trump appointed Anthony Scaramucci to run his communications team – a move the majority of his advisers cautioned against.

Chief of Staff Reince Priebus is also reportedly on rocky footing with the President, and Mr Trump’s comments to the New York Times indicate that he’s having doubts about Mr Sessions as well.

“Drain the Swamp should be changed to Drain the Sewer,” the President tweeted ominously on Monday, “it's actually much worse than anyone ever thought.”

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