Tillerson denies plans to resign
Secretary rebuts report he called Trump a ‘moron’
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday he has never considered resigning his job and called “erroneous” an NBC News report that said he was so frustrated with President Donald Trump that he called him a “moron” during a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon.
Tillerson took the unusual step of making a televised statement after NBC News reported Wednesday morning that he considered resigning after the meeting and had to be counseled by Vice President Mike Pence.
While visiting Las Vegas, Trump said: “I’m very honored by his comments. It was fake news from NBC. I have total confidence in Rex.”
While Tillerson did not mention the word “moron” during his comments, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert late Wednesday denied Tillerson used the word.
Pence’s office also refuted the report. “At no time did @VP & #SecState discuss prospect of Sec. resignation,” tweeted Jarrod Agen, Pence’s communications director.
Agen’s statement didn’t address whether Pence gave Tillerson advice on how to handle his disputes with the president.
Citing unnamed senior administration officials, NBC News said the “moron” comment came after Tillerson met with members of Trump’s national security team and Cabinet officials.
Countering that report, Tillerson on Wednesday morning said Pence “never had to persuade” him to keep his job.
“My commitment to the president is strong,” Tillerson said, and he called the president a “smart” man who “demands results.”
Tensions between Trump and Tillerson seemed apparent Sunday, with Trump tweeting that Tillerson is “wasting his time” by trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” the president tweeted, using his nickname for North Korea’s leader.
Tillerson said, “I’m not going to be part of the effort to divide this nation.”
There has been tension between Tillerson and the Trump administration over issues ranging from Iran policy to State Department personnel, according to media reports.