TRUMP CALLS Tillerson “dumb as a rock.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump denounced his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, as “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell” Friday after the former Cabinet member said the president had regularly pushed him to take actions that were illegal.
Trump, who fired Tillerson with a Twitter post in March, fired back at him in the same social media channel after the former secretary gave a talk in Houston breaking his silence. In the talk, Tillerson said Trump was undisciplined, did not like to read and did not respect the limits of his office.
“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him,” Trump wrote Friday afternoon, referring to the current secretary. “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!”
Trump’s judgment on Tillerson was the polar opposite when he nominated him, praising him in December 2016 as a “world-class player” who made “massive deals” while CEO of a mammoth oil company.
The president did not say so but appeared to be responding to comments Tillerson made in Houston on Thursday night during a public discussion with Bob Schieffer, the longtime CBS News journalist, at an event benefiting M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil chief executive, for the most part has stayed out the public eye since his departure from the Trump administration but unloaded under questioning by Schieffer.
“It was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil Corporation to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things, but rather just kind of says, ‘Look, this is what I believe,’” Tillerson said.
Tillerson said the president kept pressing for actions beyond his authority.
“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,’” Tillerson said. “It violates the law.”
In his remarks in Houston, Tillerson did not offer any specific examples of the Trump directives he deemed illegal.
The former secretary did say the president would get frustrated. “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,’” Tillerson said. “I told him, ‘I’m ready to go up there and fight the fight, if that’s what you want to do.’”
Tillerson also took a swipe at Twitter — not the president’s use of it, but the short attention span it has helped engender in many Americans.
Saying Trump won office using modern-day tools to tap into strong emotions, he added, “I will be honest with you. It troubles me that the American people seem to want to know so little about issues that they are satisfied with 128 characters.
“I don’t want that to come across as a criticism of him. It’s really a concern I have about us as Americans, and us as a society, and us as citizens.”
Since he was dismissed, Tillerson previously had avoided any direct rebuke of his former boss.
The closest he came to criticizing Trump was during a commencement speech he made at Virginia Military Institute in which he lamented “a growing crisis of ethics and integrity” and said truth was “the essence of freedom.”
Trump’s response about Tillerson’s intelligence repeats a theme for him. After news reports that Tillerson once called the president a “moron”, Trump challenged him to an IQ contest. “And I can tell you who is going to win,” the president insisted.