Crit­i­cism by Tiller­son prompts at­tack by Trump

Ex-sec­re­tary of state called ‘dumb as a rock’

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Milwaukee Wisconsin - Hasan Du­dar and Christal Hayes

WASH­ING­TON - Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump as­sailed his for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son as “dumb as a rock” af­ter Tiller­son said in an in­ter­view Thurs­day that some of the pres­i­dent’s ideas vi­o­lated the law.

The pres­i­dent’s harsh re­sponse in­cluded call­ing Tiller­son “lazy as hell” and say­ing that Tiller­son didn’t “have the men­tal ca­pac­ity needed” to do his job prop­erly. That all has changed, Trump said, with Mike Pom­peo, who took over the role af­ter Tiller­son’s ouster.

“He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough,” Trump said of his for­mer top di­plo­mat in a tweet Fri­day. “He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ball­game, great spirit at State!”

Trump’s com­ments came in re­sponse to an in­ter­view Tiller­son gave with CBS News.

He said his time work­ing for Trump was “chal­leng­ing,” call­ing his for­mer boss “undis­ci­plined” and say­ing that he’d have to tell the pres­i­dent that ac­tion he wanted to take “vi­o­lates the law.”

“He acts on his in­stincts,” Tiller­son said Thurs­day, in an ex­cerpt re­leased by CBS News. “In some re­spects, that looks like im­pul­sive­ness. But it’s not his in­tent to act on im­pulse. I think he re­ally is try­ing to act on his in­stincts.”

Trump’s for­mer top di­plo­mat made the com­ment dur­ing a talk with Bob Schi­ef­fer of CBS News at a fundraiser in Hous­ton.

He con­tin­ued: “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.”

Tiller­son served as sec­re­tary of state for more than a year be­fore be­ing abruptly fired by Trump in March.

Asked by Schi­ef­fer how his re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent “went off the rails,” Tiller­son said that he and Trump had “starkly dif­fer­ent” styles and that Trump would be­come frus­trated when Tiller­son told him that some­thing he wanted to do would vi­o­late the law or a treaty.

“We did not have a com­mon value sys­tem,” Tiller­son said. “When the pres­i­dent would say, ‘Well here’s what I want to do. And here’s how I want to do it.’ And I’d have to say to him: ‘Well, Mr. Pres­i­dent, I un­der­stand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It vi­o­lates the law, it vi­o­lates a treaty.’ You know. He got re­ally frus­trated.

“I didn’t know how to con­duct my af­fairs with him any other way than in a very straight­for­ward fash­ion,” Tiller­son said. “And I think he grew tired of me be­ing the guy ev­ery day that told him, ‘You can’t do. And let’s talk about what we can do.’ ”

On Thurs­day, Tiller­son also dou­bled down on his pre­vi­ous as­ser­tions about Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion.

“There’s no ques­tion” that Rus­sia med­dled, he said, adding that the in­ter­fer­ence was well-doc­u­mented within in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, ac­cord­ing to the Hous­ton Chron­i­cle.

“What Rus­sia wants to do is un­der­mine our con­fi­dence and un­der­mine the world’s con­fi­dence in us,” Tiller­son said.

Tiller­son’s com­ments came one day be­fore ma­jor news was ex­pected to break Fri­day on spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The up­dates in the Rus­sia in­ves­ti­ga­tion in­clude prose­cu­tors ex­plain­ing why a plea agree­ment with Paul Manafort, Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man, fell apart, and a sen­tenc­ing mem­o­ran­dum that rec­om­mended prison time for Michael Co­hen, the pres­i­dent’s for­mer at­tor­ney.


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