Trump lashes out after Tiller­son says he asked him to side­step law

San Antonio Express-News - - FROM THE COVER - By Carol Morello

Ab­sence does not make the heart grow fonder when it comes to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and his first sec­re­tary of state, Rex Tiller­son.

Nine months after Trump sum­mar­ily dis­missed his top diplo­mat by tweet, he fol­lowed it up with an­other tweet on Fri­day in which he branded Tiller­son “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”

The bit­ing words came after Tiller­son, in an ap­pear­ance at a char­ity event in Hous­ton, said their re­la­tion­ship soured over Trump’s re­peated de­mands that Tiller­son do things that were il­le­gal.

“So of­ten, the pres­i­dent would say, ‘Here’s what I want you to do, and here’s how I want you to do it,’ ” Tiller­son said at a fundraiser for the MD An­der­son Cancer Cen­ter in Hous­ton, in his first pub­lic re­marks about his trun­cated ten­ure since he was let go in March. “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. It vi­o­lates the law,’ ” he said.

As if to con­firm how toxic their in­ter­ac­tions had be­come, Trump praised Tiller­son’s suc­ces­sor, Mike Pom­peo, and dis­missed the abil­i­ties of Tiller­son, who ran Exxon Mo­bil be­fore step­ping down to work for Trump.

“Mike Pom­peo is do­ing a great job, I am very proud of him. 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!”

While at the State Depart­ment, Tiller­son pri­vately fought back against many of the bud­get cuts the White House en­forced on him, but ul­ti­mately made deep cuts in staffing that contributed to low morale as vet­eran diplo­mats were shown the door.

In his re­marks, Tiller­son did not of­fer any spe­cific ex­am­ples of which re­quests he deemed il­le­gal. He said he of­fered to work to change the law, but that ap­par­ently did not curb Trump’s frus­tra­tion.

“I’d say, ‘Here’s what we can do,’ ” Tiller­son said. “‘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.’ I told him, ‘I’m ready to go up there and fight the fight, if that’s what you want to do.’ ”

Tiller­son was fired a few hours after re­turn­ing from a trip to Africa. Though he had been fore­warned that Trump was un­happy with him, Tiller­son learned of his dis­missal through a tweet in which Trump con­grat­u­lated his new pick for the job, Mike Pom­peo, and con­cluded with a breezy, “Thank you to Rex Tiller­son for his ser­vice!”

Tiller­son could not im­me­di­ately be reached for com­ment on Trump’s lat­est slam against him.

Tiller­son

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