Rex Tillerson

Trump Officials Don’t Agree on Syria Regime Change

“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen because all of the parties are going to see that Assad is not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria… There’s not any sort of option where a political solution is going to happen with Assad at the head of the regime.”

— U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, in an interview on CNN.

“When you undertake a violent regime change in Libya, and the situation in Libya continues to be very chaotic and I would argue that the life of the Libyan people has — is not all that well off today, so I think we have to learn the lessons of the past and learn the lessons of what went wrong in Libya when you choose that pathway of regime change.”

— Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in an interview on ABC News.

An Invisible Secretary of State

Politico: “Tillerson takes a private elevator to his palatial office on the seventh floor of the State Department building, where sightings of him are rare on the floors below. On many days, he blocks out several hours on his schedule as ‘reading time,’ when he is cloistered in his office poring over the memos he prefers ahead of in-person meetings. Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact. On his first three foreign trips, Tillerson skipped visits with State Department employees and their families, embassy stops that were standard morale-boosters under other secretaries of state.”

“Eight weeks into his tenure as President Trump’s top diplomat, the former ExxonMobil chief executive is isolated, walled off from the State Department’s corps of bureaucrats in Washington and around the world. His distant management style has created growing bewilderment among foreign officials who are struggling to understand where the United States stands on key issues. It has sown mistrust among career employees at State, who swap paranoid stories about Tillerson that often turn out to be untrue. And it threatens to undermine the power and reach of the State Department.”

Tillerson Denies ‘Fatigue’ Reports

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “denied reports in South Korean media outlets that he did not dine with the country’s officials due to ‘fatigue’ on a leg of his Asia trip,” Politico reports.

Said Tillerson: “They never invited us for dinner, then at the last minute they realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well in public for them, so they put out a statement that we didn’t have dinner because I was tired.”

Tillerson Hopes Avoiding Conflict Will Lead to Influence

“While he has swallowed a big budget cut, had his chosen deputy vetoed, and been dismissed as invisible in his own building, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is playing a patient game to gain influence by avoiding public conflicts with the White House,” Reuters reports.

“The former Exxon Mobil Corp CEO faces multiple challenges in his unfamiliar role as chief U.S. diplomat, including a boss in U.S. President Donald Trump who makes unpredictable policy pronouncements and does not take kindly to criticism or contradiction.”

The Weakest Secretary of State Ever

Foreign Policy: “While much of America’s political class is transfixed by the debate about connections between Russia and the White House, a quieter but perhaps more consequential drama is playing out at Foggy Bottom. It concerns the startling diminution of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and perhaps the entire department that he heads. Normally the most important position in the cabinet, the secretary of state has had little impact on the Trump administration so far. And, if anything, his role appears headed for further decline.”

Where’s Rex Tillerson?

“America’s chief diplomat so far appears allergic to the spotlight. His aloof approach to his job is eroding confidence in him at the State Department, multiple sources told Politico, where staffers are upset about President Donald Trump’s mixed foreign policy messages and his plans to significantly cut the agency’s budget.”

“Tillerson’s relative silence has been further compounded by the fact that the State Department’s traditional daily press briefing has been on hiatus since Trump took office.”

Tillerson Begins State Department Purge

CBS News: “While Rex Tillerson is on his first overseas trip as Secretary of State, his aides laid off staff at the State Department on Thursday. Much of the seventh-floor staff, who work for the Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources and the Counselor offices, were told that their services were no longer needed.”

“These staffers in particular are often the conduit between the secretary’s office to the country bureaus, where the regional expertise is centered. Inside the State Department, some officials fear that this is a politically-minded purge that cuts out much-needed expertise from the policy-making, rather than simply reorganizing the bureaucracy.”

“There are clear signals being sent that many key foreign policy portfolios will be controlled directly by the White House, rather than through the professional diplomats.”

Now Priebus and Tillerson Are Feuding

Wall Street Journal: “Many of the U.S. ambassadorships remain unfilled, a result of a standoff between Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Priebus, the chief of staff, said people familiar with the process.”

“Mr. Trump had told Mr. Tillerson he would have a say in appointing some key ambassadorships, including Canada and Switzerland, those people said. Mr. Priebus subsequently got the president to approve names for those positions—including several top donors to the RNC—without consulting the secretary of state, which angered Mr. Tillerson.”

“The infighting has sown growing insecurity among Mr. Priebus and his top aides.”

Tillerson Confirmed as Secretary of State

The U.S. Senate confirmed Rex Tillerson as President Trump’s secretary of state, “filling a key spot on the Republican’s national security team despite concerns about the former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive officer’s ties to Russia,” Reuters reports.

“In the vote, 56 senators backed Tillerson, and 43 voted no. The tally was largely along party lines, with every Republican favoring Tillerson, along with four members of the Democratic caucus, Senators Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Mark Warner as well as Angus King, an independent.”

Rubio Will Vote for Tillerson

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) announced that he would support President Trump’s pick to lead the State Department, removing the last significant stumbling block to his nomination, The Hill reports.

“Rubio, who aggressively questioned Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson during his hearing earlier this month, had been the lone Republican holdout on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Will Rubio Buck Trump on Tillerson?

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-AZ) “said that they will back the nomination of Rex Tillerson, clearing the way for the oil executive to become secretary of state and leaving just one drama unresolved: What will Marco Rubio do?,” the Washington Post asks.

“The Republican senator from Florida made clear during Tillerson’s confirmation hearing earlier this month that he had significant reservations… Since then, Rubio has come under significant pressure from Republican party leaders to back Tillerson and avoid a split within the GOP on one of President Trump’s most high-profile picks.”

Rex Tillerson’s Nomination Still Up In the Air

Politico: “John McCain said on Wednesday evening that he remains undecided about supporting the secretary of state hopeful’s nomination, an adjustment from his stance earlier this week that he is leaning toward support the former ExxonMovilCEO. McCain, along with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), could cause major trouble for Tillerson’s nomination if they all come out against him.”

Rubio Still Undecided on Tillerson

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he has yet to decide whether to vote to confirm former Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson as President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state, the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Said Rubio: “We’re going to go through the transcripts of the hearing, which I’ve begun to do. We need to have a foreign policy that while always acting in the national interest of the United States is always rooted in our values as a nation.”