“I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job. My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
— Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in an interview with IJR.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “plans to skip an April 5-6 meeting of NATO foreign ministers for a U.S. visit by the Chinese president and will travel to Russia later in the month, a step allies may see as putting Moscow’s concerns ahead of theirs,” Reuters 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.”
“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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
Politico: “The Florida senator produced quite a fireworks show this week with his grilling of a seemingly rattled Tillerson at his confirmation hearing for secretary of state. But opposing Tillerson on the Senate floor — and antagonizing Trump, whom Rubio was dismissing as a “con man” around this time a year ago, before eventually endorsing him — is another thing entirely.”
“Intentionally or not, Rubio is out on a limb after demanding denunciations of Russia and other authoritarian countries that Tillerson refused to offer. GOP leaders believe the former ExxonMobil CEO remains a solid bet for confirmation with or without Rubio’s support, but the Florida senator is being watched especially closely because he’s seen as a proxy for other GOP hawks.”
For members: Did Rex Tillerson Lie Under Oath?