President Trump tweeted that he thinks former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson — who criticized the president in a comments reported earlier — was “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell” in his role at the State Department.
“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. It violates the law.”
— Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, quoted by the Houston Chronicle.
“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”
— Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, quoted by NBC News, giving the commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute.
Ronan Farrow: “After Tillerson’s brief and chaotic ride as America’s top diplomat, Pompeo will face a Department with an uncertain future, in which the evisceration of American diplomacy well under way, if not complete. Should he be confirmed, he will face decisions with profound implications, potentially for generations of American foreign policy.”
Said former Secretary of State John Kerry: “In a couple years, if we get a Presidency of either party that values diplomacy, you can fix a budget, you can invest again in the State Department. But it takes years to undo what’s happening, because it takes years to build up expertise and capacity.”
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell offered a similarly blunt assessment saying the Trump Administration has been “ripping the guts out of the organization.”
A must-read from Farrow: War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence.
Politico: “It was one of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s core goals: radically reshaping the State Department to make it leaner, cheaper and modernized to the standards of a former private-sector CEO. Now that Tillerson has been fired, the vaunted ‘Redesign’ initiative he launched faces an uncertain future, but at least one clear legacy: around $12 million dollars spent just for private consultants who in some cases charged the State Department more than $300 an hour.”
“As many as 90 consultants worked on the project, according to one document. Many of the consultants have spent extensive time at the State Department, meeting with top officials, collecting and analyzing data, creating PowerPoint presentations and leading group discussions with skeptical employees.”
“Rex Tillerson has all but vanished from the State Department’s website as his unceremonious firing by tweet took effect over the weekend,” the AP reports.
“The ‘Secretary of State Tillerson’ link at the top of the department’s homepage disappeared overnight Saturday and was replaced with a generic ‘Secretary of State’ tab. When clicked, it leads to a page that informs visitors in a brief statement that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan ‘became acting Secretary of State on April 1, 2018.’ It shows a photo of Sullivan signing his appointment papers as deputy in June 2017 but offers no explanation for the change in leadership.”
In a farewell speech to department staff, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson wasn’t subtle expressing his view about the way he was summarily dismissed from his job by President Trump, Marketwatch reports.
Said Tillerson: “This can be a very mean-spirited town. But you don’t have to choose to participate in that. Each of us gets to choose the person we want to be, the way we want to be treated, and the way we want to treat others.”
“I will continue to pray for our country, our leaders, and your efforts to make this world a better place than we found it,”
— Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, quoted by the AP, in a message to State Department employees.
Washington Post: “Trump initially was drawn to Tillerson because of his stature as chief executive of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest companies, and his work as a global dealmaker. He told friends that the broad-shouldered, silver-haired Tillerson could be a diplomat out of central casting.”
“Yet Trump quickly soured on Tillerson and made no secret of his dislike. He mocked his mannerisms and Texas drawl, saying his secretary of state talked too slowly. In conversations with advisers and friends, the president would often list others he said would do a better job than Tillerson, whom he frequently labeled ‘weak.’”
“One source of weakness, the president felt, was Tillerson’s media profile. Trump told one adviser he was ‘amazed’ at how much negative press Tillerson received.”
“Two senior department officials said Tillerson received a call from John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, on Friday, but was only told that there might be a presidential tweet that would concern him. Kelly didn’t tell Tillerson what the tweet might say or when it might actually publish.”
Washington Post: “In the end, no one was more surprised that Tillerson was fired than Tillerson himself.”
“From Ukraine to Syria – and now the UK – Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
President Trump took questions from reporters after he fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson:
REPORTER: Did you fire him because he called you a moron?
REPORTER: Did you fire him because he called you a moron?
TRUMP: Say it again.
REPORTER: (inaudible) Why now?
“President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate negotiations with North Korea,” the Washington Post reports.
“Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Hapsel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.”
New York Times: “Mr. Tillerson has been out of favor with Mr. Trump for months but had resisted being pushed out and vowed to remain on the job. But his distance from Mr. Trump’s inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Mr. Kim, to the surprise of Mr. Tillerson, who was traveling in Africa at the time.”
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told Fox News that Russia is already trying to interfere in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.
But he said there are few ways to stop it.
Said Tillerson: “The point is, if it’s their intention to interfere, they are going to find ways to do that. We can take steps, but this is something that, once they decide they are going to do it, it’s very difficult to preempt it.”
Politico: “Diplomatic insiders say Tillerson’s staying power may due be to his stubborn personality — along with the sense of pride that comes from being a former corporate CEO. That he hasn’t been fired could also reflect the political reality for Trump that losing his secretary of state so quickly would be an embarrassment — and that replacing Tillerson would be an unwanted headache.”
“Anything is possible in a Trump administration that has seen numerous high-level departures, of course. And critics warn that a shadow hangs over Tillerson that deepens confusion overseas about U.S. foreign policy. Foreign diplomats see Tillerson as a weak figure because his views are often out of sync with Trump’s. He’s also alienated many of the diplomats who work for him and are worried about his ambitious plan to downsize and restructure the State Department.”
“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he fully intends to remain in the Trump administration through 2018, casting concerns about his future at the State Department as overblown,” Politico reports.
“Speculation surrounding Tillerson’s job security and a potential departure — a so-called Rexit — has run rampant since NBC News reported in October that he had called Trump a ‘moron’ during a meeting with Pentagon officials.”
Meanwhile, Tillerson insisted to CNN that he has never questioned Trump’s mental fitness.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “let slip last week a few tantalizing details about one of the nation’s most secret military contingency plans: how the United States would try to race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons if it ever saw evidence that Kim Jong-un’s government was collapsing,” the Washington Post reports.
“For years, American diplomats have been trying to engage their Chinese counterparts in a discussion of this scenario… And for years the Chinese have resisted the conversation… The Chinese feared that if news of a conversation leaked, Beijing would be seen as conspiring with the United States over plans for an eventual North Korean collapse, eroding any leverage that Beijing still held over Mr. Kim.”
Elizabeth Shackelford, who was seen as a rising star at the State Department, wrote a scathing resignation letter, “accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration of undercutting the State Department and damaging America’s influence in the world,” Foreign Policy reports.
Shackelford “wrote to Tillerson that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work.”
“Her former colleagues said her departure — and the sentiments expressed in her letter — reflect a wider exodus of midcareer diplomats who have lost confidence in Tillerson’s management and the Trump administration’s approach toward diplomacy.”