Trump Claims NBC News Report Tillerson Almost Quit is Fake News
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that he has never considered resigning his position, disputing an NBC News report that he was on the verge of such a move over the summer.
“The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post,” Tillerson said in remarks delivered from the State Department.
Tillerson did not directly address whether he had called Trump a “moron,” as NBC reported. “We don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense,” he said when asked about the report.
“Let me tell you what I have learned about this president, whom I did not know before taking this office: He loves his country. He puts Americans and America first,” the secretary of state and former ExxonMobil CEO said. “He’s smart. He demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they’ve done the job he’s asked them to do.”
Tillerson told reporters that he had not spoken to Trump Wednesday morning.
Shortly after Tillerson’s statement, Trump tweeted, “The @NBCNews story has just been totally refuted by Sec. Tillerson and @VP Pence. It is #FakeNews. They should issue an apology to AMERICA!”
NBC News reported Wednesday that Tillerson had referred to Trump as a “moron” after a meeting at the Pentagon last July with members of the president’s national security team. Citing multiple unnamed sources, the network reported that the secretary of state was close to resigning in the wake of the president’s controversial, political speech at a Boy Scouts of America jamboree and only remained in his job after discussions with Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials.
Trump has butted heads at times with his top diplomat, most recently last weekend on Twitter, where the president appeared to undercut Tillerson, who had said a day earlier that the U.S. was in direct communication with North Korea in an effort to reduce tensions over its nuclear ambitions. “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump tweeted. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
Despite the back-and-forth between Trump and Tillerson, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this week that the president retained confidence in his secretary of state.
Tillerson has appeared to break ranks with the president at other critical moments. Last August, he told “Fox News Sunday” that “the president speaks for himself” when asked about Trump’s equivocating response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.