Last week, NBC news reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was overheard calling popular vote loser Donald Trump a “moron”. When refuted by the White House, NBC edited the report to say that no, Tillerson had not called Trump a moron, but rather, a “f***ing moron.”
Further reports on the relationship between Tillerson and Trump suggest that it is becoming a fairly toxic one pretty quickly.
Another conversation between Trump and Tillerson has come to light that consisted of Trump going on an mad rant about the current laws that make it illegal for Americans to bribe foreign officials, in which Tillerson replied by saying he’s never operated that way during his business career.
In February, a few weeks after Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate, he visited the Oval Office to introduce the President to a potential deputy, but Trump had something else on his mind. He began fulminating about federal laws that prohibit American businesses from bribing officials overseas; the businesses, he said, were being unfairly penalized.
Tillerson disagreed. When he was an executive with Exxon, he told Trump, he once met with senior officials in Yemen to discuss a deal. At the meeting, Yemen’s oil minister handed him his business card. On the back was written an account number at a Swiss bank. “Five million dollars,” the minister told him.
“I don’t do that,” Tillerson said. “Exxon doesn’t do that.” If the Yemenis wanted Exxon on the deal, he said, they’d have to play straight. A month later, the Yemenis assented. “Tillerson told Trump that America didn’t need to pay bribes—that we could bring the world up to our own standards,” a source with knowledge of the exchange told me.
The disagreement has made Trump look like a corrupt criminal, while making Tillerson look like a white knight.
From the context, it’s almost painfully clear that this leaked conversation came from Rex Tillerson himself. So instead of preparing to resign tonight, he’s trying to find ways to make Trump look bad, and make himself look good, in the eyes of the public. Is this Tillerson’s way of signaling to Trump that there’s a whole lot more dirt where this came from, and that he’d better not fire him? Perhaps it’s something else.
The leaked conversation sounds like the kind of anecdote you’d read in Rex Tillerson’s autobiography. It almost sounds like Tillerson knows he’s a goner, and he’s already setting the stage for a tell-all book in the hope of repairing his reputation. Tillerson got the job not because he was loyal to Donald Trump, but because he was loyal to Vladimir Putin. Tillerson might be the Trump cabinet member who’s most willing to sell Trump out.
There’s almost no question that Tillerson is the next in the long line of Trump aides, advisors and cabinet members to either resign, be fired or reassigned. The burning question is really when will Trump himself resign, be fired or reassigned?
Sooner, rather than later, we hope.