Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he has no plans to resign and will not do so, denying reports that Vice President Mike Pence had to urge him to stay in the job and sidestepping questions about whether he called President Donald Trump a “moron.”
“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 a hastily called press conference at the State Department.
Tillerson’s remarks were part of an administration wide effort to dismiss an NBC article in which aides described Tillerson calling Trump a moron and his “fury” about the ways Trump has undermined him publicly on several foreign policy initiatives.
Calling the report “erroneous,” Tillerson pointed the finger at “some who try to sow dissension” to undermine the President’s agenda. And he said he wouldn’t deal with “petty nonsense” of name-calling.
Asked whether he’d ever called Trump a “moron,” Tillerson did not respond directly.
“The places I come from, we don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense,” Tillerson said. “I’m just not going to be part of this effort to divide this administration.” He spoke as the President was flying cross country to visit survivors of Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.
It was a remarkable public defense that only served to highlight administration infighting and the President’s precarious track record with his most senior officials and advisers, some of whom have resigned or been dismissed, and others, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who have had to endure public excoriation from Trump.
Trump was aware before Wednesday’s report that Tillerson had referred to him as a “moron” at the Pentagon this summer, a source familiar with the conversation told CNN, but it’s unclear whether Trump discussed the remark with Tillerson. Trump was not present at the Pentagon meeting.
A White House source also confirmed to CNN that Trump knew about the insult prior to Wednesday.
Trump is not pleased that it is now public knowledge that Tillerson called him a “moron,” but he isn’t on the verge of asking for his top diplomat’s resignation, a person familiar with his thinking said.
Instead, the President publicly dismissed the report as “fake news” and “totally made up” while on a trip to Las Vegas. The President said he had “total confidence” in Tillerson.-CNN