Secretary of State Rex Tillerson finds dealing with the White House frustrating, and tensions boiled over Friday when he "exploded" at a White House aide, insiders tell Politico. The sources say White House officials present, including Jared Kushner, were "stunned" when Tillerson laid into presidential personnel office chief Johnny DeStefano for rejecting his picks for State Department posts. Tillerson also accused the White House of leaking damaging information about him to the media, the sources say. DeStefano's office has turned down many of Tillerson's choices for top posts either for being Democrats or for being Republicans who criticized Trump during the campaign, aides say.
The outburst from the former Exxon CEO came after disagreements with the White House on issues including Qatar, where he has tried to mediate in the dispute with other Arab nations, only to be publicly undermined by President Trump. Insiders tell the New York Times that Tillerson and Kushner are struggling for control of Middle East policy, and Tillerson is frustrated that he doesn't have the autonomy Trump promised him. "Rex is a 65-year-old guy who worked his way up from the bottom at Exxon, and he chafes at the idea of taking orders from a 38-year-old political operative," a former transition aide tells Politico of DeStefano.