Did Tillerson's Statement Just Make Things Worse?

Gist of coverage is that his ties with Trump remain irreparably damaged
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2017 11:30 AM CDT
Did Tillerson's Statement Just Make Things Worse?
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson makes a statement at the State Department in Washington on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

Rex Tillerson made the unusual move Wednesday of calling a news conference to refute reports that he's on the outs with President Trump and came close to resigning his post as secretary of state. So it's safe to say Tillerson is in DC for a while? Don't count on it, reports the Washington Post, which talks to no fewer than 19 current and former administration officials and Capitol Hill aides and concludes that Tillerson's move "to reassure Trump of his convictions may well be too little and too late for the long term." One person uses the term "death spiral" to summarize the situation. Related coverage:

  • Big picture: An assessment at Politico is in sync with the one at the Post. "Nothing about Wednesday's events will dispel the image of Tillerson as a man unhappy and ill at ease with the president he serves—both in substance and in style," write Eliana Johnson and Nahal Toosi. They recount the various policy clashes on everything from North Korea to Qatar to the Paris climate accord, along with the pair's very different management styles.
  • Maybe worse: At the Weekly Standard, Michael Warren thinks the press conference may have made things worse by drawing more attention to the negative press. "The ill feelings are out in the open and threaten to undermine Trump's authority and/or Tillerson's job."

  • Trump's take: He says the reports are bogus. "Rex Tillerson never threatened to resign," he tweeted Thursday. "This is Fake News put out by @NBCNews. Low news and reporting standards. No verification from me." He also suggested that the Senate intelligence panel investigate "Fake News Networks."
  • Trump loyalists: The Daily Beast talks to three White House aides who wish Tillerson would just go already. The president, however, seems reluctant to see yet more turnover in his administration.
  • Before and after: A post at Axios contrasts Tillerson's life as the CEO of Exxon, where he called all the shots and reined nearly like a king, with his new role. "After a perfect career, your last public act is already an obvious failure—and you have to keep doing it."
  • 'Suicide pact'?: BuzzFeed, quoting an anonymous source, reports that Tillerson, Treasury chief Steven Mnuchin, and defense chief James Mattis have a "suicide pact" under which all three will resign if Trump moves against one of them.
  • Corker's comment: One quote drawing attention in the wake of Tillerson's news conference is from influential GOP Sen. Bob Corker. "I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis, and Chief of Staff [John] Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos," he told reporters, per Newsweek.
  • About 'moron': Tillerson didn't directly deny that he once called Trump a "moron," but a State Department spokesperson later did. "The secretary did not use that type of language to speak about the president of the United States," she said, per BuzzFeed. "He did not say that." (The original NBC story that led to Tillerson's news conference first reported the alleged insult.)

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