Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is said to have called his boss a “moron” following a meeting with members of President Donald Trump’s national security team during the summer, senior administration officials told NBC News.
Tillerson also reportedly threatened not to return to Washington from Texas in July. He was in his home state for his son’s wedding when Trump delivered a widely condemned, highly politicized speech to the Boy Scouts of America. Tillerson was formerly the organization’s national president.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis apparently stepped in to “beg him to stay,” according to the report. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said at the time that Tillerson was merely “taking a little time off.”
Vice President Mike Pence also got involved, officials added, offering Tillerson a “pep talk” over breakfast and encouraging him to find ways to smooth over the relationship with Trump. He suggested that Tillerson adopt a more conciliatory approach in public settings, and save his differences for private meetings.
Speculation has swirled for months about how long Tillerson will remain secretary of state. The former Exxon Mobil CEO said he didn’t want the job, but his wife told him it was something he had to do.
Trump has publicly contradicted Tillerson’s statements about U.S. foreign policy on several occasions. Tillerson traveled regularly to the Middle East to mediate following the Gulf states’ blockade on Qatar. On the day that he called for easing the blockade, Trump made a speech arguing that it was “hard but necessary” and lambasted Qatar ― one of America’s key Middle Eastern allies ― for funding terrorism.
Tillerson is also reportedly working behind the scenes to salvage the Iran nuclear deal, an agreement Trump has condemned as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Being nice to Rocket Man hasn't worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won't fail.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
Additionally, Tillerson has hinted that the U.S. should remain in the Paris climate agreement ― a pact Trump backed out of in June.
“The president said he is open to finding those conditions where we can remain engaged with others on what we all agree is still a challenging issue,” Tillerson said in September. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster echoed this, adding that the U.S. could possibly re-enter the Paris accord if a “better deal” comes together.
The Trump-Tillerson friction extends beyond foreign policy.
“The president speaks for himself,” Tillerson told Fox News in August, following the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump had said that “both sides” ― white nationalists as well as those protesting them ― were to blame for violence.
Trump elevated tensions again over the weekend, tweeting that Tillerson shouldn’t waste his time seeking a diplomatic solution with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un ― who the president calls “Little Rocket Man.” Advisers described Trump as “furious” at Tillerson for going against the president’s stance in favor of military action, according to The New York Times.
The State Department disputed reports of discord.
“The president’s policy is his policy,” spokesman R.C. Hammond told NBC. State didn’t immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment.
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.