Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had to be talked out of quitting this summer as he clashed with President Donald Trump — whom he dismissed as a “moron.”
Tillerson was infuriated after the president delivered a raunchy and highly politicized speech in late July to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization the secretary of state once led, reported NBC News.
The secretary of state had openly criticized Trump as a “moron” just days before, after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon to discuss the Islamic State with the president’s national security team and Cabinet officials, according to three officials with knowledge of the incident.
“We’re doing very well against ISIS,” the president said before entering that meeting. “ISIS is falling fast, very fast.”
Afterward, Trump described the meeting as “absolutely great.”
Tillerson was in Texas for his son’s wedding when Trump addressed the Boy Scouts, and he threatened not to return to Washington.
Vice President Mike Pence gave him a “pep talk” afterward, and other top administration officials begged Tillerson to stay on the job until at least the end of the year, the sources said.
“They did beg him to stay,” said one senior administration official. “They just wanted stability.”
The sources identified those officials as retired Gen. John Kelly, who became chief of staff not long afterward, and Defense Secretary James Mattis.
Pence has since asked Tillerson to be more respectful of Trump in meetings and in public, although those tensions again spilled out into the open this week when Trump tweeted out criticism of the secretary’s handling of North Korea diplomacy.
State Department spokesman R.C. Hammond denied that Tillerson considered quitting or called Trump a moron, and he denied knowledge of what the secretary and Pence discussed.