On Tuesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson quietly issued a statement criticizing Russia's suppression of press freedoms -- just days after President Donald Trump blasted CNN International in the aftermath of a Russian condemnation of the network.
In a State Department press release, spokesperson Heather Nauert wrote that the Kremlin's move to force networks like CNN International to register as foreign agents "and to monitor or block certain internet activity presents yet another threat to free media in Russia."
Ironically, Trump tweeted criticisms of CNN International the same day the Kremlin forced the foreign arm of the network to register as a foreign agent.
.@FoxNews is MUCH more important in the United States than CNN, but outside of the U.S., CNN International is still… https://t.co/qzwpwVN2ep— Donald J. Trump (@Donald J. Trump) 1511649441.0
Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper accused Trump of undermining the constitution in his attack on the network's press freedom, and ex-acting CIA Director John McLaughlin said the president had "abdicated his responsibility as a credible spokesman for American values."
In a speech at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, Tillerson himself accused Russia of using "malicious tactics against the United States and Europe to drive us apart, weaken our confidence and undermine our economic successes since the end of the Cold War."
The strain between Tillerson and Trump has been apparent since the secretary of state was accused of calling the president "a f*cking moron" in October. Though that tension was most recently on display in the State Department's headline-grabbing snub of Ivanka Trump's India trip, others noted that last month, Tillerson closed the office responsible for coordinating sanctions against Russia as the president continues to drag his feet on enforcing them himself.
Remember the new Russian sanctions Trump was forced to sign under a veto override threat from Congress? Funny stor… https://t.co/JpX3IL4tqx— Patrick S. Tomlinson (@Patrick S. Tomlinson) 1511901081.0
Trump has a long history of admiration for Putin and other "strongmen" who suppress the press in their country, including the Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte, who received a laugh from the American president after "jokingly" referring to journalists as "spies."