President Donald Trump is mad that former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told lawmakers that the president was less prepared than Russian President Valdimir Putin at a key 2017 meeting.
Tillerson made the comments, as reported by The Washington Post, during a seven-hour closed-door meeting with bipartisan members of the House Foreign Relations Committee.
But Trump fired back at Tillerson on Thursday, while basically admitting that he hired someone who he feels was unqualified for the job:
Rex Tillerson, a man who is “dumb as a rock” and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 23, 2019
This wasn’t the first time the president insulted Tillerson on Twitter. In December, Trump also said he was “dumb as a rock” and “didn’t have the mental capacity needed.”
Tillerson never lived up to that star potential in the Trump administration, straining against the president and reportedly calling him a “moron” over his reported desire to increase the U.S. nuclear arsenal. (Tillerson gave a brief press conference after the reports, during which he did not deny insulting the president).
Trump has, according to The Post, gone to “extraordinary lengths” to conceal the details and transcripts of his July 2017 meeting with Putin, which took place in Hamburg, Germany on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. Trump denied the Post’s report that he told his interpreter not to discuss the meeting with anyone.
Talking to Putin for over two hours — longer than initially scheduled — Trump said the two leaders discussed everything from Israel to Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections (which the Russian president denied).
Neither president gave further details about the substance of the lengthy meeting, and when the two men met again in July 2018 in Helsinki, only translators were allowed in the room — no one else. No transcripts are available from that meeting either.
Tillerson, however, was in the room when Trump met Putin in Hamburg in 2017, and told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Putin was far better prepared.
Tillerson, a former oil executive, had a brief and tumultuous career as Trump’s first secretary of state. He disagreed with Trump on a number of key policies: He was pushing for negotiations with North Korea over the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs at at time when the president’s messaging to Pyongyang was centered on threats and insults.
Tillerson also would not let Russia off the hook for poisoning Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, criticizing Russia just hours before he was fired (while on an official trip in Africa) and replaced with Mike Pompeo.
Tillerson also did not agree with the president on tearing up the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran — something that has been a cornerstone of Trump’s foreign policy.