Tillerson’s News Conference Only Highlights Strains With Trump
Mr. Tillerson felt compelled on Wednesday to address the internal schism after NBC News reported
that he had been prepared to step down this summer until he was talked out of it and that after a meeting of national security officials at the Pentagon he had derided Mr. Trump as a “moron.” Vice President Mike Pence at one point counseled Mr. Tillerson on how to ease tension with the president, according to the report.
WASHINGTON — Long-simmering tension within President Trump’s national security team spilled into public view on Wednesday as Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson took the extraordinary
step of calling a news conference to affirm his support for Mr. Trump, despite what associates describe as his deep frustration with the president and talk of resignation.
Mr. Tillerson praised Mr. Trump but did not deny a report
that he once referred to the president as a “moron.” Mr. Trump welcomed Mr. Tillerson’s statement of support and declared “total confidence” in his secretary of state.
“I serve at the appointment of the president, and I am here for as long as the president feels I can be useful to achieving his objectives.”
Asked directly if he had called Mr. Trump a “moron,” Mr. Tillerson would not say.
“I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people
that help separate our country from chaos, and I support them very much,” he said.
The president initially viewed Mr. Tillerson as a granite-jawed cabinet secretary who fit Mr. Trump’s requirement
that top advisers look as if they came out of “central casting,” as he has put it.