The moment was as remarkable as it was unprecedented: A sitting U.S. #secretary of state took to the microphone to pledge his fealty to the president — despite his well-documented unhappiness in the job and the growing presumption in Washington that he is a short-timer.
Rex Tillerson said Wednesday he would stay as long as President Trump wants him to, and Trump said he has “full confidence” in the former ExxonMobil chief executive. Shortly afterward, Tillerson’s spokeswoman also felt compelled to publicly deny an NBC News report that Tillerson had called the president a “moron,” and she said he was determined to remain in his job.
But Tillerson’s move on Wednesday to reassure Trump of his convictions may well be too little and too late for the long term, according to the accounts of 19 current and former senior administration officials and Capitol Hill aides, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer candid assessments.
The already tense relationship between the two headstrong men — one a billionaire former real estate developer, the other a former captain of the global oil industry — has ruptured into what some White House officials call an irreparable breach that will inevitably lead to Tillerson’s departure, whether immediately or not. Tillerson’s dwindling cohort of allies say he has been given an impossible job and is doing his best with it.
For months now, Trump has been piqued by rumors of disloyalty that have filtered up to him from Foggy Bottom, the home of the State Department. In private meetings, the president has also been irked by Tillerson’s arguments for a more-traditional approach on policies, from Iran to climate change to North Korea, and by Tillerson’s visible frustration when overruled. Trump has chafed at what he sees as arrogance on the part of an employee.