Perpetual chaos within the Trump administration is apparently starting to take it’s toll on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, at least according to some anonymous sources, and has prompted rumors that he may depart his post before the end of the year. According to various media outlets, Tillerson has grown frustrated with his lack of autonomy, constant internal policy contradictions and public disputes between the White House and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among other things. Per Reuters:
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told friends he will be lucky to last a year in his job, according to a friend, while two officials said national security adviser H.R. McMaster was frustrated by what he sees as disorganization and indiscipline on key policy issues inside the White House.
A source familiar with the situation told Reuters that Tillerson was “very upset at not having autonomy, independence and control over his own department and the ability to do the job the way the job … is traditionally done.”
The source said he had heard nothing about any possible departure, but added: “The situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and in some respects appears to be getting worse.”
According to CNN‘s anonymous sources, Tillerson has told friends outside of Washington that he’d like to remain in his post through the end of the year though those same sources question whether another 5 months will be possible.
For weeks, conversations with Tillerson friends outside of Washington have left the impression that he, despite his frustrations, was determined to stay on the job at least through the end of the year. That would allow time to continue efforts to reorganize the State Department and would mean he could claim to have put in a year as America’s top diplomat.
But two sources who spoke to CNN on condition of anonymity over the weekend said they would not be surprised if there was a “Rexit” from Foggy Bottom sooner that that.
Both of these sources are familiar with Tillerson conversations with friends outside Washington. Both said there was a noticeable increase in the secretary’s frustration and his doubts that the tug-of-war with the White House would subside anytime soon. They also acknowledged it could have been venting after a tough week, a suggestion several DC-based sources made when asked if they saw evidence Tillerson was looking for an exit strategy.
Of course, Tillerson recently suffered an embarrassing contradiction from the White House over Qatar. Following last month’s move by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to boycott Qatar, which they accuse of financing extremist groups and supporting terrorism, Tillerson publicly asked the nations to ease their blockade, and put the onus on both sides to end the crisis.
Unfortunately, less than 90 minutes later, Trump accused Qatar of being a “high level” sponsor of terrorism in a press conference and suggested he had helped plan the Qatar action with Arab leaders.
Meanwhile, according to Reuters, Tillerson has also grown increasingly frustrated over internal criticisms surrounding the Iran deal.
Tillerson scored a policy win last week when the administration certified, albeit reluctantly, that Iran was complying with the 2015 nuclear deal under which Tehran agreed to restrain its atomic program in exchange for sanctions relief.
He was upset, however, by fierce internal criticism from Trump, as well as his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, and White House aide Sebastian Gorka, over the decision, said another U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The secretary does not feel that White House staff members should be in a position to conduct hostile cross-(examinations) of Cabinet officials,” the official said.
Hammond disputed the account of harsh discord between Trump and Tillerson regarding recertifying the Iran nuclear deal, saying: “I don’t buy this whole thing that there are tensions. Developing public policy is about vetting out ideas,” he said.
Not surprisingly, Tillerson’s spokesman has so far denied that the Secretary of State is considering an early exit…
R.C. Hammond, Tillerson’s spokesman, denied Tillerson was considering leaving or that his frustrations were boiling over, saying he had “plenty of reasons to stay on the job, and all of them are important to America.”
“There’s a desperate need for American leadership in the world and that’s where the secretary’s focusing his attention,” he said.
…so what say you? Fake news or is Tillerson in a race with Sessions to see who will exit their post first?