NBC News reports: John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, abruptly scrapped plans to travel with President Donald Trump on Wednesday so he could try to contain his boss’s fury and manage the fallout from new revelations about tensions between the president and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, according to six senior administration officials.
Kelly summoned Tillerson, and their ally Defense Secretary James Mattis, to the White House, where the three of them huddled to discuss a path forward, according to three administration officials. The White House downplayed Kelly’s decision to stay in Washington, saying he did so to manage day-to-day operations.
Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, was fuming in Phoenix, where he was traveling, seven officials told NBC News. He and Tillerson spoke on the phone before the secretary’s public appearance on Wednesday morning.
Pence was incensed upon learning from the NBC report that Tillerson’s top spokesman had said he once privately questioned the value of Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Officials said the spokesman, R.C. Hammond, fabricated an anecdote that Pence had asked Tillerson in a meeting whether Haley, who is seen as a possible successor to Tillerson, is helpful or harmful to the administration.
NBC reported Wednesday that Tillerson had threatened to resign in July after a series of clashes with the president, at one point venting his frustrations among his colleagues by calling the president a “moron,” according to multiple senior administration officials who were aware of the matter at the time.
Four senior administration officials said Trump first learned on Wednesday that Tillerson had disparaged him after a July 20 national security meeting at the Pentagon. Trump vented to Kelly Wednesday morning, leading Kelly to scrap plans to travel with the president to Las Vegas to meet with victims and first responders in Sunday’s mass shooting.
Trump was furious when he saw the NBC News report, which was published shortly before 6 a.m. Wednesday.
For the next two hours the president fumed inside the White House, venting to Kelly, officials said. [Continue reading…]
Axios‘ Mike Allen reports that CIA Director Mike Pompeo is being considered to replace Tillerson: insiders say Trump’s relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair. We’re told Trump was furious that Tillerson didn’t try to blunt the story about him calling the president a “moron,” by just going out and denying it (whether or not it actually occurred).
- After what Trump considered a strong trip to Vegas, he seethed when he got back and saw Tillerson’s gaffe dominating cable-news coverage. Everywhere he flipped, there was Tillerson’s face instead of his.
- The relationship is so toxic, sources tell Jonathan Swan and me, that few in the White House think it can be rebuilt. There’s zero trust between the West Wing and the State Department.