Major personnel changes within Team Trump almost always happen on late Friday afternoon, not coincidentally as reporters and working Americans are logging off for the weekend, and there’s no one higher than T-Rex on the presidential sh*t list right now. (Not even Jeff Sessions!) It feels like a “Rex Tillerson decides to spend more time with his family” kind of Friday, if you know what I mean.
In fact, I wonder if NBC was chosen by Trump allies as the outlet for this leak about POTUS’s displeasure with Tillerson as revenge, because it was NBC that broke the news on Wednesday about Tillerson supposedly having called Trump a “moron” at a meeting in July.
A reason to think he’s staying, at least for awhile, is that it makes no sense for him to have given that MAGA press conference two days ago affirming that he supports the Trump agenda only to quit two days later. But it does make sense that Trump might enjoy pulling the rug out from under him now that he’s abased himself publicly. Don’t stray too far from your TV tonight around dinnertime.
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…
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.
So that’s why Kelly hopped off Air Force One shortly before it left for Vegas. This was a five-alarm Trump fury inferno requiring an emergency meeting between Kelly, Tillerson, and James Mattis at the White House, and made worse later when Tillerson foolishly refused to deny that he had called Trump a “moron” when a reporter asked him. “When Tillerson didn’t deny it, I assumed it was true,” said one White House source to NBC. Yeesh. He and Trump really are an odd match politically and temperamentally. And I’d bet in his heart of hearts a guy who used to be CEO of one of the world’s most powerful corporations doesn’t think much of a guy who got famous selling himself as a New Yorker wheeler-dealer before playing a corporate titan on a reality show. That’s probably where the “moron” comment came from.
CNN claims more than a dozen sources who say that the relationship between Trump and T-Rex has reached “a new low,” and not just for petty personal reasons. Tillerson reportedly is one of the few dissenters within the inner circle on decertifying the Iran deal, although he’s willing to go along since he’s outnumbered. He was also publicly admonished by Trump on Twitter last weekend about the futility of negotiating with North Korea, although I think that’s more a case of Trump trying to play good cop/bad cop with him rather than undercut him. With both of those crises coming to a head, though, it makes sense for Trump to replace him sooner rather than later so that he has a new top diplomat in the job who’s more to his liking if and when a confrontation with the enemy occurs. Naturally that’ll be Nikki Haley, right? She’s already part of the State Department, she’s been highly visible on issues like Iran and North Korea, and she seems to share Trump’s foreign policy instincts more than Tillerson does.
But not so fast. What about … CIA chief Mike Pompeo?
We’re told that President Trump is quite comfortable with Pompeo, asking his advice on topics from immigration to the inner workings of Congress…
Pompeo is one of the few in the administration who knows how to convey tough news to the president, and how to push back without turning DJT off…
Pompeo would have credibility with world leaders, who’d know he was a legit part of the president’s inner circle — something no one thinks about Tillerson.
He’d be easily confirmed in the Senate too, having sailed through with two-thirds support in his nomination to be head of the CIA. Just one problem: As with Kelly moving from DHS to the White House, this would be another case of Trump administration musical chairs, shifting a cabinet officer from one department to another and creating a new vacancy in the process. Who leads the CIA if Pompeo takes over at State? Wouldn’t you want a seasoned diplomatic hand in charge at State to help piece the department back together after nine months of flailing under Tillerson?
By the way, Axios corroborates NBC’s report that Trump was enraged by Tillerson on Wednesday, particularly the fact that the “moron” story partially drowned out his trip to Vegas on TV. “Everywhere he flipped, there was Tillerson’s face instead of his.” There’s nothing worse you can do to POTUS than step on his spotlight, especially when his coverage that day was otherwise sure to be favorable. I’m amazed he held off on firing Tillerson that night. Exit question: “Fake news” is usually just Trump-speak for “news I don’t like,” right?