Secretary of State Rex Tillerson just went off on President Trump’s closest aides in a meeting that took place in chief of staff Reince Priebus’s office.
Tillerson was apparently mad at the fact that Trump promised him full autonomy in making personnel decisions when he was first brought on, but to date, the White House has been rejecting his staff proposals. Tillerson says they don’t like the fact that they’re either 1) Democrats or 2) Republicans who have been critical of Trump in the past, even though they are the most qualified according to him.
Gathered at the meeting (in addition to Priebus) was Johnny DeStefano, the head of the presidential personnel office, and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, as well as Margaret Peterlin, Tillerson’s chief of staff.
The encounter was described by four people to be so explosive that Kushner confronted Peterlin afterward to tell her how unprofessional she thought Tillerson’s outburst was – and that something needed to be done about it.
Tillerson also accused the White House of leaking damaging information about him to the news media and warned DeStefano that they were to “haver no role in staffing” while “expressing frustration that anybody would know better” than him on who should be able to work in his department.
Tillerson has become so disgruntled with the White House that he has even begun interviewing potential job candidates without even telling the White House, said one source. He feels that Trump should keep his promise.
“Rex is a 65-year-old guy who worked his way up from the bottom at Exxon, and he chafes at the idea of taking orders from a 38-year-old political operative,” said a transition aide who has worked with Tillerson.
To date, Trump has tried to claim publicly that Democrats were the real “obstructionists” by “taking forever to approve” his people, including ambassadors, but this information suggests there’s also an internal struggle going on.
Whatever the real reason is, Trump’s administration is currently struggling to fill key positions throughout his government, having only announced only 151 nominations while more than 500 critical jobs across the executive branch remain.