5 Oct 2017

Tillerson denies rumours of rift with Trump

8:14 am on 5 October 2017

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has denied rumours of a rift with Donald Trump, amid media reports he had called the president a moron.

"I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that," he said, without denying the alleged remark.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied he had considered resigning from Donald Trump's cabinet.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a news conference he had never considered resigning. Photo: AFP

Mr Tillerson called a news conference after an NBC report said he had considered resigning earlier this year.

He said his commitment to Mr Trump's White House was as strong as ever, and he would stay on as long as needed.

NBC had alleged, citing White House sources, that Mr Tillerson had to be talked out of resigning in July.

It said he had been advised by Vice-President Mike Pence "on ways to ease tensions" with the president, the report added - something which Mr Tillerson denies.

"The vice president has never had to persuade me to stay as secretary of state, because I have never considered leaving this post," he said.

"I'm new to Washington, I have learned there are some who try to sow dissension to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart in an effort to undermine President Trump's own agenda. I do not and I will not operate that way."

US President Donald Trump waves to the press as he walks out of St John's Epicopal Church in Washington, DC, on 3 September  2017 after attending a service on the National Day of Prayer for victims of Hurricane Harvey.

Donald Trump tweeted that NBC was a "disgrace to good reporting" (file photo). Photo: AFP

Just before Mr Tillerson spoke, Donald Trump took aim at NBC News, tweeting it was "more dishonest than even CNN" and "a disgrace to good reporting".

When asked if the president had instructed him make a statement, Mr Tillerson said he not spoken to Mr Trump since the allegations surfaced.

The vice president also issued a statement denying any discussion took place concerning the secretary of state's departure.

CNN, however, said it had confirmed the "moron" remark with its own source. A CNN White house reporter tweeted that Mr Trump "was aware that Tillerson had referred to him as 'a moron' this summer."

But the president followed up with his own tweet, saying NBC's story had been "totally refuted" and that "they should issue an apology to America".

On Sunday, Mr Trump tweeted that he had told his secretary of state that he was wasting his time attempting to negotiate with North Korea, just hours after Mr Tillerson had said the US was in contact with Pyongyang.

"Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!" Mr Trump publicly declared, in a move some pundits felt undermined the secretary's work.

As secretary of state, Mr Tillerson is one of the most senior US officials. He is fourth in line for the presidency, after the vice president and leaders of the House and Senate.

- BBC

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