Report: Rex Tillerson Believes Jared Kushner Sabotaged Him
According to an interview between former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow, the retired Exxon CEO believes that President Trump’s son-in-law/senior adviser Jared Kushner worked behind the scenes to help get Tillerson fired. As recounted in Farrow’s forthcoming book War on Peace: The End of Diplomacy and the Decline of American Influence, Farrow sat down with Tillerson in January to, in part, discuss the rumors of an imminent dismissal that had been plaguing the then secretary of state. Two months later, Tillerson was fired via a tweet from President Trump announcing that CIA Director Mike Pompeo had been appointed to his post. From New Yorker:
When I mentioned the White House’s role in escalating rumors of his demise, Tillerson appeared to have been waiting for the question. “Mm-hmm,” he said, nodding. “When you say ‘the White House,’ who are you talking about?” he asked. “The White House is comprised of how many people?” Hook, the director of policy planning, chimed in that the answer was perhaps in the thousands. Tillerson waved him off. “But people that matter, people that might have an interest in whether I stay or leave, there’s about one hundred and sixty of them.” Tillerson leaned in and, for a moment, I realized that it must be unpleasant to be fired by him. “I know who it is. I know who it is. And they know I know.”
According to multiple individuals who had heard Tillerson speak of the matter behind closed doors, this was a reference to Trump’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner.
Sources within the administration told Farrow that Kushner was waging a quiet war over who was in charge of Middle East policy. President Trump tasked Kushner, with his vast experience as a second-generation real estate magnate, of brokering peace between Israel and Palestine, a job that typically falls in the purview of the nation’s top diplomat.
In addition to the rumors about Tillerson’s ouster, Kushner also reportedly planted unflattering stories about Tillerson’s move to reinstate funding for the United Nations agency benefiting Palestinian refugees after UN ambassador Nikki Haley decided to withhold the humanitarian aide.
A source with knowledge of the situation told Farrow that Kushner was eager to work with Tillerson, but the secretary of state was often aloof. Tillerson denied this. From New Yorker:
“Here’s what I saw: a President who surprised [Kushner] on the spot and said, ‘You’re doing Mideast peace,’ after the campaign. A guy who tried to brief Rex every single week but could never even get a call back or a meeting. . . . And it wasn’t just Jared. It was many people across the government, including fellow Cabinet members, who complained.”
When I asked Tillerson whether he had been frustrated when responsibilities were handed to Kushner, he was surprisingly passive. “Uh, no,” he said. “It was pretty clear in the beginning the President wanted him to work on the Middle East peace process, and so we carved that out.” He shrugged. “That’s what the President wanted to do.”
Although Kushner may have tried to kneecap Tillerson, as he did with his other White House rivals (Steve Bannon, Reince Preibus, etc.), it sounds like the former diplomat was well on his way to getting himself fired after reports surfaced that he called the president “a moron” in a Pentagon meeting and never explicitly denied that he said it. Plus, wrestling control of Middle East policy away from Tillerson would prove to be a hollow victory considering that shortly after Tillerson’s exit, a sordid series of events would reveal that Kushner doesn’t have the proper security clearance to handle such a sensitive diplomatic task.