Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson still has a few scores to settle from his time serving in the Trump administration.
During a seven-hour interview before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the former Exxon executive admitted some embarrassing details about President Trump’s ability to focus during meetings and knocked senior adviser Jared Kushner for leaving him in the dark about his meetings with foreign leaders.
Here’s a look some of the most revealing quotes.
“A Steep Learning Curve”
While discussing his role in helping craft immigration policy, Tillerson admitted that he was never an expert on immigration law, but he had to go out of his way to make sure Trump understood not just the legal components of crafting immigration policy, but also how the government operates in general.
“And I’m not a lawyer, so let me be clear on that, too, I’m not a lawyer, so it wasn’t fair of me to be giving him legal advice,” he said. “But I knew a bit about immigration laws. And so on occasion I would have to say to him: ‘Well, we can’t do it that way.’ And I think I said, you know, ‘it’s going to get challenged in the court and you’re going to lose, you know.'”
“The President was on a steep learning curve,” he continued. “I mean, he didn’t know a lot of the legal aspects of the immigration laws or certainly other aspects of how the government operates within the congressional law making system and oversight. And so, you know, these were early days when he was doing a lot of learning on it.”
Tillerson admitted he learned quickly he had to be intentional when it came to presenting President Trump with new information because Trump would often want to talk about “other things that weren’t — I didn’t know were on the agenda,” Tillerson said, catching himself. He also said he had to make documents “concise” for Trump’s consumption.
“Well, I learned to be much more concise with what I wanted to bring in front of him. Early days I came in with way too much information. And so I got very — it caused me to have to get very, very focused on, you know, what’s the most important thing I want him to remember about this discussion,” he said. “And so sometimes I would use material that I would put in front of him or other times I just tried to be very concise with the points I wanted to make, because I knew he was going to want to talk about a lot of other things that weren’t — that I didn’t know were on the agenda. So it was also trying to make sure that I used the time I had with him well.”
Kushner’s Shady Meetings
Tillerson also vented about an apparently touchy subject for the former top diplomat: Jared Kushner and his secret meetings.
According to Tillerson’s testimony, Kushner met with foreign leaders behind Tillerson’s back at least twice during his tenure. One was a meeting with Mexico’s foreign secretary, which Tillerson only found out about because he happened to be at the same restaurant as Kushner and the Mexico official.
“The owner of the restaurant … came around and said: ‘Oh, Mr. Secretary, you might be interested to know the Foreign Secretary of Mexico is seated at a table near the back in case you want to go by and say hello to him,'” Tillerson said. “And so I did.”
He added he saw the “color go out of the face” of the foreign secretary when he saw Tillerson. “I said: ‘Welcome to Washington …. Give me a call next time you’re coming to town.’”
Kushner also apparently met with Arab leaders without Tillerson’s knowledge. One one instance, former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon was included and Tillerson wasn’t.
“It makes me angry,” Tillerson said of the private meetings. “Because I didn’t have a say. The State Department’s views were never expressed.”