Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and advisor Jared Kushner conducted diplomacy without his knowledge when he was in the administration, leading to several embarrassing incidents.
Tillerson, who was fired by Trump in March 2018, recounted the incidents during a testimony last month at the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, according to a transcript of a congressional hearing released on Thursday.
The former top US diplomat and CEO of ExxonMobil described his frustration with Kushner conducting his own diplomacy from the White House, at times without informing the US State Department and the Pentagon.
“It makes me angry,” he told lawmakers. “I didn’t have a say. The State Department’s views were never expressed.”
In one incident, Tillerson said he had just arrived for dinner at a Washington restaurant when the owner shared the unexpected news that Mexico’s then-foreign minister, Luis Videgaray, was at a table near the back dinning with Kushner.
Tillerson said he was not informed that his Mexican counterpart was in the US capital.
“I could see the colour go out of the face of the foreign secretary of Mexico as I very – I smiled big and I said: ‘Welcome to Washington,’” Tillerson told the congressional panel.
“And I said: ‘I don’t want to interrupt what y’all are doing.’ I said: ‘Give me a call next time you’re coming to town.’ And I left it at that,” Tillerson said.
Those accounts underscore the extent to which Kushner was secretly attempting to manage some of America’s most sensitive foreign policy issues, leaving Tillerson and other senior national security officials in the dark.
Tillerson also discussed Kushner’s relationship with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his travels to the Middle East without consulting the US State Department or American embassies.
Tillerson said he expressed his concern to Kushner about the trips, However, he said not much changed and that it made his job more difficult.
During his testimony, Tillerson said Trump is undisciplined and does not like to read and that he had to make briefings short and simple.
“I had to adapt to the fact that it wasn’t going to be useful to give him something and say this is, you know, this is an article worth reading,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson’s testimony highlights how his 13-month tenure as secretary of state, one of the shortest ever in US history, and was undermined by public disagreements with Trump and a sense that he was being excluded from key discussions.