It’s Friday evening and, as of this moment at least, Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson still has a job. That’s somewhat surprising, considering the explosive feud that’s developed between the two men after Trump learned this week — along with the rest of us – that Tillerson had called him a “moron” this summer behind his back and in front of other administration officials. Even as we wait to see whether Tillerson’s political career survives the night, there’s another even more surprising development in the feud: Tillerson is now leaking dirt on Trump.
This evening a conversation between Trump and Tillerson, which took place early in their political relationship, appeared in a New Yorker article (link). It consisted of Trump angrily ranting about the laws that make it illegal for Americans to bribe foreign officials, and Tillerson heroically insisting that he’s never operated that way during his business career. The exchange makes Trump look like a power-mad corrupt criminal, while making Tillerson look like a white knight.
From the context, it’s almost painfully clear that this leaked conversation came from Rex Tillerson himself. So instead of preparing to resign tonight, he’s trying to find ways to make Trump look bad, and make himself look good, in the eyes of the public. Is this Tillerson’s way of signaling to Trump that there’s a whole lot more dirt where this came from, and that he’d better not fire him? Perhaps it’s something else.
The leaked conversation sounds like the kind of anecdote you’d read in Rex Tillerson’s autobiography. It almost sounds like Tillerson knows he’s a goner, and he’s already setting the stage for a tell-all book in the hope of repairing his reputation. Tillerson got the job not because he was loyal to Donald Trump, but because he was loyal to Vladimir Putin. Tillerson might be the Trump cabinet member who’s most willing to sell Trump out.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report