Rex Tillerson Out: 6 Highlights of a Short-Lived Tenure

Rex Tillerson
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

President Donald Trump has announced the removal of Rex Tillerson from his position as Secretary of State after just over a year in office.

Tillerson, 65, will be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo, who is believed to have won the president’s trust after Trump and Tillerson clashed on a number of issues.

Talking to reporters, Trump said he and Tillerson “were not really thinking the same” and expressed his belief that he “will be much happier” outside the White House.

Here are some of the highlights from his short-lived tenure:

Forced to deny he called Trump a “moron”

Last October, NBC News cited three unnamed “officials familiar with the incident” claiming that Tillerson referred to Trump as a “moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon.

Yet in an interview with CNN in January, Tillerson claimed he had “no reason” to doubt Trump’s mental stability and said he planned to remain as Secretary of State for at least “the whole year.”

“I’ve never questioned his mental fitness,” Tillerson said in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I have no reason to question his mental fitness.”

Withdrawal of Cuban embassy workers 

Last September, Tillerson announced that America would withdraw all “non-emergency personnel” from the U.S. embassy in Havana in response to months of unexplained attacks on American diplomats that reportedly left many with hearing loss and brain damage.

Cuban officials have vigorously denied claims they coordinated the attacks, and even produced a detailed report and an hour-long documentary blaming cicadas and crickets for the reported sounds. The explanation does not account for the medical symptoms the victims suffered.

Tour of Latin America

In February, Tillerson completed a major tour of Latin America that involved visits to Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Peru.

As well as promoting the Trump administration’s overall foreign policy agenda, the main aim of Tillerson’s trip was to drum up support for additional sanctions against Nicolás Maduro’s socialist dictatorship in Venezuela, which is currently overseeing the worst political and humanitarian crisis in the country’s history.

The tour also saw an agreement between the U.S. and Argentina to drain Lebanese terror group Hezbollah of its funding. Over recent years, the group has developed an increased presence in the region.

Toughness on China 

Tillerson built up a reputation as being hawkish on China. He has repeatedly warned developing countries, particularly in Africa and Latin America, against reliance on Chinese investments due to their “predatory” and “unfair trading practices.”

Chinese state media responded to the comments by accusing Tillerson of showing “disdain” towards their country.

“China is merely doing business with Latin America and all the trade ties are based on the countries’ free will and for mutual benefit,” read an op-ed in the Global Times. “China respects Latin America and the first principle in trade cooperation is win-win and reciprocity. However, the U.S. has long seen Latin America as its backyard.”

Floated ‘No-Precondition’ Meeting with North Korea

In December, Tillerson said that the U.S. was ready for its “first meeting without precondition” with North Korea, although this suggestion was quickly corrected by the White House.

“North Korea is acting in an unsafe way not only toward Japan, China, and South Korea, but the entire world,” said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “North Korea’s actions are not good for anyone and certainly not good for North Korea.”

President Trump has since accepted a meeting to discuss nuclearization with Kim Jong-un in by May.

‘Sword Dancing’ in Saudi Arabia

During a visit to Saudi Arabia last May, Tillerson and Secretary of Commerce participated in an eye-catching ceremonial “sword dance” that attracted the interest of both local and foreign media.

“I hadn’t been practicing, Chris, but it was not my first sword dance,” Tillerson told Fox News host Chris Wallace in an interview.

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