Donald Trump has blasted former secretary of state Rex Tillerson in a sharply critical tweet, a day after the nation’s former top diplomat publicly recounted that the President had tried to do things in a way that violated the law.
- Mr Tillerson said Mr Trump had frequently asked him to do things that he had to explain were illegal or ill-advised
- Mr Trump earlier tweeted that his legal team had already drafted a rebuttal to the Mueller report in the Russia investigation
- House Republicans also questioned James Comey in a closed hearing
In an interview with CBS News political contributor Bob Schieffer, Mr Tillerson described Mr Trump as “pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports … doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things”.
Asked how his relationship with Mr Trump had gone off the rails, Mr Tillerson said it might have reflected what he saw as his obligation to tell the President that he could not do certain things because they were illegal or would violate US treaties.
“I’d have to say to him, well Mr President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law, it violates treaty … you know, he got really frustrated.”
Mr Trump took to Twitter to return fire, saying Mr Tillerson “didn’t have the mental capacity needed” for the job, and “was dumb as a rock”.
“I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell,” he said.
Mr Trump fired Mr Tillerson on March 13 after a series of public rifts over North Korea, Russia and Iran policy. In addition to policy disputes, relations were strained by reports that Mr Tillerson privately called Mr Trump a “moron”.
Mr Trump’s fiery tweet came hours after he tweeted that his legal team had already drafted a rebuttal to any report issued by the special counsel in the Russia investigation.
US Special Counsel Robert Mueller is expected to provide new details on how two of Mr Trump’s closest former aides have helped or hindered his probe into possible collusion between Russia and Mr Trump’s 2016 election campaign.
The Republican President said his team’s report was 87 pages so far, but said it would not be complete until Mr Mueller issued his report.
It has been incorrectly reported that Rudy Giuliani and others will not be doing a counter to the Mueller Report. That is Fake News. Already 87 pages done, but obviously cannot complete until we see the final Witch Hunt Report.
The Special Counsel last month accused former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort of breaching a plea bargain agreement by lying to prosecutors, and he will submit information on those alleged lies in a filing to a federal court in Washington.
Mr Mueller’s new information could shed light on Mr Manafort’s business dealings or his consulting for pro-Kremlin interests in Ukraine.
Mr Manafort, who maintains he has been truthful with Mr Mueller, managed Mr Trump’s campaign for three months in 2016.
Mr Mueller is set to reveal more details about his Russia investigation. (AP: Scott Applewhite)
Comey interviewed by Republicans
Also on Friday (local time), Mr Mueller’s office and the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York are scheduled to file sentencing memos on Michael Cohen, Mr Trump’s former personal lawyer.
Mr Cohen pleaded guilty to financial crimes in a federal court in New York in August, and last week he pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in a Mueller case. Sentencing for all of those charges will be handled by one judge in New York.
Mr Mueller may disclose new information to supplement Mr Cohen’s admission last week that he sought help from the Kremlin for the proposed construction of a Trump skyscraper in Moscow late into the 2016 campaign.
The Mueller probe has infuriated Mr Trump, who has regularly issued tweets criticising the Special Counsel and his team.
We will be doing a major Counter Report to the Mueller Report. This should never again be allowed to happen to a future President of the United States!
House Republicans also interviewed James Comey behind closed doors Friday after he failed to fight a subpoena in court. It is the first time he has answered politicians’ questions since an explosive June 2016 hearing in which he asserted that Mr Trump fired him to interfere with his investigation of Russia’s ties to the Trump campaign.
Under a deal struck with the House Judiciary Committee, Mr Comey will be free to speak about the questioning afterward and a transcript will be released. He argued that Republicans would selectively leak details from the interview.