Tillerson, whom Trump fired by tweet in March 2018, told lawmakers that Russian President Vladimir Putin was better prepared than Trump for a key meeting in Germany in 2017, The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed committee aides.
“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a committee aide told the Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”
Trump fired back on Twitter, repeating his characterization of Tillerson as “dumb as a rock” and accusing him of lying about Putin’s upper hand at the meeting in Hamburg.
“Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin,” the president tweeted. “I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”
Trump, a real estate operator and reality TV figure before his election, has in the past shrugged off the importance of preparation, claiming meetings with world leaders are more about “attitude” than anything else.
“I don’t think I have to prepare very much,” Trump said ahead of his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last year. “It’s about willingness to get things done. ... It’s a question of whether or not people want it to happen.”
Tillerson, former chief executive for Exxon Mobil, was secretary of state from February 2017 until Trump fired him in March 2018. He helped craft significant policies on North Korea and the Middle East.
He voluntarily appeared before House Foreign Affairs Committee members and staffers on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of topics, including Russia and the decision-making process within the Trump administration, a committee aide told HuffPost on Wednesday.
During the meeting, Tillerson expressed frustration over the president’s son-in-law and top adviser Jared Kushner and his role in geopolitical diplomacy and policy-making decisions, the Post and CNN reported.
Tillerson reportedly did not question Kushner’s motives, but said he often did not consult with the State Department or other agencies before getting involved with foreign affairs. Kushner’s lack of knowledge of history exposed him to being outmaneuvered, Tillerson reportedly said.
In an interview with CBS News in December, Tillerson described Trump as a “pretty undisciplined” man who doesn’t like to read or “get into the details of a lot of things.” He said he repeatedly stopped Trump from breaking the law and violating treaties.
Trump fired back on Twitter after the interview, calling Tillerson “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”