Trump again calls Tillerson 'dumb as a rock' after he's quoted saying Putin 'out-prepared' him
The former secretary of state told House lawmakers about his time with Trump.
President Donald Trump on Wednesday again called his former secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, "dumb as a rock" in a tweet responding to comments Tillerson made in a closed-door meeting with lawmakers this week questioning Trump's handling of meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2017.
Tillerson met for seven hours with leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday to discuss his tenure in the Trump administration, and the challenges he faced at the State Department and in the White House.
Tillerson told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Putin "out-prepared" the president in a 2017 meeting in Hamburg, German that turned into a "a globe-spanning two-hour-plus session involving deliberations on a variety of geopolitical issues," according to a Democratic committee aide. The Washington Post first reported the details of Tillerson's testimony to the committee.
On Twitter, Trump said he doesn't believe Putin would agree with that account of their meeting.
"It’s pretty outrageous and it probably explains why Rex Tillerson is no longer the Secretary of State," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC Thursday morning.
In an exclusive interview with ABC News, House Foreign Affairs Chairman Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y, said he found the former secretary of state to be "forthcoming" in his assessment of President Donald Trump's handling of foreign policy and the inner workings of the administration's foreign policy apparatus.
“His telling to us of what life was like in that short year that he was secretary of State was very interesting,” Engel said in the ABC interview. “It just solidified my feeling that there was disorganization and that the president was not focused.”
In a prepared statement to the committee, Tillerson said it was “no secret that President Trump and I disagreed” on some elements of foreign policy. “But at bottom, President Trump and I shared a common goal: to secure and advance America’s place in the world and to promote and protect American values.”
The meeting was arranged through a mutual acquaintance, according to Engel. An aide said Tillerson later called the committee and expressed his willingness to talk.
Rep. Mike McCaul, R-Texas, the top Republican on the panel who participated in the Tillerson inteview, declined ABC News’ request to discuss the conversation.
“My time in government is over, but I hope that my testimony today will help you as you continue to do the critical work of this Committee” Tillerson said in the statement.
On Wednesday, Engel said he hoped the conversation was the first of many between Tillerson and his panel on Capitol Hill.
“I don't know how much he has that he hasn't told, but I suspect a great deal. And we’ll see,” the New York Democrat added.
After a rocky partnership, Trump fired Tillerson on March 13, 2018 -- announcing the decision in a tweet. Tillerson stayed on the job until March 31.
Engel confirmed that he and Tillerson discussed what Engel called the “unusual circumstances” of the president’s family members -- including the president’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner “having the last say” on administration decisions.
“He wasn’t there to bash the president,” Engel said of Tillerson, though he later added that the former secretary of State said Trump “was not the most proficient on foreign policy.”
Before joining the Trump administration, Tillerson served as CEO of Exxon Mobil, the international oil and gas company.
The committee and Tillerson also discussed Tillerson’s management of the State Department, according to the chairman. Engel and Democrats have raised concerns about the Trump administration targeting career officials over their perceived political affiliation.
Engel was surprised that Tillerson defended his controversial proposal to reorganize the State Department, which was unpopular in Washington and among lawmakers of both parties on Capitol Hill.
“I thought he might push it off on Trump, but he didn’t. He said it was his baby, and he defended it, because he thought it would work better if they redesigned it.”
ABC News' Conor Finnegan contributed to this report.
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