Jun 27, 2019

Rex Tillerson says Jared Kushner repeatedly circumvented State Department

Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner

Jared Kushner and Rex Tillerson. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In a closed-door interview with House Foreign Affairs Committee last month, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson detailed a number of occasions in which White House senior adviser Jared Kushner circumvented the State Department to meet with foreign officials, leaving him in the dark about key policy decisions.

LAWMAKER: "What's your reaction to a meeting of that sort having taken place without your knowledge?" ...
TILLERSON: "It makes me angry. Because I didn’t have a say. The State Department’s views were never expressed."

The big picture: Tillerson claims that when he was brought on to the Trump administration, "no one really described what" Kushner was going to be doing, and that the "unique situation" of the president's son-in-law and daughter working in the White House was a challenge that "everyone" had to learn to deal with.

  • On one occasion, Kushner and former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon attended a dinner with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that saw the Gulf officials lay out their plans for a blockade of Qatar — which the White House supported. Tillerson said he was not aware of the dinner and had not heard about the plans for the blockade.
  • In another occasion, Tillerson said he walked into a restaurant in Washington for a business meeting to find Kushner and the foreign secretary of Mexico dining at a back table. The foreign secretary was apparently under the impression that the State Department knew about the meeting and was "shocked" to find that Tillerson was left in the dark.
"I could see the color go out of the face of the foreign secretary of Mexico as I very — I smiled big, and I said: 'Welcome to Washington.' And I said: 'I don't want to interrupt what y'all are doing.' I said: 'Give me a call next time you're coming to town.' And I left it at that."

An administration official told Axios: "Jared and the White House were coordinating with the State Department. The problem is that Rex Tillerson couldn’t figure out how to coordinate with the State Department."

  • White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement: "Jared consistently follows proper protocols.  The alleged dinner to supposedly discuss the blockade never happened, and no one in the White House was involved in the blockade. Moreover, Mr. Kushner’s work with Mexico had led to positive results on trade and other issues."

Read the whole transcript:

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