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NBC: Tillerson called Trump a "moron," almost resigned

Rex Tillerson is at the center of the Trump administration's latest round of palace intrigue. Photo: Cliff Owen / AP

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson almost resigned over the summer around the time of President Trump's controversial speech at the Boy Scouts' Jamboree, according to an NBC News report. Tillerson also reportedly called Trump a "f***ing moron" following a national security meeting at the Pentagon in July, as NBC News' Stephanie Ruhle told Hugh Hewitt. Tillerson's spokesman at the State Department flatly denied the report.

Why it matters: Tillerson reached that point after months of foreign policy disputes with Trump, specifically on Iran and Qatar. It reportedly took personal interventions from Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and then-Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly to get Tillerson to reconsider.

But there's again trouble in paradise: Trump used Twitter to very publicly undercut Tillerson's North Korea strategy over the weekend.

Worth noting: Tillerson's spokesman told NBC News that the only time Tillerson and Pence ever discussed something other than policy was a meeting where Pence asked Tillerson if he thought U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley was helpful to the administration. Haley is widely viewed as coveting Tillerson's position, which she has flatly denied.

An important reaction: From Council on Foreign Relations President Richard A. Haass:

Go deeper: Axios' Jonathan Swan details how Tillerson has become isolated from nearly everyone.

Jonathan Swan 4 hours ago
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Bolton bombshell: the clashes to come

John Bolton
John Bolton speaks at CPAC in 2016. Photo: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sources close to President Trump say he feels John Bolton, hurriedly named last night to replace H.R. McMaster as national security adviser, will finally deliver the foreign policy the president wants — particularly on Iran and North Korea.

Why it matters: We can’t overstate how dramatic a change it is for Trump to replace H.R. McMaster with Bolton, who was U.S. ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush.

Erica Pandey 5 hours ago
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How China became a global power of espionage

Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

As China’s influence spreads to every corner of the globe under President Xi Jinping, so do its spies.

Why it matters: China has the money and the ambition to build a vast foreign intelligence network, including inside the United States. Meanwhile, American intelligence-gathering on China is falling short, Chris Johnson, a former senior China analyst for the CIA who's now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells Axios: "We have to at least live up to [China's] expectations. And we aren't doing that."