Scoop: Trump frustration with Tillerson rising fast - Axios
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Scoop: Trump frustration with Tillerson rising fast

Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

There's a ticking problem with Rex Tillerson, and it's growing louder by the day, according to officials inside and close to the White House.

President Trump has been growing increasingly frustrated with his Secretary of State. One time recently, after Trump had returned from a meeting on Afghanistan, a source recalled Trump saying, "Rex just doesn't get it, he's totally establishment in his thinking."

Tillerson's jaw-dropping comments on TV today will likely only worsen their relationship.

Fox News Sunday moderator Chris Wallace asked Tillerson about Trump's response to the racist carnage in Charlottesville.

Tillerson replied: "I don't believe anyone doubts the American people's values or the commitment of the American government, or the government's agencies to advancing those values and defending those values."

Wallace asked the obvious follow-up question: "And the president's values?"

"The president speaks for himself," Tillerson said.

Wallace looked stunned.

Why this matters: We've been hearing for weeks, from sources who've spoken to the president, that Trump is getting more and more fed up with Tillerson, who has still yet to staff his agency.

The Tillerson criticisms we keep hearing

  • Trump administration officials can't get their heads around why he still doesn't have political appointees in the top roles at the State Department. They know he's reorganizing the agency, but can't fathom why he's allowed these crucial jobs to remain in the hands of staff whose diplomatic stature is diminished because they're "acting" in the roles.
    • Tillerson's spokesman R.C. Hammond told Axios it's because "the system is busted. The Secretary sends over recommendations and they sit on the dock."
  • Tillerson hasn't put in the time to build goodwill with Washington's foreign policy community or with the media.
  • Numerous reports that Tillerson has destroyed morale at State, empowering only the tiniest inner circle.
  • Tillerson contradicted the president's response to the recent tensions over Qatar.
    • Trump attacked Qatar for funding terrorism "at a very high level", and supported the Saudi-led blockade. Tillerson muddied Trump's message, urging Qatar's neighbors to ease up on the blockade and engage in "calm and thoughtful dialogue."
    • Hammond's response: "On Qatar, progress will be measured in months and we are seeing it."
  • Tillerson argued against the White House's financial sanctions against the dictatorial regime in Venezuela, according to sources close to the White House. These sources pointed to the influence on Tillerson of Tom Shannon, a top State careerist who is an expert on Latin America.
    • Sources close to the president view Shannon as a rogue force who, in their view, naively puts too much faith in diplomacy at the expense of hardline actions like sanctions.
    • Shannon's recent meeting with Venezuela's then-foreign minister — at the same time the WH was contemplating tough action against Venezuela — raised eyebrows among Republican hawks.
    • Hammond's response: "Yes, diplomats do prefer diplomacy."
  • Tillerson keeps recommending to Trump that he re-certify Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal; whereas Trump has made clear he wants to cancel it.
    • Hammond's response: "This admin inherited a lousy deal. It's taking the circumstances created by the Deal and trying to build around it a policy that addresses all of the threats Iran offers the world."
  • White House officials frequently vent about Tillerson's Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin. They say she's difficult to work with and isolatesthe secretary from the information and contacts he needs to do his job well.
    • Hammond's response: "It is Washington, you have to have your knives out for someone."
A White House official said, "Tillerson is a great representative for the administration and has confronted many diplomatic challenges well."
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Puerto Rico in crisis

A man looks at the horizon early in the morning after the passing of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico. Photo: Carlos Giusti / AP

Puerto Rico remains without power and short on supplies after being slammed by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Officials are having difficulty even communicating with outlying towns that were devastated by the storm, and the humanitarian crisis is growing.

After focusing for days, at least publicly, on NFL protests and other matters, President Trump tweeted about the crisis in Puerto Rico on Monday night — and seemed to blame Puerto Rico in part for its own misfortune.

Trump's tweets: "Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble....It's old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars....owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities - and doing well. #FEMA"

What Puerto Rican officials have said

From Governor Ricardo Rosselló: "We are U.S. citizens that just a few weeks ago went to the aid of other U.S. citizens even as we're going through our fiscal downturn and as we were hit by another storm…Now, we've been essentially devastated. Complete destruction of the power infrastructure, severe destruction of the housing infrastructure, food and water are needed. My petition is that we were there once for our brothers and sisters, our other U.S. citizens, now it's time that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico are taken care of adequately, properly."

From Manati mayor Jose Sanchez Gonzalez: "Hysteria is starting to spread. The hospital is about to collapse. It's at capacity," he said, crying. "We need someone to help us immediately."

The scale of the crisis

  • Government officials said Sunday a dam on the Western part of the island "will collapse at any time." Eastern areas, which were hit by the eye of the storm, could take years to recover.
  • Officials estimate it could take up to 6 months to restore power to the whole island.
  • Federal agencies have cleared the Port of San Juan for daytime operations, but accessing Puerto Rico is pretty difficult right now — airports and harbors are severely damaged and the whole island remains out of power. 11 ships have delivered 1.6 million gallons of water, 23,000 cots, dozens of generators and food, per the AP. Many hospital patients are being flown to the U.S. mainland for treatment.
  • The death toll is at least 10 in Puerto Rico, and 31 if you include other Caribbean islands, per the AP.
  • 1,360 of the island's 1,600 cell towers are down. 85% of phone and internet cables were knocked out.

Personal experiences

  • When locals see outsiders, the first thing they ask is "Are you FEMA?" per The Washington Post.
  • "Nothing's working, we don't hear from anyone…We feel abandoned," Toa Baja resident Johanna Ortega told USAToday.
  • Food at local grocery stores is "VERY LIMITED," San Juan resident Claudia Batista messaged Axios. Batista described the situation in San Juan as "desperate times," saying because of "all the material loss, people are losing control and patience and are stealing in other homes and assaulting people on the streets."
  • Some local responders in Juncos cleared streets with machetes since the town doesn't have enough chain saws. People are riding bikes and walking for miles to get to gas stations

What FEMA is doing

  • FEMA teams were in Puerto Rico earlier this month following Hurricane Irma, and as soon as Hurricane Maria's winds died down they launched search-and-rescue missions, per USAToday.
  • All of the 28 task force teams around the U.S. have been recruited to help, which is rare, per Karl Lee, a FEMA Incident Support Team member.
  • FEMA responders are using a San Juan hotel as a command center.
  • 4,000 U.S. Army Reserve members have also been deployed to the island. The Army Corps of Engineers dispatched the 249th Engineer Battalion, per CNN.

What Trump has said

Trump declared a major disaster in Puerto Rico and said all of the U.S. government is behind the relief efforts. White House adviser Tom Bossert and FEMA's chief are heading to Puerto Rico Monday, although a trip from Trump isn't expected for a while, per CNN.

  • Rosselló thanked Trump on Monday for having federal emergency assistance provided, per the AP, noting FEMA has done a "phenomenal job."

Trump's most recent tweets about Puerto Rico, from last week:

Take a look

How to help

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Trump goes after McCain over health care vote

President Trump tweeted at Senator John McCain, who is currently in treatment for brain cancer, over his decision to oppose the latest Republican health care plan:

The back-and-forth: McCain was more subtle in critiquing Trump during a 60 Minutes interview Sunday. He said the two had very different upbringings, after noting that Trump had not apologized for saying he was not a war hero.

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Entire Cowboys team takes a knee

Photo: Matt York / AP

Prior to the national anthem at their Monday Night Football matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, the entire Dallas Cowboys team, including owner Jerry Jones, took a knee. They then stood for the anthem.

Go deeper: How NFL teams have reacted to Trump's comments.

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Report: Bannon, Priebus, Ivanka used private email in White House

From L-R, Stephen Miller, Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon. Photo: Carolyn Kaster / AP

Several current and former senior Trump administration officials occasionally used private email to conduct government business, the NY Times reports. The officials named: Steve Bannon, Reince Priebus, Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner (Politico had previously reported Kushner sent or received about 100 emails about White House matters using his private address).

Why it matters: Trump railed against Hillary Clinton incessantly during the campaign for her use of private email as Secretary of State. Government officials are supposed to use their government accounts so their communications will be stored, and failing to do so can cause security risks.
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Trump denies split with Kelly over NFL comments

Trump lashed out at CNN for reporting that John Kelly opposed his NFL remarks. Photo: Evan Vucci / AP

President Trump lashed out at CNN on Twitter Monday evening, calling them "Fake News" for reporting that John Kelly was opposed to his comments at Friday's rally calling for NFL players who protest during the national anthem to be "fired." CNN reported that Kelly "was not pleased" with Trump's remarks, later updating the story to reflect Kelly's conversation with CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny, during which Kelly said he was "appalled" by the lack of respect for the flag.

"I believe every American, when the national anthem is played, should cover their hearts and think about all the men and women who have been maimed and killed," Kelly told Zeleny. "Every American should stand up and think for three lousy minutes." However, Zeleny noted that Kelly declined to say whether he felt Trump should have weighed in.

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Russian Facebook ads aimed to spark divisions over Black Lives Matter, other groups

Russian hackers used Facebook ads to pit different social, racial and political groups against one another. Photo: Joerg Koch / AP

Last week, Facebook said it was planning to turn more than 3,000 ads bought by Russian operatives during the 2016 campaign over to congressional investigators. On Monday, the Washington Post reported on details of some of the ads, which pitted different social groups against one another. For example, some of the Russian ads promoted groups like Black Lives Matter, while others warned that those groups pose a dangerous threat to society.

Between the lines: Russian hackers, who worked off of evolving lists of racial, religious, political and economic themes, were able to take advantage of the ability to send targeted messages to different Facebook users based on their political and demographic affiliations. The aim appears to have been to inflate tension between already feuding groups.

Facebook declined to comment, but referred Axios to its earlier update, which noted that "the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum."

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Collins will oppose Senate health care bill

Sen. Susan Collins said she opposes the Senate's health care plan. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

Sen. Susan Collins officially said she will oppose the Senate's latest bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act — yet another nail in the coffin for a bill that's moving further away from the 50 votes it would need to pass.

Why it matters: It would only take three "no" votes to kill the bill. And Collins' opposition makes it a total of four Republicans who say they won't vote for the bill — two moderates (Collins and Sen. John McCain) and two conservatives (Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz).

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Report: 'Iranian missile test' Trump tweeted about never happened

Missiles are on display in Tehran on Sunday during the country's annual Defense Week. Photo: Vahid Salemi / AP

On Friday, Iran claimed to have tested a new medium-range ballistic missile capable of striking Israel with multiple warheads — but, according to Fox News, that missile launch never actually took place. Video footage purporting to show the launch was actually from a failed test back in January.

Why it matters: The world is waiting to hear President Trump's decision — he claimed to have made up his mind last week — on whether or not to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. It's significant that Trump used the "launch" to again decry the deal, tweeting on Saturday: "Not much of an agreement we have!"

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Irma captured America's attention more than other storms

It's been a busy hurricane season, with three powerful hurricanes hitting and one just missing U.S. territories. Here's when and how often Americans' searched Google each of them.

Data: Google Trends; Chart: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Why it matters: Irma received the most attention, according to Google, likely due to reports it'd be the most powerful hurricane ever to hit the U.S. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico has been devastated by Hurricane Maria, but interest from the U.S. is substantially less than during both Harvey and Irma.

Note: This search data does not include Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans were highly interested in both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, with the least interest in Harvey.

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Target to raise minimum wage to $11 per hour, $15 by 2020

Elise Amendola / AP

Target has announced it will raise its minimum wage from $10 per hour to $11 across all U.S. stores, CNBC reports. The changes will begin in October and are part of Target's $7 billion re-investment in the company. Target has promised an hourly minimum wage of $15 by 2020.

The context: Target has been in a wage war with Wal-mart, which raised base hourly pay to $10 in 2016. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and it has not increased since 2009.