Donald Trump has hit out at Rex Tillerson, his former Secretary of State, calling him “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell” after he criticisied the president in an interview.
Mr Tillerson, who the president fired in March, had earlier claimed the president repeatedly wanted to violate the law, did not like reading and was “undisciplined”.
In response, Mr Trump tweeted on Friday: “Mr Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him. His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!”
The former Secretary of State revealed details of his difficult relationship with the president in a rare interview on Thursday night.
“I think part of it was obviously we are starkly different in our styles. We did not have a common value system,” Mr Tillerson told CBS News, which broadcast an excerpt of the interview on Friday.
“I’d have to say to him, ‘Well, Mr President, I understand what you want to do, but you can’t do it that way – it violates the law, it violates a treaty.’
Mr Tillerson said he believes the president ultimately grew tired of him constantly telling him what he could not do.
Mr Tillerson, a former chief executive of oil giant ExxonMobil, had no government experience and had never met Mr Trump until Vice President Mike Pence invited him to a meeting that ended with him being offered the role of America’s top diplomat.
Mr Tillerson’s name was reportedly touted by Republican Party insiders, who hoped for a stable figure who could nonetheless appeal to the tycoon-turned-president with his outsider status and business background.
Mr Tillerson immediately struggled to fit in, focusing on internal State Department streamlining rather than broader foreign policy goals as his relationship with Mr Trump frayed.
“It was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented ExxonMobil Corp to go to work for a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of a lot of things,” Mr Tillerson said, speaking as part of a charity dinner in his native Texas.
The former Secretary of State described Mr Trump as proudly anti-intellectual, saying that he succeeds by following his instincts and believes he knows better than experts.
Asked about his reading habits in an interview shortly after taking office, Mr Trump said he was “looking at a book” but was distracted by phone calls every time he tried to get started.
Mr Trump’s most visible foreign policy actions include pulling out of international agreements including the Paris accord on climate change and a denuclearisation deal with Iran.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Mr Tillerson also made a veiled reference to the president’s tweeting habits, saying: “It troubles me that the American people seem to want to know so little about issues, that they are satisfied with 128 characters”.