(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 16, 2017 US President Donald Trump speaks alongside Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) during a Cabinet Meeting...
SAUL LOEB

Hell hath no fury like a former Secretary of State scorned

About a year ago, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke at an event in Houston and shared some uncomplimentary thoughts about Donald Trump. According to the nation’s former chief diplomat, the president is “pretty undisciplined,” “doesn’t like to read,” and “often” urged Tillerson to pursue policies that were inconsistent with American laws.

Trump wasn’t pleased, responding on Twitter that Tillerson was “dumb as a rock,” “lazy as hell,” and lacking in “mental capacity.”

Several months later, Tillerson testified on Capitol Hill about U.S. foreign policy and the degree to which Trump was at a disadvantage when he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Germany in 2017 – because Putin was prepared, and Trump was not. The American president again turned to Twitter to lash out, again describing Tillerson as “dumb as a rock.”

If the recent pattern holds, we should expect another angry tweet from Trump any minute now.

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Monday told the PBS NewsHour that asking for personal favors and using United States assets as collateral is “wrong.”

Tillerson spoke with NewsHour anchor and managing editor Judy Woodruff at a luncheon hosted by the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in San Antonio. Tillerson discussed reports that President Donald Trump pushed to withhold from Ukraine nearly $400 million in military aid until the country’s president agreed to open investigations into political rivals, including former Vice President Joe Biden.

Tillerson specifically told PBS, “If you’re seeking some kind of personal gain and you’re using – whether it’s American foreign aid or American weapons or American influence – that’s wrong.”

Obviously, this in no way resembles the official White House line on Trump’s Ukraine scandal.

What the president has never understood about his antagonistic relationship with Tillerson is that the former secretary of State can cause Trump more harm than Trump can cause Tillerson. No matter what insulting remarks the president makes about the former secretary of State, Tillerson remains wholly unaffected.

But when a former top member of the president’s cabinet takes rhetorical shots in Trump’s direction, it has more of an impact.

What’s more, Tillerson may yet do even more damage, given his knowledge about Trump’s dubious intervention in support of one of Rudy Giuliani’s more controversial clients.

As for the former cabinet secretary’s comments to PBS yesterday, Tillerson added, “I don’t worry about the future. I believe the American people are smart. I believe the American people ultimately, if they see something that they don’t feel is serving the American people or serving our national security,” they will make a change.

Part of me wonders whether the Democratic presidential nominee next year might reach out to Tillerson for an endorsement.