(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

Tillerson: Trump’s instructions were often at odds with the law

Updated

Nine months after his departure from Donald Trump’s cabinet, there’s been an evolution to former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s criticisms of his former boss. Initially, Tillerson expressed his frustrations in private, telling colleagues after a Pentagon briefing that he considers Trump a “f**king moron.”

In May, the nation’s former chief diplomat hinted at his concerns publicly, though obliquely. In a commencement speech at the Virginia Military Institute, Tillerson condemned the nation’s “growing crisis in ethics and integrity” and leaders who “conceal the truth.” Observers had a hunch to whom he was referring, though the president’s name wasn’t used explicitly.

Last night at an event in Houston, Tillerson went a little further still in explaining why he and Trump didn’t see eye to eye. The Houston Chronicle reported:

Tillerson said the two had starkly different styles and did not share a common value system.

“So often, the president would say here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, Mr. President I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law,” Tillerson said.

Oh. So, according to the former secretary of state, the president “often” asked him to pursue a foreign policy that was at odds with American law.

Trump’s indifference to legal constraints is unsettling, of course, though it’s likely an outgrowth of his inexperience and ignorance. Trump is, after all, the nation’s first amateur president, taking office despite never having served in the public sector in any way for any amount of time. The presidency was a job he never even tried to understand, and by all appearances, Trump’s familiarity with governmental institutions and constraints was, at best, child-like.

The president vowed to govern like a business leader, which very likely contributed to the dynamic Tillerson described: Trump was accustomed to simply barking orders from his private-sector perch and expecting his team to follow his instructions. When he took office and tried to do the same thing from the Oval Office, it fell to his secretary of state to explain that some of his orders simply couldn’t be followed under the American system of government.

No wonder Tillerson quickly found himself marginalized and ignored.

At the same event last night, the former secretary of state told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer, in reference to his White House experiences, “What was challenging for me coming from the disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil corporation was 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, but rather just kind of says, ‘This is what I believe.’”

Tillerson added, “I don’t want that to come across as a criticism of him.”

No, of course not. Heaven forbid.

Donald Trump and State Department

Tillerson: Trump's instructions were often at odds with the law

Updated