MORON-GATE

White House Aides Wanted Rex Tillerson to Resign for Calling Trump a ‘Fucking Moron’

The Secretary of State has few allies inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But he and Trump soldier on in a loveless marriage.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took to the microphones Wednesday morning to address reports that he had called his boss, President Donald Trump, a “fucking moron,” aides in the White House held out hope that he would offer his resignation.

Tillerson didn’t deny having questioned the president’s intellectual capacities. But he insisted that he wasn’t going anywhere either, much to the chagrin of three White House officials who vented to The Daily Beast in real time about how they wished he would “just leave,” as one put it.

“In a perfect world” he would have quit right then and there, another said.

The wish of certain White House officials to be rid of Tillerson is not confined to a select few inside the walls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It is a sentiment shared among many in senior staff that has been building for months. And it underscores the incredibly harsh and complex political reality in which the Secretary of State currently operates. Tillerson struggled in his tenure at Foggy Bottom, doesn’t have many fans in Trump’s inner circle, and has been widely viewed with skepticism among Trump loyalists.

“People in [the White House] who are loyal to the president think Rex Tillerson hates [Trump],” one White House official told The Daily Beast.

State Department spokesman R.C. Hammond did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

The latest point of tension between the White House and Tillerson came early Wednesday morning, when NBC News reported that Tillerson had strongly considered resigning over Trump’s July speech to the annual jamboree of the Boy Scouts of America, where Tillerson used to serve as president. At that event, Trump veered heavily into campaign-style politics, bashing President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the “fake news,” and eliciting 2016-era chants of “lock her up” and “build the wall.”

The report also detailed that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron;” that Vice President Mike Pence had to step in to keep Tillerson on the job, and that the Secretary of State had questioned U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s utility in the administration.

Later in the day, spokespeople for Tillerson and Pence refuted each of these points. But other news outlets confirmed their veracity and some of the details had been rumored for months.

According to five senior Trump administration officials, current and former, speaking to The Daily Beast, it had been gossip within the White House that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” or an “idiot” during an official meeting over the summer.

Trump was clearly not pleased by news of that remark finally breaking. He tweeted repeatedly that it was a “fake” story and repeated the claim during a stop in Las Vegas to visit the site of the country’s deadliest mass shooting in recent history.

But despite Trump’s displeasure, Tillerson appears to have a hold on his gig, for now. The president does not have the immediate desire to see yet more turnover in his young administration, or to see coverage painting a Tillerson ouster as evidence of chaos in his ranks, according to a White House official. And Republicans in the Senate have all but begged Trump to keep him on board.

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“I think Secretary Tillerson, [Defense] Secretary [James] Mattis and Chief of Staff [John] Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos,” Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) said on Wednesday. “I support them very much.”

When asked about tensions between Tillerson and the Trump White House, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders would only email The Daily Beast that “we are all committed to the President’s agenda and working hard together to get it accomplished.” Other officials spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely about the reality of administration tensions.

The relationship between the president and his top diplomat wasn’t always this chippy. At the start of his administration, Trump was thrilled to have hired the former chief executive of Exxon Mobil as his top diplomat, and has both privately and publicly played up Tillerson’s globe-trotting credentials. A former Trump administration official familiar with the situation said Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, was one of the bigger internal Tillerson boosters.

But since taking the reins at State, Tillerson has struggled to adjust to the ways of Washington. He has grown increasingly frustrated with his diplomatic efforts being consistently undercut by President Trump, sometimes via humiliating tweets. After news broke that Tillerson hoped to explore multiple backchannels between himself and the North Korean regime in order to de-escalate a crisis, Trump—angered by Tillerson’s approach—publicly told his Secretary of State was “wasting his time.”

Tillerson has also frequently clashed with White House staffers loyal to former chief strategist Steve Bannon and he has butted heads with Stephen Miller, the conservative senior policy adviser and leading internal critic of the administration’s “globalist” contingent. His Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin and spokesman RC Hammond caused “a fair amount of frustration” inside the White House, the former Trump administration official said.

Widespread antipathy to Tillerson in the West Wing represents “a rapid deterioration of [his] relationship with the White House,” the ex-official said. Just months ago, “Rex was [the] cabinet official you most often saw on public schedule meetings with the president.”

-- With reporting by Sam Stein