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Tillerson’s Testimony

June 28, 2019

Former Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, aware that he was on a list of persons to be subpoenaed by the House Foreign Affairs Committee, offered to appear voluntarily.  The transcript of his testimony given on May 21, 2019 is required reading for persons seeking Presidential appointment to positions at the Department of State in a Trump Administration and reveals weaknesses in the President’s administration of American foreign policy.

Some problems faced by Presidential Administrations seeking to fill positions are delays due to the enormous amount of disclosures that appointees are required to submit. Secretary Tillerson assigned a special team at ExxonMobil that worked for three weeks attempting to complete forms he was required to submit.

The transcript of his testimony at p. 26 reads: “…none of the disclosures, clearance process were working very efficiently. And that’s not a criticism of the agency. They had a lot of them to do. But it was excruciatingly slow, and we did express that concern….

A greater difficulty that Tillerson confronted was the actions of Jared Kushner who conducted what seems like his own foreign policy: At page 84, the transcript reads:

So that same night as we understand it, so on or about May 20th, 2017, there was apparently a private dinner that was hosted between Steve Bannon, Jared Kushner, and the rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE, respectively. Were you aware of that dinner? A. No. Q. We understand that as part of that dinner the leaders of Saudi and UAE did lay out for Mr.Kushner and Mr.Bannon their plans for the blockade. That wasn’t something that you had heard previously? A. No.

Page 85: …as time went by, one of the challenges I think that everyone had–has had to learn to deal with was the role, the unique situation with the President’s son-in-law and daughter being part the White House (86) advisory team. That’s, you know, it’s unusual. I don’t recall it ever being the case before, not that there’s anything wrong with it.

On page 107 the transcripts reveals Secretary Tillerson’s concern that Jared Kushner was engaged in discussion with the Mexican Secretary of State without disclosing those discussions to the Department of State.

 “… the Foreign Secretary of Mexico was engaged with Mr.Kushner on a fairly–unbeknownst to me–a fairly comprehensive plan of action. And the Foreign Secretary came to town–unbeknownst to me–and I happened to be having a business dinner at a restaurant in town. And the ownerof the restaurant, proprietor of the restaurant came around and said: Oh, Mr.Secretary, you might be interested to know the Foreign Secretary of Mexico is seated at a table near the back and in case you want to go by and say hello to him. Very innocent on his part. And so I did. I walked back. And Mr.Kushner, and I don’t remember who else was at the table, and the Foreign Secretary were at the table having dinner. And I could see the color go out of the face of the Foreign Secretary of Mexico as Ivery–I smiled big, and I said: Welcome to Washington. And I said: I don’t want to interrupt what y’all are 108doing. I said: Give me a call next time you’re coming to town. And I left it at that.”

The transcript also includes Tillerson’s awareness that President Trump doesn’t read:

Q. So you’ve described the President publicly, and I’ll quote here, as “a man who is pretty undisciplined, doesn’t like to read things, doesn’t read briefing reports, doesn’t like to get into the details of lots of things.”Was that something–first of all, do you stand by that characterization? A.Yes.  

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