Tillerson: Kushner conducted diplomacy behind my back – Al Jazeera English

Former United States Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said in a testimony that President Donald Trump‘s son-in-law conducted diplomacy behind his back when he was in the administration, leading to a number of embarrassing incidents.

Tillerson, who was fired by Trump in March 2018, recounted a number of embarrassing incidents to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month involving Jared Kushner, according to a transcript of a congressional hearing released on Thursday.

The former top US diplomat and CEO of ExxonMobil happened to be dining in the same restaurant while Kushner and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray were having a private meal.

Tillerson had not been informed his Mexican counterpart was in the US capital.

He said he “could see the colour go out” of the Mexican official’s face when Tillerson greeted them at their table with a smile.

“And I said: ‘I don’t want to interrupt what y’all are doing’,” Tillerson recalled for the committee. “I said ‘Give me a call next time you’re coming to town.’ And I left it at that.”

Qatar blockade

Tillerson also said he was caught off guard on June 5, 2017 – along with then-Defence Secretary Jim Mattis – when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain imposed a blockade on Qatar.

Whereas Kushner and another Trump adviser, Steve Bannon, had been told about the blockade more than two weeks earlier, on May 20 at a secret dinner with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.


“Tillerson never knew about that dinner until he was before the committee last month giving testimony,” said Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington.

“When they [committee members] asked for his reaction, he said he was very angry.”

Tillerson said he met representatives of all four the blockading countries, “trying to persuade them that this was very detrimental to their own security in the region,” and the Saudi and UAE representatives did not tell him their governments had earlier told the US about their plans for a blockade. 

Asked about the relationship between Kushner and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Tillerson said “there was a lot of communication between the two of them” and that Kushner travelled to the kingdom and other areas of the Middle East without consulting US embassies.

He said he raised the issue of such trips with Kushner, who said he would “try to do better”.

However, Tillerson said not much changed and that made his job more difficult.

Speaking about Trump, Tillerson said he stood by his characterisation of the president as someone who was undisciplined, did not like to read his foreign policy reports, or get into details of things.

Rex Tillerson interview with House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, May 21, 2019

Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan said some parts of the transcript were redacted, but “in the unedited part of this transcript, [Tillerson] goes into detail about how he learned very quickly that if he wanted Trump’s attention, he had to keep his talking points very short.”

“Remember, he used to be the head of the multinational oil company, ExxonMobil, and he himself said he was used to very thick briefing books. It was mystifying for him to deal with a president who did not seem to be all that interested in the critical details of the US foreign policy,” she said.

Tillerson’s 13-month tenure as secretary of state ended when Trump abruptly fired him over social media.

Trump had harsh words for Tillerson in December after the former oil executive said in rare public remarks that the president was “undisciplined” and did not like to read briefing reports. Trump called him “dumb as a rock” in a tweet.

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