On Tuesday, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a surprise appearance in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to rag on President Trump. In the meeting, the purpose of which was unknown until the Washington Post revealed it Wednesday night, Tillerson told committee members that Trump was steamrolled by Vladimir Putin during the first meeting between the two leaders, which took place in Germany in 2017.
Tillerson was invited to speak to the committee by chairman Eliot Engel, the New York congressman, and the former Exxon CEO was reportedly eager to do so. In the seven-hour session, Tillerson said the U.S. was not prepared for an extended sit-down between Trump and Putin in Hamburg. And the president was especially unprepared.
“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” an aide who was present for Tillerson’s remarks told the Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”
Tillerson also reportedly offered criticism of Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, though it wasn’t anything we haven’t heard before. Kushner, Tillerson said, projects overconfidence and a lack of historical knowledge — the traits for which he’s becoming best known.
Claims about Trump’s lack of preparation for the Putin meeting are not surprising. We know he has unending faith in his ability to make decisions purely on gut instinct and that he hates to read. But this type of preparation, or lack of preparation, is especially risky in a meeting with Putin, Russia expert Andrew Weiss told the Post: “Putin is a very nimble adversary who’s been at this for 20 years now. The Hamburg meeting sounds like it was one of Putin’s wildest dreams: a freewheeling backroom-style conversation with a U.S. president.”
News of Tillerson’s trash talk drew a response from Trump. First, to the Post, he gave a rather subdued statement that said, I “was perfectly prepared for my meetings with Vladimir Putin. We did very well at those meetings.”
Then, Thursday morning, he got a little angrier, tweeting that Tillerson, who once reportedly called Trump “a fucking moron,” is wrong on substance and also “dumb as a rock.”
We’ve come a long way since December of 2016.