‘You Can’t Do That.’ Tillerson Says He Had to Stop Trump From Breaking the Law

December 7, 2018, 4:13 PM UTC

It’s been nearly nine months since former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson lost his job by tweet, and now he’s sharing some tidbits about his experience as the nation’s top diplomat.

Speaking at a fundraiser in Houston on Thursday, Tillerson told CBS reporter Bob Schieffer that he had never met Trump until the day Trump asked him to be secretary of state, and noted that Trump “acts on his instincts. In some respects, that looks like impulsiveness, but it’s not his intent to act on impulse. I think he really is trying to act on his instincts.”

Calling his style “starkly different” from that of Trump, Tillerson also noted that the transition from the “disciplined, highly process-oriented Exxon Mobil” to working 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 kinda says, ‘this is what I believe’” was challenging.

But perhaps the biggest challenge for Tillerson, he says, was constantly being the person to tell Trump he couldn’t do something. He explained that Trump would say, “Here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it,” and Tillerson would be forced to explain to him, “I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law.”

It’s this back-and-forth that Tillerson thinks cost him his job. “I think he grew tired of me being the guy every day that told him, ‘You can’t do that, and let’s talk about what we can do,’” Tillerson explained.

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