Trump challenges Tillerson to an 'IQ test.' The White House claims it was 'a joke.'
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson walks behind President Trump after answering questions from journalists at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on Aug. 11. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP) October 10 at 6:31 PM
President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried Tuesday to smooth over tensions in their relationship during a White House lunch after the president proposed an âIQ testsâ faceoff with his top diplomat, who earlier had privately called Trump a âmoronâ and disparaged his grasp of foreign policy.
In an interview with Forbes magazine published Tuesday morning, Trump fired a shot at Tillerson over the âmoronâ revelation, first reported by NBC News and confi rmed by several other news organizations, including The Washington Post.
âI think itâs fake news,â Trump said, âbut if he did that, I guess weâll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.â
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later insisted that Trumpâs comment was âa joke and nothing more than that.â
âThe president certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent,â Sanders said in Tuesday afternoonâs news briefing. She added that Trump has â100âpercent confidenceâ in Tillerson and admonished reporters for taking the presidentâs comment so seriously.President Trump talks to former secretary of state Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office on Tuesday. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
âMaybe you guys s hould get a sense of humor and try it sometime,â she quipped.
Regardless of whether Trump was trying to make a joke, his âIQ testsâ challenge is the latest evidence of what White House officials have described as a breach of trust between the president and the secretary of state.
Although Trump has said publicly that he has confidence in Tillerson, as he did Tuesday, behind the scenes, he has long been brooding about the diplomatâs job performance, according to administration officials and outside advisers. Trump has been frustrated by what he sees as the secretaryâs traditionalist worldview â" on a host of issues, from Iran to North Korea â" in contrast to the presidentâs desire to redefine Americaâs role around the globe.
[âDeath spiralâ: Tillerson makes nice but may not last long with Trump]
Helping soothe tensions between the two men have been White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who both hav e privately stressed the imperative of stability atop the State Department at a critical moment for the nation. Trump is trying to manage the North Korea nuclear crisis and planning an ambitious diplomatic trip to Asia in early November.
Trump met for lunch Tuesday with Tillerson and Mattis in the presidentâs private dining room at the White House. Sanders characterized the lunch as âa great visit.â
Shortly before the lunch, a reporter asked Trump whether he had undercut Tillerson with his comments to Forbes.White House chief of staff John F. Kelly observes Trumpâs meeting with Kissinger. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
âNo, I didnât undercut anybody. I donât believe in undercutting people,â Trump said during a brief media appearance in the Oval Office, as he sat beside former se cretary of state Henry Kissinger during a meeting to discuss foreign affairs.
When a reporter asked Trump whether he has confidence in Tillerson as his secretary of state, the president replied, âYes.â
Over the weekend, reporters asked Trump about his relationship with Tillerson.
âWe have a very good relationship,â Trump said Saturday. âWe disagree on a couple of things. Sometimes Iâd like him to be a little bit tougher. But other than that, we have a very good relationship.â
In the Forbes interview, for the magazineâs cover story under the headline âInside Trumpâs Head,â the president teases upcoming economic-development legislation ânobody knows aboutâ that would penalize companies that move operations overseas and offer incentives for those that stay in the United States.
Trump previewed what he called âan economic-development bill, which I think will be fantastic. Which nobody knows about. Which you are hearing about for the first time.â The president said the policy is âboth a carrot and a stick.â
Trump also told Forbes that he has purposely not filled many jobs throughout the federal government, including at the State Department, where several top positions remain vacant.
âIâm generally not going to make a lot of the appointments that would normally be â" because you donât need them,â Trump said. âI mean, you look at some of these agencies, how massive they are, and itâs totally unnecessary. They have hundreds of thousands of people.âSource: Google News