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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Vivat Rex: Tillerson says he's staying in post in 2018

US Secretary of State says he has no reason to question Donald Trump’s mental fitness for office

US Secretary of State Tillerson says he plans to stay in post throughout 2018. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB
US Secretary of State Tillerson says he plans to stay in post throughout 2018. AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he planned to stay in his post throughout 2018 despite speculation he might leave owing to a fractious relationship with President Donald Trump, whom he reportedly called a “moron”.

Tillerson's relationship with Trump appeared to sour over the course of the year. NBC reported in October that Tillerson referred to the president as a "moron" after a Pentagon meeting in July. In November, there were reports the White House was contemplating replacing him.

Tillerson said the president had given him no indication his job was in jeopardy. "I intend to be here for the whole year,” said Tillerson in an interview with CNN.

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The CNN interview coincided with the release of a sharply critical book on Trump's first year as president. The book portrayed the US leader as behaving like a child and raised new questions about his fitness for public office.

Asked if he shared the assessment that Trump was not mentally fit for office, Tillerson said: "I've never questioned his mental fitness. I have no reason to question his mental fitness."

Tillerson said it took him a while to learn how to best communicate with Trump, who he did not know before becoming secretary of state.

Tillerson, a former Exxon chief executive, said he and the president had different management and decision-making styles.

"I've had to spend a lot of time understanding how to best communicate with him so I can serve his needs with information," Tillerson told CNN.

"Something I had to learn is what is effective with this president," Tillerson said. "He is not typical of presidents of the past. I think that's well recognized. That's also though why the American people chose him."