State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert categorically denied on Wednesday evening that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a "moron" after a Pentagon meeting in July, because "he does not use that language to speak about anyone." But several news organizations have confirmed the "moron" comment, first reported by NBC News, and report it was common gossip within and outside of the White House. Trump himself learned about it within days, according to CBS News' Major Garrett, coloring Trump's tweets undercutting Tillerson.
Tillerson did not deny using the phrase about Trump in a press conference, but he did say he won't resign and heaped praise on Trump, leading Trump to express his full confidence in Tillerson. The public nice-making plus Trump not wanting to lose more senior officials so soon have saved Tillerson's job for now, but they "may well be too little and too late for the long term," The Washington Post reports, citing "19 current and former senior administration officials and Capitol Hill aides."
Tillerson is reportedly critical of Trump's off-the-cuff unpredictability and lack of foreign policy basics, and chafes at being publicly undermined, while Trump's list of grievances includes Tillerson's eye-rolling and other dismissive body-language during meetings, foreign policy conventionality, perceived arrogance, and, according to The Washington Post, Trump's belief that as Tillerson travels the world, "his top diplomat often seems more concerned with what the world thinks of the United States than with tending to the president's personal image."
Many people in Congress and the West Wing expect a "Rexit" by early 2018, the Post says. "The White House thinking is unequivocal that he's going to be gone soon, but the assumption is that he's going to quit on his own so Trump can say, 'Thank you for your year of service,'" a former senior official tells the Post. Another ex-senior official said Tillerson, lacking a team and "natural allies," is in "a kind of death spiral."