Speed Reads


Trump reportedly fumed to Rex Tillerson about how bribing foreign officials is illegal under U.S. law

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is profiled in this week's New Yorker, and reporter Dexter Filkins paints a largely sympathetic portrait of the Texas oilman appointed as America's top diplomat through his Boy Scouts connections just months before a golden retirement from ExxonMobil. Tillerson isn't portrayed as being effective — the Trump administration's biggest foreign policy successes were engineered by the military or U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, Filkins notes. ("Rex hates her," a senior administration official said of Haley. "He f---ing hates her.") But Tillerson's insularity, held over from his management style as Exxon's CEO, is blamed less than the handicap of having President Trump as his boss.

In his reporting, which included an interview with the embattled Tillerson, Filkins came upon this anecdote:

In February, a few weeks after Tillerson was confirmed by the Senate, he visited the Oval Office to introduce the president to a potential deputy, but Trump had something else on his mind. He began fulminating about federal laws that prohibit American businesses from bribing officials overseas; the businesses, he said, were being unfairly penalized. Tillerson disagreed. ... "Tillerson told Trump that America didn't need to pay bribes — that we could bring the world up to our own standards," a source with knowledge of the exchange told me. [The New Yorker]

Tillerson "confronts an unstable world and an unstable president, who undermines his best efforts to solve problems with diplomacy," Filkins writes. "At Exxon, Tillerson was less a visionary than a manager of an institution built long before he took over. With Trump, he appears content to manage the decline of the State Department and of America's influence abroad, in the hope of keeping his boss' tendency toward entropy and conflict from producing catastrophic results." Read more about Tillerson and America's draining diplomatic pool at The New Yorker.