Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told lawmakers this week that Russian President Vladimir Putin was more prepared for a key meeting in Germany than President Trump, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.
U.S. officials reportedly expected a short meeting, but the discussion turned into a more than two-hour session covering several key geopolitical issues.
“We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee aide told the Post. “There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing.”
Tillerson, who was fired in March 2018, spoke to a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the committee on Tuesday at the request of Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), the panel’s chairman.
Tillerson had a notoriously acrimonious relationship with Trump. The two repeatedly clashed on a litany of issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, and Tillerson once reportedly called the president a “moron.”
Committee aides told the Post that Tillerson refrained from openly disparaging the president but that the former secretary of State’s inability to answer some questions was revealing.
In one exchange, Tillerson reportedly said he and Trump “shared a common goal: to secure and advance America’s place in the world and to promote and protect American values.”
When pressed, Tillerson clarified that although he and the president shared the same goal, they did not share the same “value system,” according to the Post.
When asked to describe Trump’s values, Tillerson said, “I cannot,” according to an aide who spoke to the newspaper.
“Just as matter of fact, he stated that he couldn’t or wouldn’t unpack the president’s values for us,” a committee aide said.
Trump in a tweet early Thursday said Tillerson “made up” the story.
“I don’t think Putin would agree,” Trump said. “Look how the U.S. is doing!”
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