The Slatest

Tillerson: Trump Was Unprepared for First Meeting With Putin

Rex Tillerson waves.
Rex Tillerson waves during his farewell remarks to State Department employees on March 22, 2018, at the State Department in Washington.
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Rex Tillerson, the former secretary of state, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Vladimir Putin was far more prepared than President Donald Trump for their first meeting, giving the Russian president an advantage in their ranging two-hour conversation, according to the Washington Post.

The admission, which he made in a seven-hour closed meeting with the committee on Tuesday, is not entirely surprising, given Trump’s tendency to ignore intelligence briefings and his repeated assertion that instinct matters more than preparation .

According to Tillerson, who attended the 2017 meeting in Hamburg, Germany, the White House expected a short meeting focused on courtesies, but Putin instead entered the meeting prepared for a long conversation about various foreign policy topics. A House Foreign Affairs Committee aide told the Post that Tillerson had relayed that the mismatched levels of preparation harmed the White House’s position. “We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted,” the aide told the Post.

Trump, in a statement, said he “was perfectly prepared for my meetings with Vladimir Putin. We did very well at those meetings.”

Tillerson has not spoken much about the president since he was fired in March 2018, but he has said in the past that he had had to refuse orders and demands from the president that “violate[d] the law.” In speaking before the committee, according to the Post, Tillerson—who famously is alleged to have once called Trump a “fucking moron”—listed the “American values” of “freedom, democracy, individual liberty and human dignity” as guiding his political career but said he and Trump did not share a “value system,” refusing to elaborate further.