Trump Responds to Tillerson’s ‘Made Up’ Story on Putin Meeting

May 23, 2019 Updated: May 23, 2019

President Donald Trump on May 23 disputed a story based on comments from former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claiming Trump was “out-prepared” by Russian President Vladimir Putin in the 2017 summit between the two countries.

Trump said Tillerson—who was fired by him in March 2018—lied about the details in the story which were first reported by The Washington Post. On Twitter, the president shot back at Tillerson, saying that it wasn’t him who was ill-prepared.

“Rex Tillerson, a man who is ‘dumb as a rock’ and totally ill-prepared and ill-equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany,” Trump said in a tweet.

“I don’t think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!”

According to The Washington Post, Tillerson allegedly told members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Trump was at a disadvantage during the two-hour meeting with Putin. Tillerson said the United States needed to do more in order to effectively deal with Russia.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) gives farewell remarks to State Department employees March 22, 2018, at the State Department in Washington. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Tillerson had met with the committee on May 21 for seven hours to discuss Trump’s foreign policies. He spoke to the bipartisan group of lawmakers upon a request by the chairman of the committee, Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.).

In an initial statement responding to his former aide’s claims, Trump said that he “was perfectly prepared for my meetings with Vladimir Putin. We did very well at those meetings.”

Trump and Tillerson had at some times clashed over foreign policy issues. The president, after firing Tillerson last year, appointed former CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the new secretary of state. Before joining the Trump administration, Tillerson had served as the CEO and chairman of ExxonMobil.

In December 2018, Trump had criticized Tillerson’s performance as secretary of state and had praised the job Pompeo was doing instead.

“Mike Pompeo is doing a great job, I am very proud of him,” he said in a Dec. 6 tweet. “His predecessor, Rex Tillerson, didn’t have the mental capacity needed. He was dumb as a rock and I couldn’t get rid of him fast enough. He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, speaking to CNN’s “New Day,” defended Trump and his foreign policy positions regarding Russia.

“Look, the president’s meeting with Putin went extremely well, the president has made clear that having a relationship with Russia is better than not having one,” Sanders said on May 23. “I think everybody can agree on that. That’s a good thing, but at the same time, no one has been tougher.”

When asked by CNN about the absence of transcripts of the discussion between Trump and Putin, Sanders responded bluntly.

“That’s insane,” she said. “The fact is, the president walked out of the meeting and did a press conference immediately following, as did a number of his aides who were participants … the idea that there was no transparency is ridiculous and it’s just simply false.”

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