President Donald Trump on Thursday declined to give a full-throated endorsement of his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, saying that “we’ll see” if he will serve out his term with the president.
During a Fox News interview on Thursday, Trump was asked whether Tillerson “would be with you for the duration.”
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“We’ll see. I don’t know who’s going to be [here for the] duration,” the president replied. He also noted that Tillerson was “working hard” and “doing his best.”
With the remark, Tillerson again had his future with the Trump administration thrown into uncertainty.
NBC News reported in early October that Tillerson considered resigning over the summer, at one point reportedly referring to the president as a “moron.” The report was rebuffed by the White House and Trump, who called it “fake news” on Twitter, writing that Tillerson “never threatened to resign.”
During a rare and impromptu news conference at the State Department last month, Tillerson addressed the controversy head on, telling reporters that he remained committed to the president.
“I have never considered leaving this post,” the top U.S. diplomat said at the time. “My commitment to the success of our president and our country is as strong as it was the day I accepted his offer to serve as secretary of state.”
Trump in the past has been critical of Tillerson’s handling of foreign policy matters, tweeting that the head of the State Department was “wasting his time trying to negotiate” with North Korea. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump said.
The president on Thursday also addressed whether he felt that existing State Department vacancies were hampering his ability carry out his foreign policy vision. Trump brushed off the issue, saying that in the end, “The one that matters is me.”
“I am a business person. When you don’t need to fill slots, don’t fill them,” Trump said. “The one that matters is me. I am the only one that matters. When it comes to it, that’s what the policy will be.”
Trump’s comments come as he prepares to embark on a major diplomatic trip to Asia, his first to the region since entering office. He’ll meet with leaders from China, Japan and South Korea, as well as other heads of state.