Whenever the topic of Russian interference in the 2016 election comes up, Donald Trump inevitably downplays the suggestion and then falls back on his patented “fake news” line.
But now his own Secretary of State is saying Russia did indeed try to subvert the American democratic process.
The Daily Beast reports that during a closed-door meeting with American diplomats on Tuesday, Tillerson acknowledged that Russia:
“Interfered in democratic processes here.”
This is by far the most specific statement Tillerson has made on the subject. In April, he called Russian interference “fairly well-established” and also told Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Russian actions during the 2016 election had created “serious mistrust between our two countries.”
At the same Tuesday town hall at the State Department, Tillerson also engaged in:
“‘Trump ass-kissing.’ Tillerson praised Trump’s decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan ‘bold,’ despite being a status-quo decision that keeps a 16-year war going without plans for victory.”
The relationship between Tillerson and Trump — which has been rocky from the beginning — grew even more troubled in October when the Secretary of State reportedly called Trump a “moron” on his way out of a meeting with the president in which Trump urged a massive increase in America’s nuclear weapons force.
Tillerson is also facing increasing pressure from within the State Department. Most recently, Elizabeth Shackelford, who served as a political officer based in Nairobi for the U.S. mission to Somalia, resigned the agency and offered this advice to Tillerson:
“I would humbly recommend you follow me out the door.”
It remains to be seen if Tillerson will survive beyond 2017 or be replaced by either CIA Director Mike Pompeo or UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.