US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has denied a report that suggested he spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about leaving his post. President Donald Trump condemned the report, calling it "fake news."
As part of a prepared statement, Rex Tillerson on Wednesday said Vice President Mike Pence "never had to persuade" him to remain in his position.
A report from American outlet NBC News had asserted that the Secretary of State was on the verge of resigning this summer after policy disputes with the White House and President Donald Trump, reporting that Pence and other officials persuaded him not to go.
"The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post," Tillerson said, calling the report "erroneous."
"While I'm new to Washington, I have learned that some have tried to sew dissension to advance their own agenda by tearing others apart in an effort to undermine President Trump's own agenda. I do not and I will not operate that way, and the same applies to everyone on my team here at the State Department."
Upon his arrival in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Trump told reporters he has "total confidence" in Tillerson and said the NBC News report was "fake news" and a "totally phony story."
The July talks with Pence had focused on easing tensions between Tillerson and The White House and how he should best position himself in Trump's cabinet.
The NBC News report also said Tillerson had called Trump a "moron" in a July 20 meeting with Trump's national security officials and other cabinet members, citing three anonymous officials familiar with the incident. Asked directly about this claim in the report, Tillerson said: "I'm not going to deal with petty stuff like that."
'NBC News is Fake News'
On his Twitter account, Trump condemned NBC News for being "a disgrace to good reporting and called on the American broadcaster to issue an apology.
NBC News said it stood by its reporting.
Over the weekend, Trump posted on his Twitter account that Tillerson was "wasting his time" negotiating with North Korea's Kim Jong Un. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis on Tuesday also played down these reported tensions between Trump and Tillerson.
Tillerson, the former chief executive of the energy company Exxon Mobil, had fond words for Trump and voiced commitment to the American president's agenda.
"He loves this country. He puts Americans and America first. He's smart, he demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable for whether they've done the job he's asked them to do. Accountability is one of the bedrock values the president and I share," Tillerson said.
dv/msh (AP, Reuters)