Tillerson defends Trump but is Haley in line to replace him?
Tillerson is widely speculated to be among those who might leave the administration around the one-year mark.Updated: Jan 07, 2018 08:26 IST
US secretary of State Rex Tillerson has insisted he never had a reason to question the “mental health” of Donald Trump after an explosive tell-all book claimed the president had a short attention span, regularly repeats himself and refuses to read briefing notes.
“I’ve never questioned his mental fitness. I’ve had no reason to question his mental fitness,” Tillerson told CNN in an interview, when asked to speak on journalist Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, which has questioned Trump’s ability to serve as president.
The defence by Washington’s top diplomat comes just months after reports emerged that Tillerson had referred to Trump as a “moron” after a national security meet, and as he sees his standing in the White House sink over serious policy differences, such as North Korea.
Nikki Haley, US ambassador to the United Nations, had risen as the Trump family’s choice to succeed Tillerson and eventually take on the mantle from the president, who had seemed to be grooming her for a “national political future” having spent a considerable amount of time travelling together.
Tillerson is widely speculated to be among those who might leave the administration around the one-year mark.
Haley, the first Indian American to hold a cabinet-rank position, had emerged as a frontrunner as the next secretary of state, a major promotion for her on her way to an even higher office. But her giddy rise in the Trump world was never explained as explicitly as by this book.
“By October, however, many on the president’s staff took particular notice of one of the few remaining Trump opportunists: Nikki Haley, the UN ambassador. Haley—“as ambitious as Lucifer,” in the characterization of one member of the senior staff—had concluded that Trump’s tenure would last, at best, a single term, and that she, with requisite submission, could be his heir apparent.”
Haley had courted Ivanka Trump — the president’s daughter and adviser — who “had brought her into the family circle, where she had become a particular focus of Trump’s attention, and he of hers”.
The daughter of immigrants from Punjab who served two terms as governor of one of the most Republican of states, South Carolina, Haley quickly emerged as the “family’s pick as secretary of state”. And, the book went on to say, Trump was “spending a notable amount of private time with Haley on Air Force One and was seen to be grooming her for a national political future”.
To her detractors, Haley, “an un-Trumpian figure, but by far the closest of any of his cabinet members to him”, looked set to “entice Trump to hand her the Trumpian revolution”.
And one of those detractors was Steve Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist who had his own plans for the Trumpian revolution, who went “into an overdrive to push for CIA’s Mike Pompeo” as Tillerson’s successor. That’s where the succession plan remains positioned till now.