A frustrated Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reportedly blew his cool over staffing and information leaks, unloading on the head of the presidential personnel office in front of top White House aides including Reince Priebus and Jared Kushner, Politico reports.
According to Politico, the outburst aimed at Johnny DeStefano stunned the White House officials gathered at Priebus’s office last week, and was so explosive that Kushner approached Margaret Peterlin, Tillerson’s chief of staff, and told her the tongue-lashing was unprofessional.
Politico reported Tillerson lambasted DeStefano for thwarting proposed nominees to senior State Department posts, and for questioning his judgment. He also complained the White House was leaking damaging information about him to the news media.
Many of Tillerson’s proposed nominees have been rejected by DeStefano’s office either because they are Democrats or because they are Republicans who were critical of President Donald Trump during the campaign, Politico reports.
“Rex is a 65-year-old guy who worked his way up from the bottom at Exxon, and he chafes at the idea of taking orders from a 38-year-old political operative,” another told Politico.
According to Politico, Tillerson also made it clear he didn’t want DeStefano’s office to “have any role in staffing” and “expressed frustration that anybody would know better” than he about who should work in his department.
“Colleagues are capable of frank exchanges. Evaluating nominees did get off to a slow start, but it is now moving along at a pretty good clip”, R.C. Hammond, a State Department spokesman, told Politico.
Matthew Waxman, a senior official in the State Department and National Security Council under President George W. Bush, told Politico it’s “very common that there would be some tensions and some tussles between the White House and departments or agencies about senior personnel decisions”.