The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee met Tuesday in secret with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to talk about his time at the administration, disagreements with the President’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and the administration’s dealings with Russia.
Tillerson met with the chairman of the panel, Democratic Representative Eliot Engel, and ranking Republican Representative Michael McCaul, with whom he also discussed the uncertainty surrounding Kushner’s role in foreign policy decisions.
The Daily Beast was the first to report the secret encounter that many in the House did not know about prior to the publication of the story.
According to a committee aide, the former secretary of state was the one who reached to the congressional leaders, expressing willingness to meet with them. The meeting lasted for over six hours, during which time Tillerson told committee members that the Trump administration sought to build a stronger relationship with Russia, avoiding for that reason any confrontation with the Kremlin about Russian election interference.
Tillerson also told the committee that his effort to establish a formal interagency process at the State Department aimed at providing the President with informed briefings on sensitive foreign policy matters, was unsuccessful due to interference by other aides, but also as a result of President Donald Trump’s personal management style.
According to Tillerson’s accounts, Kushner often hampered his efforts to introduce State Department-developed policy proposals to the President regarding important foreign affairs issues across the globe, not just the Middle East, an area Kushner has focused on.
Since leaving the administration in March 2018, Tillerson has not made many public appearances, noting during a rare one that there was no doubt Russia meddled in the 2016 election.
“So often, the president would say, ‘Here’s what I want to do and here’s how I want to do it,’ and I would have to say to him, ‘Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can’t do it that way. It violates the law’,” Tillerson further said at a panel in Houston last December.