Earlier this summer, in a meeting attended by cabinet officials and members of President Trump’s national security team, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a “moron,” NBC News reports. The reason for Tillerson’s insult isn’t clear, but it came the day after a meeting about Afghanistan in which Trump compared the process of reviewing strategy in the country “to the renovation of a high-end New York restaurant.”
In an August report about that meeting, NBC News said that Trump saw similarities between making decisions about the war and the reopening of the 21 Club in the ’80s.
Trump told his advisers that the restaurant, Manhattan’s elite ‘21’ Club, had shut its doors for a year and hired an expensive consultant to craft a plan for a renovation. After a year, Trump said, the consultant’s only suggestion was that the restaurant needed a bigger kitchen.
Officials said Trump kept stressing the idea that lousy advice cost the owner a year of lost business and that talking to the restaurant’s waiters instead might have yielded a better result. He also said the tendency is to assume if someone isn’t a three-star general he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, and that in his own experience in business talking to low-ranking workers has gotten him better outcomes.
When he called Trump a “moron,” Tillerson was reportedly frustrated by a raft of policy divisions within the White House over issues such as Qatar, Iran, and Venezuela. He was close to submitting his resignation at the time, but Vice-President Mike Pence convinced him to hang around, NBC News reports. Defense Secretary James Mattis and Chief of Staff John Kelly played a role in smoothing things over too. They had to “beg him to stay,” a senior administration official told NBC News. “They just wanted stability.”
Pence, NBC News says, has since advised Tillerson against calling Trump a “moron.”