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Speculation over a possible “Rexit” grew after Mr Tillerson, former chief executive of the Exxon-Mobil oil company, was reported to be unhappy about the president’s “unprofessional” attacks on embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Mr Tillerson, 65, was already frustrated with Mr Trump’s involvement in foreign affairs and staffing decisions, according to CNN.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tried to brush aside suggestions that Mr Tillerson was on his way out.
“Just taking a little time off,” she said. “He does have the ability to go away for a few days on his own. He’s got a lot of work, he just came back from that mega-trip overseas,” she added, referring to the G20 summit in Germany.
“He’s entitled to take a few days for himself. The Secretary has been very clear he intends to stay here at the State Department. We have a lot of work that is left to be done ahead of us. He recognises that. He’s deeply engaged in that work.”
She added that Mr Tillerson “does, however, serve at the pleasure of the president, just as any cabinet official would.”
Attorney General Sessions’ future seemed in doubt after Mr Trump again criticised him for being “very weak” and said that “only time will tell” if he keeps his job.
Speaking at a White House press conference the president blasted Mr Sessions’ decision to remove himself from any involvement in the investigations into alleged Russian meddling with the US election because of his own involvement in the Trump campaign.
“He should not have recused himself almost immediately after he took office, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me prior to taking office, and I would have quite simply picked somebody else,” said a clearly-irritated Mr Trump. He added: “It’s unfair to the presidency.”
Mr Sessions, a former Alabama senator seen as one of Mr Trump’s most loyal supporters, appears to be standing firm despite being the target of another Twitter tirade from the president. His latest tweet said: “Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!”
The White House’s new communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, likened the relationship to a marriage row and said: “They need to either get together or separate.” He added that he thought it was correct that Mr Trump wants Mr Sessions to quit.
At least three protesters, one waving a Russian flag, were thrown out of a rally in Ohio last night as Mr Trump urged support for replacing “Obamacare” health reforms.
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