President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tried Tuesday to smooth over tensions in their relationship during a White House lunch after the president proposed an “IQ tests” faceoff with his top diplomat, who earlier had privately called Trump a “moron” and disparaged his grasp of foreign policy.
In an interview with Forbes magazine published Tuesday morning, Trump fired a shot at Tillerson over the “moron” revelation, first reported by NBC News and confirmed by several other news organizations, including The Washington Post.
“I think it’s fake news,” Trump said, “but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later insisted that Trump’s comment was “a joke and nothing more than that.”
“The president certainly never implied that the secretary of state was not incredibly intelligent,” Sanders said in Tuesday afternoon’s news briefing. She added that Trump has “100 percent confidence” in Tillerson and admonished reporters for taking the president’s comment so seriously.
“Maybe you guys should get a sense of humor and try it sometime,” she quipped.
Regardless of whether Trump was trying to make a joke, his “IQ tests” challenge is the latest evidence of what White House officials have described as a breach of trust between the president and the secretary of state.
Although Trump has said publicly that he has confidence in Tillerson, as he did Tuesday, behind the scenes, he has long been brooding about the diplomat’s job performance, according to administration officials…