Over the weekend, in a moment that raised more than a few eyebrows, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made the case that Donald Trump “speaks for himself,” not the country.
In the same interview, asked if he’s separating himself from the president’s reaction to Charlottesville, instead of saying, “No, of course not,” the secretary of state replied, “I’ve made my own comments as to our vales as well in a speech I gave to the State Department this past week.”
And as usual as it is to see a president and his administration’s chief diplomat on different pages, Tillerson isn’t the only cabinet member who’s diverging from Trump. This morning, the president said via Twitter that diplomacy with North Korea “is not the answer” – contradicting the secretary of state in the process – which apparently isn’t in line with his Pentagon chief’s views.
When asked by reporters just hours later if the United States was out of diplomatic solutions with North Korea amid rising tensions after a series of missile tests by Pyongyang, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis replied: “No.”
“We are never out of diplomatic solutions,” Mattis said before a meeting with his South Korean counterpart at the Pentagon. “We continue to work together, and the minister and I share a responsibility to provide for the protection of our nations, our populations and our interests.”
This wasn’t a direct rebuke of Trump – Mattis didn’t reference the president specifically in his response – but it was nevertheless jarring to see the president take one posture in the morning, only to see his secretary of defense take an entirely different posture a few hours later.
And this wasn’t the first time a gap emerged between Trump and Mattis in recent months.