Trump Says Rex Tillerson Is 'Wasting His Time' on North Korea -- And More Times the President Undercut His Own Team

This isn't the first time President Trump has undercut a member of his own staff


President Donald Trump has publicly called out his own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, for “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man,” Trump wrote in a pair of tweets on Sunday, referring to his nickname for Kim Jong-un. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”

“Being nice to Rocket Man hasn’t worked in 25 years, why would it work now? Clinton failed, Bush failed, and Obama failed. I won’t fail,” Trump added in another tweet.

The comments came after Tillerson, who was traveling in China over the weekend, told reporters that the U.S. has open “lines of communication” with North Korea in an effort to “calm things down” following threatening exchanges between Trump and Kim.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in Monday’s press briefing that Trump still has confidence in Tillerson but added that “now is not the time simply to have conversations with North Korea.”

This isn’t the first time the president has undercut a member of his own staff. Here’s a list of others who have felt their boss’ frustration in very public ways.

US AG Jeff Sessions Sanctuary Cities Speech
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers a speech outlining the Department of Justice policy regarding Sanctuary Cities and crime by illegal immigrants at the US Attorney's Office in Center City Philadelphia, PA, on July 21, 2017. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Trump repeatedly called out Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. After publicly announcing his displeasure — including telling The New York Times that Sessions’ move was “extremely unfair … to the president” — Trump took to Twitter in July to attack Sessions for taking “a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes” and “intel leakers.”

The president also expressed regret over appointing Sessions in the first place, telling the Times, “If he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else.”

Donald Trump, H.R. McMaster
Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster and President Donald Trump in 2017. Susan Walsh/AP

National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster

In May, Trump contradicted H.R. McMaster after the national security advisor denied reports that the president had shared classified information with Russian officials.

Early the following morning, Trump tweeted that he had in fact shared information with Russia, which he said he had “the absolute right to do.”

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer … and Vice President Mike Pence … and the White House itself

After Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May, the White House issued a statement, attributed to Spicer, that said the president “acted based on the clear recommendations of both Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.”

That night, after hiding among some bushes on the White House grounds, Spicer emerged to give the same explanation. “It was all him,” Spicer said of Rosenstein, according to The Washington Post.

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Vice President Mike Pence and Trump’s then-deputy press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, also insisted at the time that Trump made his decision based on Rosenstein’s recommendation.

But then Trump himself spoke out with an entirely different explanation.

“I was going to fire Comey. My decision. I was going to fire Comey. There’s no good time to do it, by the way. I was going to fire regardless of recommendation,” Trump said in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt.

Trump also said he factored into his decision the Comey-led FBI probe into Russian interference in the election.

“And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said: ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won,’ ” Trump said.

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Donald Trump Jr.

Trump contradicted his own son — and his own self — when the president revealed in July that he knew about his eldest son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer who promised to give the Trump campaign dirt on Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. first said in an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity that his father didn’t know about the meeting, a claim the president also made in a subsequent interview with Reueters.

“No, that I didn’t know until a couple of days ago when I heard about this,” Trump said at the time.

Just hours later, however, Trump told pool reporters of the meeting, “In fact maybe it was mentioned at some point.”

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