Posted: 4:45 pm ET
Tillerson: “In the context of the budget, the fiscal year 2017 was a record high for the State Department.” (Note that the FY2013 budget was $1.6B more than the FY2017 budget. See “The Secretary” Writes FY18 Budget Love Letter to Foggy Bottom, But What’s This About Post Closures?).
Tillerson: “Looking at ongoing conflicts, if we accept that we’re just going to continue to never solve any of these conflicts, then the budget should stay at the current level.” (Note that proposed FY18 budget is nowhere near the current level. See WH/OMB Releases FY2018 Budget Blueprint – @StateDept/@USAID Hit With 28% Funding Cuts Mar 16, 2017).
Tillerson’s top policy aide: “Tillerson and Mattis get along like gin and vermouth.”
“Tillerson said he talks to Trump daily and has an open invitation to visit him at the White House whenever he chooses, he said they haven’t yet talked about what a dramatically different State Department will look like or how he will staff it. His eyes darted down to his desk when he said, “We haven’t gotten that far yet,” as though he realized he had been caught.”
Tillerson said he hopes eventually, “The people at the State Department will find their jobs much more rewarding.” And despite some of the commentary being bandied about, he thinks there’s been a lot of energy since the day he got started there. (See The Atlantic’s The State of Trump’s State Department).
Tillerson on NATO: “He [Trump] embarrassed them into increasing their spending.”
Tillerson: “We’ve got a lot going on inside the State Department, and we’re not talking about it until we’re ready, and that’s driving a lot of people nuts,” he said. He was so cagey when Russia came up, for example, that his answer wasn’t even worthy of inclusion.
Tillerson on the Secretary of State job: “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job.” He paused to let that sink in. A beat or two passed before an aide piped up to ask him why he said yes. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
Tillerson: “I serve at the pleasure of the president.” It doesn’t seem like he regrets accepting the job. “My wife convinced me. She was right. I’m supposed to do this.”
Read the full interview below and the transcript previously posted by the reporter, Erin McPike who was the sole journalist invited to accompany Secretary Tillerson on his trip to Asia: