Tillerson: No daylight between the President and me

In congressional testimony Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied that his policy statements are often contradicted by President Donald Trump.

“There is no gap between the President and myself or the State Department on policy,” he told Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) in response to questioning on Tuesday morning before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

“There are differences in terms of how the President chooses to articulate the elements of that policy,” he acknowledged.

Castro asked Tillerson to account for a series of occasions when his foreign policy statements were at odds with the President’s, including a recent incident where President Trump seemed to praise Gulf nations for their isolation of Qatar, just hours after Tillerson said the blockade was hampering US military efforts against ISIS.

“How can Americans and our allies around the world have confidence in your word, in the State Department’s position, and most of all, that it represents what President Trump believes?” Castro asked.

But Tillerson said he was involved in writing the President’s Rose Garden statement on Qatar “to reflect the strong message he wanted to send,” and insisted, “there is no daylight between he and I.”

Tillerson also hit back at the notion that Trump’s son in law, Jared Kushner, is running diplomatic efforts in parallel with the State Department, confusing US allies.

“It is the Department of State and myself (who are responsible for conducting foreign policy),” Tillerson said. “And that has been reconfirmed by the President, to me, on multiple occasions.”

Kushner, who serves as a senior adviser to the President, has been prominently involved in the administration’s efforts to broker a Middle East peace deal and to improve ties with Mexico.

“There’s a lot of relationships that Jared’s made over time — Mexico being one of them — that are going to continue having conversations with him,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters in April. “That doesn’t mean by any means it’s being done without the coordination with the State Department.”