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October 22, 2019
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Ex US Secretary of State Tillerson says Trump son-in-law Kushner made his job difficult

WASHINGTON: Former US secretary of state Rex Tillerson has told a congressional committee that Trump’s son-in-law made his job more difficult.

Tillerson accused President Donald Trump’s son-in-law of conducting diplomacy behind his back when he was in the administration, which led to a number of embarrassments.

Tillerson, who was fired by Trump in March 2018, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month about several episodes involving Jared Kushner.

A transcript of a congressional hearing was released on Thursday.

The former top US diplomat and CEO of ExxonMobil happened to be dining in the same restaurant while Kushner and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Luis Videgaray were having a privat e meal.

Tillerson had not been informed his Mexican counterpart was in the US capital.

He said he “could see the colour go out” of the Mexican official’s face when Tillerson greeted them at their table with a smile.

“And I said: ‘I don’t want to interrupt what y’all are doing’,” Tillerson recalled. “I said ‘Give me a call next time you’re coming to town.’ And I left it at that.”

Tillerson also said he was caught off guard on June 5, 2017 – along with then-defence chief James Mattis – when Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Egypt and Bahrain imposed a blockade on Qatar.

While Kushner and another Trump adviser Steve Bannon, meanwhile, had been told about the blockade more than two weeks earlier at a secret dinner with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Tillerson said he met representatives of all four of the blockading countries, “trying to persuade them that this was very detrimental to their own security in the region”, and the Saudi and UAE representatives did not tell him their governments had earlier told the US about their plans for a blockade.

Asked about the relationship between Kushner and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), Tillerson said “there was a lot of communication between the two of them” and Kushner travelled to the kingdom and other areas of the Middle East without consulting US embassies.

He said he raised the issue of such trips with Kushner, who said he would “try to do better”.

However, Tillerson said not much changed and that made his job more difficult.