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For the next two hours the president fumed inside the White House, venting to Kelly, officials said.
He left for Las Vegas shortly after 8 a.m., 20 minutes behind schedule.
Tillerson scrambled to pull together a statement, while his spokesman publicly apologized for his comments about Pence and Haley, saying he “spoke out of line about conversations I wasn’t privy to.”
Tillerson delivered a statement praising Trump and insisting he never considered resigning, but it’s what he didn’t say that further enraged Trump, officials said.
The secretary’s refusal to deny that he had called the president a “moron” in his opening statement and in his responses to questions from reporters stoked Trump’s anger and widened the rift between the two men, officials said.
After watching the secretary’s response Wednesday, one White House official said, “When Tillerson didn’t deny it, I assumed it was true.”
Hammond is seen by the White House, particularly Pence’s office, as untrustworthy, officials said. It’s unclear if he will remain in his post, according to three administration officials.
Pence was “very annoyed anyone would misrepresent anything he said, particularly in private meetings,” one White House official said.
On Wednesday, this source said, White House officials spoke to State Department officials to make it clear that Hammond’s comment was “false” and needed to be corrected.
The revelations followed Trump’s frustrations over the weekend after Tillerson said the U.S. would talk to North Korea.
State Department officials tried to reach Tillerson on his government aircraft during his flight from Beijing to Japan, but they couldn’t reach him, sources said. The secretary and his team didn’t want to issue a clarification, further stoking tensions with the White House, an administration official said.
Trump took to Twitter, telling Tillerson not to waste his time trying to negotiate with the North Korean regime.
Additional reporting from Peter Alexander, Hallie Jackson and Vivian Salama.
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