President challenges Tillerson to 'compare IQ tests' over his reported 'moron' insult
US President Donald Trump has suggested that he's smarter than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying in an interview published yesterday that if Tillerson did call him a "moron", as reported, the two should "compare IQ tests".
"And I can tell you who is going to win," Mr Trump said to 'Forbes' magazine.
Mr Trump's tense relationship with Mr Tillerson burst into public view last week. An NBC News story claimed vice president Mike Pence had to talk Mr Tillerson out of resigning this summer, and that Mr Tillerson had called Mr Trump a "moron".
Mr Tillerson said he never considered resigning, though he didn't directly address the reported insult. His spokeswoman later said he never used such language.
Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson were scheduled to have lunch yesterday at the White House with Defence Secretary Jim Mattis.
Mr Trump has at times appeared to undercut Mr Tillerson's message on some of America's most sensitive national security challenges, including Iran and North Korea. Mr Tillerson also has publicly complained about the White House blocking him from making key appointments. Still, last week Mr Trump told reporters he had "total confidence" in his secretary of state.
In the 'Forbes' interview, Mr Trump responded to criticism that he's undermined his secretary of state through his often provocative tweets that have interfered directly with ongoing diplomatic efforts.
"I'm not undermining," Mr Trump told 'Forbes'.
"I think I'm actually strengthening authority."
As for Mr Tillerson's reported "moron" 'comment, the president said, "I think it's fake news. But if he did that, I guess we'll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win."
The latest outburst came as he launched another series of tweets on a wide range of topics yesterday morning. He said that reaching out to congressional Democrats for help in getting immigration legislation passed was difficult because "the Democrats don't want secure borders". In his tweet, he claimed Democrats "don't care about safety for USA".
His post came two days after he sent an immigration overhaul wish-list of legislative proposals to congressional leaders, including a requirement that Congress agree to a host of border security improvements and make significant changes to the green card programme.
Mr Trump said on Sunday there needed to be security enhancements - and the border wall he has demanded - before he would sign on to a bill restoring a programme that shields from deportation young people brought to the US illegally when they were children.
He also said he would be acting on health care soon: "I will be using the power of the pen to give great HealthCare to many people - FAST."
The president also suggested the US change its tax laws to punish organisations like the NFL if members are "disrespecting" the national anthem or flag.