- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
- Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis are reportedly working together to hold President Donald Trump back from his most dramatic policies.
- The two have reportedly moderated Trump’s position on a handful of potentially explosive issues.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis have served under President Donald Trump for just under a year, and in that time they have had to adapt to, and sometimes rein in, a president elected to dramatically upset the status quo.
Tillerson and Mattis “never go to a National Security Council meeting or to the president without being in agreement in advance themselves,” said Sen. Bob Corker, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, according to the Associated Press. “So they’re always on the same page.”
With a united voice, the former Marine Corps general and Exxon Mobil CEO have managed to steer Trump away from some of his most dramatic, controversial foreign-policy positions and tweets.
“This president’s different, and so everybody had to understand that this is going to be different,” Tillerson told the AP, also saying foreign leaders had adjusted to Trump’s style. “Now that we’re a year into it, I think most of them have become rather accustomed to it.”
Trump often declares policy positions via Twitter, after which they are apparently printed out and given to Tillerson, whose staff then tries to make them into policy.
But Trump has a flair for the dramatic, and Tillerson and Mattis often end up dealing with the fallout when Trump’s vision yields positions they view as unrealistic. According to the Associated Press, Mattis and Tillerson’s alliance have pushed for the following moderate positions:
- Removing Iraq from Trump’s travel ban, as many Iraqis help and work for the US military.
- Remaining engaged in Afghanistan and even increasing troop levels despite Trump’s promises to end spiraling conflicts overseas.
- Keeping the US Embassy in Israel in Tel Aviv, rather than in Jerusalem.
- Continuing diplomatic efforts with North Korea, after Trump directly undercut Tillerson by calling it a “waste of time.”
- Keeping the Iran nuclear deal despite Trump’s repeated promises to rip it up.
- Sticking with NATO despite Trump’s demands for more spending, and even back pay, from allies.
Multiple other reports have credited Tillerson and Mattis with holding back Trump from initiating a “bloody nose” strike on North Korea.