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Top US Envoy Tillerson Confident of His Relationship with Trump

  • Ken Bredemeier

President Donald Trump smiles at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after he was sworn in in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Feb. 1, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he is not worried about his standing with President Donald Trump following Trump's firing of FBI chief James Comey.

"I have a great relationship with the president," Tillerson told NBC News' Meet the Press on Sunday. "I understand what his objectives are. When I'm not clear on what his objectives are, we talk about it."

Tillerson spoke as Trump prepares for his first overseas trip as president. He heads Friday to Saudi Arabia for discussions with King Salman and to Israel for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about ongoing turmoil and security threats in the volatile Middle East. Later, Trump is to visit Pope Francis at the Vatican and meet with more world leaders at NATO and at a G7 economic summit.

"I am devoted to helping the president achieve his objectives, helping him be successful," Tillerson said. "And I understand I have to earn his confidence every day with how I go about those affairs and how I go about conducting the State Department's activities consistent with the direction he wants to take the country."

Comey's firing

Trump on Tuesday fired Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the wake of Comey's firing, opposition Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans have called for a special prosecutor to be appointed to lead the investigation into Russia's meddling in last year's U.S. presidential election.

FILE - FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Summit in Washington, May 8, 2017.
FILE - FBI Director James Comey speaks to the Anti-Defamation League National Leadership Summit in Washington, May 8, 2017.

Tillerson said the Washington political debate over Comey's firing does not affect him and his relationship with Trump.

"I will never compromise my own values." Tillerson said. "And so that's my only line. And my values are those of the country."

Tillerson met last week with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov but defended not bringing up the U.S. intelligence community's conclusion that Moscow meddled in last year's U.S. presidential election to help Trump win, a contention that Russia has rejected.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) waves to the media next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, May 10, 2017. R
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (R) waves to the media next to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov before their meeting at the State Department in Washington, May 10, 2017. R

Tillerson said the United States and Russia have numerous major issues to consider, but said he has no question in his own mind that Russia interfered.

"We have to look at this relationship in the broadest contour," he said, adding that he was committed to improving cooperation between Moscow and Washington.

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