Rex Tillerson interview with Elise Labott
Rex Tillerson: I'll be here for all of 2018
00:37 - Source: CNN

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Tillerson fought with Trump last fall and was rumored to be leaving

The secretary of state spoke to CNN in an exclusive interview Friday

Washington CNN  — 

Suggesting reports of his political death have been greatly exaggerated, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told CNN on Friday that he plans to remain in his position through 2018.

“We had a very successful – in my view – year 2017, pivoting our policies and helping our partners understand those policies,” Tillerson told CNN’s Elise Labott in a wide-ranging interview. “We’re now into the implementation and execution against those policies.”

“I think we’re going to have a very productive 2018,” he added. “The State Department gets stronger every day, understand what we’re trying to do. And I look forward to having a very, very successful 2018.”

Pressed on whether he’ll be around to enjoy that success, Tillerson said, “I intend to be here for the whole year.”

Tillerson has been plagued with rumors of his impending exit since October, when NBC News reported that he called President Donald Trump “a moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon.

The secretary of state has declined opportunities to explicitly deny he made the statement, but his spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, has done so publicly.

In November, CNN reported that the White House was contemplating replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, citing multiple government officials. But Tillerson remained in the job, and has continued to meet regularly with Trump.

Tillerson said Friday that he doesn’t know why the rumors and reports have continued, but insisted that Trump has never given him any indication his job is in jeopardy.

“None whatsoever,” he emphasized.

Tillerson acknowledged, however, that he and Trump have “different management styles,” and that he’s had to adjust the way he communicates with the President.

“I’m here to serve his presidency, so I’ve had to spend a lot of time understanding how to best communicate with him so I can serve his needs with information,” said Tillerson, who was CEO of ExxonMobil before joining the administration.

“I do think one of my roles is to always give him all sides of the issues even when I know it’s not the side that he really wants to consider,” he added. “I think it’s part of making good decisions that I know he at least has had visibility to all aspects of the decision he’s about to make.”

Tillerson said he plans to build on his ability to communicate with the President in 2018, but defended Trump’s performance in the first year of his administration.

“He is not … typical of presidents of the past,” said Tillerson. “I think that’s well recognized. That’s also the why the American people chose him.”