After rising through the ranks at ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson served as President Trump’s secretary of state beginning in February 2017. After frequent clashing with the president, Tillerson was ousted from his post and replaced by Mike Pompeo in March 2018. What has Tillerson been up to since his brief foray into politics?
Tillerson was surely not strapped for cash when he lost his White House position. He acquired an estimated $300 million from ExxonMobil, after serving as the company’s CEO and chairman from 2006 to 2016. When he left the company in 2016, he had a retirement package worth $180 million.
Upon Tillerson’s exit, President Trump tweeted that he “couldn’t get rid of him fast enough.”
“He was lazy as hell. Now it is a whole new ballgame, great spirit at State!” the president tweeted months later.
Tillerson and the president clashed over North Korea and the relocation of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Tillerson also accused the president of being unprepared for a meeting with Russian Vladimir Putin and there were rumored tensions as Jared Kushner closed in on Tillerson’s territory as secretary of state.
Tillerson is a longtime donor to Republican campaigns but never contributed to President Trump’s campaign.
Tillerson, upon leaving, said Washington, D.C., can be “a very mean-spirited town.”
In May 2018, Tillerson gave a commencement speech at the Virginia Military Institute. In an apparent rebuke of President Trump, Tillerson told graduates there was "a growing crisis in ethics and integrity" in the U.S. government.
"If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom,” he said.
Since then, Tillerson has also spent some time in Manhattan courts in a case against the company he once led, ExxonMobil.
New York’s Democrat Attorney General Letitia James sued the oil giant, alleging it committed fraud by deceiving investors about the future profitability of the business in the face of impending climate change regulation. Tillerson denied the company misled investors.
"We knew it was a real issue," Tillerson testified in October 2019. "We tried to understand how this was going to affect everything." The New York case was the second filed against the company to make it to trial.
But even up until February of this year, the oil mogul questioned human ability to combat climate change.
“With respect to our ability to influence it, I think that’s still an open question,” Tillerson said at the Argus Americas Crude Summit. “Our belief in the ability to influence it is based upon some very, very complicated climate models that have very wide outcomes.”
In May 2019, Tillerson testified at a House committee hearing that he often had to condense foreign policy issues for an inattentive President Trump and that he faced repeated diplomatic run-ins with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin was highly prepared for a June 2017 meeting with President Trump, while the American leader was not.
Trump proceeded to say Tillerson was “dumb as a rock” and “ill prepared” to serve as secretary of state.
In June 2019, the former secretary of state purchased a home in West Lake, Texas, from former baseball player Vernon Wells, No. 65 on Forbes highest paid athletes' list. The home has five bedrooms, seven bathrooms, an elevator and caps out at 16,238 square feet.
In November 2019, Tillerson again came into the spotlight after the release of former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley’s memoir, “With All Due Respect.”
In the book Haley claimed Tillerson told her he resisted Trump “to save the country.”
“During my service to our country as the Secretary of State, at no time did I, nor to my direct knowledge did anyone else serving along with me, take any actions to undermine the President,” Tillerson said in a statement to The Washington Post. He added that Haley was rarely present in his meetings with the president.
But since then, Tillerson has been laying low, likely enjoying time at his new lavish Texas home. He and his wife, Renda, operate a horse ranch in the state called Bar RR Ranches.