21:48 GMT18 September 2020
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    US media has reported on growing tensions between President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Speaking to Sputnik, political scientist Vyacheslav Smirnov said that whether or not the reports are true, the mainstream media is eager to exploit them as much as possible for its attacks against the president.

    On Thursday, the Washington Post reported, citing unnamed sources, that the president was growing increasingly unhappy with Secretary Tillerson and several of his top advisors. According to the newspaper, Trump did not like how Tillerson had confronted him on issues including Afghanistan troop levels, Cuba policy and the Qatar blockade.

    On Friday, a State Department spokesperson told Sputnik that the rumors of a falling out between Trump and the Secretary of State were "absolutely false." 

    "Secretary Tillerson remains a trusted and highly valued member of the president's cabinet and national security team," the spokesperson said.

    Asked to comment on the WP story, US politics observer Vyacheslav Smirnov told Radio Sputnik that it was obvious that the mainstream media was using the rumors in an effort to further damage the president's image.

    "It's necessary to keep in mind that the main sources reporting on disagreements [within the Trump administration] are CNN and the Washington Post. Both of these sources are hostile to Trump's team and to Donald Trump personally, and are willing to pour gas on any issue that hits at the president's image," Smirnov said.

    "Even before Rex Tillerson's appointment, these same sources were saying that disagreements would be inevitable. They have been covering this subject throughout his tenure," the analyst added.

    Ultimately, Smirnov admitted that whether the rumors are true or just propaganda by Trump's adversaries in the media, the continued reports of the president's disagreements with his own team does not exactly reflect well on his administration.

    Radio Sputnik contributor Ilya Kharlamov picked up on the latter idea, noting that "the main question" worth asking is: "Does the president have a team – or even the remnants of one?" 

    "This is generally the key issue for any top executive or national leader," the analyst stressed. "Without well-coordinated teamwork, effective state management becomes either impossible, or incredibly difficult." In the case of the US, Kharlamov suggested that "it seems that even the remnants of the Trump team are falling apart."

    Highly publicized disagreements between the president and his officials, such as Pentagon chief Jim Mattis' freeze on the president's transgender troop ban, lead to further questions, according to the analyst, including whether Trump's status as the commander-in-chief really has any significance. "Are his decisions no longer of any significance to his subordinates?"

    Ultimately, Kharlamov suggested that the waves of political scandal hitting Washington seemingly every week are part of a strategy by Trump's opponents to slowly grind him down and drive whatever agenda he may have had to a halt.

    The analyst noted that Trump's opponents in the global financial and political elite probably won't risk simply impeaching the president on some made-up pretext, since doing so would risk shaking the foundations of the state, they will continue to 'troll' and provoke him, politically and in the media.

    "Of course, this trolling will backfire. Trump will continue reformatting his team in the hopes of 'finally' finding reliable people – 'his' people. And he will make a diligent effort not to allow what he considers to be mistakes. But these steps, as a rule, will seem like mistakes to others. This is the American political Zugzwang for 2017. And it looks likely that it will be prolonged until 2020," Kharlamov concluded.

    The rumors of new cracks in White House unity come following a series of high-profile personnel changes in the White House, including the departure of press secretary Sean Spicer, chief of staff Reince Priebus, communications director Anthony Scaramucci and chief strategist Steve Bannon, all in speedy succession.

    expert analysis, media, Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump, United States
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