The surprise encounter was revealed by Tillerson when he quietly met senior staff of the Democratic chair Rep. Eliot Engel and ranking Republican Rep. Michael McCaul from the House of Foreign Affairs Committee last month
Tillerson also met Engel and McCaul, but there was no transcript of that meeting, which was agreed upon before the meeting took place
"I could see the color go out of the face of the Foreign Secretary of Mexico, "Tillerson told the staffers, about the inadvertent restaurant meeting, according to the transcript. "I said:" Welcome to Washington "And I said:" I do not want to interrupt what you're doing "I said," Give me a call next time you come to town. "And I left it at that. 1
He also said that Kushner has mapped out a comprehensive strategy for US-Saudi relations – and plan that Tillerson said he was only informed of the very late in the process.
"At some point … Mr. Kushner contacted me and said: "You know, I would like you to meet with this person so they can review – that's what we've been working on for some time, so you could take a look at that," Tillerson
Tillerson then reviewed the plan, which included arms sales to Saudi Arabia and a "roadmap" for the future of the US-Saudi relationship. but said he brought a state department official with him to hear the contours of Kushner's plan
At that time, Tillerson was in the Saudi capital of Riyadh before the P resident's Middle East summit but said he was not aware that tensions in the region had risen despite indications that the situation was escalating.
He was also unaware that Kushner and Steve Bannon had hosted a private dinner with the rulers of Saudi Arabia and UAE around that time when the Gulf leaders presented their plans for a blockade of Qatar, according to the transcript.
'It makes me angry'
"What is your reaction to a meeting of that sort taking place without your knowledge?" Tillerson was asked during the May interview.
"It makes me angry," he responded. "While I did not explicitly address Kushner's views on the blockade, he suggested that Kushner and Bannon knew that it was going to happen. Tillerson also made it clear that he and then Secretary of Defense James Mattis were kept in the dark and blinded when the announcement was made
"I was surprised," Tillerson said. "I think both Secretary Mattis and I both felt, given the significant footprint of our Defense Department assets and my role, that someone would have called us and told us."
Kushner also did not tell Tillerson or anyone at State that he or his family was seeking the help of a Qatari sovereign wealth fund to refinance property they owned in New York City and that their efforts had failed. But according to the transcript, Tillerson refused to engage in a study of the timeline which, if extrapolated, could have indicated a connection between refinancing and blockade. Tillerson said he never had a conversation at State on how Kushner family finances could impact foreign policy.
Tillerson on Trump
Just as Tillerson had to handle the challenge of working with Kushner, he also experienced a learning curve in his working relationship with Trump. Tillerson said that the information he had given to Trump was to be brief in order for the President to absorb it.
"I learned to be much more concise with what I wanted to bring in front of him. Early days I came in with way too much information," Tillerson said. "
The House staffers were particularly interested in the Trump's May 2017 meeting with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hamburg, Germany. Tillerson said Putin seems to be more prepared than Trump for the encounter.
"The meeting went much longer than the scheduled 30 minutes, so obviously the discussion was longer, lengthier. and he had clearly done a lot of thinking about it, "Tillerson said, without specifically describing what that issue was.
"We did not take that kind of preparation for the President because we did not expect that that's how it was going to go now. "
Tillerson did say that Trump raised the issue of election interference when the two met in Hamburg. "The President has raised it, I can tell you that," he said.
In addition to discussing the meeting with Putin, Tillerson said he faced challenges for hiring staff to fill key roles in the State Department.
"It was very difficult to get people through the vetting process … they were often dismissed by the White House Office of Personnel for reasons … that they had," he said.
"If people had ever signed a 'Never Trump' letter, they would often disqualify them. If they had tweeted or retweeted something that the White House office thought was inappropriate , then that would disqualify them. "They said," If they had a partner who supported the other candidate, that would disqualify them. "