Tillerson aide: Constitution, not Trump, ‘speaks for the country’

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Rex Tillerson

(CNN) — Rather than walk back eyebrow-raising comments made by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday, an aide told CNN Monday that President Donald Trump speaks for himself when it comes to American values “because the Constitution speaks for the country.”

The Tillerson aide said the secretary of state was not criticizing Trump in the remarks.

“The secretary and President have expressed different points of view. He isn’t being critical, but more so re-establishing without confusion what are known American values,” the aide said.

“The values start from the Constitution. The President’s job is to uphold those values. Did he do the best job ever responding to Charlottesville? Nope. But that doesn’t mean America changes.”

The aide added, “That is why the President speaks for himself because the Constitution speaks for the country.”

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson had said Trump “speaks for himself” when asked about the President’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which he blamed “both sides” for the racial unrest. The secretary of state was asked about a United Nations committee issuing a warning to the United States about racism and hate crimes, saying US leaders had not sufficiently condemned white supremacy.

“I don’t believe anyone doubts the American people’s values,” Tillerson said.

“And the President’s values?” anchor Chris Wallace asked.

“The President speaks for himself,” Tillerson said.

Tillerson’s remark appears to be the latest sign of a gap between the former globe-trotting oil executive and the freewheeling President, who ran an “America First” campaign. The comments also come as a GOP source in touch with the West Wing and familiar with internal discussions said Trump is souring somewhat on Tillerson.

“He is in a tough spot. No doubt,” the source said, referring to Tillerson. But the source, who, like Tillerson’s aide, requested anonymity in order to discuss the President’s thinking, pushed back on the notion that Trump is losing patience with Tillerson due to the comments on Sunday.

Trump’s concerns, this source said, have more to do with Tillerson’s leadership at the State Department and the secretary’s more “establishment” style.

“What change is he bringing?” the source asked, referring to Tillerson.