Secretary of State Rex Tillerson looked like he had been cast into social Siberia.
The former ExxonMobil CEO was enjoying a martini with his wife at the BLT Prime steakhouse inside the Trump International Hotel on Feb. 25, when President Donald Trump strode in with Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner and Florida Gov. Rick Scott. Nigel Farage, the former leader of the U.K. Independence Party, happened to be at the hotel and was invited to join the president’s dinner party. Tillerson, who came over to say hello as he was leaving, was not.
Viewed as the walled-off leader of a demoralized department, Tillerson in the opening days of the Trump administration was cast as an inexperienced statesman undercut by the White House as the nation’s top diplomat, supplanted in that role by the president’s powerful son-in-law.
But over the past month, as Tillerson has taken a lead on the administration’s strategy with Syria, Russia and China, his status has shifted – and behind the scenes, he’s emerging as Trump’s favorite cabinet secretary.
The 65-year-old self-made Texas oilman has become one of Trump’s most frequent White House guests, often joining him in the residence for one-on-one dinners, or in the presidential dining room, along with Vice President Mike Pence, for lunch.
In Trump’s 83 days as president, Tillerson has had more meetings with the president than any other cabinet secretary, according to multiple White House aides and a review of public schedules. When Tillerson isn’t traveling abroad, the two men schedule a private dinner at least once a week.