Blog Briefing Room

Tillerson: Using American aid for 'some kind of personal gain [is] wrong'

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday that leveraging American foreign aid for "some kind of personal gain [is] wrong."

His comments come as the Trump administration continues to face mounting allegations of doing just that in the midst of House Democrats' ongoing impeachment inquiry.

PBS Newshour's Judy Woodruff asked Tillerson what he would have done if, while he was secretary of State, the Trump administration had conditioned millions in U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on the launch of a political investigation, CNN reported. The accusation is at the heart of House Democrats' impeachment probe. 

"I'd rather not answer a hypothetical on something that's so visible in the hearings today," Tillerson said, CNN reported. 

But the former secretary of State later expanded on the answer, calling the move "wrong." 

"If you're seeking some kind of personal gain and you're using - whether it's American foreign aid or American weapons or American influence - that's wrong. And I think everyone understands that," Tillerson said, PBS Newshour reported. 

Tillerson's comments come as House lawmakers enter the second week of marathon public impeachment hearings probing the Trump administration's contacts with Ukraine.

Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a Ukraine specialist on the National Security Council, and Jennifer Williams, an aide to Vice President Pence, appeared together Tuesday during a session that began in the morning. They are set to be followed by former special envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker and Tim Morrison, an outgoing top Russia expert on the National Security Council.

In the interview Tillerson also addressed allegations from former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley that he and former White House chief of staff John Kelly tried to recruit her to take actions that would thwart the president in an effort to "save the country."

"Kelly and Tillerson confided in me that when they resisted the president, they weren't being insubordinate, they were trying to save the country," Haley wrote in her new book "With All Due Respect," The Washington Post reported.

Tillerson denied the claim, PBS Newshour reported.

"[There are] so many people still [in the administration] trying to serve the country, so when people write books that quickly after leaving, my guess is [there are] two motivations: They need the money and they need the political future," Tillerson said.

"I recall the meeting," Tillerson added. "But at no time in that conversation do I have any recollection at all of any discussion suggesting that she needed to join some effort of ours."

He denied that he and Kelly were ever trying to undermine the president.