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Tillerson: Trump would ask me to do things I couldn't legally do

Former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonLawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office New State Department cyber bureau stirs opposition Blinken tells State Department staff 'I have your back' MORE says he often had to push back on President TrumpDonald TrumpSacha Baron Cohen calls out 'danger of lies, hate and conspiracies' in Golden Globes speech Sorkin uses Abbie Hoffman quote to condemn Capitol violence: Democracy is 'something you do' Ex-Trump aide Pierson planning run for Congress MORE, telling him that some of his requests would violate the law.

“So often, the president would say here's what I want to do and here's how I want to do it and I would have to say to him, 'Mr. President, I understand what you want to do but you can't do it that way. It violates the law,' ” Tillerson said in rare public remarks in Thursday night in Houston at a fundraiser for the MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

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“I'd say here's what we can do. We can go back to Congress and get this law changed. And if that's what you want to do, there's nothing wrong with that. I told him I'm ready to go up there and fight the fight, if that's what you want to do,” he added.

Tillerson said Trump would show frustration during those conversations.

Trump and Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil CEO, were known to have a contentious relationship. Tillerson was dismissed from his post in March and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike PompeoMike PompeoFive takeaways from CPAC 2021 Pompeo: Release of Khashoggi report by Biden admin 'reckless' Trump wins CPAC straw poll with 55 percent MORE.

The former secretary of State also said he believed Trump was able to win the presidency because the public is disengaged on many important issues. 

“I will be honest with you, it troubles me that the American people seem to want to know so little about issues that they are satisfied with a 128 characters,” Tillerson said, referring to Trump's use of Twitter.

“I don't want that to come across as a criticism of him,” he added. “It's really a concern that I have about us as Americans and us as a society and us as citizens.”

Tillerson also said at the Houston event that “there’s no question” Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election.

“What Russia wants to do is undermine our confidence and undermine the world’s confidence in us,” Tillerson said according to the Houston Chronicle.

“Many people talk about playing chess. He plays three-dimensional chess,” Tillerson added about Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Trump has repeatedly dismissed the conclusion of the intelligence community and said he accepts Putin's denials that he interfered in U.S. elections.