Rex Tillerson, now the former-US Secretary of State, was dismissed by Donald Trump today amid a growing international row over the nerve agent attack of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Julia on British soil.
In one of his final acts as the head of US diplomacy, Mr Tillerson spoke with Boris Johnson about the poisoning before issuing a strongly-worded statement expressing “full confidence” in the UK’s assessment that Russia was likely to be responsible.
His comments contrasted sharply with the words of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who condemned the attack and offered sympathy and support to the UK, but pointedly made no reference to possible Russian involvement.
Mike Gapes MP asked today why Mr Trump refused to take the same hard-line stance on the issue as Mr Tillerson.
The Labour Co-op MP said: “It looks as though he used one of his last acts in post to do the right thing and say the right thing about the attempted murders in Salisbury.
“One of the last things he did was make a strong statement of solidarity with the UK. And where is Trump’s statement?
“Normally it takes Trump five minutes to put something out on Twitter – as he did at the time of the London terror attacks – and yet it is more than a week since Salisbury and he has said nothing.
“It is another example of the dysfunction of Trump’s presidency.”
Another MP showed the blurred lines on the official White House response to the attack indicated the US could not be trusted as a true UK ally – especially after Brexit.
Labour MP Stephen Doughty said the President’s “shocking and erratic” behaviour highlighted the risk of relying on support from across the Atlantic.
He said: “Donald Trump simply cannot be seen as a reliable or trustworthy ally of the UK when it comes to standing firm over Russiaor any of the other challenges we face, yet the Brextremists want to place the future of our economy in his hands.
“Today’s shocking and erratic behaviour by the US President is a reminder of just how big a risk Brexit is for the UK’s future.”
Mr Trump acknowledged today the UK government’s belief Russia was behind the attack but refused to condemn the country or agree with Prime Minister Theresa May.
He is due to speak with the PM later today.
After dodging the question to a press pack outside the White Hosue today, Mr Trump said: “It sounds today like it could be Russia.”
He added: “Theresa May is going to be speaking to me today. It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact.
“As soon as we get the facts straight and we are going to be speaking with the British today, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be.
“But I have not spoken to her, I’ll speak to her some time today.”