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In apparent swipe at Trump, Tillerson warns of US ethical crisis

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia, on May 16, 2018. (AP photo)

Former US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has warned that American democracy was threatened by a growing “crisis of ethics and integrity,” an apparent swipe at his former boss, President Donald Trump.

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom,” Tillerson said Wednesday in a graduation address at the Virginia Military Institute.

Tillerson did not mention Trump by name during his address to graduates at the military college in Lexington, Virginia.

Tillerson, who was fired by Trump in March after little more than a year on the job, warned that a crisis involving truthfulness and integrity is threatening US democracy.

“If we do not as Americans confront the crisis of ethics and integrity in our society and among our leaders in both the public and private sector — and regrettably at times even the nonprofit sector — then American democracy as we know it is entering its twilight years,” Tillerson warned.

The US president has frequently said or tweeted statements not backed up by fact. For example, he insisted, despite evidence to the contrary, that the crowd at his January 2017 inauguration was bigger than at predecessor Barack Obama’s.

More recently, Trump at first disputed that he was aware of a $130,000 payment made by his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges an affair with Trump. But in an ethics disclosure on Wednesday, Trump acknowledged repaying Cohen more than $100,000 for an undisclosed purpose.

Tillerson arrived in Washington after running Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest corporations. But as the nation’s top diplomat, he soon found himself at odds with the president over a variety of issues, including extending the Iran nuclear deal and negotiating with North Korea.

Tillerson was reported to have privately called Trump a “moron” in July after the president suggested a 10-fold increase in the US nuclear arsenal during a meeting at the Pentagon.

Tillerson’s exit in March made his time in office the shortest of any secretary of state in nearly 120 years.

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