A Tillerson Confidant Survives the Purge With Help From Friends

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Within hours after President Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, the White House set about purging his inner circle.
Brian Hook may prove the exception.
Hook, the State Department’s director of policy planning, is among the last Tillerson confidants standing after the president’s dismissal-by-tweet of his top diplomat on Tuesday.
Far from being ousted, Hook is heading to a meeting in Vienna on Friday to push Trump’s demands for revamping Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers.
The key to Hook’s survival may be his long-standing reputation in Republican foreign policy circles, bolstered by the access he gained as Tillerson’s liaison with the White House.
Even as Tillerson was viewed there with distrust and mounting exasperation, Hook developed relations with top Trump advisers including Stephen Miller and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
Kushner invited Hook along on some of his overseas trips.
“Anyone on Capitol Hill who cares about foreign policy knows him,” said Daniel Runde, the director of the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“He’s somebody known across the Republican foreign policy community.
He’s a conservative internationalist who believes ‘America first’ does not mean America alone.
” Homer’s ‘Iliad’ A devout Catholic with a passion for Homer’s “Iliad” and other Greek classics, Hook, 49, served as an assistant secretary of state during President George W.
Bush’s administration and advised the presidential campaigns of moderate Republicans Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty.
Early on, some Trump loyalists questioned Hook’s devotion to the president based on a comment to Politico during the 2016 campaign, when he said, “Even if you say you support him as the nominee, you go down the list of his positions and you see you disagree on every one.
” But Hook never signed on to “Never Trump” articles and letters from conservatives who condemned candidate Trump as an isolationist and were effectively put on a do-not-hire list for the State Department.
“He is far more conservative than he gets credit for,” said R.
Hammond, Tillerson’s former media strategist.
Hook and State Department press officials didn’t respond to requests for comment on his role.
Related story: Trump Moves Closer to Presidency of One With Tillerson Firing Hook came to play an out-sized role in Tillerson’s State Department, leading the effort to toughen the Iran nuclear deal and writing Tillerson’s speech outlining a new approach to India.
He often served as an interpreter for the media-averse secretary, explaining his boss’s thinking in briefings and interviews.
Hook went on most of Tillerson’s trips, always carrying ample reading material.
On a trip to Geneva, he brought a volume on Islam.
On Trump and Tillerson’s Asia tour in November, it was “Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything About the World.
” Watch on Haley He accompanied Nikki Haley, the U.
ambassador to the United Nations, when she visited Vienna last year to discuss the Iran deal.
At the time, aides said Tillerson sent Hook largely to keep an eye on Haley, who was viewed as a Tillerson rival in the administration.
Hook’s most substantial role has been leading the administration’s talks with European allies on overhauling the Iran nuclear deal.
Faced with Trump’s threats to simply quit the multinational accord, Hook devised the strategy demanding that the allies agree to new measures to strengthen it.
He has personally led talks with France, Germany and the U.
In Tillerson’s farewell remarks on Tuesday, the departing cabinet member went out of his way to ask that the staff of Hook’s policy planning office “continue our mission at the State Department in working with the inter-agency process.
” It was a strong signal he wanted Hook to remain.
Not everyone in the State Department’s rank-and-file may be rooting for Hook because he was viewed as part of Tillerson’s insular inner circle and seen as skeptical of the expertise of career diplomats.
Most of those insiders, led by Chief of Staff Margaret Peterlin, who recruited Hook, are now out of a job.
Ultimately, Hook’s survival at the State Department may depend on the team assembled by Mike Pompeo, the CIA director Trump has said he’ll nominate to replace Tillerson.
Hook, who frequently represented the State Department in National Security Council meetings at the White House, knows Pompeo from those and other encounters, according to a person familiar with Hook’s role under Tillerson.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Runde predicted Hook would make a smooth transition to a Pompeo-led State Department.
“He’s very client-focused,” he said.
“He knows he works for the Trump administration.

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