US State Department says Secretary Tillerson is ‘taking a little time off’ amid tensions in the White House

Rex Tillerson. Photo: Eice Piermont/ AFP/ Getty Images.

NEW YORK CITY — Heather Nauert, the spokesperson for the State Department, surprised reporters on Tuesday by saying that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is “taking a little time off.”

When asked about the discrepancies between Tillerson’s public schedule and his reported movements, and why the department hadn’t updated the press on his whereabouts, Nauert said Tillerson “does have the ability to go away for a few days on his own.”

“Just taking a little time off,” Nauert said of Tillerson’s unannounced absence. “He’s got a lot of work, he just came back from that mega trip overseas as you all well know, many of you were over there with the G20.”

Asked why Nauert didn’t just say Tillerson was on vacation, she said she didn’t know the standard protocol for listing private days. Nauert then said Matt Lee, the Associated Press’ diplomacy writer, would probably know.

Tillerson’s absence comes amid reports that he’s considering leaving the State Department.