Adding to more tension and embarrassment between the Mexican government and the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department admitted that it did not know about a visit to Washington by Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said that he “was unaware that he was – the foreign minister was in town,” during a department press briefing on Thursday.
“I’m not sure – I can't speak to whether there are going to be any meetings at the State Department at any level,” Toner continued.
Meanwhile, Videgaray, who was actually in the White House, met with other U.S. officials including Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser to the president Jared Kushner, national security adviser H.R. McMaster and economic adviser Gary Cohn.
Videgaray then discussed trade relations between the two states at a press conference at the Mexican embassy, but did not attend any meetings with the U.S. State Department.
While the department later said that U.S. Secretary of State and former Exxon Mobil-boss Rex Tillerson had spoken by phone to Videgaray before his trip, the two did not meet.
Tillerson had previously met Videgaray along with Mexican President Peña Nieto in Mexico City in February, when Mexican officials were angered of the Trump administration's “unacceptable” new immigration guidelines.
In September during Trump’s presidential campaign, Videgaray helped to organize Trump’s visit to Mexico while serving as economy minister. Videgaray was then forced to resign because of criticism for organizing a visit with Trump, known for his belittlement of and racism against Mexicans and threat to build a border wall between the two countries. Later, Videgaray was reinstated to Peña Nieto's cabinet as foreign minister.
For many, particularly those in the press, Tillerson’s obliviousness and non-meeting with Videgaray is not only strange, but also points to wider unconventional behavior in the role and rumors that he has little influence in Trump’s administration.
Tillerson is yet to personally give a press conference or interview and previously suspended press briefings from the department. Tillerson was not present in the department’s first on-camera press briefing during the week.
Tillerson has also been labeled as weak and irresponsible for breaking convention and not taking reporters with him on his upcoming diplomatic trip to Asia.
“Your decision to travel without reporters sends a dangerous signal to other countries about the U.S. commitment to freedom of the press,” said Senator Ed Markey in a letter to Tillerson on Friday.