Sarah Sanders Won't Say Why Donald Trump Appointed 'Totally Ill Prepared and Ill Equipped' Rex Tillerson

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to answer Thursday why President Donald Trump appointed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state despite saying he was "totally ill prepared" for the job.

Tillerson was ousted as the United States' top diplomat in March 2018 after a sometimes fraught relationship with Trump since being nominated when the president assumed office the previous year. Tillerson has spoken little about his time in the administration since leaving last year. However, reports Wednesday claimed that Tillerson had met with members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and told them that Trump was, according to The Washington Post, out-prepared by Russian President Vladimir Putin during a meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

Never one to let a perceived slight go unanswered, Trump hit back fiercely on Twitter Thursday morning.

"Rex Tillerson, a man who is 'dumb as a rock' and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State, made up a story (he got fired) that I was out-prepared by Vladimir Putin at a meeting in Hamburg, Germany. I don't think Putin would agree. Look how the U.S. is doing!" Trump tweeted.

Minuted later Sanders appeared for an interview on CNN and was asked why, if Tillerson was so "ill prepared and ill equipped," the president nominated him in the first place.

"Look, the President's meeting with Putin went extremely well," Sanders responded, declining to answer the meat of the question. "The president has made clear that having a relationship with the president of Russia is better than not having one."

Tillerson is far from the first former administration member that Trump has criticized. Trump regularly blasted former Attorney General Jeff Sessions over his recusal from the Russia investigation.

Few former administration members, though, have had negative comments about the president aired as publicly as Tillerson's this week.

"We spent a lot of time in the conversation talking about how Putin seized every opportunity to push what he wanted," a committee aide present in the discussion with Tillerson told The Post. "There was a discrepancy in preparation, and it created an unequal footing."

The apparent ill feeling has not been all one way. During his time as secretary of state, Tillerson's efforts to negotiate with North Korea were undermined when Trump sent a tweet stating that he was "wasting his time."

Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO, was replaced as secretary of state by Mike Pompeo, who has fallen keenly in with the president's agenda.

During his campaign for president, Trump boasted that he was "going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people."

donald trump, rex tillerson, sarah sanders
President Donald Trump speaks watched by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during lunch with members of the United Nations Security Council in the State Dining Room of the White House on January 29, 2018 in Washington, D.C. MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
Sarah Sanders Won't Say Why Donald Trump Appointed 'Totally Ill Prepared and Ill Equipped' Rex Tillerson | U.S.