President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and announced his intention to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The Washington Post reported that Trump asked Tillerson to leave his position last Friday, and the nation’s chief diplomat prematurely ended his trip to Africa on Monday.
State Department officials, meanwhile, said that Tillerson only found out about his firing via the President’s tweet on Tuesday.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job!” Trump tweeted on Monday morning. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!”
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
There have been numerous reports since Trump took office of a disconnect between him and former Exxon Mobil executive — with Tillerson once calling Trump a moron, and Trump believing Tillerson is “too establishment” — and several White House officials told the Post that Trump wanted to make the change ahead of his planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
The move comes after the White House tried to quell reports this summer that Tillerson had threatened to quit over policy disputes with the White House, and was apparently so incensed that Vice President Mike Pence had to step in to give him a “pep talk.” It was also reported that Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis — Tillerson’s biggest allies in the administration — had urged him to stay.
Tillerson broke with the White House this past week by saying that the poisoning of an ex-spy in the UK “came from Russia.”
But the division between the two runs deep. Tillerson publicly distanced himself from Trump’s cowtowing to white supremacists after the violent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, VA last year and Trump later tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time” in negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear and missile programs.
“Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump had tweeted at the time.
…Save your energy Rex, we'll do what has to be done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
If confirmed, Pompeo will take over at the State Department, and Trump noted that Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point and in addition to his military service, attended Harvard Law School and served as a U.S. Congressman. He has nominated Deputy Director Gina Haspel to take Pompeo’s place at the CIA. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to run the agency.
“I am deeply grateful to President Trump for permitting me to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for this opportunity to serve as Secretary of State,” Pompeo said. “His leadership has made America safer and I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity. Serving alongside the great men and women of the CIA, the most dedicated and talented public servants I have encountered, has been one of the great honors of my life.”
Pompeo is reportedly a member of Trump’s inner circle and spends time with the president daily. His name has long been floated by White House officials as a possible replacement for Tillerson.
Tillerson joins a growing list of dozens of officials and staffers who have left or been ousted from their positions within the Trump administration and the federal government since Trump took office.
— Holly Figueroa O'Reilly (@AynRandPaulRyan) March 13, 2018