Trump Sacks Secretary of State Rex Tillerson
In a major change to his cabinet, US President Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and nominated CIA Chief Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson as his top diplomat.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Tuesday, March 13, 2018. President Donald Trump fired Tillerson and said he would nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him, in a major staff reshuffle just as Trump dives into high-stakes talks with North Korea. [Photo: IC]
While the announcement of the decision may be sudden, it did not come as a complete surprise.
US President Trump announced his decision early in the morning by tweeting that he will replace Secretary Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
And at the CIA, deputy director Gina Haspel will take Pompeo's place, becoming the first woman to head the agency.
Trump then took questions from the press at the White House before flying to California to inspect prototypes of the border wall with Mexico.
He said he and Tillerson have had different opinions for quite a long time.
"Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along, actually, quite well but we disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal; I think it's terrible, I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently."
He thanked Tillerson for his service and expressed his confidence in the nomination of Pompeo.
"I've worked with Mike Pompeo now for quite some time. Tremendous energy, tremendous intellect, we're always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good and that's what I need as secretary of state. I wish Rex Tillerson well."
Commenting on the timing of the decision, a senior White House official said that the President wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.
Speaking out for the first time after getting fired, in an afternoon press briefing at the State Department, Tillerson said he received a phone call from Trump a little after noontime to talk about the decision.
US media have pointed out that Tillerson only mentioned Trump once in the speech and he did not thank Trump.
Tillerson thanked his staff at the State Department, however, and encouraged them to stay on.
I'm encouraging my policy planning team and under secretaries and assistant secretaries – those confirmed as well as those in acting positions – to remain at their post and continue our mission at the State Department in working with the interagency process. "
He said he is delegating all his responsibilities at the end of Tuesday and his tenure will officially end on March 31.
Tillerson, who was then in Ethiopia, had cut his Africa trip short to come back to Washington.
65-year-old Tillerson served as the CEO of ExxonMobil and was considered an unconventional choice for Secretary of State when he was first nominated.
His exit now marks another on the long list of high-ranking officials who have either resigned or been fired 14 months into Trump's administration.
Hours after the exit of Tillerson, Under-secretary of State Steve Goldstein was fired, too.
The new US top diplomat Pompeo was once a Republican lawmaker from Kansas and is said to have developed a warm relationship with Trump.
And now, nominations of both the new secretary of state and CIA director await the confirmation of the US Senate.