President Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.
Trump announced via Twitter that Pompeo will do “a fantastic job,” and that Gina Haspel will become the new CIA director.
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
“I look forward to guiding the world’s finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the president’s foreign policy,” Pompeo said Tuesday in a statement released by the White House.
The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Trump asked Tillerson to step aside on Friday. Tillerson thus cut his trip to Africa short to return to Washington.
Pompeo will have to be nominated and approved by the Senate before he can take Tillerson’s spot in the government. Republicans can approve anyone they want in the Senate as long as they stick together, and Pompeo was confirmed for his current post in a 66-32 vote.
“His experience in the military, Congress, and as leader of the CIA have prepared him well for his new role and I urge his swift confirmation,” Trump said in a statement Tuesday, as he wished Tillerson and his family well.
Vice President Mike Pence backed Trump and urged the Senate to confirm Pompeo, “a man of highest integrity with unquestionable qualifications who will do an outstanding job.”
Mike Pompeo is a man of highest integrity w/ unquestionable
qualifications who will do an outstanding job. Gina Haspel is a dedicated public servant who will bring decades of experience to her new role as CIA Director.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 13, 2018
Pence also said Pompeo and Haspel “will continue to serve our nation with distinction” following their confirmation.
Tillerson’s ouster ends a tumultuous year for him in Foggy Bottom, where an ambitious plan to redesign the State Department never reached fruition and where the top U.S. diplomat often found himself at odds with Trump’s foreign policy instincts.
In July, a visibly uncomfortable Tillerson was forced to hold a press conference to defend his boss after he was accused of calling Trump a “moron” during a Pentagon meeting earlier last spring. He never explicitly denied using the derogatory name to describe the president, but the State Department press spokeswoman did.
In October, the president publicly chided Tillerson for “wasting his time” by pursuing diplomatic talks with North Korea. But earlier this week, Trump agreed to meet with country’s leader Kim Jong Un by May. Last fall, Trump challenged Tillerson to an IQ test, and suggested he would score higher than his secretary of state.
A senior White House official said the decision to fire Tillerson came as Trump “wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various trade negotiations.” Tillerson privately warned Trump earlier this month that increased steel and aluminum tariffs, which the president imposed last week, could harm certain alliances.
In addition to his strained relationship with the president, Tillerson regularly clashed with Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. Multiple outlets regularly reported on the secretary of state privately complaining to staff and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about Kushner’s foreign policy portfolio, and accused him of complicating diplomatic negotiations and creating issues for the administration.
Just hours before his exit, Tillerson declined to say whether Kushner had foiled diplomatic talks in the Middle East.
Tillerson came close to leaving Washington last fall, NBC News reported at the time, but later told a friend he intended to remain in his Cabinet position until the end of the year.