US President Donald Trump on Tuesday sacked his secretary of state Rex Tillerson and replaced him with current CIA chief Mike Pompeo, thereby bringing a rocky tenure of the Texas oilman to end.
President Donald Trump also announced that Mr. Tillerson will be replaced by the current C.I.A. director and former Tea Party congressman, Mike Pompeo, who forged a close relationship with the president and is viewed as being more in sync with Mr. Trump’s ‘America First’ political ideology.
A senior White House official said Trump wanted to reshuffle his team with a view to launching talks with North Korea, following last week’s spectacular announcement that he plans to meet Kim Jong Un by the end of May.
While Trump thanked Rex Tillerson “for his service”, he was sparing in his praise of the 65-year-old former Exxon chief, long rumored to be on the way out.
Mr. Tillerson learned he had been fired on Tuesday morning when a top aide showed him a tweet from Mr. Trump announcing the change, according to a senior State Department official. But he had gotten an oblique warning of what was coming the previous Friday from the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, who called to tell him to cut short a trip to Africa and advised him “you may get a tweet.”
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
It was an abrupt end — after months of speculation — Mr. Tillerson never connected with the president who hired him almost on all major issues; he repeatedly clashed with the White House staff and broke publicly with President Trump on issues ranging from the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the American response to Russia’s cyber aggression.
Before leaving on a trip to California, Trump spoke openly of their differences – “We were not really thinking the same,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House, explaining his decision to replace Mr. Tillerson.
The president further singled out the Iran nuclear deal — as he explained the rationale for the latest departure from his chaotic White House.
“We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things,” Trump told reporters. “When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay.”
The remark suggests Tillerson’s sacking spells trouble for the agreement, under which Iran surrendered much of its nuclear infrastructure and opened the rest to international inspection in exchange for sanctions relief.
“I wish Rex a lot of good things,” the president said. “I think Rex will be much happier now.”
He added: “Really, it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.”