December 9, 2018

Trump to Replace Tillerson with Pompeo

President Trump announced on Twitter on Mar. 13 that he is firing Rex Tillerson from the secretary of state position and replacing him with Mike Pompeo, who had been serving as CIA director.

Trump’s tweet read, “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!”

Trump later told reporters that he and Tillerson “got along quite well but we disagreed on things,” most notably the Iran nuclear deal.

Tillerson defended his record as secretary of state to reporters later in the afternoon, stating: “Working with allies, we exceeded the expectations of almost everyone with the DPRK maximum pressure campaign.”

The outgoing secretary of state said that his last day on the job will be Mar. 31.

“What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges,” Tillerson said.

Nowhere in Tillerson’s speech did he thank Trump.

There are conflicting accounts about the exact timing of Tillerson’s firing. The Washington Post reports that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Tillerson while he was in Africa on Mar. 10 that Trump had decided to fire him. However, top Tillerson aide Steven Goldstein claimed that Tillerson found out about his firing on Tuesday, as Kelly had only vaguely warned Tillerson about an upcoming tweet from Trump. Goldstein, who reportedly criticized Trump’s decision-making to reporters in recent weeks, was also fired.

Reports of brewing tension between Trump and Tillerson had been circulating for some time, most notably that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron.” The Washington Free Beacon is reporting that Tillerson had been actively undermining Trump’s efforts to seriously change or kill the Iran nuclear deal, as the outgoing secretary of state “recently caved to European pressure to walk back” Trump’s proposed changes to the deal. That was the final straw for Trump.

Pompeo seems to be more in lockstep with the president, as Bloomberg columnist Eli Lake explains that Pompeo is a staunch opponent of the Iran deal and has taken a hard line against the Kremlin.