After months of speculation about an imminent departure, oil magnate Rex Tillerson is officially out as US Secretary of State.
President Trump announced Tillerson’s removal Tuesday on Twitter, and also revealed his replacement as CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
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
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” the president wrote. “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!”
The Washington Post broke the story prior to the president’s Tuesday morning tweet.
According to CBS News, Tillerson did not know he was going to be fired and only found out when the public did.
A statement from State Department Under Secretary Steve Goldstein said Tillerson was “unaware” of the reason for his dismissal and had not spoken with the president:
“The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security. He will miss his colleagues at the the Department of State and the foreign ministers he has worked with throughout the world.
“The Secretary did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes that public service is a noble calling.
“We wish Secretary Designate Pompeo well.”
Tillerson and President Trump have had differences on several occasions, recently on the issue of North Korea. In October, the president tweeted that the State Department head was “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea about its nuclear program.
I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 1, 2017
NBC reported in October that Tillerson called President Trump a “moron” following a national security team meeting in July.
Tillerson’s replacement, Pompeo, was a Republican member of Congress from Kansas before being tapped for the CIA director post.
In a statement, President Trump said he is “proud” to nominate Pompeo as Tillerson’s successor.
“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,” adding that he wanted to “thank Rex Tillerson for his service. A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.”
Pompeo reacted to the nomination by issuing a statement in which he said he looks forward to “guiding the world’s finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the President’s foreign policy.”
President Trump is tapping CIA Director Mike Pompeo to be the new secretary of state, replacing Rex Tillerson. Read Pompeo’s full statement: https://t.co/1DzvtvGn2D pic.twitter.com/iEfeLMqMwt
— CNN (@CNN) March 13, 2018
The replacement of Tillerson with Pompeo was reported as being in the works in November, although President Trump denied it at the time.
The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://t.co/FrqiPLFJ1E
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
Gina Haspel, the new CIA Director, is an intelligence agent appointed as the agency’s Deputy Director in February of last year.
Tillerson’s firing came just as the ousted Secretary came back from a nearly week-long trip to Africa Tuesday.
On Monday, Tillerson told UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson during a conference call that he had “full confidence” the Russian government was behind a “nerve agent” attack in Salisbury, England that resulted in 21 people being medically treated.
The attack was believed to be an assassination attempt on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
“We have full confidence in the UK’s investigation and its assessment that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury last week,” CNN reported Tillerson as saying
He added, “Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world.”
According to NBC News, President Trump’s decision to fire Tillerson was related, in part, to his upcoming meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un.
A senior administration official told NBC 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.”
Luis Miguel is a South Florida-based writer covering politics, society, and culture.