Another one bites the dust. President Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13, and named his predecessor on the same day. He confirmed the news in a statement and tweet.
Former ExxonMobile CEO Rex Tillerson is out at the White House. President Donald Trump fired his Secretary of State on Friday, March 9, bringing him back from a diplomatic trip to Africa early to break the news. His firing marks a significant shift in Trump’s national security team. Tillerson leaving not only affects the State Department, but the CIA as well — Trump has named CIA Director Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State. The CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will step into Pompeo’s director role. She will be the first female director of the CIA.
The president released a statement to the Washington Post regarding the upheaval: “I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State,” Trump said. “Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.
“Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect. Finally, I want 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.”
Trump also tweeted a statement: “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!”
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
State Department spokesperson Steve Goldstein revealed in a statement that Tillerson does not know why he was fired; the president never spoke to him before his ousting: “The Secretary had every intention of staying, because of critical progress made in national security. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and the foreign ministers that he’s 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 believe public service is a noble calling. He wishes secretary-designate Pompeo well.” However, Trump mentioned in a presser at the White House later that morning that, “Rex and I had been talking about this for a long time.” He claimed that he and Tillerson had a “very good relationship” and denied there was any tension between them.
Tillerson’s last public statement came the night before his firing was announced, a speech accusing Russia of being involved of the poisoning of a Russian spy in the UK. “From Ukraine to Syria – and now the UK – Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens. I’ve become extremely concerned about Russia. We spent most of last year investing a lot into attempts to work together… And quite frankly, after a year, we didn’t get very far. Instead what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive.”
Remarkable statement from State Department spokesman on Tillerson firing: pic.twitter.com/iBpLaK1tXw
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) March 13, 2018
Wash Post: President Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo pic.twitter.com/NoxdcHMQEW
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) March 13, 2018
Trump and Tillerson’s working relationship had been volatile from the beginning, with the president and secretary of state repeatedly clashing on foreign policy issues. In July 2017, it was revealed by anonymous White House officials to NBC News that Tillerson openly referred to the president as a “f**king moron” in front of other cabinet members at the Pentagon. Tillerson held a bizarre press conference in October 2017 just to announce that he would not be resigning.
“My commitment to President Trump is strong,” Tillerson said during the press conference. “The vice president has never had to persuade me to remain secretary of state because I have never wanted to leave this post. Quitting is never a consideration in my mind.” Tillerson never actually denied calling the president a “moron,” though, only telling reporters that he wasn’t going to get into that “petty stuff.”
Tillerson becomes the 20th member of the Trump administration to either resign or be ousted since his inauguration, January 20, 2017. His ousting follows right on the heels of both director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn and Communications Director Hope Hicks resigning.