March 19, 2018

Trump fires Secretary of State Tillerson, taps Central Intelligence Agency director Pompeo

13 March 2018, 06:45 | Devin Moran

COURTESY Gage Skidmore CC BY-SA 2.0 MGN

COURTESY Gage Skidmore  CC BY-SA 2.0  MGN

Beltway foreign policy experts might be flabbergasted that President Trump announced Tuesday that he has fired Tillerson and wants to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Much like his quick choice to take the meeting with Kim Jong-Un, Trump made a decision to remove Tillerson from his Cabinet post by himself, according to the AP.

The president said he was nominating the CIA's deputy director, Gina Haspel, to take over for Pompeo at the intelligence agency.

The Department of State said Mr Tillerson had not spoken to the president and was "unaware of the reason" for his firing. Tillerson has urged Trump to stay in the landmark nuclear disarmament deal, but the president has vowed to withdraw by mid-May if it is not renegotiated. "I actually got along well with Rex, but really it was a different mindset, it was a different thinking". With Mike Pompeo we have a very similar thought process.

While Tillerson has been critical of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign and its intervention from Ukraine to Syria, Pompeo has at times bolstered Trump's view that inquiries into Russian election meddling is a "witch hunt" meant to undercut his presidency.

President Trump announced the news of Tillerson's ouster on Twitter, thanking him for his service. Earlier at the White House, press secretary Sarah Sanders had refrained from saying Moscow was responsible.

Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Mr. Trump's announcement.

When asked on CBS' "Face the Nation" if Tillerson would be leading the diplomatic talks between the US and North Korea, Pompeo said such discussions would take a "team" effort.

At 11:17AM ET (15:17 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange's S&P/TSX composite index rose 60.97 points, or 0.39 percent, to 15,665.76. Trump tweeted, "He will do a fantastic job!" "Tremendous energy, tremendous intellect", Trump said of Pompeo.

"He dived into policy matters in a way that unnerved many professionals at the agency", the official added,"and morale was taking a blow that was spreading from the analytical side, where some people feared he was tailoring some PDBs (President's Daily Briefs intelligence assessments presented to the president) to tell Trump what he wanted to hear rather than what the intelligence assessments were".

Others include strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, health secretary Tom Price, communications directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, economic adviser Gary Cohn and press secretary Sean Spicer.

Haspel is set to become the first woman to ever lead the spy agency, where she is now serving second-in-command under Director Mike Pompeo.

A government outsider lacking diplomatic experience, Tillerson arrived at the White House after decades at Exxon Mobile, rising from engineer in 1975 to chairman and CEO in 2006, overseeing vast expansion of the company's operations worldwide.

Several months earlier in Beijing, Tillerson told reporters the United States was directly communicating with North Korea but that Pyongyang had shown no interest in dialogue.

White House efforts to counter reporting on Tillerson intensified in the fall.

Dismissing Tillerson had been discussed at multiple levels for a long time, said a senior White House official, adding that the North Korea overture and invitation brought more urgency to the decision.

Tillerson had joined Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in pressing a skeptical Trump to stick with the agreement with Iran and other world powers over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and he has taken a more hawkish view than Trump on Russian Federation.

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