President Donald Trump announced Tuesday morning that he has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will be replacing him with 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
Trump tweeted the news of Tillerson’s firing shortly after it was first reported by The Washington Post. According to the report, Trump on Friday had asked Tillerson to step aside. Other reports state that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called Tillerson on Friday to tell him the bad news that Trump will be firing him and the announcement would be made once Tillerson returns to DC. However, State Department spokesman Steve Goldstein said that Tillerson found out his firing today, adding that he “didn’t speak to the President and is unaware of the reason.”
Tillerson said he received a call from Trump around noon on Tuesday, just three hours after his firing was announced on Twitter. In a press conference, Tillerson said he will remain in his post until March 31, and is delegating all authorities for running the State Department to Deputy Secretary John Sullivan to ensuring “an orderly and smooth transition.”
The news of Tillerson’s firing came as a shock, but was expected to happen due to his fraught relationship with Trump and their “different mind-set” when it came to foreign policy. This led to the president to make the changes now to “make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various trade negotiations,” according to White House officials.
Tillerson was the first Cabinet secretaries to be confirmed in the Trump administration. However, during his rocky tenure, Tillerson clashed with many White House officials, as well as with many longtime career diplomats causing them to leave their post.
Later in the day, Trump told reporters as he was headed to California, that he had been considering removing Tillerson for “a long time.”
“I actually got along well with Rex, but really it was a different mind-set, a different thinking,” Trump said. “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay. So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.”
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement from the president shortly after the tweet, praising Pompeo while thanking Tillerson “for his service” over the last 14 months.
“I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State,” the statement from the president reads. “As Director of the CIA, Mike has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community. I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture. He will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
“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.”
Vice President Mike Pence backed Trump and urged the Senate to confirm Pompeo, “a man of highest integrity with unquestionable qualifications who will do an outstanding job.”
Mike Pompeo is a man of highest integrity w/ unquestionable
qualifications who will do an outstanding job. Gina Haspel is a dedicated public servant who will bring decades of experience to her new role as CIA Director.
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) March 13, 2018
Pompeo, a close trusted ally of Trump said in a statement that he was “deeply grateful” to the president for picking him to serve as the CIA director and for the opportunity to serve as his Secretary of State if confirmed by the Senate.
“I am deeply grateful to President Trump for permitting me to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for this opportunity to serve as Secretary of State,” Pompeo said in a statement. “His leadership has made America safer and I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity.”
Pompeo will have to be nominated and approved by the Senate before he can take over the role. To replace Pompeo as the agency’s director, Trump selected CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel. She would become the first woman to run the spy agency. With now 51 Republicans in the Senate, they can approve anyone as long as they stick together, but the Senate is more divided than ever and can stall on confirming both before May.