Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of State, ending a tumultuous tenure as America’s top diplomat that was marked by a series of public disagreements with his boss — President Donald Trump.
Trump plans to appoint CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace the former Exxon Mobil chief executive. The president picked deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to run the spy agency.
The Washington Post first reported the news, which the president quickly confirmed in a tweet. Trump thanked Tillerson for his service and said Pompeo will do a “fantastic job.”
@realDonaldTrump: 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!
In a subsequent statement, Trump said he is confident Pompeo “is the right person for the job at this critical juncture.” The army veteran and former congressman 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,” the president said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Pompeo would take on Tillerson’s tough task of coordinating policy with an often unpredictable president.
Since Tillerson took the post in February 2017, mixed messages repeatedly came out of the White House and a State Department with diminishing relevance. The intramural clashes between the president and secretary of State came amid major international crises, including a potential nuclear showdown with North Korea.
Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday, according to the Post. The secretary of state canceled scheduled events in Kenya on Saturday, and at the time the State Department said he was not feeling well. Then, he diverged from the White House this week in saying poison used on a former spy in the United Kingdom “came from Russia.”
Tensions between the president and his top diplomat hit one high when Tillerson, 65, publicly distanced himself from the president’s defiant response to violence at the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, this summer.
But there were numerous other clashes.
The policy rift emerged most sharply when Trump tweeted in October that Tillerson is “wasting his time” trying to negotiate with North Korea to end its nuclear and missile programs.
The president wrote: “Save your energy, Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
In October, NBC News reported that Tillerson already came close to resigning this summer but was urged to stay in the job until the end of the year. He referred to Trump as a “moron” in July following a meeting with the president’s national security team, according to NBC, which cited multiple high-level administration sources.
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