Donald Trump has sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will nominate CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace him as the nation’s top diplomat.
After months of simmering tension between Trump and Tillerson, the US president made the announcement on Twitter today.
Tillerson, who has just returned from a trip to Africa, learned of his firing from the tweet and wasn’t told why he was being removed from the post, according to a State Department official.
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Gina Haspel, currently deputy director at the CIA, has been chosen to succeed Pompeo. If approved, she will become the first woman in history to run the spy agency.
Both Haspel and Pompeo would need to be confirmed by the Senate “at a time when the closely divided chamber has stalled on confirming dozens of Trump nominees”, The Washington Post says.
Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said Pompeo would be “a truly great” secretary of state. “We are always on the same wavelength.”
The president added: “As far as Rex Tillerson is concerned, I very much appreciate his commitment and his service, and I wish him well.”
Tillerson joins a long list of sacked White House employees, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, ex-chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Steve Bannon, who was the president’s chief strategist.
Former ExxonMobil CEO Tillerson, who served as secretary of state for little over a year, has long been at odds with Trump over key foreign policy issues including the Iran nuclear deal, the Paris climate accord, and how to approach North Korea.
A senior administration official told The New York Times that Tillerson was being replaced now in order to have a new team set up ahead of planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and for various ongoing trade negotiations.
The sacking won’t come as a surprise to most insiders. Tillerson had “few, if any, allies in the West Wing”, CNN reports. “Trump’s anger at Tillerson after it leaked last year that the secretary of state called him ‘a moron’ never subsided, and many in the White House saw their differences as irreconcilable.”
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