By Nathaniel Valyo, National News Writer
President Donald Trump ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson last Tuesday, March 13, and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in the most recent shake-up in the Trump Administration.
Mr. Trump released the news of Mr. Tillerson’s firing via Twitter last week, while Mr. Tillerson was traveling through Africa. According to White House officials, Chief of Staff John Kelly called Mr. Tillerson and urged him to return to Washington, and to “expect a tweet” on the firing. Mr. Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, delivered his exit statement from the State Department last Tuesday, saying that he was “proud of the opportunity” to serve his country, later adding that he will officially remain in his post until the end of March, but will delegate his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. Mr. Tillerson failed to thank Mr. Trump in his statement.
“I actually got along well with Rex, but really it was a different mind-set, a different thinking,” said Mr. Trump in a statement to reporters, shortly before leaving for California last week. “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 Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.” Mr. Trump nominated CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel to replace Mr. Pompeo as the new director of the CIA, referring to her as “an outstanding person.”
Both Mr. Pompeo and Ms. Haspel will require confirmation from the Senate before assuming their new roles. Mr. Pompeo’s confirmation is expected, but concerns about Ms. Haspel’s close ties to CIA black sites which relied on interrogation through methods of torture were quickly raised. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) stated that he wants Ms. Haspel to “explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program,” before voting on her confirmation. If confirmed, Haspel would become the first woman to lead the CIA.
Mr. Trump expressed his confidence in Mr. Pompeo in a written White House statement, saying that “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.”
Mr. Tillerson had long been at odds with Mr. Trump, with the two most notable disagreements being on the Iran deal, which Mr. Trump abhorred and Mr. Tillerson approved of, and on dialogue with North Korea, which Mr. Tillerson was in favor of, while Mr. Trump frequently threatened military power, instead. Mr. Trump announced plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un while Mr. Tillerson was in Africa, frustrating Mr. Tillerson.
“The president wanted to make sure the transition [from Mr. Tillerson to Mr. Pompeo] happens before the conversation takes place with North Korea, and with the trade issues taking effect,” said a senior White House official. Foreign leaders also speculated this as the reasoning behind the timing of Mr. Tillerson’s firing; Japan’s vice foreign minister Masahisa Sato wrote on Twitter that Mr. Trump is attempting to “strengthen his lineup by switching cabinet secretaries before the beginning of high-risk negotiations with North Korea.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, March 20th print edition.
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