Trump axes Tiller­son, names CIA’s Pom­peo top Amer­i­can diplo­mat

Ripon Bulletin - - Nation -

WASH­ING­TON (AP) — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously dumped Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son on Tues­day — via Twit­ter — and picked CIA Di­rec­tor Mike Pom­peo to shift from Amer­ica’s spy chief to its top diplo­mat. The abrupt an­nounce­ment ended the tur­bu­lent ten­ure of the man who re­port­edly called the pres­i­dent a “mo­ron” but wanted to stay, and deep­ened the dis­ar­ray in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The plans to oust Tiller­son had been drawn up months ago, but the tim­ing caught even se­nior White House of­fi­cials un­awares. The fir­ing was just the lat­est in an ex­o­dus of ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing those in Trump’s in­ner cir­cle, with the pres­i­dent al­ready set­ting records for staff turnover and sev­eral other Cab­i­net sec­re­taries fac­ing ethics in­ves­ti­ga­tions.

How­ever, Trump em­phat­i­cally re­jected talk of chaos in his year-old ad­min­is­tra­tion as he nears a piv­otal mo­ment on the in­ter­na­tional stage with his planned meet­ing with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He de­clared Tues­day, “I’m re­ally at a point where we’re get­ting very close to hav­ing the Cab­i­net and other things that I want.”

He said he was nom­i­nat­ing the CIA’s deputy di­rec­tor, Gina Haspel, to take over for Pom­peo at the in­tel­li­gence agency. If con­firmed, Haspel would be the CIA’s first fe­male di­rec­tor

As for Tiller­son, the for­mer Exxon Mo­bil CEO whom Trump picked as his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s top Cab­i­net of­fi­cial, the pres­i­dent said sim­ply, “we dis­agreed on things.”

No doubt that was true, one prime ex­am­ple be­ing the agree­ment to re­strict Iran’s nu­clear ef­forts. Trump’s change puts Pom­peo, an ar­dent foe of the Iran nu­clear deal, in charge of U.S. diplo­macy as the pres­i­dent de­cides whether to with­draw the U.S. from the agree­ment. Tiller­son has pushed Trump to re­main and had been pur­su­ing a del­i­cate strat­egy with Euro­pean al­lies and oth­ers to try to im­prove or aug­ment the Obama-era deal to Trump’s lik­ing.

“We were not re­ally think­ing the same,” said Trump.

Pub­lic pol­icy aside, in the view of cur­rent and for­mer White House of­fi­cials, Tiller­son’s “mo­ron” com­ment to se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials last sum­mer — and the sub­se­quent rev­e­la­tion in the press — per­ma­nently eroded trust be­tween the two men and it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Tiller­son would be pushed out.

Tiller­son him­self, his voice oc­ca­sion­ally qua­ver­ing, gave brief farewell re­marks at the State De­part­ment, thank­ing de­part­ment staff and diplo­mats around the world — but not men­tion­ing Trump ex­cept to say that he’d spo­ken by phone to the pres­i­dent Tues­day while Trump was on Air Force One, hours af­ter the tweeted fir­ing.

The gulf that sep­a­rated the two men was il­lus­trated one last time by conflicting sto­ries on the cir­cum­stances of the fir­ing.

Trump kept the tim­ing to an un­usu­ally close cir­cle that in­cluded Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, of­fi­cials said. Pom­peo was brought into the White House Fri­day af­ter re­turn­ing from an over­seas trip and was of­fered the job for­mally by phone Satur­day.

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