Tiller­son out, Pom­peo in

The Columbus Dispatch - - Nation&world - By Josh Le­d­er­man and Zeke Miller

WASH­ING­TON — 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.

The plans to oust Tiller­son had been drawn up months ago, but the tim­ing sur­prised even se­nior White House of­fi­cials.

Trump em­phat­i­cally re­jected talk of chaos in his year-old ad­min­is­tra­tion. "I'm re­ally at a point where we're get­ting very close to hav­ing the Cabi­net and other things that I want," Trump said Tues­day.

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."

One prime ex­am­ple in­volved 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 had 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.

Tiller­son, his voice oc­ca­sion­ally qua­ver­ing, gave brief farewell re­marks Tues­day at the State Depart­ment, thank­ing depart­ment staff mem­bers 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.

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.

Kelly was given the task of phon­ing Tiller­son, who was in Africa, but the na­ture of their con­ver­sa­tion was up for dis­pute. White House of­fi­cials said Kelly told Tiller­son that Trump wanted a change and he should step down. Tiller­son, the White House said, asked that Trump wait un­til he re­turned to the U.S., and he short­ened his trip to Africa.

How­ever, Un­der­sec­re­tary of State Steve Gold­stein and other State Depart­ment of­fi­cials said Tiller­son hadn't learned he was be­ing dis­missed un­til he saw Trump's early Tues­day tweet and hadn't dis­cussed it di­rectly with the pres­i­dent. Gold­stein said Tiller­son was "un­aware of the rea­son" he was fired and "had had ev­ery in­ten­tion of stay­ing."

That was the end for Gold­stein. Hours later, he was fired, too.

Tiller­son, in his fi­nal somber turn be­fore the cam­eras, said he would be del­e­gat­ing his re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to deputy sec­re­tary John Sul­li­van at the end of the work­day and would re­sign ef­fec­tive at the end of the month.

"I will now re­turn to pri­vate life, pri­vate cit­i­zen, a proud Amer­i­can, proud of the op­por­tu­nity I've had to serve my coun­try," he said.

Trump in re­cent days has told con­fi­dants that he feels em­bold­ened, con­fi­dent in his de­ci­sions to or­der new in­ter­na­tional trade on tar­iffs and to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and far less will­ing to put up with dis­loy­alty around him, ac­cord­ing to a per­son who spoke on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

Pom­peo, a former Repub­li­can con­gress­man from Kansas, has al­ready been con­firmed by the Se­nate for his cur­rent role at the CIA, mak­ing it ex­tremely likely that he will be con­firmed for the State Depart­ment role.

Pom­peo's hawk­ish in­stincts may seem at odds with tra­di­tional di­plo­matic norms, but af­ter 14 de­mor­al­iz­ing months of bud­get cuts and staffing re­duc­tions for the State Depart­ment, his con­ser­va­tive po­lit­i­cal bent and close­ness to Trump could breathe new vigor into an agency all too of­ten side­lined on many of the most-press­ing national se­cu­rity mat­ters.

In Pom­peo, the diplo­mats and civil ser­vants who make up the 70,000-strong depart­ment will ex­pe­ri­ence a fiercely par­ti­san vet­eran of some of the most bit­ter bat­tles in Congress while he was a House Repub­li­can. But Pom­peo also helped en­gi­neer a de­tente be­tween Trump and the U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies af­ter the in­com­ing pres­i­dent likened them to Nazis.

In choos­ing CIA vet­eran Haspel to take over the spy agency, Trump chose a woman who spent mul­ti­ple tours over­seas and is re­spected by the work­force. But she is deeply tied to the agency's use of bru­tal in­ter­ro­ga­tion mea­sures on ter­ror­ism sus­pects.

Haspel, 61, would be­come the first woman to lead the CIA if she is con­firmed.


Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son waves good­bye af­ter speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day at the State Depart­ment.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.