Tiller­son out, CIA chief in top spot

Waikato Times - - World -

UNITED STATES: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump stunned Wash­ing­ton yes­ter­day by abruptly fir­ing his sec­re­tary of state, thereby re­mov­ing his top for­eign pol­icy ad­viser as his White House bar­rels to­wards an ar­ray of na­tional se­cu­rity chal­lenges.

Trump said that his per­sonal ‘‘chem­istry’’ with Rex Tiller­son, the for­mer oil ex­ec­u­tive who had filled the role for just over a year, had de­graded to be­come un­work­able. Tiller­son is set to be re­placed by Mike Pom­peo, a for­mer con­gress­man and West Point grad­u­ate who is the CIA di­rec­tor.

A week ago Trump lost his top eco­nomic ad­viser, Gary Cohn, who re­signed af­ter his op­po­si­tion to tar­iffs was ig­nored. Since his in­au­gu­ra­tion last Jan­uary, he has also parted com­pany with a na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, four com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tors, a press sec­re­tary, a chief po­lit­i­cal strate­gist, a health sec­re­tary, a chief of staff, a White House staff sec­re­tary, an FBI di­rec­tor and an act­ing at­tor­ney-gen­eral. There was spec­u­la­tion in Wash­ing­ton that HR McMaster, the na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, will de­part this week.

‘‘I’m re­ally at a point where we’re get­ting very close to hav­ing the cab­i­net and other things that I want,’’ Trump said yes­ter­day. No mod­ern White House has recorded as high a level of staff turnover.

Pom­peo, who earned Trump’s trust while giv­ing a daily in­tel­li­gence brief­ing, is known for hawk­ish views on Iran and Rus­sia.

Trump agreed last week to hold a his­toric face-to-face meet­ing with Kim Jong Un be­fore the end of May. Trump has vowed to make a de­ci­sion on whether to stand by the Iran nu­clear deal - which he yes­ter­day called ‘‘ter­ri­ble’’ but which Tiller­son wanted to main­tain - in weeks.

Last Fri­day, the pres­i­dent jolted Amer­ica’s part­ners by sign­ing or­ders for steep pro­tec­tion­ist tar­iffs on steel and alu­minium im­ports, draw­ing re­tal­i­a­tion threats from the EU and China.

Trump said that Pom­peo was the right per­son to stew­ard US for­eign pol­icy. ‘‘I’ve worked with Mike Pom­peo now for quite some time. Tremen­dous en­ergy, tremen­dous in­tel­lect. We’re al­ways on the same wave­length. That’s what I need as sec­re­tary of state . . . With Mike, we’ve had a very good chem­istry right from the be­gin­ning.’’

It had been ru­moured for months that Tiller­son’s exit was im­mi­nent but the tim­ing of ‘‘Rexit’’ caught se­nior White House staff off guard. Trump had clashed with the for­mer ExxonMo­bil chief ex­ec­u­tive on a host of is­sues, in­clud­ing the Paris cli­mate ac­cord, US re­la­tions with Qatar, Trump’s re­luc­tance to blame Rus­sia for its in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 elec­tion and the tar­iffs de­ci­sion. The rift be­tween the two wors­ened when it was al­leged last Oc­to­ber that Tiller­son had called Trump ‘‘a f***ing mo­ron’’ af­ter one con­tentious na­tional se­cu­rity meet­ing.

‘‘We were not re­ally think­ing the same . . . it was a dif­fer­ent mind-set, a dif­fer­ent think­ing,’’ Trump said yes­ter­day of his re­la­tion­ship with Tiller­son. ‘‘Rex will be much hap­pier now.’’

Tiller­son had been known as one of the ‘‘grown-ups’’ in the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, along­side Jim Mat­tis, the de­fence sec­re­tary, and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff.

Kelly is un­der­stood to have urged Tiller­son to con­sider step­ping aside in calls last week­end. He ap­par­ently warned Tiller­son that ‘‘you may get a tweet’’.

Steve Gold­stein, a state depart­ment spokesman, said that Tiller­son was fired be­fore dawn yes­ter­day. Hours later, Gold­stein was also fired.

Trump said that he had cho­sen Gina Haspel to be­come the new di­rec­tor of the CIA. She would be the first woman to lead the agency and is Pom­peo’s deputy. Haspel and Pom­peo still need to be con­firmed by the Se­nate. -


Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son is go­ing be­cause Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump found their ‘’chem­istry’' un­work­able.

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