Tillerson latest victim of White House firings, resignations
In the biggest shakeup of the his chaosdriven cabinet, President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who now is one of the shortest serving secretaries of state in modern history
U.S. Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson was ousted yesterday to be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, President Donald Trump announced, adding to the list of firings and resignations in the White House. The CIA’s deputy director Gina Haspel will become the new director.
U.S. President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday after a series of public rifts over issues including North Korea and Russia, replacing his chief diplomat with loyalist CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump’s announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after a trip that had been cut short.
Trump spoke of his disagreements yesterday with Tillerson. “We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things,” Trump told reporters. “When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently. So we were not really thinking the same.”
Friction between the president and the country’s top diplomat has grown increasingly public through the year. For Tillerson, who left his job as Exxon Mobil’s CEO, a premature departure from the cabinet had been described by media outlets as inevitable. At the White House, frustration with Tillerson has mounted over what officials have described as his aloofness and his slowness in filling key roles to carry out the president’s agenda.
“There’s been a Tillerson death watch since the spring,” said Derek Chollet, a former State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council official in President Barack Obama’s administration.
Trump and Tillerson have not always seen eye to eye on matters of foreign policy. On Monday Tillerson blamed Russia for the poisonings in England of a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders refrained from saying Moscow was responsible. When Tillerson in June called on Arab countries to ease their blockade on Qatar, Trump emerged in the Rose Garden hours later to lambaste Qatar for funding terrorism. Trump also deemed diplomacy with North Korea a waste of time when Tillerson was pursuing just that. Tillerson’s advice to Trump to remain in the Paris climate deal and certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal was similarly overruled.
Pompeo, in contrast, has formed a tight relationship with Trump that has led to a role much broader than many past CIA directors. A former businessman and conservative Republican congressman from Kansas, Pompeo is at the White House nearly every day to deliver the daily intelligence briefing, a task often delegated to less senior officials. He sometimes stays longer to accompany Trump to other meetings. He shares the president’s hardline stance against Iran.
Tillerson joined a long list of senior officials who have either resigned or been fired since Trump took office in January 2017. Others include strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, health secretary Tom Price, communications directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, and press secretary Sean Spicer. The latest to announce his exit is Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic adviser, who had clashed with the boss over trade policy.
Cohn’s departure has sparked internal fears of an even larger exodus, raising concerns in Washington of a coming “brain drain” around the president that will only make it more difficult for Trump to advance his already languishing policy agenda.
Coinciding with the heated debate over tariffs, Trump’s communications director Hope Hicks, one of his closest and most devoted aides, announced her resignation late February, leaving a glaring vacancy in the informal cadre of Trump loyalists in the White House. Turnover after just over a year in office is nothing new, but the Trump administration has churned through staff at a dizzying pace since taking office last January, and allies are worried the situation could descend into a free-fall.
U.S. President Donald Trump (R) announced the departure of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L), to be succeeded by the current CIA director Mike Pompeo.