WASHINGTON D.C. — President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and is replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!” Trump tweeted.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump asked Tillerson to step aside.
Trump “thought it was the right time for the transition with the upcoming North Korea talks and various trade negotiations,” a senior administration official said. “POTUS asked Tillerson to step aside on Friday.”
Trump has wanted Pompeo as his secretary of state for months now, and the White House began planning for him to take the job last fall, sources told CNN.
Trump’s anger at Tillerson after it leaked that his secretary of state called him “a moron” never subsided, and many in the White House saw their differences as irreconcilable.
Tillerson had few, if any, allies in the West Wing. Though chief of staff John Kelly was initially on his side when he took over, he eventually grew weary of defending him — especially after the “moron” remark, which Kelly saw as insubordination on Tillerson’s part.
Sources close to the President say it was clear Tillerson didn’t support Trump. They say Tillerson wanted to handle foreign policy his own way, without the President. Trump didn’t feel that Tillerson backed him, a source told CNN.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy issued a statement on the firing:
“Secretary Tillerson was a poor Secretary of State because he systematically and intentionally weakened American diplomacy. But we should all be alarmed by his ouster because President Trump seems to want someone who does the same thing, only faster and while fawning over the president,” said Murphy. “I look forward to hearing from Mike Pompeo about his plans for the State Department, but he’s got a lot of work to do in order to get Democratic votes. The last thing we need is a ‘yes’ man at State who views America’s power exclusively through the prism of military power and covert action.”
Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement that Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing for secretary of state will be in April, but didn’t specify a specific date.
“I had a very good conversation with Director Pompeo this morning and look forward to meeting with him soon,” Corker said in a statement. “As I shared with the President, the committee will consider his nomination as expeditiously as possible.”
Pompeo has already been through a nomination hearing last year when he was nominated to head the CIA, which was confirmed by the Senate 66 to 32.
Corker separately told reporters on Capitol Hill that he’d spoken with President Donald Trump and with Pompeo Tuesday morning and praised the decision.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the chamber, told reporters he was concerned with having two confirmation hearings, one for Pompeo and one for his replacement heading the CIA, considering Congress’ legislative schedule for the year.
“With everything else we have to do around here, having the prospect of two additional confirmation fights perhaps is going to be a challenge,” the GOP Texan said.
On the immediate agenda are a banking bill, a bill to fight sex trafficking and a proposal to avert a government shutdown ahead of a deadline next week.
Cornyn continued: “It would help us get more things done if there weren’t so many distractions. But that is why we do our job here and they do their job at the White House.”
He also said he is confident that Pompeo will be confirmed by the Senate.
Below is a timeline of his time as Secretary of State:
December 13, 2016 – President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team announces that Tillerson has been nominated for secretary of state. Tillerson was recommended for the role by former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Their consulting firm, RiceHadleyGates LLC has a contract with ExxonMobil.
December 14, 2016 – Tillerson announces that he will retire from ExxonMobil at the end of December.
January 11, 2017 – During his confirmation hearing, Tillerson is questioned about his ties to Russia and asked about what he will do to promote human rights abroad. In response to a query on global warming, Tillerson says he believes climate change is a serious issue.
February 1, 2017 – Tillerson is confirmed by the Senate by a 56-43 vote. All of the Republicans voted for him while most of the democrats voted against him. Later in the evening, Tillerson is sworn in as secretary of state.
February 15, 2017 – Tillerson arrives Germany on his first overseas trip. He represents the United States at the G20 summit in Bonn.
February 22-23 – Tillerson visits Mexico with Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly. They make the trip to meet with Mexican diplomats amid tensions over border issues and new immigration policies. Enrique Peña Nieto, the president of Mexico, canceled a planned January trip to Washington to meet President Trump due to a dispute about a proposed border wall and Trump’s campaign pledge that Mexico would pay for the structure.
February 24, 2017 – The State Department announces that it will resume holding regular press briefings on March 6. Under previous administrations, the department took questions from reporters on a daily basis but the briefings were suspended after President Trump took office on January 20.
March 14-19, 2017 – Tillerson makes his first trip to Asia, stopping in China, Japan and South Korea. During the visit, Tillerson declares that a new approach is needed to counter provocations by North Korea.
March 20, 2017 – Officials tell Reuters that Tillerson will not attend a NATO meeting in April, skipping the event so he can participate in talks with President Trump and President Xi Jinping of China at Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. Officials also say the secretary of state is planning a trip to Russia later in April.