President Trump officially fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
Tillerson was privately told of the firing on Friday, March 9, 2018:
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 Twitter announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after the trip, which had been cut short.
Tillerson will be replaced with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Pompeo will be replaced by the CIA’s current deputy director, Gina Haspel – making her the first woman to head the CIA. Both she and Pompeo will require Senate confirmation.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
This move was not unexpected. As even the Times noted:
Mr. Tillerson has been out of favor with Mr. Trump for months but had resisted being pushed out. His distance from Mr. Trump’s inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Mr. Kim, to Mr. Tillerson’s surprise.
In comments to reporters, President Trump noted the following:
Rex is a very good man, I like Rex a lot. We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.
When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently, so we were not really thinking the same.
Really, it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.
With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well.
President Trump and Tillerson have had several material differences in policy, notably:
- The Iranian Nuclear Deal – Tillerson did not want to decertify Iran.
- The Paris Accord – Tillerson wanted to stay in the Accord.
- Moving Israel’s Embassy to Jerusalem – Tillerson didn’t support the Embassy move.
- Qatar – Tillerson did not support the GCC blockade of Qatar.
- North Korea – a difference in approach to pending talks.
I’ve agreed with President Trump’s position on each of these issues.
Tillerson, a man whose entire career has essentially been one of a diplomat, had a bit too much of a globalist approach.
Making the switch to Pompeo before starting crucial North Korean talks seems wise.
I’ve admired Pompeo since he became CIA Director. He is forthright, thoughtful and has a certain flair for interviews.
Which makes this interview from Sunday on Face the Nation all the more interesting. It focuses on North Korea – and maintaining pressure on the country (transcript):
The interview becomes especially interesting beginning at the 3:38 mark:
POMPEO: Our efforts are to put pressure on them to prevent them having financial resources to continue to build out these programs.
We have been very effective at these things. None of that is going to change while we prepare to have a set of talks between the two people who can make these important decisions.
BRENNAN: Are you open to meeting with your North Korean counterpart?
POMPEO: I’ll leave how these discussions proceed to the President of the United States. He’ll set the course and tone for the direction. But I had a chance this weekend to read the CIA’s histories of our involvement in the previous failed negotiations. You can be sure that that I won’t make those mistakes again. We will be at the center of providing the intelligence picture to the President and to the Secretary of State so that each of them can understand how it is we can most likely achieve the President’s objective.
BRENNAN: Tillerson said this will be done through him. Is that still the plan?
POMPEO: This President is going to drive this effort, this negotiation, but it will take a team to build out the picture, so that we put the President in the best position so that he can achieve that outcome.
BRENNAN: Because it is unclear, though, if it’s the State Department or your agency that will take the lead. It was your counterpart from South Korea who was at the White House this week.
POMPEO: I don’t think there is any doubt about who is going to take the lead on this. The President of the United States is going to take the lead.
One of my favorite interviews from Pompeo occurred when Brett Baier moderated between Pompeo and Obama’s CIA Director Leon Panetta during the Reagan Defense Forum.
The video is prompted to start at the 39:00 minute mark:
PANETTA: I expressed the concern of how do you develop discipline, chain of command, rational policy process in the White House when you’ve got somebody who loves to tweet, gets up at 5:00 in the morning and says whatever the hell he wants to say. It just raises a little bit of concern about stability.
POMPEO: Leon’s correct. We do have a different view.
BAIER: I’m sorry. I opened the door.
POMPEO: You did. One last thought.
POMPEO: I think Secretary Panetta correctly said, the world is more dangerous today, with more flashpoints. Those all pre-existed January 20th of this year. So message discipline – as you refer to it – got us to those places. I’ll leave it at that.
Exactly. And well said.
Tillerson made a comment yesterday about a UK Spy – saying it was likely the spy was poisoned by Russia.
This has now been ascribed as the reason for Tillerson’s firing in stupid circles.
Why was Tillerson fired? Lot of reasons, but this from yesterday clearly got a call from the Home Office in Moscow: pic.twitter.com/xK9aQs4MGO
— Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson) March 13, 2018
The decision was made Friday – before Tillerson’s UK spy comments – when Tillerson was called back.
Anyone paying attention knew Pompeo was being groomed for position.
Especially in front of North Korea talks.
— Jeff Carlson, CFA (@themarketswork) March 13, 2018
What makes this narrative especially amusing is the reaction from the media to Tillerson’s appointment as Secretary of State.
Media said picking Tillerson was evidence for Russia collusion theory. Now they say firing him is evidence for same conspiracy theory. https://t.co/mE40TEEXYl
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) March 13, 2018
Sean Davis dredged up a series of old tweets from the Left – protesting Tillerson’s appointment for the same reason they are now protesting Tillerson’s firing:
Trump officially named Tillerson as secretary of state, dismissing concerns the Exxon chief is too cozy with Putin https://t.co/sCmxyq9ky9
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 13, 2016
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State: close ties to Putin with no foreign policy experience. pic.twitter.com/LcYsfXNQ7e
— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) December 11, 2016
Rex Tillerson — Donald Trump’s secretary of state nominee with ties to Putin — faces his confirmation hearing today https://t.co/UJKlifaKf9
— CNN (@CNN) January 11, 2017
— AM Joy w/Joy Reid (@amjoyshow) December 6, 2016
The web of ties runs deep. Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson received a major “friendship” award from Vladimir Putin in 2013. pic.twitter.com/gBmq4sCN6A
— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@RepJayapal) March 30, 2017
The GOP Senate is duty bound to not confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Fair or not, it will be perceived as a reward by Putin.
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) January 6, 2017
— CSPAN (@cspan) March 20, 2017
If Tillerson is this awful in a confirmation hearing, how useful can he be as Secretary of State besides lining Exxon and Putin’s pockets?
— Andrea Chalupa (@AndreaChalupa) January 11, 2017
A tweetstorm of stupidity.
Meanwhile, in the land of grown-ups, Pompeo prepares for the critical North Korean denuclearization talks.