United States President Donald Trump on Tuesday sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. In a statement, the White House announced its decision to nominate Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson.
CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will succeed Pompeo, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency if confirmed.
Trump reportedly told Tillerson to step down last Friday, forcing the diplomat to cut short his Africa trip and return to Washington, The Washington Post reported.
Trump praised both Pompeo and Haspel in a statement released to The Washington Post, and lauded Tillerson too. “Finally, I want to thank Rex Tillerson for his service. A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.”
The Post quoted unidentified White House officials as saying that the president, who has had major differences in opinion with Tillerson, believes that the diplomat is “too establishment” in his thinking. Trump reportedly felt it was important to remove Tillerson now as he gets ready for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
News reports speculating about Tillerson’s removal first surfaced in December 2017, with The New York Times saying that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had put together the plan to remove the diplomat.
The relationship between the president and the former Exxon chief became strained after Tillerson reportedly called Trump a moron at a July 20, 2017, meeting at the Pentagon where other Cabinet members were present. Responding to this, Trump had said: “I think it is fake news, but if he did that, I guess we will have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”
In August 2017, Tillerson had publicly distanced himself from Trump’s response to a neo-Nazi march in the US state of Virginia, saying the president only “speaks for himself”. Trump had also criticised Tillerson for attempting diplomacy with North Korea, and has often undercut him on Twitter.