After months of disputes with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Trump removed him Tuesday and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to head the State Department.
“I am confident (Pompeo) is the right person for the job at this critical juncture,” Trump said in a statement. “He will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump’s statement did not mention Tillerson, with whom he has been at odds on issues ranging from North Korea to steel and aluminum tariffs throughout the first 14 months of his administration.
Tillerson himself has not comment, but a State Department official sent out a terse statement.
Steve Goldstein, undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department, said Tillerson “did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason” for the dismissal.
“The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security,” Goldstein said. “He will miss his colleagues at the the Department of State and the foreign ministers he has worked with throughout the world.”
Trump announced the move via tweet.
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
In a written statement that followed the tweet, Pompeo said that, if confirmed, “I look forward to guiding the world’s finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the President’s foreign policy.”
In his time at the CIA, the former Kansas congressman said, “I have worked alongside many remarkable Foreign Service officers and Department of State leaders serving here in the United States and on the very edge of freedom.”
Gina Haspel, currently deputy director of the CIA, will become the agency’s first woman director of the CIA.
A 30-year veteran of the CIA, Haspel said, “I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”
Both Pompeo and Haspel must be confirmed by the Senate.
The decision ends a tumultuous tenure for Tillerson, who often seemed at odds with Trump or out of the loop altogether.
Trump’s tweet Tuesday came the day after Tillerson blamed Russia for an assassination in London — something the White House had specifically declined to do just hours before.
Last Thursday, Tillerson said it would be premature for Trump to hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Later that evening, Trump said he would meet Kim by May to discuss the future of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Last year, Tillerson said the United States should talk with North Korea, which Trump quickly shot down.
Tillerson also opposed Trump’s decision this month to impose tariffs on certain steel and aluminum imports.
At one point last year, Tillerson reportedly called Trump “a moron” after a national security meeting.