Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson never appeared comfortable in his role as Secretary of State, and he even admitted that his wife talked him into taking the gig. Months of swirling rumors about Tillerson going the same way as Mike Flynn, Sean Spicer, Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus, and Hope Hicks (just to name a few) seemed to go nowhere. However and as belated followup for a New York Times report from last fall that reported that Tillerson would be “forced out” within weeks and replaced by current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, the Washington Post is confirming that this has actually happened:
President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate negotiations with North Korea, White House officials said Tuesday.
Trump last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled top diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington. Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Hapsel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.
Trump issued a statement to The Post while declaring that he’s “proud” to elevate Pompeo, and he further confirmed the news with a tweet.
While the timing appears sudden, this news doesn’t exactly arrive as a surprise after months full of obvious friction between Tillerson and Trump. Reports indicated that the former described the latter as a “moron” behind closed doors. Other sources indicated that Trump was grumbling about Tillerson receiving so much press coverage, which — just ask James Comey — is the kiss of death in Trumpland.
Not only that, but Tillerson has been at odds with Trump on multiple foreign policy issues, including how to deal with North Korea. In short, Tillerson was aiming for diplomacy, and Trump tweeted that Tillerson was “wasting his time.” Tillerson recently threw cold water on expectations for Trump’s upcoming meeting with Kim Jong-un, so perhaps that issue was the final straw. (Also, he publicly blamed Russia for the poisoning of a spy in the U.K. while the White House stayed silent). Well, Tillerson hung on for over a year, which is like a lifetime in D.C. these days, and the clock now starts with Pompeo.
UPDATE #1 – 9:35am EST: CBS News reports that Tillerson only found out about his firing with this morning’s public announcement after not speaking with Trump for weeks. CNN adds that Tillerson was “blindsided” by the development and actually read the news on Twitter.
UPDATE #2 – 11:30am EST: The State Department has issued a statement on Tillerson’s firing. They seem just as surprised as their ex-boss, who apparently “had every intention of staying.”
(Via Washington Post)