Donald Trump replaces US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo

CIA Director Mike Pompeo will become the next US secretary of state, after President Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson following a series of public policy rifts on North Korea, Russia and Iran.

Outgoing US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Tuesday that Washington should do more to respond to Russia's "troubling behavior and actions."

In farewell remarks at the State Department, Tillerson said the Russian government "must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interests of the Russian people and of the world more broadly.

"Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyone's interest," he said. 

Earlier Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced on Twitter that he would replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Politics | 13.03.2018

"Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State," Trump wrote in a tweet, adding: "Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!"

What happened:

  • Tillerson cut a diplomatic trip to five African countries short by one night and returned to the US early Tuesday morning. A senior White House official told Reuters news agency on the condition of anonymity that Trump had asked Tillerson to step down on Friday.
  • Four hours after Tillerson arrived back in the US, Trump published the announcement on Twitter that Tillerson would be replaced.
  • Trump later told reporters outside the White House he and Tillerson had disagreed on policy and been "talking about this for a long time." One main area of disagreement was over the Iran nuclear deal, which Tillerson has supported. 
  • White House officials said Trump wanted to reshuffle his team in preparation for talks with North Korea. 

Read more: 'Rapid loss' of US diplomats under Trump prompts fears of weakened influence

What were the reactions?

Tillerson gave a brief statement thanking State Department employees and US partners. In order for there to be a seamless transition, he said, he would delegate responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan until he officially steps down on March 31.

"What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges," Tillerson said. 

Tillerson's comments came after Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein wrote in a tweet that Tillerson "did not speak to the President" on Tuesday morning and was "unaware of the reason" for his firing. Goldstein was fired hours later. 

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wrote on Twitter: "Congratulations to my friend and soon to be Secretary of State Mike Pompeo! Great decision by the President."

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Read more: Rex Tillerson: Company man and Putin pal

Foreign policy experts from Republican and Democratic administrations cast doubt over Pompeo, questioning the timing ahead of talks with North Korea and the choice of a vocal Iran hawk.  

In Germany, Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the Bundestag Foreign Relations Committee, told DW that Tillerson's sacking damages the predictability and credibility of the United States. 

"It does not contribute to what is essentially and basically needed and expected from the US administration, and this is predictability," he said. "And this decision on the foreign minister, without firing, without mentioning a reason, is just a symbol for the lack of predictability of the foreign policy of the United States." 

Rex Tillerson's troubled year: Tillerson, a 65-year-old former CEO and chairman of energy giant ExxonMobil, was sworn in as secretary of state shortly after Trump's inauguration in mid-January 2017. Rumors circulated in October that Trump and Tillerson had fallen out after Tillerson had reportedly called Trump a "moron." Tillerson never denied making the statement. The president also publically contradicted Tillerson at multiple points during his time in office, including on Iran, climate change, North Korea and moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem.  

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Bill Shine

Shine announced his resignation as White House communications director in early March 2019. The former Fox News executive may be leaving his post, but he's not completely out of a job. The White House said he will now start working on Trump's 2020 re-election campaign.

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Brett McGurk

Appointed by Trump's predecessor Barack Obama in 2015, McGurk was the US envoy to the coalition fighting "Islamic State" terrorists and was influential in shaping US policy in northern Syria. He was due to end his tenure in February 2019 but stepped down days after Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, largely due to Trump's sudden decision to take US soldiers out of Syria.

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Jim Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis abruptly announced his retirement in late December 2018 after Trump ignored his advice and announced the complete withdrawal of US troops from Syria. Mattis' resignation letter laid bare the growing divide between them, criticizing his boss for his treatment of allies. Mattis was a keen supporter of NATO and traditional US alliances, putting him at odds with Trump.

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Ryan Zinke

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke resigned in December 2018 as pressure mounted from more than a dozen investigations into various aspects of his tenure and private business. The former Navy SEAL was a leading advocate of expanding domestic energy production, opening up vast swathes of the country for exploration.

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John F. Kelly

In December 2018, Trump announced that John Kelly, his third chief of staff, would step down at the end of the year. He had been brought in to establish order in the Trump White House but found the job arduous, and his relationship with his boss soured. The retired four-star Marine Corps general was replaced by budget director Mick Mulvaney, after several candidates turned down the job.

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Jeff Sessions

Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired in November 2018 after several months of abuse from Trump. Despite being an early supporter, he attracted the wrath of his boss early on by recusing himself from the Justice Department investigation into collusion. He was replaced with a loyalist who shares Trump's concerns about the investigation.

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Nikki Haley

United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, one of the administration's few high-profile women, announced her resignation in October 2018. She said her resignation was long-planned, but the announcement took most senior politicians by surprise. She lent international legitimacy to the administration as she attempted to provide a coherent message.

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Marc Short

The White House director of legislative affairs announced he would leave his post effective July 20, 2018. Short, one of the administration's longest-serving members, was also one of its most visible, pushing Trump's legislative agenda on TV. But his work was frequently undercut by the president, who complained about deals the team had negotiated, preferring instead to go it alone without them.

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Scott Pruitt

It remained a mystery to many how Pruitt could hang on for so long, but the president seemed to like him. Many on the left cringed at his every move as head of the Environmental Protection Agency. He was also embroiled in various ethics scandals. Nevertheless, Trump took to Twitter to thank Pruitt for doing an "outstanding job" at the EPA.

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Ty Cobb

One of Trump's top lawyers in the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential election, Cobb said he simply wanted to retire. But many believe he was forced out by Trump and others in his legal team for his lack of aggression in Robert Mueller's Russia probe. Cobb was said to have been increasingly uneasy about Trump's Twitter attacks on Mueller.

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Tom Bossert

White House Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert, who had worked for George W. Bush, was reportedly pushed out in the shake-up that occurred after John Bolton replaced H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. It is said that Bolton had no issues with Bossert, but that he wanted his own team in place. The White House thanked Bossert for his "patriotic service" and wished him well.

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David Shulkin

Though the White House said Shulkin resigned, he says he was fired. A holdover from the Obama administration, he was appointed to run the Department of Veteran's Affairs by Trump. His downfall came amid a travel expense scandal involving his wife. He criticized the atmosphere in the administration as "toxic, chaotic, disrespectful and subversive," claiming he was the victim of political intrigue.

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H.R. McMaster

In a tweet on March 22, 2018, US President Trump announced he was replacing H.R. McMaster with John Bolton as his national security adviser. A respected general, McMaster said he would retire from the US army and public service. McMaster's departure was not a complete surprise, as he and Trump are reported to have had conflicting views on a number of US policies.

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Rex Tillerson

A former Exxon executive, Tillerson had served as secretary of state for a little over a year. Donald Trump ousted Tillerson in order to form a "new team" ahead of talks with North Korea, adding that he and Tillerson "disagreed on things." The relationship between them is said to have deteriorated after Tillerson reportedly called Trump a "moron" in October 2017.

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Gary Cohn

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Hope Hicks

Hope Hicks resigned from her post as the White House communications director in late February 2018. A day before resigning, she testified before US lawmakers on Russian interference. She admitted to telling "white lies" for Donald Trump, but not related to Russia. The White House insisted her resignation was not linked to the testimony. The 29-year-old was among Trump's closest aides.

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Rob Porter

The White House staff secretary handed in his resignation after his ex-wives accused him of domestic abuse. Despite resigning, Rob Porter denied the allegations as "simply false." Trump initially defended Porter, and the US media questioned how Porter passed his background check for the job. Recently, reports surfaced of a romance between Porter and Trump's longtime aide Hope Hicks.

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Stephen Bannon

He played a key role in getting Donald Trump into the White House, but even chief strategist Stephen Bannon was ousted within a year. Bannon was a champion of economic nationalism and Trump's "America First" strategy. After the fallout of white supremacist violence in Charlottesville mid-August, Bannon agreed to leave the administration.

'You're fired' — Trump administration casualties

Anthony Scaramucci

The 53-year-old former hedge fund investor nicknamed the "Mooch" was communications director for just 10 days. The colorful New Yorker filled a dream role that had been vacant for months, but was forced out on the same day that straight-shooting former Marine Corps general John Kelly became chief of staff. Trump was displeased with his infamous expletive-laden rant against other senior staff.

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Walter M. Shaub Jr.

Walter Shaub, the former director of the Office of Government Ethics, resigned in July 2017 after clashing with the White House over Trump's complicated financial holdings. Shaub reportedly called Trump's administration a "laughingstock."

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Reince Priebus

Reince Priebus, former White House chief of staff, was forced out just six months into his tenure after a public feud with Anthony Scaramucci, the White House communications director. Priebus was reportedly among those West Wing staffers who had opposed hiring Scaramucci.

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Sean Spicer

Sean Spicer, who had a fraught relationship with the president and the press, resigned after telling Trump he vehemently disagreed with the selection of Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director.

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Michael Dubke

Michael Dubke, former White House communications director, was asked to leave in May 2017 over what was perceived as his poor handling of allegations of Russian involvement in the US election.

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James Comey

US President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey — allegedly over how he handled the Clinton emails investigation. Critics, however, believe the FBI's probe into Trump's campaign ties with Russia was the real reason.

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Michael Flynn

Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February 2017 after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the US before Trump took office, and then misled Vice President Mike Pence about the conversations.

Who is Mike Pompeo? Pompeo, a 54-year-old former Republican congressman from Kansas, is one of the most hawkish figures among Trump's foreign policy officials. He has called for scrapping the Iran nuclear deal and for regime change in North Korea, and he has downplayed Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.

First woman as CIA boss: Trump also announced that Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel would replace Pompeo at the head of the CIA. Her appointment would make her the first woman to take over the post. Haspel is a career intelligence operative, who joined the CIA in 1985. She is a controversial figure over her alleged involvement running CIA "black sites" after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. The New York Times and other US media previously reported that she played a role in the destruction of videos of US torture sessions. 

What's next?

The Senate must approve Pompeo and Haspel before they take up their new positions. 

Some senior politicians, including Republican Senator John McCain, have said they would challenge Haspel's nomination. 

"The torture of detainees in US custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history," said McCain, who himself was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. "Ms. Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA's interrogation program during the confirmation process." 

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, meanwhile, said Haspel's "background makes her unsuitable to serve as CIA director."

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00:43 mins.
News | 13.03.2018

Trump: Tillerson and I 'disagreed on things'

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