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Trump dumps Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

Mar 13, 2018
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Rex Tillerson listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting

President Donald Trump has ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, tweeting in a surprise Tuesday morning announcement that Mr Tillerson will be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo.

Key points:

  • CIA director Mike Pompeo will replace Tillerson
  • Pompeo is to be replaced at the CIA by the agency’s first female director — his deputy Gina Haspel
  • Trump announced both changes via Twitter

The biggest shakeup of Mr Trump’s Cabinet since he took office more than a year ago comes as the administration prepares for an unprecedented meeting with the leader of North Korea.

“We disagreed on things,” Mr Trump said of Tillerson just after announcing the firing on Twitter. “Really, it was a different mindset. It was a different thinking.”

He mentioned differences over how to handle the Iran-nuclear deal, which Mr Trump wanted to withdraw from.

External Link: Trump sacks Tillerson tweet

Though Mr Trump and other officials said he’d been considering replacing the former Exxon Mobile Corp chief executive officer for some time, the President said he made the decision only recently and “by myself.”

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Mr Tillerson will be “much happier now,” Mr Trump said.

Word of Mr Trump’s dissatisfaction with Mr Tillerson and plans to replace him with Mr Pompeo had circulated for months, even as Mr Tillerson insisted he didn’t plan to leave and that he knew of no plans for his removal.

Rumours about friction between the two increased last fall with reports that Mr Tillerson had called the President a “moron” while meeting with other officials.

Mr Trump publicly undercut Mr Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives numerous times, including on Monday when the former secretary of state’s comments about Russia appeared to be at odds with those of the White House.

President Donald Trump points his finger as he speaks to reporters

Mr Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Mr Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting US president to do so.

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A senior White House official said Mr Trump asked Mr Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa.

Mr Trump’s announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after a trip that had been cut short.

The official said Mr Trump works well with Mr Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and wanted him in place before the US President’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and trade negotiations.

Mr Pompeo is to be replaced at the CIA by his deputy Gina Haspel, Mr Trump tweeted. She would be the first woman in that role.

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Dismissal ‘does not make anything better’

Tillerson gestures with his right hand as he makes a statement from the State Department in Washington

US stock index futures pared their gains and the dollar also trimmed gains versus the yen while extending losses versus the euro amid the news.

Germany’s deputy Foreign Minister Michael Roth said firing Mr Tillerson will not lead to an improvement in strained ties with Germany.

“The dismissal of Rex Tillerson does not make anything better,” Roth said in a tweet.

Mr Tillerson joined a long list of senior officials who have either resigned or been fired since Mr Trump took office in January 2017.

Others include strategist Steve Bannon, national security adviser Michael Flynn, FBI director James Comey, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, health secretary Tom Price, communications directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, economic adviser Gary Cohn and press secretary Sean Spicer.

AP/Reuters

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