US President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson after a series of public rifts over issues including Russia and North Korea, replacing his top diplomat with CIA Director and former congressman Mike Pompeo.
Trump tweeted the news of Tillerson's ouster on Tuesday. Before the president's tweet, The Washington Post first reported news of Tillerson's firing, citing White House officials.
Trump praised Tillerson, Pompeo and Gina Haspel, the deputy director at the CIA. if confirmed, Haspel will succeed Pompeo, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency.
“I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State,” Trump said on Twitter.
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
"I've worked with Mike Pompeo now for quite some time. Tremendous energy, tremendous intellect. We're always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good and that's what I need as secretary of State," Tillerson said. "I wish Rex Tillerson well."
A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump’s announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after a trip that had been cut short.
Tillerson’s departure had been widely anticipated for months. Tillerson’s exit makes his time in office the shortest of any secretary of state in nearly 120 years.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly developed a plan to oust Tillerson and discussed it with other officials, The New York Times reported in November.
Tensions between Tillerson and Trump have been simmering for months, sometimes visibly. The two have publicly diverged on some of the administration's most crucial foreign policy challenges, including Iran, Russia and North Korea.
Trump noted the differences he had with Tillerson. "When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay,” the president said of Tillerson.
Tillerson was reported to have privately called Trump a “moron” in July after the president suggested a 10-fold increase in the US nuclear arsenal during a meeting at the Pentagon.
A few days after the report, Trump harshly criticized Tillerson in an interview with Forbes magazine, suggesting that he's smarter than the top US diplomat.
On Monday, Tillerson blamed Russia for the poisonings in Britain of a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders declined to accuse Moscow.
Tillserson, 65, was the chief executive of Exxon Mobil before he was appointed by Trump to head the US State Department. He had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state.
Tillerson joined a long list of senior US officials who have either resigned or been fired since Trump took office in January 2017. Others include FBI Director James Comey, White House senior strategist Steve Bannon, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, economic adviser Gary Cohn and press secretary Sean Spicer.