Rex Tillerson’s ouster follows a number of high-profile clashes with the White House
WASHINGTON (AA) – President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his pick to be the country’s new Secretary of State, ousting Rex Tillerson.
“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!,” Trump said in a tweet.
As with all Cabinet positions, Pompeo will need to be confirmed by the Senate before assume his post at the helm of the State Department.
Trump also said Gina Haspel, who was appointed Deputy Director of the CIA in February 2017, will be his choice to lead the CIA. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to lead America’s premier spy agency.
It is unclear how quickly the Senate will move on the nominations, already facing a long backlog of confirmations.
The White House and State Department have had a number of high-profile clashes after Tillerson took the post as American’s top diplomat, including a glaring split during a row between Qatar and its Arab Gulf neighbors.
Trump and Tillerson have also been at odds over a number of key foreign policy issues, including climate change and the Paris Agreement, and the nuclear deal with Iran, which he cited shortly after making his announcement on Twitter.
“We disagreed on things,” Trump told reporters before departing the White House for California. “When you look at the Iran deal; I think it’s terrible, I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently.
“So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well,” he added. “We’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”
Tillerson, who left a successful career in the energy industry to take the lead at the State Department, was long rumored to be on the outs with Trump, but he adamantly insisted throughout his tenure he would continue to serve at the pleasure of the president. That time has come to an abrupt end.
The top diplomat cut short a trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington after reportedly being asked to resign beginning Friday.
Tillerson is unaware of why he was fired, and did not speak to the president Tuesday morning, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs Steve Goldstein confirmed in a statement.
Tillerson “had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues”, Goldstein said.
“He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship,” Goldstein added.
Like Tillerson, Goldstein was later sacked after issuing the statement, which is at odds with the official White House narrative.
Goldstein told CNN he was informed of the decision by the White House personnel office. The State Department did not immediately reply to a request by Anadolu Agency for comment.
Pompeo in a statement described his time at the CIA as “one of the great honors of my life.
“I am proud of the work we have done on behalf of America and know that the Agency will continue to thrive under the leadership of Gina Haspel,” Pompeo said in a statement circulated by the White House.
Haspel separately added she is “humbled” by Trump’s confidence in her.
“If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office,” she said.
The decorated CIA officer also has an intimate history of involvement with the CIA’s now defunct George W. Bush-era “enhanced interrogation” program that many criticized as a program of torture.
She ran a CIA black site in Thailand in which two al-Qaeda suspects were tortured, including Abu Zabaydah who was waterboarded 83 times. The violent interrogations were videotaped, but Haspel was involved in an order to destroy the visual records in 2005, defying a congressional request to preserve them.
Her name was on the cable ordering the destruction of the tapes.
Haspel’s history of involvement with the program, as well as the cable she authored, could jeopardize her chances of receiving Senate confirmation.
For his part, Pompeo was in Congress for the better part of a decade before leading the CIA. He has largely toed Trump’s policy lines, and has argued for the restoration of the National Security Agency’s mass data collection programs, which were ended after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden brought them to the attention the world.
Pompeo has argued for Snowden, who he has called a “traitor”, to receive the death penalty for his actions, and has advocated for the controversial military prison at Guantanamo Bay to remain open.