President Donald Trump on Tuesday announced that former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson was out as secretary of state and said he plans to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to fill the position amid reports of ongoing tension between Tillerson and Trump.
A State Department official said in a statement that Tillerson did not speak with the president before Trump’s tweet was posted around 8:45 a.m. Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his dismissal, according to the statement.
Trump said Pompeo will be replaced by Gina Haspel, who will become the first woman to lead the CIA.
The move came after months of tension between Tillerson and Trump and one day after Tillerson told reporters that Russia was behind a nerve agent attack in Britain on a former Russian spy -- despite the White House's refusal to point the finger at Moscow, according to Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree.
Update Mar 13, 2018 10:37 PM EDT: Secretary of State nominee CIA Director Mike Pompeo is known for his more hawkish views on foreign policy. Pompeo is expected to take a hard-line approach to both North Korea and Iran.
Update Mar 13, 2018 5:31 PM EDT: An aide to Rex Tillerson, Steve Goldstein, was also fired by President Donald Trump Tuesday. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert was named acting undersecretary for public diplomacy, replacing Goldstein, according to media reports.
Update Mar 13, 2018 2:31 PM EDT: Tillerson said he spoke with Trump on Tuesday, but the president didn't contact him until after announcing his ouster on Twitter.
Update Mar 13, 2018 2:18 PM EDT: Tillerson said at a news conference Tuesday that he will officially leave his position at midnight on March 31.
He added that he will delegate his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at the end of the workday Tuesday.
“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.
He appeared emotional as he spoke, marking his first public remarks since Trump wrote on Twitter that he planned to replace Tillerson with Pompeo.
Update Mar 13, 2018 2:00 PM EDT: Tillerson is expected to address the media this afternoon in the wake of his dismissal by Trump, Cox Media Group's Jamie Dupree reported.
Update Mar 13, 2018 12:31 PM EDT: The White House has fired a top Tillerson aide who said in a statement Tuesday that the secretary of state "had every intention of staying in the job" and that Tillerson never spoke with the president before his dismissal, The Associated Press reported.
"He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and the foreign ministers he has worked with throughout the world," the statement said. "The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling."
Unidentified officials told the AP that Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, was dismissed shortly after he released the statement. Goldstein had also told reporters that Tillerson learned of his firing Tuesday morning from Trump's tweet announcing he was nominating CIA chief Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.
Update Mar 13, 2018 11:44 AM EDT: Trump asked Tillerson to step aside Friday, prompting the secretary of state to end a trip to Africa early on Monday, according to The Washington Post.
“I felt like, look, I just need to get back,” Tillerson said Monday as he was flying back to Washington, the Post reported.
Tension between Trump and Tillerson came to a head last week, unidentified sources told the newspaper, although it was not immediately clear what caused the recent rift.
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