Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was being replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Trump made the announcement via Twitter, also revealing that Gina Haspel, deputy director of the CIA, would replace Pompeo as director. She's the first woman to hold the position.
The Washington Post reports that Trump asked Tillerson to step aside last Friday and the former Exxon Mobil executive cut short his trip to Africa to return to Washington on Monday.
Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said Tuesday, however, that Tillerson never spoke to the president and “had every intention of staying” and is “unaware of the reason” he was fired. The state department also confirmed to CNN that Tillerson found out he was out from Trump's tweet. Other sources have said the same.
Hours after making the announcement, the White House fired Goldstein too, the AP reports.
Trump claimed full responsibility for the firing on Tuesday and said he made decision “by myself,” adding that he believes Tillerson will be “much happier now.”
In a statement to the Post, Trump offered his thanks to the outgoing diplomat:
“I want to thank Rex Tillerson for his service. A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.”
Tillerson’s firing comes as the U.S. begins preparations for an historic meeting between Trump and Kim Jong Un, scheduled to take place by the end of May. Tillerson said Trump made that decision entirely on his own.
A senior White House source told VICE News Trump wanted to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.
Tillerson’s final act in the job was to point the finger of blame at Russia for the deadly nerve agent attack on a former Kremlin operative in Britain. That accusation went further than the official White House line, which condemned the attack but didn’t name Russia as the likely suspect.
In a statement issued by the White House, Trump said Pompeo has earned bipartisan support by “strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community.”
Haspell will be the CIA’s first female director, but many observers are pointing to her oversight of a top-secret CIA program that subjected dozens of suspected terrorists to savage interrogations during the early years of the Iraq War.
“The new CIA director was a key part of the torture program and its illegal cover-up,” Edward Snowden said Tuesday on Twitter. “Her name was on the Top Secret order demanding the destruction of tapes to prevent them being seen by Congress. Incredible.”
Cover image: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is seen speaking during a press conference of North American Foreign Ministers Meeting at Foreign Affair on February 02, 2018 in Mexico City, Mexico (Photo by Carlos Tischler/NurPhoto via Getty Images)