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March 14, 2018

Trump throws Tillerson out

Top Story

March 14, 2018

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump has removed Rex Tillerson and named current CIA director Mike Pompeo as the new Secretary of State. The announcement was not unexpected but still shocked the public as well as Tillerson himself.

Trump announced the news on Twitter, thanking Tillerson for his services, and welcoming Pompeo. The new CIA director would be Gina Haspel, "the first woman so chosen," Trump said in his tweet.

Pompeo is a former three-term Republican Congressman known for his strong opposition to Iran nuclear deal, defended the CIA’s use of torture in the past, and shutting down of Guantanamo Bay prison. His thoughts and policies have been in alignment with the president long before he became the CIA director fourteen months ago. He quickly developed a strong relationship with Trump owing to giving daily intelligence briefings to the president himself. He has consistently defended the president’s stance against North Korea.

Tillerson and Trump grew apart over the last few months, and political pundits had speculated Tillerson’s ouster since November last. Trump acknowledged the differences here yesterday saying, "Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things." He also pointed out the core issue. "When you look at the Iran deal -- I think its terrible. I guess he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something. And he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same," he said. In a statement released after the announcement, Trump said that Pompeo’s "experience in the military, Congress, and as leader of the CIA have prepared him well for his new role.”

Meanwhile, Mike Pompeo said that if confirmed, he looks forward to guiding the world's finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the President’s foreign policy. "In my time as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, I have worked alongside many remarkable Foreign Service officers and Department of State leaders serving here in the United States and on the very edge of freedom," he added.

AFP adds: The outgoing secretary of state, who returned overnight from a trip to Africa, did not speak to the president before his sacking was announced and was unaware of the reason for his sudden downfall, according to a top aide.

A senior White House official said Trump wanted to reshuffle his team with a view to launching talks with North Korea, following last week´s spectacular announcement he plans to meet Kim Jong Un.

"We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things," Trump told reporters. "When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay," Trump said. "So we were not really thinking the same. I wish Rex a lot of good things," the president added. "I think he’s going to be very happy. I think Rex will be much happier now."

Announcing Tillerson’s sacking in a tweet earlier Tuesday, Trump lavished praise on Pompeo, saying he would do a "fantastic job!" His enthusiasm was echoed by the US envoy to the United Nations, Nikky Haley -- who tweeted her congratulations to her "friend" Pompeo.

Tillerson had a tumultuous tenure at the State Department. He was repeatedly forced to deny he had fallen out with Trump -- vowing to remain in the post despite a sensational report that he once dubbed the president a "moron."

In a cruel twist of fate, one of Trump’s most public clashes with Tillerson came last October when the president tweeted that his top diplomat was "wasting his time" pursuing contacts with North Korea. Under-Secretary of State Steve Goldstein, in a statement, made clear Tillerson was caught off guard. "The secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues. He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts," Goldstein said. "We wish Secretary-Designate Pompeo well," he said.


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