President Trump on Tuesday unceremoniously fired his embattled top diplomat Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and announced plans to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The president announced his ousting of Tillerson on Twitter. Tillerson was unaware of the reason for being fired when Trump made his announncement, a State Department spokesman said.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” the president tweeted. “He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!”
Speaking to reporters before leaving for California, Trump acknowledged he and Tillerson have had disagreements and emphasized he and Pompeo have a “similar thought process."
“We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things,” Trump said of Tillerson. “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it's terrible. I guess he felt it was okay…So we were not really thinking the same.”
Speaking of Pompeo, Trump said: “Tremendous energy. Tremendous intellect. We're always on the same wave length. The relationship has always been very good. That's what I need as secretary of state."
There had been longstanding rumors throughout most of Tillerson's tenure of friction between Trump and him.
Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Trump's announcement.
A senior White House official told Fox News the president decided to make the change ahead of his upcoming meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
“The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations,” the adviser said.
Tillerson, the former chief executive of ExxonMobil, was tapped as Trump’s first secretary of state. But the two clashed over foreign policy strategies over the last year.
“I want to thank Rex Tillerson for his service,” Trump said in a statement. “A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.”
Tillerson "had every intention of remaining" in the post, Under Secretary Steve Goldstein said.
"The secretary did not speak to the president this morning 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 and not to be regretted," Goldstein said.
Pompeo is the first former CIA director to become secretary of state. Before joining the Trump administration, he was elected to Congress from Kansas.
“I am deeply grateful to President Trump for permitting me to serve as director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for this opportunity to serve as secretary of state," Pompeo said in a statement. "His leadership has made America safer and I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity.”
Trump said he is naming Gina Haspel the new director of the CIA. Haspel has served as Pompeo’s deputy and will become the first woman to serve as director.
“I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Haspel said in a statement.
Republicans on Capitol Hill reacted warmly to the selections. Both Pompeo and Haspel face Senate confirmations. Pompeo was confirmed by the Senate for CIA director last year.
“Mike Pompeo is an outstanding selection as our next Secretary of State," Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton said. "Mike’s deep understanding of world affairs, his clear-eyed view of the threats to our national security, and his key relationships with world leaders make him an excellent choice to be our top diplomat.”