President Donald Trump has dismissed Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will replace him with former CIA director Mike Pompeo, White House officials told the Washington Post Tuesday.
Trump reportedly asked Tillerson to step down Friday, prompting him to prematurely end a diplomatic trip to Africa to return to Washington.
Pompeo will be replaced as CIA director by the current deputy director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, who, if confirmed, would become the first woman to hold the post.
“I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State,” Trump said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.”
“Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect,” he continued.
Trump reportedly felt it was important to replace Tillerson, who had a difficult tenure involving numerous high-profile clashes with the White House, given the evolving state of relations with North Korea spurred by the recently scheduled meeting with Kim Jong Un.
“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. Serving alongside the great men and women of the CIA, the most dedicated and talented public servants I have encountered, has been one of the great honors of my life.”
Update 9:39 a.m.: Moments after news of Tillerson’s departure broke, his spokesman told the Washington Post that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his dismissal because he never spoke to the president directly and he previously “had every intention of staying” in his job.
Trump weighed in on the situation while leaving the White House Tuesday morning, telling reporters he thought about the decision to oust Tillerson “for a long time” because they “disagreed on things,” such as the Iran deal. He added that Tillerson was not involved in his decision to meet with Kim Jong Un.