Thursday 22 March 2018

Trump hires and fires for latest cabinet shake-up

Rex Tillerson
Rex Tillerson

US President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson yesterday after a series of public rifts over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran, replacing his chief diplomat with loyalist CIA director Mike Pompeo.

The biggest shake-up of Mr Trump's cabinet since he took office in January 2017 was announced by the president on Twitter as his administration works toward an unprecedented meeting with the leader of North Korea.

Mr Trump chose the CIA's deputy director, Gina Haspel, to replace Mr Pompeo at the intelligence agency.

Mr Tillerson's departure capped months of friction between the Republican president and the former Exxon Mobil chief executive (65), who had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state.


The tensions peaked last autumn amid reports Mr Tillerson had called Mr Trump a "moron" and considered resigning.

"We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things," Mr Trump said on the White House lawn yesterday.

"When you look at the Iran deal: I think it's terrible, I guess he thinks it was OK. I wanted to break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not thinking the same."

Mr Trump said he and Mr Pompeo have "a similar thought process".

Mr Pompeo, a former army officer who represented a Kansas district in congress before Mr Trump chose him to lead the CIA, is seen as a Trump loyalist who has enjoyed a less hostile relationship with career spies than Mr Tillerson had with career diplomats.

There had been reports in recent months that Mr Tillerson could be replaced but senior State Department officials said they did not know why Mr Trump pushed him out and that he had intended to stay in the job.

A senior White House official said Mr Trump had asked Mr Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa.

Mr Trump's Twitter announcement came only a few hours after Mr Tillerson landed in Washington after the trip, which had been cut short.

Mr Trump said on Twitter: "Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job!

"Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!

"Gina Haspel will become the new director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!"

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