“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!” Trump tweeted.
Tillerson just finished a diplomatic trip to Africa. On Monday, he told British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson that the U.S. government was “outraged” about the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters Trump asked Tillerson to step aside.
Tillerson, the former head of ExxonMobil, has been Trump’s only secretary of state. His departure comes amid international trade talks and ahead of Trump’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein said in a statement that Tillerson did not speak to Trump before his firing and is “unaware” of the reason behind the dismissal.
“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, adding Tillerson had “every intention of staying.”
Tillerson’s relationship with Trump has seen a few bumps in the road. Last year, after a media report surfaced that Tillerson referred to the president as a “moron,” the secretary held a news conference to address the issue.
Tillerson did not deny the report but said at the time he had never considered leaving his diplomatic post — and strongly supported Trump.
“I am here for as long as the president feels I can be useful,” Tillerson said.
Trump has been critical of Tillerson on matters of foreign policy.
When Tillerson announced the administration was attempting to enter diplomatic talks with North Korea — Trump remarked, “I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man. Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
In a statement, Trump said Pompeo has a “proven record of working across the aisle.”
Pompeo graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. army, graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“As director of the CIA, Mike has earned the praise of members in both parties 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,” Trump said.
“I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture. He will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
Trump said Pompeo’s experience in the military, in Congress, and as leader of the CIA have “prepared him well for his new role and I urge his swift confirmation.”
Pompeo released a statement expressing his gratitude to Trump for the position and said the president’s leadership has made America safer.
“I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity,” Pompeo said. “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. If confirmed, I look forward to guiding the world’s finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the President’s foreign policy.”
Pompeo also thanked Tillerson for his service, saying “A great deal has been accomplished over the last 14 months, and I wish him and his family well.”
Haspel, deputy director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Pompeo. She would be the first woman to lead the agency.
She has been a CIA officer for 30 years.
“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. “If confirmed, I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office”