President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday and said he would nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him. The move is a major staff reshuffle that Trump wanted to in place in preparation for his high-stakes talks with North Korea.
Trump announced the change in a tweet early Tuesday just four hours after Tillerson returned to Washington from a trip to Africa. Word of Trump’s dissatisfaction with Tillerson and plans to replace him had circulated for months. Still the move came as a surprise to those outside the White House.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo will be promoted to Secretary of State, Trump announced. The move elevates Gina Haspel, Pompeo’s deputy at CIA, to the head of the U.S. spy agency. She’s the first woman to ever be in charge of the CIA.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
A White House official said Trump wanted to have a new team in place ahead of upcoming talks with North Korea and various trade talks, and thanked Tillerson for his service.
Rumors about friction between Trump and Tillerson were circulating last year. In October, NBC news reported that Tillerson called the president a “moron,” something Tillerson never actually denied. Tillerson reportedly would question the president’s authority at inappropriate times and occasionally contradicted the White House to the mainstream media.
Two officials familiar with the situation said that Tillerson had been fired by Trump on Friday, while in Africa.
Dismissing Tillerson had been discussed at multiple levels for a long time, said a senior White House official, adding that the North Korea overture and invitation brought more urgency to the decision. Two officials said Trump wanted to have a new team in place ahead of an upcoming meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as well as trade talks.
Tillerson also was known for his Russia connections and would be Trump’s most concrete outreach yet to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump’s announcement came the day after the Republican-controlled House Intelligence committee announced it found no collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article