WASHINGTON — In a surprise early-morning tweet, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had been fired and Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo had been nominated to replace him.
Trump’s tweet, at 7:44 a.m. CDT, stated: “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!”
Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, was in the job for a little more than a year. He disagreed with Trump on a several policy points and reportedly once called Trump a “moron.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., issued a statement thanking Tillerson and welcoming Pompeo to the new position.
“Secretary Rex Tillerson has served his country honorably, and I thank him for his steady leadership,” Ryan’s statement said. “I welcome my good friend, Mike Pompeo, as the next secretary of state. Mike is razor-sharp, a dedicated patriot, and possesses the type of experience that makes him an outstanding choice to be our next top diplomat. I also congratulate Gina Haspel on her historic nomination to lead the CIA.”
For Pompeo to become the new secretary of state, he will first need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., issued a statement: “Secretary Tillerson served admirably in a very difficult job and I have a great deal of respect for him. I look forward to meeting with Director Pompeo to discuss his nomination and learn more about his plans for running the State Department.”
With Tillerson gone, it marks another high-profile departure from the Trump administration — which has already seen exits from Gary Cohn, national economic council director, and Hope Hicks, communications director, in the past two weeks.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said on Twitter: “The chaotic revolving door in the Trump Administration continues to undermine our national security abroad and here at home. The nominees will soon face a confirmation process in the Senate where they should face tough questions.”
‘This seems different’
Carthage College political science professor Arthur Cyr said he was surprised by the firing and it “reinforced the sense of erratic lack of direction and instability in terms of foreign policy” on the part of the Trump administration.
“Tillerson and the president have not meshed well, but at the same time I thought he did a lot for the president by providing an image of stability,” Cyr said. “Americans should all hope that Mike Pompeo is more successful at dealing with this particular president.”
Cyr noted Alexander Haig, who served as secretary of state from January 1981 until July 1982 under President Ronald Reagan, resigned after a comparably short tenure in the position.
“They’re somewhat similar but it’s customary for a secretary of state to last longer,” Cyr said. “This seems different than others.”
It is yet to be seen how long the cabinet position will be vacant. Cyr said the State Department has “a very professional, experienced foreign service.”
“As everybody knows, because it was so apparent in the media, State Department professionals did not care for Secretary Tillerson’s style,” Cyr said. “I’m confident in saying there’s going to be a lot of relief, on the part of diplomatic professionals, that he’s gone.”
Cyr said the secretary of state “doesn’t operate at the pleasure of the foreign service professionals,” and cited Henry Kissinger and James Baker, as secretaries of state that “kept their distance from the department and operated pretty independently.”
“Each of these individuals had the confidence of the president,” Cyr said. “Kissinger and Baker are two very, very successful secretaries of state, in what is not just a difficult, but an impossible job.”