Trump sacks Rex Tillerson, replaces him with Mike Pompeo

Trump said that he and Tillerson had many differences. [File: Reuters]
Trump said that he and Tillerson had many differences. [File: Reuters]

US President Donald Trump has sacked Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, citing differences, and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

“Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new secretary of state. He will do a fantastic job,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!” the president added.

According to the Washington Post, Trump asked Tillerson to leave the post last Friday.

Tillerson cut short his trip to Africa on Monday and returned to Washington, DC prompting questions about his future at the State Department.

In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said that “a great deal has been accomplished over the last 14 months” with Tillerson as the US’ top diplomat.

Trump also said on Twitter that Deputy CIA Director Gina Hapsel will replace Pompeo as the head of the agency. He added that she is “the first woman so chosen”.

Trump-Tillerson differences

The move by Trump is the biggest shakeup of his cabinet since taking office.

Who has been fired from or left the Trump administration?

Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State, Fired
Gary Cohn, Director of the National Economic Council, Resigned
Rob Porter, White House Staff Secretary, Resigned
Brenda Fitzgerald, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention Director, Resigned
Andrew McCabe, FBI Deputy Director, Resigned
Omarosa Manigault, Director of Communications for Whit House Office of Public Liaison, Resigned
Tom Prince, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Resigned
Sebastian Gorka, Deputy Assistant to the President, Resigned
Steve Bannon, Chief Strategist, Resigned
Anthony Scaramucci, Communications Director, Resigned
Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff, Resigned
Sean Spicer, Press Secretary, Resigned
Michael Dubke, Communications Director, Resigned
Walter Shaub, Office of Government Ethics Director, Resigned
James Comey, FBI Director, Fired
Michael Flynn, National Security Adviser, Resigned
Sally Yates, US deputy Attorney General, Fired
Preet Bharara, US Attorney for the Southern District of NY, Fired
Katie Walsh, Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Resigned

Reports surfaced last October that Trump was looking to replace the embattled Tillerson with the CIA director.

Tillerson, a former top executive for the energy giant Exxon, took office on February 1, 2017.

The US president and now-outgoing secretary of state have not seen eye-to-eye on a number of issues including the Iran nuclear deal and the Gulf crisis.

“We disagreed on things,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, adding that the pair “were not really thinking the same”.

Tillerson has criticised Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain and Egypt – which cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017 – from the onset.

He urged the Gulf states to ease the blockade, which contradicted what appeared to be Trump’s initial support for the move.

New team for North Korea meeting

According to US media, Trump also wanted to have a new team in place before any meetings between the administration and North Korea began.

“The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talk with North Korea,” AFP news agency quoted a unnamed senior US official as saying.

Last week, it was revealed that Trump had accepted an invitation to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, following months of a diplomatic standoff that saw the two leaders exchange fiery military threats and personal insults.

Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of defense, said that Trump’s decision is “evidence of poor judgement”.

“It will be very hard for Director Pompeo to be confirmed and be in charge by the time they have this meeting, which will be in less than two months,” Korb told Al Jazeera.

“And it’s not just a question of Pompeo. The question is what other people do you have? For example, we don’t have any ambassador to South Korea yet. The person in the state department in charge of North Korea retired in February.”

Staunch critic of Iran deal

Trump said on Tuesday that Pompeo has a “proven record of working across the aisle”.

He added: “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.”

Pompeo has been a controversial figure since first becoming a Congressman from Kansas 2010.

In 2013, he was criticised by Muslim community and others for saying that their silence on violence committed by “extremists” was “deafening”.

“Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow,” Pompeo said.

Pompeo has been a staunch critic of the 2015 landmark Iran deal, which Trump has called the “worst deal ever made”.

Pompeo has called for the scrapping of the deal, saying in October that Iran was “mounting a ruthless drive to be the hegemonic power in the region”.

He is known to be one of the most hawkish voices on North Korea in Trump’s inner circle, according to Reuters news agency.

Pompeo is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point and Harvard Law School. He also served as an Army officer.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News