..Appoints Mike Pompeo as successor
Just a few hours after leaving Nigeria and hurriedly concluded tour of some African countries, the United States President Donald Trump has dismissed the US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
Announcing his sack in a tweet earlier on Tuesday, Trump lavished praise on Pompeo, a former US army officer and congressman who led the CIA for nearly 14 months, saying he would do a “fantastic job” as replacement for Tillerson.
Trump tweeted thus, “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
“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 added, calling him “the right person for the job at this critical juncture” and urging Congress for his swift confirmation.
To succeed Pompeo at the Central Intelligence Agency, Trump nominated Gina Haspel, a controversial career intelligence officer who would become the first woman for the job.
Haspel has been reported to have overseen a CIA “black site” in Thailand where Al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded after the 9/11 attacks.
Tillerson has had tumultuous tenure at the State Department.
On several occasion, he denied fallen out with Trump, vowing to remain in the post despite a sensational report that he once dubbed the president a “moron.”
Before leaving on a trip to California, Trump spoke openly of his divergences with the former Exxon chief — including over the Iran nuclear deal — as he explained the rationale for the latest departure from his chaotic White House.
“We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things.
“When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay,” Trump said. “So we were not really thinking the same.”
“I wish Rex a lot of good things,” the president added. “I think he’s going to be very happy. I think Rex will be much happier now” Trump told reporters.
During his tenure, Tillerson was faced with an extraordinary array of foreign policy challenges, from North Korean nuclear threats to Russian subversion to attacks on US diplomats in Cuba.
But his efforts were often overshadowed by Trump’s un-diplomatic style and his streams of taunting tweets stirring international tensions.
One of Trump’s most public clashes with Tillerson came last October when the president tweeted that his top diplomat was “wasting his time” pursuing contacts with North Korea.
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein, in a statement, made clear Tillerson was caught off guard.
“The secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues. He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts,” Goldstein said.
His tour of Africa ended a day ahead of schedule in order to make him “deal with urgent work there”, according to one of his spokesmen.
The spokesman told reporters travelling with him that top US diplomat’s travel plans changed so that he could return to Washington early on Tuesday morning instead of late that night.
Tillerson had cancelled the plan to spend the night in Abuja.
He met President Muhammadu Buhari and addressed the media alongside Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama.
The sacked secretary of state had pledged the assistance of the US government to assist Nigeria in many ways, including rescuing the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram.
Rex Tillerson learned that he had been sacked as secretary of state on his return to Washington but he could not speak to the president before his sack was announced and was unaware of the reason for his dismissal, an aide disclosed.
A senior White House official said Trump wanted to reshuffle his team with a view to launching talks with North Korea, following last week’s spectacular announcement he plans to meet Kim Jong Un.
Trump thanked Tillerson “for his service,” but had scant words of praise for the 65-year-old Texan, who had effectively been sidelined on the world stage and was long rumored to be on the way out.
The appointment of Pompeo, a respected figure in the oil business with ExxonMobil has drawn scorn from Trump’s opponents, from former diplomats and from the Washington policy elite.