Washington: President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. With Mr Pompeo moving, CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel will take over the running of that department.
The change comes at a delicate time for US diplomacy, with the president having just accepted an invitation to hold face-to-face talks with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un about the nuclear threat posed by Pyongyang. There are suggestions that Mr Trump wanted to make the change before the North Korea talks, but it is unusual for such a big change to be made at such a key time.
Mr Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Mr Trump’s announcement. The president offered no explanation for the change, but thanked Mr Tillerson for his service.
In the announcement, Mr Trump and the White House focused on Mr Pompeo and the history Mr Trump was making by appointing the first female director of the CIA . Both Mr Pompeo and Ms Haspel will need to be confirmed by the Senate to take their new positions.
An aide to Mr Tillerson said Mr Trump never explained to the Secretary of State why he was being dismissed, and that Mr Tillerson had wanted to stay in the job, according to the Associated Press. News outlets also reported that a senior White House official said Mr Trump asked Mr Tillerson to step down on Friday but did want not to announce it while the top diplomat was on a trip to Africa.
Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson have numerous reports about the breakdown of their relationship in recent months, which have been denied by both the White House and the State Department.
Mr Trump had suggested last week that more changes were coming at the White House, after economic advisor Gary Cohn resigned in the wake of disagreements with the president about his policy on trade tariffs. Mr Trump also lost his Communications Director Hope Hicks late last month after she resigned.