Firing Rex Tillerson is a bad look even by Trumps standards

Firing Rex Tillerson is a bad look even by Trump\s standards
Trump fires Rex Tillerson, selects Mike Pompeo as new Secretary of State
President Trump announced that the C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, will replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Tuesday ousted his secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson, extending a shake-up of his administration, 14 months into his tumultuous presidency, and potentially transforming the nations economic and foreign policy.

NBC News learned Tuesday from sources familiar with the situation that chief of staff John Kelly had spoken with Tillerson by phone on Friday and told him that Trump intended to ask him to step aside.” In that call — which came while Tillerson was on an official visit to Africa — Kelly did not specify when that change might come. Kelly also called Tillerson again on Saturday, a senior White House official said, expressing once again the presidents “imminent” intention to replace him.

Mr. Trump announced he would replace Mr. Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director and former Tea Party congressman, who forged a close relationship with the president and is viewed as being more in sync with Mr. Trumps America First credo.

The ouster ended months of discord between Trump and Tillerson, who often seemed out of the loop or in disagreement with the president on major foreign policy decisions. The president also named Gina Haspel as his choice to succeed Pompeo as head the CIA, pending the confirmation process in the Senate. Those hearings are expected to dredge up the debate over controversial interrogation tactics, like waterboarding, which could make her path to confirmation a rocky one.

Mr. Tillerson learned he had been fired on Tuesday morning when a top aide showed him a tweet from Mr. Trump announcing the change, according to a senior State Department official. But he had gotten an oblique warning of what was coming the previous Friday from the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, who called to tell him to cut short a trip to Africa and advised him you may get a tweet.

Though Tillersons firing dominated headlines early Tuesday, it emerged that John McEntee — the presidents longtime personal assistant and an original campaign member — had also left the administration. McEntee will take on a senior role within the Trump re-election campaign after abruptly exiting his White House job this week amid reports that he is under investigation by the Secret Service for financial crimes, according to federal law enforcement officials.

Video: Rex Tillerson Thanks American People But Not President Trump After Announcing His Departure | TIME

Under Pompeo, a Foreign Policy That Fits the Presidents Worldview

It was an abrupt end — after months of speculation — to a rocky tenure for a former oil executive who never meshed with the president who hired him. Mr. Tillerson clashed repeatedly with the White House staff and broke publicly with Mr. Trump on issues ranging from the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar to the American response to Russias cyber aggression.

While Tillerson took a more traditional approach to his job as Americas top diplomat than Trump appeared comfortable with, clashing with the president throughout his tenure, Pompeo has enjoyed a much closer relationship with Trump. Current and former intelligence officials told NBC last year that some inside the intelligence community had started calling Pompeo the Trump whisperer, a reference to the depth of their relationship.

Trump ousts Tillerson as secretary of State, replaces him with CIA chief

We were not really thinking the same, Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House, explaining his decision to replace Mr. Tillerson.

“Much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian government,” Tillerson said. “Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interest of the Russian people and the world more broadly. Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyones interest.”

Video: Trump replaces Rex Tillerson as US secretary of state

He added: Really, it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.

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!

His comments are certain to alarm European allies who have spent the last few days negotiating with Mr. Tillersons closest aide, Brian Hook, on a way to add to the agreement that limited Irans nuclear program, rather than reopen or scrap the deal. Those moves were intended to keep Mr. Trump from ditching the agreement in mid-May, when he faces a deadline over continued suspension of American nuclear-related sanctions on Iran.

At the State Department Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Tillerson said the president had called him from Air Force One just after noon — more than three hours after Mr. Trump had tweeted the news of his firing to his 49 million followers — to inform him personally of the dismissal. Mr. Tillerson said he planned to immediately step aside from his post, turning over all responsibilities by the end of the day to John J. Sullivan, the deputy secretary of state.

The Koch Brothers Get Their Very Own Secretary of State

During a short statement in a briefing room packed with reporters, Mr. Tillerson said he would end his service at midnight on March 31, but was encouraging his policy planning team and under secretaries and assistant secretaries to remain in their posts and continue in our mission at the State Department.

Trump fires Rex Tillerson, selects Mike Pompeo as new Secretary of State
Trump fires Rex Tillerson, selects Mike Pompeo as new Secretary of State

Ill now return to private life, as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I had to serve my country, Mr. Tillerson said. He took no questions and left the briefing room.

In retrospect, Tuesdays shift could explain some comments Mr. Pompeo made over the weekend. In interviews on Fox and CBS, he said he had spent part of the weekend reviewing the C.I.A.s internal history of American negotiations with North Korea for the past quarter-century. That would have been an odd way for a C.I.A. director to spend his reading time; it makes a lot of sense for a future secretary of state.

Video: Trump fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The firing of Mr. Tillerson caught even the White House staff by surprise. Just the day before, a White House spokesman berated a reporter for suggesting there was any kind of split between Mr. Tillerson and the White House because of disparate comments on Russian responsibility for a poison attack in Britain.

The Hills 12:30 Report
The Hills 12:30 Report

Pompeo in His Own Words on Iran, Russia and Spying on Allies

But a senior administration official said that Mr. Trump decided to replace Mr. Tillerson now to have a new team in place before upcoming talks with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader he plans to meet by May. The president also wanted a new chief diplomat for various ongoing trade negotiations.

After 14 months of private tensions and public disputes, President Trump on Tuesday ousted his beleagured secretary of State, replacing Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo in a major shake-up of his national security and foreign policy team as it grapples with new challenges from North Korea, Russia and Iran.

Tillerson doesnt thank Trump in post-firing speech

The White Houses purge extended to Mr. Tillersons inner circle. The under secretary of state for public affairs, Steve Goldstein, was fired, and the status was unclear of Mr. Tillersons chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, and his deputy chief of staff, Christine Ciccone.

The bad fit should have been obvious. Tillerson has a habit of saying what he thinks, which guaranteed collisions with his impulsive, distractible boss. As Exxons CEO for a decade he built a reputation in the business world as a blunt talker who sticks to his guns. Calling him an Eagle Scout is no metaphor; he was one and later was president of the Boy Scouts of America. When Trump said he wanted to bail out of the nuclear arms treaty with Iran, Tillerson said he didnt want to. When Trump initially did not condemn the white supremacists whose rally in Charlottesville became deadly, Tillerson said, The president speaks for himself, distancing himself from Trump in a way that shocked the foreign policy establishment. It probably didnt help when Tillerson was reported to have privately called Trump a moron and, sticking to his guns, didnt deny it.

Mr. Tillerson was at the State Department on Tuesday and spoke to reporters, saying that he would surrender his authority at midnight and resign officially at the end of the month.

At the C.I.A., Mr. Pompeo will be replaced by the current deputy director, Gina Haspel, who will be the first woman to head the spy agency. Both she and Mr. Pompeo would need confirmation by the Senate to take the positions.

That was then. The Trump administration is in a class by itself and seems unlikely to attract any prominent CEO after publicly undercutting Cohn and Tillerson. Trump made a telling comment in explaining to reporters why he fired Tillerson. They disagreed on things… the Iran deal. So we were not thinking the same, he said. Many top leaders prize subordinates with the courage to disagree and argue their position. Trump does not. He emphasized why he chose Tillersons proposed successor, CIA chief Mike Pompeo: We have a similar thought process.

Mr. Tillerson has been out of favor with Mr. Trump for months but had resisted being pushed out. His distance from Mr. Trumps inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Mr. Kim, to Mr. Tillersons surprise.

Mr. Trump said Mr. Pompeo has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community.

Most notably, when Tillerson said last October that he was trying to start a dialogue with North Korea, Trump publicly rebuked him, tweeting that Tillerson was wasting his time…. Save your energy, Rex. Then last week, when Trump reversed course, agreeing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, he didnt consult with Tillerson beforehand or personally inform him afterward.

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, the president continued, in a written statement distributed by the White House. He will continue our program of restoring Americas standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Trump announced Tillerson’s ouster in a tweet shortly before 9 a.m. after weeks of staff turmoil, saying he would nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state. But it was several hours before Trump discussed his decision with Tillerson, who said he’ll hand over all responsibilities to Deputy Secretary John Sullivan at midnight Tuesday.

White House fires top Tillerson aide

In a Twitter post, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader, warned that the turnover at the top of the State Department had diminished the United States with foreign leaders.

President Donald Trump ousted U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, ending a rocky tenure in an abrupt move that stunned the former Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO and set in motion a shakeup of the administration’s foreign policy team.

TILLERSON FIRING: Tillerson says he paved way on North Korea

Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman, has become a favorite of Mr. Trumps, impressing the president with his engaging approach during morning intelligence briefings. But he also, at times, has been at odds with the president — including agreeing with a C.I.A. assessment about Russias interference in the 2016 elections.

Koch Industries had never spent as much on a candidate in a single cycle as it did on Pompeo that time around, giving him a total [of] $80,000. Koch outdid itself again in the 2012 cycle by ponying up $110,000 for Pompeos campaign. When Pompeo ran for reelection in 2014, he faced a tight primary contest with another local Republican who had Koch ties. One of the biggest turning points in that race came when the Kochs sided with Pompeo. KOCHPAC is proud to support Mike Pompeo for Congress based on his strong support for market-based policies and economic freedom, which benefits society as a whole, Mark Nichols, the vice president of government and public affairs for Koch Industries, told Politico. Just as the Kochs have been loyal to Pompeo, so Pompeo has been loyal to the Kochs. Hes a regular at their behind-closed-doors gatherings, and hes outspoken in their defense, claiming that President Obama and Nixonian Democrats have unfairly vilified Charles and David Koch. But, of course, the supposed vilification has simply involved the appropriate questioning of the influence wielded by billionaires in general and the Kochs in particular over American politics and governance. Thats hardly an unreasonable concern, considering that, as one of the most prominent Koch-backed politicians in the country, Pompeo was called out just weeks after taking office for proposing legislative initiatives that could benefit many of [the Kochs] business interests. The measures include amendments approved in the House budget bill to eliminate funding for two major Obama administration programs: a database cataloguing consumer complaints about unsafe products and an Environmental Protection Agency registry of greenhouse-gas polluters, reported The Washington Post in 2011. Both have been listed as top legislative priorities for Koch Industries, which has spent more than $37 million on Washington lobbying since 2008, according to disclosure records. Its the same old story—a member of Congress carrying water for his biggest campaign contributor, Common Causes Mary Boyle complained at the time. Now, however, its a different story, because Donald Trump wants to put the congressman from Koch in charge of the State Department and, by extension, the engagement of the United States government with a world in which the brothers Koch have many, many interests. (This piece is being regularly updated with details and analysis regarding Tuesdays transition at the State Department.) John NicholsTwitterJohn Nichols is The Nations national-affairs correspondent. He is the author of Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse: A Field Guide to the Most Dangerous People in America, from Nation Books, and co-author, with Robert W. McChesney, of People Get Ready: The Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy.

In picking Ms. Haspel to succeed Mr. Pompeo at the C.I.A., Mr. Trump opted for continuity rather than bringing in an outsider. At one point last fall, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, one of the presidents closest Republican allies on Capitol Hill, had been tentatively tapped as the front-runner to run the agency if Mr. Pompeo moved up, but the idea later faded.

Pompeos pattern of deference to his political benefactors is likely to make him a better fit with a self-absorbed president. He will also bring to the position an edge that Tillerson lacked. Pompeo is a foreign-policy hawk who fiercely opposed the Iran nuclear deal, stoked fears about Muslims in the United States and abroad, opposed closing the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and defended the National Security Agencys unconstitutional surveillance programs as good and important work. He has even gone so far as to say that NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence. Pompeos open disregard for privacy rights in particular and civil liberties in general, as well as his penchant for extreme language and more extreme policies, are anything but diplomatic. Thats likely to make him an even more troublesome Secretary of State than Tillerson, who was relentlessly corporate in his worldview but not generally inclined to pick fights—even when it came to standing up for a State Department that decayed on his watch. Most Popular1The Koch Brothers Get Their Very Own Secretary of State

Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of the oil giant Exxon Mobil, had once been viewed as an intriguing, if unorthodox, cabinet choice. He had deep experience with Middle Eastern potentates, and knew President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia through Exxons extensive efforts to explore for oil in Russia.

After serving for a little more than a year as Donald Trumps top yes-man at the Central Intelligence Agency, Pompeo is Trumps pick to replace Rex Tillerson, the administrations listless placeholder at the Department of State. In a measure of the extent to which Trump and Tillerson had disengaged from one another, the outgoing secretary of state apparently learned of his firing via Twitter Tuesday morning—when an aide showed the nations top diplomat a tweet from the president announcing the transition. A statement from the department indicated that Tillerson was unaware of the reason for his removal. Tillerson displayed a measure of independence from Trump on issues ranging from Russian cyber attacks to the aggressive approach of Saudi Arabia to Qatar and other countries. Donald Trump has decided to put “the congressman from Koch” in charge of the State Department and, by extension, the engagement of the United States government with a world in which the brothers Koch have many, many interests.

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But the early enthusiasm for bringing a business sensibility to the State Department faded fast, as Mr. Tillerson seemed overwhelmed by the diplomatic challenges before him and isolated by career foreign service officers whom he often froze out of the most important debates.

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Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson: Timeline of Their Ups and Downs

His profound disagreements with the president on policy appeared to be his undoing: Mr. Tillerson wanted to remain part of the Paris climate accord; Mr. Trump decided to leave it. Mr. Tillerson supported the continuation of the Iran nuclear deal; Mr. Trump loathed the deal as an embarrassment to the United States. And Mr. Tillerson believed in dialogue to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis, but Mr. Trump repeatedly threatened military options.

Veteran diplomats said they could not remember a time when a president so regularly undermined his secretary of state so brazenly in the midst of a tense situation. Richard N. Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who served many Republican presidents, last fall urged Mr. Tillerson to quit.

Rex Tillerson has been dealt a bad hand by the Potus & has played it badly, Mr. Haass wrote in a post on Twitter, using the acronym for president of the United States. For both reasons he cannot be effective SecState & should resign.

Career diplomats, who had seen in the gravelly voiced Mr. Tillerson a man of stature, experience and great wealth whom they hoped the president would respect and heed, eventually turned against him as he expressed more interest in shrinking the department than expanding American influence.

While other cabinet officers made their goals plain, Mr. Tillerson never set clear diplomatic priorities other than to pursue Mr. Trumps slogan of America First, a term he never really defined. In an odd admission more than eight months into the job, Mr. Tillerson told employees in September that his top priority was to make the State Department more efficient. Yet he never fully addressed what diplomats should be doing with that greater efficiency.

Congress rebelled, declining to endorse his suggested 30 percent cuts in the State Departments budget. But the message of his tenure seemed clear: At a moment when money was being poured into the Pentagon and intelligence agencies, diplomacy seemed less valued than at any time in recent American history.

The turning point for Mr. Tillerson came when NBC News reported that he had called the president a moron, leading him to take the extraordinary step of holding a news conference to affirm his support for Mr. Trump and insist that he had never considered resigning.

During a trip to Beijing in September, Mr. Tillerson told reporters that he already had a couple, three lines into North Korea to get communication started with the United States. Mr. Trump erupted the next morning, and denigrated the effort on Twitter by saying Mr. Tillerson was wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man.

Save your energy Rex, he added, well do what has to be done! Mr. Trump later said he wished his secretary of state were tougher. The Chinese were left to wonder why Mr. Trump sent an emissary whose message the president did not believe in.

Trumps turbulent Tuesday

Part of the reason for Mr. Trumps eruption then was that Mr. Tillersons suggestion of secret talks with North Korea surprised President Moon Jae-in of South Korea, who called the White House to complain, according to people with knowledge of the exchange. That Mr. Tillerson failed to take into account Seouls possible reaction was one of several embarrassing stumbles, arising from his own inexperience and decision to insulate himself from the departments diplomatic corps.

Trump fires White House assistant John McEntee, who promptly rejoins Trumps campaign

With his ousting, Mr. Tillerson joins a long list of Trump administration appointees who have left or been fired, including the presidents first national security adviser, chief of staff, chief strategist, press secretary, two White House communications directors and secretary of health and human services.

How the Boy Scouts, Texas and an oil giant shaped Rex Tillerson

Mr. Tillerson had some successes, including the growing international isolation of North Korea and improved ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But he is likely to go down as among the least successful secretaries of state in history, and one big reason was his poor management of his relationship with Mr. Trump.

The Rexit: Tillerson Is Out

Although Mr. Tillerson spent his first months on the job getting to know Mr. Trump at lunches, dinners and White House get-togethers, the two never established a comfortable rapport.

Once the head of the Boy Scouts of America, Mr. Tillerson was outraged when the president spoke to the Boy Scouts in July and turned it into a political event. When Mr. Trump declined to denounce white nationalists who paraded in Charlottesville in August, Mr. Tillerson made it clear that Mr. Trump speaks for himself — not his secretary of state.

Under Pompeo, a Foreign Policy That Fits the Presidents Worldview
Under Pompeo, a Foreign Policy That Fits the Presidents Worldview

President Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The growing distance between the men was on clear display during Mr. Trumps trip to Asia in November, when Mr. Tillerson visited the prison that once housed Senator John McCain, a Republican from Arizona who is a frequent critic of the president.

But perhaps the most puzzling part of Mr. Tillersons tenure was his poor oversight of the State Department. As a former top business executive, his managerial skills were thought to be his chief asset.

But he failed to quickly pick a trusted team of leaders, left many critical departments without direction and all but paralyzed crucial decision making in the department.

He approved one global conclave in Washington just eight days before the event was to start, ensuring that few leaders from around the world were able to attend. He rarely sat for comprehensive briefings with many of his top diplomats and often failed to consult the State Departments experts on countries before visiting.

The Mess Rex Tillerson Is Leaving Behind

Foreign diplomats — starting with the British and the French — said Mr. Tillerson neither returned phone calls nor, with much advance warning, set up meetings with his counterparts. Strategic dialogues with many nations, including nuclear weapons powers like Pakistan, were ended without explanation.

The State Departments policymaking process devolved into conversations between Mr. Tillerson and a lone top aide, neither of whom had much experience or knowledge about many of the countries they discussed.

Mr. Tillerson became so isolated that even top administration officials like Mr. Pompeo and allies like Condoleezza Rice, the former secretary of state whose recommendation was crucial to his selection, had trouble penetrating a phalanx of staff to speak to him directly.

Stirewalt on Tillersons Ouster: Turns Out Trump Doesnt Like to Say Youre Fired

The relationship between top management and the bulk of the State Department was toxic, said Ambassador James F. Jeffrey, a former senior diplomat and fellow at the Washington Institute who once worked with Mr. Tillerson. And that was a total mystery because the people at the State Department would work for the devil if he is advancing American interests, which Mr. Tillerson was.

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