- The State Department said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was informed of his firing by President Donald Trump’s Tuesday-morning tweet about the news.
- Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not discussed it with Trump before the president confirmed his ouster on Tuesday morning.
- “The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security,” Goldstein said in a statement.
The State Department on Tuesday said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was informed of his firing by President Donald Trump’s tweet about the news earlier in the morning.
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not discussed it with Trump, who confirmed the ouster Tuesday soon after a Washington Post report revealed the decision.
The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, called Tillerson on Friday and told him a presidential tweet about him may be coming but did not give details, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
“The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security,” Goldstein said in a statement. “The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling.”
The White House fired a top Tillerson aide who contradicted the president’s account of the secretary’s firing, the AP reported Tuesday.
Trump told reporters on the White House lawn on Tuesday morning that he did not discuss his decision with Tillerson but said the two had “talked about this for a long time.”
“I didn’t discuss it very much with him,” Trump said. “I made that decision by myself.”
The president said that while he personally liked Tillerson and got along with him, the two disagreed on important policy issues, including the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by President Barack Obama, and had “different mindsets.”
“We got along, actually, quite well, but we disagree on a lot of things,” Trump said of Tillerson. “When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible. He thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something – he felt a little differently.”
Trump added, “I think Rex will be much happier now, but I really appreciate his service.”
Trump selected CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson. The CIA’s deputy director, Gina Haspel, will succeed Pompeo, becoming the first woman to lead the agency pending Senate confirmation for both her and Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” the president tweeted. “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 had been on a diplomatic trip in Africa, which he cut short to return to Washington on Monday. The Associated Press reporter Josh Lederman tweeted that there was “zero indication” on the flight back to the US, which Lederman and other reporters accompanied Tillerson on, that the secretary’s firing was imminent.
The firing came a day after Tillerson publicly criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin, calling the Kremlin “an irresponsible force of instability in the world” following a nerve-agent attack in England that the UK blamed on Russia.
Tillerson had faced reports of tension with Trump for months, repeatedly denying that he was leaving his job.