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After fourteen months on the job, Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of state. President Donald Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning that he plans to nominate CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson as the nation’s top diplomat.
Gina Haspel, currently Pompeo’s deputy was announced as President Trump’s choice to take over as director of the CIA. An historic move as she would be the first woman to serve in that role. Tillerson cut short his trip in Africa yesterday and headed back to Washington D.C. The tires had barely hit the tarmac when the POTUS sent an early morning tweet:
“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!”
A RELATIONSHIP OF FRUSTRATION AND DISCONTENT
It is no secret that President Trump and Secretary Tillerson had a rocky relationship, and thus far there is no specific explanation for the change. For months we have heard reports stating frustration, loss of confidence, and mounting tensions between the two men.
Secretary Tillerson made known his discontent of the turbulence within the Trump White House and made public statements of his condemnation of the drastic reduction of civil servant positions at the State Department. These met with President Trump’s lambasting Tillerson on twitter several times over their ongoing contradictions with one another.
TILLERSON WAS AN OUTSIDER AND LACKED EXPERIENCE
Tillerson came to Washington D.C. via corporate America. He spent decades at Exxon Mobil Corp., starting as an engineer and rising to the top position of CEO in 2006. During the secretary’s confirmation hearings, he faced heavy criticism for “lack of experience” in government and diplomacy. The committee spent hours questioning him about his business ties to Vladimir Putin.
Again, this story should not come as a surprise to anyone. Sarah Huckabee Sanders has often said during her afternoon White House press briefings, “When the president loses confidence in somebody, they’ll no longer be here.”
ENTER THE NEW PLAYERS: POMPEO AND HASPEL
Both Mike Pompeo and Gina Haspel have made public statements thanking President Trump for the opportunity to serve in the new roles. President Trump in an interview with The Washington Post said:
“I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State. Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.”
“Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect.”
This upheaval to the national security team comes at a very uncertain time as preparations are being made for possible talks with North Korea. It will be interesting to see if the closely divided Senate can vote to approve these nominations without the typical stalemating delays we have seen with so many of President Trump’s other nominees.