The President announced via Twitter on Tuesday morning that he is replacing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo. According to the Washington Post, White House officials said that Trump notified Tillerson of the decision last Friday.
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
However, based on the response from the U.S. Department of State shortly after 9 a.m. EDT on Tuesday as well as tweets by White House pool reporters in touch with Tillerson, Trump’s decision appears to have stunned Tillerson himself.
Here is the brief statement from Steve Goldstein, undersecretary for public diplomacy at the State Department:
The Secretary had every intention of staying, because of critical progress made in national security.
He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and the foreign ministers that he’s worked with throughout the world.
The Secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason.
Be (sic) he is grateful for the opportunity to serve and believes public service is a noble calling. He wishes secretary-designate Pompeo well.
Speaking with reporters during an impromptu press conference on the White House lawn before leaving for a planned trip to California, Trump commented frankly on differences of opinion with Tillerson, specifically citing how to approach the Iran nuclear deal.
“He felt a little bit differently. So we weren’t really thinking the same,” the President said, “With Mike (Pompeo), we have a very similar thought process.”
Trump continued: “Frankly I get along well with Rex, too. And, you know, I wish Rex a lot of good things. I think he’s going to do…I think he’s going to be very happy. I think Rex will be much happier now.” Trump added: “But with Mike, we’ve had a very good chemistry right from the beginning.”
But this might not be the end of Trump’s relationship with Tillerson. The president is known for reaching out to friends and former employees for advice via after-hours phone calls. Trump told reporters before departing on Marine One, “I’ll be speaking to Rex over a long period of time.”
UPDATE: Goldstein, the State Department spokesperson and Tillerson aide cited in this report, was fired by the White House roughly three hours after releasing the statement, according to the Associated Press.