By Vincent Verdile
On Tuesday, March 13, President Trump tweeted that Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, would become the new Secretary of State; while thanking Rex Tillerson for his service. According to The New York Times, Tillerson was apparently warned by Chief of Staff John Kelly on Friday that “he may get a tweet.”
A spokesperson for Tillerson claims he found out about his removal when a staffer showed him the tweet while on a diplomatic trip in Africa. Additionally, President Trump called him three hours later to officially inform him.
This change in leadership comes a week after President Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor, Gary Cohn, resigned over differences on trade policy. Furthermore, it comes two weeks after Communications Director Hope Hicks announced her resignation.
The Trump Administration is not new to departures, as it has experienced over a dozen in its first year. This past August, two important advisors to Trump’s foreign policy, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon resigned. As of March 16, there are reports that President Trump will be removing his National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster, reports The Wall Street Journal.
On Monday, the night prior to Trump’s tweet, Tillerson made what some call his “toughest comments on Russia to date,” according to The Washington Post. In regards to the recent nerve agent attacks in England, Tillerson said that it “clearly came from Russia” and went as far as calling them “an irresponsible force of instability in the world.”
Some have suggested that this condemnation of Russia did not sit well with President Trump, and this pushed him to his final decision to remove Tillerson, reports The Washington Post. Only after the removal did the White House release a statement also condemning the Russian involvement in the nerve agent attacks.
Mike Pompeo, a Tea Party Republican, has been CIA Director since January 2017. Unlike Tillerson, both President Trump and Pompeo hold similar views on both the nuclear crisis with North Korea, and the Iranian nuclear deal. Pompeo continues to reiterate President Trump’s assertive and candid statements directed at the North Korean regime.
They both agree that continued economic sanctions and threat of conventional warfare will push North Korea to denuclearization. In the case of Iran, according to NBC News, Pompeo has called them a “thuggish police state” and a “despotic theocracy.” Tillerson had worked alongside Secretary Mattis to balance the power of President Trump’s more “impulsive ideas,” and some fear Pompeo is the tipping point.
Days before the announcement that President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un have agreed to meet with each other, Tillerson made a statement suggesting that a solution to the nuclear crisis was far in the future. This highlighted the disconnect between the administration and the State Department, which have failed to work together the majority of Trump’s first year.
According to Politico, Congressional Republican Rand Paul is planning to oppose Mike Pompeo becoming the next secretary of state. He claims his early support for the Iraq War and defense of enhanced interrogation techniques should disqualify him from the position. Paul’s biggest issue with Pompeo is his support for an Iranian regime change. Rand Paul continues to be a prominent figure against Middle Eastern intervention, and believes a regime change would only prolong that.