WASHINGTON, RAW – President Donald Trump has sacked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, replacing him with CIA director Mike Pompeo.
Trump has also nominated Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo and become the first woman director of the CIA.
The move represents the biggest shake-up of the Trump cabinet so far and had been expected since last October when reports surfaced about a falling out between Trump and Tillerson, 65, who left his position as chief executive of Exxon Mobil to join the administration.
Trump publicly undercut Tillerson’s diplomatic initiatives numerous times, including on Monday when his comments about Russia appeared to be at odds with those of the White House.
Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting US president to do so.
In October, NBC news reported that Tillerson called the president a ‘moron,’ something Tillerson never actually denied.
On Tuesday Trump cited differing opinions on policy and a ‘chemistry’ problem between him and Tillerson for his decision.
Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn Trump said: ‘It was a different mindset, a different thinking. We got along actually quite well, but we disagreed on things.
‘When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was OK.
‘I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently, so we were not really thinking the same.
‘Rex is a good man, I like him a lot and I wish him good things, but I think he will be happier now.’
Earlier, on Twitter Trump wrote: ‘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!’
Haspel’s controversial past
Haspel could face close scrutiny in her confirmation hearings over her involvement in ‘black site’ facilities, so called because their existence is unacknowledged by the US government.
Intelligence officers who served with her and congressional officials said that in 2002, during Republican President George W Bush’s administration, she was responsible for the secret prison codenamed ‘Cat’s Eye’. Two suspected members of the al-Qaeda militant group were subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques at the facility.
Three years later, still during Bush’s presidency, she carried out an order to destroy videotapes of the waterboarding, which simulates drowning and is considered a form of torture.
Her nomination faces an uncertain future in the Senate, which Trump’s fellow Republicans control 51-49. She could be opposed by all the Democrats. Republicans also have lost the vote of Senator Thad Cochran, who said he will resign on April 1, and other Republicans may oppose her.
‘The torture of detainees in US custody during the last decade was one of the darkest chapters in American history,’ said Republican Senator John McCain, who was himself tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
‘Ms Haspel needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program during the confirmation process.’