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Trump Replacing Secretary Of State Tillerson With CIA Director Mike Pompeo
President Trump announced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired on Tuesday morning in a tweet that followed a year of frequent tension between the two leaders.
Trump said he is nominating CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson's replacement, which requires confirmation by the Senate.
"Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time ... we got along quite well, but we disagreed on things," Trump told reporters at the White House. "We were not really thinking the same ... with Mike, we have a very similar thought process."
State Department officials, on the other hand, said they were caught off guard.
"The secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues," said Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein. "He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship."
Continued Goldstein: "The secretary did not speak to the president this morning 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 and not to be regretted."
Later Tuesday, Goldstein was also fired, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Goldstein both confirmed to NPR's Tamara Keith.
A senior administration official says White House chief of staff John Kelly called Tillerson on Friday and notified him that he would be replaced and "that he was being asked to step down. It was made clear that it was imminent." The official added that Kelly and Tillerson had a follow-up conversation on Saturday.
"He was asked to step down," the official said, and he didn't.
Trump and Tillerson have been described as talking often but sometimes appeared quite out of step on major foreign policy decisions.
A White House official says the president wanted to have a new team in place in advance of upcoming talks with North Korea and ongoing trade negotiations.
Tillerson, who was traveling in Africa last week, was caught flat-footed when the surprise announcement came that Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Just a day earlier, he had told reporters that negotiations were a long way off.
Trump has named Gina Haspel, Pompeo's former deputy and a CIA veteran, to take the helm of the spy agency.
Haspel did not require Senate confirmation to serve in her deputy role but will to serve as the full-fledged director of the agency. Her hearing could exhume many CIA demons about the torture of terror suspects and the secret detention program that followed the 2001 terror attack.
Democrats blasted what they called the nonstop chaos of the Trump White House, which they said meant it cannot focus on conducting business seriously.
"The instability of this administration in just about every area weakens America," said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
But another sometime-opponent of Trump's, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said he would move as quickly as possible to convene a confirmation hearing for Pompeo to run the State Department.
"I had a very good conversation with Director Pompeo this morning and look forward to meeting with him soon," Corker said. "As I shared with the president, the committee will consider his nomination as expeditiously as possible."
Tillerson said at the State Department on Tuesday afternoon that he was grateful for the chance to serve in government and he thanked the foreign service officers and others who work on behalf of the United States abroad.
Tillerson said he wants to arrange an orderly transition to Pompeo, whose Senate confirmation hearing is expected in April and appears to have the support to move into the State Department job.
[Source: By Philip Ewing, Scott Horsley and, Tamara Keith, NPR, Washington, 13Mar18]
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