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Trump fires chief diplomat Tillerson after clashes, taps Pompeo

By Reuters - Mar 13,2018 - Last updated at Mar 13,2018

FILE PHOTO: A combination photo shows U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 8, 2018, and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., February 13, 2018 respectively (Reuters photo)

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday after a series of public rifts over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran, replacing his chief diplomat with loyalist CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

 

The biggest shakeup of Trump’s Cabinet since he took office in January 2017 was announced by the president on Twitter as his administration prepares for an unprecedented meeting with the leader of North Korea.

 

Trump tapped the CIA’s deputy director, Gina Haspel, to replace Pompeo at the intelligence agency.

 

Tillerson’s departure caps months of friction between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive. The tensions peaked last fall amid reports Tillerson had called Trump a“moron” and considered resigning.

 

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Trump said on the White House lawn on Tuesday.“We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things.”

 

He cited the Iran nuclear deal as an example of disagreements with Tillerson and said he and Pompeo have“a similar thought process.”

 

Senior State Department officials said Tillerson was unaware of why Trump pushed him out and that he had intended to stay in the job.

 

On Monday, Tillerson blamed Russia for the poisonings in England of a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Earlier, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders had refrained from saying Moscow was responsible.

 

 

A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump’s Twitter announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after the trip, which had been cut short.

 

The official said Trump works well with Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and wanted him in place before the U.S. president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.

 

Tillerson had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state. He appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s Kim.

 

Stocks pared gains on the Tillerson news, but then stabilized. S&P futures were last up 0.3 percent.

 

“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!” Trump said on Twitter.

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