Friday, February 22, 2019 | ePaper
Tillerson out, replaced by CIA chief Pompeo
The New York Times, WASHINGTON :
President Trump announced on Tuesday that Mike Pompeo, now the C.I.A. director, will become secretary of state, replacing Rex W. Tillerson, ending his short but tumultuous tenure as the nation's chief diplomat. Mr. Tillerson found himself repeatedly at odds with Mr. Trump on a variety of key foreign policy issues.
The president announced his decision via Twitter.
A senior administration official said that Mr. Trump made the decision to replace Mr. Tillerson now to have a new team in place before upcoming talks with Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader he plans to meet by May, and for various ongoing trade negotiations.
Mr. Trump said he will replace Mr. Pompeo with the deputy C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, making her the first woman to head the spy agency. Both she and Mr. Pompeo would need confirmation by the Senate to take the positions.
Mr. Tillerson has been out of favor with Mr. Trump for months but had resisted being pushed out and vowed to remain on the job. But his distance from Mr. Trump's inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Mr. Kim, to the surprise of Mr. Tillerson, who wasÂ traveling in Africa at the time. In his announcement, Mr. Trump focused on Mr. Pompeo without explaining his decision about Mr. Tillerson.
"As Director of the C.I.A., Mike has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community," he said in a written statement distributed by the White House.
"I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture," he continued. He will continue our program of restoring America's standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries, and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman, has become a favorite of Mr. Trump's, impressing the president with his engaging approach during morning intelligence briefings. He has been at odds with Mr. Trump at times too - agreeing with his agency about Russia's interference in the 2016 elections - but he managed the relationship with the president more effectively than Mr. Tillerson did.
In picking Ms. Haspel to succeed Mr. Pompeo at the C.I.A., Mr. Trump opted for continuity rather than bringing in an outsider. At one point last fall, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, one of the president's closest Republican allies on Capitol Hill, had been tentatively tapped as the front-runner to run the agency if Mr. Pompeo moved up, but the idea later faded. Mr. Tillerson had struggled with his role after Mr. Trump ignored his advice on the Iran deal, contradicted him on the Middle East and issued blistering Twitter posts suggesting his effort to negotiate with North Korea was a waste of time.
Mr. Tillerson, a former chief executive of the oil giant Exxon Mobil, had once been viewed as an intriguing, if unorthodox, cabinet choice. He had deep experience with Middle Eastern potentates, and knew President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia through Exxon's extensive efforts to explore for oil in Russia.
But the early enthusiasm for bringing a business sensibility to the State Department faded fast, as Mr. Tillerson seemed overwhelmed by the diplomatic challenges before him and isolated by career foreign service officers who he often froze out of the most important debates.
Veteran diplomats, who had seen in the gravelly voiced Mr. Tillerson a man of stature, experience and great wealth whom they hoped the president would respect and heed, eventually turned against him, as he expressed more interest in shrinking the department than expanding American influence.