Today's Paper Latest stories Obits Brummett online Wally Hall Newsletters In the news Traffic Weather Puzzles/games Idea Alley Cajun food fundraiser
story.lead_photo.caption FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talks to reporters during the daily media briefing in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House, in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump unceremoniously dumped Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday — via Twitter — and picked CIA Director Mike Pompeo to shift from America's spy chief to its top diplomat. The abrupt announcement ended the tenure of the man who reportedly called the president a "moron" but wanted to stay.

The plans to oust Tillerson had been drawn up months ago, but the timing caught even senior White House officials unawares. The firing was just the latest in an exodus of administration officials, including those in Trump's inner circle, with the president already setting records for staff turnover, and several other Cabinet secretaries facing ethics investigations.

However, Trump rejected talk of chaos in his year-old administration as he nears a pivotal moment on the international stage with his planned meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. He declared Tuesday: "I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want."

He said he was nominating the CIA's deputy director, Gina Haspel, to take over for Pompeo at the intelligence agency. If confirmed, Haspel would be the CIA's first female director

As for Tillerson, the former Exxon Mobil CEO whom Trump picked as his administration's top Cabinet official, the president said simply, "we disagreed on things."

Trump's change puts Pompeo, an ardent foe of the Iran nuclear deal, in charge of U.S. diplomacy as the president decides whether to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement. Tillerson has pushed Trump to remain and had been pursuing a delicate strategy with European allies and others to try to improve or augment the Obama-era deal to Trump's liking.

"We were not really thinking the same," said Trump.

In the view of current and former White House officials, Tillerson's "moron" comment to senior administration officials last summer — and the subsequent revelation in the press — permanently eroded trust between the two men.

Tillerson gave brief farewell remarks at the State Department, thanking department staff and diplomats around the world — but not mentioning Trump except to say that he'd spoken by phone to the president Tuesday while Trump was on Air Force One, hours after the tweeted firing.

There were conflicting stories on the circumstances of the firing.

Trump kept the timing to an unusually close circle that included Chief of Staff John Kelly and Vice President Mike Pence, officials said. Pompeo was brought into the White House on Friday after returning from an overseas trip and was offered the job formally by phone Saturday.

Kelly was given the task of phoning Tillerson, who was in Africa, but the nature of their conversation was up for dispute. White House officials said Kelly told Tillerson that Trump wanted a change and he should step down. Tillerson, the White House said, asked that Trump wait until he returned to the U.S., and he shortened his trip to Africa — where much of his mission revolved around softening the effect of Trump's recent reported criticisms.

However, Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein and other State Department officials said that Tillerson hadn't learned he was being dismissed until he saw Trump's early-Tuesday tweet and hadn't discussed it directly with the president. Goldstein said Tillerson was "unaware of the reason" he was fired and "had had every intention of staying," feeling he was making progress on national security.

That was the end for Goldstein. Hours later, he was fired, too.

Even after Tuesday's announcement, the White House and Tillerson aides were still struggling to determine when and how Tillerson would exit. Tillerson, in his final turn before the cameras, said he would be delegating his responsibilities to deputy secretary John Sullivan at the end of the workday and would resign effective at the end of the month.

"I will now return to private life, private citizen, a proud American, proud of the opportunity I've had to serve my country," he said.

From the start, the former Exxon chief had been an unlikely pick for top diplomat, with no formal experience but a lifetime's worth of personal relationships with heads of state and powerful global figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump had boasted to allies that he "looked the part" of the nation's chief diplomat, but differences in style and ideology quickly came to a head.

While he espoused unconventional views on the organization of the State Department — and made sweeping changes of the bureaucracy his top concern — Tillerson proved to be cut from the same cloth of the national security conservatives who have dominated the GOP for decades. He had been recommended for the post by Condoleezza Rice and James Baker.

Tillerson's insult to Trump's intelligence came after heated discussions about Afghanistan policy, in which Trump had pushed to end the U.S. presence altogether and flirted with outsourcing the military counterterrorism campaign to private contractors. Hours before his firing was made public, Tillerson vocally condemned Russia for allegedly poisoning an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in the United Kingdom, even as the White House declined to assert blame.

Trump in recent days has told confidants that he feels emboldened, confident in his decisions to order new international trade on tariffs and to meet with Kim Jong Un and far less willing to put up with disloyalty around him, according to a person who has spoken to the president in recent days but was not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

Tillerson's departure adds to a period of intense turnover within Trump's administration that has alarmed those both in and out of the White House. Top economic adviser Gary Cohn announced his resignation last week, not long after communications director Hope Hicks and staff secretary Rob Porter both departed near the start of Trump's second year in office.

Trump has also faced a cloud of ethics allegations surrounding other members of his Cabinet, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin — the latter of whom is said to be on thin ice with the president.

Pompeo forged a close relationship with Trump as a regular presence in his presidential daily briefing. Current and former White House officials said Pompeo has proven more adept at negotiating the shifting power structures inside the administration and in reading and responding to the wishes of the president. Trump is also said to respect Pompeo's military background and West Point pedigree.

Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, has already been confirmed by the Senate for his current role at the CIA, making it extremely likely that he will be confirmed for the State Department role.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas called Pompeo an "outstanding selection."

"Mike’s deep understanding of world affairs, his clear-eyed view of the threats to our national security, and his key relationships with world leaders make him an excellent choice to be our top diplomat," he said. "While it’s a loss for the CIA, Gina Haspel is also an excellent choice to become the new CIA Director. A true professional with decades of experience at the Agency, Gina has worked closely with Mike and the national-security team over the last year."

Reports surfaced last year that Trump was considering replacing Tillerson with Pompeo and that Cotton was being considered as a potential replacement to lead the CIA.

Read Wednesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

Sponsor Content


You must be signed in to post comments
  • kt2235
    March 13, 2018 at 8 a.m.

    Attention all you Trump buds: if offered a job by the White House, RUN LIKE HECK THE OTHER WAY!!!!

  • RBear
    March 13, 2018 at 8:01 a.m.

    The revolving door at the WH. This is not good going into a negotiation with NK. This administration cannot keep those “great people” Trump talked about, mainly because he’s an idiot to work for.

  • RBBrittain
    March 13, 2018 at 8:03 a.m.

    Too bad Trump didn't send Tom Cotton to the CIA, as in the first rumors of Tillerson being replaced by Pompeo months ago. Then we'd have a Senate race this fall as well, with a chance of replacing Cotton with someone more reasonable.

  • hah406
    March 13, 2018 at 8:18 a.m.

    The big problem was that Trump / Tillerson never got a team in place at State. There are loads of open ambassador positions, and the career diplomats are leaving like the place is on fire because of Trump.

  • PopMom
    March 13, 2018 at 8:25 a.m.

    At least Tillerson was not an extreme right reactionary. It's a shame that somebody reported him calling Trump a moron. At least, Mattis is hanging on.

  • TimberTopper
    March 13, 2018 at 8:48 a.m.

    Another one of the more sane people is gone.

  • Retiredofit
    March 13, 2018 at 9:01 a.m.

    Tillerson was a stabling influence on world events. Sending a former CIA director to do SoS, going to raise some eyebrows. It works for Putin.....oh sorry he’s a dictator. The President needs to get a permanent staff, and quit the shuffling. It ridiculous to have this much turnover. Yes I voted for trump and don’t regret it. I just wish he would get his defication coagulated.

  • sjmays
    March 13, 2018 at 9:08 a.m.

    Isn't it strange Tillerson spoke out about Russia and the poisoning in Great Britain yesterday when Trump hasn't made any comment on Russia at all. They are still reviewing the matter.

  • GeneralMac
    March 13, 2018 at 10:29 a.m.

    Anyone in favor of the Iran nuclear deal should never have been appointed to ANYTHING in the Trump administration.

    How much money did Barack HUSSEIN Obama give to Iran ?

  • mrcharles
    March 13, 2018 at 10:38 a.m.

    And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

    And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;

    And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne:

    trump is the red dragon,