After almost a year of speculation that Rex Tillerson was on the verge of quitting or being fired, Donald Trump has Tweeted that Rex Tillerson is no longer Secretary of State and that he is to be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
It is becoming increasingly clear that Tillerson was fired by the US President. Rumours of Tillerson’s imminent firing were rife during a recent trip to Africa when the former Secretary of State missed out on several events due to what was reported as a minor bout of ill health. This was likely a polite way of covering up the fact that Tillerson had lost the trust of Donald Trump. Now, the US media is reporting that Tillerson was only officially informed of his firing when he read Donald Trump’s Tweet saying that Tillerson would be replaced by Pompeo.
Tillerson's top spox says he found out he was fired when he read it on Twitter #FFS
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) March 13, 2018
Notably, Rex Tillerson’s final official statement as Secretary of States was a threat to Russia that it would “face consequences” for the illness of the retired British spy of Russian origin Sergey Skripal. In a harsh statement against Russia, Tillerson called Russia “an irresponsible force of instability in the world”. He continued saying, “From Ukraine to Syria — and now the U.K. — Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens”.
Interestingly, Tillerson’s statement, came around the same time that Trump issued a celebratory Tweet regarding the US House Intelligence Committee finding that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign team and Russia.
THE HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE HAS, AFTER A 14 MONTH LONG IN-DEPTH INVESTIGATION, FOUND NO EVIDENCE OF COLLUSION OR COORDINATION BETWEEN THE TRUMP CAMPAIGN AND RUSSIA TO INFLUENCE THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
Trump later elaborated on his decision saying that he and Tillerson had a “different mindset”, while he and Pompeo share “good chemistry”.
— RT (@RT_com) March 13, 2018
It is tempting to say that Tillerson’s vigorously anti-Russian statements and the Congressional Committee acquitting Trump of any wrongdoing regarding Russia, created a clash of narratives that the US President was unhappy with. With Tillerson going far beyond the words of any US official in criticising Russia over the ongoing Skripal incident, this may have merely been the straw that broke the camels back in a relationship that was never particularly close.
Rex Tillerson has frequently contradicted Trump, notably on the GCC-Qatar dispute in which Tillerson stated the US position of neutrality at the same time as Trump Tweeted pro-Saudi and anti-Qatari statements. Likewise, Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron” and by some accounts a “fucking moron”, during a meeting at the Pentagon where Trump proposed expanding the US nuclear arsenal by a factor of ’10 times’.
Tillerson refused to deny that he called Trump a “moron” and while this was the nadir of their processional relationship, even early on, Trump and Tillerson remained personally distant. Even during Trump’s inauguration dinner, Tillerson was said to have sat at a table for two with his wife, while Trump entertained people at a large round table where even British Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage took an unauthorised selfie while Tillerson was on the other side of the room.
While Tillerson’s statements often undulated between moderation and excess, his replacement Mike Pompeo is not only extreme in his views, but is prone to some very odd conspiracy theories. Some of his stranger conspiracy theories include:
–Allegations that Russia meddled not only in the 2016 US election but also in the 2012 and 2008 elections when the noted anti-Russian policy maker Barack Obama won.
–A bizarre theory that when in his teens, Russia’s current Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov developed the business model of RT and Sputnik which relied heavily on a world wide web, something which did not exist in the early 1970s when Gerasimov was alleged to have created his cunning plan.
–An even more bizarre theory that the Lebanese resistance party Hezbollah has operations in Venezuela.
–An assertion that Wikileaks acts as an arm of Russian intelligence agencies, a claim that has never been proved and always denied by Wikileaks.
–A ludicrous statement that the free speech and anti-war activist Julian Assange would have supported Hitler in the 1930s.
Clearly, for all of Tillerson’s many contradictions, at least Mike Pompeo is consistently strange and absurd in his conspiracy theories. While Pompeo has been less vocal in recent months, the gap between Tillerson and Trump both personally, professionally and in terms of policy seems to have been too much, especially considering that anti-Iran factions in Washington felt that Tillerson was overly supportive of the JCPOA (aka Iran nuclear deal).
NEW: President Trump tells me that he and Rex Tillerson disagreed on the Iran deal
"We were not really thinking the same," Trump said.
— Trey Yingst (@TreyYingst) March 13, 2018
It remains to be seen if Pompeo will be more effective at toeing the Trump line than his ousted predecessor.