Donald Trump has fired his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA director Mike Pompeo.
News of Tillerson’s dismissal emerged Tuesday, with the President reportedly shaking up his national security team amid historic upcoming talks with North Korea.
He axed the diplomat last Friday, and asked him to cut short a trip to Africa so he could return to the U.S. and vacate his position.
Pompeo’s appointment means CIA deputy director Gina Hapsel becomes boss of the spy agency – the first woman to hold the position.
Despite a warm farewell statement from Trump, a U.S. State Department spokesman said Tillerson ‘did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason’ for his firing.
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
Bizarrely, Trump said after that he had decided to axe Tillerson ‘by myself’ and claimed his former staffer would be ‘much happier now’.
In an earlier statement announcing the news, the President said: ‘I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State.
‘Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School.
‘He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.’
He added: ‘Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone.
‘Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect.’
Despite sacking Tillerson, Trump heaped praise on him, saying ‘a great deal has been accomplished’ on his watch.
However, the men are said to have clashed heavily behind the scenes, with the Washington Post reporting Trump considered Tillerson ‘too establishment.’
He is said to want someone who will take a different approach to talks with Kim Jong-un, scheduled to take place before May.
Trump is also said to be keen to have fresh thinking on upcoming trade talks, a week after announcing tariffs on foreign steel and aluminium imported to the U.S.
Pompeo said he was ‘deeply grateful’ to Trump for the promotion, and claimed ‘His leadership has made America safer.’
Meanwhile, new CIA director Haspel said she was ‘humbled’ by the new career opportunity she had been given.
The news comes as Trump faced questions over the huge turnover of senior staff in his administration.
Press Secretary Sarah Sanders has denied the White House is in chaos.