President Donald Trump has ousted his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and is replacing him with CIA director Mike Pompeo, who is set to be succeeded by deputy CIA director Gina Hapsel.
A senior White House official said Tuesday Tillerson’s ouster occurred at this time because Trump wanted to “have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with North Korea and various ongoing trade negotiations.”
“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 Tuesday.
According to Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein, Tillerson planned on staying at the State Department and suggested Tillerson was surprised by his ouster.
“The Secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling,” he said.
Trump and Tillerson have clashed for months over several issues. Tillerson did not dispute reports that he called the president a “moron,” leaving that responsibility to State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, who maintained Tillerson “does not use that type of language.”
In a statement issued by the White House, Trump said Pompeo, a former Army cavalry officer, is the best candidate for Secretary of State at this “critical juncture.”
“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,” Trump said.
Pompeo said he is “deeply grateful” to the president for the opportunity to serve as the nation’s top diplomat.
Hapsel said she is “humbled” by Trump’s confidence in her and added if confirmed, “I look forward to providing President Trump the outstanding intelligence support he has grown to expect during his first year in office.”
Before Pompeo and Haspel can assume the positions, they must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate.
VOA White House correspondent Steve Herman and State Department correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report