Trump’s new pick as top diplomat, Pompeo seen as tight with US president
Current CIA chief Mike Pompeo, who has been nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump as the new secretary of state replacing Rex Tillerson, has been described as the person with the strongest relationship with the president within the administration.
"No one has a stronger relationship with Trump than Pompeo. Their relationship will empower Pompeo as secretary of state,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina on March 14.
Trump fired Tillerson on March 13 after a series of public rifts over policies on North Korea, Russia and Iran, replacing him with 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) 13 Mart 2018
Trump tapped the CIA’s deputy director, Gina Haspel, to replace Pompeo at the intelligence agency.
A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on March 9 but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa.
The official said Trump works well with Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and wanted him in place before the U.S. president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.
First reaction from Moscow
Russia believes that the nominated U.S. secretary of state will not take a softer approach, it has been reported.
“I don’t have reasons to expect more softness in the approach to Russia from his successor,” Russian envoy to the European Union was quoted by RIA news agency as saying on March 14.
Months of friction
Tillerson’s departure caps months of friction between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive. The tensions peaked last fall amid reports Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” and considered resigning.
“We’ve been talking about this for a long time,” Trump said on the White House lawn on March 13. “We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things.”
He cited the Iran nuclear deal as an example of disagreements with Tillerson and said he and Pompeo have “a similar thought process.”
Senior State Department officials said Tillerson was unaware of why Trump pushed him out and that he had intended to stay in the job.
On March 12, Tillerson blamed Russia for the poisonings in England of a former Russian double agent and his daughter. Earlier, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had refrained from saying Moscow was responsible.
Tillerson had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state. He appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s Kim.
Tillerson joined a long list of senior officials who have either resigned or been fired since Trump took office in January 2017. Others include strategist Steve Bannon, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Health Secretary Tom Price, Communications Directors Hope Hicks and Anthony Scaramucci, economic adviser Gary Cohn and Press Secretary Sean Spicer.