Just over a year in office President Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him as the nation’s top diplomat, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate negotiations with North Korea, White House officials said Tuesday.
Trump last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington.
Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Haspel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.
In a statement, Trump praised both Pompeo and Haspel.
“I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State,” Trump said. “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.”
The president continued, “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.”
Trump also had words of praise for Tillerson: “Finally, I want to thank Rex Tillerson for his service. A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.”
The president — who has long clashed will Tillerson, who he believes is “too establishment” in his thinking — felt it was important to make the change now, as he prepares for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as upcoming trade negotiations, three White House officials said.
“I am deeply grateful to President Trump for permitting me to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for this opportunity to serve as Secretary of State,” Pompeo said in a statement. “His leadership has made America safer and I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America’s prosperity. Serving alongside the great men and women of the CIA, the most dedicated and talented public servants I have encountered, has been one of the great honors of my life.”
Haspel in a statement also said she was excited for her promotion. “After 30 years as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, it has been my honor to serve as its Deputy Director alongside Mike Pompeo for the past year,” she said. “I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity, and humbled by his confidence in me, to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.”