Trump announced the news on Twitter, naturally:
Per Trump’s morning update, CIA Director Mike Pompeo will take the reins and Gina Haspel is to become the first woman Director of the CIA.
Tillerson’s departure comes amid reports of his frustration with the turbulent atmosphere in Trump’s administration as well as growing concern about his performance as the country’s top diplomat. Tillerson was on an official tour of Africa last week when he was apparently caught unawares by Trump’s announcement that he would hold talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. This break-up has been long-in-the-works, however, with Trump and Tillerson not seeing eye-to-eye for some time and the latter reportedly considered resigning in July.
On Oct. 4, NBC News reported that Tillerson called Trump “a moron” during a meeting with top officials. Trump decried the “moron” report as “phony” but then told Forbes magazine in an interview that he would come out on top in an IQ test between himself and Tillerson. Meanwhile, The New York Times quoted sources as saying Trump was irritated by Tillerson’s body language during meetings. The two men also repeatedly contradicted each other on the subject of North Korea.
Tillerson’s appointment, like many of Trump’s choices, was an unusual one. The former Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO lacked political experience and he faced opposition during his Senate confirmation process. Once in office, he tried to reorganise the State Department to prioritize business and security. The department has seen major budget cuts during his tenure and there have been repeated disagreements between the two men over how to deal with the crisis in Qatar and the supremacist rally in Virginia. All the while, the relationship became more strained by the President’s son-in-law Jared Kushner setting off on his own foreign policy missions, including to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
As for the man coming in, Pompeo is a former three-time Republican Congress member known for his tough stance on Iran and his grilling of Hillary Clinton over Benghazi. In his 14 months as CIA director, Pompeo has apparently developed a close relationship with the President.
Haspel is a CIA veteran who was appointed Deputy Director in February, 2017. She has plenty of overseas experience, including several stints as chief of station at outposts abroad. In Washington, she has been Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service and Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Foreign Intelligence and Covert Action. Her career has met with controversy, however, largely as a result of her time running a “black site” CIA prison in Thailand in 2002. The site was codenamed “Cat’s Eye” and held suspected al Qaeda members who were waterboarded and and interrogated using now illegal interrogation methods.
Tillerson is just the latest in a stream of executives to leave the Trump administration. In September, Health and Human Resources Secretary Tom Price was forced to resign due to an expenses scandal. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was forced to step down in February after it emerged that he discussed sensitive intelligence with Russia’s ambassador prior to Trump’s inauguration. In May, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey while Mike Dubke, White House Communications Director, also resigned that month. Press secretary Sean Spicer quit in July. Anthony Scaramucci lasted just 10 days in the same job. The list goes on.