Trump Fires Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; CIA Chief Pompeo to Replace Him

Tillerson went further than Trump Monday in implicating Russia in poisoning of ex-spy in Britain ■ His replacement, Pompeo, is known as a fierce critic of Iran nuclear deal

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson boards his plane to depart at the end of a five-country swing through Africa from Abuja, Nigeria, Monday, March 12, 2018.

U.S. President Donald Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday. Trump has nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson as America's new top diplomat.

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Reuters reported that a senior White House official said Trump wanted a new negotiating team ahead of planned talks with North Korea. "The Secretary did not speak to the President and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve," Steve Goldstein, undersecretary for public diplomacy, told reporters - adding to reports Tillerson learned his fired from Trump's Twitter announcement.

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On Monday, Tillerson said the United States agrees with Britain's assessment that Moscow was "likely responsible" for the poisoning in England of a Russian double agent and his daughter – far surpassing the Trump White House's statements on the incident. 

Tillerson added: "We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences." 

State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert is currently in Israel on a work related trip.

Israel Katz, Israeli minister of transportation and intelligence, congratulated Pompeo on Twitter, saying " I wish to congratulate Director Pompeo on his appointment as the 70th secretary of state and thank him for his support of Israel and contribution to strengthening the security and intelligence ties between our two countries."

Pompeo, a former Republican Congressman from Kansas, is considered more hawkish than Tillerson. He has a record as a strong supporter of the Israeli government and a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear deal.

Former CIA Director and incoming U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, DC., May 11, 2017

Pompeo has warned that the Iran nuclear deal was failing, and has compared Iran to ISIS. While serving in Congress, Pompeo was among the most outspoken Republican critics of President Barack Obama's foreign policy in the Middle East. Tillerson, meanwhile, was one of the most prominent members of Trump's administration who called not to withdraw from the deal, but instead to remain committed to it and make sure it is rigorously enforced.

During his brief tenure at the CIA, Pompeo enjoyed good relations with his counterparts in the Israeli Intelligence community. He played a role in maintaining ties between the Trump administration and the Palestinian Authority's security and intelligence forces. Last February, Pompeo was the first senior official in the Trump administration to visit Ramallah and meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, as part of the administration's early attempts to build a relationship with the Palestinian leadership. 

Tillerson and Trump had a public spat in October 2017 after reports surfaced that Tillerson had called Trump a "moron" during a meeting at the Pentagon over the summer. Tillerson never confirmed the report, but Trump soon after challenged Tillerson to an IQ test.

Word of the White House plan will significantly complicate Tillersons ability to conduct diplomacy and run the State Department for as long as he stays, given that foreign governments may now consider him a lame duck. Foreign leaders had anticipated Tillerson was likely to attend a scheduled gathering of NATO foreign ministers next week in Brussels, though the State Department hadnt confirmed that.

Tillerson had been scheduled to speak Thursday at an event about global efforts to fight AIDS. Late Wednesday, the State Department said he would be represented by his deputy instead.