President Trump announced that CIA Director Mike Pompeo will replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

(Photo by State Department)

Rex Tillerson Fired, Will Formally Step Away As Secretary Of State March 31

March 13, 2018 - 2:04 pm
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (1010 WINS) -- President Donald Trump said differences in opinion were behind the move to replace Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

President Trump said CIA Director Mike Pompeo will replace Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Trump made the announcement Tuesday morning, via Twitter.

"I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job 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 in a statement.

Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, Trump said. Haspel has been with the CIA for more than 30 years and is currently the deputy director.

"She will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone," Trump said.

Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before the announcement.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump asked Tillerson to step aside.

"(Trump) thought it was the right time for the transition with the upcoming North Korea talks and various trade negotiations," a senior administration official said.

The president asked Tillerson to step aside on Friday, the official added.

Trump said he made the decision because he and Tillerson, "disagreed on things."

The president specifically cited differences in opinion on the Iran nuclear deal, which he has frequently criticized. Before Trump took office, Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program in exchange for eased economic sanctions.

Steve Goldstein, an aide to Tillerson, said Trump never explained why he was firing the Secretary of State, and said he had wanted to stay on the job. He told reporters that Tillerson learned about the firing with the president's Tweet.

Shortly thereafter, Goldstein, the Under Secretary of Public Affairs at the State Department, was also fired.

"This has been an honor of a lifetime and I'm grateful to the Secretary and the President for this opportunity. I wish everyone well and look forward to getting more rest and perhaps winning an indoor rowing competition. We will see what happens next," Goldstein said in statement.

Speaking to the press on Tuesday afternoon, Tillerson said he would be delegating all responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at the end of the day, and would formally step away from the position on March 31.

Tillerson emphasized the need for a smooth transition, telling reporters that there was still much to be done with regard to China, Russia, Syria, Iraq, and North Korea.

As he thanked his staff at the State Department and encouraged them to remain focused on their jobs, Tillerson said, "the world needs selfless leaders."

Tillerson stepped away from the podium without taking any questions.