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Trump ousts Secy of State Rex Tillerson, ropes in CIA Director Mike Pompeo

Reuters/ 14 Mar 18 | 02:04 AM

CIA Director Mike Pompeo (Photo: Reuters)

Trump on Tuesday said he had replaced U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, and had tapped Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

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"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."

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 Tuesday. “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 Monday, 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. A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did not want to make it public while he was on a trip to Africa. Trump’s Twitter announcement came only a few hours after Tillerson landed in Washington after the trip, which had been cut short.

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The official said Trump works well with Pompeo, a former Republican congressman from Kansas, and wanted him in place before the US president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.

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.

Stocks pared gains on the Tillerson news, but then stabilised. S&P futures were last up 0.3 per cent.

“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!" Trump said on Twitter. 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. 

Larry Kudlow to replace Garry Cohn

US President Donald Trump signalled on Tuesday that conservative commentator Larry Kudlow is the front-runner to become the top economic advisor at the White House, though he said he was also speaking with other candidates.

Kudlow, 70, a long-time friend and early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, would fill the vacancy at the National Economic Council created by the resignation of veteran Wall Street banker Gary Cohn. Cohn announced his resignation as NEC director last week in a move.

Kudlow has also publicly disagreed with the tariffs. But Trump said Kudlow has “come around" to see the tariffs as a useful tool for renegotiating trade deals.              

“We don't agree on everything, but in this case, I think that's good. I want to have a divergent opinion. We agree on most," Trump said. “I think Larry has a very good chance," Trump told reporters.

Kudlow was an economic advisor to former Republican President Ronald Reagan and spent time on Wall Street before becoming a recognized face on cable television. Chris Liddell, a White House official who is a former executive at Microsoft and General Motors, is also under consideration for the job, a White House official said on Sunday.

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