United States President Donald Trump has sacked Rex Tillerson as secretary of state on Tuesday. CIA director Mike Pompeo will now replace him. Trump announced the change in a tweet just four hours after Tillerson returned to Washington from a trip to Africa. Word of Trump's dissatisfaction with Tillerson and plans to replace him had circulated for months, even as Tillerson insisted he didn't plan to leave.
Donald Trump thanked Tillerson for his service in a tweet and said that the new secretary of state would do a 'fantastic job.' There had been longstanding rumors throughout most of Tillerson's tenure of friction between Trump and his secretary of state, a former Exxon Mobile Corp. CEO.
Pompeo is to be replaced at CIA by Gina Haspel, Pompeo's deputy at CIA, Trump tweeted. She would be the first woman in that role. Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Trump's announcement. Trump offered no explanation for the change.
Two officials familiar with the situation said that Tillerson had been fired by Trump on Friday, while in Africa. There were no obvious indications as Tillerson flew home early Tuesday from Nigeria that his departure was imminent, nor that it was his last trip abroad as top diplomat.
But Tillerson had cut short his trip by one night, telling reporters he had been sick in Africa and had barely slept two nights in a row because of urgent, middle-of-the-night matters, including the North Korea announcement.
"I felt like, look, I just need to get back," Tillerson said.
A White House official said Trump wanted to have a new team in place ahead of upcoming talks with North Korea and various trade talks. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.
In October, certain US media reported that Tillerson called the president a "moron," something Tillerson never actually denied. Tillerson continued to insist his relationship with the president was solid and brushed off rumors of strain between them.
Tillerson also was known for his Russia connections and would be Trump's most concrete outreach yet to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump's announcement came the day after the Republican-controlled House Intelligence committee announced it found no collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia.
Tillerson was slated to retire from Exxon in March 2017 at age 65 under the company's mandatory retirement policy. Paid $27.3 million last year, Tillerson has accumulated roughly $160 million in Exxon stock along with $149 million of unvested stock options, according a proxy statement the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission
(With inputs from AP)