Tillerson out at State

Next up: Pompeo

Via WaPo:  Trump ousts Tillerson, will replace him as secretary of state with CIA chief Pompeo

Trump last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington.

Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Haspel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.

The BBC had a recent profile of Pompeo:  Mike Pompeo: America’s Trump loyalist spymaster.

The former Tea Party representative from Kansas is seen as a Trump loyalist who has performed a delicate balancing act in managing frayed relations between the spy agency and a commander-in-chief who compared America’s intelligence services to Nazis.

He has in the past played down findings by the CIA that the Russians attempted to influence last year’s US election.

But when push comes to shove, he has shown a willingness to contradict the president on the issue.

After Mr Trump said he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s denials, Mr Pompeo firmly stood by US assessments of Moscow’s alleged meddling.

The CIA director is more hawkish on the Kremlin than the president, and has previously warned that President Putin is a dangerous leader.

Before joining the CIA, the 53-year-old former-three-term Republican from Wichita, Kansas, was a vehement critic of the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran.

He has previously defended the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection programme and opposes shutting the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

Here’s a NYT profile of Haspel from when she was appointed as deputy last year:  New C.I.A. Deputy Director, Gina Haspel, Had Leading Role in Torture.

The elevation of Ms. Haspel, a veteran widely respected among her colleagues, to the No. 2 job at the C.I.A. was a rare public signal of how, under the Trump administration, the agency is being led by officials who appear to take a far kinder view of one of its darker chapters than their immediate predecessors.

Over the past eight years, C.I.A. leaders defended dozens of agency personnel who had taken part in the now-banned torture program, even as they vowed never to resume the same harsh interrogation methods. But President Trump has said repeatedly that he thinks torture works. And the new C.I.A. chief, Mike Pompeo, has said that waterboarding and other techniques do not even constitute torture, and praised as “patriots” those who used such methods in the early days of the fight against Al Qaeda.

Ms. Haspel, who has spent most of her career undercover, would certainly fall within Mr. Pompeo’s description. She played a direct role in the C.I.A.’s “extraordinary rendition program,” under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.

The C.I.A.’s first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Ms. Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Confirmation hearings could be dramatic.  They will, at a minimum, bring the torture issue back into the public discussion.

UPDATE (James Joyner):  I was posting at the same time but decided to consolidate here.

While “Why now?” is the obvious question—to which we may never have a definitive answer—this was inevitable. And, frankly, Tillerson had to go. As Dan Drezner has ably documented, Tillerson is easily the worst Secretary of State in modern history. He was simply a disaster as a manager and public diplomat. At the same time, he was not only not carrying the President’s water but got caught calling him “a moron.” There was simply no way he could last.

UPDATE 2 (James Joyner): In a follow-up piece titled, “Who is Mike Pompeo?” I observe that, “While Rex Tillerson was an awful Secretary of State who simply had to go, it’s quite possible that Pompeo will be an even greater disaster.”

FILED UNDER: Africa, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Hal_10000 says:

    Not sure what to make of Tillerson vs. Pompeo. Gina Haspel, however, is a concerning choice, considering her role in the CIA’s torture program.

  2. Mikey says:


    Gina Haspel, however, is a concerning choice, considering her role in the CIA’s torture program.

    The Republicans are going to love her for that.

  3. drj says:

    This just may be a coincidence (from the WaPo):

    On the flight from Nigeria, Tillerson appeared to break with the White House in his assessment of the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain. He singled out Russia as responsible for the attack, echoing the finger-pointing of the British government.

    “It came from Russia,” Tillerson said, according to the Associated Press. “I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action. But this is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely.”

    Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders condemned the attack as “reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible,” and expressed solidarity with Britain, but would not say whether the United States believes Russia was behind it.

    In any case, this seems to be yet another case of “in retiterement veritas.” Cf. Rep. Tom Rooney (R) (who is not seeking reelection) on the House Intelligence Committee’s collusion investigation:

    Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said on Monday that “there is evidence” showing the Russians attempted to help Trump during the 2016 presidential election, contradicting a draft report from the panel. […]

    Rooney argued that the investigation needed to end because the committee was losing its credibility. “We’ve gone completely off the rails and now we are just basically a political forum for people to leak information to drive the day’s news,” Rooney said. “We’ve lost all credibility and we are going to issue probably two different reports, unfortunately.”

  4. CSK says:

    So…how long will Pompeo last?

  5. Blue Galangal says:

    @CSK: As long as Putin wants him to.

  6. Kathy says:

    Here’s how and why Tillerson got fired:

    On his way to work recently, he made a stop at the Lincoln Memorial, to draw inspiration from the great president. While pondering the challenges Lincoln had faced and how he overcame them, the statue’s head moved slightly and its lips parted.

    “Rex,” Lincoln said, “bring me a horse.”

    “What!” said Tillerson in amazement.

    “I need a horse, Rex.” Lincoln said.

    Tillerson ran back to his car and ordered the driver to get him to the white House as fast as possible. Once there, he bullied his way into Trump’s bedroom, swept away empty McDonald’s wrappers, and told Trump what had happened.

    Trump was skeptical, but Tillerson sold him on the sky high approval ratings he’d get by associating himself in a miracle involving the first Republican president.

    So still in his night clothes, stained with cheese and secret sauce, he sets off at all deliberate speed.

    Once at the Lincoln memorial, though, the statue just sits there, still and unresponsive. No coaxing from Tillerson, no threats from Trump, can get the statue to speak again.

    Angry as hell, Trump leaves and tells Tillerson not to show up for work anymore.

    Left alone with the statue once again, Tillerson angrily demands, “Why didn’t you say anything?”

    Lincoln again turns his head and says “I asked you for a horse, Rex, and you brought me an ass.”

  7. Kathy says:

    So joking aside, what are the odds Pompeo will fill the many vacancies at State? Slim, none, more likely to hit the lottery every week for a million years?

  8. CSK says:

    @Blue Galangal: Indeed.

    Trump was angry that Tillerson disagreed with him abut the Iran deal.

  9. CSK says:

    Please take me out of moderation. Thank you.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Tillerson called Trump a “Fwcking moron” and is not fired.

    Accused Putin of assassination in London: and is fired.

  11. teve tory says:

    Apparently trump’s personal assistant, aka ‘bodyman’, was just abruptly escorted from the white house for ”serious financial crimes”.

    What, was he kiting checks from First Bank of Moscow?

  12. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @teve tory:

    Trump’s Donny Dennison’s personal assistant, aka ‘bodyman’, was just abruptly escorted from the white house

    MAGA…Many Are Getting Arrested.

  13. CSK says:

    @teve tory:

    They didn’t even give the guy time to grab his jacket; someone had to go get it for him. Apparently he’s beloved of the Family Trump,who’ve just assigned him to the 2020 campaign.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    Honestly, everyone should know by now, everyone:
    Trump brings down, humiliates, or slimes just about everyone who has in some way served him. There are only two people who Trump has not purposely diminished – Ivanka and Roy Cohn.

  15. Mikey says:

    My goodness.

    Andrea Mitchell @mitchellreports

    I am told Tillerson found out he was fired from Trump’s tweet.
    This morning. Knew there was tension but was not going to quit and did not know he was fired


  16. Kathy says:

    @Mikey: When one reads such things, one wonders “Who the hell is crazy enough to want to work for Trump any more?”

    It’s worth remembering, then, the Terror during the French Revolution. Military commanders were habitually executed for failures at the front lines, depending almost solely on the judgment of a political officer (ie Representative on Mission). Yet the need to protect the country, or the chances for advancement, or both, kept men coming to the front to try.

    People under Trump risk humiliation and damage to their reputations, but not death by guillotine. They’ll keep on coming.

  17. CSK says:


    And their quality will increasingly diminish.

  18. Kathy says:

    @CSK: Funny, that’s partly what happened in the French Revolution.

  19. CSK says:


    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.

  20. gVOR08 says:


    Apparently he’s beloved of the Family Trump,who’ve just assigned him to the 2020 campaign.

    Where they continue to have some leverage over what he might say.