Report: Trump Wanted to Fire Rex Tillerson via Tweet While the Secretary of State Was in Africa
The way Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s dismissal played out on Tuesday sounds particularly ruthless. The news that President Trump fired Tillerson and intends to replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo was first reported by the Washington Post and was shortly confirmed with a tweet from POTUS himself.
It was initially believed that Tillerson first learned that he was being canned from Trump’s tweet and that’s essentially true. According to the Post’s reporting, Tillerson was on a diplomatic trip to Africa when he was woken up by a call in the middle of the night by Chief of Staff John Kelly urging him to cut his travels short and come back to D.C. as soon as possible. Apparently, Trump was planning to announce Tillerson’s dismissal was the Secretary of State was abroad in an official capacity, but Kelly talked the president out of it, urging him to wait until the nation’s top diplomat is back on American soil before dropping the axe. Tillerson left Africa on Monday.
Now-former State department rep Steve Goldstein’s version of events differs slightly from the other administration sources speaking to the Post:
Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, said that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not spoken directly with Trump. He said Kelly told Tillerson in the call only that “he could expect a tweet” from the president, but it was not conveyed that the decision to fire him was final.
“He found out that he was terminated today,” Goldstein said.
Goldstein was fired shortly after making that statement, which contradicted the White House’s official story on Tillerson’s exit. According to the White House, the president asked Tillerson to resign on Friday before Kelly told him he would be replaced on an unspecified date. The New York Times reported that Tillerson didn’t definitively know he had been fired until an aide showed him Trump’s tweet this morning.
During his farewell address, Tillerson confirmed reports that he didn’t receive a call from Trump until around noon — more than three hours after news broke that he had been replaced. Before walking off without taking questions, Tillerson made sure to thank everyone he worked with for their service, except, notably, Trump himself.
“Rex and I have been talking about this a long time,” the president said this morning when reporters asked him how Tillerson learned of his ouster. “I actually got along well with Rex, but really it was a different mind-set, a different thinking.”
Trump chalked Tillerson’s exit up to differences in policy towards Iran and North Korea and dodged questions about the time the now former secretary of state reportedly called Trump “a moron.”