Mar 13

Goodbye, Rex

Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson naming current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him. Trump named current Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo. Tillerson and the rest of the world found out about the firing in a tweet from Trump this morning

Tillerson did not speak to Trump and is unaware of the reason behind his firing, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein said.

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, adding that Trump asked Tillerson to step aside on Friday. A senior White House official later clarified that chief of staff John Kelly told Tillerson that he would be replaced, but did not specify the timing.

Goldstein said Tillerson was notified of the official termination in Trump’s tweet Tuesday morning and, in a statement, said Tillerson had “every intention of remaining.” Hours after the statement was released, Goldstein himself was fired.

According to the CNN article, Trump and Tillerson had not been on the same wave length and Trump has been angry at Tillerson over the “moron” remark for months. Tillerson had few friends and, apparently, was operating at cross purposes with the White House.

Tillerson had few, if any, allies in the West Wing. Though Kelly was initially on his side when he took over, he eventually grew weary of defending him — especially after the “moron” remark, which Kelly saw as insubordination on Tillerson’s part.

Sources close to the President say it was clear Tillerson didn’t support Trump. They say Tillerson wanted to handle foreign policy his own way, without the President. Trump didn’t feel that Tillerson backed him, a source told CNN. [..]

Since his swearing in on February 1, 2017, Tillerson had to contend with a President who publicly undercut him as well as tension with Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who effectively ran a shadow State Department on Middle East issues. There was also competition from US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and a litany of complaints from diplomats, State Department staff and others in Washington that he was running a deeply dysfunctional agency.

Tillerson’s cost cutting has lead to the agency’s senior tiers “being depleted at a dizzying speed,” and “a decapitation of its leadership ranks,” Amb. Barbara Stephenson, president of the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), a union for US foreign service personnel, wrote in her group’s publication. [..]

But a steady drip of negative news, and reports of Tillerson’s alleged resentment over Ivanka Trump leading a delegation to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in India in November, continued to undermine Tillerson.

His ouster was preceded by a painfully public airing of his troubles with the President, heightened when Sen. Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations committe, faulted Trump for his tendency to “publicly castrate” the secretary of state. [..]

Even as Tillerson lost support in the White House, some lawmakers expressed concern about the prospect of his departure. Many saw Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and national security adviser H. R. McMaster, as a serious defender of US national security interests, as opposed to more ideological or inexperienced voices in the White House. [..]

Foreign envoys also voiced concerns about Tillerson’s State Department. In October, one Washington-based envoy described how ambassadors were finding ways to either bypass the State Department or develop work-arounds, because there were no senior officials in place to speak to or because the usual channels within State no longer worked.

Pompeo is more hawkish in his views about Korea and Iran and that could lead the US into two international crises.

As for Haspel, she has a long history with the CIA that includes running a CIA prison in Thailand, dubbed a “black site.” According to the New York Times, she oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and her name was on a cable giving instructions to destroy video evidence documenting their interrogations. One of the suspects was reportedly waterboarded 83 times in one month. The Times also reported that she played a direct role in the agency’s program that gave captured militants to foreign governments and held them at secret sites, where they were tortured by CIA staff. That isn’t sitting well with some law makers. In 2017, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) opposed her appointment as deputy director and Senators John McCain and Susan Collins (R-ME) have serious questions about her work for the agency. McCain said she “needs to explain the nature and extent of her involvement in the CIA’s interrogation program” during her confirmation.

On another note, CNN also reported that long time personal aide John McEntee was fired on Monday and escorted off the White house grounds.

McEntee was fired because he is currently under investigation by the Department of Homeland Security for serious financial crimes, a source familiar with his firing told CNN.

The charges are not related to the President, the source said.

Minutes after news of his departure broke, the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.

McEntee escorted from the White House on Monday, three sources with knowledge of the matter told CNN. Two sources said McEntee was pushed out because of issues with his security clearance, making him just the latest aide to be forced out because of difficulties obtaining a full security clearance.

While it appears that the current White House swamp is being drained, Trump is finding other swamp creatures that are even worse to take their places.

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