After months of speculation, President Donald Trump finally ousted Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.
Trump announced on Tuesday morning that he was replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who would be replaced by Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel, who will be the first woman to lead the agency.
Speaking to reporters before boarding Air Force One, Trump said he thinks Tillerson will be much happier once he leaves the position, and that the two were of a “different mindset.” But Tillerson’s associates struck a very different tone, saying that the Secretary had not spoken to the President this morning, was unaware of the reason behind the personnel change and had harbored every intention of continuing in his role.
The diverging viewpoints of the ouster is only the latest in a series of sparring and disputes between Trump and Tillerson. Here’s a timeline of the relationship’s highs and lows.
Dec. 11, 2016: Trump puts Tillerson on short list
After considering everyone from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, President-elect Trump puts the soon-to-retire Exxon Mobil CEO at the top of his short list, which would make him the first person in at least a century to be elevated to the post without prior government experience.
Dec. 13, 2016: Trump announces Tillerson pick
In announcing his selection of Tillerson as Secretary of State, Trump calls him one of the “truly great business leaders of the world.”
March 22, 2017: ‘I didn’t want this job’
In a break with tradition, Tillerson brings only one journalist with him on a trip to Asia, a reporter from the conservative-leaning Independent Journal Review. In an interview published March 22, he says he was reluctant to accept the job. “I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” he said. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”
Aug. 27, 2017: ‘The president speaks for himself’
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Tillerson appears to distance himself from Trump’s controversial remarks following the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., telling host Chris Wallace that “the president speaks for himself.”
Sept. 30, 2017: Tillerson looks to negotiate with North Korea
Tillerson tells reporters that the U.S. is in direct communication with North Korea over its missile and nuclear testing, with both sides looking to start negotiations. “We are probing, so stay tuned,” he says. “We ask, ‘Would you like to talk?’ We have lines of communications to Pyongyang — we’re not in a dark situation, a blackout.”
Oct. 1, 2017: Trump says negotiating is a waste of time
One day after Tillerson’s remarks, Trump tweets that he thinks efforts to begin communicating with North Korea are a waste of time.
Oct. 4, 2017: Report Tillerson called Trump ‘a moron’
NBC News reports that Tillerson was on the verge of resigning the previous summer amid clashes with the White House and that after a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon he referred to the president as “a moron.” The New Yorker later reports the same incident, adding that Tillerson actually referred to Trump as “a fucking moron.”
Oct. 10, 2017: ‘I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests’
In an interview with Forbes magazine published on Oct. 10, Trump says that the report Tillerson called him a “moron” was false: “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders later says that the comment was “a joke and nothing more than that.”
Nov. 16, 2017: House Democrats voice concerns
Over 20 House Democrats, including Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, send a letter to Tillerson, claiming that over 100 foreign service officers had left the the State Department, departures about which they said were “deeply concerned.”
Nov. 30, 2017: Plan to replace Tillerson floated to the press
The New York Times reports that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has developed a plan to force Tillerson out and replace him with Pompeo “perhaps within the next several weeks.” The report ends up being incorrect in two ways: the announcement to replace Tillerson with Pompeo came three and a half months later, and the story also said Pompeo would be replaced by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, which did not happen.
Jan. 6, 2018: ‘I intend to be here for the whole year’
In an interview with CNN, Tillerson says reports that he would be leaving are exaggerated and said he was looking forward to a very successful and productive year in office. “I intend to be here for the whole year,” he said.
March 9, 2018: Tillerson: North Korea talks won’t happen
While traveling in Africa, Tillerson tells reporters that conditions were not yet right for direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea. “We are a long ways from negotiations,” he says. “We need to be very clear-eyed and realistic about it. I think the first step, and I’ve said this before, is to have talks, to have some kind of talks about talks.”
March 10, 2018: Trump announces North Korea talks
After Trump announces talks with North Korea, Tillerson tells reporters while still traveling in Africa that it was “a decision the President took himself” after thinking about it “for quite some time” and said the decision “was not a surprise in any way.”
March 12, 2018: Tillerson says Russia behind U.K. poisoning
On his way back from Africa, Tillerson tells reporters that the poisoning of a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the United Kingdom was “a really egregious act” that appears to have “clearly” come from Russia though it was not yet known if it was “with the Russian government’s knowledge.”
March 13, 2018: Trump fires Tillerson
Trump announces on Twitter that he is replacing Tillerson. A Washington Post report says that Trump asked Tillerson to resign on March 9, but a State Department spokesman says Tillerson had “every intention of remaining” on the job and that the two had not spoken that morning. The spokesman, Steven Goldstein, was then fired as well.
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