By PETER BAKER
© 2018 New York Times News Service
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that Mike Pompeo, now the CIA director, will become secretary of state, replacing Rex Tillerson, ending his short but tumultuous tenure as the nation’s chief diplomat. Tillerson found himself repeatedly at odds with Trump on a variety of key foreign policy issues.
A senior administration official said Trump made the decision to replace Tillerson now in order to have a new team in place in advance of the upcoming talks with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader he plans to meet by May, and various ongoing trade negotiations.
Trump said he will replace Pompeo with the deputy CIA director, Gina Haspel, making her the first woman to head the spy agency. Both she and Pompeo would need confirmation by the Senate to take the positions.
Tillerson has been out of favor with Trump for months, but had resisted efforts to push him out and vowed to remain on the job. But his distance from Trump’s inner circle was clear last week when the president accepted an invitation to meet with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, to the surprise of Tillerson, who was traveling in Africa at the time.
In his announcement, Trump focused on Pompeo without explaining his decision about Tillerson.
“As director of the CIA, Mike has earned the praise of members in both parties by strengthening our intelligence gathering, modernizing our defensive and offensive capabilities, and building close ties with our friends and allies in the international intelligence community,” he said in a statement distributed by the White House.
“I have gotten to know Mike very well over the past 14 months, and I am confident he is the right person for the job at this critical juncture,” he continued. “He will continue our program of restoring America’s standing in the world, strengthening our alliances, confronting our adversaries and seeking the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”