President Donald Trump announced via Twitter on March 13 that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be nominated to serve as the new Secretary of State, replacing Rex Tillerson.
According to Foreign Policy, “Rank and file in the State Department were stunned by the announcement,” and Tillerson himself was reportedly surprised as well. Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein communicated to FP that “The Secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues,” and that “The Secretary did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve.”
However, FP reported that it received an email from a European diplomat stating: “There were rumors about Pompeo heading [State] for some time. So, no surprise in the decision. What surprised was the timing: right after Tillerson went more vocal about Russia’s threat, and on the day when he just arrived from Africa. (Was there an urgent need to announce it today? Why not wait several days?)”
“Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time …we got along quite well, but we disagreed on things,” Trump said, according to NPR. “We were not really thinking the same … with Mike, we have a very similar thought process.”
Trump issued the following statement on Pompeo’s nomination:
I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State. Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.
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. 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 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.
His experience in the military, Congress, and as leader of the CIA have prepared him well for his new role and I urge his swift confirmation.
Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA’s first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect.
Finally, I want to thank Rex Tillerson for his service. A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.
Just before receiving Trump’s nomination, Pompeo appeared on Fox News Sunday where he discussed updates regarding relations with North Korea. While discussing details of the potential meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-Un, Pompeo said:
“This first meeting I think is between the president and the leader of North Korea, the two people who are the decision-makers, who will ultimately decide what arrangements are acceptable.
But make no mistake about it: while these negotiations are going on, there will be no concessions made. The activity of this administration to disrupt the North Korean economy, to put pressure on North Korea, to galvanize the world in a way that you have countries from the Middle East to Europe and Asia, placing sanctions on the North Korean regime— those will continue and we will see how the talks and the negotiations proceed.”