US President Donald Trump has sacked Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
“Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will become our new secretary of state. He will do a fantastic job,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!” the president added.
According to the Washington Post, Trump asked Tillerson to leave the post last Friday.
Tillerson cut short his trip to Africa on Monday and returned to Washington, DC prompting questions about his future at the State Department.
In a statement on Tuesday, Trump said that “a great deal has been accomplished over the last 14 months” with Tillerson as the US’ top diplomat.
He added: “I wish him and his family well.”
Trump also said on Twitter that Deputy CIA Director Gina Hapsel will replace Pompeo as the head of the agency. He added that she is “the first woman so chosen”.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
The move by Trump is the biggest shakeup of his cabinet since taking office.
Reports surfaced last October that Trump was looking to replace the embattled Tillerson with the CIA director.
Tillerson, a former top executive for the energy giant Exxon, took office on February 1, 2017.
The US president and now-outgoing secretary of state have not seen eye-to-eye on a number of issues including the Gulf crisis.
“It was a different mindset,” Trump told reporters outside the White House on Tuesday, adding that the pair “were not really thinking the same on many things”.
Tillerson has criticised Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt – which cut diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar on June 5, 2017 – from the onset.
He urged the Gulf states to ease the blockade, which contradicted what appeared to be Trump’s initial support for the move.
According to US media, Trump wanted to have a new team in place before talks between the administration and North Korea began.
“The president wanted to make sure to have his new team in place in advance of the upcoming talk with North Korea,” AFP news agency quoted a unnamed senior US official as saying.
Last week, it was revealed that Trump had accepted an invitation to meet North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, following months of a diplomatic standoff that saw the two leaders exchange fiery military threats and personal insults.
Mike Pompeo praised by Trump
Trump said on Tuesday that Pompeo has a “proven record of working across the aisle”.
He added: “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.”
Pompeo has been a controversial figure since first becoming a Congressman from Kansas 2010.
In 2013, he was critcised by Muslim community and others for saying that their silence on violence committed by “extremists” was “deafening”.
“Instead of responding, silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts, and more importantly still, in those that may well follow,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo has been a staunch critic of the 2015 landmark Iran deal, which Trump has called the “worst deal ever made”.