The Distance Between Tillerson's State Dept. And Trump's White House

Posted March 14, 2018

President Donald Trump said his decision to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday came down to disagreements over policy.

Nearly from the get-go, Tillerson, the former CEO of Irving-based Exxon Mobil, seemed out of sorts and out of step with his mercurial boss. That's important because Tillerson's State Department is charged with prodding European allies to go along with fixes to the nuclear agreement ahead of the next deadline for Trump to certify Iran's compliance. "It was a different mind-set, a different thinking", Trump told reporters at the White House.

Tillerson himself was never quite sure that he had the president's ear either, of course, and over time seemed to grow less interested in getting it.

He said he suspects Freeland and her team will now be researching Pompeo's home state of Kansas, looking to find areas of commonality and cooperation - particularly on trade. He lives in a fantasy world of his own making, a nonstop television show in which he is the only star; he doesn't want people who keep telling him that the real world looks somewhat different or that extravagant gestures might have severe consequences.

"I understand that that was a whole-of-administration strategy, so I'm looking forward to the new secretary of state continuing with deep engagement in our region", she said. Pompeo was brought into the White House Friday after returning from an overseas trip and was offered the job formally by phone Saturday. As Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein said in a statement Tuesday, "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". Tillerson, the White House said, asked that Trump wait until he returned to the US, and he shortened his trip to Africa - where much of his mission revolved around softening the impact of Trump's recent reported criticisms. Goldstein said Tillerson was "unaware of the reason" he was sacked and "had had every intention of staying", feeling he was making progress on national security.

However, unlike Tillerson, a former businessman who lacked government experience when Trump picked him previous year as secretary of state, Pompeo is well aware of the ways of Washington.

Tillerson had visited Nigeria on the last leg of his official visits to Africa, and met President Muhammadu Buhari, during which they discussed issues of mutual interest to both countries. Compare Tillerson's response to that of Pompeo.

From the start, the former Exxon chief had been an unlikely pick for top diplomat, with no formal experience but a lifetime's worth of personal relationships with heads of state and powerful global figures, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Inside the State Department, Tillerson's allies have long whispered about the rumors of his imminent departure, referring to "Rexit". That stance was echoed on Tuesday by the USA general who heads the US military command responsible for the Middle East and Central Asia.

Pompeo forged a close relationship with Trump as a regular presence in his presidential daily briefing.

Current and former officials said Pompeo, 54, was likely to get along better with Congress and with the White House, not least because of his conservative bent. Trump was slower to embrace that hard line, though he said after a Tuesday phone call with British Prime Minister Theresa May that Russian Federation needed to provide "unambiguous answers" about the incident, adding that whoever was responsible should face consequences.