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March 13, 2018, 12:55 p.m. EDT

Tillerson out as secretary of state as Trump taps CIA chief Pompeo

‘We were not really thinking the same,’ Trump says of former Exxon CEO

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By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch


AFP/Getty Images
Rex Tillerson is leaving as secretary of state amid disagreements with President Donald Trump.

Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of state after a series of disagreements with President Donald Trump, ending a rocky tenure as the chief U.S. diplomat.

Trump said he’s nominating CIA director Mike Pompeo to run the State Department, hailing his experience in the military and Congress. “I urge his swift confirmation,” Trump said in a statement.

Tillerson was the chief executive of Exxon Mobil /zigman2/quotes/204455864/composite XOM -4.82%   before taking the job in the Trump cabinet. His time in the administration has been marked by incidents including reportedly calling Trump a “moron” and Trump’s saying on Twitter that Tillerson was “wasting his time” negotiating with North Korea.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump said he got along well with Tillerson, but “we disagreed on things,” like the Iran nuclear deal.

“We were not really thinking the same,” Trump said. The president said he made the decision to oust Tillerson “by myself” and “didn’t discuss it very much with him, honestly.”

Meanwhile, shortly after Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein tweeted that Tillerson “did not speak to the president this morning and is unaware of the reason,” Goldstein himself was fired for contradicting the account of Tillerson’s dismissal.

On Tuesday, Tillerson called the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. a “really egregious act” that appeared to have “clearly” come from Russia. A day earlier, the White House had stopped short of blaming Russia for the attack. Trump said Tuesday he would be speaking with British Prime Minister Theresa May about the attack.

“It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia, and I would certainly take that finding as fact,” he said.

Pompeo will need Senate confirmation. Trump has also nominated Gina Haspel to run the CIA, a post that also needs Senate confirmation. Haspel reportedly ran one of the agency’s detention sites in Thailand, where she oversaw torture of two terrorism suspects . The New York Times reported tapes of the interrogations were ordered destroyed in 2005.

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Robert Schroeder is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington. Follow him on Twitter @mktwrobs.

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