President Trump on Tuesday announced he has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
Trump in a tweet that announced the decision said he plans to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to succeed Tillerson. Trump also said he will nominate Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to succeed Pompeo.
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
Reports indicate Trump asked Tillerson to resign on Friday.
Tillerson returned to D.C. from Africa early Tuesday morning.
Reports indicate Tillerson learned of his ouster on Twitter.
Tillerson on Tuesday told reporters in a statement he read in the State Department’s briefing room that he spoke with Trump shortly after noon EST while he was en route to California. Tillerson also said he will delegate his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan by the end of Tuesday.
“The secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues,” said Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein in a statement the State Department sent to reporters after Trump’s Twitter announcement. “He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship.”
“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, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted,” he added.
The White House fired Goldstein a few hours after he issued his statement, reportedly for contradicting the official version of Tillerson’s departure.
The Latest: Officials say the White House fired one of Rex Tillerson’s top aides after he contradicted the official account of the secretary of state’s dismissal. https://t.co/wMwVzhhTFX
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 13, 2018
Tillerson is the former CEO of ExxonMobil.
ExxonMobil in 2015 added sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination policy. Tillerson was a member of the Boy Scouts of America’s executive board when it voted to allow openly gay scouts into the organization in 2013.
The State Department under Tillerson continued to promote LGBT and intersex rights abroad, even as the Trump administration’s record on LGBT-specific issues in the U.S. sparked outrage among advocates and their supporters.
Tillerson publicly acknowledged Pride month and the Transgender Day of Remembrance. The position of the special U.S. envoy for the human rights of LGBT and intersex people remained in place under a State Department overhaul that Tillerson had begun.
Tillerson last summer raised the ongoing crackdown against LGBT Chechens in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The State Department under Tillerson’s tenure also expressed concern over anti-LGBT crackdowns in Azerbaijan, Egypt and other countries.
Tillerson and Trump clashed over Russia, North Korea, the Iran nuclear deal and other issues.
Tillerson on Monday told reporters that Russia was likely behind the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in England earlier this month. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders earlier in the day did not specifically mention Russia when reporters asked her about the incident.
“While I often disagreed with Secretary Tillerson, I thank him for his service and wish him well in his next endeavor,” said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) in a statement. “It’s disappointing that his departure from the administration comes soon after his condemnation of Russia’s barbaric attack on two individuals in the United Kingdom.”
HRC: Pompeo’s nomination ‘could have serious consequences’
Pompeo represented Kansas’ 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives until Trump tapped him to become CIA director.
The Human Rights Campaign on Tuesday noted Pompeo has long opposed LGBT rights. HRC President Chad Griffin in a statement said Pompeo’s “longstanding opposition to LGBTQ equality makes him a reckless choice to lead our nation’s diplomatic efforts.”
Pompeo opposes marriage rights for same-sex couples and co-sponsored a bill in the U.S. House that would have allowed states to refuse to recognize the marriages of gays and lesbians. Pompeo also opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
Pompeo has long-standing ties with the anti-LGBT Family Research Council, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has classified as a hate group. The Southern Poverty Law Center also notes Pompeo has made statements against Muslims in the U.S.
“The decision to nominate anti-LGBTQ Mike Pompeo could have serious consequences for the United States and LGBTQ people around the globe,” said Griffin. The State Department has a crucial role to play in advancing human rights — a role which was already rapidly declining under Tillerson. This decision has the potential to make a dire situation even worse. Pompeo does not deserve to be confirmed.”
Jessica Stern, executive director of OutRight Action International, on Tuesday noted to the Blade the “situation for LGBTIQ people in many places around the world is deteriorating.”
“What we need most is a secretary of state who takes human rights seriously,” she added.
Washington Blade Photo by Tom Hausman