The Latest: Trump fires Secretary of State Tillerson

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (all times local):

7:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump has fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson— via Twitter — and picked CIA Director Mike Pompeo to shift from America’s spy chief to its top diplomat.

The abrupt announcement ends the turbulent tenure of the man who reportedly called the president a “moron” but wanted to stay, and deepens the disarray in the Trump administration.

The firing is just the latest in an exodus of administration officials, including those in Trump’s inner circle, with the president already setting records for staff turnover and several other Cabinet secretaries facing ethics investigations.

Trump is rejecting talk of chaos in his administration, declaring, “I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.”


3:15 p.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says President Trump’s dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the latest example of White House chaos that is causing “huge problems” at home and abroad.

The New York Democrat says he’s never seen a presidential administration “so disorganized, at war with one another.”

Schumer told reporters he was disappointed in Tillerson and didn’t think he was tough enough on Russia.

But he says, “what President Trump did, and the way he did it, once again indicates the chaos in this administration.”

It’s creating “huge problems in the world and here in America.”

Senate Republicans want to quickly confirm Trump’s pick of Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, to replace Tillerson. But Schumer said Democrats want to know if Pompeo will be tougher on Russia.


3 p.m.

The relationship between President Donald Trump and outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has always been strained.

Last November, Trump and his senior staff settled into a small private room in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing during a break amid a full day of meetings with Chinese officials.

Their hosts then presented them with lunch: several plates of wilted Caesar salad.

None of the Americans moved to eat the unappetizing looking food. Trump, in the midst of a five-day Asia tour, looked over at the food, picked at some of the dreary lettuce and grew concerned that no one was eating it.

“Rex,” the president said. “Eat the salad.”

Tillerson declined, despite Trump’s urging. The secretary of state then said he would prefer a cheeseburger.

—By Jonathan Lemire


2:45 p.m.

Departing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says his department “exceeded the expectations of almost everyone” on North Korea.

President Donald Trump, who fired Tillerson a few hours earlier, was claiming credit for agreeing to a meeting with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. But Tillerson suggested his own diplomatic work helped pave the way for that. He said on his watch, the U.S. won partners in an effort to use sanctions to force North Korea to scale back its nuclear program.

He said there was more to be done with regard to stabilizing Iraq, defeating Islamic militants, dealing with Russia and forging a way forward with China.

Tillerson added that “nothing is possible without allies and partners.”

Trump fired Tillerson via tweet Tuesday morning, saying his replacement would be CIA Director Mike Pompeo.


2:16 p.m.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he is delegating his responsibilities at the end of the workday Tuesday to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

Speaking to reporters hours after being unceremoniously fired by President Donald Trump in a tweet, Tillerson says he will be formally stepping down from his post at the end of the month.

Tillerson is calling for an orderly transition to Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whom Trump has designated as Tillerson’s successor pending confirmation by the Senate. He encouraged State Department employees to remain focused on their jobs.


1 p.m.

Now that Rex Tillerson and a key aide are out at the State Department, there are vacancies at the top of the department.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday fired Tillerson, and the White House sacked a top aide, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein. Goldstein had contradicted the official account of how Tillerson was notified of his termination.

The remaining top echelon of officials now consists of Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and the department’s No. 3, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Tom Shannon, who in January announced he would retire as soon as his successor is chosen.

Goldstein had been in his position for only three months and had angered the White House with previous comments about Trump. On Tuesday, he issued a statement in his name saying that Tillerson had not spoken with Trump and was “unaware of the reason” for his dismissal. He also told reporters that Tillerson had learned of Trump’s decision with the president’s tweet.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert is expected to replace Goldstein at least temporarily, according to officials.


12:20 p.m.

Two U.S. officials say the White House has fired one of Rex Tillerson’s top aides after he contradicted the official account of the secretary of state’s dismissal by President Donald Trump.

The officials said Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, was informed of the move shortly after he released a statement in his name saying that Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his termination. Goldstein had also told reporters that Tillerson learned of his firing Tuesday morning from Trump’s tweet announcing he was nominating CIA chief Mike Pompeo to lead the State Department.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about personnel moves. Goldstein could not immediately be reached for comment.

— Contributed by AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee


11:55 a.m.

German officials have expressed concern at the departure of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Michael Roth, a deputy foreign minister, posted Tuesday on Twitter: “The firing of Rex Tillerson won’t make things better...”

Center-left lawmaker Thomas Oppermann described Tillerson as “a reliable, intelligent interlocutor” whose departure would be a “further setback for German-American relations.”

Oppermann, who is deputy speaker of Parliament, said Trump’s decision showed the U.S. president was “capricious and erratic.”


10:35 a.m.

Sen. Bob Corker, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, says President Donald Trump’s decision to fire his chief diplomat caught him by surprise.

The Tennessee Republican, who has been Rex Tillerson’s most vocal supporter on Capitol Hill, acknowledged “there’s been tensions” between Tillerson and Trump.

But he says, it had seemed “that they had learned to work together a little bit better.” Corker said he didn’t know what precipitated the firing.

Trump announced Tuesday he is replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Corker says he doesn’t know a great deal about Pompeo.

In early October, Corker had said that Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, are “those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

On Tuesday, Corker said, “I have a lot of faith in Tillerson’s judgment. I’ve shared that with the president many times.”


10:10 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he hopes CIA Director Mike Pompeo will “turn over a new leaf” as secretary of state and toughen policies toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

Pompeo is President Donald Trump’s pick to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Schumer says with the firing of Tillerson, “instability of this administration in just about every area weakens America.”

Pompeo would need to be confirmed by the Senate. But Republicans have just a slim 51-seat majority, and confirmation is not certain.

Schumer says, “If he’s confirmed, we hope that Mr. Pompeo will turn over a new leaf and will start toughening up our policies towards Russia and Putin.”


10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he and ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “disagreed on things.”

Trump cites their divergent opinions on the Iran nuclear deal. Iran agreed before Trump took office to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions. The president regularly criticizes the agreement as a bad deal and has repeatedly threatened to end it.

Trump spoke Tuesday of his desire to break the deal, but notes that Tillerson “felt a little bit differently, so we were not really thinking the same.”

Trump announced Tuesday that he has fired Tillerson and is replacing him with Mike Pompeo, currently the CIA director.

Trump says he and Pompeo have a “very, very similar thought process.”


9:55 a.m.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is hailing Mike Pompeo as a “great decision” for next secretary of state.

Haley, who had her own contentious relationship with ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, congratulated Pompeo in a tweet and called him her “friend.”

She wrote: “Great decision by the President.”

Over months of speculation about Tillerson’s future, Haley had been rumored as one possible successor.


9:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump is telling reporters that he made the decision to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “by myself.”

The president is adding that Tillerson will be “much happier now,” and he appreciates his service. Trump says he and Tillerson had been “talking about this for a long time,” and they had disagreed on issues like the Iran deal.

Trump is praising the energy and intellect of his incoming Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who has led the CIA.

The president spoke to reporters at the White House shortly before departing for Joint Base Andrews for his trip to California.


9:20 a.m.

A top State Department official says President Donald Trump never explained to ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the reason why he was fired.

The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, Steve Goldstein, says Tillerson “had every intention of staying” in the job because he felt he was making critical progress in national security.

Two White House officials said Tillerson was told he was out on Friday. The sources weren’t authorized to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

But Goldstein says Tillerson “did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason.”

Goldstein says Tillerson will miss his colleagues at the State Department and the foreign ministers he worked with.

Trump named Mike Pompeo, who had been CIA director, as his new secretary.

Goldstein said, “We wish Secretary Pompeo well.”

--Contributed by AP writers Zeke Miller, Matthew Lee and Ken Thomas


9 a.m.

Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of state. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that he’s naming CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson.

Pompeo is to be replaced at CIA by Gina Haspel, Pompeo’s deputy at CIA. She would be the first woman in that role.

Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Trump’s announcement. Trump offered no explanation for the change.