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Trump Is Replacing Tillerson with Pompeo

Rex Tillerson’s long-expected departure [1] from the Trump administration is finally happening:

Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of State, ending a tumultuous tenure as America’s top diplomat that was marked by a series of public disagreements with his boss — President Donald Trump.

Trump plans to appoint CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace the former Exxon Mobil chief executive, he said Tuesday. The president picked deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to run the spy agency. She would become the first woman to do so.

Tillerson’s exit has been anticipated for so long that no one can be surprised that he has been replaced. The only really surprising thing about this development is that it has taken as long as it did. His replacement by Pompeo was being floated [2] months ago, and his relationship with the president was bad enough that it always seemed a question of when and not whether he would be replaced. Very few will actually miss Tillerson. He was not well-prepared for the position, and he made a hash of things very early on. He will be remembered as the least effective, least respected Secretary of State in decades, but no one should pretend that his departure fixes anything, either.

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As bad as Tillerson was at his job, Pompeo will not be an improvement over Tillerson. Instead of a Secretary of State who occasionally, albeit ineffectively, opposed Trump’s worst, most impulsive moves, we will now have one who has the president’s full confidence and who will encourage him to be more aggressive. Pompeo may or may not prove to be a better manager of the department than Tillerson, but so much damage has been done during the latter’s brief stint that it may not matter in the near term. Tillerson’s reputation at State is bad enough that almost anyone taking over from him would be welcomed, but like Tillerson Pompeo has virtually none of the relevant experience for the job he is about to do. Despite that, Pompeo will probably have a fairly routine confirmation process, and I expect that he will be confirmed sooner rather than later.

On policy, Pompeo is much more of a hard-liner than Tillerson, and especially on Iran we should expect the administration to become more confrontational. Trump is replacing someone who wasn’t very good at diplomacy with someone who doesn’t want the U.S. to engage in it. Pompeo has been a vocal opponent of the nuclear deal from the beginning. We should assume that he will tell the president to scrap it, and since that is what Trump already wants to do we should expect that the U.S. will renege on its commitments later this year.

Pompeo’s replacement at the CIA is also not an improvement. During the Bush era, she had a role [3] in torturing detainees [4]:

As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.

The Trump administration is becoming visibly more hawkish with these changes, and that bodes ill for the coming year.

P.S. In a final indignity for Tillerson, he reportedly learned of his dismissal only after the president tweeted about it this morning:

14 Comments (Open | Close)

14 Comments To "Trump Is Replacing Tillerson with Pompeo"

#1 Comment By SteveM On March 13, 2018 @ 10:57 am

Pompeo moves to State to complete the extermination of authentic and measured U.S. diplomacy. Replaced by a Black Site aficionado at CIA.

Let the subversive Regime Change Games begin!

#2 Comment By cjayneb On March 13, 2018 @ 11:03 am

I agree that Tillerson has not done a good job at State. But the way he found out he had been sacked — just another example of Oval Office occupier’s complete lack of character and class.

#3 Comment By Youknowho On March 13, 2018 @ 11:35 am

“It can’t get any worse” you say.

“Challenge accepted” Trump

#4 Comment By b. On March 13, 2018 @ 11:52 am

“In a final indignity for Tillerson, he reportedly learned of his dismissal only after the president tweeted about it …”

Tillerson, Mattis et.al. – just like Powell with Bush, or Holder with Obama – became damaged goods the moment they decided to discuss and accept a position in the respective administration. It would be appropriate to spit on their shadows.

Bush, Obama and Trump carry personal and administrative responsibility for war crimes on a staggering scale. Any political appointee who voluntarily associated themselves with their administrations is not fit for office in a society based on the rule of law.

#5 Comment By Joe F On March 13, 2018 @ 12:01 pm

With Tillerson’s many sins, it was ultimately a sharp rebuke to Russia over the egregious assassination attempt that would result in his termination within hours. I am seriously concerned that Putin really does have Trump in his pocket. The brazen attempt in the UK demonstrates that Putin has no fear about acting out because he knows the US won’t lead the push back. I’m also convinced the whole tariff issue was of Putin design to increase the fissures amongst Western allies. I am usually loathe to engage in wild conspiracy theories, but I am genuinely concerned that Trump is an active/passive agent of Russia. Think about how scary that might be and all of the evidence to support it

#6 Comment By Colin Chattan On March 13, 2018 @ 12:25 pm

Eat your heart out, Queen of Hearts! (i.e. from “Alice in Wonderland”)

#7 Comment By Grover of the Potomac On March 13, 2018 @ 12:36 pm

“Despite that, Pompeo will probably have a fairly routine confirmation process, and I expect that he will be confirmed sooner rather than later.”

And Haspel the lady torturer is now set to take over CIA. As of this writing her wiki entry is pretty damn thin (doesn’t say where she was born or went to school), which leads one to suspect she may have even bigger problems than “merely” having tortured prisoners.

#8 Comment By Alex Ingrum On March 13, 2018 @ 1:22 pm

Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State just greatly increased our chances of military conflict with Iran. He is a xenophobic anti-Muslim ideologue who sees Islam at war with Christianity.

Of course, the Israel-supporting Democrats would be fine with this, as they have it out for Iran as much as Trump and the hawkish Republicans do. I’m sure he will be easily confirmed by both parties.

More than the complicity with Russian electoral interference, a potential conflict with Iran is the real foreign policy threat of this new appointment.

#9 Comment By Kurt Gayle On March 13, 2018 @ 1:50 pm

Appointing Gina Haspel to head the CIA sends a terrible message:

[7]

#10 Comment By Farm Animal On March 13, 2018 @ 2:55 pm

Re Haspel — that torturers are repulsive goes without saying, but there’s something particularly revolting about a woman CIA officer who likes to torture people, which in the CIA context implies that she tortured people not to get information, but to get ahead, to show that she’s the equal of or superior to a man in sadism or cruelty.

I want to see more biography than what’s come out so far. That there’s so little about a high-ranking, publicly ID’d officer strongly suggests concealment. Especially given that her torture practices are already known.

#11 Comment By Michelle On March 13, 2018 @ 4:54 pm

So, now that Trump has nominated a bona-fide superhawk to head our diplomatic efforts at State, I’m sure all of his supporters who claimed he’d be far less hawkish than Hillary will eat their words.

Yeah, right.

Pretty sure we’ll be at war with Iran before the midterms and that those of us who don’t support the war will be deemed traitors by the Trumpets. Ah, fun times ahead.

And yes, it’s ironic that Trump, who didn’t have the cohones to fire Tillerson in person, like any decent person would do, will be leading the charge to war.

#12 Comment By Bunk McNulty On March 13, 2018 @ 5:11 pm

Michelle says: “So, now that Trump has nominated a bona-fide superhawk to head our diplomatic efforts at State, I’m sure all of his supporters who claimed he’d be far less hawkish than Hillary will eat their words.”

Anyone who voted for Trump will believe anything. The real problem during 2016 were the Bernie bros who believed that Trump was a dove.

#13 Comment By PatrickBL On March 13, 2018 @ 5:41 pm

@Alex Ingrum

Unfortunately, that means us peace-seeking progressives will be left out in the cold. And there’s a lot of us. I wish our Democratic representatives reflected that. Iran is no more our enemy, or our friend, than Saudi Arabia is. Frankly, they’re probably more similar in principles to us than the Saudis are…

#14 Comment By She Likes To Watch On March 15, 2018 @ 4:38 am

@Farm Animal “I want to see more biography than what’s come out so far. That there’s so little about a high-ranking, publicly ID’d officer strongly suggests concealment. “

I just checked her Wiki entry. There’s hardly anything there. No “early life”. No education even. How in God’s name can the public vet this woman without the basic facts any job-seeker would have to supply to prospective employer? Especially a woman known primarily for her predilection for torturing prisoners?