Rex Tillerson Out As Secretary Of State; Trump Nominating CIA Chief Mike Pompeo Trump tweeted that CIA Director Mike Pompeo will take over for Rex Tillerson, who has had a strained relationship with the president. Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein was also fired.

Trump Replacing Secretary Of State Tillerson With CIA Director Mike Pompeo

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today began with a bang - or rather, a tweet. President Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Trump later explained that it was because of a lack of chemistry and disagreements on policy. Trump plans to nominate current CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it's going to go very well. Rex is a very good man. I like Rex a lot. I really appreciate his commitment to this service.

SHAPIRO: In an administration that has already seen many departures, Tillerson had long been rumored to be on his way out, yet today's announcement was still abrupt. We'll hear more about Tillerson's likely successor, Mike Pompeo, in a few minutes. First, NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joins us from the White House. Hi, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Let's start with how this all went down. The tweet came at 8:44 Eastern Time from @realDonaldTrump. What's led up to that?

KEITH: Well, there's something of a mixed description of how it all went down. The White House casts it one way. A senior State Department official casts it another way, though their accounts are not mutually exclusive. Let me try to explain. A White House official tells me that Chief of Staff John Kelly called Tillerson on Friday and told him that he was being asked to be - being asked to step down, that he would be replaced. There was a follow-up call on Saturday.

But State Department Under Secretary Steve Goldstein said in a statement this morning that Tillerson had no intention of leaving, hadn't spoken to the president and didn't know why he was being dismissed. So in other words, Goldstein was implying that Tillerson wasn't going to jump, he was going to have to be pushed and as a result was fired by tweet. We now know that Trump and Tillerson did ultimately talk, but that didn't happen until around noon today. Also Goldstein has also now been fired.

SHAPIRO: Yes. Now, we've reported on a lot of the conflicts over this past year-plus between Trump and Tillerson. Remind us of the history there.

KEITH: Yeah. So they were often at opposite ends on various issues, including the Paris climate accord - President Trump wanted to pull out - the Iran nuclear deal - President Trump wants to break it apart, Rex Tillerson wanted to stay in - on negotiating with North Korea - they never seemed to have their message straight and were in different places - on the timeline for moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and even on how to talk to Boy Scouts. After President Trump attended a Boy Scout jamboree and said some wild political things, Tillerson reportedly described him as an expletive moron...

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

KEITH: ...And then never really denied it after reports came out that he had said that.

SHAPIRO: You've reported on the record levels of turnover in the Trump administration, and Tillerson is the highest level figure to depart. Put this into context for us. How does it compare with other presidencies?

KEITH: You know, in recent history, most secretaries of state have served a nearly full term with the president. Tiller's tenure is the shortest. He's followed by Alexander Haig in the Reagan administration who lasted about a hundred days longer. Looking at data going back to President Carter, no president has had this many Cabinet vacancies to fill so soon. Just as a reminder, Trump has had three health and human services secretary. Tom Price was forced to resign. John Kelly moved from Homeland Security secretary to chief of staff when Reince Priebus was fired. And now there's Tillerson. And today, President Trump indicated he may not be done.

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TRUMP: I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want.

SHAPIRO: OK, in the last moment, Tam, a wild card - the president's body man also left. His name was John McEntee. Who is this, and why is his departure significant?

KEITH: Yeah, and that's sort of the equivalent of a personal assistant who is always by the president's side. The White House won't say why he is gone. The campaign says they've hired him. But there are a lot of reports that he had trouble obtaining a permanent security clearance. And he is not the only one with security clearance problems in this White House. And Congress is investigating. They say that so far, the White House response to their questions about these issues has been inadequate.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Tamara Keith, thank you.

KEITH: You're welcome.

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