The United States has a new Secretary of State.
In a brief tweet in the morning of 13 March, US President Donald Trump announced a major switch in Cabinet personnel:
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
This is a very positive message to everyone involved, but it does note a huge and abrupt change in the Cabinet that the President hand-picked as he took office. Mike Pompeo, the Director of the CIA is now nominated to be the new Secretary of State.
Rex Tillerson, former CEO of ExxonMobil, was seen widely as the man who could really make alliances with Russian government leadership. However, as recently as yesterday, the alignment of thinking between the President and his top diplomat was bad, or non-existent. on Monday, Mr. Tillerson went on record blaming Russia for the assassination attempt on two Russian expatriates living in Great Britain, which was a position the White House itself specifically declined to state just hours before Mr Tillerson’s statement.
Fox News reported that Mr. Trump said that there were differences of opinion between he and Tillerson.
Right from the beginning, from day one, I’ve gotten along well with Mike Pompeo,” said Trump, adding he got along with Tillerson as well but they “disagreed on some things,” including the Iran nuclear deal.
“I think Rex will be much happier now, but I really appreciate his service.”
While it is not clear at this time what the nature of the staff change was, it is clear that President Trump is handling this transition with grace. The “thank you” note to Mr. Tillerson is certainly a classy move.
In a corollary announcement, since Mr. Pompeo left a very important post vacant, President Trump filled it by naming Gina Haspel as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gina was already serving in the Agency as Mr. Pompeo’s Deputy Director. This is a first, as it is the first time the Central Intelligence Agency has ever been directed by a woman. Pompeo presided over the CIA even as it was involved in the investigation into alleged interference by Russian operatives on the 2016 Presidential election. Mr. Pompeo is hand-picked by President Trump, and he is obviously highly regarded by the President.
Gina Haspel has served with the CIA since 1985,in the capacities of intelligence officer, and Deputy Director of the CIA. She has a distinguished award-winning, and even somewhat controversial career, and is the subject of controversy over waterboarding practices done against imprisoned al-Qaeda fighters in her charge in a secret detention facility in Thailand. Nevertheless, her reputation is one of strength, rather than political correctness, so she may well serve as an effective Intelligence director.