Rex Tillerson did not learn of his ouster until President Donald Trump tweeted about his replacement by Mike Pompeo Tuesday, according to a report in the New York Times.
He did, however, know a change might be afoot Friday, when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly reportedly told Tillerson over the phone, “You may get a tweet.”
Tillerson, who was on his tour of Africa at the time, got the message, cut the trip short, and returned to Washington. But he reportedly did not know exactly when his tenure would end until he saw this tweet Tuesday:
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
A senior White House official denied the “fired-by-tweet” narrative, apparently given to the press by Undersecretary of Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, and claimed Kelly’s Friday conversation marked Tillerson’s dismissal.
In any event, Tillerson had a brief phone call with the president Tuesday before scheduling his final address to the press and making plans for the transition. However the decision was relayed to Tillerson, it followed months of speculation about his departure, especially since October when he had been repeatedly pressed to deny reports he referred to the President as a “moron.” Trump cited “not really thinking the same” on some issues as his primary motivation for replacing him when he spoke to reporters Tuesday.
Axios paints the alleged unceremonious firing-by-tweet as an indication of Trump’s “increasing comfort with solo use of his awesome power over policy, personnel and politics.”
That theory may have picked up more evidence Wednesday when Goldstein, the man who promoted the “fired-by-tweet,” along with Tillerson’s Chief of staff Margaret Peterlin and Deputy Chief of Staff Christine Ciccone, all got the boot right behind their boss.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan is now in place as acting secretary. Pompeo, the former Republican congressman and until-now CIA director, will need confirmation by the Senate before he takes his post as America’s top diplomat.