US president Donald Trump has sacked Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state and will replace him with CIA director Mike Pompeo.
The US president asked Mr Tillerson to step aside after months of speculation that the pair had fallen out.
The move amounts to a major shakeup in Mr Trump’s national security team and comes despite denials in the past from the president that he wanted Mr Tillerson gone.
It triggered a war of words within the US government as the State Department accused the president of not talking to Mr Tillerson before the sacking.
Mr Trump cited the pair’s differences on the Iran nuclear deal, which the president wants to scrap, when asked about the reason for the change.
The announcement comes just hours after Mr Tillerson went substantially further than the White House in linking the UK spy poisoning to Russia.
CNN reported that Mr Tillerson first found out about the sacking from Mr Trump’s tweet. He had just returned from diplomatic trip to Africa.
Tensions between Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson came to a head when the latter refused to deny reports he called the president a “moron” last year.
The pair have also publicly spared over the approach to North Korea, with Mr Trump reprimanding Mr Tillerson in tweets for believing talks with the regime could end their nuclear programme.
Mr Tillerson, a former oil executive, will be replaced by Mr Pompeo, who as the head of the CIA is involved in the president’s daily intelligence briefinf – providing his appointment is confirmed by Congress.
There were US media reports that Mr Trump asked Mr Pompeo for advice about topics beyond intelligence before Christmas, when it was said the president was considering making the switch.
Mr Trump said in a statement to the Washington Post: “I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State.
“Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the U.S. Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School.
“He went on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle.”
He added: “I want to thank Rex Tillerson for his service. A great deal has been accomplished over the last fourteen months, and I wish him and his family well.”
Mr Trump later said on Tuesday that the pair “were not really thinking the same” on the Iran nuclear deal, which the president called “terrible”.
He said he got on with Mr Tillerson but added that they did not have “chemistry”. Mr Trump also praised the strength of his relationship with Mr Pompeo.
Born: 23 March 1952 (age 65)
From: Wichita Falls, Texas
Education: Bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas
Former occupation: Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil – the world’s largest publicly-traded energy company
Mr Tillerson joined Exxon Company, USA, in 1975 as a production engineer and worked his way up the ranks to become Chairman and CEO in 2006. In 2017 he severed all ties with ExxonMobil, in compliance with conflict-of-interest rules as Secretary of State.
Secretary of State
President-elect Donald Trump announced Tillerson as his choice for secretary of state in December 2016, saying he would be “a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests”. Tillerson’s experience in diplomacy stems from making deals with foreign countries, but questions were immediately raised about the oil executive’s relations with Russia. In 2018, US President Trump replaced Tillerson as Secretary of State.
- Mr Tillerson’s near-decade-long stint in the former Soviet Union saw him enormously build the company’s presence there and form deep relationships with Russian officials
- He is a personal friend of Russian president Vladimir Putin and Rosneft executive chairman Igor Sechin
- In 2013, Mr Tillerson received a Russian state honour, the Order of Friendship, for “strengthening cooperation in the energy sector”
- In March 2018, President Trump ousted Tillerson from the White House, replacing him with CIA director Mike Pompeo.