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Trump's new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plays only hardball

20 March 2018

President Donald Trump's firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is the latest move in an audacious power play created to build a governing team in his own image and to purge restraints that have tempered his brazen, impulsive instincts. Chief among them seemed to be that Ol' Oilhound Rex wasn't sufficiently "America First".

Trump abruptly announced in a tweet on Tuesday that he had fired Tillerson and tapped Pompeo to replace him at the helm of the State Department.

At a time when US diplomatic efforts have been pummeled by staff and budget cuts, it's unclear whether the elevation of Pompeo - someone close to Trump, who had a reputation of working well within the Central Intelligence Agency, but who is known to be a hawk on foreign policy - will help reverse the hollowing out of USA diplomacy, or accelerate it.

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President Donald Trump fired Tillerson on Tuesday after a series of rifts over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran, publicly announcing the decision on Twitter just hours after the top USA diplomat returned early from a trip to Africa. It doesn't strike me that he's going to preside over a funeral, which is what we've got going on right now in the State Department. "I think he'll be well received by the world's leaders", said Pompeo. And, less than a week before Mr. Cohn, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks resigned after admitting to a Congressional panel investigating Russian influence on the 2016 election that she had occasionally told "white lies" on Mr. Trump's behalf.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaks during a press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, not seen, after their meeting, at Tahrir Palace, in Cairo, Egypt, February 12, 2018. Tillerson's last day at the State Department is March 31. The president mentioned differences over how to handle the Iran agreement, "so we were not really thinking the same".

Pompeo, known as a fierce critic of the Iran nuclear accord, has been appointed when Washington is only two months away from the next deadline for maintaining the JCPOA intact. "We look forward to her confirmation", spokesman Raj Shah told reporters. Pressuring North Korea with sanctions and other isolation measures had been a top Tillerson priority, and he had been one of the administration's more vocal advocates for holding talks in some form with the North.

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Haspel has taken heat for her oversight of interrogation that included waterboarding during the George W. Bush administration, and host Jake Tapper asked Clapper if that was a concern.

Trump's announcement came as no surprise to those who have been watching a revolving door of Trump cabinet members, or the signs of friction between Tillerson and the president.

The Trump administration has had more turnover than any previous administration over the same time period. He pointedly did not deny an NBC report last October that he had once called Trump a "moron".

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That had led to fear that Tillerson might be too willing to make concessions to North Korea, the sources said.

Trump's new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo plays only hardball