No heads up: GOP lawmakers blindsided by Tillerson news

No heads up: GOP lawmakers blindsided by Tillerson news


House Speaker Paul Ryan received a phone call telling him this was coming, a source said, but aides said other Hill Republicans were given no heads up.

“(We found out from) Twitter. And news alerts, just like everyone else, apparently,” one senior GOP aide who works on foreign policy said when he was asked how the Tillerson news reached the Hill.

In spite of being in the dark, several Republicans were quick to praise Pompeo, who is a former member of Congress, as well as Haspel. Sen. Tom Cotton was one of the first to praise President Donald Trump’s decision in a statement Tuesday.

“Mike Pompeo is an outstanding selection as our next Secretary of State … While it’s a loss for the CIA, Gina Haspel is also an excellent choice to become the new CIA director,” he said in a statement Tuesday. “I look forward to supporting them both during the confirmation process and working with them in the years to come.”

South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a defense hawk, also praised the Pompeo choice.

“I cannot think of a better choice for our new secretary of state than Mike Pompeo,” Graham said in a statement, adding later, “No one has a stronger relationship with President Trump than Mike Pompeo. This relationship will empower him throughout his tenure as secretary of state.”

Democrats meanwhile pointed to the staffing changes as a sign of an administration in chaos.

Sen. Chris Coons, a Delaware Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters he doesn’t understand why Trump would dismiss Tillerson when he has been the one pushing for diplomacy with North Korea within the Trump administration.

“That he chose to dismiss his secretary of state in a manner more reminiscent of an episode of ‘The Apprentice’ than the respect he’s due for his service — at the exact moment that diplomacy is essential to securing some path forward with North Korea — strikes me as just irresponsible,” Coons said.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said “Tillerson’s firing sets a profoundly disturbing precedent.”

“It is no wonder that the President has trouble attracting high-caliber people to his administration when he undercuts and humiliates those he supposedly respects,” the California Democrat said in a statement.

The comments came after news broke Tuesday morning that Trump fired Tillerson.

“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!” Trump tweeted.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told reporters that Trump asked Tillerson to step aside.

Trump “thought it was the right time for the transition with the upcoming North Korea talks and various trade negotiations,” a senior administration official said. “POTUS asked Tillerson to step aside on Friday.”

Tillerson did not speak to Trump and is unaware of the reason behind his firing, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Steve Goldstein said.

This story is breaking and will be updated.

CNN’s Dan Merica, Kaitlan Collins and Nicole Gaouette contributed to this report.


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