ACTION ALERT: Trump Fires Tillerson, Appoints Warhawk and Torture Chief to Head State Dept and CIA
March 14, 2018 Nancy Pelosi / US House of Representatives & Common Defense & The Washington Post & Matthew Rosenberg / The New York Times
There is something strange going on. Trump fires Tillerson for criticizing Russia at the same time House Republicans announce there was "no collusion" between Trump and Moscow. If we don't act quickly, our nation's new top diplomat will be Mike Pompeo, a war-hungry, torture-loving, diplomacy-hating demagogue. Meanwhile, Gina Haspel, the new CIA chief-designate has an arrest warrant out for her issued by a European human rights organization for her role overseeing CIA waterboarding.
Trump Fires Tillerson: End the GOP Cover-up
Hon. Nancy Pelosi / US House of Representatives
(March 13, 2018) -- Late one night, Republicans dropped their investigation into collusion between the Trump Administration and the Russians. The very next morning, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for speaking out against Russia.
First, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey during his investigation into Russian collusion. Now, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, apparently because he was outspoken against Russia.
What does Russia have against President Trump personally, professionally, or financially, that Trump refuses to hold them accountable for attacking our Democracy?
Clearly, there is something strange going on. Yet Speaker Paul Ryan and Republicans have abandoned their constitutional duty to get to the bottom of this -- abruptly dropping their investigation late last night.
The American people deserve to know what ties this Administration has with Russia.
(March 13, 2018) -- News just broke that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been fired -- days after accusing Russia of poisoning a UK spy. Trump's favorite replacement? >b>A torture advocate, climate-science denier, and vocal islamophobe Mike Pompeo.
We can't hesitate. If we don't act quickly, our nation's top diplomat will be no more than a war-hungry, torture-loving, diplomacy-hating demagogue. As military veterans who have served our nation we know full well the threat Pompeo poses. And we're ready to mobilize -- right now -- to halt his nomination in whatever way possible. But we can't do it alone.
If Pompeo is confirmed, then our problems are only beginning. Gina Haspel -- who also shares an unsettling record in torture and is the nominee to replace Pompeo as head of the CIA -- has an arrest warrant out for her issued by a European human rights organization, oversaw the brutal torture of two suspects in a secret prison in Thailand in 2002, and then carried out a mission to destroy the evidence.
As post-9/11 veterans, too many of us have seen the horrific effects of torture as policy. Given Trump's history of glorifying war crimes, we can't allow an advocate of human rights abuses to elevate to such positions of power.
There is simply too much at stake to let Trump's illegitimate regime further dismantle our diplomatic institutions. I know we can win this battle if we work together and take decisive action right away. This is what we're made for.
(March 13, 2018) -- President Trump said Tuesday he has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and plans to nominate CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him as the nation's top diplomat, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate outreach such as possible talks with North Korea.
As Tillerson traveled through Africa, White House chief of staff John F. Kelly called to wake him up in the wee hours there Saturday to alert him that he would soon be replaced and to return to Washington as soon as possible, White House officials said.
Tillerson cut his trip short Monday to fly home, and his spokesman said Tuesday that the secretary of state was "unaware of the reason" for his firing and had not spoken directly with Trump.
Officials at the State Department and throughout the national security community were flummoxed by the news.
Tension between Trump and Tillerson has simmered for many months, but the president and his top diplomat reached a breaking point over the past week, and media inquiries about the fraught relationship accelerated the timing of the ouster, White House officials said.
President Trump spoke March 13, after it was announced he ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and planned to tap CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him. (The Washington Post)
Trump told reporters Tuesday that he had been considering removing Tillerson for "a long time" because they disagreed over US strategy in key areas of foreign policy, such as the Iran nuclear deal, the approach to North Korea and the tone of US diplomacy.
"I actually got along well with Rex but really it was a different mind-set, a different thinking," Trump said as he departed the White House for a trip to California. "When you look at the Iran deal, I think it's terrible. I guess he thought it was OK . . . So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it's going to go very well."
Trump selected Gina Haspel -- the deputy director at the CIA -- to succeed Pompeo at the CIA. She would become the first woman to run the spy agency. Both Haspel and Pompeo would need to be confirmed by the Senate at a time when the closely divided chamber has stalled on confirming dozens of Trump nominees.
Haspel, in particular, could come under added scrutiny over her past role running one of the CIA "black site" prisons where detainees were subjected to waterboarding and other interrogation methods widely denounced as torture.
The announcement of Tillerson's departure sent shock waves across the globe. Many US diplomats and foreign leaders reacted with disbelief because they assumed Tillerson had finally begun to settle into his job after rumors of his ouster had swirled for months -- even taking on a nickname, Rexit.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not directly respond to an Oct. 4 news report that he referred to President Trump as a "moron." (The Washington Post)
In a statement first issued to The Washington Post, Trump praised both Pompeo and Haspel.
"I am proud to nominate the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, to be our new Secretary of State," Trump said. "Mike graduated first in his class at West Point, served with distinction in the US Army, and graduated with Honors from Harvard Law School. He went on to serve in the US House of Representatives with a proven record of working across the aisle."
The president continued: "Gina Haspel, the Deputy Director of the CIA, will be nominated to replace Director Pompeo and she will be the CIA's first-ever female director, a historic milestone. Mike and Gina have worked together for more than a year, and have developed a great mutual respect."
Trump also had words of praise for Tillerson despite their well-documented rifts: "Finally, 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."
A spokesman for Tillerson said the secretary of state has not spoken directly with Trump about the move.
"The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security and other areas," Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of public diplomacy for the State Department, said in a statement.
"He will miss his colleagues greatly at the Department of State, and the foreign ministers he's worked with throughout the world," Goldstein continued. "The secretary did not speak to the president, and is unaware of the reason. He is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and believes strongly that public service is a noble calling."
The president has long clashed with Tillerson, who he believes is "too establishment" in his thinking. Trump felt it was important to make the change now, as he prepares for possible high-stakes talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as upcoming trade negotiations, three White House officials said.
"I am deeply grateful to President Trump for permitting me to serve as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and for this opportunity to serve as Secretary of State," Pompeo said in a statement. "His leadership has made America safer and I look forward to representing him and the American people to the rest of the world to further America's prosperity. Serving alongside the great men and women of the CIA, the most dedicated and talented public servants I have encountered, has been one of the great honors of my life."
Haspel said in a statement that she was excited about her promotion: "After 30 years as an officer of the Central Intelligence Agency, it has been my honor to serve as its Deputy Director alongside Mike Pompeo for the past year . . . . I am grateful to President Trump for the opportunity -- and humbled by his confidence in me -- to be nominated to be the next Director of the Central Intelligence Agency."
On the flight back from Nigeria, Tillerson appeared to break with the White House in his assessment of the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. He singled out Russia as responsible for the attack, echoing the finger-pointing of the British government.
"It came from Russia," Tillerson said, according to the Associated Press. "I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action. But this is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely."
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders condemned the attack as "reckless, indiscriminate and irresponsible," and expressed solidarity with Britain, but would not say whether the United States believes Russia was behind it.
Tillerson was especially frustrated when Trump last Thursday unilaterally agreed to the meeting with the North Korean leader Kim while Tillerson was traveling in Africa, according to officials familiar with his thinking.
Tillerson had long expressed interest in a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea, and was upset to have been left totally out of the loop when Trump decided to move forward, according to a White House official.
Foggy Bottom was also acutely aware -- and chagrined -- that Pompeo did not cite Tillerson when he appeared on television shows Sunday to explain the North Korea developments.
Pompeo long has been mentioned as Tillerson's most likely replacement. As CIA director, the former Republican lawmaker from Kansas developed a warm relationship with Trump, often delivering the President's Daily Brief to Trump in person and racing over to the West Wing at a moment's notice to field the president's queries on a range of topics.
Pompeo often is found in a host of meetings that do not necessarily deeply involve his agency, simply because Trump likes him, said one White House official. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) was initially mentioned as a replacement for Pompeo, but Trump opted to promote from within by elevating Haspel.
Speculation about his ouster has come in waves, including in October after NBC News reported that Tillerson had called Trump a "moron."
Tillerson, 65, spent his career at ExxonMobil, climbing the ranks at the oil giant to become chief executive officer, where he cut deals across the Middle East and in Mexico. Having never worked in government before being named secretary of state, he struggled to adapt to Washington's ways and the administration's culture of backstabbing.
Tillerson emerged as one of the strongest voices in the administration critical of Russia. For months, he has been saying Russia clearly meddled in the 2016 US election, even as Trump shied away from any critical remarks.
Trump seemed to resent pressure to stay the course on such issues as China's trade practices, the war in Afghanistan and the Iran nuclear deal, those people said.
Tillerson pushed Trump to preserve the Iran accord, at least for now, with a July pronouncement that Iran was meeting its end of the bargain -- which curbs Iran's nuclear program in exchange for lifting international sanctions.
Trump said in a Wall Street Journal interview that he regretted making that determination. In October, Trump kept in place the sanctions waivers, but warned he may not continue the policy when the next review is due next month.
Although Tillerson supported the approach to the war in Afghanistan that Trump announced last year, he felt no need to frame US goals in the same maximal terms as the commander in chief. Where Trump proclaimed on Aug. 21 that "our troops will fight to win," Tillerson laid out a much more modest agenda.
Josh Dawsey, John Hudson, Carol D. Leonnig, Carol Morello and Brian Murphy contributed to this report. Gina Haspel, CIA Deputy Director,
Had A Leading Role in Torture Matthew Rosenberg / The New York Times
WASHINGTON (March 13, 2018) -- President Trump announced that he had ousted Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson and intended to replace him with Mike Pompeo, now the CIA director. Mr. Trump also named Gina Haspel as his choice to become the next CIA director.
As a clandestine officer at the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002, Gina Haspel oversaw the torture of two terrorism suspects and later took part in an order to destroy videotapes documenting their brutal interrogations at a secret prison in Thailand.
The elevation of Ms. Haspel, a veteran widely respected among her colleagues, to the No. 2 job at the CIA was a rare public signal of how, under the Trump administration, the agency is being led by officials who appear to take a far kinder view of one of its darker chapters than their immediate predecessors.
Over the past eight years, CIA leaders defended dozens of agency personnel who had taken part in the now-banned torture program, even as they vowed never to resume the same harsh interrogation methods. But President Trump has said repeatedly that he thinks torture works.
And the new CIA chief, Mike Pompeo, has said that waterboarding and other techniques do not even constitute torture, and praised as "patriots" those who used such methods in the early days of the fight against Al Qaeda.
Ms. Haspel, who has spent most of her career undercover, would certainly fall within Mr. Pompeo's description. She played a direct role in the CIA's "extraordinary rendition program," under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.
The CIA's first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Ms. Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.
The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the CIA station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at CIA headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.
The agency maintains that the decision to destroy the recordings was made by Ms. Haspel's boss at the time, Jose Rodriguez, who was the head of the CIA's clandestine service.
But years later, when the CIA wanted to name Ms. Haspel to run clandestine operations, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, then the senior Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, blocked the promotion over Ms. Haspel's role in the interrogation program and the destruction of the tapes.
Mr. Pompeo "must explain to the American people how his promotion of someone allegedly involved in running a torture site squares with his own sworn promises to Congress that he will reject all forms of torture and abuse," said Christopher Anders, the deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union's office in Washington.
The conflicting views of Ms. Haspel were clear in the reactions to her promotion on Thursday from members of Congress. Democrats expressed concern about how she would approach the issue of torture, while Republicans were fulsome in their praise.
Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said Ms. Haspel had "impressed us with her dedication, forthrightness, and her deep commitment to the intelligence community."
Within the CIA, Ms. Haspel is similarly respected, and the agency's announcement about her promotion came with a long list of testimonials from retired officials, much as prominent authors write blurbs for the back of other writers' books.
The list notably included prominent Obama administration officials, such as James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence ("very pleased"), and Michael J. Morell, who twice served as the CIA's acting director ("I applaud the appointment").
The praise for Ms. Haspel, despite her role in torturing detainees, reflects the agency's ambivalent attitude toward those who participated in the interrogation program. The Bush administration declared the methods legal, and the view within the CIA was that those who used the techniques were doing their jobs.
At the same time, many at the agency have little eagerness to see torture return. Where Ms. Haspel falls on the issue is not clear -- as an undercover CIA official, she was not offering public opinions on government policy -- and neither she nor Mr. Pompeo could order agency personnel to resume the practice, because it is now against the law.
Mr. Pompeo's decision to elevate Ms. Haspel is also likely to be seen by the CIA's rank-and-file as a vote of confidence in their work from their new director, despite Mr. Trump's dismissal of the intelligence community throughout his campaign and in the months between his election and inauguration.
The open disdain with which Mr. Trump mocked the CIA, especially after intelligence agencies said they believed that Russia had tried to swing the election in his favor, had raised concerns at the agency of a repeat of the unhappy tenure of a former director, Porter J. Goss.
Mr. Goss took over the CIA in 2004, when the agency was widely viewed as being at odds with the Bush administration over the Iraq war, and his marching orders were to end what the White House viewed as a campaign of leaks by insiders who opposed administration policies. He lasted only 13 months after his attempt to crack down on leaks drove many veterans out of the CIA
Correction: Gina Haspel is not the first woman to serve in that position, as Representative Devin Nunes of California said. Avril Haines was the first.
Avril Haines: The First Female Director of the CIA
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.