The tweet came shortly after Rex Tillerson returned from his debut trip to Africa, on March 13, 2018: “Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State,” President Donald Trump wrote. “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!”
Tillerson was the first Cabinet official ever to be fired on social media; Trump only got around to calling him some three hours later. The sequence appeared to be a calculated snub: Trump had come to dislike Tillerson, who’d called him a “moron.” John Kelly, then the president’s chief of staff, later made a point of noting that Tillerson had been on the toilet when Kelly had phoned him in advance of Trump’s tweet to tell him that his dismissal was likely imminent.
No modern president has treated diplomacy, its institutions, and the people who run them with less care than Trump.
Tillerson’s dismissal brought to an end a tumultuous 14-month tenure, during which he was mostly loyal to Trump, moron or not. Tillerson oversaw depletion in the ranks of the State Department’s Foreign Service officers, imposed a hiring freeze, and supported a White House proposal to cut the department’s budget by about 30 percent. Worldwide, foreign diplomats struggled to find U.S. counterparts to discuss or coordinate policy. As of this writing, ambassadorial posts remain vacant in Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Turkey, and other countries.