Even though tensions had been mounting between President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for months, a new report indicates the president abruptly fired Tillerson because he went "rogue" and tried to save the Iran nuclear deal.
President Trump has repeatedly insisted that the nuclear deal with Iran must be fixed or abandoned by the U.S.
The reason for Tillerson's firing was revealed by the Washington Free Beacon in a report that cited "multiple sources with knowledge of the situation." The Free Beacon stated:
In the weeks leading up to Tillerson's departure, he had been spearheading efforts to convince European allies to agree to a range of fixes to the nuclear deal that would address Iran's ongoing ballistic missile program and continued nuclear research.
While Trump had prescribed a range of fixes that he viewed as tightening the deal's flaws, Tillerson recently caved to European pressure to walk back these demands and appease Tehran while preserving the deal, according to these sources. ...
White House allies warned Tillerson's senior staff for weeks that efforts to save the nuclear deal and balk on Trump's key demands regarding the deal could cost Tillerson his job, a warning that became reality Tuesday when Trump fired Tillerson by tweet.
CIA Director Mike Pompeo will replace Tillerson. Pompeo served in Congress and has a history of drawing a hard line on Iran. He is expected to advocate many of the solutions proposed by Trump such as banning Iran's ballistic missile program and pushing for strict penalties if Iran breaches the agreement.
Rumors have indicated for months that Tillerson could be forced to resign. But multiple sources told the Free Beacon that the former secretary of state repeatedly tried to push his own diplomatic agenda, especially on Iran, and the Trump administration simply had enough.
The White House reportedly told Tillerson Friday that the change was coming.
On Tuesday morning, President Trump told reporters that he made the decision to oust Tillerson "by myself." Trump also expressed his concerns about the nuclear deal with Iran, saying he has felt it may be time to end it.
"Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time," Trump said. "We got along, actually, quite well. But we disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I think it's terrible. I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it's going to go very well. Rex is a very good man. I like Rex a lot. I really appreciate his commitment and his service. And I'll be speaking to Rex over a long period of time."
Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., told the newspaper he believes Pompeo will work harder to pursue Trump's agenda on Iran.
"President Trump has been clear that the Iran deal is terrible policy and has sought ways to hold Iran accountable," DeSantis said. "With Mike Pompeo, Trump will have a secretary of state who sees the threat posed by the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and by Tehran in a similar light as he does."
A veteran Iran policy expert told the Free Beacon that Tillerson was out to salvage the Iran deal just as President Trump was pushing to end it.
"Tillerson staked his position on saving the Iran deal by threading the needle. He promised the president he could strengthen it enough to be good, but not so much the Europeans would backlash or the Iranians would bolt," the source explained. "That was always going to be tricky, then it became impossible, then it became embarrassing. The Europeans weren't giving us enough on missiles and were refusing to budge on sunsets. And so here we are."
Many critics of President Obama nuclear deal with Iran support Trump's decision to fire Tillerson.
"As the deadline approaches to fix the Iran deal, Tillerson's departure is welcome news," one senior congressional official who works on the Iran issue told the Free Beacon. "We need our top diplomat to share the president's view on the disastrous nature of the JCPOA, and CIA Director Pompeo is the right man for the job. Hopefully now our European partners understand the president's resolve and will work with us to permanently prevent Iran from going nuclear."
Meanwhile, Tillerson's spokesman claimed the former secretary of state wasn't even sure of why he was fired.
"The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason," said Steve Goldstein, undersecretary for public diplomacy.
But shortly after his statement, Goldstein was also fired.