Tillerson: Important to ensure smooth transition, U.S. must respond to Russia's behavior

WASHINGTON DC- MARCH 13 President Donald Trump holds a meeting with members of his cabinet including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defense James Mattis in the Cabinet Room of the White House

Tillerson's imminent departure had been rumoured for several months following reports of friction with US President Donald Trump.

"The secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues".

Hours later, Mr Goldstein was himself fired. Describing Tillerson's mood, Goldstein said: "He's accepting".

After firing Tillerson, Trump reportedly told the United Kingdom he supported the push to press Russian Federation for answers over the poisoning.

Tillerson had been seen as out-of-step with the president for months.

Pompeo forged a close relationship with Trump as a regular presence in his presidential daily briefing.

"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", he said. Trump frequently criticized the agreement as a candidate.

The president later said he and the former ExxonMobil CEO "were not really thinking the same", but that Pompeo had a "similar thought process".

Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea's leader and become the first sitting US president to do so.

"He represented a stable view with regard to the implementation of diplomacy in North Korea, Iran and other places in the world", said Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during most of Tillerson's tenure.

Weeks before the summit's announcement, Trump humiliated Tillerson by publicly rejecting his calls for the resumption of diplomatic talks between Washington and Pyongyang, without preconditions. The president frequently complained to his West Wing advisers about Tillerson, and Tillerson once reportedly called Trump a "moron" behind his back.

To succeed Pompeo, the U.S. president nominated Gina Haspel, a controversial career intelligence officer, to head the Central Intelligence Agency - the first woman tapped for the post. The 54-year-old former congressman from Kansas has grown close to Mr Trump by delivering the president's daily intelligence briefing nearly every day since taking office in January 2017.

The President announced in a tweet that he had nominated CIA Director Mike Pompeo to take up the role, saying the 54-year-old "will do a fantastic job".

The position, however, needs to be confirmed by the US Senate.

The pair also never developed a particularly warm relationship.

Tillerson's firing came barely four hours after he returned to Washington from a trip to Africa that he had cut short, telling reporters that he was exhausted after working most of the night two nights in a row and getting sick in Ethiopia. They elected Trump. With Tillerson gone and Pompeo at State, McMaster will now have an ally at State who shares his belief that for Trump's warnings to North Korea to be credible, he must have well-developed and credible military options on the table. Just the day before, a White House spokesman berated a reporter for suggesting there was any kind of split between Tillerson and the White House because of disparate comments on Russian responsibility for a poison attack in Britain.