Trump will not publicly criticize Vladimir Putin, who influenced the 2016 election on his behalf. After Secretary of State Rex Tillerson publicly criticized Putin, Trump announced that Tillerson would be fired and replaced with a loyalist.
Trump announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be removed and replaced by a loyalist hours after Tillerson criticized Russia. Trump has refused to criticize Russia, and to enforce sanctions imposed against that nation.
Trump said CIA director Mike Pompeo "will become our new Secretary of State" in a Twitter post on Tuesday morning.
In an unusual statement, Tillerson said he "had every intention of staying" in his position and that he "did not speak to the President" and was unaware of why he was being purged.
Just hours before the announcement, Tillerson singled out Russia for international criticism.
NBC's Andrew Mitchell said the removal of Tillerson "came as a shock" to his top advisers, noting, "There was no hint at all to the people closest to him in the State Department that this was about to happen."
Tillerson has often been at odds with Trump and his nonsensical ranting. He has had to repeatedly proclaim that American policy and positioning was counter to what Trump publicly supported.
Tillerson said Russia was "an irresponsible force of instability in the world," echoing British outrage over a nerve agent attack that has been traced to Russia.
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia have been left sick after the attack. In a statement to Parliament, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Russia was responsible, and has demanded an explanation from Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson released a statement after May spoke. On behalf of the United States he said, "we are outraged that Russia appears to have again engaged in such behavior." Adding, "From Ukraine to Syria — and now the U.K. — Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens."
The statement was a noted departure from the soft touch Trump has given Russia.
After multiple U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 election on Trump's behalf, Trump has repeatedly insisted that the story is "fake news."
In fact, just hours before announcing Tillerson's removal, Trump tweeted in support of the partisan report from House Republicans claiming that Russia didn't interfere on his behalf.
After meeting one-on-one with Putin, Trump said the intelligence agency conclusions were in reality a "Democratic hit job," and that he believed Putin's purported assertion that he did not interfere.
Trump noted, "I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it."
After Congress overwhelmingly passed sanctions against Russia for interference, Trump has steadfastly refused to implement them.
Tillerson's proposed replacement, current CIA director Mike Pompeo, has been far more of a "yes" man to Trump. He has indulged Trump's conspiratorial thinking and repeatedly used his position to praise Trump.
Pompeo has even claimed that Trump understands intelligence briefings more than veteran spies.
Tillerson famously is alleged to have called Trump a "moron."
Now, after going further than Trump ever would in criticizing Russia, Tillerson is out of a job, and his replacement is another in a long line of Trump apologists and underlings who won't rock the boat.