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    Donald Trump sacks Rex Tillerson hours after pledge of support for UK

    President Trump fired his secretary of state this morning, soon after Rex Tillerson had stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain and broken with the White House by denouncing Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, the former MI6 agent.
    Mr Trump said that Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA, will be his new secretary of state. Mr Pompeo is considered to be a Trump loyalist. It had been rumoured for months that he was set to replace Mr Tillerson, a former oil executive who had clashed with Mr Trump on a host of issues, including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nucler deal and how to contain North Korea.
    However, the timing of Mr Tillerson’s departure stunned Washington. It had been widely assumed that Mr Trump would be reluctant to lose another senior adviser after a recent surge of departures from the West Wing.
    Mr Tillerson had cut short a visit to Africa this week, with a state department official saying he was needed in Washington for “in-person meetings” on North Korea and Mr Trump’s plans to impose tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.
    In his first 14 months in office Mr Trump has also parted company with a national security adviser, his top economics adviser, four communications directors, a press secretary, a chief political strategist, a health secretary, a chief of staff, a White House staff secretary, an FBI director and an acting attorney-general.
    HR McMaster, his current national security adviser, is said to be considering his future. No other modern White House has recorded such a high staff turnover.
    Mr Tillerson, who had previously led the oil company ExxonMobil, had been known as one of the “grown-ups” in the Trump administration — alongside Jim Mattis, the defence secretary, and John Kelly, the White House chief of staff.
    Mr Trump said of Mr Pompeo, a former Kansas congressman, on Twitter: “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!”
    Ms Haspel was previously Mr Pompeo’s deputy. An intelligence officer since 1985, she was deputy director of clandestine services at the CIA during the Obama administration.
    She is said to be well respected by colleagues but attracted controversy for overseeing the use of torture under the second President Bush as part of terrorism investigations in a secret prison in Thailand.
    Last night Mr Tillerson split with the White House, which had declined to blame Russia for the nerve agent attack in Salisbury that left Mr Skripal and his daughter fighting for their lives.
    Mr Tillerson had said in a statement: “From Ukraine to Syria – and now the UK – 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.
    “We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences.”
    Hours earlier, during a press briefing, a White House spokeswoman had pointedly declined to blame Russia.
    Mr Pompeo, who must now face a Senate confirmation hearing, said in a statement: “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. 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.”

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