As the nation reels from the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, we’ve gotten a horrifying little bit of insight into how the firing went down. It appears that Tillerson found out he was out of a job when Trump tweeted out the news.
Trump’s tweet hit the web at 8:44 a.m., just as the first news reports about the firing were published.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. 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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2018
It didn’t take long for the reports to circulate that Tillerson found out about the firing via this very tweet, just like everyone else, with multiple outlets, including Fox News, NBC, and CNN reporting that tidbit based off a statement from a State Department official.
I am told Tillerson found out he was fired from Trump’s tweet.
This morning. Knew there was tension but was not going to quit and did not know he was fired
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 13, 2018
The Associated Press’s State Department reporter, Josh Lederman, who was on a plane returning from Africa with Tillerson, indicated no one on board knew this was coming.
We got off the plane with Tillerson less than four hours ago. There was zero indication on flight home that this was imminent.
— Josh Lederman (@joshledermanAP) March 13, 2018
Additionally, a later AP report said that Chief of Staff John Kelly simply told Tillerson that Trump might tweet about him, without specifying what that would entail.
Two senior department officials said Tillerson received a call from John Kelly, Trump’s chief of staff, on Friday, but was only told that there might be a presidential tweet that would concern him. Kelly didn’t tell Tillerson what the tweet might say or when it might actually publish, according to the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity.
But, as usual, when you factor in the White House’s version of events, the timeline gets a bit squiffy. CNN reported a White House source said that Tillerson had been asked to resign on Friday while on a State Department trip to Africa. Tillerson cut short the trip, returning to the U.S. to reportedly “deal with urgent work in Washington.”
Others have since suggested that Tillerson’s statement on the poisoning of a Russian diplomat that was more acute than anything the White House has said was because he already knew he was being fired.
As if to put a button on their side of the issue, a few hours after Tillerson’s firing, the White House fired Under Secretary of State Steve Goldstein, the Tillerson aide who said that Tillerson found out about his firing via Twitter.
BREAKING: Officials: White House fires top Tillerson aide who contradicted account of secretary of state’s dismissal.
— The Associated Press (@AP) March 13, 2018
Whatever the case — and lord knows if we’ll ever get any clarity — it’s worth remembering that when then-FBI Director James Comey was infamously fired, he learned about it by seeing the news on television and originally thought it was a prank.
As for Trump, after the tweet, he departed the White House for California but, briefly speaking to reporters, suggested that, hey, it’s all for the best and that Rex is gonna be fine!
It’s a brave new world, everyone, so if you ever work in Trump’s White House, keep your DMs open. You don’t want to miss anything.
UPDATE (11:40 a.m. ET): The story has been updated to include an Associated Press report regarding John Kelly’s call to Tillerson.
UPDATE (12:43 p.m. ET): The story has been updated to include the firing of Steve Goldstein after he contradicted White House report.