The leadership of the U.S. State Department was already thin as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew back from an abbreviated trip to Africa on Monday night. Then came the bombshell: Tillerson was ousted, via a Twitter announcement by President Donald Trump.
Tillerson had spent his weekend in Africa fighting for his job after a middle-of-the-night White House call warning him that Trump was looking to shake-up his staff. But after returning to Washington at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, Tillerson didn’t think any decision was imminent. Then came the president’s tweet, which said CIA Director Mike Pompeo would be nominated as Tillerson’s replacement.
With his voicing cracking at a hastily arranged news conference, Tillerson praised his colleagues and urged senior staff to stay on through the transition. While he said he’d remain in his job through March 31, he said he was handing over all responsibilities to his deputy, #John Sullivan.
Sullivan won’t have a lot of company in the job. Eight of 10 top jobs at the State Department are now vacant, either because staff have left, been fired or the posts were never filled. Those vacant assignments include positions overseeing the agency’s role in U.S. trade policy, stopping the spread of nuclear weapons, refugee issues and efforts to counter human trafficking.