Mar 13, 2018

The long road to Tillerson's ouster

Tillerson during a visit to London in January. Photo: Kate Green / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

This has been months in the making. Mike Allen and I were the first to report that President Trump was considering Mike Pompeo for the job, and that was back in October.

The bottom line: The relationship between Trump and Rex Tillerson was untenable. They clashed on just about every major policy issue — from the Iran deal to North Korea and Qatar. Tillerson even privately argued against Trump’s signature foreign policy decisions to withdraw from the Paris climate accords and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and to move the US embassy there. 

The back story: Trump fell out with Tillerson almost immediately. Tillerson clashed with the White House over personnel. He kept trying to appoint people who opposed Trump and his agenda and he repeatedly clashed with the White House head of personnel, Johnny DeStefano. Their clashes culminated in a heated meeting in which Tillerson rudely reamed out DeStefano.

The animus wasn’t confined to Tillerson. His chief of staff, Margaret Peterlin, managed to make more enemies across the administration than perhaps any senior official. And Tillerson’s spokesman Steve Goldstein did little to hide his disdain for Trump, in the view of White House officials.

The big picture: As one Republican senator pointed out to me, secretary of state is the role above all others in the cabinet, where there can’t be a hair’s breadth separating the secretary and the president. It’s more tenable, for example, to have a total breakdown in relations between the president and his attorney general.

Trump has no confidence in Jeff Sessions — and repeatedly makes that clear publicly — but, as this senator pointed out, it can be helpful to have some independence and separation between the president and his Justice Department. 

But when the secretary of state speaks, he is the voice of America and the president. Foreign leaders couldn’t trust that Tillerson was representing Trump’s point of view, because the president repeatedly contradicted and undercut him.

There’ll be no separation between Trump and Pompeo. The outgoing CIA director has a close daily relationship with the president, and no member of Trump’s cabinet more enjoys the president’s trust.

Go deeper

China reopens Wuhan after 10-week coronavirus lockdown

People wearing facemasks stand near Yangtze River in Wuhan. Photo: HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images

China has lifted its lockdown of Wuhan, the city in Hubei province where the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in December, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: As cases surged in January, China took the draconian step of sealing off the city of 11 million and shutting down its economy — a response that was viewed at the time as only possible in an authoritarian system, but which has since been adopted by governments around the world.

Go deeperArrow11 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 1,381,014— Total deaths: 78,269 — Total recoveries: 292,973Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 378,289 — Total deaths: 11,830 — Total recoveries: 20,003Map.
  3. Trump administration latest: Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill
  4. Federal government latest: Senate looks to increase coronavirus relief for small businesses this week — Testing capacity is still lagging far behind demand.
  5. States update: New York death toll surged to its highest one-day total as state predicts a plateau in hospitalizations.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The race to reopen America
  7. What should I do? Pets, moving and personal health. Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.

Trump removes watchdog overseeing rollout of $2 trillion coronavirus bill

Glenn Fine, acting Pentagon watchdog

President Trump on Monday replaced the Pentagon's acting Inspector General Glenn Fine, who had been selected to chair the panel overseeing the rollout of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed last month, Politico first reported.

Why it matters: A group of independent federal watchdogs selected Fine to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, but Fine's removal from his Pentagon job prevents him from being able to serve in that position — since the law only allows sitting inspectors general to fill the role.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy