President Donald Trump discussed the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the move of CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson and his pick for CIA Director, Gina Haspel, just before boarding Marine One ahead of his trip to California.
“I’ve worked with Mike Pompeo now for quite some time. Tremendous energy, tremendous intellect, we’re always on the same wavelength. The relationship has been very good and that’s what I need as secretary of state. I wish Rex Tillerson well.
“Gina, by the way, who I know very well, who I’ve worked very closely, will be the first woman director of the CIA. She’s an outstanding person who also I have gotten to know very well. So I’ve gotten to know a lot of people very well over the last year and I’m really at a point where we’re getting very close to having the cabinet and other things that I want.
“But I think Mike Pompeo will be a truly great secretary of state. I have total confidence in him. And as far as Rex Tillerson is concerned, I very much appreciate his commitment and his service and I wish him well. He’s a good man.”
In response to the first shouted question, Trump replied: “Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time. We got along, actually, quite well but we disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal; I think it’s terrible, I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently.
“So we were not really thinking the same. With Mike, Mike Pompeo, we have a very similar thought process. I think it’s going to go very well. Rex is a very good man. I like Rex a lot. I really appreciate his commitment to service and I’ll be speaking to Rex over a long period of time.”
Another question was shouted and the president said: “I can’t hear you.”
It was repeated, about North Korea, and Trump replied: “No, I really didn’t discuss it very much with him, honestly. I made that decision by myself. Rex wasn’t, as you know, in this country. I made the North Korea decision with consultation from many people but I made that decision by myself.
“I actually got along well with Rex but really it was a different mindset, a different thinking.”
A reporter shouted: “Did you fire him because he called you a moron?”
The reporter repeated: “Did you fire him because he called you a moron?”
Trump: “Say it again.”
Another reporter asked: “Why now?”
The president said: “I respect his intellect. I respect the process that we’ve all gone through together. We have a very good relationship for whatever reason, chemistry, whatever it is why do people get along? I’ve always, right from the beginning, from day one, I’ve gotten along well with Mike Pompeo, and frankly, I get along well with Rex too. I wish Rex a lot of good things. I think he’s going to be very happy. I think Rex will be much happier now but I really appreciate his service but with Mike, we’ve had a very good chemistry right from the beginning.”
On the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK:
“Well, it sounds to me I’m speaking to Theresa May today it sounds to me like it would be Russia based on all of the evidence they have. I don’t know if they’ve come to a conclusion but she’s calling me today. As you know, now we’re going to the wall, we’re going out to the wall, we’re going to be looking at the prototypes, which is very important for our country. But Theresa May is going to be speaking to me today. It sounds to me like they believe it was Russia and I would certainly take that finding as fact.”
Asked if there should be a US response, POTUS replied: “As soon as we get the facts straight, and we’re going to be speaking with the British today. We’re speaking with Theresa May today and, as soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be. But I have not spoken to her. I’ll speak to her sometime today.”
On the House intelligence committee’s announcement last night
“We’re very happy with the decision by the House intelligence committee saying there’s absolutely no collusion with respect to Russia. And it was a very powerful decision, a very strong decision, backed up I understand they’re going to be releasing hundreds of pages of proof and evidence but we are very, very happy with that decision. It was a powerful decision that left no doubt, so I want to thank the House intelligence committee and all of the people that voted.”
On next National Economic Council director
“I’m looking at Larry Kudlow very strongly. I’ve known him a long time. We don’t agree on everything but in this case, I think that’s good: I want to have a divergent opinion. We agree on most. He now has come around to believing in tariffs as also a negotiating point. I’m renegotiating trade deals and without tariffs, we wouldn’t do nearly as well. But Larry has been a friend of mine for a long time. He backed me very early in the campaign; I think the earliest; I think he was one of my original backers. He’s a very, very talented man, a good man, and I think Larry Kudlow has a good chance. I’m also speaking to many others but I think Larry has a very good chance.”
The president then began to move, adding: “Thank you all, I’ll see you, I’ll see you at the wall, I’ll see you at the wall.” He pointed, laughed and waved, then walked to Marine One.