Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Statement on the Ouster of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State

Jackson Lee: “Secretary Tillerson never had the full confidence of the president he serves, and the president never quite had full confidence in Secretary Tillerson.”

Washington, DC – Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, a senior member of both the House Committees on Judiciary and Homeland Security, released the following statement in response to the president’s firing of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, and the announcement of his intention to nominate Michael Pompeo, the current Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, as his next Secretary of State, and of Gina Haspel, to fill Mr. Pompeo’s position, should both be confirmed by the United States Senate.

“The revolving door at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue continues to turn.  This time the person ousted is Rex Tillerson, our country’s 69th Secretary of State.  Since its beginning, this administration has been plagued by a failure of management as well as a suspicious appeasement towards Russia.  In his last hours as this country’s top diplomat, these two trends appear to have converged yet again.

More than anything the timing of Mr. Tillerson’s firing is deeply troubling.  On Monday afternoon Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, our nation’s closest ally, took to the House of Commons to attribute to the Russian Federation, the poisoning of a former Russian spy on British soil.  Secretary Tillerson echoed Prime Minister May and also blamed the Russians.  Hours later, President Trump fired Secretary Tillerson from his post.  The president’s decision to fire Secretary Tillerson after he stood in solidarity with the leader of our closest ally is confounding.   The United States must stand tall with Great Britain as it explores whether, in response to this attack, to invoke NATO’s Article 5 assurance of collective defense.

Secretary Tillerson’s firing also comes after the administration announced, with much fanfare, that it was convening a summit between the President of the United States and the leader of North Korea, scheduled for May 2018.  Mr. Trump’s firing of Secretary Tillerson leaves open the very real prospect that for this critical bilateral summit, the United States will be without the counsel of its top diplomat.

“Also, it is not clear that Secretary Tillerson ever had the full confidence of the president he serves, and the president never quite had full confidence in Secretary of State Tillerson.  Whether it was Secretary Tillerson’s considered judgment that the United States should remain part of the Paris Climate Accord, abide by the Iran Nuclear deal, or minimize the bellicose rhetoric directed towards North Korea, Secretary Tillerson’s reasonable views always seemed out of place in this White House, and were frequently disparaged in a Trump tweet.

“For an administration that promised to hire the best people, we have seen very little evidence of this in action.  Instead, we have seen cabinet secretaries feeding at the trough; a White House staff rife with unprofessionalism; and personnel decisions designed to cover-up the president’s associations with and connections to Russia.  I encourage the United States Senate to conduct a fulsome and searching inquiry into Secretary of State-Designee Pompeo and Central Intelligence Director-Designee Haspel.

Rex Tillerson has had a long career, many years of which he spent as CEO of ExxonMobil, based in Houston.  I thank him for his service to this country and I wish him and his wife, Renda, well in their future endeavors.

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