Trump ousts Secretary of State Tillerson, appoints CIA director Pompeo as replacement

This combination of pictures created on November 30, 2017 shows US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and CIA Director Mike Pompeo in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 13 March 2018
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Trump ousts Secretary of State Tillerson, appoints CIA director Pompeo as replacement

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he had replaced Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, ousting the embattled top diplomat after a series of public rifts.
Trump stated: “I have disagreed strongly on many issues with him (Tillerson). He added: “I did not discuss his removal with him.”
“We got along actually quite well but we disagreed on things.
“When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently. So we were not really thinking the same,” said the US president.
Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein revealed: Outgoing US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson did not speak to President Donald Trump before he was sacked Tuesday and has not been given a reason for his ouster.

“The secretary did not speak to the president this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted,” said Goldstein.
Goldstein, one of Tillerson’s top aides, was subsequently sacked for contradicting the official account of the secretary of state’s dismissal by Trump.
Earlier, Trump announced the Cabinet shakeup on Twitter and said he had tapped the CIA’s deputy director, Gina Haspel, to replace Pompeo at the intelligence agency.
Tillerson’s departure represents the biggest staff change in the Trump Cabinet so far and caps months of tensions between the Republican president and the 65-year-old former Exxon Mobil chief executive.

When you look at the Iran deal, I thought it was terrible, he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break it or do something, he felt a little differently. So we were not really thinking the same.

Donald Trump

A senior White House official said Trump asked Tillerson to step down on Friday but did want not to announce it while he was on a trip to Africa.
The official said Trump works well with Pompeo, a former congressman from Kansas who is seen as a loyalist within the administration, and wanted him in place before the US president’s planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and trade negotiations.
US stock index futures pared their gains and the dollar also trimmed gains versus the yen while extending losses versus the euro amid the news.
Trump and Tillerson, who had no diplomatic or political experience before becoming secretary of state, have diverged on policy numerous times, including over North Korea and Russia. On Monday, Tillerson sharply criticized Russia over the poisonings in England of a former spy and his daughter, directly blaming Moscow after White House press secretary Sarah Sanders stopped short of doing so.
Tillerson also appeared out of the loop last week when Trump announced he would meet with North Korea’s leader and become the first sitting US president to do so.
“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!” Trump said on Twitter.
President Donald Trump’s choice to be the first female director of the CIA, Gina Haspel, is a career spymaster who once ran an agency prison in Thailand where terror suspects were subjected to a harsh interrogation techniques that the president has supported.
Haspel, the current deputy CIA director, also helped carry out an order that the agency destroy its waterboarding videos. That order prompted a lengthy Justice Department investigation that ended without charges.
When she was picked as deputy CIA director, her career was lauded by veteran intelligence officials, including former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who recently retired. But it also upset the American Civil Liberties Union and other rights advocates who found it unsettling that Trump would choose someone who was involved in the harsh interrogation program.
Meanwhile, Euro zone government bond yields fell on Tuesday following news that US President Donald Trump has ousted US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, injecting a fresh dose of volatility into world markets.
Data showing that US inflation slowed in February also reassured investors, putting downward pressure on bond yields on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Treasuries reversed direction on the fear that Tillerson’s removal will give the nationalists greater power within the White House over the globalists,” said Investec economist Philip Shaw.


Macron’s ratings fall further after month of protests

Updated 5 min 13 sec ago
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Macron’s ratings fall further after month of protests

  • Many of the protesters have targeted Macron personally, calling on him to resign
  • Until last week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over high taxes

PARIS: A month of “yellow vest” protests have taken a further toll on the popularity of French President Emmanuel Macron, a new poll showed Sunday, with analysts saying he will be forced to change his style of governing.
Around 66,000 protesters turned out again on Saturday on the fifth round of anti-government demonstrations, which sprung up over diesel taxes last month.
The figure was about half the number of the previous weekend, suggesting momentum was waning and the most acute political crisis of Macron’s 19-month presidency was coming to an end.
“It is calming down, but what remains of it all is a strong feeling of hatred toward Macron,” said veteran sociologist Herve Le Bras from the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS).
A major poll by the Ifop group published in Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed Macron’s approval had slipped another two points in the last month, to 23 percent.
The proportion of people who declared themselves “very dissatisfied” by his leadership jumped by six points to 45 percent.
Many of the protesters have targeted Macron personally, calling on him to resign or targeting his background as an investment banker and alleged elitism.
A different poll by Ipsos on Wednesday last week showed that a mere 20 percent of respondents were happy with his presidency, a fall of six points to its lowest ever level.
Le Bras said the protests had underlined the depth of dislike for Macron’s personality and style of governing, which critics see as arrogant and too distant.
“Even by being more humble, it’s going to be complicated,” he added.

Until last week, a clear majority of French people had backed the protests, which sprung up initially over high taxes before snowballing into a wider opposition front against Macron.
In a bid to end the standoff, he announced a package of measures for low-income workers on Monday in a televised address, estimated by economists to cost up to 15 billion euros ($17 billion).
The 40-year-old also acknowledged widespread animosity toward him and came close to apologizing for a series of verbal gaffes seen as dismissive of the poor or jobless.
Two polls published last Tuesday — in the wake of Macron’s concessions — suggested the country was now broadly 50-50 on whether the protests should continue.
“It’s a movement that has succeeded in forcing back what looked like a strong government,” Jerome Sainte-Marie, a public opinion expert at the Pollingvox group, told AFP.
“People have confidence in themselves now, so things won’t return to how they were on November 15” before the protests started, he said.
“The context in which Emmanuel Macron holds power has changed,” he added.
The former investment banker had until now styled himself as a determined pro-business reformer who would not yield to pressure from protests like his predecessors.
“Macron has given an indication that he is more open to dialogue,” Jean-Daniel Levy from the Harris Interactiv polling group told AFP.
The government has announced a six-month consultation with civil society groups, mayors, businesses and the “yellow vests” to discuss tax and other economic reforms.
Hikes in petrol and diesel taxes, as well as tougher emissions controls on old vehicles — justified on the grounds of environmental protection — were what sparked the “yellow vest” movement.
Macron “won’t necessarily change the overall course of his reforms, rather the way he carries them out,” Levy added.

In Paris on Saturday, the more than 8,000 police on duty easily outnumbered the 2,200 protesters counted by local authorities.
There were 168 arrests by early evening, far fewer than the 1,000 or so of last Saturday.
Tear gas was occasionally fired, but only a fraction compared with the weekends of December 8 or December 1 when graffiti was daubed on the Arc de Triomphe in scenes that shocked France.
Richard Ferrand, the head of the National Assembly, welcomed the “necessary” weakening of “yellow vest” rallies on Saturday, adding that “there had been a massive response to their demands.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner also called on protesters to halt their blockades across the country which have seen traffic and businesses disrupted.
“Everyone’s safety has to become the rule again,” he said in a tweet.
“Dialogue now needs to unite all those who want to transform France.”
He said eight people had died since the start of the movement.
Around 69,000 security forces were mobilized across France on Saturday, down from 89,000 the weekend before when 2,000 people were detained.