There is a ridiculous notion percolating among the most ardent Trump/Russia conspiracy know-nothings that President Trump’s decision to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo was influenced by the Russians.
Trump fired Tillerson on Twitter the day after Tillerson broke with WH and specifically called out Russia for UK nerve agent attack. Wow https://t.co/tFshvUVVPO
— Astead (@AsteadWesley) March 13, 2018
Yesterday Tillerson said what Trump wouldn't, Putin and Russia were responsible for the nerve agent attack in the UK and Putin is acting more aggressively around the world. Today, Putin's puppet fires Tillerson? https://t.co/gNMrdR2XhI
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) March 13, 2018
"Oh, Rex, one more thing on your way out the door. NEVER blame Putin. Goodbye." https://t.co/YD94VsCiNV
— David Frum (@davidfrum) March 13, 2018
So, Rex Tillerson acknowledges Russia isn’t our friend and poisoned the latest father/daughter in Russia, and then he’s replaced. I wonder why? Wake up, Americans who still support Trump. You are Russian now. Taking orders from a foreign enemy is treason.
— Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) March 13, 2018
So the working theory from foreign policy experts like Chelsea Handler is that firing Tillerson is a pro-Russia move because Tillerson fingered Russia in the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent in the U.K.? Trump is punishing Rex Tillerson for being anti-Russia?
This is utterly dumb. First, wasn’t Rex Tillerson supposed to be the Russian stooge? Just last week, the leftist New Yorker magazine characterized Tillerson’s appointment as a “happy one in Moscow” because of his “business ties with the Kremlin.” Shouldn’t these people be glad he’s leaving?
Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State: close ties to Putin with no foreign policy experience. pic.twitter.com/LcYsfXNQ7e
— The Democrats (@TheDemocrats) December 11, 2016
Second, Rex Tillerson has been on his way out the door for months. The New York Times reported that the administration was considering replacing Tillerson with Pompeo back in November, and CR’s Jordan Schachtel wrote about why that would be a great improvement.
Tillerson was given a heads-up from White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about his tenuous position over the weekend, before he made the statement about the Russians poisoning their ex-spy.
BREAKING: Chief of Staff John Kelly called Rex Tillerson on Friday and told him he was GOING TO BE FIRED because Trump wanted a change — but Kelly didn’t set a time certain for when the ouster was going to happen, sources tell me and @nwadhams.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) March 13, 2018
WH official says chief of staff John Kelly called Tillerson Friday and again on Saturday. Both calls to Tillerson, the official says, warned that Trump was about to take imminent action if he did not step aside. When Tillerson didn't act, Trump fired him.
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) March 13, 2018
Third, and this is really where the “Putin told Trump to fire Rex” narrative is exposed as utter idiocy, Mike Pompeo is tougher on Russia than Tillerson and has been so for years.
In a 2014 interview, Pompeo, a former Army officer who served in Europe during the Cold War, said the United States needed to use sanctions to keep Russian President Vladmir Putin “in his box,” warning that Russia had ambitions of expansion.
“I think we have a lot to worry about with Vladimir Putin,” Pompeo said, criticizing Putin’s use of special forces and political propaganda to create a “greater Russia.” He urged economic sanctions against Russia to exploit the weakness of the Russian economy.
“The West has an obligation to do the things we can,” he said. “We should exploit those weaknesses to keep him in his box.”
More recently, in his Senate confirmation hearing, Pompeo said unambiguously that Russia had “reasserted itself aggressively, invading and occupying Ukraine, threatening Europe and doing nothing to aid in the defeat of ISIS.” Later, he also acknowledged Russian efforts to undermine the 2016 elections, saying, “It’s pretty clear about what took place here about Russia involvement in efforts to hack information and to have an impact on American democracy.”
Pompeo, a national security hawk, has also warned that China is “as big a threat” to the United States as Russia.
Now, the people who don’t want to face facts will turn around and say “but Director Pompeo contradicted the Intelligence Community on Russian election meddling!” What they’re referring to is a statement Pompeo made last October in which he claimed the “intelligence community’s assessment is that the Russian meddling that took place did not affect the outcome of the election.” This was slightly inaccurate. The intelligence committee had released a report that did not make an assessment about Russia affecting the outcome of the election either way.
A spokesman for the CIA later clarified: “The intelligence assessment with regard to Russian election meddling has not changed, and the Director did not intend to suggest that it had.”
Is that the best evidence Trump’s critics have that replacing Tillerson with Pompeo is pro-Russian? The Russians did not hack a single election machine, and they certainly did not change any votes from Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump. Attacking Pompeo for that statement is weak sauce.
So in conclusion, as national security and political warfare consultant David Reaboi put it:
In order for the “Tillerson out bc Russia” bullshit to be true, you have to believe something even dumber: that Mike Pompeo is soft on Russia.
You people are batshit crazy at this point.
— David Reaboi (@davereaboi) March 13, 2018
Chris Pandolfo is a staff writer and type-shouter for Conservative Review. He holds a B.A. in politics and economics from Hillsdale College. His interests are conservative political philosophy, the American founding, and progressive rock. Follow him on Twitter for doom-saying and great album recommendations @ChrisCPandolfo.
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