Trump has said he intends to leave numerous positions unfilled, because he will ultimately drive the policy. A former senior official of the State Department told me recently that Tillerson was expected to announce his departure around the first anniversary of his swearing-in, on February 1.
Asked how Tillerson learned of his dismissal, Trump said Tuesday that "Rex and I have been talking about this a long time". "And I can tell you who is going to win", he said in an interview with Forbes.
In contrast, Trump said he and Pompeo have "a similar thought process".
"I think we need a chief diplomat before the North Korea meeting", the Texas Republican said. "You're losing what appeared to be a key player, or someone who should be a key in the Trump administration".
When the announcement was made at the White House, Mr Tillerson was thousands of miles away - seeking to smooth over relations with African nations Mr Trump had reportedly dismissed as "shitholes".
In the eyes of some US media outlets, Tillerson had some "successes" in his less than 14-month term, including the growing pressure against Pyongyang to force it to abandon the nuclear project, and the improved ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
"We're always on the same wavelength", Trump said of Pompeo, a former member of Congress who has earned Trump's trust by echoing his political rhetoric and personally delivering oral intelligence briefings at the White House in lieu of a written report. Former Secretary of State Collin Powell may come as a distant second since he was given the dignity of submitting his resignation and announcing his departure after strong disagreements with the White House and the Pentagon over handling the 2003 USA invasion of Iraq.
Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, tweeted on Tuesday that "Whenever Secretary Tillerson's successor goes into meetings with foreign leaders, his credibility will be diminished as someone who could be here today and gone tomorrow". "I know the Senate will do its job in examining Ms. Haspel's record as well as her beliefs about torture and her approach to current law", McCain said. Only Mr. Trump could think it a good idea to sack his top diplomat amid heightening Western tensions with Russian Federation and ahead of a possible spring summit with North Korea - a rapprochement Mr. Tillerson hinted at past year.
More consequentially for Canada, it's hard to imagine him as a counterweight to the protectionists dominating Mr. Trump's cabinet table. And he has won favor with Trump through his hawkish views on Iran, his willingness to aggressively defend the administration's foreign policy and his former military service. "In nominating Director Pompeo, I question if the President has chosen someone that will enable his worst instincts and ignorance". Now, Mattis will have to take the lead in National Security Council deliberations, which could lead to tensions with Pompeo down the road. "Trump probably will be more impulsive and more prone to rattle cages around the world". Countryman, who was assistant secretary of state for global security and nonproliferation, said if Pompeo "has a disdain for diplomacy mirroring Trump's, it will be bad for the department and the country". "When you look at the Iran deal: I think it's awful, I guess he thinks it was OK".
In January, he grudgingly signed sanctions waivers "for the last time" - ensuring Washington will live up to its commitments for another 120 days.
In the meantime, Tillerson, appears headed back to private life.
"Tillerson had been a voice for avoiding a trade war ..." Trump's personnel moves mean that two of the six session weeks over the next two months could easily be consumed with the senior national security nominations.
Critics expressed dismay at the decision to swap out top diplomats so soon before the unprecedented meeting and anxious that Pompeo would encourage Trump to scrap the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and be hawkish on North Korea.
Pompeo and Tillerson navigated different paths with Trump, too.