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Breaking: REXIT; Update: No explanation and no call from Trump? Trump: Tillerson will be “much happier now”; More Trump: I need Pompeo’s “tremendous energy”; CNN, NBC: Tillerson learned of firing by Trump’s tweet

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The ax finally fell on Rex Tillerson. The Washington Post reports that Donald Trump fired his Secretary of State and has already named his replacement:

President Trump has ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replaced him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, orchestrating a major change to his national security team amid delicate negotiations with North Korea, White House officials said Tuesday.

Trump last Friday asked Tillerson to step aside, and the embattled top diplomat cut short his trip to Africa on Monday to return to Washington.

Pompeo will replace him at the State Department, and Gina Hapsel — the deputy director at the CIA — will succeed him at the CIA, becoming the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed.

Give Tillerson credit for lasting a lot longer than many had predicted. Rumors had swirled for months that Trump had grown unhappy with his first Secretary of State, but somehow the former ExxonMobil chair managed to outlast several White House figures. Tillerson’s run came to a screeching halt on Friday, although the news didn’t leak out until a few minutes ago.

Trump certainly sounded cheery just minutes after the news went out:

It’s a notable but perhaps understandable time for a shake-up on the nat-sec team. Put in Godfather terms, perhaps Trump didn’t think of the corporate exec as a wartime consigliere, a point which the upcoming negotiations with North Korea would make more acute. Pompeo has plenty of experience in the intelligence arena, and that will undoubtedly be crucial to any success in those talks.

It might be a signal that Trump wants to get tougher with Russia too. That would make this last conversation with the press as Secretary of State even more ironic. On his way back to the US, Tillerson went much farther than the White House did on the nerve-agent attack on Sergei Skripal. He corroborated Theresa May’s conclusion that the poison almost certainly came from Russian labs and that Russia should expect a response from the UK for the attack:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cast the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain as part of a “certain unleashing of activity” by Russia that the United States is struggling to understand. He warned that the poisoning would “certainly trigger a response.”

Tillerson, echoing the British government’s finger-pointing toward Moscow, said he didn’t yet know whether Russia’s government knew of the attack with a military-grade nerve agent, but that one way or another, “it came from Russia.” He said it was “almost beyond comprehension” why a state actor would deploy such a dangerous substance in a public place in a foreign country where others could be exposed.

“I cannot understand why anyone would take such an action. But this is a substance that is known to us and does not exist widely,” Tillerson told reporters as he flew from Nigeria to Washington. “It is only in the hands of a very, very limited number of parties.”

Tillerson, in what seems clearly a valediction in retrospect, also told reporters that all attempts to improve relations with Russia had come to naught. The US and other Western nations should realize that Putin seems determined to remain aggressive and antagonistic:

Tillerson, who spoke Monday by phone with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, said he’s grown “extremely concerned” about Russia, noting that he spent most of the first year of the Trump administration trying to solve problems and narrow differences with the Kremlin. He said after a year of trying, “we didn’t get very far.”

“Instead what we’ve seen is a pivot on their part to be more aggressive,” Tillerson said. “And this is very, very concerning to me and others that there seems to be a certain unleashing of activity that we don’t fully understand what the objective behind that is.”

The acute question now will be whether the Senate will hold up Pompeo’s confirmation. He’s already been confirmed once and has performed well at the CIA, so it should flow relatively smoothly, but it’s also an election year. Senate Democrats will demand lots and lots of answers on Russian collusion in the 2016 election and whether intelligence agencies have been aggressive in confronting Russian meddling in this cycle too. It’ll be brief but memorable, and that may well have been why Trump waited this long to drop the ax on Tillerson.

Longer term, one has to wonder whether Pompeo will take State in a significantly different direction. Tillerson had dragged his heels on appointments to key positions; there are still dozens of ambassadorial positions open, including to key nations like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and South Korea, not to mention other political appointments within State. Pompeo will have a better grip on the need to fill the political appointments while cutting down on the career positions and shrinking the bureaucracy where it can be shrunk. Expect to see a different State Department in the next few months.

Update: Philip Klein notes another difference made in this change:

REXIT could be IRAXIT, although our Western allies will have something to say about that too.

Update: CBS reports that Trump didn’t tell Tillerson until this morning:

CBS News’ Kylie Atwood reports that Tillerson was leaving his Africa trip early to return back to Washington to talk with Mr. Trump and connect on developments in North Korea, which he was largely left out of as the White House announced it would be taking up talks with the regime sometime in May.

CBS News’ Margaret Brennan adds that the Secretary had not yet spoken with the president and found out about news of his ouster when the public did. Brennan adds that Tillerson had every intention of staying due to the critical progress in national security.

That seems a little difficult to credit, although it’s possible. Tillerson only just happened to be coming back when Trump was ready to announce his successor? Maaaaaybeeee.

Update: AP reports that not only was it a surprise, Trump didn’t offer any explanation for the move:

NBC reports that Tillerson didn’t even get a call from Trump:

Yikes. Looks like this was a surprise, although it can’t have been a shock after working for Trump more than a year. CNN reports that the move was in the works for months and that Trump never forgave Tillerson for the “moron” remark:

President Trump has wanted Mike Pompeo as his secretary of state for months now — and the White House began planning for him to take this job last fall.

Trump’s anger at Tillerson after it leaked that he called him “a moron” never subsided, and many in the White House saw their differences as irreconcilable. …

Sources close to the President say it was clear Tillerson didn’t support Trump. They say Tillerson wanted to handle foreign policy his own way, without the President. Trump didn’t feel that Tillerson backed him, source says.

The biggest difference, CNN reported in a separate tweet, was on Iran.

Update: To extend the Godfather references, it looks like this was personal and not business, Sonny:

Update: Trump claims that he and Tillerson have discussed the change “for some time,” but says their differences on the Iran deal was the catalyst. He and Pompeo share the same views on it, plus Trump cites Pompeo’s “tremendous energy” as something he needs in a Secretary of State:

Trump clearly had had enough of Tillerson, for one reason or another.

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Dianne Feinstein: ‘Twas the media that outed Kavanaugh’s accuser

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Is that right? The way DiFi puts it here, you would think Christine Blasey Ford’s name appeared like a bolt from the blue in the pages of the Washington Post on Sunday afternoon. In reality, the press had spent the previous 72 hours murmuring about a mysterious letter in Feinstein’s possession that may or may not contain a serious allegation against Kavanaugh. No one would say what the letter alleged but the Intercept knew that Feinstein knew something about it. BuzzFeed also knew that Feinstein knew something. Under pressure, Feinstein herself announced that she had finally referred the matter to the FBI. After sitting on it for two months. Six days before the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote.

All of which is a long way of asking: Who do you suppose it was that tipped the media to Ford’s accusations, putting them in a position to “out” her at the eleventh hour?

Tom Cotton has a zany theory.

Democrats outed her. Maybe not Feinstein personally or someone acting at her behest, but someone in the Capitol high enough up the chain to have known Ford’s name. (Given that the Intercept and BuzzFeed are both online-only outlets, I’d guess the leaker trended younger.) And the very obvious reason they did so was because they were frustrated that Feinstein had held this weapon for two months and never used it, even during the closed session of Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing, leaving him on track to join the Court before the end of the month. A liberal, possibly on Feinstein’s own staff, shoved Ford into the spotlight for reasons of political expedience. Feinstein can babble all she likes about respecting the privacy of victims but them’s the facts.

Also, not to nitpick, but no one “outed” Ford. Unless I missed something, at no point did any media outlet reveal her identity against her wishes. She chose to speak on the record to WaPo over the weekend after Ronan Farrow and outlets like BuzzFeed came knocking, believing that someone *would* end up revealing her name against her wishes before long. But no one (I think) actually did so before the WaPo story came out. Whether Democrats might have been so frantic to stop Kavanaugh that they would have forced Ford’s name into print if she had declined to speak up this past weekend is a fascinating what-if. Probably they would have — which seems to have been Ford’s conclusion too. Again, so much for the privacy of victims.

Charles Cooke wonders if Ford ever really wanted to testify at all:

Dianne Feinstein has not yet submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee the original letter she was sent by the accuser. The Democratic party is almost universally calling for an FBI investigation that it knows full well is not going to happen, and should not happen, and using its absence as a reason for the hearing to be delayed. And, right on cue, certain figures on the Left have begun to play this both ways: Originally, the lack of an invitation to testify was cast as a “silencing act.” Now, the Senate’s broad invitation to the accuser to testify in whatever way she sees fit is being cast as . . . yes, as a “silencing” act. Perhaps there is something else going on here, but sure looks to me as if the aim is to delay, delay, delay — and keep the accuser as far as is possible from being required to take an oath.

Mark Judge and Patrick Smyth have both submitted statements to Grassley’s committee via counsel, notes Cooke. That’s enough for a criminal indictment if facts emerge to show they’re lying; submitting false information to a congressional panel amounts to lying to a federal official just as submitting false information during an FBI interview does. The one and only player in this drama who has yet to send a statement to the committee, as Cooke points out, is Ford herself. That’s curious, although of course not proof that she’s afraid to tell her story under oath. I think she will testify since that’s the foreseeable outcome of her decision to go on the record with WaPo. She knew that her testimony would be demanded after the story appeared and that it’d look very bad if she refused to provide it. She must have resolved to testify this past weekend, with the last few days of will-she-or-won’t-she drama little more than a PR play to frame the upcoming hearing as unfair no matter what happens.

Here’s Scarborough, who spends most of his time bashing the Trump Party nowadays, crystal clear on who it was that “outed” Ford.

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Sen. Lindsey Graham Fires Off Midnight Tweet: “Kavanaugh Nomination is Still on Track – Stay Tuned!”

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Senator Lindsey Graham; Photo: Twitter avatar

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) fired off a midnight tweet praising President Trump and reassured the American people that Kavanaugh’s nomination is still on track.

“Stay tuned!” Lindsey Graham said.

“Great job tonight by President @realDonaldTrump in Las Vegas laying out how strong America has become economically and how much safer we are with a strong military.”

Graham then said: The President is dead right about Judge Kavanaugh being highly qualified, the right person for the job, and also right about letting process play out.

Kavanaugh nomination is still on track. Stay tuned!


Senator Lindsey Graham was referring to the President’s comments during his rally in Las Vegas wherein he praised Brett Kavanaugh.

Graham has certainly changed his tune as of late–usually no ally to the President, he vowed to get Brett Kavanaugh confirmed as quickly as possible.

Christine Ford has accused–without corroborating evidence–Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a drunken high school pool party decades ago.

Accuser Christine Blasey Ford believes she runs the U.S. Senate as she continues to make outrageous demands of how and when her hearing will be held.

The lawyer for Christine Blasey Ford told the Senate Judiciary Committee her demands for her public testimony at a hearing–preeminent is that Judge Brett Kavanaugh testify first and that he not be allowed to be in the hearing room when she testifies, reported TGP’s Kristinn Taylor.

Laura Ingraham reported the scheduled Monday hearing where Kavanaugh and Ford were invited to testify may be postponed. Kavanugh accepted but Ford has declined so far to appear Monday.

“Two sources have told me that @SenateMajLdr is WAVERING and may ask to further delay Monday hearing. GOP base will be in full revolt if so. Tune in tonight!”

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The inevitable “celebrities assure Ford they believe her” MoveOn video

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A leftover from yesterday. Not all of the women in the clip are celebrities, please note, just enough to add a patina of Importance to it. What right-thinking progressive would care about a video of average Americans stating their political views without a four-second cameo from Julianne Moore?

A fun fact about MoveOn, the creators of this spot: The group got its name from its efforts to get the country to move on from Republican efforts to impeach a credibly accused left-wing sexual predator. That’s the sort of feminist bona fides I always prize in woke attack ads involving rape. I try to resist Whataboutism, particularly when the matter at hand involves something as grave as what Ford’s alleging, but whenever the left starts sermonizing at Republicans about treating victims of sexual assault properly a variety of leering Democratic ogres waddles out onstage in the right-wing imagination. It’s led by the Kennedys, grinning broadly, drinks in hand, pants around their ankles, but not limited to them. Which is not at all to imply that Kavanaugh should get a pass because Ted Kennedy got one for 50 years: If he’s guilty, he should be borked with gusto and impeachment proceedings begun to remove him from the federal bench.

But it is to say that, despite their alleged wokeness, progressive outrage at sex offenses and judgments about who deserves the benefit of the doubt and who doesn’t remain mainly a matter of political expedience. Hint that you might blow up Roe and you’re guilty as charged. Hint that you’ll storm the ramparts if Roe is blown up and you’re entitled to a robust presumption of innocence. And that’s not just a historical relic; it continues to the present day. Which is why, although her reasoning is nonsense, Kirsten Gillibrand’s not entirely wrong in calling Monday’s hearing a “sham.” It is a sham in the sense that it’s being presented as a fact-finding inquiry when it’s not. No facts or lack thereof will be produced that changes any Democratic votes. This is a political exercise, not an investigative one.

To prove that I’m not doing knee-jerk Whataboutism here, let it be noted that the right has its own core constituency that seems completely disinterested in the facts of an alleged sexual assault when a political prize is within reach.

Worried their chance to cement a conservative majority on the Supreme Court could slip away, a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion leaders are expressing frustration that Senate Republicans and the White House are not protecting Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh more forcefully from a sexual assault allegation and warning that conservative voters may stay home in November if his nomination falls apart…

The pleas are, in part, an attempt to apply political pressure: Some evangelical leaders are warning that religious conservatives may feel little motivation to vote in the midterm elections unless Senate Republicans move the nomination out of committee soon and do more to defend Judge Kavanaugh from what they say is a desperate Democratic ploy to prevent President Trump from filling future court vacancies.

Franklin Graham, heir to the Graham family’s evangelical legacy, insisted yesterday that no one should get too worked up about what might have happened between a pair of teenagers. And that’s your daily news bulletin from “moral majority.”

One other thing. Befitting how rote and thoughtless the true message of the MoveOn ad is — “Ford is telling the truth because I *heart* legal abortion” — the format of the ad itself is painfully familiar. This style of staccato cross-cutting between people repeating each other’s lines to emphasize the message is so stale that even the parodies of it seem old. It’s phoned in, figuratively and apparently literally.

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