Tillerson still secretary of state for now: White House

Tillerson's dismissal is followed by confusion at highest levels of government.

March 13, 2018, 3:06 PM

After being fired by the president this morning, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that he will remain at his post until March 31st and hand all responsibilities of the office to his deputy by the end of the day.

"Effective at the end of the day, I'm delegating all responsibilities of the office of the secretary to deputy secretary of state [John] Sullivan," Tillerson said. "My commission as secretary of state will terminate at midnight March 31st."

In the immediate aftermath of the President's Donald Trump's surprise decision to fire Rex Tillerson, the White House and State Department appeared to be at odds over a basic question: Who is currently the secretary of state?

Despite his very public dismissal, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders told ABC News earlier Tuesday that Tillerson would remain as Secretary "during a transition period."

Over at the State Department, a senior State Department official, when asked to confirm that Tillerson is still serving as secretary, said the press office was checking. Tillerson has since clarified that he is staying until the end of March.

Trump announced this morning via Twitter that he was replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

Upon learning of Tillerson's termination, Under Secretary of State for Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein released a statement saying the secretary "had every intention of staying," that he was "unaware of the reason" for his firing, and that he had not spoken to the president.

Hours later, the White House fired Goldstein as well.

A senior State Department official said Tillerson learned of the president's official decision from Trump's tweet and that he was never informed directly by the White House.

Two White House officials say White House chief of staff John Kelly informed Tillerson on Friday that he was being asked to step down.

Tillerson's dismissal marks the seventh high-profile departure from the White House this year alone.

Last week, Trump's chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, quit, as did his communications director and long-time aide Hope Hicks the week before.

"I'll now return to private life, as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I've had to serve my country," Tillerson said, before leaving the podium at the State Department.

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