Though Tillerson and Trump have long had a rocky relationship with the president often publicly contradicting and embarrassing his State Department chief, the morning announcement came abruptly from a White House that has broken historical records for turnover with 43% of senior staff passing through the revolving door in just over a year.
With the benefit of 24-hours hindsight however, the timing is no mystery.
Tillerson’s firing comes just a day after he issued a release claiming “full confidence… that Russia was likely responsible for the nerve agent attack that took place in Salisbury [England] last week.”
The statement by Tillerson went on to say that “Russia continues to be an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
The statement concluded by insisting that Russia “must face appropriately serious consequences.”
Trump’s relationship with Tillerson has long been rough, but the president has retained the 2013 recipient of Vladimir Putin’s “Order of Friendship” through all of it. Now, it seems that Tillerson crossed a line in defying his one-time friend in Russia.
Trump, who claims to value loyalty but sees it as a one-way street, has once again chosen the Russian strongman over the interests of the American people. This comes as no surprise since Putin worked so hard to see Trump elected, but the question remains whether Putin has additional leverage on Trump that is helping him so deftly pull the American president’s strings.
Expect answers once Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller has completed his investigation.