Among the high-profile real and speculative firings in the Trump administration this week was the removal of a lesser-known figure at the State Department — and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow thinks the latter may be a smoking gun.
The story began with a differential between the White House’s timeline for the firing of outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the State Department’s. According to White House chief of staff John Kelly, he informed the secretary of state that his firing was imminent last Friday — and in a bizarre moment of levity, told reporters earlier today that Tillerson was on the toilet with a stomach bug when he took the call.
The State Department, however, refuted that timeline and said Tillerson learned he was being replaced with CIA Director Mike Pompeo along with the rest of the world when President Donald Trump tweeted about it on Tuesday.
As Maddow pointed out, Trump’s announcement came less than 24 hours after the secretary of state condemned Russia in harsh terms for poisoning a Russian ex-spy on British soil.
“We agree that those responsible – both those who committed the crime and those who ordered it – must face appropriately serious consequences,” Tillerson said, declaring “solidarity” with the UK in their decision to sanction Russia.
Soon after the president announced via tweet the secretary of state’s firing, the White House said Tillerson had known since Friday that he was soon to be removed.
Following the White House’s comments, however, the State Department made its own statement. Steve Goldstein, the department’s fourth-highest-ranking official and a spokesman for its secretary, said Tillerson had no prior knowledge of his termination. He was fired, as Maddow noted, the same day as he made his comments.
“The Secretary had every intention of remaining because of the tangible progress made on critical national security issues,” Goldstein said. “The Secretary did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted.”
“In a different White House, in a more normal administration, the fact alone that the White House had fired the number four official at the State Department,” she mused.
Maddow noted than in a typical presidential administration, firing a high-ranking State official for refuting their official statement would normally cause a scandal — “both that they would fire somebody for telling the truth, but also because the firing appears to be an effort to cover up their lie.”
“In a normal administration, this would be a very big deal,” she concluded. “And even in this administration, frankly, it is a big deal.”
Watch below, via MSNBC: