COMMENT: The sacking of Rex Tillerson is to be regretted. Tillerson was a moderating force within the Trump administration and a very effective Secretary of State. To have sacked Tillerson by tweet is quite astounding. One wonders about the timing, given the egregious behaviour of Russia on the streets of Britain. What a dreadful way to treat a man of Tillerson’s stature.
ABOARD A U.S. GOVERNMENT AIRCRAFT — Hours before being ousted as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson called the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter with a military-grade nerve agent in the U.K. “a really egregious act” that appears to have “clearly” come from Russia.
On his way back from a trip to Africa, Tillerson said late Monday that it was not yet known whether the poisoning “came from Russia with the Russian government’s knowledge.”
The comments came before President Donald Trump announced Tuesday morning that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would replace Tillerson.
Trump said he would speak with British Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday about the poisoning.
“As soon as we get the facts straight, if we agree with them, we will condemn Russia or whoever it may be,” he said.
In a statement released by the State Department on Monday evening, Tillerson called Russia “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.”
Tillerson’s remarks echoed those of May, who had said Monday that it is “highly likely” Russia is responsible for the poisoning, either directly or because it lost control of the nerve agent.
May gave Russia a deadline of midnight Tuesday to explain how Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence officer and onetime double agent for Britain, and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned.
However, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov suggested on Tuesday that Russia would cooperate with Britain only if it gets access to the nerve agent so it could carry out its own analysis. Britain has thus far denied its requests, he said, adding that Russia was “not to blame” for the poisoning.
Tillerson also expressed bewilderment that another country would deliberately target people in public, using a dangerous substance in a foreign country.