Rex Tillerson strongly condemned Russia for allegedly poisoning an ex-Russian spy, saying there would be retribution for the act.
Hours later, Tillerson was fired by Donald Trump without any prior warning. According to CNBC, Rex Tillerson did not learn about his firing until Trump announced it on Twitter Tuesday morning.
That sequence of events has raised major questions about Donald Trump’s potential connections to Russia, especially as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russia.
Russia is accused of orchestrating the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter in the U.K. using a military-grade nerve agent, NBC News reported. Rex Tillerson called that attack a “really egregious act” and said that Russia was clearly behind it.
Tillerson went further in a statement released Monday evening, saying that Russia is “an irresponsible force of instability in the world, acting with open disregard for the sovereignty of other states and the life of their citizens.” British Prime Minister Theresa May had also strongly condemned the attack and promised retribution to Russia, raising tensions that had already been high between Russia and NATO countries.
Many have questioned the timing of Tillerson’s firing and whether it was retribution for his speaking out against Russia. His firing seemed especially curious given Donald Trump’s upcoming visit with North Korean dictator Kim-Jong Un and the key role Tillerson was expected to play in orchestrating the meeting.
Others believe that Donald Trump may have selected CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Rex Tillerson because Pompeo can be more easily controlled, especially when it comes to Russia. Tillerson often publicly contradicted Donald Trump, especially on how to respond to military threats.
According to NBC News, Rex Tillerson still did not know the official reason for his firing even hours after Donald Trump publicly announced it on Twitter. There had been no rumors leading up to the firing that Tillerson may be on his way out, as there have for other key members of Trump’s cabinet fired in the last year.
Donald Trump has continued to deny any involvement with Russia during the 2016 campaign, even as Mueller’s investigation has led to indictments against some of his top officials including campaign manager Paul Manafort and National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.