Steve Goldstein publicly contradicted the White House on Tuesday morning, announcing that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson only learned of his own firing only when Donald Trump tweeted about it.
Just a few hours later, Goldstein was also fired from his position as the under secretary of state.
The timing has many questioning whether Goldstein’s firing was retribution for publicly contradicting Donald Trump and announcing that Tillerson’s firing came seemingly out of the blue. As CBS News noted, the White House informed Goldstein today that he was no longer needed, and Goldstein was then called to Tillerson’s office for a meeting.
While there is no official reason yet released for Steve Goldstein’s firing, NBC Politics reported that he was canned for publicly contradicting the White House’s account of Rex Tillerson’s firing.
Goldstein’s statement this morning struck a contradictory tone, pointing out that Tillerson had planned to stay in his position and that his firing came as a surprise.
“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,” Goldstein said in a statement (via the Hill).
“He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship,” he added.
There has already been considerable controversy regarding the firing of Rex Tillerson. Many have questioned the timing of Trump’s decision, which came just hours after Tillerson publicly condemned Russia for allegedly attacking an ex-spy in the U.K. using a military-grade nerve agent.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has also strongly condemned Russia and promised retribution for the attack, which also injured the daughter of the ex-spy. Tillerson’s statement appeared in support of May, putting the U.S. at odds with Russia at a time when tensions between Russia and the West are heightening.
Tillerson had also publicly contradicted Donald Trump on a number of occasions, speaking out against Trump’s tendency to push tension with other nations and propose military solutions, like in North Korea. He also spoke out against Trump’s alleged statements calling African and Latin American nations “s**thole countries.”
Rex Tillerson remains in his office on Tuesday and is expected to be gone from the State Department by the end of the week. It was not immediately clear whether Steve Goldstein was gone from his position immediately or if he would be transitioning out.