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Friday December 14th, 2018 12:49PM

The Latest: Corker expresses surprise at Tillerson firing

By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on the firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (all times local):

10:35 a.m.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, says President Donald Trump's decision to fire his chief diplomat caught him by surprise.

Corker, who has been Tillerson's most vocal supporter on Capitol Hill, acknowledged "there's been tensions" between Tillerson and Trump.

But he says, it had seemed "that they had learned to work together a little bit better." Corker said he didn't know what precipitated the firing.

Trump announced Tuesday he is replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Corker says he doesn't know a great deal about Pompeo.

In early October, Corker had said that Tillerson, along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, are "those people that help separate our country from chaos."

On Tuesday, Corker said, "I have a lot of faith in Tillerson's judgment. I've shared that with the president many times."

__

10:10 a.m.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he hopes CIA Director Mike Pompeo will "turn over a new leaf" as secretary of state and toughen policies toward Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.

Pompeo is President Donald Trump's pick to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Schumer says with the firing of Tillerson, "instability of this administration in just about every area weakens America."

Pompeo would need to be confirmed by the Senate. But Republicans have just a slim 51-seat majority, and confirmation is not certain.

Schumer says, "If he's confirmed, we hope that Mr. Pompeo will turn over a new leaf and will start toughening up our policies towards Russia and Putin."

___

10 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he and ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "disagreed on things."

Trump cites their divergent opinions on the Iran nuclear deal. Iran agreed before Trump took office to curb its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions. The president regularly criticizes the agreement as a bad deal and has repeatedly threatened to end it.

Trump spoke Tuesday of his desire to break the deal, but notes that Tillerson "felt a little bit differently, so we were not really thinking the same."

Trump announced Tuesday that he has fired Tillerson and is replacing him with Mike Pompeo, currently the CIA director.

Trump says he and Pompeo have a "very, very similar thought process."

___

9:55 a.m.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is hailing Mike Pompeo as a "great decision" for next secretary of state.

Haley, who had her own contentious relationship with ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, congratulated Pompeo in a tweet and called him her "friend."

She wrote: "Great decision by the President."

Over months of speculation about Tillerson's future, Haley had been rumored as one possible successor.

___

9:25 a.m.

President Donald Trump is telling reporters that he made the decision to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson "by myself."

The president is adding that Tillerson will be "much happier now," and he appreciates his service. Trump says he and Tillerson had been "talking about this for a long time," and they had disagreed on issues like the Iran deal.

Trump is praising the energy and intellect of his incoming Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who has led the CIA.

The president spoke to reporters at the White House shortly before departing for Joint Base Andrews for his trip to California.

___

9:20 a.m.

A top State Department official says President Donald Trump never explained to ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the reason why he was fired.

The undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, Steve Goldstein, says Tillerson "had every intention of staying" in the job because he felt he was making critical progress in national security.

Two White House officials said Tillerson was told he was out on Friday. The sources weren't authorized to speak publicly and demanded anonymity.

But Goldstein says Tillerson "did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason."

Goldstein says Tillerson will miss his colleagues at the State Department and the foreign ministers he worked with.

Trump named Mike Pompeo, who had been CIA director, as his new secretary.

Goldstein said, "We wish Secretary Pompeo well."

--Contributed by AP writers Zeke Miller, Matthew Lee and Ken Thomas

___

9 a.m.

Rex Tillerson is out as secretary of state. President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that he's naming CIA director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson.

Pompeo is to be replaced at CIA by Gina Haspel, Pompeo's deputy at CIA. She would be the first woman in that role.

Tillerson had just returned from a shortened trip to Africa hours before Trump's announcement. Trump offered no explanation for the change.

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