It’s been a very weird day at the State Department.
First, President Trump fired Rex Tillerson, after more than a year of butting heads with his Secretary of State.
Shortly after the news of Tillerson’s dismissal broke, Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein released a statement disputing the White House’s version of events: that Tillerson had been summoned to Washington in the middle of a trip to Africa with the expectation that he would be let go. In Goldstein’s version of events, Tillerson had never spoken with Trump about his imminent departure at all.
Shortly afterward, Goldstein himself was fired for contradicting the White House – though apparently that wasn’t the only reason.
It’s still unclear how Tillerson found out about his dismissal.
The Washington Post reported later on Tuesday that, according to White House sources, President Trump had wanted to fire Tillerson via Twitter, but that Chief of Staff John Kelly had persuaded him not to. The sources say that Kelly called Tillerson in Africa Saturday morning and told him that Trump had decided to replace him.
But Goldstein maintains that Kelly merely told Tillerson he could “expect a tweet” from the president, not that he would actually be terminated.
At a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Tillerson said he finally heard from Trump personally around noon — three hours after Trump tweeted excitedly about his new Secretary of State, offering a cursory “thank you” to Tillerson.
No matter whose version of events is most accurate, one thing’s for sure: The White House is a fine-tuned machine.