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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Trump White House shake-ups expected to continue

Officials say more changes could come this week.

President Donald Trump speaks during an inspection of border wall prototypes in San Diego, California. The trip to the "Golden State" was largely upstaged by his own announcement that he had sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Mandel Ngan / AFP
President Donald Trump speaks during an inspection of border wall prototypes in San Diego, California. The trip to the "Golden State" was largely upstaged by his own announcement that he had sacked Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Mandel Ngan / AFP

US president Donald Trump is giving no signs of curbing his White House shake-ups, as he builds an administration in his own freewheeling image.

Following a series of high-profile departures, including the sacking of Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, analysts predict further turmoil and the removal of more members of the administration.

Iran expressed concern on Wednesday that the changes brought Mr Trump closer to his goal of abandoning the 2015 nuclear agreement.

“The United States is determined to leave the nuclear deal, and changes at the State Department were made with that goal in mind - or at least it was one of the reasons,” Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi said, according to It is a semi-official news agency ISNA.

Meanwhile more details have emerged of Mr Tillerson’s removal.

He was fired in a tweet soon after returning from a trip to Africa where he was struck down by food poisoning.

It followed Mr Trump’s announcement last week that he would meet North Korean's Kim Jong Un, a decision made without consulting his chief diplomat – a move that frustrated Mr Tillerson and privately pleased a president who told aides he found the process easier without his secretary of state, according to the Washington Post.

Mr Tillerson was woken up at 2 am by a telephone call from John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, who relayed Mr Trump’s displeasure and reportedly told him the president wanted him out.

In the aftermath, Mr Trump revealed that a difference in worldviews was to blame.

“I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want,” he said.

Officials say more changes could come this week.

According to Washington speculation, the next in line could be David Shulkin - the veteran affairs secretary who misused taxpayer money during a trip to Europe last year - or HR McMaster, the national security adviser whose briefing style has irked the president.

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Read more:

Comment: The dissenting voices have been silenced in the White House

Editorial: The end of Tillerson's ineffectual tenure comes as no surprise

Mike Pompeo: From soldier and spy chief to diplomat

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Rich Galen, a veteran Republican strategist, said Jeff Sessions, the embattled attorney general, was also vulnerable.

“Trump is becoming more comfortable with the expanse of his powers and the idea that he can fire anyone he wants at any time he wants,” he said.

“There’ll be more of this in the next months and he can say he is preparing for re-election, or the mid-terms, or North Korean talks.”

Mr Tillerson’s departure follows that of Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs banker who resigned from his post as chief White House economic adviser after Mr Trump pressed ahead with populist plans to impose tariffs on imports of aluminium and steel.

Governments around the world are now trying to understand the impact of the changes.

The Kremlin said it hoped for a constructive and sober approach to relations between Russia and the United States, while the Turkish foreign minister said he wanted a “"mutually respectful" relationship.

In Iran, the Javan newspaper, believed to be close to the Revolutionary Guard, also said the removal of Mr Tillerson signalled the end of the 2015 nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Either way, analysts suggested it meant moderates were losing ground in the Trump administration.

Reva Goujon, vice-president of geopolitical intelligence platform and publisher Global Analysis at Stratfor wrote: "even if the nuclear deal survives on European life support, Iran can clearly see that the pragmatists in the administration advocating a more balanced approach to the JCPOA are on the decline while hawks like Pompeo and US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley are on the rise.”

The same goes for American observers although there is hope that Mr Pompeo’s close alliance with the president could help the State Department regain ground lost under Mr Tillerson.

"Tillerson’s ouster is a sign of continued turbulence in US foreign policy,” said Jessica Chen Weiss, a Cornell University professor. “A potential silver lining is that the State Department will fare better under someone who has Trump's ear.”