The outgoing secretary of state, who returned before dawn from a trip to Africa, did not speak to the president before his sacking was announced and was unaware of the reason for his sudden downfall, according to a top aide.
The reason for the latest rift was unclear, but Trump and Tillerson have often appeared at odds over policies such as the nuclear deal with Iran and the tone of United States diplomacy. CEO Rex Tillerson will serve as secretary of state.
"I will now return to private life, private citizen, a proud American, proud of the opportunity I've had to serve my country".
Trump's critics were constantly griping that the president was undermining Tillerson's diplomatic efforts with North Korea, when in fact the opposite was true.
"He had no idea that this was occurring", said Steve Goldstein, undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.
While Trump thanked Tillerson "for his service", he was sparing in his praise of the 65-year-old former Exxon chief, long rumored to be on the way out.
However, based on the response from the U.S. Department of State shortly after 9 a.m. EDT on Tuesday as well as tweets by White House pool reporters in touch with Tillerson, Trump's decision appears to have stunned Tillerson himself.
"The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security", Goldstein said.
Trump sees three defects in the deal: its failure to address Iran's ballistic missile programme; the terms under which worldwide inspectors can visit suspect Iranian nuclear sites; and "sunset" clauses under which limits on the Iranian nuclear programme start to expire after 10 years. Describing Tillerson's mood, Goldstein said: "He's accepting". His stance created another messaging problem for a White House that has often struggled to project a united front.
Some said Washington may take a harder line under Pompeo and the Europeans may be under more pressure to offer concessions, while others suggested his views on the deal have evolved and he may be better placed to influence Trump to keep it.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she had a positive working relationship with Mr Tillerson and that would continue with Mr Pompeo.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said Tuesday that the ousting of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson should be no surprise and that ongoing tensions between Tillerson and the president was an "untenable situation". Tillerson has pushed Trump to remain and had been pursuing a delicate strategy with European allies and others to try to improve or augment the Obama-era deal to Trump's liking.
At the same time, the USA appears to be ignoring the real situation on the ground and the actions of the Washington-backed groups in particular. Tillerson will be "much happier now", Trump said.
"The anxiety that Trump has about Tillerson being more competent than him has finally played itself out". Trump, the unidentified official said, wanted to have a new team in place ahead of such negotiations. Tillerson reportedly privately calls Trump a "moron" after the session.
Pompeo, a former congressman, has become a favourite of Trump's, impressing the President with his engaging approach during morning intelligence briefings.
Haspel will likely face questioning in her Senate confirmation for her involvement in the Thailand incident.
It was in truth a relationship that was never going to last.