Wednesday news: March 14, 2018

Tillerson out » In the biggest shakeup yet of President Trump’s administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is out.  

TILLERSON: I’ll now return to private life as a private citizen, as a proud American. I’m proud of the opportunity I’ve had to serve my country.

In remarks shortly after his firing, Tillerson thanked his staff and took a parting shot at Russia, warning Moscow that it risks isolation from the rest of the world if it doesn’t change its behavior.

Officially, Tillerson’s last day will be March 31st, though he’s already handing off his day to day duties.

President Trump, standing next to his Marine One helicopter outside the White House, said he and Tillerson got along “quite well,” but just weren’t on the same page on a number of issues.

TRUMP: We disagreed on things. When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible, I guess he thought it was okay. I wanted to either break in or do something, and he felt a little bit different. 

The Iran agreement was just one of the matters over which they clashed, and the secretary had reportedly threatened to quit amid the ongoing tension. His ouster comes amid a dramatic diplomatic opening with North Korea, with Trump set to hold a historic meeting with dictator Kim Jong Un.

Pompeo, Gina Haspel nominated » The president immediately tapped CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson.

Pompeo is a former Republican congressman from Kansas and has been one of Trump’s most loyal cabinet members, personally sitting in on most of the president’s daily briefings.

To replace Pompeo at Central Intelligence, Trump is nominating Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel. She’s poised to become the first woman to head the agency.

But the Senate must still confirm Pompeo and Haspel to their new posts. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday:

MCCONNELL: Both these nominees seem perfectly well qualified. We hope they’ll not be subjected to undue delay. 

And Minority leader Chuck Schumer said during confirmation hearings, Pompeo will face hard questions about his position on how to deal with Russia.

SCHUMER: Rex Tillerson was not close to tough enough on Russia. We hope, if he’s confirmed, that Director Pompeo will be a lot tougher, and we hope he can persuade the president to be tougher. 

Trump visits wall prototypes » After his remarks at the White House, President Trump boarded Air Force One and headed west to San Diego where he viewed prototypes for a border wall. The president also spoke with Border Patrol agents about the importance of walls along the border.

TRUMP: And you were here before they had a wall? AGENT: Correct, I started here in 1992. TRUMP: And what was it like until you built a wall? 

The president inspected 8 different prototypes for his long-sought wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He said he prefers a concrete wall because it’s hardest to climb, but agents noted the importance of being able to see through the wall in some way to avoid people hiding behind them.

President Trump later addressed reporters and sent a message to lawmakers that it’s time to fund the wall. But he said, the wall is only part of the problem, taking aim once more at controversial sanctuary laws in California.

TRUMP: We have to confront the dangerous sanctuary cities. California’s sanctuary policies put the entire nation at risk. They’re the best friend of criminal.

The Trump administration is suing the state of California over its sanctuary policies, which defy federal immigration law.

Prosecutors to seek death penalty against Cruz » Florida prosecutors announced Tuesday they plan to seek the death penalty for the gunman in last month’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida. WORLD Radio’s Kristen Flavin has more.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz is charged with killing 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the February 14th shooting. Broward County State Attorney Michael Satz on Tuesday filed formal notice of the decision to seek the death penalty.

Cruz is scheduled to appear in court today for an arraignment. His attorneys have said he would plead guilty to the charges against him in exchange for a sentence of life in prison. The prosecutor’s filing on Tuesday does not preclude a future plea agreement.

Reporting for WORLD Radio, I’m Kristen Flavin.

Mattis in Afghanistan » Defense Secretary Jim Mattis says victory in the 17-year Afghan war will come through political means.

MATTIS: It’s all working to achieve a reconciliation, a political reconciliation, not a military victory. The victory will be a political reconciliation.

Mattis heard there during a surprise visit to Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.

He said the solution will involve agreements between members of the Taliban and the Afghan government, starting with militants “who are tired of fighting.” He he added–quote–“We know there is interest on the Taliban side.”

Mattis met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and also planned to meet with some top U.S. commanders. This is the secretary’s second visit to Afghanistan since President Trump announced in August he would step up efforts to end the conflict. Since then, the U.S. has boosted its presence in the country by about 3,500 troops.

Hawking obit

Renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking has died at age 76.

Hawking made significant contributions to the study of the universe and wrote the bestseller, “A Brief History of Time.”

He was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis— also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

Hawking was an avowed atheist.

I’m Jim Henry. Straight ahead: Henry Olsen on the shifting political climate ahead of the 2018 midterms. Plus, Joel Belz with a special request. This is The World and Everything in It.

(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File) In this March 6, 2018, file photo, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks about the relationship between the U.S. and countries in Africa, at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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