Tillerson did not speak to Trump before firing

Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTrump cannot blame policy of separating children on Obama North Korea looked to set up communications back channel through Kushner: report North America wins 2026 bid to host World Cup after lobbying from Trump MORE did not speak to President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP lawmakers preparing to vote on bill allowing migrant children to be detained longer than 20 days: report Wasserman Schultz: Infants separated from their parents are in Florida immigrant shelters Ex-White House ethics chief: Sarah Sanders tweet violates ethics laws MORE before his firing on Tuesday and is "unaware" of the reason behind his dismissal, according to a statement from Tillerson's top deputy.

The statement contradicted the White House's version of events. It says White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE told Tillerson that Trump was removing him on Friday.

The State statement came from Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein, who was reportedly fired a few hours after its release.

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"The Secretary did not speak to the President this morning and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling and not to be regretted," Goldstein said in a statement.

Goldstein also said that Tillerson had "every intention of staying" before his firing.

"He established and enjoyed relationships with his counterparts. He will miss his colleagues at the Department of State and enjoyed working together with the Department of Defense in an uncommonly robust relationship," he said.

"We wish Secretary Designate Pompeo well," the statement concluded, referring to CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo: Trump likely to meet with Putin in 'not-too-distant future' A path to victory for Trump on Iran Israel scales back work with UN Human Rights Council after US exit MORE, whom Trump tapped to succeed Tillerson.

A White House official told The Hill that Kelly called Tillerson on Friday night to tell him that Trump had decided to let him go. The official said the call was short, not testy, and did not focus on policy differences. 

Tillerson, who was on a diplomatic trip to Africa, asked if the news could be held back until his return. The White House agreed, and the news came out hours after Tillerson's return Tuesday morning. 

Tillerson had cut the trip short, telling reporters he'd got little sleep and had food poisoning at one of his stops.

In comments outside the White House, Trump heaped praise on Pompeo and alluded to differences with Tillerson, noting their disagreements on Iran.

“When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible. I guess he thought it was okay,” Trump said. “I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently. So we were really not thinking the same.”

“I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want,” Trump said. “But I think Mike Pompeo will be a truly great secretary of State. I have total confidence in him.”

Tillerson and Trump frequently clashed, with the secretary of State reportedly referring to the president as a "moron" in private. 

Jonathan Easley contributed to this story.

This story was updated at 12:27 p.m.