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Trump says reports that he will fire Tillerson as secretary of state are 'fake news'

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called recent reports that the White House is looking to oust him “laughable” on Friday.
  • President Donald Trump then called the reports “fake news” on Friday.
  • The New York Times reported Thursday that Tillerson will be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo sometime in the next few months.

President Donald Trump on Friday denied reports that he would soon fire Rex Tillerson as secretary of state.

“The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS!” Trump tweeted. “He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!”

And Tillerson called recent reports that the White House is looking to oust him “laughable” during a photo op with the Libyan prime minister on Friday morning.

The embattled secretary of state refused to answer other questions posed by reporters, but repeated his claim that his imminent removal is “laughable.”

The New York Times reported on Thursday that White House chief of staff John Kelly has crafted a plan to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

While Trump has not yet approved the reported plan to reshuffle State Department leadership, White House officials expect the transition to take place near the end of the year or shortly thereafter. Such an exit would make Tillerson the shortest-serving secretary of state – aside from those who have left amid presidential transitions – in over 100 years.

Tillerson’s relationship with Trump has reportedly soured in recent months as tensions came to a head in October, when reports emerged that the secretary of state called Trump a “moron” over the summer. Tillerson has repeatedly denied the veracity of these reports.

The two have often been at odds over North Korea, one of Trump’s most visible foreign-policy priorities. After Tillerson urged calm over the rogue nation’s continued nuclear provocation, Trump tweeted last month that the former Exxon Mobile CEO was wasting his time.

Trump has similarly diverged from Tillerson’s public comments on several other high-stakes foreign-policy developments, including Qatar’s diplomatic dispute with neighbouring countries, the US’s commitment to NATO, and the Iran nuclear deal.

Criticisms of Tillerson’s management of the State Department have continually plagued his tenure. Earlier this week, Tillerson had said he was “offended” by reports accusing him of gutting the department and forcing out diplomats.

Reuters reported on Friday that Tillerson, along with the president’s son-in-law and top advisor Jared Kushner, may leave their posts following the passage of the GOP tax reform bill.

Brennan Weiss contributed to this report.

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