- President Donald Trump is in talks with White House officials about replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
- Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton would replace Pompeo at the CIA.
- The plan is still in the works and has yet to be approved by the president.
The Trump administration has devised a plan that would replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo,The New York Times reported on Thursday. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican and staunch Trump ally, would reportedly replace Pompeo at the CIA.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly developed the plan, The Times said.
Trump’s relationship with Tillerson has soured in recent months. In October, Tillerson reportedly called Trump a “moron.” He is said to have considered resigning from his post as America’s top diplomat over the summer.
Tillerson has repeatedly rejected such claims and denied that there is tension with Trump. When asked about Republican Sen. Bob Corker’s assessment that Trump was publicly castrating the secretary of state by undermining his public comments, Tillerson quipped: “I checked. I’m fully intact.”
The two have also often been at odds over North Korea, one of Trump’s most visible foreign-policy priorities. After Tillerson urged calm over North Korea’s continued nuclear provocation, Trump tweeted last month that the former Exxon Mobile CEO was wasting his time.
“I told Rex Tillerson, our wonderful Secretary of State, that he is wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man…” Trump tweeted. “Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!”
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 overshadowed his tenure. Earlier this week, Tillerson had said he was “offended” by reports accusing him of gutting the department and forcing out diplomats.
Previously, there had been speculation that Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, was the favourite to replace Tillerson, but Haley shot that down last month when she said she would not take the job if offered.
While Trump has not yet approved the reported plan to reshuffle State Department leadership, it is expected that the transition would occur sometime around 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 more than 100 years.
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