Trump Considers Plan to Replace Tillerson with CIA Chief: U.S. Officials
Albanian Daily News
Published November 30, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump is considering a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who has had a strained relationship with his boss over North Korea and other issues, senior administration officials said on Thursday.
Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, known as a Trump loyalist and foreign policy hard-liner, within weeks under a White House plan to carry out the most significant staff shake-up so far of the Trump administration.
Republican Senator Tom Cotton, one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress, would be tapped to replace Pompeo at the Central Intelligence Agency, the officials told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
It was not immediately clear whether Trump had given final approval to the latest staff shake-up, but one of the officials said the president asked for the plan to be put together.
Tillerson’s long-rumored departure would end a troubled tenure for the former Exxon Mobil Corp chief executive, who has been increasingly at odds with Trump over policy challenges such as North Korea and under fire for his planned cuts at the State Department.
Tillerson was reported in October to have privately called Trump a “moron,” something which the secretary of state sought to dismiss.
That followed a tweet by Trump a few days earlier that Tillerson should not waste his time by seeking negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear and missile program, widely seen as a sign of how the secretary of state had become marginalized.
Trump has soured on Tillerson mostly because of the “moron” report, the softer line that America’s top diplomat has taken on North Korea, and differences over the Gulf crisis involving Qatar, one senior U.S. official said.
Trump asked John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, to develop the transition strategy, and it has already been discussed with other officials, one administration source said.
Under the plan, which has been in the works for weeks and was first reported by the New York Times, the staff reshuffle would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward, the official said.
Asked during a White House meeting on Thursday with the crown prince of Bahrain whether he wanted Tillerson to remain in his job, Trump sidestepped the question, telling reporters: “He’s here. Rex is here.”
“There are no personnel announcements at this time,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders later said in a statement. “Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department.”
Tillerson’s departure has been widely rumored for months, with attention focused on Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as his likely replacement.
But Pompeo, a former congressman, has increasingly moved to the forefront as he has gained Trump’s trust on national security matters.
Tillerson, 65, has spent much of his tenure trying to smooth the rough edges of Trump’s unilateralist “America First” foreign policy, with limited success. On several occasions, the president publicly undercut his diplomatic initiatives.
A source familiar with Tillerson’s thinking said the secretary of state’s original plan when he took the job as top U.S. diplomat was to leave in February.