Trump to replace Tillerson with CIA director Pompeo: US media
Mandel Ngan (AFP)
US President Donald Trump's administration has hatched a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pomep as early as next month, American media outlets reported on Thursday.
According to the New York Times, who first reported on the plan citing administration officials, it has been engineered by White House chief of staff John Kelly after Trump "soured" on his handpicked secretary of state.
Trump himself fed the malestrom of speculation around Tillerson's future, saying only that "Rex is here" after being asked by a reporter if he wants the former oil company chief to remain in his post.
The White House also released a statement shortly after Trump's remarks, noting that "there are no personnel announcements at this time" and that "Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department and the entire cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of President Trump's administration."
Tillerson's imminent departure would make his tenure as secretary of state the shortest in nearly 120 years, aside from those resulting from a change in president. He was also the first secretary appointed with no experience in politics, government, or the military.
Relations between Trump and Tillerson have been seen as rocky -- the president publicly criticized the former Exxon Mobil CEO for “wasting his time” on diplomatic attempts with North Korea, while Tillerson was forced to deny calling Trump a “moron”.
The two former businessmen have also taken different approaches to Saudi Arabia's ambitious politicking in the Middle East and the blockade of Qatar by its Gulf neighbors.
Pompeo has been his expected successor for some time, though Nikki Haley, the ambassador to the United Nations, was previously thought to be the favorite candidate.
In turn, Pompeo would be replaced as the country's chief spymaster by Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and pivotal ally of the president on national security matters, the Times reported.
The paper, which was later joined by other outlets in reporting on the looming reshuffle, said that Cotton had already agreed in principle to take the helm at the CIA.
There has been concern that the move will coincide with other senior officials' potential departures around the New Year, but on the other hand it may be better to get all the roster changes out of the way at once.
AFP contributed to this report.
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