The White House has plans to give Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the boot and replace him with current CIA head Mike Pompeo, according to reports on Thursday.
The anticipated shakeup, which could come as early as January, is being orchestrated by chief of staff John Kelly and includes a scheme to have Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) succeed Pompeo at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, The New York Times first reported.
Tillerson’s exit has been speculated about for months.
President Trump, appearing at the White House on Thursday with the crown prince of Bahrain, ignored questions from reporters, saying only: “He’s here. Rex is here.”
In October, Tillerson shot down a report that said he was on the verge of resigning over the summer.
The former ExxonMobil executive has butted heads with Trump on several key diplomatic issues and has publicly split from the official White House line regarding tensions between North Korea and Iran.
The 63-year-old has led the State Department through a tumultuous tenure that has seen morale within the agency nosedive as recruitment and retention levels decline.
Trump has proposed slashing the State Department’s budget by 28%, a move that Congress has so far rejected.
Tillerson has said that he is implementing a departmentwide reorganization that includes staff cuts and a number of key positions remaining empty.
A bipartisan group of Senators expressed their “deep reservations” about Tillerson’s leadership two weeks ago.
A senior administration official who spoke recently with Tillerson says the former oil executive felt secure in his position and was focused on his State Department reorganization and other diplomacy matters, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Adding to tensions between Trump and Tillerson, the nation’s top diplomat reportedly threatened to resign from his post and called Trump a “moron” over the summer.
Trump in turn claimed he has a higher I.Q. and publicly criticized Tillerson’s diplomatic efforts in North Korea, saying the secretary of state is “wasting his time.”
Pompeo has become a trusted Trump adviser since being appointed to the CIA.
After engaging in his own war of words with Trump last month, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) told The Washington Post that the President had “publicly castrate(d)” Tillerson on the world stage with his frequent outbursts and threats.
While Tillerson’s exit has been speculated on for months, it was generally reported that he was expected to finish out the year.
Previous rumors circulated in Washington that White House officials were considering replacing Tillerson with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley.
The Trump administration has been plagued by an extraordinarily high turnover rate during its first year.
A number of White House aides, officials and advisers have left or been replaced in recent months including chief of staff Reince Priebus, chief strategist Stephen Bannon and press secretary Sean Spicer.
Pompeo, a hawkish former Congressman from Kansas, has become a trusted Trump adviser since being appointed to the CIA.
Trump often asks Pompeo, who graduated first in his class at West Point and went to Harvard Law School, to the White House to deliver briefings and updates on a range of issues.
Pompeo’s political leanings have led to some trepidations within the intelligence community since his appointment, according to several reports.
Cotton has defended his former colleague.
“Like President Trump, Director Pompeo is clear-eyed and hard-nosed about the threats we face, and he speaks in the direct, blunt manner of a man who has no time to waste when confronting those threats,” Cotton, who served alongside Pompeo in the House before being elected to the Senate, told Politico.
Cotton taking over the nation’s spy agency would open up another seat in the Senate, a repercussion that would likely weigh on Trump ultimate decision, according to The Times.
The 40-year-old Army veteran said in a statement that his “focus in on serving Arkansans in the Senate.”
Source: Ny Daily News