The White House has devised a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, after a months-long period of disagreeing on policies, sources say. The plan which President Donald Trump has yet to sign off on would also leave the top post in the CIA vacant, though officials say it could be filled by Republican Senator Tom Cotton. This change would most likely bring a shift in Trump’s foreign policy.
Tillerson’s removal after serving for less than a year is not common practice. Presidents do not usually have a Cabinet restructuring this early in their terms. Following a Thursday meeting with the Bahraini crown prince in the Oval Office, Trump refused to say whether he was considering to keep Tillerson on the job, noting only that “Rex is here.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis rebuffed the report, saying there was “nothing to it.” However, no denial came from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who pointed out that a move won’t be made any time soon and the president will continue to work closely with Tillerson “to close out what we’ve seen to be an incredible year.”
Sanderson added that if Trump lost confidence in someone, that person would not serve any longer. Clashes between the president and his secretary of state have been present in the media for months, with reports that Tillerson called the president a “moron” and Trump challenging him to an IQ match.
Despite beliefs that Tillerson would provide a needed counterweight to the brash and impulsive Trump, it became evident very quickly that this would not be the case. Trump has publicly undermined his secretary of state’s authority on several occasions by taking a position much different from that of the State Department.
Pompeo, on the other hand, has a close relationship with the president and shares many of his views on foreign policy. Cotton, who may take Pompeo’s place at the CIA, is among the most vociferous defenders of Trump’s foreign policy, Associated Press News reports.