President Donald Trump is considering a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose relationship has been strained by the top U.S. diplomat's softer line on North Korea and other differences, senior administration officials said on Thursday. Asked by a reporter whether he wanted Tillerson to stay on the job, Trump was coy, merely pointing out that Tillerson was in fact in the building. "Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department".
The White House has a plan to fire Rex Tillerson as secretary of State and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, within the next several weeks, according to The New York Times.
Mr Trump surprised many observers when he tweeted that Mr Tillerson was "wasting his time" pursuing contacts with North Korea, and Mr Tillerson was quoted as having said that the president was a "moron", though he denied having said it. In October, Tillerson shot down a report that said he had been on the verge of resigning from his Cabinet position over the summer. Shortly after Tillerson announced that the USA was in diplomatic contact with Pyongyang, Mr. Trump tweeted that "he is wasting his time".
"They engaged in a foreign leader visit and are continuing to work together to close out what we've seen to be an incredible year".
Friction between the president and the nation's top diplomat has grown increasingly public through the year. "Who knows if that still holds?" the source said.
A source familiar with Tillerson's thinking said the secretary of state's original plan when he took the job was to leave in February.
The White House insists no change is imminent. "It feels like whiplash", a State Department official said. Axios's Mike Allen and Jonathan Swan reported last month that Pompeo's stock was rising in the White House and that he was a leading contender to replace Tillerson. He's been a supporter of President Trump.
Tensions have also run high between Tillerson and veteran diplomats who oppose his proposed staff and budget cuts and in some cases have privately accused him of hollowing out the State Department.
By September, the White House was telling some people that Tillerson would be replaced and some issues needing sign-off from the secretary of state were being put off until after he was gone, said a senior administration official, who like others wasn't authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.
His tenure has coincided with the departure of dozens of veteran foreign policy hands, and numerous State Department's senior policymaking positions remain unfilled.