White House is Considering Replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo
Washington (CNN)The White House is contemplating a scenario to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo within the next few months, multiple government officials tell CNN.
The vacancy at the CIA would likely be filled, according to the tentative plan, by Sen. Tom Cotton, a hawkish Arkansas Republican, the sources said.
There's no decision yet on the timing of Tillerson's departure, which has been expected for months. But multiple sources close to the White House and across government said Pompeo is the leading candidate to take over at the State Department.
President Donald Trump offered, "He's here, Rex is here," when asked if he wants Tillerson to stay on the job by reporters at the White House Thursday after the news broke of the potential exit plan.
"As the President just said, 'Rex is here,' " White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement, adding that the administration has no personnel announcements to make.
"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," she said.
The New York Times reported Thursday morning that the plan to replace Tillerson has been developed by White House chief of staff John Kelly and is likely to be triggered late this year or early next year.
The news fleshes out some detail on a possible Tillerson ouster, anticipated for months as tensions between the top US diplomat and Trump have played out in unprecedented public fashion. Accounts of Tillerson dismissing the President as a "moron" have been matched by Trump's public statements deriding Tillerson for "wasting his time" on diplomatic efforts.
The tepid expressions of support that regularly followed these reports haven't been enough to dampen speculation, as support for Tillerson has eroded across Washington in the nearly 10 months since his appointment.
Administration officials have chafed at Tillerson's resistance to Trump policy positions, lawmakers have expressed alarm about his cuts to the State Department, staff there decry the agency's dysfunction and senior members of the US national security establishment from both parties warn that he is creating a "national security emergency," in the words of former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.