The United States government is considering replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the next few months, according to various reports on Thursday. He may be replaced with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, The New York Times said, citing anonymous government officials.
While United States President Trump has not yet officially signed off on the plan, his relationship with Tillerson has soured, and the president spoke harshly about Tillerson even on Thursday, an official told the daily.
On Thursday, when Trump was asked by reporters if Tillerson would continue as the secretary of state, the president simply said that he was at the White House on Thursday. “He’s here. Rex is here,” Trump said.
However, the White House has neither confirmed nor denied the rumours yet. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement that “there are no personnel announcements at this time”. Without naming Tillerson, she said, “When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in.”
The State Department’s spokesperson Heather Nauert said that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who reportedly put together the plan to remove Tillerson, denied the reports. “What I can tell you is that chief of staff Kelly called our department this morning and said that the rumours are not true, that those reports are not true. That is what I’ve been told,” Nauert said.
She added that Tillerson was continuing his work as usual. “He remains, as I have been told, committed to doing this job. He does serve at the pleasure of the president. This is a job that he enjoys,” she said.
Trump and Tillerson have reportedly not seen eye-to-eye on various matters in the 10 months he has been the secretary of state.
The relationship strained further after Tillerson had reportedly called Trump a moron at a July 20 meeting at the Pentagon with the national security team and other Cabinet members. Responding to this, Trump had said, “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests.” The president had added: “And I can tell you who is going to win.”
In August, Tillerson had publicly disowned Trump’s response to a neo-Nazi march in the US state of Virginia, saying the president only “speaks for himself”.