Trump reportedly plans to replace Secretary of State Tillerson with CIA director Pompeo

Key Points
  • The White House has a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, according to two reports.
  • Sen. Tom Cotton would fill the vacancy at the intelligence agency, The New York Times reported.
  • Reports for months have described a tense relationship between Trump and Tillerson.
Rex Tillerson to be replaced as secretary of State: NYT
Rex Tillerson to be replaced as secretary of State: NYT

The Trump administration has made a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, two news outlets reported Thursday.

The switch could happen "within the next several weeks," ending a rocky run for Tillerson as the nation's top diplomat, The New York Times reported, citing senior administration officials. Vanity Fair separately reported that Pompeo could replace Tillerson as early as January.

President Donald Trump's ally Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would lead the intelligence agency if Pompeo moves to State, according to the newspaper. The senator has advised Trump on issues like the Iran nuclear deal and immigration.

It is unclear if Trump has personally signed off on the move, the Times said. White House chief of staff John Kelly drew up the plan, according to the newspaper. Kelly later told The Wall Street Journal that the White House had no plans to replace Tillerson.

President Donald Trump speaks next to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on April 7, 2017.

Asked Thursday whether Tillerson should stay in the job, Trump only said the secretary of state is "here." In a statement later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not deny the reports about a plan to replace Tillerson but said "there are no personnel announcements at this time."

"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.

Later Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert pointed reporters to the White House statement an added that Tillerson "enjoys the job." Tillerson is "committed" to his duties and is continuing scheduled meetings and calls, she said.

Kelly called the agency earlier Thursday to say the reports were not true, Nauert added.

Reports for months have painted a picture of a tense working relationship between the president and his top diplomat. In October, NBC News reported that Tillerson considered leaving the job and called Trump a "moron" during the summer.

The secretary of State then delivered a remarkable, unscheduled statement in which he insisted he "never considered leaving."

Tillerson, 65, joined the Trump administration after serving as chief executive of Exxon Mobil. He has overseen the Trump administration's dramatic overhaul of the State Department, marked by budget cuts and unfilled jobs.

Pompeo, 53, served as a congressman from Kansas before heading the CIA.

Cotton, a 40-year-old Army veteran, first won his Senate seat in 2014. In a statement to CNBC, Cotton's office said his "focus is on serving Arkansans in the Senate."

If the senator leaves office, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson would pick a successor to serve until the 2018 general elections.