White House has plan to replace Tillerson with CIA director

WASHINGTON • The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose relationship with US President Donald Trump has been strained, and replace him with CIA director Mike Pompeo, within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said yesterday.

Mr Pompeo would be replaced at the CIA by Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who has been a key ally of the President on national security matters, according to the plan.

Mr Cotton has signalled that he would accept the job if offered, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity.

It was not immediately clear whether Mr Trump has given final approval to the plan, but he has been said to have soured on Mr Tillerson and, in general, is ready to make a change at the State Department.

Mr John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials. Under his plan, the shake-up of the national security team would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterwards.

The ouster of Mr Tillerson would end a turbulent reign at the State Department for the former Exxon Mobile chief executive, who has been largely marginalised over the last year. Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson have been at odds over a host of major issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, the confrontation with North Korea and a clash between Arab allies.

The secretary was reported to have privately called Mr Trump a "moron" and the President publicly criticised Mr Tillerson for "wasting his time" with a diplomatic outreach to North Korea.

Mr Tillerson's departure has been widely anticipated for months, but associates have said he was intent on finishing out the year to retain whatever dignity he could. Even so, an end-of-year exit would make his time in office the shortest of any secretary of state whose tenure was not ended by a change in presidents in nearly 120 years.

Mr Pompeo, a former three-term member of Congress, has impressed Mr Trump during daily intelligence briefings and become a trusted policy adviser even on issues far beyond the CIA's normal mandate, like healthcare.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 01, 2017, with the headline 'White House has plan to replace Tillerson with CIA director'. Print Edition | Subscribe