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Rex Tillerson departure rumors resurface

November 30, 2017

The White House says Rex Tillerson is continuing to lead the State Department, after reports emerged Donald Trump was mulling plans to get rid of him. CIA chief Mike Pompeo is considered his likely replacement.

Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/CNP/Kevin Dietsch/Consolidated News Photos

The White House responded to speculation about the reported ouster of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Thursday, saying "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," press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

US media had quoted senior administration officials as saying President Donald Trump was planning to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo as part of a major shake-up of his security team.

When asked by reporters if he wanted Tillerson to stay in his post, Trump said: "He's here, Rex is here," but didn't explicitly deny the claim.

If the cabinet shuffle is carried out, it would be the latest in a string of departures and sackings in Trump's administration over the past few months.

Rumors about Trump's dissatisfaction with Tillerson have been circulating for months. The two men have reportedly had a strained relationship, with differences in their positions on some major foreign policy issues, including North Korea and Iran.

In October, the former Exxon Mobil head was quoted as saying Trump was a "moron," although he denied the report. Trump also tweeted that Tillerson was "wasting his time" pursuing negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear program.

Under the plan, which was first reported by the New York Times, the cabinet changes would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward.

It was not clear whether Trump had signed off on the potential shake-up, but officials told US media the president had requested the plan be put together.

Tillerson's aides and the State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Officials said Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, an important Trump ally on national security issues, would likely replace Pompeo as CIA director.

nm/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)