White House has plan to replace Tillerson with CIA chief, reports say

The White House has developed a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, within weeks, a senior Trump administration official said on Thursday.

Under the plan, Republican Sen. Tom Cotton would be tapped to replace Pompeo at the CIA, the New York Times reported, citing senior officials.

The Times, the first to report the plan, said it was not immediately clear whether U.S. President Donald Trump had given final approval to the plan. 

Tillerson was unaware of any plans to oust him when he spoke to Sen. Bob Corker on Thursday, Corker said.

“He’s conducting business, as is the norm, and is unaware of anything changing,” Corker, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, told reporters.

Tillerson’s departure would end a troubled tenure for the former ExxonMobil chief executive who has found himself increasingly at odds with Trump over policy challenges, such as North Korea and under fire for his planned cuts at the State Department.

John Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials, the Times reported. Under his plan, the staff reshuffle would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward.

CIA Pompeo

CIA director Mike Pompeo answers questions while speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C., on April 13. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Tillerson’s departure has been widely rumoured for months, with attention focused on Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, as his likely replacement.

But Pompeo, a former three-term member of Congress, has increasingly moved to the forefront as he gained Trump’s trust on national security matters.

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