President Donald Trump is reportedly considering a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, whose position would be filled by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas. Trump and Tillerson's relationship has frayed after months of policy disagreements and personality clashes.
On Nov. 30, sources from within the Trump administration disclosed that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has reportedly devised a plan to smoothly transition Tillerson out of his post by the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018 at the latest. If Tillerson were forced out of his post, he would have the shortest tenure of a secretary of state serving in an ongoing administration in nearly 120 years, The New York Times reports.
Tillerson, the former CEO of Exxon Mobil, was brought into the State Department without any government experience. Since assuming his position, he has cut the department budget, forced the retirements of over 2,000 U.S. diplomats and has yet to fill several key positions.
U.S. ambassador to Qatar Dana Shell Smith said Tillerson's management style was weakening American diplomacy worldwide.
"These people either do not believe the U.S. should be a world leader, or they're utterly incompetent," Smith said. "Either way, having so many vacancies in essential places is a disaster waiting to happen."
On Nov. 27, State Department counselor Maliz Beams resigned from her position after serving for only three months. She had been hired by Tillerson to spearhead an effort to restructure the department, according to Bloomberg.
Tillerson has also personally clashed with Trump, disagreeing with the president's approaches to Iran and North Korea.
On Oct. 4, NBC News reported that Tillerson had called the president a "moron" during a meeting at the Pentagon. Tillerson blasted the report but did not deny that he had criticized Trump's intelligence.
Kelly's plan would replace Tillerson with Pompeo, the current CIA director. Trump reportedly values Pompeo's foreign policy advice.
"Pompeo's ability to communicate in a style in which the president is comfortable, it's probably good news," said former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden of the Bush administration.
Several CIA staffers who requested anonymity said they were concerned with Pompeo's leadership style, citing that he was quick to voice conservative political opinions that they felt could influence the agency's mission.
"When analysts are preparing their assessments, they can't blot out of their mind their awareness of what will be welcome and what will be not welcome," explained fellow Paul R. Pillar of Georgetown University, who worked at the CIA for nearly 30 years. "There is a the hazard of a bias creeping in, even subconsciously."
Cotton is reportedly the Trump administration's pick to replace Pompeo at the CIA. If Cotton left his Senate seat for the agency post, GOP Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas would appoint his intermediary successor until the 2018 midterms.
Following the report of Kelly's plan, Tillerson withdrew from a keynote address for World AIDS Day and made an unscheduled trip to the White House, Politico reports.
White House principal deputy secretary Raj Shah released a statement asserting that Trump was satisfied with Tillerson's performance.
"The president is very pleased with his entire national security team, which includes Secretary Tillerson and Director Pompeo," Shah said.
Sources: Bloomberg, NBC News, The New York Times (2, 3), Politico / Featured Image: U.S. Department of State/Flickr / Embedded Images: Office of the President-elect via Wikimedia Commons, Michael Vadon/Wikimedia Commons