White House says Tillerson to remain as secretary of state

White House says Tillerson to remain as secretary of state

President Donald Trump is considering a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose relationship has been strained by the top USA diplomat's softer line on North Korea and other differences, senior administration officials said on Thursday.

Both CNN and Bloomberg subsequently reported that the White House is weighing replacing Tillerson with Pompeo.

Some argued that things at the State Department can hardly get worse than they have been under Tillerson, whose 10-month reign has been marked by an exodus of top diplomats, deep dismay at planned 30 percent budget cuts, and conflicts with Trump.

Mr Trump surprised many observers when he tweeted that Mr Tillerson was "wasting his time" pursuing contacts with North Korea, and Mr Tillerson was quoted as having said that the president was a "moron", though he denied having said it.

"He's here. Rex is here", Trump said in the Oval Office when asked if he wants Tillerson to remain in his job. Nauert added that Tillerson "serves at the pleasure of the president". Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would lead the intelligence agency if Pompeo moves to State, according to the newspaper. White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said Tillerson "is here" and there are "no personnel announcements to be made at this time". The president was here today with the secretary of state.

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"There has been a kind of Cold War going on between these two", Wallace noted, adding there has seemed to be a rift between Trump and Tillerson on handling North Korea. On several occasions, the president publicly undercut his diplomatic initiatives.

If carried out, the staff changes would be the latest in a string of firings or resignations in the Trump administration including the departures of the chief of staff, national security adviser and Federal Bureau of Investigation director.

The former ExxonMobil executive has also defended the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump last month disavowed.

A senior administration official who spoke recently with Tillerson says the former Exxon Mobil CEO felt secure in his position and was focused on his State Department reorganization and other diplomacy matters.

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