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White House circulates plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

The White House is considering a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The anticipated shakeup, which could come as early as January, is being orchestrated by chief of staff John Kelly and includes a scheme to have Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) succeed Pompeo at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, The New York Times first reported.


President Trump responded to questions about Secretary of State Tillerson. Trump was asked about Tillerson during a meeting with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain in the Oval Office at the White House.

The President ignored questions from reporters, saying only: “He’s here. Rex is here.”

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders backed the President’s sentiment.

“There are no personnel announcements at this time,” she said. “Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department and the entire cabinet is focused on completing this incredibly successful first year of Trump's administration.”


Sanders later implied that Trump maintains confidence in Tillerson, though she did not say so definitively.

“When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in,” she told reporters at Thursday’s briefing. “The president was here today with the secretary of state. They engaged in a foreign leader visit and are continuing to work together to close out what we’ve seen to be an incredible year.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said White House chief of staff John Kelly had called Thursday morning to deny the Times report that he was behind a plan to push Tillerson out.

“The secretary is someone whose feathers don’t get ruffled very easily. He kind of brushed this off today. He’s heard these kinds of stories before," Nauert said.

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