Washington: The White House has dismissed reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is about to be replaced. The US top diplomat “continues to lead the state department”, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said on Thursday, BBC reported. Also, a state department spokeswoman said the reports “were not true”.
The denials come amid reports from several news organisations, citing unnamed administration officials, that plans are being drawn up to replace him with CIA chief Mike Pompeo. President Donald Trump and Tillerson have disagreed on foreign policy issues and are said not to get on. The reports first emerged in the New York Times and Vanity Fair, which quoted government sources.
According to several reports citing sources, Pompeo would be replaced at the CIA by Republican Senator Tom Cotton, and the reshuffle could take place as soon as December or in January. However, it is not yet clear whether Mr Trump has given final approval to the move, the New York Times says. “As the president just said: ‘Rex is here,'” Sanders said.
“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.” In a later briefing, Sanders added: “When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve here.”
At the state department, spokeswoman Heather Nauert conceded that Mr Tillerson and Mr Trump have had policy differences. But she said that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had phoned the department to say “the rumours are not true”.
When asked how Tillerson, who is due in Europe next week, could continue to do his job while the White House was briefing journalists he was about to lose it, she said: “The secretary of state is someone who doesn’t let his feathers get ruffled very easily.” In further reaction to the reports, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said Tillerson was “unaware of anything changing”. And Defence Secretary James Mattis told reporters at the Pentagon that there was “nothing” to the reports.