Trump Has A Plan To Replace Secretary Of State Rex Tillerson With The CIA Chief

Under the scenario, Sen. Tom Cotton would become the new CIA leader.

President Trump currently has a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA chief Mike Pompeo, several news outlets confirmed on Thursday.

The unprecedented move would cut short the turbulent tenure of the former ExxonMobil CEO whose relationship has frayed with Trump over a variety of issues ranging from climate change to the Iran nuclear deal to the diplomatic crisis between US allies in the Persian Gulf.

Under the plan, Pompeo's position at the CIA would be filled by Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas who is an ally of Trump on national security and domestic matters. The proposed reshuffle would inject the State Department with a foreign policy hawk who has issued a series of threats toward Iran and other US adversaries and pledged to make the CIA a much more "vicious" agency.

Cotton has also distinguished himself as one of the most aggressive voices on foreign policy in Congress, once admitting that his "only problem with Guantanamo Bay is there are too many empty beds and cells there right now."

Pushing back against the reports, White House press secretary Sarah 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," she said in a statement.

In a tweet on Friday, Trump eventually expressed support for Tillerson:

The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS! He’s not le…

The rampant speculation about Tillerson's ouster comes just days before his major trip to several European capitals next week. During a reception for Romania's national day at the Cosmos Club in Washington on Thursday, several European diplomats expressed exasperation about the press reports.

"If true, we'll have wasted weeks of preparations for ministerial meetings," one European diplomat told BuzzFeed News.

Another diplomat said the New York Times report indicating that Tillerson could leave in the coming weeks defied his embassy's already bleak expectations. "We thought he'd stay for at least a year," he said.

On Thursday morning, Tillerson arrived at the White House but the purpose of the visit was unclear. A White House reporter for ABC News asked Trump if he intended to keep Tillerson in his job, but did not receive a direct answer. The secretary's public schedule for Thursday did not include a visit to the White House.

I just asked @realDonaldTrump if he wants Rex Tillerson to stay on the job. His answer: “he’s here. Rex is here (at the White House).”

The news of Trump's cabinet shakeup was first reported by the New York Times. Two individuals familiar with the matter told BuzzFeed News that a plan to replace Tillerson with Pompeo had been circulating for weeks, but that the assumed execution date was in February at the earliest. The Times reported that it could come "within weeks."

"A timeline that has Tillerson leaving within weeks is earlier than expected," said one individual.

Sen. Bob Corker, who spoke to Tillerson earlier in the day, suggested that the former Texas oilman was being undermined by an unknown entity at the White House.

“I don't think Sec. Tillerson's getting ready to be ousted,” Corker told reporters. “It's been evident to me that, for some time, somebody has been seeking to undermine his presence. I don't know who that is.”

In light of Pompeo's comments that Muslim American leaders were "potentially complicit" in the Boston Marathon attacks in 2013, and other controversial remarks, Muslim advocacy organizations have expressed concern about the potential appointment.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates and follow BuzzFeed News on Twitter.

Skip to footer