Media reports indicating the White House is preparing to dismiss Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were later denied by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders Thursday.
Multiple news sources reported the White House was preparing to enact a plan to dislodge Mr. Tillerson from the State Department by the end of the year or in early 2018.
According to insiders, the White House is weighing replacing Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, currently the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
“When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in,” Sanders told reporters at a Thursday White House press briefing.
Under the suspected plan, Pompeo would move from the CIA to State and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), a Trump favorite, would shift from Capitol Hill to the spy agency’s headquarters in Langley, Va.
Rumors suggesting Tillerson’s exit largely revolve around differences with the president on foreign policy matters, particularly Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and, most notably, Iran.
Moreover, Tillerson is believed to have few allies outside State and fewer, if any, at the White House and no support in Congress.
At State, spokeswoman Heather Nauert offered a more-robust defense of the beset secretary, telling reporters the secretary has a full slate and a trip abroad, all of which indicates his intent to remain in the job.
“He’s heard these kinds of stories before. He’s just going on about his business,” Nauert said Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Tillerson had participated in discussions in the Oval Office with President Trump and the crown prince of Bahrain. Aware of the reports, Trump referred to Tillerson’s presence at the meeting and remarked: “(Tillerson) is here; Rex is here.”
Long speculated to be purged from the administration, Tillerson dismissed reports of his ouster as “laughable” on Friday morning.
Later in the day, President Trump dismissed out-of-hand speculation of the former Exxon Mobil CEO’s demise as America’s top diplomat.
The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://t.co/FrqiPLFJ1E
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 1, 2017
Editor’s note: This article has been updated.
[Roll Call] [Reuters] [Politico] [AP via SF Gate] [Photo courtesy Getty Images via NBC News]