A New York Times report Thursday says the White House has developed a plan to force Rex Tillerson out of his job as secretary of state, replacing him with Mike Pompeo, the current director of the CIA. Tom Cotton, the junior senator from Arkansas, has signaled to the administration that he’s ready to take over at the CIA if Pompeo moves into Tillerson’s chair. The moves, according to the Times, are being orchestrated by White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.
Michael Mosser, who specializes in international relations and global studies at the University of Texas at Austin says many presidents take a second look at cabinet appointees after a year in office. But Tillerson has had a series of ups and downs during his tenure.
“Tillerson himself has said in the past that he did not see this position as a long-term kind of thing,” Mosser says.
Tillerson and President Donald Trump have sent mixed signals to the world about international initiatives, including the U.S. relationship with North Korea. Tillerson has advocated diplomatic engagement, while Trump has opted for threats. Tillerson also allegedly referred to the president in private as “a moron.”
“[Tillerson leaving] certainly will be seen by our allies and adversaries alike as a pretty big change,” Mosser says. “Though I caution that I don’t necessarily anticipate huge changes in American foreign policy, regardless of who takes over for Secretary Tillerson.”
Pompeo, who was a congressman before taking the CIA role when Trump was elected, is said to be more connected to Washington than is Tillerson, who was CEO of ExxonMobil before joining the administration.
“The Trump administration has…been practicing what I like to call non-traditional diplomacy.” Mosser says. “You see that everyday with President Trump’s tweets, but you also see it in his personal relations with our allies and with adversaries… In some respects, the entire state department – and I hesitate to use this word, but I will anyway – has been marginalized.”
Written by Shelly Brisbin.