Trump plans to replace Tillerson with Pompeo

In 10 months as America's chief diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has found no world leader a greater challenge than the President of the United States.

But others argued that any new secretary of state would face the same obstacles as Tillerson, who was undercut this year when Trump told his chief diplomat to stop "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea.

By September, the White House was telling some people that Tillerson would be replaced and some issues needing sign-off from the secretary of state were being put off until after he was gone, said a senior administration official, who like others wasn't authorized to comment publicly and demanded anonymity.

Earlier this year, Tillerson denied an NBC News report that top Trump administration officials, including Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceTop US automakers warn Pence: NAFTA proposal could hurt industry Flipping Michael Flynn: The real and imagined damage of a Mueller deal Preet Bharara: Helping Mueller probe might be only "sane" move for Flynn MORE, had urged him not to step down from the State Department.

However, they said Pompeo would need to resist the planned budget cuts and find a way to grapple with Trump's tweets. "Sometimes I'd like him to be a little bit tougher". In October the former oil executive called an extraordinary impromptu press conference as reports circled that he had called the president "a moron". Trump also deemed diplomacy with North Korea a waste of time, when Tillerson was pursuing just that. "Yes, sometimes, he changes his mind". But he now appears poised to lose an argument: over Tillerson's objections, the president is poised to recognize the disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"If the president undercuts what he is trying to achieve diplomatically, convinces people that whatever you agree to with the secretary of state will be overturned by the president ... then he is basically neutered", said Richard Boucher, a former top USA diplomat who now teaches at Brown University.

Tillerson's aloof management style and cost-saving plan to restructure the State Department, including slashing around 2,000 positions, has not helped his popularity. "Who knows if that still holds?" the source said.

If carried out, the staff changes would be the latest in a string of departures and firings in Trump's administration in recent months, including his chief of staff, national security adviser and Federal Bureau of Investigation director. Tom Cotton (R-AR) would then succeed Pompeo as director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

  • Rogelio Becker