Rex Tillerson

Tillerson Says He Has No Plans to Leave

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he fully intends to remain in the Trump administration through 2018, casting concerns about his future at the State Department as overblown,” Politico reports.

“Speculation surrounding Tillerson’s job security and a potential departure — a so-called Rexit — has run rampant since NBC News reported in October that he had called Trump a ‘moron’ during a meeting with Pentagon officials.”

Meanwhile, Tillerson insisted to CNN that he has never questioned Trump’s mental fitness.

Tillerson Slip Reveals Secret Planning on North Korea

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “let slip last week a few tantalizing details about one of the nation’s most secret military contingency plans: how the United States would try to race inside North Korea to seize its nuclear weapons if it ever saw evidence that Kim Jong-un’s government was collapsing,” the Washington Post reports.

“For years, American diplomats have been trying to engage their Chinese counterparts in a discussion of this scenario… And for years the Chinese have resisted the conversation… The Chinese feared that if news of a conversation leaked, Beijing would be seen as conspiring with the United States over plans for an eventual North Korean collapse, eroding any leverage that Beijing still held over Mr. Kim.”

Diplomat Writes Scathing Resignation Letter

Elizabeth Shackelford, who was seen as a rising star at the State Department, wrote a scathing resignation letter, “accusing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump administration of undercutting the State Department and damaging America’s influence in the world,” Foreign Policy reports.

Shackelford “wrote to Tillerson that she reluctantly had decided to quit because the administration had abandoned human rights as a priority and shown disdain for the State Department’s diplomatic work.”

“Her former colleagues said her departure — and the sentiments expressed in her letter — reflect a wider exodus of midcareer diplomats who have lost confidence in Tillerson’s management and the Trump administration’s approach toward diplomacy.”

Kushner Keeps Tillerson in Dark on Middle East Talks

“Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is increasingly alarmed by what he sees as secret talks between Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, and Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — fearful that the discussions could backfire and tip the region into chaos, according to three people familiar with Tillerson’s concerns,” Bloomberg reports.

“The central goal of the Kushner-Prince Mohammed negotiations … is for an historic agreement featuring the creation of a Palestinian state or territory backed financially by a number of countries including Saudi Arabia, which could put tens of billions of dollars toward the effort.”

Diplomats Say Anyone Is Better Than Tillerson

“Mike Pompeo may have a partisan reputation, hawkish instincts and little diplomatic experience, but morale at the State Department is so low that many career diplomats would be glad to see the CIA director replace Rex Tillerson as secretary of state,” Politico reports.

“Anything, they say, would be better than this.”

Said one State Department official: “Pompeo should decline to keep on board in any capacity every single member of Tillerson’s senior staff.”

Why Rex Tillerson Is Done

Jonathan Swan: “Here’s why Tillerson is on the way out: Trump can’t stand him and has contradicted him on many major policy issues — from North Korea, to Iran, to Qatar, to Saudi Arabia.”

“He has no allies in the White House, few if any in the State Department beyond his innermost circle and he’s managed to alienate even his tiny number of supporters on Capitol Hill.”

“His natural constituency would’ve been Democrats and moderates who view him and General Mattis as restraints on the president, but he lost that crowd because of what he’s done to the State Department — a bungled reorganization and a failure to appoint people to top jobs.”

Wall Street Journal: Trump declines to quash speculation about Tillerson’s outster.

Trump Plans to Oust Tillerson as Secretary of State

“The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained, and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, within the next several weeks,” the New York Times reports.

“Mr. Pompeo would be replaced at the C.I.A. by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who has been a key ally of the president on national security matters, according to the White House plan. Mr. Cotton has signaled that he would accept the job if offered, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations before decisions are announced.”

Diplomats Sound the Alarm as They Are Pushed Out

New York Times: “The departures mark a new stage in the broken and increasingly contentious relationship between Mr. Tillerson and much of his department’s work force. By last spring, interviews at the time suggested, the guarded optimism that greeted his arrival had given way to concern among diplomats about his aloofness and lack of communication. By the summer, the secretary’s focus on efficiency and reorganization over policy provoked off-the-record anger.”

“Now the estrangement is in the open, as diplomats going out the door make their feelings known and members of Congress raise questions about the impact of their leaving.”

Trump Wants Pompeo to Replace Tillerson

President Trump “has turned his daily intelligence briefing — a routine that in previous administrations has been a dry, formal affair — into a free-flowing conversation during which he peppers his CIA director, former House member Mike Pompeo, with questions about everything from national security threats to the internal dynamics of Congress,” Politico reports.

“The CIA director’s favored status in the West Wing has made him the odds-on choice to succeed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, according to more than half a dozen administration officials and outside advisers familiar with the White House’s current plans. It’s not clear when Tillerson might leave — he has vigorously denied rumors that he plans to resign anytime soon — but Pompeo has told associates that he expects the president to tap him for the position and that he’d accept the job if it’s offered to him.”

Tillerson’s Power Play

“A leaked State Department document is alarming diplomats and others who say it shows the accumulation of power among a small and unaccountable group of senior aides to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The chart, obtained by Politico, illustrates the growing influence of the State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, which traditionally has served as an in-house think tank but which Tillerson heavily relies upon for day-to-day decision making.”

“Critics already complain that the office — led by Brian Hook, a powerful Tillerson aide not subject to Senate confirmation — accepts too little input from career diplomats, and the chart, which lays out a method to craft foreign policy, shows no explicit role for them. The chart appears to show a top-down approach in which ideas emanate from the secretary’s inner circle rather than bubbling up from diverse sources, including Foreign Service officers in the field.”

Tillerson Insists He’s Not Going Anywhere

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Wall Street Journal he was confused about rumors of his departure and said he would remain in the job “as long as the president thinks I’m useful.”

Said Tillerson: “Who in the world is telling you that stuff?”

When asked if Trump should be reelected, Tillerson “paused for a beat, then said, ‘Well, of course. … I mean, I don’t think about it, quite frankly, right now… We’ve got these things we’re dealing with, but yeah.'”

Corker Says Trump Is Trying to ‘Castrate’ Tillerson

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), “who publicly laid into Trump earlier this week on Twitter by saying the White House had become an ‘adult day care center,’ slammed the president by saying he was undermining Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and creating scenarios in which the United States might be forced to choose between waging war on North Korea or Iran or allowing those countries to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons,” Politico reports.

Said Corker: “You cannot publicly castrate your own secretary of state without giving yourself that binary choice.”

He added: “When you jack the legs out from under your chief diplomat, you cause all that to fall apart. Us working with Beijing effectively is the key to not getting to a binary choice. When you publicly castrate your secretary of state, you take that off the table.”

Pompeo Considered as Replacement for Tillerson

Mike Allen: “Trump advisers and allies are floating the idea of replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, age 53 — someone who’s already around the table in the Situation Room, and could make the switch without chaos.”

“We’re told that Trump is quite comfortable with Pompeo, asking his advice on topics from immigration to the inner workings of Congress. Pompeo personally delivers the President’s Daily Brief, making him one of the few people Trump spends a great deal of time with on a daily basis.”

“Sources tell us Trump recognizes that a Cabinet shuffle would bring bad press. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants stability, and so is discouraging high-level departures before next year. And yet, insiders say Trump’s relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair.”