Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday called reports of the Trump administration’s desire to replace him “laughable.”
The New York Times and a number of other outlets reported Thursday, citing unnamed Trump administration officials, that the White House had prepared a plan to replace Tillerson as secretary of state with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and in turn to replace Pompeo with Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK).
Neither White House nor State Department spokespeople confirmed the accuracy of the reporting. President Trump, asked Thursday if he would continue to employee Tillerson, said simply, “Rex is here.”
Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said he spoke to Tillerson Thursday, told CNN he did not believe the secretary of state was on his way out, at least in the near future.
“It’s been evident to me that for some time, somebody is seeking to undermine his presence here,” he told the network. “I don’t know who that is. I know he’s taken on some issues like the reform of the State Department. I know it hasn’t gone in a spectacular way.”
“Again, there’s something underway,” he added, per CNN. “Again, I don’t know who’s doing it, but to discredit what he’s doing at the State Department.”
CNN’s Michelle Kosinski later reported, citing an unnamed source close to the White House, that the Trump administration had leaked stories about replacing Tillerson “to express its extreme displeasure with him.”
Kosinski reported Friday of the photo op in which Tillerson called the stories “laughable”: “This was one of the most uncomfortable photo sprays I’ve ever experienced. Tillerson seemed exasperated, angry.”