WASHINGTON, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) — The White House on Thursday rejected widespread reports about a plan initiated by the Trump administration to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, saying there will be no personnel changes.
“There are no personnel announcements at this time. Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department,” said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in a statement released in the day.
Sanders’ remarks came after multiple major U.S. news outlets reported on Thursday morning that the White House is planning to remove the current head of the State Department.
Tillerson’s relationship with U.S. President Donald Trump “has been strained” and perhaps he will be replaced “within the next several weeks,” reported The New York Times, citing senior administration officials.
Incumbent CIA Director Mike Pompeo, a former three-term Congressman and a sturdy supporter of Trump, is said to be Tillerson’s successor.
Trump, when asked if he wanted Tillerson to stay on the job on Thursday morning, made a simple reply.
“Rex is here,” he said, seemingly dodging the question.
It was not the first time that the Trump-Tillerson relationship has been scrutinized.
In October, when asked if he still had confidence in Tillerson, Trump replied, “Yes.”
In an afternoon daily briefing, Sanders, further rebutting the reports, said that when Trump loses confidence in someone, “they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in.”
Trump and Tillerson are “going to work together to close out what we’ ve seen to be an incredible year,” Sanders added.
The U.S. State Department also ridiculed the reports on Thursday.
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called the department this morning, saying that “those reports are not true,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a briefing Thursday afternoon.
However, Nauert also hinted that Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobile, an American multinational oil and gas corporation, seemed to feel uncomfortable about Washington which “can be a tough game of politics.”
“He (Tillerson) doesn’t always understand and accept exactly how Washington works with anonymous sources, things of that nature. That’s not who he is, that’s not the world that he comes from,” said the spokeswoman.
Tillerson, 65, a Texas native, was a civil engineer who joined the energy company in 1975 and rose to serve as CEO between 2006-2016.
Months after he was sworn in as state secretary, Tillerson launched a “redesign” project, which, along with staff cutting and budget trimming, drew severe criticism from bipartisan lawmakers who worried that those steps may cause a brain drain in the U.S. foreign service corps.
According to the State Department, Tillerson is sticking to his schedule as state secretary, which will take him to Europe on a five-day trip next week.
During the tour, Tillerson will visit Brussels, Vienna and France, meeting NATO leaders and foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) members to discuss U.S.-EU cooperation on major global issues.