WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson enjoys his job as Washington’s top diplomat and intends to stay on, his spokeswoman said Thursday, after reports President Donald Trump plans to force him out.
Reports earlier said that President Donald Trump was considering a plan to oust Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whose relationship has been strained by the top U.S. diplomat’s softer line on North Korea and other differences.
Spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly had called the State Department to assure officials that the reports that he was to be replaced were untrue.
“Secretary Tillerson enjoys this job. He has a lot of work to do,” Nauert said, confirming that the secretary has meetings planned next week with European ministers in Brussels, Vienna and Paris.
“It is a fact that Secretary Tillerson serves at the pleasure of the president, as we all do,” she added.
“Chief of Staff Kelly called our department this morning and said that the rumors are not true, that those reports are not true. That is what I’ve been told, and that’s what we’ve been told, and you heard from the White House today that they have no personnel changes to announce.”
As Nauert spoke at the State Department, Tillerson was at the White House for a meeting with top national security officials on the crisis in Syria.
Earlier, The New York Times — followed shortly afterwards by several other news outlets — had reported that Trump has become frustrated with Tillerson and plans to replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Both Nauert and Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said no cabinet changes were imminent.
“Certainly, they will have areas of disagreement, when it comes to policy. Of that there’s no doubt, and it’s very clear. The secretary has spoken to that himself,” Nauert said, insisting that Trump welcomes having policy options to choose from.