Trump poised to oust top diplomat Tillerson, says New York Times report

White House chief of staff soured on Tillerson post'moron comment

After months of clashes on policy and personality, President Donald Trump is considering ousting Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replacing him with hard-nosed CIA Director Mike Pompeo following less than a year on the job, senior USA officials said Thursday as turmoil within Trump's national security team burst into the open.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials, the Times reported. The favored candidate to replace Tillerson is current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, which would leave a vacancy at the CIA.

Mr Tillerson's relationship with the president is thought to have been strained after reports emerged that he had called Mr Trump a "moron" during a meeting at the Pentagon. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says there are "no personnel announcements at this time".

The nature of the reported change also suggests a change in the administration's focus, with Tillerson having, for instance, ruled out imposing regime change in North Korea, while Pompeo, said to be a Trump favorite recently, has openly advocated it.

The timing of Tillerson's expected departure remains uncertain, but multiple officials said the shake-up could come at the end of the year or early next. On several occasions, the president publicly undercut his diplomatic initiatives.

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"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 answered that "the president speaks for himself". Then, he would fill the Central Intelligence Agency job with Sen.

That's according to two administration officials.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson participates in a panel discussion at the Wilson Center in Washington, U.S., November 28, 2017. Tillerson never confirmed the report, but Trump soon after challenged Tillerson to an IQ test.

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