“It’s laughable. It’s laughable,” Tillerson said on Friday, when asked by reporters if Trump is planning to replace him with Pompeo. The rumor was first reported by the New York Times on Thursday, citing an anonymous sources in the White House.
Tillerson’s comment came during an appearance at the State Department with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj. Al-Sarraj’s visit to Washington includes meetings with President Trump and Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Mattis also denied the reports about Tillerson on Thursday, saying, “I make nothing of it, there’s nothing to it.”
Trump himself denounced the report as “fake news” in a tweet on Friday afternoon.
“He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!” the president said.
The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon – FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!https://instagram.com/p/BcLCXDYgQed/
The White House already denied the press reports on Thursday, though not quite as forcefully. When asked about it during a meeting with the Bahraini crown prince, Trump responded, “He’s here. Rex is here.”
“When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters. “The president was here today with the secretary of state. They engaged in a foreign leader visit and are continuing to work together to close out what we’ve seen to be an incredible year.”
In Washington, Tillerson is seen as a moderate in comparison to neoconservatives who aim to upend the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran. Pompeo has long opposed the Iran deal, dating back to his time in Congress.
The US media have already “fired” Tillerson once before. In early October, NBC News reported that Vice President Mike Pence had to talk the secretary of state out of resigning, after Tillerson insulted Trump’s intelligence during a midsummer meeting.
Tillerson, a former Exxon Mobil executive, dismissed the NBC report as “petty nonsense” and said he never considered resigning.
Trump said at the time he had “full confidence” in Tillerson and branded the NBC report “fake news, totally phony.”