Trump may replace Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo

In 10 months as America's chief diplomat, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has found no world leader a greater challenge than the President of the United States.

Asked whether he wanted Tillerson to remain in his job, Trump sidestepped the question, telling reporters at the White House: "He's here". "Secretary Tillerson continues to lead the State Department".

Trump is considering replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo by January 20, a year after Trump's inauguration, a source close to the administration told The Times, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal workings at the White House. Democratic Party of Arkansas spokesman Graham Senor says, "There's a long line of people who have expressed interested in running against Senator Cotton in 2020, so we expect that a U.S. Senate election in 2018 would see many people throw their hats in the ring". Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, to replace Pompeo at the Central Intelligence Agency.

The succession plan was developed by chief of staff John Kelly and is expected to occur around the end of the year or shortly after.

But others argued that any new secretary of state would face the same obstacles as Tillerson, who was undercut this year when Trump told his chief diplomat to stop "wasting his time" trying to negotiate with North Korea.

While the changeup would make another cabinet member leaving or being replaced in less than a year of Trump's presidency, Secretary of Defense James Mattis - who is number six behind number four, Tillerson, in the line of succession - said Thursday afternoon he is not anxious about such a change. Mr. Trump and Mr. Tillerson have been at odds over a host of major issues, including the Iran nuclear deal, the confrontation with North Korea and a clash between Arab allies.

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If carried out, the staff changes would be the latest in a string of departures and firings in Trump's administration in recent months, including his chief of staff, national security adviser and Federal Bureau of Investigation director.

Mr. Tillerson's departure has been widely anticipated for months, but associates have said he was intent on finishing out the year to retain whatever dignity he could. "It feels like whiplash", a State Department official said. The favored candidate to replace Tillerson is current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, which would leave a vacancy at the CIA.

While Trump has expressed deep skepticism of the USA intelligence community - he once compared its behavior to that of Nazi Germany - Pompeo has called the president an "avid consumer" of intelligence who is grateful to intelligence professionals.

Tillerson has at times put distance between himself and Trump's positions.

Current and former officials said Pompeo was likely to get along better with Congress and with the White House, not least because of his conservative bent.

His tenure has coincided with the departure of dozens of veteran foreign policy hands, and numerous State Department's senior policymaking positions remain unfilled.

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