Secretary of State Rex Tillerson rushed to an impromptu meeting at the White House yesterday to discuss "a path forward" with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Defense Secretary James Mattis as rumors swirled that President Donald Trump - infuriated by reports that Tillerson called him a "fucking moron" - is weighing whether to fire the former ExxonMobil CEO. And in the latest installation in the ongoing leakfest over Tillerson's purported "disloyalty," Axios is reporting that the White House already has a candidate in mind to replace Tillerson, and surprisingly it's not the "logical" choice of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
Trump advisers and allies are floating the idea of replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, reasoning that he's already familiar with the situation room, and could feasibly make the switch without much of a disruption.
Axios reports that Trump is comfortable with Pompeo and has sought his advice on topics ranging from immigration to dealing with Congress. Pompeo personally delivers the President's Daily Brief, making him one of the few people Trump spends a great deal of time with on a daily basis. Pompeo is also reportedly one of the few in the administration who knows how to convey tough news to the president, and how to push back without turning off Trump. It's also believed that Pompeo, formerly a Congressman from Kansas, would accept the job. Trump reportedly doesn't see Pompeo as a "showboat", which is Trump-speak for a--hole.
But perhaps most importantly, Axios reports that Pompeo possess a "credibility" that Tillerson lacks. It's widely known by world leaders that Pompeo is a part of the Trump "inner circle". Tillerson, meanwhile, has always been viewed as an outsider in the administration. Sources tell Axios that Trump knows that a reshuffle would bring trigger an avalanche of bad press - something that Kelly is trying hard to avoid. After the rash of high-profile firings this year, Kelly is hoping to put off further dismissals until at least next year.
Axios claims the relationship between Trump and Tillerson is broken beyond repair, due largely to the president's perception that Tillerson didn't try hard enough to blunt "moron-gate" (we guess holding an impromptu press conference specifically to deny the story and praise the president as "smart" just didn't cut it). Regardless of whether Tillerson actually said it, the lackluster response was, in the end, more damning than the alleged act of disloyalty.
Furthermore, Trumpreportely seethed with rage after seeing media coverage on Wednesday and Thursday focusing on the Tillerson scandal, overshadowing his own "successful" trip to meet with and console victims of the Las Vegas shooting.
Trump has blasted NBC as "fake news" for publishing a report about Tillerson's alleged remarks. But, apparently, his anger over the story is genuine.
The upshot is: Pompeo's ascension into the highest ranks of the administration is increasingly looking like a matter of if, not when.