Yesterday, the New York Times appeared to confirm what many in Washington had long suspected: The deteriorating relationship between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and President Donald Trump had reached the point of no return, and the former ExxonMobil CEO would be leaving the administration "within weeks", to be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Rumors that Pompeo was in line to replace Tillerson have been circulating since at least September. The former Indiana Congressman has become one of Trump's closest foreign policy advisers since taking over the CIA. He's in charge of delivering Trump's daily intelligence briefings.
But while the White House issued a cryptic statement saying only that it wasn't planning any personnel changes "at this time," Tillerson immediately started pushing back against the report.
Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, said he spoke with Tillerson and the secretary "doesn't plan to be ousted."
On Friday, Tillerson doubled down on those denials, telling a group of reporters that the NYT's story was "laughable." He made the comment during a meeting with Libya's prime minister at the State Department, accoding to the Hill.
Tillerson has reportedly disagreed with Trump on several key foreign policy issues, including how to de-escalate the standoff with North Korea and how to determine the future of the Iran deal. Two months ago, the relationship between the two men appeared to be irreparably compromised following reports Tillerson called the president "a f---ing moron" during a security breifing at the Pentagon, where Trump reportedly told the generals that he wanted to greatly expand the size of the US nuclear arsenal.
If Tillerson does leave, he'd be the first high-profile departure from the administration since Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigned over his use of chartered jets at taxpayer expense. Tillerson would also be one of the most important players to leave the administration so far.
Of course, Tillerson isn't the only Trump administration official who's rumored to be on his way out: NEC Chairman Gary Cohn is reportedly planning on leaving the administration after the end of the year.
To be sure, the NYT said Trump had yet to finalize plans for Tillerson's departure. Also, one would think the White House might want to keep Tillerson happy considering he could easily spill his guts to the press after leaving the administration.