The White House has mapped out a plan in which Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is replaced in the next few weeks with current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, according to a report.
Senior administration officials told the New York Times Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., would then take over for Pompeo as director of the CIA.
Cotton has indicated he would take the post if President Trump offered it to him, the officials said. However, it’s unknown whether the president has approved the transition plan.
A spokesperson for Cotton said the senator’s “focus is on serving Arkansans in the Senate.”
The plan to oust Tillerson and transition Pompeo into the role of the nation’s top diplomat was developed by White House chief of staff John Kelly, who has floated the proposal with other administration officials. The change in the makeup of the national security team would take place toward the end of the year or not long after, according to the New York Times.
Tillerson’s relationship with Trump has been strained, and the two have sparred over different foreign policy issues, such as the Iran nuclear deal and North Korea.
The secretary of state and former CEO of Exxon Mobile reportedly called the president a “moron” during a meeting at the Pentagon over the summer, and considered resigning, adding to speculation surrounding his tenure in the Trump administration.
But in an impromptu news conference in October, Tillerson attempted to quiet rumors about his future, saying he had no plans to resign as secretary of state. He also denied allegations he made the derogatory remark about Trump.
Should Tillerson leave the State Department by the end of the year, his time as secretary of state would be the shortest of any predecessor whose time in the role didn’t end due to a change in administrations in close to 120 years, the New York Times reported.
Pompeo was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, and Trump tapped him to lead the CIA in January.
Rumors initially swirled that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley was in the running to replace Tillerson, but the president has reportedly been impressed by Pompeo during his daily intelligence briefings. Trump has also come to trust his CIA director as a policy adviser on issues beyond the scope of the intelligence agency.
Cotton, too, has become close to Trump, and the two align on issues of national security and immigration. He is up for re-election in the Senate in 2020.
Should the president nominate Cotton to lead the CIA, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, would appoint the senator’s replacement to serve until 2018.