Secretary of State Rex Tillerson answers a reporters question about North Korea while he meets with German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, left, at the State Department in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017.The White House is discussing a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo, according to an administration official, who sought anonymity to discuss internal thinking. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

WASHINGTON — The White House has readied a plan to oust embattled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and replace him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who has become one of the most personally loyal and politically savvy members of President Donald Trump’s national security team, two administration officials confirmed Thursday.

The plan, hatched by White House chief of staff John F. Kelly, is expected to be set in motion over the next few weeks, and has broad support within Trump’s inner circle, the officials said. But it was unclear whether Trump had signed off on the plan yet, and the president has been known to change his mind about personnel and other matters before finalizing decisions with public announcements.

Under the plan, Pompeo would likely be replaced at the CIA by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., one of Trump’s most steadfast defenders and a confidant to some leading members of the foreign policy team, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the White House has not publicly announced the moves. White House spokesmen did not immediately comment.

The New York Times was first to report on Thursday morning Kelly’s active plan for the personnel changes.

Throughout the fall, Tillerson’s departure has been widely expected, given his rocky relationship with the president, and Pompeo has been speculated about as a top contender to succeed him at Foggy Bottom.

Chatter about Tillerson’s potential ouster reached a fever pitch in October, after NBC News reported that Tillerson had called Trump “a moron,” though Tillerson had told friends he wanted to make it as secretary of state for a full year.

The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.


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