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WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was widely seen as toast even before President Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump embarked on her visit to the Global Entrepreneurial Summit in Hyderabad, for which she reportedly had less than enthusiastic support from the State Department.
He had clearly lost the President’s confidence on key issues such as North Korea and Iran, had been rebuffed and overruled by the White House, and he had no support among the rank and file bureaucracy or among lawmakers. On Thursday, even as Ivanka Trump was winging her way back to Washington after her India trip, word trickled that Tillerson is being ousted.
High level leaks led to both the New York Times and Washington Post reporting within minutes of each other than Tillerson will be replaced in a few weeks by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, who is himself a former lawmaker who has been at his post less than a year.
Pompeo is to be replaced at Langley by Senator Tom Cotton, an ardent Trump supporter. The changes will take a few weeks to come through , it was reported, although why Tillerson will stay on the job till then given the public humiliation he has to suffer will be hard to decipher.
But some of Trump’s cabinet members, notably Attorney General Jeff Sessions have clung on despite the President shaming them in public, showing great capacity to suffer punishment. Tillerson is said to have expressed a desire to complete a year in office, but he’s been on the chopping block ever since he reportedly called Trump a “moron” in a private meeting, a charge he did not entirely deny. If indeed he undercut Ivanka Trump, herself a candidate for a cabinet position at some point, then his days were numbered.
Those numbers are not yet visible going by the activity at Foggy Bottom, the vast state department bureaucracy has been gutted by Tillerson under Trump’s direction. In the past 48 hours, Tillerson has met with German Foreign Minister Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Macedonian Foreign Minister Nikola Dimitrov among others, amid turmoil in Washington.
It remains to be seen now what happens to the so-called “suicide pact” forged by Trump’s cabinet principals – Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin – whereby all three will quit if the President sacks any one of them.