WASHINGTON – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Friday that news in the press about his possible dismissal in the weeks or months to come is laughable, but avoided any mention of whether he has discussed the matter with President Donald Trump.
“It’s laughable. It’s laughable,” he responded to a question about how he’s handling the matter and what he’ll do about news that the White House seeks his resignation.
Those have been the first and only words from the head of US diplomacy after The New York Times quoted anonymous sources that Trump wants to replace Tillerson with the current Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief, Mike Pompeo.
That news was repeated later by numerous US media including CNN and The Washington Post, also quoting anonymous sources.
Tillerson gave his terse reply about the matter at the State Department while welcoming Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.
On Thursday, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told Tillerson it wasn’t true that Trump plans his ouster within the coming weeks or months.
Questioned insistently about the matter during her daily press conference, Nauert defended Tillerson by saying he’s “committed to doing this job.”
She added, however that the top diplomat “does serve at the pleasure of the president.”
On Friday, Tillerson will meet with Trump again, this time together with US Defense Secretary James Mathis, according to the official White House agenda.
Asked if Tillerson would fight to keep his job despite all the rumors going around, the spokeswoman said she’d rather not get involved in such speculation.
At a parallel press conference, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders avoided giving a “yes” or “no” answer to the question of whether Trump has confidence in Tillerson.
“When the president loses confidence in somebody they will no longer be here,” was all Sanders would say.
As for Tillerson’s future, Sanders said that he and the president “are continuing to work together to close out what we’ve seen has been an incredible year.”
The secretary of state’s work within the administration has been up in the air for months amid continuing rumors about his possible ouster due to his differences with the president.
Last October, Tillerson found himself forced to publicly deny that he was thinking of resigning because of those repeated reports.