Get ready for the rearranging of the administration's deck chairs

Here's what you need to know about a major administration shakeup rumored to be happening soon

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 30, 2017 11:41AM (EST)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (AP/Jacquelyn Martin)

President Donald Trump is thinking of replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Mike Pompeo. This is part of a three-step shakeup in the administration that would end up with Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton leading the CIA.

Rex Tillerson is leaving partly because he couldn't get along with Trump

The former ExxonMobil CEO has been on Trump's bad side ever since he allegedly called Trump a "moron," according to Axios.

But that's not all: Tillerson has also been harmed by the widespread perception that he is not part of Trump's inner circle, reducing his effectiveness as a representative of American foreign policy in other countries. He and the president have clashed on policy issues like how to resolve the crisis in North Korea.

Tillerson has also been heavily criticized for understaffing the State Department and failing to adequately perform his duties at the United Nations. Although it has not been confirmed that Trump is officially firing Tillerson, he is reportedly ready to make a change and the White House chief of staff, John F. Kelly, has already developed a transition plan, according to The New York Times. If Tillerson is kicked out before the end of the year, his tenure as head of the State Department will have been the shortest of anyone whose tenure was not ended by a change in administration in almost 120 years.

Tillerson does have one strong financial incentive for staying in the administration as long as he can — namely, that he can defer his multimillion dollar capital gains taxes on the 600,000 former ExxonMobil shares he reinvested in approved investments before taking office for even longer. That will increase their value.

Mike Pompeo may be chosen to lead the State Department

"Rumors that Mike Pompeo is being considered for a cabinet position should concern every senator and every American who cares about religious freedom," Scott Simpson, public advocacy director for Muslim Advocates, explained in a press statement.

Pompeo has a history of anti-Muslim statements. In 2013, Pompeo said that American Islamic leaders were "potentially complicit" in acts of terrorism, because, according to Pompeo, they weren't doing enough to denounce terrorism. In 2014, he told a Wichita church group that a minority of Muslims "abhor Christians" and that Americans need to "make sure that we know that Jesus Christ is our savior is truly the only solution for our world."

He has also spoken at conferences for the anti-Muslim group ACT for America, as well as sponsored an ACT meeting in Congress in 2016.

Despite this past, Pompeo's stock has risen with Trump, who the president perceives as not being a showboat and giving good advice. As a result, Pompeo has reportedly been able to influence Trump on issues outside his purview as head of the CIA, including health care, immigration and working with Congress.

Pompeo has also been criticized by intelligence officers for being too political in the position, according to the Times.

Tom Cotton will be in charge of America's top intelligence agency

Cotton has emerged as one of the president's staunchest allies in the Senate, particularly supporting Trump's policies on matters pertaining to national security and immigration. Although Trump may be wary of appointing Cotton and thereby losing a valuable ally, the consensus view has remained that if Pompeo were to replace Tillerson at the State Department, Cotton would most likely replace Pompeo at the CIA.

Cotton, 40, may be the youngest serving senator, but he's already built up a track record. He, Salon previously noted, manipulated many of his Republican colleagues into signing a letter to the Iranian government attempting to undermine the Iranian nuclear deal. He has also advocated war with Iran and argued in his Harvard thesis that the Founding Fathers were correct in not placing too much faith in democracy. There has also been criticism at the idea of putting Cotton in charge of the CIA because of his lack of knowledge about the intelligence community.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Mike Pompeo Rex Tillerson Tom Cotton