By JOSH LEDERMAN and MATTHEW LEE
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Friday brushed off reports that the White House wants him out, calling the idea “laughable” as he carried on with his a diplomatic schedule amid a swirl of speculation about his future.
“It’s laughable. It’s laughable,” Tillerson told reporters when asked about comments by senior U.S. officials a day earlier, who said President Donald Trump is considering pushing out his top diplomat. The officials said the president’s top pick for replacing Tillerson is CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Tillerson’s brief retort came as he met with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj at the State Department.
Tillerson was scheduled to join Trump’s meeting with al-Sarraj at the White House later Friday, and then have lunch with the president and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Mattis is a Tillerson ally within Trump’s often fractious Cabinet who declared Thursday there was “nothing to” the reports of Tillerson’s imminent demise.
Alongside al-Sarraj, Tillerson smiled and tried to appear unconcerned by the rumors about him. He is scheduled to begin an official trip to Europe next week.
The White House plan, which Trump has not yet signed off on, would force a major realignment early in his term. It would also create a vacancy atop the CIA that officials said could be filled by Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas.
Such an overhaul could produce a significant shift in both the tone and direction of the president’s foreign policy, removing it from the understated former oil man whose style has never fit well with Trump’s.
It is exceedingly rare for a secretary of state, America’s face on the global stage, to be fired or to serve for a year or less. Nor is it common for presidents to have such a significant Cabinet revamp so soon after taking office. Too much churn could fuel the perception of chaos in the Trump White House — perhaps one reason he has yet to pull the trigger.
Word of Tillerson’s likely ouster, first reported by the New York Times, loomed awkwardly over an…