WASHINGTON: U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is not leaving, President Donald Trump tweeted on Friday, after U.S. officials on Thursday said the White House had a plan for CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace him.
"The media has been speculating that I fired Rex Tillerson or that he would be leaving soon - FAKE NEWS! He’s not leaving and while we disagree on certain subjects, (I call the final shots) we work well together and America is highly respected again!" Trump said on Twitter.
The tweet linked to a picture of Tillerson being sworn in as secretary of state with Trump and Vice President Mike Pence looking on.
Senior administration officials on Thursday said that Trump was considering a plan to oust Tillerson, whose relationship with the president has been strained by the top U.S. diplomat's softer line on North Korea and other policy differences, as well as by reports in October that he called the president a "moron."
Tillerson has not directly addressed whether he made the comment, though his spokeswoman denied it. The New York Times on Thursday first reported the White House plan to replace him.
Asked to comment on some White House officials wanting him to resign, how the matter was being handled and what his plans were, Tillerson replied: "It's laughable. It's laughable."
His comments came as he posed for pictures with Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj of the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.
Tillerson visits Europe next week to attend NATO meetings in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday, an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meeting in Vienna on Thursday and talks with French officials in Paris on Friday.
He is tentatively scheduled to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Vienna on Thursday on the sidelines of the OSCE meeting, a senior State Department official told reporters.
(Reporting by Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Jonathan Oatis