WH Shakeup Coming… If This Works, the CIA’s About to Get Cleaned Out

WH Shakeup Coming If This Works the CIAs About to Get Cleaned Out

White House shakeups have not been an uncommon thing in the Trump administration, with plenty of people coming and going from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. However, the president may be saving the biggest shakeup of his young administration for right before the end of its first year.

According to a report in The New York Times, the White House is formulating a plan to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo, with senior administration officials saying that the move could happen within the next few weeks.

The plan was apparently formulated by the president’s chief of staff, John Kelly. Trump has not signed off on the shakeup yet. However, the relationship between the president and Tillerson has gone south in recent months, particularly after rumors that Tillerson had called Trump a “moron” during a private staff meeting.

Pompeo would be replaced at the CIA by Tom Cotton, the Republican Arkansas senator — and that could be the biggest move in the whole shakeup.

Cotton is a two-tour Iraq veteran who earned a Bronze Star for his service. He was elected to the upper chamber in 2014 and has become a consistent conservative and anti-establishment vote in the Senate.

Cotton is also a hard-liner on surveillance measures to protect against terrorism, something he made very clear in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal back in 2015.

“”We’ve now entered into a nuclear deal that’s going to give the world’s worst state sponsor of terrorism nuclear weapons,” Cotton said, according to Politico. He also defended bulk collection of telephone records: “(W)e’ve deprived very patriotic intelligence officials of critical tools that would keep this country safe.”

Cotton has also said that he believes enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding don’t constitute torture.

“If experienced intelligence officials come to the president of the United States and say, ‘we think this terrorist has critical information and we need to obtain it and this is the only way we can obtain it’ — it’s a tough call,” Cotton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer back in 2016.

“But the presidency is a tough job. And if you’re not ready to make those tough calls, you shouldn’t seek the office. Donald Trump’s a pretty tough guy, and he’s ready to make those tough calls.”

Perhaps most critically, Cotton has generally acted as one of Washington’s most prominent anti-establishment Republicans. When he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012, Cotton beat a slate of party insiders for the GOP nomination, and then took the only Democrat-held seat in the state of Arkansas in a hard-fought battle.

If Cotton were to take over the CIA, it would likely mean an extensive house cleaning at the intelligence agency, given Cotton’s hawkish, anti-establishment reputation.

The one downside to the shakeup — aside from the ever-present appearance of chronic instability inside the White House — is that it would trigger a special Senate election in the Razorback State next year. Normally, this would be seen as a gimme for the GOP. However, as we’ve seen in Alabama, these sorts of things can end up being a lot closer than you’d expect.

As for the current secretary of state, few in Washington will miss Tillerson should he go.

Republicans and Trump loyalists have been less than pleased at the former Exxon-Mobil CEO’s divergence from the administration’s agenda on issues such as the Iran deal, North Korea and the Middle East. According to The New York Times, Tillerson has also turned down meetings with high-level staff on issues of security — something that, in the wake of Benghazi, one might hope would be prioritized. Tillerson has also clashed with U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, in part because she was at one time considered a possible successor if Tillerson was pushed out.

Liberals, on the other hand, have publicly expressed outrage over Tillerson’s push to reduce staff at the State Department, considering “much of the day-to-day diplomacy that lower-level officials conduct as unproductive.”

If Tillerson were to leave, he would be the shortest-serving secretary of state who wasn’t either transitional, died or left for another office, according to The Washington Post.

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H/T TechCrunch