State Department denies rumors of possible Tillerson exit

State Department denies rumors of possible Tillerson exit
© Getty

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert flatly denied rumors on Tuesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is planning his departure from the agency but noted that he serves "at the pleasure of the president."

"We have spoken with the secretary. The secretary has been very clear he intends to stay here at the State Department," Nauert told reporters at a press briefing. "We have a lot of work that is left to be done ahead of us. He recognizes that. He's deeply engaged in that work."

"He does, however, serve at the pleasure of the president just as any cabinet official would," she added.

ADVERTISEMENT
Nauert acknowledged that she had not spoken to Tillerson on Tuesday and said that the secretary is currently out for travel. Tillerson's public schedule for Tuesday shows no public events or appointments.

"Just taking a little time off. He just came back from that mega-trip overseas, as you all well know," Nauert said. "So he's entitled to take a few days himself."

Reports emerged Monday that Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil Corp., has become increasingly frustrated with the Trump administration and could take an early leave from the agency he's been charged with leading.

He was reportedly determined to stay on at the State Department through the end of the year at least, according to CNN.

But growing tension in the White House and mounting policy differences between Tillerson and President Trump have reportedly fueled the secretary's frustrations.

Tillerson was reportedly irritated by Trump's comments to The New York Times last week, in which he disparaged Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsTrump ramps up scrutiny of legal immigrants Data confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue The FIRST STEP Act sets up a dangerous future MORE for recusing himself from the federal probe into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with members of Trump's campaign. 

Tillerson has also diverged from Trump on the issues of Iran and reportedly sparred with the president during a meeting last week over whether Trump should certify Tehran's compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement.