Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate nears surprise deal on short-term debt ceiling hike Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon chiefs to Congress: Don't default Pentagon chiefs say debt default could risk national security MORE on Thursday brushed aside reports that President Trump is considering replacing Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Supreme Court lets Texas abortion law stand Trump-era ban on travel to North Korea extended Want to evaluate Donald Trump's judgment? Listen to Donald Trump MORE.
“I make nothing of it, there's nothing to it,” Mattis said in response to a reporter’s question on his response to reports that Tillerson is soon to step down.
Multiple news outlets reported Thursday the White House was working on a plan to replace Tillerson with CIA Director Mike PompeoMike PompeoWhy is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Keeping the world's focus on cyber State Department watchdog probing whether Trump aides took gifts meant for foreign officials MORE.
The White House has rejected the report, as has State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, who said Thursday that White House chief of staff John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE called Tillerson to tell him the story was false.
But press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday refused to say whether Trump has confidence in Tillerson.
“When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they're in,” Sanders said.
Speaking at the beginning of a meeting with the Libyan prime minister at the Pentagon, Mattis also rejected the idea that diplomacy with North Korea had not worked given the isolated country’s missile launch earlier this week.
“I am not willing to say that diplomacy has not worked. We will continue to work diplomatically, we will continue to work through the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, and we will be unrelenting in that,” Mattis told reporters.
“At the same time, our diplomats will speak from a position of strength because we do have military options," he continued.
Following North Korea's launch, Trump said the missile test would not alter the administration’s strategy to rein in Pyongyang. Tillerson, meanwhile, said diplomatic options “remain viable and open, for now.”