The New York Times reports today on a White House plan to replace U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. It's reported that President Trump wants Arkansas U.S. Senator Tom Cotton to replace Pompeo as head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
"Mr. Cotton has signaled that he would accept the job if offered, said the officials, who insisted on anonymity to discuss sensitive deliberations before decisions are announced. It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Trump has given final approval to the plan, but he has been said to have soured on Mr. Tillerson and in general is ready to make a change at the State Department. John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, developed the transition plan and has discussed it with other officials.
Under his plan, the shake-up of the national security team would happen around the end of the year or shortly afterward."
If the Republican from Yell County does end up heading the intelligence service it'll open up a U.S. Senate race in 2018. Cotton's first-term as a U.S. Senator runs through 2020. Arkansas Secretary of State spokesman Chris Powell says if the seat is left vacant, Governor Asa Hutchinson would be charged with appointing an interim Senator. Powell says, "if the vacancy occurs more than four months before the next general election then an election would be held to to select a Senator to fill the remainder of the vacated term."
Democrats hope to take advantage of the unexpected electoral opening if the Cotton-to-CIA scenario does pan out. Democratic Party of Arkansas spokesman Graham Senor says, "There's a long line of people who have expressed interest in running against Senator Cotton in 2020, so we expect that a U.S. Senate election in 2018 would see many people throw their hats in the ring."
Responding to the New York Times report, Sen. Cotton's office tells KUAR, "Senator Cotton is focused on serving Arkansans in the Senate."
Senator Cotton graduated from Harvard Law School, served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Infantry Officer, and represented Arkansas's 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House prior to his 2014 election to the Senate. He's been a supporter of President Trump.
This story has been updated.