Is Tom Cotton staying put after all? | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 15, 2017

Is Tom Cotton staying put after all?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 7:32 AM

click to enlarge IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS: Cotton's sweater innovations may remain on Capitol Hill.
  • IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS: Cotton's sweater innovations may remain on Capitol Hill.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has managed to hold on to his job despite a flurry of rumors that President Trump is unhappy with him. However, the Washington Post reports that the relationship between the president and Tillerson remains irreparably broken and White House officials have concluded that his ouster is inevitable.

You'll recall that the New York Times reported last month that this would likely create a domino effect with Sen. Tom Cotton ending up leaving the Senate to join the Trump administration: current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, sources said, would replace Tillerson at State, while Cotton would be named to replace Pompeo at the CIA. The big story here would be the implications of Cotton running the CIA; more parochially, it would trigger a special election that would make for a wild year in Arkansas politics.

So should Cotton be packing his sweaterwear to head across the Potomac? Not so fast. From the same Washington Post report:

Inside the White House, this person said, there are fairly regular conversations about who will replace Tillerson even as he remains in the job. CIA Director Mike Pompeo, for example, may no longer be the leading choice because it means he would not brief Trump every day, and the president likes him in that role, the official said.
Trump's White House is chaotic, Trump himself is an erratic and impetuous decision maker, and these are anonymous sources. So who knows. But if Pompeo stays at the CIA, Cotton will presumably stay in the Senate.

Even more baseless speculation: The reasoning given on Pompeo by the "senior White House official" in the Post story is pretty flimsy. Trump has suddenly decided that he can't do with his daily dose of Pompeo's melodious tones reading out the intelligence briefings?

An alternative theory: Perhaps the White House was spooked by the special election results in Alabama and are leery of opening up a senate seat by moving Cotton. It was the appointment of Sen. Jeff Sessions (from super-safe Alabama) that led to the Roy Moore catastrophe in the first place, losing a vital seat for the GOP. It's always a bit of a risk for a presidential administration to appoint a sitting senator from its own party and open a seat. It's very, very hard to imagine the GOP losing a seat in Arkansas, but it's been a wacky political year and you never know.

Of course, the administration could pick someone else to replace Pompeo if they wanted to move him, but I wonder if the reported plan to move Cotton has been tabled for now. No one over-learns recent lessons like risk-averse politicians. After Alabama, I wouldn't be surprised if the White House has decided that moving Cotton out of the Senate is a risk it's unwilling to take.

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