CIA director Mike Pompeo (left) and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Photos: J. Scott Applewhite, Andrew Harnik / AP

Trump advisors and allies are floating the idea of replacing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo, age 53 — someone who's already around the table in the Situation Room, and could make the switch without chaos.

  • We're told that President Trump is quite comfortable with Pompeo, asking his advice on topics from immigration to the inner workings of Congress.
  • Pompeo personally delivers the President's Daily Brief, making him one of the few people Trump spends a great deal of time with on a daily basis.
  • Pompeo is one of the few in the administration who knows how to convey tough news to the president, and how to push back without turning DJT off. (SecDef Jim Mattis is good at that, too.)
  • Trump doesn't see Pompeo as a showboat.
  • Pompeo would take the job, as the cap to a career that included being a U.S. House member from Kansas.
  • Pompeo would have credibility with world leaders, who'd know he was a legit part of the president's inner circle — something no one thinks about Tillerson.

Sources tell us Trump recognizes that a Cabinet shuffle would bring bad press. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly wants stability, and so is discouraging high-level departures before next year.

And yet, insiders say Trump's relationship with Tillerson is broken beyond repair. We're told Trump was furious that Tillerson didn't try to blunt the story about him calling the president a "moron," by just going out and denying it (whether or not it actually occurred).

  • After what Trump considered a strong trip to Vegas, he seethed when he got back and saw Tillerson's gaffe dominating cable-news coverage. Everywhere he flipped, there was Tillerson's face instead of his.
  • The relationship is so toxic, sources tell Jonathan Swan and me, that few in the White House think it can be rebuilt. There's zero trust between the West Wing and the State Department.
  • NBC, which broke the "moron" story, said the chief of staff "abruptly scrapped plans to travel with ... Trump on Wednesday so he could try to contain his boss's fury."

Be smart: The breakdown in the relationship between a president and the Secretary of State has profound effects on American statecraft and the way foreign countries view this administration.

Go deeper

The apocalypse scenario

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democratic lawyers are preparing to challenge any effort by President Trump to swap electors chosen by voters with electors selected by Republican-controlled legislatures. One state of particular concern: Pennsylvania, where the GOP controls the state house.

Why it matters: Trump's refusal to commit to a peaceful transfer of power, together with a widely circulated article in The Atlantic about how bad the worst-case scenarios could get, is drawing new attention to the brutal fights that could jeopardize a final outcome.

Federal judge rules Trump administration can't end census early

Census workers outside Lincoln Center in New York. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

A federal judge ruled late Thursday that the Trump administration could not end the 2020 census a month early.

Why it matters: The decision states that an early end — on Sept. 30, instead of Oct. 31 — would likely produce inaccuracies and thus impact political representation and government funding around the country.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

Where bringing students back to school is most risky

Data: Coders Against COVID; Note: Rhode Island and Puerto Rico did not meet minimum testing thresholds for analysis. Values may not add to 100% due to rounding; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Schools in Southern and Midwestern states are most at risk of coronavirus transmission, according to an analysis by Coders Against COVID that uses risk indicators developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The big picture: Thankfully, schools have not yet become coronavirus hotspots, the Washington Post reported this week, and rates of infection are lower than in the surrounding communities. But that doesn't mean schools are in the clear, especially heading into winter.

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