President Donald Trump has decided to fire his National Security Advisor Lt. Gen HR McMaster and is scouting to find a replacement before the planned high-profile North Korea meetings, according to US media reports.
The Washington Post reported that Trump is "now comfortable" with ousting McMaster with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to ensure both that the three-star Army General is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, however, dismissed the reports and said that there were no changes at the National Security Council (NSC).
Citing five sources with knowledge of the president's plans, the daily said, "The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration by Trump that is likely to include senior officials at the White House, where staffers are gripped by fear and uncertainty as they await the next move from an impulsive president who enjoys stoking conflict."
Rejecting the report, Sanders said, "Just spoke to the president and McMaster. Contrary to reports they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC."
McMaster is Trump's second national security adviser after Michael Flynn was dismissed last year for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the US.
The NSC is one of the most powerful wing of the White House that drives the administration's national security agenda.
The daily reported that Trump has complained that McMaster is too rigid and that his briefings go on too long and seem irrelevant.
Trump last week announced that he is ready to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un by May to negotiate an end to Pyongyang's provocative nuclear weapons programme.
Reports of McMaster's removal from the NSC have been gaining ground especially after Trump rebuked him last month on his statement that Moscow's interference in the 2016 election was "incontrovertible", following more than a dozen indictments from special counsel Robert Mueller's office. Trump had lashed out at McMaster in a late-night Twitter post last month.
Several sources told CNN that the push for a replacement comes after months of personal tension between McMaster and Trump.
Trump has privately expressed irritation with McMaster stemming from differences in "personality and style," it quoted a senior Republican source as saying.
The Post report of the possible shake-up at the NSC come as Trump signalled this week that he is prepared to dismiss aides with whom he has clashed as he works to surround himself with advisers more aligned with his populist agenda and freewheeling style.
On Tuesday, Trump fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and told reporters at the White House he was near having his ideal team.
"I'm really at a point where we're getting very close to having the Cabinet and other things that I want," Trump said, moments after announcing Tillerson's firing as well as his plan to install his close ally, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, in the job.
Meanwhile, several candidates have emerged as possible McMaster replacements, including John Bolton, a former US ambassador to the United Nations, and Keith Kellogg, the chief of staff of the National Security Council, the Post said.
The daily quoting a senior White House official said, "The president is enjoying the process of assessing his team and making changes, tightening his inner circle to those he considers survivors and who respect his unconventional style."
If McMaster is ousted, he would be the latest in a string of high-profile White House departures since President Trump took office in January 2017.
On Wednesday, Trump named conservative TV analyst Larry Kudlow to replace his top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, who quit over trade disagreements with the president.