WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson took a parting shot at the “troubling behavior and actions” of the Kremlin in remarks at the State Department after he was fired by President Trump.
Tillerson, who just wrapped up a trip to Africa, said that by the end of the day delegating all of his responsibilities would transfer to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan. Tillerson’s commission as secretary of State will end at midnight on March 31.
A State Department official who revealed that Tillerson learned of his firing through Twitter was also fired today.
Tillerson said he received a call from President Trump as he flew to California on Air Force One, “and I’ve also spoken to White House Chief of Staff Kelly to ensure we have clarity as to the days ahead.”
“What is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during a time that the country continues to face significant policy and national security challenges,” he said. Trump’s pick for secretary of State, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, will need to be confirmed by the Senate.
“I’m encouraging my policy planning team and under secretaries and assistant secretaries – those confirmed as well as those in acting positions – to remain at their post and continue our mission at the State Department in working with the interagency process,” Tillerson said. “I will be meeting members of my front office team and policy planning later today to thank them for their service. They have been extraordinarily dedicated to our mission, which includes promoting values that I view as being very important: the safety and security of our State Department personnel; accountability, which means treating each other with honesty and integrity; and respect for one another, most recently in particular to address challenges of sexual harassment within the department.”
Tillerson thanked interagency colleagues, Foreign Service officers, civil servants and the department’s front-line “selfless leaders” who travel abroad “ready to work with longstanding allies, new emerging partners and allies, who now – many are struggling as democracies, and in some cases are dealing with human tragedy, crisis of natural disasters, literally crawling themselves out of those circumstances.” He did not thank Trump.
He praised allies in noting “we exceeded the expectations of almost everyone with the DPRK maximum pressure campaign,” and said that “much work remains to establish a clear view of the nature of our future relationship with China.”
“And much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian Government. Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interest of the Russian people and of the world more broadly. Continuing on their current trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part, a situation which is not in anyone’s interest,” Tillerson continued.
“So to my colleagues in the State Department and in the interagency, much remains to be done to achieve our mission on behalf of the American people with allies and with partners. I close by thanking all for the privilege of serving beside you for the last 14 months. Importantly, to the 300-plus million Americans, thank you for your devotion to a free and open society, to acts of kindness towards one another, to honesty, and the quiet hard work that you do every day to support this government with your tax dollars.”