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Full Text: Rex Tillerson Responds to His Firing

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On Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would be replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The State Department shortly thereafter disagreed with the White House’s account of how Tillerson was informed of that decision. Tillerson addressed reporters at the State Department later in the day. Below, a full transcript of those remarks.

I received a call today from the president of the United States a little after noontime from Air Force One, and I’ve spoken to Chief of Staff Kelly.

To ensure that we have clarity in the days ahead, what is most important is to ensure an orderly and smooth transition during the time that the country continues to face significant policy and national-security challenges. As such, effective at the end of the day, I’m delegating all responsibilities of the Office of the Secretary to Deputy Secretary of State Solomon. My commission as secretary of state will terminate at midnight March 31. Between now and then, I will address a few administrative matters related to my departure and work towards a smooth and orderly transition for Secretary of State designate Mike Pompeo.

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 posts, to continue our mission at the State Department and working with the interagency process. I will be meeting members of my front-office team and policy planning to thank them for their service. They have been extraordinarily dedicated to our mission, which includes promoting values that I view as very important: the safety and security of 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.

I want to speak now to my State Department colleagues and our interagency colleagues at DoD, and the joint chiefs of staffs particularly. To my foreign-service officers and civil-service colleagues, we all took the same oath of office. Whether you’re a career employee or political appointee, we are all bound by that common commitment: to support and defend the Constitution, to bear true faith and allegiance to the same, and to faithfully discharge the duties of our office.

As a state department, we’re bound together by that oath. We remain steadfast here in Washington and at posts across the world, many of whom are in danger pay situations without their families. The world needs selfless leaders like these, 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, and natural disasters, literally crawling themselves out of those circumstances. These are experiences that no lecture hall in an academic environment or at a think tank can  teach you. Only by people going to the front lines to serve can they develop this kind of talent.

To the men and women in uniform, I’m told for the first time in most people’s memory the Department of State and Department of Defense have a close working relationship where we all agree that U.S. leadership starts with diplomacy. The women and men in uniform in the Department of Defense under the leadership of Secretary Mattis and General Dunford protect us daily at home and abroad. As an all-volunteer military, they do it for love of country; they do it for you and they do it for me and for no other reason. As Americans, we are all eternally grateful to each of them and we honor their sacrifices.

The rewarding part of having leadership and partnerships in place is that you can actually get something done. And I want to give recognition to the State Department and our partners for a few of their accomplishments under this administration.

First, working with allies, we exceeded the expectations of almost everyone with the DPRK “maximum pressure” campaign. With the announcement on my very first trip as secretary of state to the region that the era of strategic patience was over and we convinced the steps to dramatically increase not just the scope but the effectiveness of the sanctions. The department undertook a global campaign to bring partners and allies on board in every country around the world, with every embassy raising this to the highest levels, and every meeting I’ve had throughout the year, this has been on the agenda to discuss.

The adoption of the South Asia strategy, with the conditions-based military plan, is the tool to compel the Taliban with reconciliation and peace talks with the Afghan government, finally equipped our military planners with a strategy which they can execute as opposed to a succession of 16 one-year strategies. This clear military commitment attracted the support of allies broadly and equipped our diplomats with a whole new level of certainty around how to prepare for the peace talks and achieve the final objectives.

In other areas where progress has been made, much work remains. In Syria, we did achieve important cease fires and stabilizations, which we now know have saved thousands of lives. There’s more to be done in Syria, particularly with respect to achieving the peace, as well as stabilizing Iraq, and seeing a healthy government installed, and more broadly in the global campaign to defeat ISIS.

Nothing is possible without allies and partners, though. Much work remains to establish a clear view of the nature of our future relationship with China. How should we deal with one another in the next 50 years and ensure a period of prosperity for all of our peoples free of conflict between two very powerful nations?

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 interests 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.

So to my colleagues in the State Department and 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 besides 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 to one another, to honesty, and the quiet, hard work you do every day to support this government with your tax dollars. All of us, we know, want to leave this place as a better place for the next generation.

I’ll now return to private life, as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I had to serve my country. God bless all of you. God bless the American people.

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