Tillerson praises staff as he bids farewell to State Dept.

Tillerson praises staff as he bids farewell to State Dept.
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Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonPompeo working to rebuild ties with US diplomats: report NYT says it was unfair on Haley curtain story Rubio defends Haley over curtains story: Example of media pushing bias MORE bid farewell to the State Department on Tuesday after being unceremoniously ousted by President Trump hours earlier.

Speaking to reporters at a department press briefing, a tired-looking Tillerson made no mention of Trump and took no questions from reporters.

Instead, he delivered a brief speech calling for an orderly transition and praising State Department staff for their work.


"To my foreign service officers and civil service colleagues, we all took the same oath of office," Tillerson said, his voice, at times, quivering.

"Whether you're a career employee or political appointee, we are all bound by that common commitment to support and defend the Constitution."

The speech marked the secretary's first public comments since Trump abruptly announced Tuesday morning that he would nominate CIA Director Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoOvernight Defense: Air Force outlines plan for biggest force since end of Cold War | Trump admin slashes refugee cap | Mattis accuses Russia of meddling in Macedonia's NATO bid Hillicon Valley: Elon Musk sued by diver from Thai cave rescue | Researchers find new malware family | FEMA delays new presidential alert test Trump administration to cut refugee admissions to 30K for 2019 MORE to replace Tillerson at the State Department.

Tillerson said that his tenure as the nation's chief diplomat would officially come to an end at midnight on March 31, and that until then he would delegate his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan.

In his sweeping remarks, Tillerson delivered an overview of what he deemed as some of the Trump administration's foreign policy triumphs in his year as secretary of State. He touted the administration's strategy in Afghanistan and the maximum pressure campaign against North Korea.

"Every meeting I've had throughout the year, this has been on the agenda to discuss," he said. 

But he also foreshadowed work to be done elsewhere, particularly in Syria, and said that the U.S. relationship with China remained a work in progress. On Russia, Tillerson said that the country appeared to be hurtling toward "further isolation."

Tillerson's tenure at the State Department was often rocky, defined by a number of high-profile clashes with Trump on key policy issues, ranging from the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris climate accord. 

Speculation had swirled for months that Tillerson was on his way out at the department, though he said in an interview with CNN earlier this year that he anticipated staying through at least 2018. 

He said Tuesday that he would return to private life after he leaves the department.

"All of us, we know, want to leave this place as a better place for the next generation," he said. I'll now return to private life, as a private citizen, as a proud American, proud of the opportunity I've had to serve my country."