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Blinken tells State Department staff 'I have your back'

Blinken tells State Department staff 'I have your back'
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Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenLawmakers want Biden to pressure Saudi Arabia to end Yemen blockade Biden sparks bipartisan backlash on Afghanistan withdrawal  Kerry to visit China ahead of White House climate summit MORE on Wednesday pledged to rebuild morale and trust at the State Department and have the backs of diplomats and staff in opening remarks to agency officials marking his first full day as America’s top diplomat.

His brief speech, delivered to about 30 agency staff, was a veiled acknowledgement of turning the page on the combative tenure of former Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoBiden faces day of reckoning on China and Taiwan Nikki Haley says if Trump runs for president in 2024 then she won't Blinken: China 'didn't do what it needed to do' in early stages of pandemic MORE that saw morale at the agency plummet, leadership centralized around a small group of loyalists and public attacks on ambassadors and staff go unchallenged.

“I know the State Department that I’m walking into is not the same one I left four years ago,” Blinken said while paying tribute to the 47 State Department staff who have died from COVID-19 and acknowledging barriers and fencing that went up following the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

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As part of President Biden’s push to promote unity after the stark divisions of the Trump era, Blinken implored State Department staff and told them they have a role to play amid his push to rebuild morale and trust.

“This is a priority for me, because we need a strong department for the United States to be strong in the world.”

Blinken, who was confirmed to be the 71st secretary of State on Tuesday, has vowed to increase diversity among the agency's Foreign and Civil services, building on Biden’s promise to address social and racial inequity in government and policy.

The Cabinet member further committed to being open to discussion of advice from career professionals and without fear of reprisal, drawing a contrast from Pompeo’s highly polarizing management style.

“I can't promise that you will support every choice I make as your secretary, but I can promise an open door and an open mind,” Blinken said.

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“I'll be forthright with you because transparency makes us stronger. I'll seek out dissenting views and listen to the experts, because that's how the best decisions are made. And I will insist that you speak and speak up, without fear or favor. And I will have your back.”

His remarks speak to much of the criticism leveled against Pompeo and former Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonBiden's is not a leaky ship of state — not yet With salami-slicing and swarming tactics, China's aggression continues Lawmakers to roll out legislation reorganizing State cyber office MORE, who drew ire from the agency early on by instituting a hiring freeze and embarking on a reform that saw many senior career staff forced out.

Pompeo came under intense scrutiny for politicizing the department by giving speeches to the Republican National Convention, at conservative conferences and in key swing states ahead of national elections. He also did not appear to hold to account former Special Envoy for Iran Brian Hook, who was found by an inspector general report to have politically retaliated against a nonpartisan career staffer during his time as director of the State Department's Policy Planning Staff. 

The former secretary also drew intense scrutiny for his failure to speak publicly in defense of former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie YovanovitchMarie YovanovitchBlinken tells State Department staff 'I have your back' Trump has discussed possible pardons for three eldest children, Kushner: report Former Giuliani associates plead not guilty to new fraud charges MORE after she came under attack from former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden to move ahead with billion UAE weapons sale approved by Trump Fox News hires high-profile defense team in Dominion defamation lawsuit Associate indicted in Gaetz scandal cooperating with DOJ: report MORE, and he fired the State Department inspector general, accusing him of being a “bad actor,” while the secretary was included in at least three investigations that were underway at the time of the watchdog's ousting.