Politics: Tillerson speaks for first time on firing in surreal scene from State Department, refuses to thank Trump


rex tillerson

Tillerson’s ouster came one day after he publicly broke from the White House and blamed Russia for a chemical attack on a former spy in the UK.

  • Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made a statement about his abrupt firing Tuesday afternoon at the State Department.
  • Tillerson thanked his colleagues, the armed forces, and other federal agencies for their work — but he did not thank President Donald Trump at any point during the address.
  • The White House and those close to Tillerson have given conflicting accounts of the timing of his ouster.
  • The Associated Press reported that chief of staff John Kelly told Tillerson on Friday that he should expect to see a presidential tweet about him sometime soon, but did not give more details.
  • Tillerson's top aide said he was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not discussed it with Trump.

Outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed his abrupt firing in a public statement from the State Department briefing room Tuesday afternoon, mostly refusing to mention President Donald Trump in his address.

Tillerson praised his colleagues, diplomats serving abroad, the armed forces, and the interdepartmental cooperation between the State Department and other government agencies, saying “the world needs more selfless leaders like these, ready to work with long-standing allies, new emerging partners and allies who now are struggling democracies and, in some cases, are dealing with human crises.”

However, Tillerson did not thank or praise Trump at any point during his statement.

Tillerson said he will continue to serve in his position until midnight on March 31. He added that he hopes the State Department's policy planning team will remain in their positions and continue serving the country.

Trump announced in a tweet Tuesday morning that he was replacing Tillerson with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. CIA deputy director Gina Haspel will take over as the agency's head following Pompeo's departure.

The White House and those close to Tillerson gave conflicting accounts of the timing of the former secretary of state's firing. While the White House said he had been informed of his impending dismissal on Friday, Undersecretary of State Steve Goldstein said Tillerson was “unaware of the reason” for his firing and had not discussed it with Trump.

The White House chief of staff, John Kelly, called Tillerson on Friday and told him a presidential tweet about him may be coming but did not give details, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

“The secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security,” Goldstein said in a statement. “The secretary did not speak to the president and is unaware of the reason, but he is grateful for the opportunity to serve, and still believes strongly that public service is a noble calling.”

The White House later fired Goldstein.

Tillerson touted some of the State Department's accomplishments during his tenure as the nation's chief diplomat, but noted that certain foreign policy areas will require more effort.

Tillerson singled out Russia, China, and Syria, and said “much work remains” to respond to Russia's “troubling behavior and actions.”

“Russia must assess carefully as to how its actions are in the best interests of the Russian people, and the world more broadly,” Tillerson said. “Continued trajectory is likely to lead to greater isolation on their part.”

Trump told reporters on the White House lawn on Tuesday morning that he did not discuss his decision with Tillerson but said the two had “talked about this for a long time.”

“I didn't discuss it very much with him,” Trump said. “I made that decision by myself.”

Trump's frayed relationship with Tillerson has been well-documented — the president frequently complained about Tillerson to his West Wing advisers, and Tillerson once reportedly called Trump a “moron” behind his back.

Tillerson's ouster came one day after he publicly broke from the White House and said Russia was responsible for ordering a chemical attack against a former Russian spy living in the UK.

The White House called the attempted assassination “reckless, indiscriminate, and irresponsible” but declined to specifically single out Russia as the perpetrator.

Trump acknowledged Tuesday morning that Russia was likely responsible.