WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson left the State Department on Thursday, calling Washington a “mean-spirited town” but saying nothing about President Donald Trump in his farewell remarks to department employees.
Although it was Tillerson’s last day at the State Department, he retains the title of secretary of state until March 31, just over a year since he began the job.
Trump fired Tillerson last week via a tweet, capping months of friction over policy on North Korea, Russia and Iran. Trump named CIA Director Mike Pompeo as Tillerson’s successor.
“This can be a very mean-spirited town but you don’t have to choose to participate in that,” Tillerson told staff gathered in the lobby of the State Department, his comments interrupted by loud applause.
“Each of us get to choose the person we want to be and the way we want to be treated and the way we will treat others,” he said.
Since his firing, Tillerson has pointedly declined to thank Trump for giving him the opportunity to run the State Department. He made no mention of the president in his remarks.
Tillerson, who has delegated his responsibilities to his deputy, John Sullivan, met Pompeo on Monday.
Pompeo’s nomination hearing is expected to take place as soon as April 12.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Tom Brown)