Rex Tillerson, the newly confirmed secretary of state, gently told State Department employees Thursday to unite under the new president.
Tillerson, sworn in on Wednesday, had to address the issue in his first speech to employees because of the leaks of President Donald Trump’s transcripts made to the media, leaks ostensibly committed by federal employees.
“We cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team.”
In one leak, Trump reportedly told Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto that he could send U.S. troops to battle Mexico’s “bad hombres.”
“You have a bunch of bad hombres down there,” Trump told Peña Nieto, according to the excerpt given to Associated Press. “You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.”
In a transcript leaked to The Washington Post, Trump reportedly told Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that he was upset with a deal struck under former President Obama that the United States would accept hundreds of refugees held by Australia.
Trump told Turnbull it was the “worst deal ever.” Later, Trump reportedly told Turnbull it was the worst call he had that day, then asked staff to end the call.
How these transcripts made their way to the media is anyone’s guess. But the State Department handles paperwork related to foreign relations, and Tillerson appears to have his suspicions.
Plagued by leaks since he took office, Trump now has to deal with reporting that federal employees are meeting in “support groups” and scheming how to slow-walk Trump’s orders. The Washington Post also reports some federal workers are planning civil disobedience.
Tillerson said State Department employees need to work together for the common good of the United States.
“I know this was a hotly contested election, and we do not all feel the same way about the outcome,” said Tillerson. “Each of us is entitled to the expression of our political beliefs. But we cannot let our personal convictions overwhelm our ability to work as one team.”
Tillerson urged mutual respect of each other’s views.
“Let us be understanding of each other about the times we live in as we focus our energies on our departmental goals,” said Tillerson.
While Tillerson said he won’t advocate change “for the sake of change,” he made clear he would lead.
“We cannot sustain ineffective traditions over optimal outcomes,” said Tillerson.