Thomas Countryman, a career State Department diplomat who was pushed out by President Donald Trump early in his administration had words of encouragement and advice for newly-ousted Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday afternoon.
Countryman’s position was especially sensitive. He was acting as “undersecretary T”, the official required to sign off on US arms sales or security assistance abroad, and the person charged with negotiating, implementing and verifying international arms control agreements and international security.
The former diplomat, who learned he was fired by Trump while en route to Rome for a meeting on nuclear weapons, told a CNN panel led by host Brooke Baldwin that he could understand what the secretary of state might be going through.
“I feel empathy for Rex Tillerson,” Countryman said according to The Guardian. “It’s no fun to get fired — but it can be liberating.”
“I hope that that’s what he feels tomorrow, free to speak up,” the ex-diplomat said in the moments after Tillerson’s press conference responding to his ouster.
Though Countryman said he disagreed with Tillerson “for not defending adequately the budget and the personnel of the State Department,” he respected him and the role he played — particularly as “somebody who was a restraining influence on the worst instincts of a president who is — I don’t know if the right word is unchained or unhinged.”
“What concerns me now is that there will not be that kind of influence from Secretary [Mike] Pompeo,” he concluded, The Guardian noted in the report.
Tillerson’s firing comes as the Trump White House carry out an abrupt purge of the state department’s senior leadership, removing key officials from posts that are essential to the day-to-day running of the department and US missions abroad.