"I'm encouraging my policy planning team and under secretaries and assistant secretaries - those confirmed as well as those in acting positions - to remain at their post and continue our mission at the State Department in working with the interagency process", Tillerson said. "Then if there was a transition after a Trump re-election to move up to Secretary of State, that might be more normal".
The president said he and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, his choice to replace Tillerson, were on the same "wavelength".
Nearly from the get-go, Tillerson, the former CEO of Irving-based Exxon Mobil, seemed out of sorts and out of step with his mercurial boss.
Tillerson had been responsible previous year for delaying the announcement of the administration's decision to initiate the crackdown on China's intellectual property abuses, arguing that it would hinder other diplomatic goals.
"We're always on the same wavelength", Trump said of Pompeo, a former member of Congress who has earned Trump's trust by echoing his political rhetoric and personally delivering oral intelligence briefings at the White House in lieu of a written report.
"I think it means that the likelihood of withdrawing from the agreement goes up, if you don't change the sunset clause and deal with some other deficiencies", Sen. I wanted to either break it or do something, and he felt a little bit differently.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill were caught off guard by the firing, with many questioning its timing. Ron Wyden (D-OR) quipped: "At the rate this administration is hemorrhaging staff, pretty soon the President's barber is going to play a big role in American foreign policy".
They are aligned on most issues. Tillerson learned he had been replaced at the same time as the rest the public, CBS News reported.
"I think this is something Donald Trump is more comfortable with, although he doesn't really understand it", he said. He had been home for a week dealing with that, before his speech Tuesday and a week-long trip through Africa.
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Tillerson's departure comes ahead of expected upcoming talks with North Korea, announced last week.
Pompeo had only been Central Intelligence Agency director since January 2017.
The Secretary had every intention of staying because of the critical progress made in national security.
Trump publicly undercut Tillerson's diplomatic initiatives numerous times. He also suggested that he should be the point man for the North Korea negotiations.
The White House distanced itself from those remarks, and a few days later, Tillerson himself backed off.
On Tuesday, Trump nominated Pompeo to lead the State Department after ousting Rex Tillerson.
Pompeo, 54, represented Kansas' 4th Congressional District from 2011 to 2017 as a Republican.
Lawmakers from both major parties have criticised those cuts and the administration's failure to fill dozens of open jobs there.
The president added that Tillerson will be "much happier now", and he appreciates his service.
Trump does "not seem to view diplomacy as a major aspect of his administration", Schultz said.