State Department looks past Tillerson to get ready for Pompeo

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(CNN)Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will meet with his senior staff ‪Wednesday morning to discuss the road ahead after his unceremonious firing a day earlier.

But before that gathering, his deputy John Sullivan -- who will serve as acting secretary until Tillerson's successor, Mike Pompeo, is confirmed -- will hold a meeting to plan for the transition, including identifying key personnel to lead outreach to Pompeo's staff, help him prepare for his confirmation hearing and keep him abreast of what is going on at the State Department until he takes office.
Sullivan met with senior staff Tuesday and told them to "continue with the mission," according to a senior official who participated in the meeting. The staff also discussed the need to help Tillerson leave in a respectful way without antagonizing the White House.
"There a lot of shock today about how this went down. Everyone wants to ensure that the secretary has a dignified exit. But there is a level of despair at the State Department which was difficult to deal with," the official said. "We have to move on."
    After 13 months of feeling demoralized under Tillerson, several senior State Department officials said they believed Pompeo was poised to elevate the department's role in foreign policy.
    Two senior state Department officials said that after President Donald Trump accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation for a meeting, he personally asked Pompeo to take the lead in preparing the talks.
    Several officials described Pompeo as accomplished, smart and someone who has developed a relationship with the President, which is not seen as an easy thing to do.
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    "He has a way of talking to the President that is collegial and engaged, and helps the President accomplish what he wants to and figure out how to get there, as opposed to finding excuses not to do something," another senior State Department official said.
    A third senior official pointed to Pompeo's statement about his nomination, in which he praised the Foreign Service, as an encouraging sign.
    "If confirmed, I look forward to guiding the world's finest diplomatic corps in formulating and executing the President's foreign policy," Pompeo wrote. "In my time as Director of the ‪Central Intelligence Agency, I have worked alongside many remarkable Foreign Service officers and Department of State leaders serving here in the United States and on the very edge of freedom. I know I will learn from them."
    "We want him to be successful," the third senior State Department official said. "He will find us deeply ready to engage. The department is hungry and ready to be taken seriously. It won't take a lot to get people on his side."