Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon, the State Department’s third-ranking official, is the latest top diplomat to step down, according to The Associated Press.
“I decided it was an important moment to take a step back and to determine what next I can do in my life,” Shannon told AP.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a tweet on Thursday that Shannon will stay on until his successor is named to ensure “a smooth transition.”
Undersecretary Shannon has given a lifetime of service to the American people @StateDept. He’s a patriot, a diplomat and a great American.
Working with him has been one of the great honors of my life. He will stay on until a successor is named to ensure a smooth transition.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) February 1, 2018
The Hill added:
Shannon, who was confirmed to his current undersecretary position in 2016, was one of the most senior State Department officials to remain in his job after President Trump took office last year. He has served under six presidents, and is widely respected in the U.S. diplomatic community.
Shannon’s retirement comes as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson faces criticism for driving out career diplomats. The U.S. ambassador to Panama, John Feeley, resigned in January, saying that he felt he could no longer serve under the Trump administration.
But Shannon told the AP that his decision was largely driven by the fact that he recently turned 60, as well as by the death of his mother late last year. He said that he stayed on to help the department navigate the transition between administrations.
“I’ve served well across 35 years,” Shannon said. “I’ve fought the good fight. I’ve lived by my oath and I want to go out living by my oath, which is respect for the Constitution, respecting our political institutions, respecting our values and respecting the choices that the American people have made.”
“There will always be a place for Tom Shannon at the State Department,” Tillerson said.
“Tom’s counsel has been well received over multiple administrations. I particularly appreciate his depth of knowledge, the role he played during the transition … and his contributions to our strategy process over the past year,” Tillerson added.
“Tom has served his country at home and abroad. At each post, he has also served his colleagues. Tom exhibits a devotion to service that has and shall continue to inspire State Department colleagues.”