Political News

Senior Tillerson aide will leave State Department this month

Posted December 4, 2017 1:24 p.m. EST

— R.C. Hammond, a senior aide for Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, will leave his position in mid-December, according to senior administration officials.

Hammond had been Tillerson's communications adviser and a key spokesman for the secretary.

The reason for his departure remains unclear but his exit coincides with the swearing in of the department's new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy, Irwin Steven Goldstein. One official tells CNN that Tillerson's office is hoping to develop a more cohesive communications strategy and a more positive relationship with the press under Goldstein.

Hammond so far has declined to comment to CNN.

His departure also comes amid uncertainty over Tillerson's own future with the administration. Last week, several news outlets, including CNN, reported that the President had tired of Tillerson and was considering replacing him with CIA Director Mike Pompeo. Trump denied those reports on Twitter, while Tillerson has called them "laughable."

But Tillerson has faced criticism in recent months from members of congress and former officials, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who recently wrote that the departures of senior diplomats represents a "national security emergency."

And Hammond is not the first Tillerson aide to leave the administration. Last week, an official tasked with managing a major redesign of the department stepped down after only three months.

Prior to joining the State Department, Hammond served as a spokesman for former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign, then ran his own public relations firm.