Secretary of State Colin Powell, Three Others Leaving Cabinet

Melanie Hunter | Deputy Managing Editor | Monday, November 15, 2004

Secretary of State Colin Powell, Three Others Leaving Cabinet

( - Secretary of State Colin Powell has confirmed what many people suspected - he told his staff Monday morning that he is resigning from the Bush Cabinet. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Education Secretary Rod Paige and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman also plan to resign, press reports said.

The four departures come in addition to the already announced resignations of Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans. It's not yet clear who will replace Powell or the other three Cabinet members named on Monday.

"Secretary Powell is doing an outstanding job over at the State Department. He has helped us accomplish many great things to make the world stronger and safer, and we appreciate his service," White House press secretary Scott McClellan said at a press briefing Monday.

"He will continue to work in that capacity, I expect, until his replacement is confirmed by the Senate, and he's got a busy travel schedule coming up, I know as well," McClellan added. He shot down speculation that the outgoing cabinet members were pressured to resign.

"Each of these individuals came to a decision for different reasons, and I think that's to be expected, and if you look back over history, this is a pattern that is probably similar to other administrations who have moved into a second term as well," McClellan added.

At a press briefing Monday afternoon, Powell said over the course of a year he and the president had privately discussed "what to do at the end of the first term."

"It has always been my intention that I would serve one-term. And after we had had a chance to do the first of discussions on it, we came to mutual agreement that it would be appropriate for me to leave at this time," Powell said.

The secretary of state said he expects to "act fully" in his position until the day he leaves. "And I suspect that will be a number of weeks or a month or two as my replacement goes through the confirmation process," he said. Powell said he doesn't know what he's going to do next after he relinquishes his duties to his successor.

For now, Powell has a full schedule which includes a trip to Chile on Wednesday, followed by a trip to Egypt "and other places." That will be followed by "a full series of European and other meetings in December."

"And I fully intend for the department to work as hard as it has in recent years to push forward the president's foreign policy agenda... I can assure you I'll be working hard until the very, very end," Powell said.

When asked what the "biggest piece of unfinished business" that his department must tackle is, Powell rattled off a list of priorities that include the ongoing war on terror, consolidating gains made in Afghanistan, victory against the insurgency in Iraq and making leeway in the Middle East peace process now that PA Chairman Yasser Arafat is gone.

"I think a new opportunity has presented itself in the Middle East and President Bush has spoken to this and hopefully over the next few weeks I'll be able to see how much potential is in this new opportunity in the Middle East with the passing of Chairman Arafat," Powell said.

"And beyond that I think we have to just keep working on the broad agenda that we have had for the past four years," Powell said, adding that the U.S. must strengthen its alliances.

"We have solid alliances in Asia with Japan and South Korea and the Philippines and Thailand and Australia," Powell said. The U.S. must use its alliances in Asia to press for a solution to the North Korean nuclear program, he said.

"We have to work with our European Union friends and with the IAEA to find a solution to the uranium nuclear program," Powell said, adding that he's hopeful that progress has been made "over the last 24 hours."

It hasn't all been rosy, Powell acknowledged, noting "difficulties with some nations in Europe" last year over Iraq. But, he said, "We are getting rid of those differences, coming together again as evidenced by the fact that NATO is now undertaking a mission of support of the Iraq people."

"And so I think there are still challenges out there, but I think there are far more opportunities out there. We've got good relations with China - the best perhaps in decades - good relations with India, with Pakistan, with the Russian Federation. All of this, I think is the result of foreign policy efforts over the last four years under President Bush's leadership," Powell said.

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