Although former Republican presidential nominee and vocal Donald Trump critic Mitt Romney was formerly under consideration, the president-elect has officially named ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his pick to head the State Department. The news comes just after Romney and others familiar with the situation confirmed that the ex-Massachusetts governor would not serve as a member of Trump’s cabinet.
According to the New York Times, Trump made Tillerson’s appointment official in a statement early Tuesday morning — thereby putting an end to a highly publicized process whose past players included Romney and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. However, as was pointed out by initial reports that named Tillerson as a potential contender for the Secretary of State role, the oil executive’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his country’s oil and gas business sector will surely create friction during his upcoming Senate confirmation hearings:
The hearings will also put a focus on Exxon Mobil’s business dealings with Moscow. The company has billions of dollars in oil contracts that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia, and Mr. Tillerson’s stake in Russia’s energy industry could create a very blurry line between his interests as an oilman and his role as America’s leading diplomat.
Trump fanned speculation about Tillerson’s ranking among his final choices for Secretary of State on Sunday, when the president-elect described him as “a world class player and dealmaker.” After Tuesday morning’s announcement, Trump continued inundating his Twitter followers with more positive praise for Tillerson, calling him a “truly great business leaders of the world” and lauding his “vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.”
U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) expressed concerns about Tillerson’s then-rumored selection on Saturday, telling Fox News the businessman’s close affiliation with Putin was “a matter of concern” since the latter was “a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.” Following Trump’s Tuesday morning announcement, however, politicians and businessmen alike heaped plenty of praise on the decision. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Tillerson an “excellent choice,” and GE Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt applauded his “exceptional understanding of our country’s essential and strategic role in the world.”
Given Tillerson’s close relationship with Russia, which many Americans may find uncomfortable given the country’s alleged involvement in hacking the presidential election, only time will tell as to whether or not it pays off. Then again, this is the same president-elect who nominated WWE magnate Linda McMahon and the CEO of Carl’s Jr. to top spots on his cabinet. At this point, it’s anyone’s guess as to how the Trump presidency will pan out.
(Via New York Times)