Ending what has been an extended selection process, President-Elect Donald Trump announced early on Tuesday that he will choose Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, for the post of Secretary of State in a Trump Administration.
“I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State,” Trump tweeted before sunrise.
“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream,” Mr. Trump said in a written statement.
“Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” he added.
Tillerson is a different type of choice for that job, as the oil executive has no experience with diplomacy on the government side – but certainly has done his share of what one might label ‘commercial diplomatic work’ with Russia and other countries, in trying to further Exxon Mobil’s reach around the world.
“They will always be a very significant and important supplier of energy to the world,” Tillerson said of Russia in a 2013 speech. “Today they are the largest oil producer – larger than Saudi Arabia.”
And that focus on oil and gas has some Democrats up in arms.
“Nominating Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State would be handing over the keys to U.S. foreign policy to Big Oil,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA).
“We cannot allow oil to replace diplomacy as the currency of the U.S. Department of State, as Democrats have zeroed in on Tillerson’s ties to Russia.
In Russia, the news about Tillerson has been welcomed – Alexey Pushkov is the head of the foreign affairs committee of the Russian Duma.
For those not fluent in Russian, Pushkov says he thinks the choice of Tillerson would be sensational, arguing the Exxon Mobil chief is pragmatic businessman.
“Trump continues to amaze,” is the last few words (Трамп продолжает удивлять.)
So far, most Republicans have been quiet about Tillerson, with Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham raising questions about his economic ties to the Kremlin.
“Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a Secretary of State,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
A spokesman for Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from the energy state of Oklahoma, told CNN that Lankford would not be a slam dunk for the nomination, that he has “a lot of questions about Mr. Tillerson and his ties to Russia, and his ability to be America’s top diplomat.”
It only takes the defection of a few Republicans to put one of the President-Elect’s cabinet choices in trouble, as the GOP sports only a 52-48 margin in the Senate.