Sources: Trump to pick ExxonMobil CEO Tillerson as secretary of state

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Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson addresses a keynote speech during the World Gas Conference in Paris on June 2, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)

President-elect Donald Trump will select ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state, multiple sources told CNN Monday night, setting up a heated Senate confirmation battle and signaling a desire to ease Washington’s estrangement with Russia.

Like Trump, Tillerson, 64, has no formal foreign policy experience, but has built close relationships with many world leaders by closing massive deals across Eurasia and the Middle East on behalf of the world’s largest energy company.

Tillerson was originally a dark horse for the secretary of state nomination, but emerged from a lengthy public interview and vetting process that included better-known quantities like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

Romney confirmed he was not the pick in a Facebook post Monday night, and Trump tweeted that he will announce his pick Tuesday morning.

Trump has called Tillerson a “world-class player” and the transition team is likely to stress that his mastery of complex negotiations and knowledge of geopolitical factors shaping the oil industry are directly relevant to heading US diplomacy and managing the State Department.

Tillerson was recommended to Trump by former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, sources told CNN.

Trump and Tillerson possess similar dealmaking business backgrounds and similar views of the world, sources said, and there was a level of comfort that Trump hadn’t found with anyone else.

Trump’s decision to press ahead with the Tillerson nomination could ignite the first big showdown between the new White House and Capitol Hill and set a benchmark for Republicans worried about the direction of the President-elect’s own foreign policy. It will also embolden Democrats who see Tillerson as perhaps the most vulnerable Trump Cabinet appointee to a bruising Senate confirmation battle.

One Trump official told CNN there’s a plan to sell Tillerson to skeptical senators and the transition team believes the more lawmakers get to know him, the more comfortable they will be.

Republican hawks such as Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio are deeply perturbed by the close relationship Tillerson forged with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They fear Trump and Tillerson would bring US policy far more in line with Russia, which is locked in the worst confrontation with Washington since the Cold War and is seeking to again become a great power rival to the United States.

Tillerson, a multi-millionaire, he will be an easy fit in the roughly one-third of Trump’s emerging Cabinet which is made up of corporate titans and wealthy Wall Street players. He is also another down-payment by the President-elect to tear down the political establishment in Washington and to replace the inhabitants of what he has called a “swamp” with new blood and potential cabinet secretaries with real world experience.

But in order to be confirmed, Tillerson must satisfy senators that there is more to him than a businessman eyeing a new challenge in statesmanship.

Not much is known, for instance, about his personal views on international relations as distinct from the positions of his company.

His views on the alliances like NATO and in Asia that have sustained American power and global security since World War II — on which Trump cast doubt during the presidential campaign — are largely unknown.

He will have to explain why his own lack of formal foreign policy experience is not a disqualifying feature of his resume. After all, negotiating is just one aspect of the job of secretary of state. The top US diplomat must also frame a coherent foreign policy doctrine for the United States, exemplify its values, have a deep grounding in history and understand the complicated motivations of its international partners and adversaries.

The confirmation hearing would also force Tillerson to develop positions on issues ranging from global warming to North Korea’s nuclear program and US humanitarian aid in the developing world.

Order of friendship from Putin

Tillerson developed his close ties with Putin as he negotiated a deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft to provide access to lucrative oil resources in the Arctic. The agreement will be at the center of his confirmation hearing.

For his efforts, Putin awarded Tillerson Russia’s prestigious Order of Friendship in 2013. The deal has so far not yielded its promise.

Exxon was hit hard by a round of US and European Union sanctions that targeted Russia in 2014 for its intervention in Ukraine. Exxon said it could have lost up to $1 billion due to the sanctions, according to regulatory filings.

The sanctions issue will provide ammunition for Democratic senators keen to probe apparent glaring conflicts of interests across the nascent Trump administration.

Even if Tillerson were to sever all links and investments related to ExxonMobil, action he took as secretary of state — for instance, advocating the lifting of sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Ukraine — could clearly benefit the firm and his former industry.

Experience at ExxonMobil

Tillerson, a native of Wichita Falls, Texas, has worked for ExxonMobil for 40 years after joining the firm as a production engineer and has steered the giant global firm since 2006.

Through the end of 2015, he had made more than $240 million as CEO, according to an analysis from board and executive data provider Equilar.

That total includes his base salary, bonuses, stock awards and other compensation over 10 years.

His nomination will be greeted with dismay by climate activists and environmentalists who will see it as tantamount to a takeover of US foreign policy by Big Oil.

But he worked to somewhat soften ExxonMobil’s stance on climate change since. When he took over in 2006, the company was struggling with how to balance its corporate interests with a growing public consensus on global warming, according to Steven Coll’s book “Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power.”

Under the previous CEO Lee Raymond, ExxonMobil promoted skepticism about the science of climate change. But Tillerson quietly adjusted the company’s position on the issue, according to Coll.

“Greenhouse gas emissions could prove to be significant,” Tillerson said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in 2007. “So it has been ExxonMobil’s view for some time that it is prudent to take action while accommodating the uncertainties that remain.”


  • Givemeabreak

    Some of these comments. Wow! When did half of the country become pro Russia and how did we get a President elect and his cabinet with ties to Russia. What a bunch of commie lovers.

    • Silverfish Imperetrix

      Now his Cabinet has ties to Russia too? You’re a brainwashed stooge. Don’t forget to watch any MSM “national news” tonight at 6:30 for a fresh batch of bs for your brain.

      • Givemeabreak

        It says it right in the article you maroon. This really happened. “Tillerson developed his close ties with Putin as he negotiated a deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft to provide access to lucrative oil resources in the Arctic. The agreement will be at the center of his confirmation hearing.

        For his efforts, Putin awarded Tillerson Russia‚Äôs prestigious Order of Friendship in 2013. The deal has so far not yielded its promise.”. He gave him a friggin friendship award. How am I making this up or imagining it from “fake news”? Go back to Russia you commie pig.

  • Dave

    Can’t believe I hear” Oh give Trump a chance already”….Fuel your car lately? The experts are saying Oil will go up another 25% real soon and who knows what comes after that. This is looking like a Bush administration all over again..Cheney was a big shot with Haliburton and they were given a contract without bidding on it. Then they left the country for Dubai after they raked in the cash to avoid taxes. You guys can go through life with blinders on I don’t care ,but don’t vote you’re ruining it for the educated person.

    • Silverfish Imperetrix

      “Oil will go up another 25% real soon”…so Trump’s not even in office yet and you’re blaming him already? Obama himself said ‘Presidents have nothing to do with gas prices’ when the price spiked not too long ago. Trump’s also getting blamed for dividing America, when in fact Obama’s been dividing and sub-dividing it for 8 years already according to race, religion, class and even sexuality. (That’s what socialists do to split up the vote and create “protected classes”, as has obviously been done.) The fact that the majority of Trump’s Cabinet picks are proven business and military leaders that have proven themselves in the real world, not lifelong government teat-suckers, is a very good thing indeed. The man knows how to delegate authority accordingly so far, and I’m sure if they don’t produce they’ll be gone. Relax, and don’t trip over your education.

    • JohnKimball

      Did you know Obama’s first Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, wanted to bring gas prices in the U.S. in line with those of Europe, which is about $8 a gallon? I guess that 400% increase wouldn’t bother you because it would be mandated by the statists in Washington. But you’ll get all bent out of shape because a roaring economy may increase demand for oil and raise the price by 25%. Sounds like liberal logic to me.

  • Dan Wesson NRA Proud

    I really need to get this off my chest. I give Donald Trump 100% credit for trying to make good and be friends with the Russian President. Keep aggravating the guy and see how well that works. We are not the almighty most powerful any more. I saw a show the other night where Obama and Putin were sitting at a table in Russia. Obama said something and Putin gave him a look that would burn a hole through someone. Our President Elect is going to be putting political fires out for a very long time, and if all you know it all’s keep throwing him under the buss you just might get what you wish for. Putin is not afraid and that’s a guarantee. So let our new commander in chief work is magic.

    • Angela

      Trump isn’t trying to make good. He is being forced to make good. Wake up. Putin owns him. Wall Street owns him. And neither Trump, Putin nor Wall Street give a rat’s behind about blue collar workers in Pennsylvania.

      • Dan Wesson NRA Proud

        Well if your right there was no line 2 blocks long waiting to be nominated to run for President. And if Clinton was the best the democrats had I would hate to see the worst. By the way who owns Marco Rubio, Ted Cruise, Jeb Busch, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson. There were a lot of choices but the guy with the stones to say what is on his mind won. In the end ANGELA you will win. 12-19 2016 will tell the tail.

  • magicmikexxsm

    OUCH,….Clinton was shown the door because too many Americans believed the lies sold by Putin to discredit her so his boy Trump could win……………………………………..

    So an idiot like you think Clinton having her own email servers to circumvent the laws of the land was a LIE…LOL you think the 4 killed in Benghazi was a LIE also, what? you think we have those 4 in hiding somewhere….lol yeah we will let them out after Trump is sworn in……man grow a brain will ya, this is why you lost fool.

    • E

      I still can’t figure out why those 4 people that died in Benghazi are a bigger deal than the thousands of others that have died in these conflicts.

      • Angela

        Research how many people died under similar circumstances under Secretary of State George Shultz. Research the Republicans using a private server and making millions of e-mails disappear, at the same time they were releasing classified information in order to out an American spy. After spending hundreds of millions of dollars trying to bring down Hillary Clinton, they had to rely on heavy spin in the end. Luckily for them Americans are not taught critical thinking skills anymore.

  • magicmikexxsm

    I don’t have a problem with this..this guy knows a lot of people all around the world, what’s the problem people..lets face it he can’t do any worse then Hillary rodham Clinton did, or the idiot Kerry now…….because he’s the CEO of Exxon he should be disqualified..give me a break…… liberals need to stop crying and suck it up…

  • Conroy

    Good job you Trump clowns, this is what you voted for. Mark my words, this is how our empire ends, just like Rome. With stupidity and insanity.

    • Silverfish Imperetrix

      1. Trump hasn’t made his pick yet
      2. I remember when Obama was picking his Cabinet – every pick was brilliant, as per the media.
      3. Clinton was shown the door so she couldn’t continue Obama’s incredibly destructive liberal policies
      4. Your liberal tears are going great with my coffee right now.

      • Ouch

        1. Trump has confirmed Tillerson.
        2. The media called Obama a sellout for his cabinet selection because of their ties to wallstreet.
        3. Clinton was shown the door because too many Americans believed the lies sold by Putin to discredit her so his boy Trump could win.
        4. As soon as you get you head out of your arse, you’ll be crying too because these billionaires are going to take everything.

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