As leader of Exxon Mobil, he maintained close ties with Russia and was awarded by Putin with the Order of Friendship in 2013.
US President-elect Donald Trump chose Exxon Mobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson to head the State Department, rejecting concerns over the close relations of the businessman with Russia. Trump’s decision cap a long process that has often played in public cracks and exposed within its transition team. He also puts Trump in place for a potential fight with Congress on Tillerson’s confirmation, which has connections with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump was to announce the appointment of Tillerson on Tuesday morning. People close to his transition team insisted on anonymity because they were not allowed to disclose the decision before the announcement. The president-elect chose to choose Tillerson after a meeting Saturday, their second discussion in a week. Trump would have been attracted by the prospect of having an international businessman as the country’s leading diplomat.
But the prospect of Tillerson’s appointment sparked immediate concern over Capitol Hill. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla, wrote on Twitter that “being a” friend of Vladimir “was not an attribute he sought in a secretary of state. In a weekend interview with ‘Fox News Sunday’, Trump highlighted Tillerson’s deep relationship with Moscow as a point of sale. As leader of Exxon Mobil, he maintained close ties with Russia and was awarded by Putin with the Order of Friendship in 2013, an honor for a foreign citizen.
“One big advantage is that he knows a lot of players, and he knows them well, he makes massive deals in Russia, he makes massive deals for the company,” Trump said. Originally from Wichita Falls, Texas, Tillerson came to Exxon Mobil Corporation as a production engineer straight out of the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 and has never left. Prepared for an executive position, Tillerson came to the crude world of oil production, occupying positions in the center of the United States, Yemen and Russia.
Trump also seriously considered Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential candidate, for the job. Romney said Monday night that he was honored to be considered, signaling that he had passed for the high-profile position of the Cabinet. Trump’s decision to consider Romney, who violently criticized him during the campaign, was strongly opposed by some members of his transition team, who saw the potential appointment as a betrayal to long-time supporters.
Romney hit Trump as a “fraud” during the campaign but was full of praise for the president-elect after they discussed the State Department post on a private dinner in Manhattan. He wrote in a Facebook post Monday night that his discussions with Trump were “enjoyable and enlightening.” “I have great hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace,” wrote Romney.