UPDATE: Trump officially announced that he had chosen Tillerson on Tuesday.
After a long, cartoonish, reality show selection period, President-elect Donald Trump has chosen his appointee for Secretary of State: Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and someone the Wall Street Journal describes as having an unusually “close” relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Tillerson’s nomination will be announced next week, according to NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton will also be announced as deputy secretary of state.
Tillerson, who has no diplomatic or governmental experience, emerged as a late pick for Trump in his search for secretary of state. Other top picks were Mitt Romney, Sen. Bob Corker, and Rudy Giuliani, before he removed his name from consideration. Tillerson is a vocal advocate of free trade, one of Trump’s favorite buzzwords to attack, and will likely face intense questioning during his Senate hearings over ExxonMobil’s extensive ties to the Russian regime, which have run counter to American foreign policy.
In 2011, Tillerson engineered a deal that allowed ExxonMobil to access Arctic resources controlled by Russia in return for the state oil company investing in oil concessions. Shortly thereafter, the Russian government bestowed upon Tillerson the Order of Friendship, which is given to “foreign nationals whose work, deeds and efforts were aimed at the betterment of relations with the Russian Federation.” He has been a vocal opponent of sanctions against Russia, which have hurt Exxon’s business there—the 2011 deal is currently on hold due to sanctions imposed after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014.
Tillerson also had to recently defend ExxonMobil from two separate extensive investigations that found the company was aware of the harms to the environment caused by greenhouse gases and funded anti-climate change scientists and lobbyists to protect its bottom line.
John Bolton, the pick for deputy secretary of state, is a much more traditional neoconservative when it comes to foreign policy; he wrote that the U.S. should “bomb Iran” in a New York Times op-ed last year and spent much of his governmental career destroying international treaties and norms for successive Republican administrations.
Many on social media noted the news of Tillerson’s appointment came at an interesting time: the CIA believes the Russian government interfered in the election according to reports that came out late last night.
Tillerson/Exxon have clear Russia ties/interests. Striking this Sec of State news is coming less than 24hrs after bombshell Russia news
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) December 10, 2016