President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team officially announced the selection of Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Rex Tillerson for U.S. Secretary of State on Tuesday.
A Texas native and a career employee of the oil and gas company both as an engineer and executive, Tillerson has served as Exxon Mobil’s chief executive since 2006.
Addressing the nominee’s qualifications, Trump enthusiastically stated:
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will promote regional stability and focus on the core national security interests of the United States.”
On Capitol Hill, Tillerson’s nomination was met with mixed reactions: While some in Congress support the nomination choice, others expressed unease with his ties to the Kremlin and relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Chief among his skeptics are Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.)
Rubio, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, released a statement which revealed his desire to vote for a candidate free of “conflict of interest” and with a “moral clarity of the world.”
Similarly, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the committee cited Tillerson’s ties to the Kremlin as grounds for his doubt the Exxon Mobil chairman’s “capacity to serve.”
Despite some mistrust, former President George W. Bush is lobbying federal legislators on Tillerson’s behalf.
Entering the fray to throw support behind Tillerson, Bush contacted Foreign Relations Committee chairman Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Thursday. Included in the offensive to fight back against criticism of Tillerson, Bush was aided by former White House officials Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Longtime Bush associate and former Secretary of State James Baker has also advocated for Tillerson’s nomination.
The controversy surrounding Tillerson’s nomination revolves around his post as Exxon Mobil’s top executive and his role in expanding energy interests in Russia. Tillerson was the recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013.
The award is given by the Russian Federation to foreign nationals who advance the relationship between a country and Russia’s people.
[Roll Call] [The Hill] [Photo courtesy Blacklisted News]