Trump chooses Exxon CEO as top US diplomat

Trump chooses Exxon CEO as top US diplomat

Trump chooses Exxon CEO as top US diplomat

AFP photo

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Dec. 13 tapped ExxonMobil chief Rex Tillerson, an oilman with deep ties to Russia, as his nominee to be secretary of state, promising that the CEO, who is personal friends with Vladimir Putin, has “second to none” relationships with world leaders.

Tillerson’s nomination comes days after the Central Intelligence Agency accused Russia of interfering with the U.S. election in a bid to help Trump win, in a development which could complicate the CEO’s confirmation hearings before the Senate.

A statement by Trump’s communication office said Tillerson “will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests, and help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America’s security and standing in the world,” according to AFP.  

As ExxonMobil’s president and chief executive, the 64-year-old Texan oversees the company’s business activities in more than 50 countries.

“Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department, and his relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none,” Trump said in the statement.

Tillerson has opposed sanctions on Russia and in 2013 was awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship by Putin following several years of Exxon projects in the country.

U.S. media have reported for days on secret CIA findings that Moscow sought to bolster Trump’s election bid against Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by releasing hacked Democratic Party documents.

Tillerson – who has no formal foreign policy background – is sure to face sharp questions in the Senate confirmation hearings.  

Leading senators on Dec. 12 threw their backing behind a congressional investigation into U.S. intelligence assessments on Russia election interference, putting top Republicans on a collision course with the incoming president.

The president-elect has dismissed the intelligence reports about Russian interference as “ridiculous,” defying an increasing number of senators from his own party, as well as top Democrats, the CIA and the outgoing White House.

Tillerson bested eight or nine contenders for the job of secretary of state, including former CIA Director David Petraeus, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and erstwhile Trump critic and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney..