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Exxon CEO Tillerson likely to be Trump's secretary of state, US media report

Donald Trump is expected to tap Exxon Mobil head Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, according to US media. Tillerson's ties to Russia are causing concern.

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Trump considers ExxonMobil CEO for top diplomat post (12.12.2016)

Rex Tillerson, head of oil giant Exxon Mobil, is expected to become the secretary of state under Donald Trump, US media report.

Tillerson privately met with Trump in New York on Saturday, and Trump went on to tell "Fox News Sunday" that Tillerson was "more than a businessman."

"He's a world-class player. To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia, he does massive deals, not for himself, for the company," Trump said on the program, which will air Sunday.

As Exxon boss, Tillerson oversees the company's operations in more than 50 countries, including Russia. In 2013, Tillerson was a recipient of the Order of Friendship, a Russian government decree for foreign nationals' contributions to Russia. Exxon signed a deal with Russia's largest publicly traded oil company, Rosneft, for a combined oil exploration effort.

Russland Putin und Tillerson 2011 (picture alliance/dpa/Alexey Druginyn Mandatory Credit/R. Novosti)

Rex Tillerson (left) has ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin (right) due to Tillerson being CEO of ExxonMobil

Though Tillerson and Trump both have ties to Russia, the two men differ on global warming. Tillerson believes that people have directly caused global warming, and his company supported the Paris Climate Agreement following Trump's election victory. Exxon has said it also favors a carbon tax to cut emissions, but the company is under investigation by the New York attorney general for allegedly misleading investors, regulators and the general public on what it knew on global warming.

Trump has made conflicting statements on climate change, vowing to pull the US out of last year's Paris agreement, but then saying after the election that he will keep an "open mind" about that same deal.

Concern over Tillerson

Tillerson's potential selection has drawn scrutiny from both Democrats and Republicans. Tillerson has never held any political office, and has stayed with Exxon since graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975.

"With Rex Tillerson as our secretary of state, the Trump administration would be guaranteeing Russia has a willing accomplice in the president's cabinet guiding our nation's foreign policy," Democratic New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said in a statement.

Republican South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told the Washington Post that "if you received an award from the Kremlin, (an) Order of Friendship, then we're gonna have some talkin'."

Neither Trump nor his transition team have made a formal announcement for the secretary of state position, and one is not planned until "next week at the earliest."


Other potential candidatesinclude former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former CIA Director David Petraeus. John Bolton, the former ambassador to the UN, is expected to be named deputy secretary of state.

kbd/jr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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