Exxon CEO to face re­sis­tance if State nom­i­na­tion ma­te­ri­al­izes

Ex­ec­u­tive’s re­la­tion­ship with Putin crit­i­cized

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY S.A. MILLER

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump toyed Sun­day with the spec­u­la­tion that he planned to nom­i­nate ExxonMo­bil CEO Rex Tiller­son for sec­re­tary of state, post­ing a mes­sage on Twit­ter that lauded the busi­ness­man’s skills and beck­oned Amer­i­cans to stay tuned for an an­nounce­ment.

The trial bal­loon for a Tiller­son nom­i­na­tion at State met swift re­sis­tance over the week­end amid con­cerns about his close re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, his life­long ties to Big Oil and the pres­i­dent-elect adding an­other wealthy busi­ness­man to the Cab­i­net.

“Whether I choose him or not for ‘State’ — Rex Tiller­son, the Chair­man & CEO of ExxonMo­bil, is a world class player and deal­maker. Stay tuned!” tweeted Mr. Trump.

Mr. Trump and his tran­si­tion team in­sisted that a de­ci­sion had not been made about who will be nom­i­nated to run the State Depart­ment, but the pres­i­dent-elect him­self de­fended Mr. Tiller­son’s qual­i­fi­ca­tions dur­ing an in­ter­view on “Fox News Sun­day.”

“He’s much more than a busi­ness ex­ec­u­tive. I

mean, he’s a world-class player. He’s in charge of, I guess, the largest com­pany in the world,” said Mr. Trump. “He’s in charge of an oil com­pany that’s pretty much dou­ble the size of his next-near­est com­peti­tor. It’s been a com­pany that’s been un­be­liev­ably man­aged.”

For the past 12 years, Mr. Tiller­son has run Texas-based ExxonMo­bil, the most valu­able pub­licly traded oil com­pany in the world.

The pres­i­dent-elect also said Mr. Tiller­son’s re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Putin wasn’t a li­a­bil­ity but an as­set.

“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 for the com­pany, not for him­self, but the com­pany,” said Mr. Trump.

Mr. Tiller­son was def­i­nitely win­ning the sup­port of the Krem­lin, though, as Alexey Pushkov, the head of the For­eign Af­fairs com­mit­tee in the lower house of Rus­sia’s par­lia­ment, gave an un­usu­ally blunt and pub­lic en­dorse­ment.

“Se­lec­tion of Tiller­son is a sen­sa­tion. This busi­ness­man, by def­i­ni­tion, is a prag­ma­tist with a wide ex­pe­ri­ence of work with Rus­sia. Trump con­tin­ues to amaze,” Mr. Pushkov tweeted in Rus­sian, ac­cord­ing to Twit­ter’s trans­la­tion func­tion and mi­nor gram­mar tweaks by The Washington Times.

The Rus­sian con­nec­tion fur­ther com­pli­cated a nom­i­na­tion of Mr. Tiller­son amid re­ports that the CIA con­firmed Mr. Putin’s gov­ern­ment hacked Demo­cratic emails dur­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign for the spe­cific pur­pose of help­ing Mr. Trump win.

Mr. Trump dis­missed the re­port as “ridicu­lous” and blamed Democrats for push­ing the story. But Congress ap­peared ready to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Rus­sian hack­ing in the elec­tion, and Mr. Trump will have to man­age the per­cep­tion pro­moted by Democrats that he is too cozy with Mr. Putin.

The push­back against Mr. Tiller­man came from both sides of the aisle.

Sen. Robert Me­nen­dez of New Jersey, the top Demo­crat on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, called the po­ten­tial nom­i­na­tion “alarm­ing and ab­surd.” Sen. John McCain, Ari­zona Repub­li­can and chair­man of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, said he was con­cerned about Mr. Tiller­son’s close busi­ness re­la­tion­ship with Mr. Putin.

En­vi­ron­men­tal groups ob­jected to putting a Big Oil ex­ec­u­tive in charge of for­eign pol­icy.

“Trump’s cab­i­net rep­re­sents a who’s who of cli­mate-de­niers and fos­sil fuel hacks, so we’re shocked but not sur­prised that he chose the head of one of the world’s largest and most en­vi­ron­men­tally dis­as­trous oil com­pa­nies to be his am­bas­sador to the world,” said Sierra Club Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Michael Brune.

Reince Priebus, the in­com­ing White House chief of staff, said every­body was “jump­ing the shark.”

“This sort of anal­y­sis is a lit­tle pre­ma­ture. But as to Rex Tiller­son, he is one of the pre­em­i­nent busi­ness peo­ple not just in Amer­ica but in the en­tire world,” Mr. Priebus said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“It’s amaz­ing to me that im­me­di­ately every­body is just jump­ing the shark on this,” he said.

Mr. Priebus brushed aside con­cerns raised by re­ports that Mr. Tiller­son at­tended a global busi­ness expo ear­lier this year in Rus­sia hosted by Mr. Putin, de­spite U.S. gov­ern­ment re­quests not to at­tend.

“It might un­nerve peo­ple who think that the best route for our coun­try to go is to ig­nore peo­ple and to have an en­e­mies list and ad­here to that list,” he said. “I just don’t be­lieve, and nei­ther does the pres­i­dent-elect, that solv­ing the world’s big­gest prob­lems are best done by ig­nor­ing peo­ple and hav­ing, you know, crummy re­la­tion­ships across the globe.”

“We just don’t be­lieve that talk­ing to peo­ple hav­ing re­la­tion­ships is a bad thing. I would ven­ture to guess that Rex Tiller­son doesn’t agree with that ei­ther,” said Mr. Priebus.

Mr. Trump met Satur­day with Mr. Tiller­son for a sec­ond in­ter­view about the State Depart­ment post. The meet­ings co­in­cided with an NBC re­port that Mr. Trump had de­cided on Mr. Tiller­son for the job.

Other can­di­dates in­ter­viewed by Mr. Trump in­clude 2012 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney, for­mer U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions John R. Bolton, Se­nate Com­mit­tee on For­eign Re­la­tions Chair­man Bob Corker and for­mer CIA di­rec­tor David H. Pe­traeus.

For­mer New York Mayor Ru­dolph W. Gi­u­liani had been con­sid­ered for the State Depart­ment gig but with­drew him­self from con­sid­er­a­tion Thurs­day.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

OIL MAN: Some are con­cerned that a pos­si­ble pick for sec­re­tary of state, ExxonMo­bil CEO Rex Tiller­son, may be in­flu­enced by his links to Rus­sia.

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