US President-elect Donald Trump has chosen ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state, the transition team announced Tuesday, December 13, 2016 setting up a heated Senate confirmation battle and signaling a desire to ease Washington’s estrangement with Russia.
Like Trump, Tillerson, 64, has no formal foreign policy experience, but has built close relationships with many world leaders by closing massive deals across Eurasia and the Middle East on behalf of the world’s largest energy company.
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State,” Trump said in the statement.
Tillerson was originally a dark horse for the secretary of state nomination, but emerged from a lengthy public interview and vetting process that included better-known quantities like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.
Romney confirmed he was not the pick in a Facebook post Monday night, and Trump tweeted that he will announce his pick Tuesday morning.
I will be making my announcement on the next Secretary of State tomorrow morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
Trump has called Tillerson a “world-class player” and the transition team is likely to stress that his mastery of complex negotiations and knowledge of geopolitical factors shaping the oil industry are directly relevant to heading US diplomacy and managing the State Department.
Tillerson was recommended to Trump by former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, sources told CNN.
Trump and Tillerson possess similar dealmaking business backgrounds and similar views of the world, sources said, and there was a level of comfort that Trump hadn’t found with anyone else.
Trump’s decision to press ahead with the Tillerson nomination could ignite the first big showdown between the new White House and Capitol Hill and set a benchmark for Republicans worried about the direction of the President-elect’s own foreign policy. It will also embolden Democrats who see Tillerson as perhaps the most vulnerable Trump Cabinet appointee to a bruising Senate confirmation battle.
One Trump official told CNN there’s a plan to sell Tillerson to skeptical senators and the transition team believes the more lawmakers get to know him, the more comfortable they will be.
Republican hawks such as Sens. John McCain and Marco Rubio are deeply perturbed by the close relationship Tillerson forged with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They fear Trump and Tillerson would bring US policy far more in line with Russia, which is locked in the worst confrontation with Washington since the Cold War and is seeking to again become a great power rival to the United States.
Read the full story at CNN.