Posted: 8:57 am Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
As President-Elect Donald Trump selected Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson for the job of Secretary of State, the choice quickly faced questions from Republicans within the Senate, as some in Congress openly voiced worries about Tillerson’s past ties to Russia.
“While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who pointedly said the next Secretary of State must be “free of potential conflicts of interest.”
For the President-Elect, Tillerson’s experience as an oil chief is a definite plus.
“The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments,” Mr. Trump said this morning.
“Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department,” Mr. Trump added.
I have chosen one of the truly great business leaders of the world, Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, to be Secretary of State.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
In picking Tillerson, the President-Elect opted against others like Sen. Bob Corker, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who will lead the Senate’s confirmation hearings.
“Mr. Tillerson is a very impressive individual and has an extraordinary working knowledge of the world,” said Corker, whose committee only has a 10-9 advantage for Republicans, meaning any defections could end Tillerson’s hopes.
Sen. Bob Corker, also considered for Secy. of State by Pres-Elect Trump says confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson will be in early January
— David Forman (@dcdesker) December 13, 2016
One Senator on that committee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, endorsed Trump’s pick immediately.
Tillerson nom adds another world-class player to impressive team. I look forward to meeting, discussing enormous global challenges we face.
— Senator Ron Johnson (@SenRonJohnson) December 13, 2016
Other Republicans in the Senate were taking a wait and see attitude, like Sen. James Lankford, a Republican from Oklahoma.
— Justin Dougherty (@DoughertyJC) December 13, 2016
The fact that Condi Rice, James Baker and Bob Gates are recommending Tillerson carries considerable weight. I look forward to the hearings.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 13, 2016
As the hours ticked by after Mr. Trump’s announcement, most Republicans stayed on the sidelines; meanwhile, Democrats attacked.
“Aside from his utter lack of diplomatic experience, Mr. Tillerson’s cozy ties to Vladimir Putin and Russia would represent an untenable conflict at the State Department,” said Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY).
Pres-Elect Trump's early holiday gift to Vladimir Putin & Big Oil. Major $ personal conflict of interest here re 🇺🇸sanctions against Russia https://t.co/0k8mdfw6ir
— US Rep Kathy Castor (@USRepKCastor) December 13, 2016
Nothing says "populism" more than nominating a billionaire oil tycoon who cocktails @ the Kremlin as Sec. of State.
— (((Steve Israel))) (@RepSteveIsrael) December 13, 2016
As for the reaction in Russia to the choice of Tillerson, it has been very positive.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.