Trump picks Tillerson, Perry to lead State, Energy departments

President-elect Donald J. Trump said on Dec. 13 that he will nominate ExxonMobil Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rex W. Tillerson as his cabinet’s Secretary of State. “His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice,” Trump said.

Tillerson, a native Texan who joined Exxon USA in 1975 as a production engineer, rose through the company to become ExxonMobil’s president in 2004 and chairman and chief executive officer in 2006. “Among the most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world, [he] has spent his career protecting the jobs of his employees, who number more than 70,000,” the Trump Transition Team said in its announcement.

“Rex Tillerson is world class. He has decades of experience working with global leaders and overseeing the creation of thousands of jobs,” said American Petroleum Institute Pres. Jack N. Gerard.

“As our nation’s next top diplomat, Rex has the strategic experience to effectively represent the new administration and the American people,” Gerard said. “His relationships, and in particular those with other nations, will help further advance US interests across the globe.”

One of those relationships, however, already has raised questions among US senators, particularly Democrats, who must confirm Tillerson’s appointment. In January 1998, he was promoted to vice-president of Exxon Ventures (CIS) Inc. and president of Exxon Neftegas Ltd. In those roles, he was responsible for ExxonMobil’s holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea as well as the Sakhalin I consortium operations off Sakhalin Island.

Tillerson met Russian President Vladimir V. Putin around that time, and the pair became well acquainted. Senate Democrats and some Republicans may ask during the early January confirmation hearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee whether this could compromise his effectiveness as Secretary of State at a time when US-Russian relations have grown decidedly cool.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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