President elect Donald Trump is expected to name Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson, an oil dealmaker, as his selection for Secretary of State on Tuesday, according to Bloomberg, citing a person familiar with the decision.
Trump tweeted on Monday that he plans to make his announcement during a press conference tomorrow morning.
I will be making my announcement on the next Secretary of State tomorrow morning.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
The position of Secretary of State serves as the President’s chief foreign affairs advisers through the State Department, is among the highest positions in Washington D.C., and requires the consent of Senate for final confirmation.
Selecting a CEO of Exxon, the world’s largest privately held oil company, who is a member of the executive committee and a former chairman of the American Petroleum Institute with established ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Arctic drilling, and sends a signal about the direction that a Trump administration could take with foreign policy issues such as handling Russian economic sanctions and Middle East policies.
In January 1998 Tillerson became VP of Exxon Ventures Inc. and president of Exxon Neftegas Limited where he was responsible for Exxon’s oil holdings in Russia and the Caspian Sea and the Sakhalin I consortium operations offshore Sakhalin Island, Russia that included a production sharing agreement with the Russian Federation and the Sakhalin government.
In August 2011 Tillerson signed a mega oil exploration deal that could have been valued as high as $500 billion in total investments with Russian state owned Rosneft whose CEO is Tillerson’s friend, Igor Sechin, that included oil drilling in the Arctic, the Black Sea Shelf, and Siberia.
Rosneft was given in return participation in oil fields in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.
Exxon’s deal with Rosneft took a major hit and fell under the weight of western led economic sanctions in 2014 led by the Obama administration and the EU after Russia was condemned for illegally annexing Crimea and destabilizing the situation in eastern Ukraine.
Tillerson later criticized the imposed economic sanctions on Russia.
“We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively and that’s a very hard thing to do” Tillerson said during a May 2014 shareholder meeting.
On October 2016 oilprice.com reported that Exxon had lost over $1 billion from Russian operations as of early 2015 due to Russian sanctions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson the Order of Friendship in 2013.
Tillerson has worked for Exxon the majority of his life and has no government or foreign policy experience.
If Tillerson is selected by President elect Trump to serve as Secretary of State, he will find an uphill battle during his confirmation hearing in the Senate and will face criticism from environmentalists who wouldn’t like a former oil executive wielding U.S. diplomacy power across the globe.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl), Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S. Carolina), and Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) have already voice their concerns about Tillerson’s nomination and his ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Being a "friend of Vladimir" is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState – MR
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 11, 2016
Lindsay Graham on Rex Tillerson: "If you received an award from the Kremlin…then we’re gonna have some talkin'" https://t.co/gTwhAheNlg
— Matt Viser (@mviser) December 10, 2016
Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation aired on Sunday, Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said if Tillerson is selected by president elect Trump, he will receive a fair hearing in the Senate but “it is a matter of concern” that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin.
“And, obviously, they have done enormous deals together, that that would color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat. But that is a matter of concern” McCain said.
The timing of a Tillerson selection to Secretary of State could not have been worse for President elect Trump who has come under fire for deflecting attention away from fresh allegations involving the Kremlin’s complicity meddling in the U.S. presidential election to help him capture the presidency, despite a new CIA assessment reported by the Washington Post last Friday which makes that connection.
Trump blamed the latest CIA assessment on Democrats.
“I think the Democrats are putting it out because they suffered one of the greatest defeats in the history of politics in this country. And, frankly, I think they’re putting it out. It’s ridiculous” Trump said on Fox News Sunday.
Trump only receives one intelligence briefing per week and has boasted in the past about his “intelligence” and knowing more about ISIS than U.S. military generals.
Trump told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace that Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson is “much more than a business executive” and is a “world class player.”
Massive Deals In Russia
Trump also spoke favorably about Tillerson’s deal making skills in Russia where he has established business connections with Russian leadership.
“He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company, not for himself, but the company” Trump said about CEO Tillerson on Fox News Sunday.
During the presidential election season, Trump praised Russian President Vladimir Putin for being a “strong leader” and expressed reluctance about supporting NATO member countries that contribute less than their 2 percent of GDP goal to NATO.
Although Russia and the U.S. have different allies in the Middle East that often rival each other for influence in the region, Trump spoke on the campaign trail about working with Russian President Vladimir Putin to defeat ISIS in Syria which comes after diplomacy efforts have failed between the White House and the Kremlin.