Trump confirms Tillerson as top diplomat

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Rex Tillerson: Trump's nominee for secretary of state
Rex Tillerson: Trump’s nominee for secretary of state

US President-elect Donald Trump has confirmed Exxon-Mobil Corp’s Rex Tillerson as his choice for secretary of state.

He made the confirmation on media platform of choice, Twitter on Tuesday.

“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”, Trump wrote.

“The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments,” he added.

Trump picked Tillerson, 64, after the Texan was backed by several Republican establishment figures including former Secretary of State James Baker, former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the transition official said.

Their backing is seen as key to helping Tillerson get past a possibly contentious Senate confirmation battle that is likely to focus on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2013, Putin bestowed a Russian state honour, the Order of Friendship, on Tillerson, citing his work “strengthening cooperation in the energy sector.”

Trump judged in making the pick that Tillerson could adequately address questions about his ties to Russia, an official said.

Lawmakers from both major parties have raised questions about Tillerson and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who has been mentioned as a possible No. 2 State Department official and who has voiced hawkish views on Iraq and Iran.

Republicans and Democrats said Tillerson, who is president of Exxon Mobil Corp, would be asked about his ties to Russia, having met Putin several times. He won fresh praise from Moscow on Monday.

Senator John McCain, a leading foreign policy voice and 2008 Republican candidate for president, told Reuters in an interview: “I have concerns. It’s very well known that he has a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin.”

The pick comes amid controversy over the role that alleged Russian cyber hacking may have had on the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Separately, a source close to the transition said Trump had chosen former Texas Governor Rick Perry as his nominee for energy secretary, with an announcement expected soon. Perry met Trump on Monday at Trump Tower in New York.


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