ST. GEORGE – Speculation over who will be nominated as the next Secretary of State by President-elect Donald Trump came to an end Tuesday with the announcement it was Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson.
“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 said on Twitter Tuesday morning, adding, “The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience at dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments.”
Trump said on the Fox News Sunday program that Tillerson is “much more than a business executive,” and that ExxonMobil has been “unbelievably managed” by him.
The choice is not without controversy as a number of Republican senators have openly expressed concerns about Tillerson’s business ties to Russia and Vladimir Putin.
Last Sunday, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, said over Twitter that, “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping from a Secretary of State.”
Those concerns have not deterred Trump who continued to speak highly of Tillerson while on Fox News Sunday.
“…To me a great advantage is he knows many of the players – and he knows them well,” Trump said on the Fox News program, “he does massive deals in Russia, he does massive deals – for the company, not for himself, for the company.”
In addition to Rubio, two other Republican senators have publicly voiced concerns about the Tillerson nomination: Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. All have cited the Exxon Mobil Corp. executive’s history of making deals in Russia and his close ties with Vladimir Putin, which include opposing sanctions sought by the U.S. and Europe against Russia after it invaded Crimea.
However, none of the three has said thus far that he will oppose Tillerson. And only Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which will hold a confirmation hearing in early January to consider the nomination. Rubio said:
While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination. The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals. I will do my part to ensure he receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing.
Tillerson immediately picked up support from the top two Senate Republicans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. McConnell praised Tillerson’s “decades of experience” and concluded: “I look forward to supporting his nomination.”
The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee, who was himself passed over for the job at State, also issued a favorable statement, though without saying how he planned to vote. Several other GOP committee members issued statements praising Tillerson or sounding open to his nomination.
Still others were taking a wait-and-see approach, including Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, who said: “Congress has the constitutional responsibility of advice and consent and we will rigorously exercise it.”
Tillerson’s nomination was pointed to on Sunday as sources within Trump’s transition team told The Associated Press that the president-elect was leaning toward that direction.
The names of other candidates for the nomination included former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former CIA director David Patraeus, among others.
Giuliani pulled himself out of the hat for nomination Sunday. Romney, whose name was floated around as a possible Secretary of State pick for over two weeks, announced over Facebook Monday he was also no longer a consideration.
It was an honor to have been considered for Secretary of State of our great country. My discussions with President-elect Trump have been both enjoyable and enlightening. I have very high hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace.
During the presidential campaign earlier this year, Romney bashed Trump, having called him a “phony” and a “fraud,” and that his policies would prove disastrous for America. Like many Republicans who once blasted the president-elect, Romney now offers a measure of public support.
Huntsman, whose name popped up in an expanded list of considerations, said he was honored to even be considered. Though passed over for the nomination, Huntsman may yet report to politics, having expressed an interest in running for the Senate in 2018 depending whether or not Sen. Orrin Hatch seeks reelection for the eighth time.
Associated Press writers Erica Werner and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report.
Ed. note: The dateline of “ST. GEORGE” notes where this story was compiled and written and not necessarily where the events desceribe therein occurred.
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