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What You Need to Know About Trump’s Secretary of State Pick, Rex Tillerson

If you’ve been keeping up with Trump’s Presidential Advent Calendar of Millionaire Cabinet Picks, it’s time to add one more. Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson has been chosen as his pick for the post of Secretary of State. The 64-year-old has been the CEO of Exxon Mobil, a massive energy company, since 2006, and much like Trump, Tillerson has never held public office. People are citing his international deals as acting CEO of Exxon as foreign experience. But many lawmakers have expressed concern about this choice due to Tillerson’s close dealings with Russia. 

According to NPR, Tillerson began at Exxon in 1975. During his time at the company, Tillerson moved up the ranks to finally occupy the position of CEO. Many hope he’ll bring the skills he used to make profitable deals with other countries to the post of Secretary of State. Tillerson has forged multi-billion dollar deals with Russia’s state oil company, Rosneft, and even earned an Order of Friendship award from the Kremlin, according to BBC News. Tillerson has also spoken out against sanctions imposed on Russia, and Exxon’s relationship with the country has withstood all changes in the political climate with the United States. He has openly defied the State Department at times, even undermining the department in 2010. 

Tillerson’s selection has gotten a mixed reaction from Washington insiders. While heavy hitters from within the GOP establishment have given their blessing, many others aren’t sure about Tillerson. Former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleeza Rice have come out in support of Tillerson, as has Defense Secretary Robert Gates. But Rice and Gates have previously worked under Tillerson as consultants of Exxon—just a small conflict of interest. Others, like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Marco Rubio, have called his Russian alignment into question. Many worry that the foreign country will be able to influence Tillerson due to past business dealings. When coupled with the recent scandal over a possible RNC Russian hack, Tillerson’s appointment is pretty worrying. McCain does promise that he’ll give Tillerson a fair hearing during the confirmation process. 

Tillerson was chosen over Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and Trump adversary. That’s not surprising, but Tillerson also beat out Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and an ardent Trump advocate. It was believed that Giuliani was guaranteed a space in Trump’s cabinet, and Romney openly pined for the position, at one point meeting with Trump despite many months of open opposition. But the president-elect has sung the praises of Tillerson, even calling him “the embodiment of the American Dream.”  In a statement, Trump said Tillerson will be a “forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests and help reverse years of misguided foreign policy,” which Trump believes has weakened America’s standing in the world.

His confirmation, by all accounts, will take place in early January. By the looks of it, this pick’s confirmation will be just as interesting as it is polarizing.

Dream McClinton is a graduate (!) of Georgia State University with a degree in Journalism with a concentration in Telecommunication. Her interests include creating visual art (of all types), watching reality television and traveling. She hopes to soon acquire enough money to pay off her student loans and build a life she loves.