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Trump picks Tillerson, Exxon CEO, as Secretary of State
[WASHINGTON] President-elect Donald Trump on Monday settled on Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to be his secretary of state, transition officials said.
Mr Trump planned to announce the selection later today, finally bringing to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over choosing the nation's top diplomat - a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudy Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most vicious critics, might be forgiven.
In the end, Mr Trump did neither, discarding not only Mr Giuliani and Mr Romney, but also passing over an endlessly changing list that at times included Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; David H. Petraeus, the former US Army general and CIA director; and Jon Huntsman Jr, the former Utah governor and presidential candidate in 2012.
Romney, Petraeus and Corker - the three leading runners-up for the diplomatic posts - all received calls late Monday informing them of Mr Trump's decision, according to people familiar with the president-elect's final choice.
Mr Trump teased his imminent announcement of Tillerson on Monday night on Twitter, saying that "I will be making my announcement on the next Secretary of State tomorrow morning." He settled on Mr Tillerson, a dealmaker who has spent the past four decades at Exxon, much of it in search of oil and gas agreements in troubled parts of the world. A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, who speaks with a strong Texas twang, Mr Tillerson, 64, runs a company with operations in about 50 countries, cutting deals to expand business in Venezuela, Qatar, Kurdistan and elsewhere.
If confirmed as secretary of state, Mr Tillerson would face a new challenge: nurturing alliances around the world that are built less on deals and more on diplomacy.
That could prove to be a special test when it comes to Russia, where Mr Tillerson has fought for years to strengthen ties through business negotiations worth billions of dollars. Under his leadership, Exxon has entered into joint ventures with Rosneft, a Russian-backed oil comapny, and donated to that country's health and social programs.
In his new role, Mr Tillerson would have to manage the difficult relationship between the United States and Mr Putin's Russia, including economic sanctions imposed on Moscow for its intervention in Ukraine. Last month, President Barack Obama and European leaders agreed to keep sanctions in place until Mr Putin agrees to a cease-fire and to withdraw heavy weapons from front lines in eastern Ukraine.
In the past several days, as officials close to Mr Trump suggested that he was close to choosing Mr Tillerson, Republican and Democratic lawmakers warned Mr Tillerson would face intense scrutiny over his two-decade relationship with the Russian leader. Russia awarded Mr Tillerson its Order of Friendship in 2013.
Sen John McCain, R-Ariz, said Saturday that Mr Tillerson's ties to Mr Putin were "a matter of concern to me" and promised to examine them closely were he to be nominated.
"Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying," Mr McCain said on Fox News.
Other Republicans who have challenged Mr Tillerson's potential selection include Sen Marco Rubio of Florida, who expressed concern in a Twitter post Monday about the Exxon chief's relationship with Putin.
But the president-elect has decided to risk a bruising confirmation fight in the Senate, apparently concluding that Mr Tillerson will ultimately be allowed to lead the State Department.