As of this morning, Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s chief executive, was dubbed Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State. After weeks of questions over whether Mitt Romney or even Rudy Giuliani would be considered for the post, Trump decided to keep business in the oil industry alive and well, and named the oil mogul as the head of the State Department.
Lack of a Public Life
Some have raised questions about Mr. Tillerson’s nomination for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is his lack of experience as a public official. According to the Washington Post, this would be the first Secretary of State in modern history with no public sector experience to speak of. Though for several voters, public sector experience does not seem to be a disqualifying factor. After all, Donald Trump has zero public sector experience.
Ties to Russia
The most severe issue surrounding Rex Tillerson is his companies’ clear links to the Russian energy sector.
As it stands now, there are strict trade sanctions that the United States has implemented against Russia for their aggressive acts in Crimea, the Ukraine, and Syria. One of the companies that would stand to gain from these sanctions being lifted would be Exxon Mobile, whose chief executive is now the leading diplomat, and would have undeniable sway over decisions to lift sanctions on the authoritarian government of Vladimir Putin. ExxonMobil then has much to gain from the lifting of sanctions against Russia.
This is not only a conflict of interest; this is a disqualifying factor that should give him at the very least a severe Senate confirmation hearing.
Several Senate Republicans have voiced concern over Rex Tillerson’s close ties with Putin, including Marco Rubio, and John McCain.
Given the direct ties Rex Tillerson has with Russia, it is our hope that Donald Trump will deeply reconsider nominating him Secretary of State. He already has plenty of business executives in his cabinet, but this would be the most troubling one yet.