WASHINGTON, United States, Dec 11 – ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson is President-elect Donald Trump’s likely pick for secretary of state, US media reported Saturday, with some lawmakers quickly voicing concerns about his ties to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson, 64, has extensive experience in international negotiations, overseeing his oil company’s activities in more than 50 countries.
His links to Russia could be problematic with Moscow facing renewed scrutiny in Washington. A Washington Post report late Friday said a secret CIA assessment found that Russia interfered in the US presidential election with the aim of tipping it in Trump’s favour.
The president-elect, who has praised Putin and called for closer ties with Russia, dismissed the report.
Trump has already decided on Tillerson, according to NBC News, citing two unnamed sources close to the transition process. They cautioned, however, that nothing was final until Trump makes the official announcement, likely next week.
Other media outlets, including CBS News and The Wall Street Journal, described Tillerson as the leading candidate for the job of top US diplomat.
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton will be Tillerson’s deputy secretary of state “for day-to-day management of the department,” NBC News added, citing one unnamed source.
Asked in an interview with Fox News — which will air in full on Sunday — why it makes sense to appoint a businessman as the nation’s top diplomat, Trump said Tillerson is “much more than a business executive.”
“I mean, he’s a world-class player,” the president-elect said. “He knows many of the players and he knows them well.
“He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company, not for himself, for the company.”
Trump and Tillerson met for more than two hours Saturday in Trump Tower, the New York Times reported, adding that chief strategist Stephen Bannon and son-in-law Jared Kushner told the president-elect the Exxon chief is in a “different league” from other candidates.
As speculation swirled about Tillerson, Trump attended the annual Army-Navy football grudge match in Baltimore. He pumped his fist and waved at the cheering crowd, as he and top aides watched the game from boxes shielded by bulletproof glass.