Russia Ties Complicate Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson's Prospects for Trump Secretary of State Gig

WASHINGTON - Texas oilman Rex Tillerson was set to meet today with Donald Trump -- a late entrant into the high stakes jockeying for secretary of state, and one whose close ties to Russia have raised eyebrows.As head of Exxon Mobil, the world's 8th largest company, Tillerson has plenty of negotiating experience and face time with world leaders -- though limited experience when it comes to the gamut of issues the nation's chief diplomat deals with.He's under pressure for ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, especially given questions about the president-elect's outspoken admiration for the Russian strongman.Environmentalists and Democrats say they relish the prospect of confirmation hearings that put the head of an oil giant under oath."There are plenty of other candidates for secretary of State who don't bring that kind of baggage to the table and would not engender that kind of firestorm at confirmation hearings," Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists, told Politico. "Of the candidates I've seen, none would fare worse than Rex Tillerson."Senate Democrats see a Tillerson nomination as an opening to grill him over allegations that Exxon suppressed internal research about climate change and, in particular, the impact of fossil fuels on climate.Just over a year ago, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman launched a probe into whether Exxon misled investors, regulators, and the public about its climate research since the late 1970s. Massachusetts and the Virgin Islands also opened investigations."Covering up climate science and deceiving investors qualifies you for federal investigation, not federal office," said May Boeve, executive director of, an environmental group. "An oil baron as Secretary of State would do enormous damage. Tillerson could deeply disrupt international efforts towards climate action, take retribution against countries that defy the oil industry, and help write more international trade deals that put profit ahead of people and planet."Tillerson apparently entered and left Trump Tower without passing journalists camped out in the main lobby. Trump aides said his appointment was in the morning.Trump had focused on four candidates for secretary of state: Mitt Romney; former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani; Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee; and retired Gen. David Petraeus.Romney, the party's 2012 nominee, was among Trump's harshest critics during the primaries. They met twice in recent weeks and apparently hit it off -- triggering backlash from Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway and other loyalists who view the post as too big a prize for someone who tried to block Trump's ascent.  Continue reading...

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