Trump picks Exxon chief Tillerson as secretary of state

December 13, 2016 - 17:9

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump announced Exxon Mobil Corp's Rex Tillerson as his choice for secretary of state on Tuesday, praising the business leader as a successful international deal maker who has led a global operation.

Tillerson's experience in diplomacy stems from making deals with foreign countries for the world's largest energy company, although questions have been raised about the oil executive's relations with Russia.

"He will be a forceful and clear-eyed advocate for America’s vital national interests, and help reverse years of misguided foreign policies and actions that have weakened America’s security and standing in the world," Trump said in a statement.

Tillerson said he shared Trump's "vision for restoring the credibility of the United States’ foreign relations and advancing our country’s national security."

Trump picked Tillerson, 64, after the Texan was backed by several Republican establishment figures including former Secretary of State James Baker, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the transition official said.

Their support is seen as key to helping Tillerson get past a possibly contentious Senate confirmation battle likely to focus on his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In 2013, Putin bestowed a Russian state honor, the Order of Friendship, on Tillerson, citing his work "strengthening cooperation in the energy sector".

Trump judged in making the pick that Tillerson could adequately address questions about his relations with Russia, an official said.

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