US President-elect Donald Trump has picked ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State, media reports said on Tuesday amid speculation that the oil executive’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin could complicate his confirmation prospects.
“I will be making my announcement on the next Secretary of State tomorrow morning,” Trump tweeted.
However, soon after that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who was one of the leading contenders for the post, said he would not be the Secretary of State.
“It was an honour to have been considered for Secretary of State of our great country. My discussions with President-elect Trump have been both enjoyable and enlightening. I have very high hopes that the new administration will lead the nation to greater strength, prosperity and peace,” Romney said.
Hours later, The Wall Street Journal, citing a transition official, reported that Trump has selected Tillerson to be his top diplomat.
Tillerson is a veteran chief executive who has had extensive overseas business dealings but his relationships with foreign leaders could complicate his confirmation prospects, the daily said.
If confirmed by the Senate, Tillerson would replace John Kerry as the Secretary of State. Over the weekend, Trump had praised Tillerson.
“He’s more than a business executive; he’s a world-class player. He’s in charge of I guess the largest company in the world,” Trump had said.
“To me, a great advantage is 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 said.
Gauging by the opposition to his name so far by the Democratic Senators, the Senate confirmation of Tillerson is unlikely to be a smooth sailing.
“The nomination of ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson, which was confirmed by a person involved with the transition, likely faces a tough fight in the Senate, where some Republicans have said they are worried about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin,” The Washington Post reported.
In addition to Romney, other names in consideration for the position were the Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker and the former CIA Director Gen (rtd) David Petraeus.
One of Trump’s closest friend Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor, had withdrawn his name from being considered for any position in the Trump Administration.
He was also being widely speculated in the race for Secretary of State. Several US Senators have already come out in open against the nomination of Tillerson.