Arizona Senator John McCain on Saturday became the first Republican Senator speak regarding news of Exxon CEO Rex Tilerson being President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of State.
Though Tillerson has no prior experience in government or diplomacy, his inexperience is actually not the biggest concern. The Exxon CEO has a substantial history and connection to Russia and its president Vladimir Putin.
Senator McCain, speaking to Fox News before the Army-Navy football game on Saturday, said that he has concerns about Tillerson given his ties to Putin. “I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was, but I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me,” McCain said.
McCain is the first Republican to raise questions about the potential nomination. “I’d have to examine it,” the Arizona Senator, and Chair of the Armed Services Committee said about the potential nomination.
“You want to give the president of the United States the benefit of the doubt because the people have spoken. But Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, Tillerson negotiated an energy partnership with Putin in 2011 that the Russian president said could be worth $500 billion. The following year, Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship, one of the highest awards the country bestows upon foreign nationals.
According to Reuters, the Exxon Mobil deal with Russia had been put on hold due to sanctions levied against the Kremlin for its annexation of Crimea in 2014. The company has said it intends to resume the deal after sanctions are lifted — a process that Tillerson could be key to expediting as Secretary of State.
A former top McCain aide, Mark Salter, predicted that Tillerson would have an uphill battle in the Senate confirmation process. “Tillerson would sell out NATO for Sakhalin oil and his pal, Vlad. Should be a rough confirmation hearing, and a no vote on the Senate floor,” Salter tweeted.
Tillerson would sell out NATO for Sakhalin oil and his pal, Vlad. Should be a rough confirmation hearing, and a no vote on the Senate floor. https://t.co/cZmA3swddK
— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) December 9, 2016