President-elect Donald Trump has chosen ExxonMobil CEO, Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state, the transition team announced Tuesday.
The announcement set up a heated U.S senate confirmation battle and signaling a desire to ease Washington’s estrangement with Russia.
Like Trump, Tillerson, 64, has no formal foreign policy experience, but has built close relationships with many world leaders by closing massive deals across Eurasia and the Middle East on behalf of the world’s largest energy company.
“His tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics make him an excellent choice for Secretary of State,” Trump said in the statement.
Tillerson was originally a dark horse for the secretary of state nomination, but emerged from a lengthy public interview and vetting process that included better-known quantities like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney and Sen. Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.
Trump has called Tillerson a “world-class player” and the transition team is likely to stress that his mastery of complex negotiations and knowledge of geopolitical factors shaping the oil industry are directly relevant to heading US diplomacy and managing the State Department.
According to sources, Tillerson was recommended to Trump by former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gate.
Trump and Tillerson possess similar deal-making business backgrounds and similar views of the world, sources said, and there was a level of comfort that Trump hadn’t found with anyone else.