Following reports that Donald Trump is expected to nominate Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, some Republicans in the Senate indicated that they may oppose his confirmation due to his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Tillerson’s connections to Russia dates back years. He struck a deal with Russian oil giant Rosneft in 2011 to access the country’s oil resources in the Arctic, prompting Putin to award Tillerson the Order of Friendship honor. Tillerson has also spoken out against the sanctions the U.S. imposed on Russia after the country invaded the Crimea.
Republicans in the Senate have signaled that these ties to Russia and Putin could keep Tillerson from securing confirmation.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” that he will give Tillerson a “chance” during the confirmation process, but said he was concerned about the Exxon CEO’s ties to Russia.
“It’s a matter of concern to me that he has such a close personal relationship with Vladimir Putin,” McCain said of Tillerson. “And obviously they’ve done enormous deals together and that would color his approach to Vladimir Putin and the Russian threat.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is also skeptical of Tillerson.
“I don’t know the man much at all, but let’s put it this way: If you received an award from the Kremlin, [an] Order of Friendship, then we’re gonna have some talkin’,” Graham said, according to the Washington Post. “We’ll have some questions. I don’t want to prejudge the guy, but that’s a bit unnerving.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) published a tweet indicating he may oppose Tillerson’s confirmation, though he did not mention the Exxon CEO by name.
Being a “friend of Vladimir” is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState – MR
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 11, 2016