President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name as his secretary of state Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson, who has ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, NBC News and the New York Times reported. Both reports said they were based on two anonymous sources close to the transition process.
Trump’s reported pick of the 64-year-old oil executive comes after a very public selection process that included multiple meetings between the President-elect and Mitt Romney, who was critical of Trump during the campaign. Trump and Tillerson met at Trump Tower in New York Saturday.
Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller declined to comment to the New York Times. After the NBC News report, which was posted before the Times story, Miller said there would be no announcements about Secretary of State until next week.
Transition Update: No announcements on Secretary of State until next week at the earliest. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain
— Jason Miller (@JasonMillerinDC) December 10, 2016
Tillerson was worked for Exxon for more than four decades, according to the Times, and has no government or diplomatic experience. In a video preview of a pre-taped Fox News interview set to air Sunday, Chris Wallace asked Trump why it makes sense to pick a business executive like Tillerson as America’s top diplomatic.
“Well in his case, he’s much more than a business executive. I mean he’s a world class player,” Trump said, going on to praise the size of Exxon Mobile.
“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,” Trump said.
Tillerson’s connections to Russia stretch back to the Boris Yeltsin administration, during which he represented the company’s interests there, according to NBC News. He received in 2013 the country’s Order of Friendship honor from Putin, who he has known for more than two decades, the New York Times reported.