Trump picks Rex Tillerson to lead State Department

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson " (© AP Images)

President-elect Trump announced December 13 that he has chosen ExxonMobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson to be U.S. secretary of state, calling him “among the most accomplished business leaders and international deal makers in the world.”

“Rex Tillerson’s career is the embodiment of the American dream. Through hard work, dedication and smart deal making, Rex rose through the ranks to become CEO of ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest and most respected companies,” Trump said in a pre-dawn news release announcing his pick. Tillerson will have to be confirmed by the Senate.

Tillerson “knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful State Department,” Trump said.

In an accompanying statement, Tillerson said he was “honored” by his selection. “We must focus on strengthening our alliances, pursuing shared national interests and enhancing the strength, security and sovereignty of the United States.”

Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Tillerson “a very impressive individual” with “an extraordinary working knowledge of the world.” Corker, who had been considered for the secretary of state job, said Trump called him December 12 to inform him of the pick.

Corker’s committee will hold hearings on Tillerson’s nomination. If he is approved, then the entire Senate will vote to confirm him as Trump’s secretary of state. To be confirmed Tillerson must receive a majority vote.

Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming chief of staff, told MSNBC television December 13 that Tillerson has “had to maintain relationships across the world in many places that aren’t the easiest places to have relationships.”

“Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson, they hit it off and they have a similar vision of how to get things done,” Priebus said.

If confirmed, Tillerson would be an important component of Trump’s foreign policy team, which also includes Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

A native of Wichita Falls, Texas, Tillerson came to ExxonMobil Corp. as a production engineer straight out of the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 and never left. Groomed for an executive position, Tillerson came up in the rough-and-tumble world of oil production, holding posts in the company’s central United States, Yemen and Russian operations.