President-elect Donald Trump has nominated Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to the role of secretary of state. While the U.S. Senate has yet to confirm the Tillerson nomination, concerns over various conflicts of interests and personal views are already coming to light.
Tillerson has deep ties to Russia, according to The Atlantic. Russian President Vladimir Putin has presented Tillerson with the Russian Order of Friendship, an honor bestowed upon foreign nationals.
“I have obviously concerns about his relationship with Vladimir Putin, who is a thug and a murderer, but obviously we will have hearings on that issue and other issues concerning him will be examined and then it’s the time to make up your mind on whether to vote yes or no,” Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, told CNN, reports The Guardian.
“Tillerson as secretary of state would signify the greatest discontinuity in U.S. foreign policy since the end of the cold war,” Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Endowment Moscow Center added. “Not just in U.S.-Russian relations: a Trump-Tillerson foreign policy would be squarely focused on U.S. national interests, rather than on its global pretensions or any ideology ... It would be hard-nosed and no-nonsense, not averse to the use of force, but in response to a real rather than imaginary threat. In one word: realist.”
Exxon Mobil under Tillerson’s leadership has had an ambiguous relationship with climate change science, according to The Atlantic.
The attorneys general of two states are currently investigating whether Exxon Mobil deliberately withheld information about the link between fossil fuels and climate change from investors. Meanwhile, Tillerson has supported the landmark Paris Climate Accord, and publicly called for action on climate change. He has even championed a carbon tax “as the best policy of those being considered” to combat the problem.
Steve Coll, a journalist who has covered Exxon Mobil, has also cautioned against the company’s culture of intimidation and secrecy.
“Reporting on Exxon was not only harder than reporting on the bin Ladens, it was harder than reporting on the CIA. By an order of magnitude,” Coll told Texas Monthly.
Coll went on to describe the problems he had in getting information about the company:
The fundamental problem is that they really don’t want to be written about and they are disciplined. They enforce that discipline pretty aggressively inside the corporation; they tie everyone up with legal agreements. They have a culture of intimidation that they bring to bear in their external relations, and it is plenty understood inside the corporation, too.
They make people nervous, they make people afraid. Even people who I encountered who really had no reason to fear Exxon Mobil -- American citizens who didn’t have anything, their wealth or anything else, at risk -- were still vaguely nervous. I met with a source in Washington -- I won’t say more than that -- and I had worked very hard to get this meeting and the first thing that the person said was “Don’t be naive. Exxon Mobil knows you’re here right now.” I said, “Really? You believe that?!”