Washington: ExxonMobil President and CEO Rex Tillerson is President-elect Donald Trump’s top pick for secretary of state, US media reported Saturday, with NBC reporting that Tillerson has already been chosen.
Tillerson, 64, is an oil executive with extensive experience in international negotiations and a business relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump has already made the choice, according to NBC News, citing two unnamed sources close to the transition process.
Asked in an interview with Fox News — which will air in full on Sunday — why it made sense to appoint a businessman as the nation’s top diplomat, Trump said Tillerson is “much more than a business executive.”
“I mean, he’s a world-class player,” the president-elect said. “He knows many of the players and he knows them well.
“He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company, not for himself, for the company.”
If he is officially nominated, Tillerson may face sharp questioning during confirmation hearings before the US Senate.
Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona on Saturday expressed “concerns” over Tillerson’s links to Putin, whom the senator called “a thug and a murderer.”
“We will have hearings on that issue and other issues concerning him will be examined,” McCain told CNN. “That’s the time to make up your mind as to whether to vote yes or no.”
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton will be Tillerson’s deputy secretary of state “for day-to-day management of the department,” NBC News added, citing one unnamed source.
The sources cautioned NBC that nothing was final until Trump makes the official announcement, which will likely come next week.
Other media outlets, including CBS News and The Wall Street Journal, describe Tillerson as the leading candidate for the job of top US diplomat.
According to the Journal, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, other candidates still being considered include Bolton, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former CIA director David Petraeus.
The outspoken former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is no longer in the mix. Trump announced in a statement Friday that Giuliani had removed himself from the running.