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Saturday 17 August 2019

Donald Trump closing in on Exxon Mobil chief Rex Tillerson as secretary of state

Rex Tillerson rose to prominence through Exxon's Russian energy business (AP)
Rex Tillerson rose to prominence through Exxon's Russian energy business (AP)

President-elect Donald Trump is thought to be moving closer to nominating Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state after a private meeting.

Mr Trump has privately signalled that he plans to ask Mr Tillerson to take the powerful cabinet post, according to sources.

Some advisers worry that Mr Tillerson's ties to Russia would lead to a contentious Senate confirmation hearing and keep alive questions about Mr Trump's relationship with Moscow.

The CIA has assessed with "high confidence" that Russia sought to influence the US election on behalf of Mr Trump, who spoke throughout the campaign about improving Washington's relationship with Moscow.

Mr Tillerson rose to prominence through Exxon's Russian energy business and was awarded Russia's Order of Friendship.

The president-elect's deliberations over his pick to lead the State Department - particularly his consideration of Mitt Romney for the post - have exposed the deep rivalries within Mr Trump's team.

Campaign manager Kellyanne Conway warned publicly that his supporters would feel betrayed if he were to choose a fierce rival for the post, especially given that some loyal allies - most notably former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani - also wanted the job.

Mr Giuliani officially took himself out of consideration for the cabinet on Friday, although his standing had already been diminished. In addition to Mr Romney, Mr Trump has also been considering Tennessee senator Bob Corker and John Bolton, former US ambassador to the United Nations.

Internal divisions were also complicating efforts to set up senior White House staff. Long-time aides are fearful of being left out of the mix as incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus builds the West Wing team. Mr Trump had given him wide authority in decision-making over White House jobs.

But four people involved in the transition said Mr Trump was irritated after learning of his loyalists' frustrations with Mr Priebus in recent press reports.


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