Merkley denounces nomination of ‘Putin’s buddy’ Rex Tillerson for secretary of state


Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon on Tuesday harshly criticized President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as nominee for secretary of state.

If approved, Tillerson would be the first secretary of state in modern history without previous government experience, The Washington Post reported.

 “Donald Trump told us he would drain the swamp — he just didn’t tell us he would drain it directly into his own cabinet,” Merkley said in a statement.

Trump made his pick official on Tuesday, calling Tillerson “one of the truly great business leaders of the world.”

Merkley said Tillerson’s role as chief executive of one of the biggest energy companies in the world makes him ill-suited for a seat at the table in international climate talks.

“Exxon Mobil is not just any oil company. It is the largest fossil fuel company in the world, one that is under investigation in multiple states for misleading investors and waging a public misinformation campaign to cast doubt on climate change while Exxon’s own scientists knew for decades the stark reality of the climate threat. As Secretary of State, Tillerson would be able to approve the Keystone pipeline and would be responsible for helping lead the global response to the urgent threat of climate change. An oilman has no business running international climate policy.”

Merkley went on to criticize Tillerson for his close ties to Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, who gave the ExxonMobil CEO a government award after the company struck a major deal with a Russian company.

“Additionally, Tillerson’s close ties to Putin and the fact that he personally received Russia’s ‘Order of Friendship’ for the oil deals he cut in the country are deeply worrisome. Every American should be able to agree that America should forcefully respond to any foreign power’s efforts to influence our elections.  So it is deeply disturbing that Donald Trump would respond to Russia’s covert campaign to help elect Trump by appointing Vladimir Putin’s buddy to direct American foreign policy. With Russia invading its neighbors, threatening our allies, fueling the crisis in Syria, and hacking our own institutions, we need a diplomat ready to stand up to Russia.”

The Trump team has publicly ridiculed the CIA for its assessment that Russia hacked the email accounts of top Democrats in order to swing the election in Trump’s favor. Trump dismissed the idea as “ridiculous.”