FILE - In this Friday, March 27, 2015 file photo, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson delivers remarks on the release of a report by the National Petroleum Council on oil drilling in the Arctic, in Washington. On Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump moved closer to nominating Tillerson as his secretary of state, meeting privately with the business leader for the second time in a week. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Republicans Should Seriously Scrutinize Rex Tillerson If He Is Nominated

We do not yet know if Rex Tillerson really will be Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, but if he is, he will need to be seriously scrutinized.

Numerous press reports are circulating that Tillerson is Trump’s favorite. Perhaps it is a ruse of some kind, but the press is taking it seriously as are Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Tillerson would be an intriguing choice. He has no real experience as a diplomat, but he has negotiated oil deals around the world with foreign governments. He is not a Washington insider, but a self-made man who runs a massive corporation that is deeply hated by the left because it is an oil company.

On the surface, Tillerson is a choice I could enthusiastically support. He was recommended by both former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. But it is my understanding that both have a consulting relationship with Tillerson.

The troubling aspect of Tillerson as a pick is his very close ties with the Russians. Just three years, Tillerson got a prominent Russian award from Vladimir Putin, the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013. Tillerson also negotiated a deal with the Russians that has been suspended by the federal government because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Tillerson would have a key role in reversing that decision, which would be a troublesome conflict of interest.

Overall, given the suggestions of Russian attempts to influence the election, Tillerson’s nomination would most likely be a serious distraction for Republicans and turn out badly for Trump. With only a bare majority in the Senate, already several Republicans are suggesting they might oppose Tillerson. His confirmation would not be a sure thing.

Trump thinking outside the box for a corporate CEO in that position really is not the terrible thing some people claim. But Tillerson, given his ties to Russia, is probably a bridge too far and one Republicans must seriously scrutinize. However, if Republicans can be assured by Tillerson that he was just serving shareholder interests and he clearly recognizes his interests are different as Secretary of State, I think he would be an intriguing choice.

Much of the vitriol about Rex Tillerson really has nothing to do with Russia. That is just a convenient smoke screen to distract from the real opposition. Tillerson is hated for running an oil company and being a vocal critic of liberal environmental groups. “Russia” is the scare word of the day, but the real opposition has everything to do with the left’s continued freakout over global warming.

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Erick Erickson

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