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WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump moved closer to nominating Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his Secretary of State on Saturday, a decision that would bring a business leader with close ties to Russia into the Cabinet.
Trump has privately signaled that he plans to tap Tillerson for the powerful Cabinet post, but had not formally offered him the job as of Saturday evening, according to people who have spoken with Trump and his transition team.
Some advisers worry that Tillerson’s Russia connections would lead to a contentious Senate confirmation hearing and keep alive questions about Trump’s own relationship with Moscow.
Trump and Tillerson met privately in New York on Saturday, their second meeting in a week. The President-elect’s transition team said an announcement was not expected over the weekend.
Tillerson rose to prominence through Exxon’s Russian energy business and was awarded Russia’s Order of Friendship. He has argued against sanctions the US and European allies imposed on Russia after it annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
In an interview airing Sunday, Trump praised Tillerson as “much more than a businessman.”
“He’s a world-class player,” Trump said on Fox News Sunday. “To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia, he does massive deals, not for himself, for the company.”
Trump’s own relationship with Russia was an issue through much of the campaign. The Central Intelligence Agency has concluded with “high confidence” that Russia sought to influence the US election on behalf of the Republican, an assessment Trump has rejected. (AP)