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Trump's pick for secretary of state is fifth CEO in cabinet

Posted: 1:22 PM, Dec 13, 2016
Updated: 2016-12-13 16:57:10-05

After weeks of speculation, President-Elect Donald Trump's pick for Secretary of State was a true dark horse: ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Until just recently, the short list was populated by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump loyalist; former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, a harsh critic during the campaign season; and former General and CIA Director David Petraeus. But it was Tillerson's international business experience heading up one of the world's largest corporations that got him the gig.

"Rex knows how to manage a global enterprise, which is crucial to running a successful state department, and his relationships with leaders all over the world are second to none," President-Elect Trump said in a statement announcing his intention to nominate Tillerson. "I can think of no one more prepared, and no one more dedicated, to serve as secretary of state at this critical time in our history."

Tillerson's business relationship with Russia, where he teamed with a state-owned oil company for Arctic drilling, will likely be his biggest obstacle to confirmation. The CIA believes Russia interfered in our presidential election to help Trump, and many Democrats and some prominent Republicans are now hitting the CEO for accepting an "Order of Friendship" award from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013.

"Anybody who's a friend of Vladimir Putin must disregard the fact that Vladimir Putin is a murderer, a thug, a KGB agent," Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, told CNN on Monday.

In a statement, Sen. Marco Rubio, one of Trump's former challengers for the GOP nomination, said he had "serious concerns" about Tillerson's nomination.

"The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America's interests and will be a forceful advocate for America's foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration and on the world stage," Rubio said.

Despite his complicated Russia ties, Tillerson is only the latest and biggest example of just how much Trump values the experience of running a business.

For Treasury Secretary, Trump tapped Steve Mnuchin, a hedge fund CEO and former Goldman Sachs executive.

To the Department of Commerce, there's Wilbur Ross, a private equity billionaire.

For the Labor Department, Andy Puzder, CEO of the company that owns fast food chains Hardee's and Carl's Jr.

And leading the Small Business Association, former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon.

By choosing these five CEOs for his cabinet, Trump is making the same bet his voters made on him: that experience maximizing profits in the private sector can translate into serving the public good in government.