ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson has emerged as the top candidate for secretary of state, according to two people familiar with the deliberations.
Tillerson and former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney were two of the finalists, along with former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Giuliani withdrew his name from contention Friday.
Tillerson is viewed as an unconventional pick who would bring dealmaking skills to the job. Both Tillerson and Romney are business executives with international experience in the for-profit world. But Tillerson would come into the job with a clean slate politically, while Romney’s candidacy had come under fire from some Trump aides who think the former governor went too far in his opposition to Trump during the campaign.
Tillerson also has extensive business dealings and ties to Russia, which could pose a potential problem for his nomination. Top Republicans in the Senate and President Barack Obama are pushing for increased scrutiny of Russia’s efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election.
As CEO of the world’s largest publicly traded company, Tillerson has brokered deals with Russia for drilling rights, which had been imperiled by U.S. sanctions against Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its actions in Ukraine.