Trump to meet Exxon Mobil’s Tillerson in growing Cabinet search

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the Oil and Money 2015 conference in London on Oct. 7, 2015.  Bloomberg photo by Chris Ratcliffe.

President-elect Donald Trump will meet with Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson on Tuesday in New York as he widens his search for his secretary of state.

Transition spokesman Jason Miller didn’t give any details about the reason for the meeting, but Tillerson, 64, is under consideration as the nation’s top diplomat, the New York Times reported on Sunday. Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump, said Sunday that the president-elect had begun expanding the list of candidates for the post and that he is “very fortunate to have interest among serious men and women.”

Exxon spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Among other foreign policy priorities, Trump has vowed to overhaul the U.S. relationship with Russia, which has been in a deep freeze following President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine in 2014. More recently, U.S. intelligence agencies under President Barack Obama’s administration have accused the Russian government of interfering in the U.S. presidential election.

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Tillerson steered Exxon’s historic 2011 deal with Kremlin-controlled oil explorer Rosneft that gave the U.S. driller access to Russia’s vast Arctic, deepwater and shale oil deposits. But shortly after the venture discovered a billion-barrel crude field in the Kara Sea, the U.S. and EU imposed sanctions to punish Russia for supporting separatists in eastern Ukraine and for the annexation of Crimea. The sanctions didn’t force Exxon to surrender drilling rights in Russia but did require it and all other U.S. and EU companies to halt their most ambitious projects.

Tillerson, who has spent his entire career at Exxon and will reach the company’s mandatory retirement age of 65 in March, visited with Russian government and industrial officials close to Putin, who Trump has praised as a strong leader, as recently as last year to discuss the company’s investments in the country.

Trump’s transition team last week said the president-elect had narrowed his list of candidates for secretary of state to four men. Senior adviser Conway later revealed the contenders were former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani; former General David Petraeus, who resigned from the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency for mishandling classified materials and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor; 2012 Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney; and U.S. Senator Robert Corker.

Along with Tillerson, media reports over the weekend suggested Jon Huntsman, the former Republican governor of Utah and U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration, may be a new candidate for the post. Huntsman ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. The Times also reported that John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is under consideration. Bolton met with Trump on Dec. 2.

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Vice President-elect Mike Pence, speaking yesterday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” said Trump has been working to narrow the list of contenders to serve as the nation’s top diplomat, but also said it’s possible the field “could grow a little bit.” Neither he nor Conway said who else is under consideration.

Also Monday, Ivanka Trump, the president-elect’s oldest daughter and a transition adviser, was scheduled to meet with former Vice President Al Gore, an environmentalist who’s called climate change a pressing issue, to discuss the topic at Trump Tower. Trump tweeted four years ago that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

He’s since denied saying that and has shifted positions on whether he would withdraw or remain part of the landmark Paris accord committing the U.S. and other nations to cutting emissions responsible for climate change.