President-elect Donald Trump has reportedly picked Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson to be his secretary of state, turning to a Texan to be the country's top diplomat.
NBC News reported Saturday that Trump had chosen Tillerson, who has worked for the Irving-based Exxon Mobil for more than four decades. He became chairman and CEO in 2006.
Trump's transition team did not confirm the selection. "No announcements on Secretary of State until next week at the earliest," spokesman Jason Miller wrote on Twitter.
Tillerson is the first Texan Trump has selected for his Cabinet. He has previously passed over at least three other supporters from the state, including U.S. Reps. Jeb Hensarling of Dallas and Michael McCaul of Austin.
Tillerson has close ties to oil-rich Russia, a controversial force in the this year's presidential race. That's especially true after reports Friday that the CIA has concluded the country interfered in the election to boost Trump.
In addition to his Russian connections, Tillerson will likely be a contentious appointment due to his lack of formal diplomatic experience. In a TV interview set to air Sunday, Trump defended Tillerson's credentials for the job.
"In his case, he’s much more than a businessman. I mean, he’s a world-class player," Trump said in an excerpt of the Fox News interview released Saturday. "To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia.”
Tillerson met with Trump earlier this month in New York as the president-elect expanded his search for a secretary of state. Trump reportedly huddled again with Tillerson on Saturday.
The field of candidates had originally — and most notably — included 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, an ardent critic of Trump during the 2016 race.
Born in Wichita Falls, Tillerson is a distinguished alumnus of the University of Texas at Austin. He currently lives in Irving.
At Exxon, Tillerson has built an image as one of the Americans closest to Russian president Vladimir Putin, toward whom Trump has been unusually friendly. In 2013, Putin gave Tillerson Russia's Order of Friendship distinction.
Regardless of Trump's search for a secretary of state, Tillerson was due to leave Exxon next year. In March, he will reach the company's mandatory retirement age of 65.
- Trump reportedly settled on Gen. John F. Kelly, a retired four-star Marine general, as his nominee to lead the Department of Homeland Security, bypassing U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texan and top contender for the position.
- Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened in an effort to thwart an investigation in the U.S. Virgin Islands into whether Exxon Mobil misled investors about the risks of climate change.
Disclosure: Exxon Mobil Corp. and the University of Texas at Austin have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.