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Congresswoman Waters’ Statement on the Nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State

December 14, 2016
Press Release

Congresswoman Waters’ Statement on the Nomination of Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State


December 14, 2016


WASHINGTON, D.C. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee, condemned President-elect Trump’s nomination of Rex Tillerson to be our nation’s next Secretary of State.  Her statement follows:


“A day after he publicly ridiculed the C.I.A. and its conclusions that Russia breached our recent election, President-elect Trump once again reaffirms his curious allegiance to Vladimir Putin with yet another nod to Russia in his latest nominee for Secretary of State.  Putin-approved Rex Tillerson comes after the President-elect’s continued denials, despite the intelligence community’s conclusions and bipartisan consensus, that Russia was behind the cyberattacks on Clinton Campaign staff, the Democratic National Committee, and even the Republican National Committee; his urging Russian operatives to hack his political opponent; his repeated statements praising Putin’s leadership and stature over the United States President; and the ongoing unanswered questions about his former campaign manager Paul Manafort and his multimillion dollar business deals with Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs, including some allegedly tied to organized crime, that is reportedly the subject of an FBI inquiry. 


Like the President-elect, if confirmed, Rex Tillerson would assume his position with no government experience and a myriad of conflicts of interest and financial entanglements related to his business dealings with Russia.


Rex Tillerson has no diplomatic experience.  His entire career has been spent at Exxon and ExxonMobil (following Exxon’s merger with Mobil in 1999), and his international experience is limited to negotiating oil deals for his own and his company’s profits.


Tillerson has very close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, ties which go back to the days when Tillerson represented Exxon’s interest in Russia prior to Tillerson’s accession to his current position as ExxonMobil’s CEO.  Tillerson was awarded the Order of Friendship by Putin in 2013.  This “friendship” award should cause Americans to wonder whether his first priority as Secretary of State will be the national security of the United States or his personal relationship with the authoritarian leader of a nation that has nuclear weapons pointed at our country.


In 2011, Tillerson signed a multibillion dollar agreement with Russia on behalf of ExxonMobil for drilling in the Arctic. However, sanctions against Russia in response to its aggression in Ukraine brought the project to a halt in 2014.  If Tillerson were to use his position as Secretary of State to reverse these sanctions, it could be immensely profitable to ExxonMobil – and possibly his personal stock in the company.  Trump’s refusal to close the door on lifting the sanctions aggravates these concerns.


Tillerson’s ties to Russia are especially troublesome in light of the U.S. intelligence community’s deeply disturbing conclusion that Russia interfered in the U.S. elections for the purpose of electing Donald Trump.   Any foreign meddling in our democratic process is absolutely unacceptable.  The incoming administration may need to make critical decisions regarding how the U.S. will respond to this intolerable interference, in order to deter Russia – as well as other potential adversaries – from attempting to interfere in our elections in the future.


Revelations of Russian meddling in our elections have created a crisis of confidence in our political institutions.  Trump has exacerbated this crisis by rejecting out-of-hand the conclusions of the dedicated professionals who work in the intelligence community.  Trump’s nomination of a designated friend of Russia to be our next Secretary of State will only serve to intensify the concerns of American voters about the protection of the electoral system enshrined in our Constitution.


Rex Tillerson’s record of misinformation on climate change is also a reason for grave concern about his ability to be a credible and effective Secretary of State. Recent evidence indicates that Exxon deliberately misled government agencies and the American public regarding the threat posed by climate change.  The New York Times reported that ExxonMobil may have known as early as the 1950’s that their carbon emitting product contributes to warming the earth.  Furthermore, Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times reported that ExxonMobil and other energy groups began a coordinated campaign of mass deception as to the truth of climate science – spreading doubt and confusion among the public and ultimately sinking climate action in Congress.


Rex Tillerson’s apparent willingness to deceive the American people by engaging in a misinformation campaign that could have significantly increased his company’s profits makes him unacceptable as a diplomatic representative of our nation.


I have personal experience with the troubling way that Rex Tillerson has run his business, as a consequence of ExxonMobil’s ownership of an oil refinery in the City of Torrance in my congressional district.  Exxon acquired the refinery when it merged with Mobil in 1999 and continued to operate it until July 1st of this year, when ExxonMobil sold the refinery to another company.  During Mr. Tillerson’s tenure as CEO of ExxonMobil and operator of this refinery, the refinery had at least six known accidents and safety problems, including an incident in 2009 that caused a worker to die of second- and third-degree burns and an explosion last year, which injured four workers, registered as a magnitude 1.7 earthquake, and covered much of the surrounding community with ash.


It is hard to believe that Mr. Tillerson would be a dedicated advocate for our country’s national interests when he has provided no evidence that he takes seriously the health and safety of the people who live and work in and around his company’s facilities, even when those facilities are located in American communities like Torrance, California.


Finally, Tillerson’s close ties to Russia are especially alarming in light of Russian support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s brutal assault on the city of Aleppo and his merciless slaughter of innocent civilians.


“Aleppo will join the ranks of those events in world history that define modern evil, that stain our conscience decades later - Halabja, Rwanda, Srebrenica and now Aleppo,” said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power.


Given all of the domestic and international challenges facing our great country at this critical moment in history, we do not need yet another Trump Administration official with extensive entanglements in Russia and a history of pursuing corporate profits at the expense of the American people.”