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Jan. 11, 2017

Key Questions Senators Must Ask Rex Tillerson, Trump’s Secretary of State Pick

Statement of David Arkush, Managing Director, Public Citizen’s Climate Program

Note: Today, the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations holds its confirmation hearing for President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for U.S. secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

The committee should ask Tillerson tough questions about his deal with Exxon that allegedly severs his financial interest in the company. Public Citizen’s review of the companies’ legal filings suggests that his conflict might not be resolved.

Beyond that strict legal conflict of interest, Tillerson has a larger problem that he cannot resolve: He has worked for Exxon since 1975, and for the past 10 years he headed the company. He has spent many years, likely decades, absorbing Exxon’s perspective and representing its interests on foreign affairs. During his tenure, Exxon has committed countless egregious acts, including defying U.S. foreign policy, supporting and cozying up to dictators and U.S. adversaries, and fueling the denial of scientific consensus on the greatest threat to the nation and the world, climate change.

It is difficult to imagine that Tillerson’s perspective has not been warped by his long service to Exxon. In interviews, Tillerson has given reason to believe he often thinks that what’s good for Exxon is good for the country. Regardless of what he now says in a confirmation hearing, there is no justification for the U.S. Senate to take a chance on him. We cannot have a secretary of state who may not be able to tell the difference between U.S. interests and those of a powerful, profit-hungry oil company that has actively undermined U.S. goals, values and security. And it is simply unacceptable to have a secretary of state who has worked to sow doubt and confusion about the existence of the greatest threat to the nation.



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