After President-elect Donald Trump announced ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his pick for secretary of state, morning news shows and newspapers noted that prominent figures including James Baker III, Robert M. Gates, and Condoleezza Rice have expressed support for Tillerson, with some mentioning that such support adds credibility to the pick. But those outlets failed to disclose that all three figures have considerable financial ties through their businesses to Tillerson, ExxonMobil, and the oil company’s Russian business ventures.
Trump Picks Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil CEO With Close Ties To Russia, To Be Secretary Of State
LA Times: Trump Chooses Rex Tillerson, “Oil Tycoon” With “Close Ties” To Russia, To Head State Department. A December 13 Los Angeles Times article reported that President-elect Donald Trump “announced Tuesday he will nominate oil tycoon Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State,” a controversial move that has prompted criticism from Republicans “who are uneasy with the Exxon Mobil chief executive’s close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.” From the December 13 report:
Donald Trump announced Tuesday he will nominate oil tycoon Rex Tillerson to be secretary of State, setting up a potential confrontation with fellow Republicans on Capitol Hill who are uneasy with the Exxon Mobil chief executive’s close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Trump aides hope to win over wavering senators with high-profile endorsements of Tillerson from mainstream GOP foreign policy figures, including former Secretaries of State James A. Baker III and Condoleezza Rice. They will also argue that Tillerson’s ability to close business deals in some of the most politically volatile spots in the world positioned him well for the job as the nation’s top diplomat.
Rice, who runs a consulting firm for which Tillerson is a client, said in a statement that he would bring to the job a “remarkable and a broad range of experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America’s special role in the world.” She called him a “successful businessman and a patriot.”
Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who is Rice’s partner at the consulting business, echoed the sentiment in a similar statement. [Los Angeles Times, 12/13/16]
Outlets Report That James Baker III, Robert M. Gates, And Condoleezza Rice Are Calling Tillerson “An Excellent Choice,” “A Global Champion,” And A “Patriot”
NY Times: Rex Tillerson “Emerged As A Contender On The Strong Recommendations” Of James A. Baker III and Robert M. Gates. The New York Times reported that Trump’s consideration of Tillerson as a potential secretary of state came after “James A. Baker III, the secretary of state under President George Bush, and Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary,” gave “strong recommendations.” [The New York Times, 12/13/16]
Politico: “Bob Gates And Condoleezza Rice Are Backing ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson For Secretary Of State.” A December 13 Politico report included statements from both Gates and Condoleezza Rice on their support for Tillerson. Rice’s statement said, in part, that “Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for Secretary of State,” while Gates wrote that Tillerson “would bring to the position vast knowledge, experience and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders in every corner of the world.” From the report:
Bob Gates and Condoleezza Rice are backing ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson for secretary of state. The pair, who command bipartisan respect in foreign policy circles, issued separate statements of support soon after President-elect Donald Trump announced his pick.
“He would bring to the position vast knowledge, experience and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders in every corner of the world,” Gates said in a statement. ”He is a person of great integrity whose only goal in office would be to protect and advance the interests of the United States.”
“I know this Eagle Scout will be a global champion of the best values of our country,” Gates said.
“Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for Secretary of State. He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America's special role in the world,” said Rice, who served as national security adviser and secretary of state under George W. Bush. “I know Rex as a successful business man and a patriot. He will represent the interests and the values of the United States with resolve and commitment. And he will lead the exceptional men and women of the State Department with respect and dedication.” [Politico, 12/13/16]
Baker, Gates, and Rice All Have Financial Stakes In Tillerson’s Appointment
Politico: “Tillerson Boosters Have Russia, Exxon Business Ties.” Politico’s Isaac Arnsdorf reported on December 12 that “former government officials are lining up” to support Trump’s pick of Tillerson for secretary of state, “and they all have something in common — a financial stake in the outcome.” Arnsdorf explained that Baker is a partner “at a law firm that has represented Exxon as well as Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company that partners with Exxon,” and that Gates and Rice “also work for Exxon through their international consulting firm, Rice Hadley Gates.” From the report:
Former government officials are lining up to vouch for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Donald Trump’s secretary of state, and they all have something in common — a financial stake in the outcome.
James Baker, the George H.W. Bush secretary of state who, MSNBC reported, advised Donald Trump to pick Tillerson, is a partner at a law firm that has represented Exxon as well as Rosneft, the Russian state-owned oil company that partners with Exxon.
The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Rosneft’s chairman, a close Vladimir Putin ally named Igor Sechin, in 2014 in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
The firm, Baker Botts (named for Baker’s great-grandfather), also represents Gazprom, the Russian state gas company.
Baker’s direct relationship with the companies isn’t clear, but his practice specializes in cross-border transactions, and as a partner in the firm, he probably profits from the range of its clients. He didn’t answer requests for comment.
Tillerson, who was formally nominated by Trump on Tuesday morning, also came recommended by former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. They also work for Exxon through their international consulting firm, Rice Hadley Gates.
Rice and the firm also didn’t answer requests for comment. A Trump transition spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [Politico, 12/12/16]
But Most Reports Noting Their Support For Tillerson Fail To Disclose Their Ties
CNN’s Poppy Harlow: Recommendations For Tillerson From Rice, Baker, and Gates Are “What Got Him In The Running At All.” On CNN’s New Day, guest co-host Poppy Harlow, reporting on Trump’s choice of Tillerson for secretary of state, noted Rice, Baker, and Gates’ support but did not disclose their connection to ExxonMobil. From the December 13 edition of CNN’s New Day:
POPPY HARLOW (CO-HOST): Sources tell CNN former secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and James Baker, along with former Defense Secretary Bob Gates, recommended Tillerson to Trump. That's what got him in the running at all. [CNN, New Day, 12/13/16]
MSNBC’s Morning Joe: Tillerson Has “The Full Support Of Some Pretty Credible” People Like Rice, Gates, And Baker, Who Are All “Foreign Policy Heavyweights.” On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, co-host Mika Brzezinski noted that Tillerson “had the full support of some pretty credible” people, while co-anchor Willie Geist responded that the endorsement by Rice, Gates, and Baker shows he has “some foreign policy heavyweights” behind him. At no point did the anchors disclose the financial ties between Tillerson and his backers. From the December 13 edition of MSNBC’s Morning Joe:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (CO-HOST): This choice seems credible. I don't know what's going to happen on Capitol Hill but, Willie, he's got the full support of some pretty credible --
JOE SCARBOROUGH (CO-HOST): Condi Rice, Bob Gates, Jim Baker --
WILLIE GEIST: Yeah, you guys were worried yesterday that the idea was raised to Donald Trump by Bob Gates, Condi Rice, Jim Baker, Dick Cheney has also endorsed him as well. So --
GEIST: Publicly endorsed him. So, these are -- whether you like some of them or not on that list -- those are foreign policy heavyweights who came to Donald Trump and said “take a look at this guy.” [MSNBC, Morning Joe, 12/13/16]
ABC’s George Stephanopoulos: Tillerson “Came Well-Recommended” From Baker, Gates, and Rice.” Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos noted that Tillerson “came well-recommended from former Secretary of State James Baker, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Condi Rice, who worked for President George W. Bush,” but he did not disclose their financial ties to ExxonMobil before asking ABC’s Martha Raddatz to make “the best case for Tillerson.” From the December 13 edition of ABC’s Good Morning America:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): Martha, let me begin with you on Rex Tillerson. Came well-recommended from former Secretary of State James Baker, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Condi Rice who worked for President George W. Bush. So, what’s the best case for Tillerson?
MARTHA RADDATZ: Well, he is a highly successful dealmaker. He does know players around the world, not just in Russia. He certainly knows how to negotiate. [ABC, Good Morning America, 12/13/16]
NBC’s Nicole Wallace: “Very Important People From the Foreign Policy Establishment” Think Tillerson “Checks Both Boxes” As Someone Who Is “Responsible” But Also “Fits Trump’s Mold.” On NBC’s Today, co-host Hoda Kotb and Nicolle Wallace discussed Tillerson’s “big endorsements” from Rice and Baker, with Wallace noting that they are “very important people from the foreign policy establishment.” Neither Kotb nor Wallace noted that Rice and Baker could stand to benefit due to their ties to Exxon. From the December 13 edition of NBC’s Today:
HODA KOTB (CO-HOST): Let's talk about the upside to this guy. He’s got a lot of business smarts. And he got some big endorsements. We saw Condi Rice, we saw James Baker. What does all that tell you?
NICOLLE WALLACE: Well, it tells you that he did not just show up on the Trump Tower security list and wander inside to see what this new president-elect actually looks and sounds like. It sounds like some very important people from the foreign policy establishment, my old colleagues, Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice, thought that this would sort of check both boxes, be somebody responsible and sound but somebody who would sort of fit Trump's mold, which is someone from outside of politics. [NBC, Today, 12/13/16]
CNN’s Carol Costello: Condoleezza Rice Is “Supporting The Pick Of Tillerson,” So “Are Critics Wrong About [Him]?” After CNN’s Jeff Zeleny reported that Rice is supporting Tillerson, host Carol Costello read Rice’s statement of support and asked contributor Elise Labott if critics “are wrong about Tillerson” since he’s being supported by a former secretary of state. Costello did not mention Rice’s ties to ExxonMobil. From the December 13 edition of CNN’s Newsroom with Carol Costello:
JEFF ZELENY: Donald Trump obviously doubling down here, and he has the support of some recent secretaries of state, Condoleezza Rice among them. But look for a bruising confirmation hearing as we go forward here. And once, if he would happen to get confirmed, an open question about what type of secretary of state he would be.
CAROL COSTELLO: Well, Elise, let me put that to you because Jeff mentioned Condoleezza Rice is supporting Trump’s pick of Rex Tillerson. This is what she wrote just moments ago as a matter of fact. She said, “Rex Tillerson is an excellent choice for secretary of state. He will bring to the post remarkable and broad international experience; a deep understanding of the global economy; and a belief in America's special role in the world." So, are critics wrong about Tillerson, Elise? [CNN, Newsroom with Carol Costello, 12/13/16]
Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade: “When You Find Out That Bob Gates And … Condoleeza Rice Recommended Him, There Must Be Something There.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade defended the choice of Tillerson, stating that t “when you find out that Bob Gates and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recommended him, there must be something there.” From the December 13 edition of Fox News’ Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (CO-HOST): ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson is going to be offered the secretary of state position. If he passes through the question and answer session through the Senate, he will be the next secretary of state of this country, which is pretty astounding. When you think about an outsider, I go, OK, absolutely an outsider, in business. However, when you find out that Bob Gates and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recommended him, there must be something there. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/13/16]
NY Times: “Trump Lines Up Establishment Republicans To Vouch For Rex Tillerson.” In a December 13 report on Trump’s choice of Tillerson, The New York Times’ Michael D. Shear wrote that “Trump’s transition team has lined up high-profile endorsements for Mr. Tillerson,” noting Gates, Baker, and Rice as “strong” backers of Tillerson. The article, however, did not mention their financial stake in Tillerson’s appointment. From the December 13 article:
President-elect Donald J. Trump is enlisting veteran members of the Republican foreign policy establishment to vouch for Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, as his choice to be the nation’s chief diplomat.
To win Senate confirmation, Mr. Tillerson will need to counter bipartisan skepticism about his ties to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia over his long career at the giant energy company. Hearings are expected to focus, in particular, on the potential conflict between Exxon’s oil and gas deals and American sanctions on Russia.
But Mr. Trump’s transition team has lined up high-profile endorsements for Mr. Tillerson that began to roll out early Tuesday morning and were intended to address concerns about Russia and Mr. Putin, according to people familiar with the plan. The transition team’s goal is to press for a swift confirmation after Mr. Trump is inaugurated next month.
Robert M. Gates, who served as secretary of defense under President Obama and President George W. Bush, strongly endorsed Mr. Tillerson in a statement Tuesday morning, calling him “a global champion of the best values of our country” and saying he would bring “vast knowledge, experience and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders in every corner of the world.”
Others expected to strongly back Mr. Tillerson — and to reject concerns about Russia — are said to include former Vice President Dick Cheney and former secretaries of state James A. Baker III and Condoleezza Rice, among others. [The New York Times, 12/13/16]
Wash. Post: “Trump Picks ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson To Be Secretary of State.” In a December 13 report on Trump’s pick of Tillerson, The Washington Post reported on Gates and Rice’s role in the decision, noting that “Gates was the first person to raise Tillerson as a secretary of state possibility.” While the report mentioned that Rice formerly “served on the board of Chevron,” it did not disclose her, Gates’ or Baker’s current ties to Exxon or Russia. From the December 13 article:
President-elect Donald Trump has picked as his secretary of state Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of ExxonMobil, Trump’s transition team announced Tuesday, setting up a possible confrontation with members of his own party in the Senate.
Other GOP senators, including Jeff Flake (Ariz.), who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will first have to approve Tillerson before a Senate floor vote, said that backing for Tillerson from some prominent figures — former secretaries of state James Baker and Condoleezza Rice, and former defense secretary Robert M. Gates — “carry considerable weight.”
Gates was the first person to raise Tillerson as a secretary of state possibility with Trump during a meeting at Trump Tower, the transition official added. Trump did not know much about Tillerson but started chewing over the idea. He invited Tillerson for a meeting, and the two global dealmakers hit it off. They recognized similarities in each other, and the more they talked, the more they liked each other, the transition official said.
Tillerson “would bring to the position vast knowledge, experience and success in dealing with dozens of governments and leaders in every corner of the world,” Gates said in a statement, which did not cite any specific countries.
Rice also did not mention Russia or other nations in her statement of support, but appeared to answer potential critics of Tillerson by calling him a “patriot” who would “represent the interests and values of the United States.”
Rice, who has served on the board of Chevron, spoke with Trump about Tillerson by phone Monday as Trump made his final decision." [The Washington Post, 12/13/16]
Image by Sarah Wasko