by Julian Borger
"By nominating Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, Donald Trump will ignite a battle in Congress over the two issues that look set to overshadow the opening chapters of his presidency: Russia and conflicts of interest.
Tillerson embodies both quandaries. The ExxonMobil executive has grown close to Vladimir Putin and his circle through a succession of oil deals. The fate of those deals would give him a private interest when he comes to negotiate with Moscow as secretary of state. Lifting sanctions would unshackle ExxonMobil’s planned multi-billion dollar operations in Russia, and boost Tillerson’s retirement fund.
His confirmation hearings in the Senate will be a bitter and emotive struggle. For Trump’s legion critics, the opaque ties with Russia and his glaring conflicts of interest represent existential threats to US democracy. Trump is giving the nod to Tillerson, the recipient of Moscow’s Order of Friendship, as a slaughter is underway in Aleppo, likely to be one of the worst war crimes of the century so far, in which Russia is complicit.
Furthermore, confirmation hearings will run concurrently with a congressional investigation into what role Russian intelligence played in tilting the US presidential election and giving Trump an edge. The legitimacy of his presidency, for a majority of the US electorate and much of the world beyond, will be at stake in those hearings."