THE former ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson has been Donald Trump’s Secretary of State since February 1, 2017.
The oil and gas tycoon has been a pillar of stability in Trump’s otherwise chaotic government, which has already seen an unprecedented wave of departures, including a chief of staff, a national security adviser and a Cabinet secretary.
His appointment seemed to have sparked an outcry when Tillerson prepared to take his post, the entire senior management team of the US State department left their roles.
However, despite reports claiming the bosses had quit – which would have been seen as a huge embarrassment to Donald Trump – they later said they’d been asked to leave by the new administration.
Who is Rex Tillerson?
Tillerson was born on March 23, 1952, in Wichita Falls, Texas.
He is the son of Patty Sue and Bobby Joe.
As a youth, he was a high-achieving scout and served as president of the Boy Scouts of America from 2010 to 2012.
He is the former director of the United Negro College Fund, a US organisation that funds scholarships for black students and supports historically black colleges and universities.
Did Rex Tillerson call Donald Trump a moron?
On October 4 2017 Tillerson called a press conference to deny that he had been on the brink of resigning as US secretary of state during the summer – but was more evasive when asked if it was true that he had called President Trump a moron.
He said: “The vice-president [Mike Pence] has never had to persuade me to remain as secretary of state because I have never considered leaving this post.”
The hastily arranged news conference came after NBC News reported that Mr Tillerson, a Texan former oil executive, had grown so frustrated with Mr Trump over the summer that he had been at the point of quitting.
Tensions were said to have peaked in July as Mr Trump’s security advisers tried to thrash out a policy on Afghanistan and the West Wing endured a series of controversies, most of them set in motion by the president.
After a meeting at the Pentagon on July 20, Mr Tillerson allegedly openly disparaged Mr Trump, referring to him as a moron, three officials told NBC.
Mr Tillerson said of Mr Trump: “He loves this country. He puts Americans and America first. He’s smart. He demands results wherever he goes and he holds those around him accountable.”
However, when asked if NBC’s claim that he had called Mr Trump a moron was accurate, he replied: “We don’t deal with that kind of petty nonsense.”
A few hours later, the state department called another press conference formally to deny that Mr Tillerson had called the president a moron.
“He did not say that,” a spokeswoman said.
What is Tillerson’s political and business background?
Tillerson earned a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering at the University of Texas at Austin before joining Exxon Company, U.S.A. in 1975 as a production engineer.
He then became CEO of Exxon Mobil, a publicly traded oil firm, and oversaw operations in more than 50 countries, including Russia.
In 2011, Exxon Mobil signed a deal with Rosneft – Russia‘s largest state-owned oil company – for joint oil exploration and production.
Since then, the companies have formed 10 joint ventures for projects in Russia.
Who did he beat to the Secretary of State post?
Mitt Romney was the favourite for the high-ranking role.
Then White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was reported to have backed Romney.
But other advisers reportedly opposed the idea of picking the 2012 GOP nominee, given his fierce criticism of Trump during the campaign.
What are his links to Vladimir Putin?
In 2013, the Kremlin bestowed the country’s Order of Friendship honour on the oil boss – who went on to argue against sanctions at a shareholders’ meeting the following year.
“We do not support sanctions, generally, because we don’t find them to be effective unless they are very well implemented comprehensively and that’s a very hard thing to do,” he said.
Tillerson added: “We always encourage the people who are making those decisions to consider the very broad collateral damage of who are they really harming with sanctions.”
One of ExxonMobil’s biggest deals in Russia – worth a reported $500billion (£398billion) fell victim to sanctions imposed by the Obama administration after Putin’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.