Former US Vice President Dick Cheney is reportedly lobbying on behalf of Rex Tillerson, Republican President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that Cheney, the 75-year-old neoconservative politician who served four Republican presidents and spent six terms in the House of Representatives, spoke to Senator Marco Rubio and some other senators in order to get their support for Tillerson’s confirmation from the Senate.
Tillerson is the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, which is the world’s 8th largest corporation by revenue and is headquartered in Irving, Texas. The oil and gas giant is the largest direct descendant of John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company, and was established in 1999 by the merger of Exxon and Mobil.
Rubio, who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, has spoken against the ExxonMobil CEO’s close business ties with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin.
After Trump selected Tillerson to lead the State Department, Rubio reacted strongly, declaring in a tweet, “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState.”
Republicans hold a 10-to-nine advantage on the Foreign Relations Committee. If just one Republican member and all Democrats gang up against Tillerson, they could sink his nomination before it even reaches the Senate floor. The committee is responsible for holding confirmation hearings for top positions in the State Department.
According to the Post, some deep-pocketed Republican Party donors have also called Rubio to try and persuade him into supporting Tillerson’s confirmation.
Influential Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have also spoken against Tillerson’s nomination, questioning his relationship with Putin and saying: “I don’t see how anybody could be a friend of this old-time KGB agent.”
According to reports, in a meeting with Trump, Robert Gates, former CIA director and former defense secretary, personally recommended Tillerson for the post of secretary of state. While former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice made the same recommendation during her meeting with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.
Both Gates and Rice run a consulting firm that considers ExxonMobil among its clients.
Cheney has been a vocal supporter of the ExxonMobil CEO, describing his nomination as an “inspired choice.”
Gates has called Tillerson a “tough-minded realist” who understands the Russian leader. He has said that Tillerson’s experience of doing business with Russia is an asset, not a weakness.
On Wednesday, former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger applauded Trump’s selection of Tillerson for America’s next top diplomat.
Kissinger dismissed concerns about Tillerson’s ties with Putin. “I pay no attention to this argument that he is too friendly with Russia,” Kissinger said, according to Politico. “He would be useless at the head of Exxon if he was not friendly with Russia… I don’t hear those concerns at all.”
Tillerson has reportedly close business relations with Russia and was awarded “Order of Friendship” — one of the country’s most prestigious awards given to foreign nationals — by the Russian government in 2013.
Under Tillerson’s management, the energy giant ExxonMobil negotiated a major energy deal with Moscow in 2011, according to The Wall Street Journal. Putin said at the time that the deal could be worth over $500 billion.