IRVING, Texas - For the first time since the election, President-elect Donald Trump appeared on Fox News Sunday, calling Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson “a world class player” and boasting about his extensive energy deals with Russia.
The unofficial selection is a surprise to some who expected a politician like Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani to be considered for Secretary of State.
Trump has denied that he’s made a final decision on Tillerson, but sources close to the transition team say he will be selected.
Mike Wallace, host of Fox News Sunday: “Have you settled on a Secretary of State?”
Donald Trump: “I’m getting close. I’m getting very, very close.”
Fox News Sunday called this morning’s segment, “The Trump Way”. The president-elect’s leading candidate for secretary of state shows he’s doing things his own way.
Rather than selecting someone with a background in foreign service, Trump is expected to make the corporate choice with Tillerson.
It's a surprise to SMU Political Scientist Matthew Wilson.
"A bit out of left field, certainly different from the kinds of people in the past."
Trump has made it clear he would like to improve U.S. relations with Vladimir Putin and Russia, and Tillerson is reported to have close ties.
“To me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players and he knows them well. He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company,” said Trump on Fox News Sunday.
Democrats, and a number of Republicans, are weary of Putin and Russia.
On Fox News Saturday, Senator John McCain called Putin a "thug".
Marco Rubio tweeted Sunday, "Being a 'friend to Vladimir' is not an attribute I am hoping for from a #SecretaryOfState."
"Trump's whole political outlook on the world is about deal making, and, so, if he looks at a business executive who has successfully negotiated deals for his company around the world, Trump sees that as something that person could do for the United States," said Wilson.
The selection of a global energy giant as top U.S. diplomat would also be a show of support for the oil and gas industry -- a major change from the Obama administration, according to Wilson.
"He's much more than a business executive. He's a world class player,” said Trump.
His transition team says we can expect an announcement on Trump's Secretary of State pick as early as this week.
The position would still need to be confirmed through senate confirmation hearings, which could happen in early January.