US Senate confirms Trump’s pro-Putin oil exec as Secretary of State

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A mega-rich oil magnate with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin has been confirmed by the US as President Trump’s Secretary of State.

Despite running on a platform of minimising the influence of lobbyists and special interests, the President-elect confirmed back in December that Rex Tillerson, the CEO of oil company Exxon Mobil, would serve as his Secretary of State.

The role of Secretary of State is one of the most crucial appointments a President makes, directing the country’s foreign policy and responsible for relations with the rest of the world.

Tillerson was approved by the Senate with 56 votes to 43.

Largely Democrats opposed his appointment, but he did get some support.

Democrats had attempted initially to have Tillerson’s appointment delayed until he weighed in on Trump’s executive order banning refugees from several countries.

But instead they had switched to attempting to have Republicans vote against his appointment.

The appointment of Mr Tillerson has raised some concerns, given Exxon’s poor record on equality and diversity under his tenure. The company did not explicitly affirm an LGBT non-discrimination policy until 2014, after repeatedly rejecting proposals previously.

Mr Tillerson also has extremely close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and was even awarded the Order of Friendship by the Russian leader.

HRC President Chad Griffin said: “ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination raises critical questions as to how a Trump administration plans to protect LGBTQ employees and contractors affiliated with the State Department, and ultimately whether it will continue American efforts to advance equality through U.S. foreign policy.

“Will Trump and Tillerson take on brutal dictators like Putin who have inspired attacks against LGBTQ people?

“Will they assist LGBTQ Muslim refugees fleeing death from ISIS? For millions of people around the globe, their position on these and other issues are a matter of life and death.

“These are among the questions that Senators – Democrats and Republicans alike – must ask.”

The conservative Christian CEO also headed the Boy Scouts of America in 2010, as the organisation defended its ban on gay members.

The ban was later lifted.

Under President Obama’s two Secretaries of State, Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, the US has pursued a policy of pursuing reform on LGBT issues around the world. Under President Obama the State Department also introduced a dedicated LGBT rights envoy.