Later today, the 538 members of the Electoral College will meet to determine who will be the next President of the US.
Normally these meetings are a formality, with electors reflecting the vote results from their states, but there is growing sense that some electors might defy their party and vote against Trump.
At least one elector has publicly said he will not vote for Trump as he refuses to vote for “someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office … Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief.”
This lack of foreign policy experience has been reflected in Trump’s disastrous pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the current boss of oil giant Exxon, which has caused outrage from many quarters and is now the subject of satirists, cartoonists and fodder for the sketch writers at Saturday Night Live (see photo).
Apart from Exxon being the subject to a criminal investigation into lying about climate change, there are many other accusations of ill-practice against the company including its “long history of questionable deals with oil-rich countries around the world” and the fact it has “consistently tried to undermine global efforts aimed at reducing corruption in the extractives sector”, according to Global Witness.
One of the main problems for Trump is Tillerson’s close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which raises huge conflicts of interest. The issue has been raised by both sides of the house in the US as well as the company’s critics, since Tillerson was nominated.
As my colleague Lorne Stockman wrote “There’s no doubt that Rex Tillerson and Exxon’s executives and shareholders will profit from his nomination to Secretary of State. The only question is by how much.”
Tillerson owns Exxon stock worth $200 million. So even after leaving the company, what is good for Exxon will be good for Tillerson and one of those will be getting sanctions lifted in Russia, allowing Exxon back into the Russian Arctic. And even if Tillerson divests that stock, his lifetime of allegiance to Exxon and the oil industry will be hard to break.
This is a man who has oil in his veins.
Many have criticised his appointment, with Steve Kretzmann from OCI arguing that “The nomination of Rex Tillerson has revealed with startling clarity that our government is being set up to support the interests of Big Oil and Putin, not the American people or the planet.”
Ken Kimmell, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists adds: “You wouldn’t hire the CEO of a tobacco company to serve as surgeon general. So why would you pick the leader of an oil and gas corporation to spearhead a position tasked with national security and global climate action?”
And now further questions are being asked over Tillerson’s links with the Russians.
Documents leaked over the weekend, reveal that Tillerson was a long-term director of a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas.
Tillerson became a director of the oil company’s Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, in 1998. He was a director for just under a decade, according to Exxon.
As the Guardian reported: “Though there is nothing untoward about this directorship, it has not been reported before and is likely to raise fresh questions over Tillerson’s relationship with Russia ahead of a potentially stormy confirmation hearing by the US senate foreign relations committee.”
The documents from the Bahamas reveal that Exxon registered at least 67 companies in the secretive tax haven. And they add to the evidence that Tillerson’s Russian links are deeper than we thought, and a real cause for concern.