Trump Chooses Texans Rex Tillerson & Rick Perry. George W. Bush Camp Cheers. @SalenaZito, @CNN, @LaraMBrownPHD, @GWSPM

Dec 14, 2016, 05:26 AM

12-13-2016 (Photo: Tillerson) Twitter: @BatchelorShow

Trump Chooses Texans Rex Tillerson & Rick Perry. George W. Bush Camp Cheers. @SalenaZito, @CNN, @LaraMBrownPHD, @GWSPM

WASHINGTON — After waging an 18-month assault on the Republican establishment, President-elect Donald J. Trump changed course on Tuesday and enlisted the party’s high priests of foreign policy to help him win the confirmation of Rex W. Tillerson as secretary of state. Several former Republican secretaries of defense and state sought to dismiss bipartisan concerns about Mr. Tillerson, the Exxon Mobil chief executive, over his two-decade relationship with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. At the center of the debate are questions about Mr. Tillerson’s vocal opposition to American sanctions imposed on Russia as he pursued oil and gas deals in that country. Their mobilization showed how much Mr. Tillerson’s nomination is already a Congressional proxy fight over Mr. Trump’s embrace of Russia and Mr. Putin. Democrats issued blunt denunciations of the idea that a globe-trotting energy executive could adequately represent the national interests of the United States. So did several leading Republicans, whose party orthodoxy has been anti-Kremlin for decades…..

“…A series of statements followed from former Vice President Dick Cheney and former secretaries of state James A. Baker III and Condoleezza Rice, among others. In an interview, Robert M. Gates, who served as secretary of defense under President Obama and President George W. Bush, strongly endorsed Mr. Tillerson, a longtime friend, calling him someone who “knows the world like the back of his hand.” Mr. Gates, whose consulting firm has represented Exxon Mobil, said that senators concerned about Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Mr. Putin are basing their criticism “on a superficial watching” of video clips of the Exxon executive receiving the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013 with Mr. Putin. Mr. Gates said he recommended Mr. Tillerson to the president-elect because he is someone with decades of experience negotiating with foreign leaders. “I think it’s a mistake to confuse having a friendly relationship based on business with sympathy or friendship,” said Mr. Gates, who acknowledged in an earlier statement that Exxon has been a client. “I think Rex is a hard-eyed realist, and I think he will absolutely put America’s interests first in any negotiation.”

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Rick Perry to head the Energy Department, said two people familiar with the decision, seeking to put the former Texas governor in control of an agency whose name he forgot during a presidential debate even as he vowed to abolish it. Perry, who ran for president in the past two election cycles, is likely to shift the department away from renewable energy and toward fossil fuels, whose production he championed while serving as governor for 14 years. The Energy Department was central to the 2011 gaffe that helped end his first presidential bid. Declaring that he wanted to eliminate three federal agencies during a primary debate in Michigan, Perry then froze after mentioning the Commerce and Education departments. “The third one, I can’t. Sorry. Oops.”