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Exxon-Mobil chief to be named Secretary of State, with former Texas Governor Rick Perry as Energy Secretary

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK --President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state Tuesday, but he faces a struggle getting confirmed by U.S. senators concerned about his close ties to Russia.

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Former Texas Governor Rick Perry exits after meeting with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 12, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK --President-elect Donald Trump is expected to name Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as secretary of state Tuesday, but he faces a struggle getting confirmed by U.S. senators concerned about his close ties to Russia.

Lawmakers from both major parties also raised questions on Monday, Dec. 12, about former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, who has been mentioned as a possible No. 2 State Department official and has voiced hawkish views on Iraq and Iran.

Republicans and Democrats said Tillerson, who is also president of Exxon Mobil Corp., would be asked about his ties to Russia, having met President Vladimir Putin several times and won fresh praise from Moscow on Monday.

In 2013, Putin bestowed a Russian state honor, the Order of Friendship, upon Tillerson, citing his work "strengthening cooperation in the energy sector."

In a separate development, Trump is expected to pick former Texas Governor Rick Perry as his nominee for energy secretary, a source said. Perry met Trump on Monday at Trump Tower in New York.

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North Dakota Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer and U.S. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp were both viewed as possible picks for the energy secretary post, while Heitkamp is still thought to be a leading candidate for Secretary of Agriculture.

Both Heitkamp and Cramer also met with the president-elect at Trump Tower in the past weeks.

Concerning Tillerson, U.S. Sen. John McCain, a leading foreign policy voice and 2008 Republican candidate for president, told Reuters in an interview: "I have concerns. It's very well known that he has a very close relationship with Vladimir Putin."

Calling Putin "a KGB agent who is bent on restoring the Russian Empire," McCain said he would await confirmation hearings if Tillerson is nominated before making a judgment on the nomination.

Another Republican, Sen. Marco Rubio, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that would review a Tillerson nomination, has voiced similar worries.

Renewed allegations of Russian hackers meddling in the Nov. 8 election, coupled with Trump's stated admiration of Putin, have stoked concern. Washington is at odds with Moscow over a range of issues that include Syria, Ukraine and NATO's presence in eastern Europe.

Trump is due to succeed Democratic President Barack Obama on Jan. 20. During Trump's presidential campaign, Democrats and longtime government officials voiced alarm when Trump repeatedly praised Putin.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was optimistic Trump's nominees would be confirmed by the Senate, but he declined to comment on any future nominees such as Tillerson.

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McConnell called all of Trump's choices so far "pretty impressive."

Sen. Charles Schumer, the incoming Senate Democratic leader, told CBS "This Morning" that "The bottom line is, every one of these nominees, particularly a guy like Tillerson, needs a thorough, thorough hearing."

"Talks about his closeness with Putin will come forward," Schumer said

ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference on April 21, 2015, in Houston, Texas. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer
ExxonMobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson speaks during the IHS CERAWeek 2015 energy conference in Houston April 21, 2015. REUTERS/Daniel Kramer/File Photo

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