BREAKING: Rex Tillerson's Old Company Just Created Trump's Worst Conflict of Interest Yet

BREAKING: Rex Tillerson’s Old Company Just Created Trump’s Worst Conflict of Interest Yet

Trump Administration to Decide on Exxon-Rosneft Drilling Agreement

ExxonMobil applied for a waiver from US sanctions levied against Russia, the Wall Street Journal reported, Wednesday. The company seeks to “resume its joint venture” with the Russian-owned oil mega corporation, PAO Rosneft. Officials in Donald Trump’s administration will have to make the call. The timing raises serious questions about Donald’s connections to Russia.

The two companies signed an offshore co-drilling agreement in the Black Sea worth $500 billion in 2012. At the time, Rex Tillerson was the CEO of Exxon, while Rosneft is a nationalized company under the control of Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian Russian government. The two men reportedly have a close personal relationship. Two years later, Russia invaded Ukraine, and the Barack Obama administration slapped sanctions against Russia, putting the kibosh on bilateral trade relations. Rosneft was targeted since it is a major pillar of Putin’s power. Tillerson and Putin’s extremely lucrative agreement was frozen. Now, with Donald Trump in the White House, Exxon is asking for permission to resume it.

Tillerson is now Donald Trump’s Secretary of State, operating under the looming shadow of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s preppy globe trotting. Tillerson’s only foreign policy experience was international oil dealmaking. His primary international experience, like most of Trump’s inner circle, was dealing with Russia. Washington’s foreign policy establishment has openly questioned what on earth Tillerson is actually doing, as his boss slashes his department to the bone, and fires and doesn’t replace top State officials, and Tillerson hardly ever makes public statements. It’s probably a safe bet that Tillerson really appreciated Exxon’s $180 million severance package as he silently oversees the withering of the State Department.

Exxon’s application was submitted to the US Treasury Department. Under Trump, that Department is now run by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Trump chose him because of his stellar record during the financial crisis of running OneWest, one of the most aggressive foreclosure mills. Mnuchin capitalized on widespread market failure more than almost anyone else. Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that Mnuchin, who owns a Hollywood film production company, recently launched a join venture with Len Blavatnik, a Ukrainian who has made billions in Russian oil investments. So surely, we can trust Secretary Mnuchin to evaluate Exxon’s application objectively.

During the 2016 presidential election, Russia intervened by hacking the DNC and publishing kompromat via WikiLeaks. US intelligence concluded that Russia had a vested interest in making Donald Trump president. It was later revealed that Russian intelligence had a dossier of compromising materials on Trump. Russian officials familiar with the dossier, and who may have given information to the former British intelligence officer who compiled it, began dying mysteriously. The extremely lucrative nature of the Exxon-Rosneft deal, and Trump’s insistence on staffing the White House with people connected to it, raise serious questions. Trump claims that his connection to Russia is “fake news.” If so, why are Exxon and Rosneft so confident they can wiggle out of the sanctions levied against Russia for invading a democratic country?

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Marc Belisle is the Reverb Press World Affairs Editor. He is a writer, activist and teacher. He has a Master's degree in International Conflict Analysis from the Brussels School of International Studies. READ MORE BY MARC.