Trump’s unique reality show of a search process cycled through former rivals, sitting senators, Bush administration officials, establishment figures and even a certain onetime presidential nominee who famously called him a “phony,” a “fraud” and a “con man.”
Trump is also choosing confrontation over accommodation in pressing his case for a revamped foreign policy. He is risking a confirmation battle -– even possible rejection of his highest-profile nominee -– and is all but daring some Republicans who are least comfortable with his presidency to stand up to him.
Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil, is likely to be installed in the job as secretary of state. Senators -– particularly those of the president’s own party, early in an administration -– typically hesitate to deny the president his choices to populate his ranks of top advisers.
But this is no party-unifying pick. Word leaked of Tillerson’s front-running status over the weekend virtually at the same time that fresh headlines emerged over Russia’s apparent attempts to influence the election, heightening the scrutiny on Tillerson’s –- and Trump’s -- relationship with Russian officials.
Picking Tillerson accentuates the splits between Trump and much of his party when it comes to foreign policy. Social conservative groups have signaled their own concerns with him, citing his work pushing the Boy Scouts to lift its ban on gay scouts when he was a volunteer board member of the organization.
Choosing Tillerson means that Trump is committed to a new relationship with Russia, despite concerns being voiced inside his own party. It may be a fight he can win –- but a fight it will be for Trump.