Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) Chair Norman Eisen and Vice Chair Richard Painter today released the following bipartisan statement on Rex Tillerson’s potential conflicts of interest as Secretary of State:
“If Rex Tillerson is confirmed as Secretary of State, unless he severs all financial ties to ExxonMobil, he will be required by law to recuse himself from everything relating not just to that business, but from all industries in which it operates—something that would make it very hard for him to do his job as probably the most important person in the government other than the President when it comes to negotiating a global solution to carbon emissions and climate change.
Even if he does divest, there still may be some necessary recusals. The biggest concerns revolve around his close business and personal ties to Russia, which may be the subject of a separate Senate investigation into apparent interference with the election. Those conflict issues will need to be thoroughly explored by the Senate in its review of Tillerson’s nomination.
It may be that the appearance of conflict and the need for repeated recusals is so profound that the Senate concludes he cannot do the job. We hope the confirmation hearings and the Senate’s investigation of Russia’s alleged intrusion upon the election will provide an occasion for a comprehensive review of all these issues, including full disclosure of all business ties between Russia and senior members of the administration—including the President-elect.”
Eisen served as the top ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama. Painter served as the top ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush.