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Donald Trump defended Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as a possible choice for his secretary of state, despite the dealmaker’s ties to Russia.

“He’s much more than a business executive,” Trump said Sunday on Fox News. “I mean, he’s a world-class player. He’s in charge of, I guess the largest company in the world. He’s in charge of an oil company that’s pretty much double the size of his next serious competitor.”

Tillerson, who is reportedly the front-runner to be Trump’s top diplomat, has close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He has had more interactive time with Vladimir Putin than probably any other American with the exception of Henry Kissinger,” John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary during the Clinton administration and president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Wall Street Journal last week.



On Sunday, Trump said that’s a “great advantage.”

The president-elect then repeated his praise of Tillerson with a tweet.

“Whether I choose him or not for ‘State’ – Rex Tillerson, the Chairman & CEO of ExxonMobil, is a world class player and dealmaker,” he wrote. “Stay tuned!”

On Saturday, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called Tillerson’s ties to Russia “a matter of concern.” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham has said the possibility that Tillerson could lead the State Department is “unnerving.”

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