Rex Tillerson makes rare public appearance in Houston

December 7, 2018

Russia interfered with the 2016 U.S. elections, former U.S. Secretary of State and Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson said during a Thursday evening visit to Houston.

Making his first public appearance in nearly nine months, Tillerson spoke at a fundraiser for the MD Anderson Cancer Center, where he participated in a conversation with CBS News veteran Bob Schieffer.

When asked if he believes that Russia interfered in the presidential elections, Tillerson replied “without a doubt” and that it had been documented by intelligence.

“What Russia wants to do is undermine our confidence and undermine the world’s conference in us,” Tillerson said.

Describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “very calculating” and “very opportunistic” leader, Tillerson said his strategy is to undermine the U.S. influence around the globe.

“Many people talk about playing chess, he plays three-dimensional chess,” Tilerson said about Putin.

A native of Wichita Falls, Tillerson earned a civil engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975 just before joining Exxon as a production engineer. Tillerson rose through the ranks and become CEO of ExxonMobil in January 2006.

Tillerson is not likely to return to the oil & gas industry. Under an exit deal with ExxonMobil to become secretary of state, Tillerson received an estimated $180 million. However, he would have to forfeit that money if he returns to the industry any time before January 2027.

Shortly after leaving the State Department, the University of Texas Board of Regents approached Tillerson about becoming UT System chancellor. The details of those discussions were not made public but City University of New York Chancellor James Milliken was appointed to the post in August.

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