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President-elect Donald Trump's senior adviser defended the expected pick for secretary of state, Exxon Mobil's Rex Tillerson, saying his close ties to Russia’s president aren't a reason for concern but show off his prowess for tough business negotiations.
Kellyanne Conway said Trump will make an announcement “probably this week” about his choice, which NBC sources have said will be Tillerson.
“We want somebody who’s already accustomed to negotiating… Because he’s an oil man, he’s been in Yemen and China and Russia and in the developing world and in the Middle East certainly,” Conway said.
Tillerson lacks diplomatic background but his deep experience in international negotiations shot him to the top of the short list for secretary of state.
Conway dismissed concern over Tillerson’s close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who once awarded him with his nation’s highest honor.
“It’s not like Vladimir Putin and Rex Tillerson are pounding down vodka at the local bar," she said. "They’re not intimate friends, but they deal with each other through business interests."
Conway also defended Trump’s refusal to accept CIA findings that Russia tried to influence the U.S. election in an attempt to help the Republican.
A Washington Post report published online Friday night first described how the intelligence community reached a "consensus" that Russia intervened in the presidential election to help Trump win. NBC News has confirmed the story.
“I think it’s ridiculous. I think it’s just another excuse,” Trump said over the weekend.
Conway said Trump “cares very much about our intelligence community” but said she didn’t find as “credible and complete” the information recently reported about Russia’s role in the presidential campaign.
“We don’t want intelligence interfering in our politics but we don’t want politics interfering with our intelligence and that’s what’s happening here,” she said.