Trump taps Tillerson for Cabinet post amid controversy

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," December 13, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: He's much more than a business executive. I mean, he's a world-class player.

REINCE PRIEBUS, INCOMING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Rex Tillerson is a really tough guy. The good lord didn't put oil in all freedom-loving democracies across the world.

RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Donald Trump has selected somebody who knows the world and can advise him on the world. If you pick somebody like that, somewhere, someplace, they're going to have some issues that you're going to have to deal with.

SEN. BOB CORKER, R-TENN.: Obviously there's been some flirting, if you will, with Russia that's been a little different than what we're used to. Obviously Rex Tillerson will come to these hearings with that knowledge, and I'm sure will, I hope will do everything he can to allay any fears that people have.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: As we reported last night, Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, is Donald Trump's pick to be the nominee of secretary of state. He tweeted out, the president-elect did today, "The thing I like best about Rex Tillerson is that he has vast experience in dealing successfully with all types of foreign governments." He's not alone in that. Former vice president Dick Cheney releasing a statement saying "This election of Rex Tillerson to be secretary of state is an inspired choice. He has the vast experience, ability, and judgment to deal with the very dangerous world we find confronting us. His extensive knowledge of the global situation will be an asset in representing our nation."

But not all Republicans feel that way. Obviously Democrats have weighed in, but Marco Rubio, senator from right here in Florida, tweeted out "Being a friend of Vladimir is not an attribute I am hoping for a secretary of state."

With that, let's bring in our panel, I'm in Miami, they're in Washington: editor in chief of Lifezette, Laura Ingraham, Anne Gearan, political correspondent for The Washington Post, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Laura, you've listened to the reaction all day to Rex Tillerson. Your thoughts on where this is coming down, and is this going to be a confirmation fight on Capitol Hill?

LAURA INGRAHAM, LIFEZETTE.COM: I'm not sure how much of a fight it's going to be. I think it's quite something to hear from Senator Corker talk about the flirtation between Tillerson and Putin when, first of all, under the Bush administration, I remember those gauzy pictures captured with Putin and President Bush at the ranch in cowboy duds, and looking into his soul and seeing deeply into it. And of course the failed Russian reset on behalf of Hillary Clinton's efforts with the former Soviet Union, and then, of course, Barack Obama's telling Medvedev that he'd have more flexibility after the 2012 election cycle. It seems to me there was a lot of attempts to get closer to Russia in the last two administrations but not a lot of success in dealing with Russia.

So I think it's good to have someone from a different community, the business community, who's actually been successful in dealing with the former Soviet Union. And I think it's refreshing to have someone from his background and I think it's about time. We've had a lot of intelligence and foreign policy failures with the so-called pros in charge.

BAIER: And the Trump transition team is pointing out Tillerson is a tough negotiator around the world. He said no numerous times to Vladimir Putin in tough deals and deal making, he knows world leaders around the world. But clearly the opposition to Tillerson is pretty fierce on the left, and it seems like they're going to make at least Tillerson a target in the confirmation process.

ANNE GEARAN, THE WASHINGTON POST: Sure. They're going to try to bloody him up a little bit. I mean, as a practical matter, his being somebody that Democrats don't particularly like or wouldn't be their pick, it is not much of a concern for a Trump White House as long as they can hold together at least 50 and probably 51 at least of the Republican votes, they can get him through.

But I'm really interested in how they are -- the Trump team is trying to turn what seems to be Tillerson's greatest liability, his time on the world stage in dealing with foreign governments and the kinds of deals he's had to make to get his business deals done, into an asset, saying that this is a guy who understands how not only -- not only does he understand geopolitics and how the world works, but he understands how these leaders think, and even if we as a country don't agree with those leaders, understanding their worldview and understanding how they make deals and how they view the United States from a business perspective is actually an asset. That's going to be the chief argument they make on the Hill.

BAIER: Charles, obviously Exxon Mobil one of the biggest if not the biggest company in the world, and we've talked many times about the bureaucracy in Washington. The State Department is a behemoth when it comes to bureaucracy. To shake that up, you need somebody perhaps that has the experience of shaking up companies?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think that's an asset. His knowledge of the world is an asset. To some extent, his relationship with Putin is an asset if it gives him insight into how to deal with him.

But, look, the issue is going to be what are his feelings about Putin right now? What will they be as a representative not of an oil company that has interest in the oil in the Russian arctic, but as secretary of state of the United States?

And that's why you have hearings. They're going to ask him what is your sense of Putin's motive? Is he a potential ally? Is he an adversary? Is he somebody who, as it appears to many of us, is intent on diminishing American influence and expanding Russian fear of influence, particularly in eastern Europe and the Middle East?

But we shouldn't prejudge him until we hear what he has to say. And the reason is that he comes in as a man who dealt on behalf of the oil company, his oil company as a fiduciary. It reminds me of 1982 when Alexander Hague stepped down as secretary of state and George Schultz came up. And he was the president of Bechtel, an engineering construction around the world, that had extensive dealings with the Saudis and Gulf Arabs. It was suspected that perhaps Schultz had sympathies that would tilt him on the Arab side of the Arab-Israeli dispute. It turned out not to be the case at all and Schultz is one of the great secretaries of state of the second half of the last century. So we will see how the man acts and speaks representing his country and not an oil company.

BAIER: Meantime, Laura, you have pick for secretary of energy, former Texas governor Rick Perry. And all day long every cable channel played the infamous 40-second sound bite from that debate where he can't remember the third agency, which happens to be energy, that he wants to get rid of in the GOP primary. But obviously his career is not judged by a brain freeze in that debate. What about Governor Perry for energy?

INGRAHAM: I think Perry is perfectly acceptable and terrific pick. As former governor of the state of Texas, we know the job boom that Texas has been experiencing even with the declining price of oil. And the industry there, of course, energy, health care that has shown so much incredible improvement and growth whereas many sectors of the U.S. economy have really been lagging behind.

Rick Perry was a terrific leader of that state, and his brain freeze at the debate notwithstanding, I think he's in line with Trump's view we have to real he move forward to deregulate and remove some of the tangle of the bureaucracy in the energy sector while, of course, protecting the environment and doing a good balancing act there, that it's absolutely incumbent upon the department of energy and this president to make sure we have good-paying jobs in the United States, which in large part are found in the energy sector. So I think it's a terrific pick and I think it's nice to see all these people who didn't have all that many good words for Donald Trump getting onboard. I think it's good stuff.

BAIER: Yes, a cancer of conservatism to a pick in his Cabinet. Anne, and then Charles, I want it play one more sound bite quickly before we go to the next panel, and that is different people who showed up at Trump tower today. It was quite a mix.


BILL GATES, MICROSOFT FOUNDER: We had a good conversation about innovation, how it can help in health, education, impact foreign aid and energy.

JIM BROWN, NFL HALL OF FAMER: We're not here because of politics. We are here to help the president of the United States help his people that need help.

RAY LEWIS, SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: Forget black or white. Black or white is irrelevant. The bottom line is job creation, economic development in these urban neighborhoods.

KANYE WEST, RAPPER: I just want to take a picture right now.


BAIER: "Just want to take a picture." Kanye West, he tweeted out after that moment saying "I feel it's important to have a direct line of communication with our future president if we truly want change." And then tweeted out, "2024." Look out. All right, Anne then Charles, what about this mix of folks today?

GEARAN: I don't even know where to start. Ridiculous to the sublime and something in between. The idea of both Kanye West and Bill Gates having significant face time with the president-elect shows at the very least the president-elect has a varied interest.

BAIER: Charles, some people said that this was about not talking about extracting himself from his businesses and delaying that press conference. You buy that?

KRAUTHAMMER: No, I don't. I mean, there were a lot of ways to avoid that, but showing up with Kanye West is not one you would pick out of a hat.

Look, this is very Trumpian. The man knows how to put on a show and he knows how to write a script. What I liked best about today is that he gives the energy department to a man whose campaign died because he couldn't remember the name of the department that he wanted to abolish of which he's now going to be the head. That's good script writing, and I think he ought to remain executive producer of "Celebrity Apprentice." He's earned the credential.

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