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Tillerson Present as Exxon Signed Major Deal with Saudi Arabia During Trump Visit

Tillerson Present as Exxon Signed Major Deal with Saudi Arabia During Trump Visit thumbnail

During his recent trip to Saudi Arabia, President Donald Trump announced an array of economic agreements between the U.S. and the Middle Eastern kingdom, saying it would usher in “jobs, jobs, jobs” for both oil-producing powerhouses.

While the $350 billion, 10-year arms deal garnered most headlines, a lesser-noticed agreement was also signed between ExxonMobil and the state-owned Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) to study a proposed co-owned natural gas refinery in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the deal, signed at the Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum, the two companies would “conduct a detailed study of the proposed Gulf Coast Growth Ventures project in Texas and begin planning for front-end engineering and design work” for the 1,300-acre, $10 billion plant set to be located near Corpus Christi, Texas, according to an ExxonMobil press release.

In addition, ExxonMobil’s press release for the agreement mentions that Darren Woods, the company’s CEO, was in the room for the signing of the pact alongside ExxonMobil Saudi Arabia CEO Philippe Ducom and SABIC executives. Missing from that release: After the forum ended, Woods went to the Al-Yamamah Palace for an agreement-signing ceremony attended by both President Trump and recently retired ExxonMobil CEO and current U.S. Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.

DeSmog discovered they were all present at the palace via the Saudi Press Agency’s English-language press Twitter account, which released a series of photos of Woods and Tillerson shaking hands with SABIC CEO Yousef Al-Benyan and Saudi Defense Minister Prince Mohammad bin Salman, respectively. President Trump is seen seated in the background of the photos of both Woods and Tillerson, which were taken in the same room.

As in the ExxonMobil press release, White House and State Department press releases failed to mention that Tillerson and Woods were both present when the deals were signed between the two countries at the Royal Court. Getty Images has also published the photo of Woods at the Al-Yamamah Palace, with Trump seated in the background.

Tillerson-ExxonMobil Recusal

Tillerson served as CEO of ExxonMobil for 10 years, heading the “private empire” until President Trump nominated him as U.S. Secretary of State in December 2016. At his January Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson said he would recuse himself for one year from ExxonMobil-related business which comes before the State Department, and submitted a letter to the same effect on January 3 to the State Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“For a period of one year after my resignation from ExxonMobil, I will not participate personally and substantially in any particular matter involving specific parties in which I know that ExxonMobil is a party or represents a party, unless I am first authorized to participate, pursuant to 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(d),” wrote Tillerson in the letter.

The statute of U.S. law laid out by Tillerson in his letter, 5 C.F.R. § 2635.502(d), dictates what steps federal employees should take if they have potential business conflicts or impartiality issues pertaining to U.S. government business.

“Where an employee knows that a particular matter involving specific parties is likely to have a direct and predictable effect on the financial interest of a member of his household, or knows that a person with whom he has a covered relationship is or represents a party to such matter, and where the employee determines that the circumstances would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of the relevant facts to question his impartiality in the matter, the employee should not participate in the matter unless he has informed the agency designee of the appearance problem and received authorization from the agency designee,” the law reads.

At his Senate confirmation hearing, Tillerson echoed the remarks made in his recusal letter with regards to State Department business potentially overlapping with that of ExxonMobil.

If confirmed as secretary of state, I would recuse myself from those issues,” Tillerson said at his confirmation hearing. “I’ve made clear in my disclosures, and I think in answers to questions that have been posed, that obviously there’s a statutory recusal period, which I will adhere to, on any matters that might come before the State Department that deal directly and specifically with ExxonMobil.”

Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum

Woods, the Exxon CEO who took Tillerson’s spot at the top of the company, was in Saudi Arabia at the same time as the Trump administration, apparently both to sign the agreement with SABIC and lead a roundtable at the inaugural Saudi-U.S. CEO Forum on business “Partnership Enablers.”

The forum, attended by U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, “drew the kind of corporate firepower Trump suggested he could harness when he ran for the Oval Office as a Washington outsider/business executive who would reach outside the Beltway and enlist other executives in support of the administration’s economic goals,” wrote Bloomberg.

“More than 30 CEOs of major U.S. companies were on hand for the summit, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Riyadh. Some later joined Trump and Saudi officials at the Royal Court Palace for a deal-signing ceremony.”

“Bizarre Art of the Deal”

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures, known in industry lingo as a “cracker” facility, is set to refine natural gas obtained via hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) from Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale and other shale basins into plastics materials. It received billions of dollars in tax subsidies from local government bodies in Texas. When built and fully functioning, Gulf Coast Growth Ventures will be the largest cracker facility on the planet.

Tillerson, as previously reported by DeSmog, maintained close ties between ExxonMobil and Saudi Arabia during his tenure as CEO. The State Department did not respond to a request for comment pertaining to Tillerson’s trip to Saudi Arabia and interaction with current Exxon CEO, Darren Woods, but maintained to DeSmog that Tillerson has upheld his ExxonMobil recusal and divestment agreement (in which Tillerson sold away his stock holdings in the company) as Secretary of State.

Tyson Slocum, energy program director at Public Citizen — a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog organization — has a different take on the matter.

“The President’s Saudi trip was a bizarre Art of the Deal-esque foreign policy disaster: a sleazy mix of conflicted government-arranged corporate endorsement deals,” Slocum told DeSmog. “Most troubling of all was Tillerson’s presence and role in accommodating Exxon’s deal with the House of Saud, thereby violating the former CEO‘s recusal agreement. Trump and Tillerson’s Riyadh embarrassment is just another sad indication of the administration’s prioritization of crony corporate access masquerading as a jumbled assembly of foreign policy and economic development.”

The White House did not respond to a request for comment.


19 Comments on "Tillerson Present as Exxon Signed Major Deal with Saudi Arabia During Trump Visit"

  1. makati1 on Wed, 31st May 2017 5:45 am 

    Making deals with a fast disintegrating country (both) is not going to make a bit of difference in the coming years. The Saudis are going bankrupt. The U$ already is.

  2. ALCIADA-MOLE on Wed, 31st May 2017 7:39 am 

    I love teh reformist Saudi prince. I wish he gives me 10 million dollers to help him with infrastructure projects for his vision 2030.

  3. Apneaman on Wed, 31st May 2017 10:04 am 

    LMAO & I bet George Orwell is laughing too up in dystopian fiction heaven and saying to himself, “why didn’t I think of that one?”

    Trump & Tillerson are like two prison junkies who get down on their knees and tongue the rag head royals shit pipes (toss their salad) for another fix – “I’ll do anything big boss – I gots to have me another barrel”

    Saudi Arabia declares all atheists are terrorists in new law to crack down on political dissidents

    Senior US official reduced to very awkward silence when asked about Saudi Arabia’s attitude to democracy

    Acting Assistant Secretary of State Stuart Jones’ 20-second hesitation before answering has been described as the longest pause ever seen from a US official

    Russia kicked off U.N. Human Rights Council, but Saudi Arabia was re-elected
    The Saudi absolute monarchy, which bombs Yemen, beheads dissidents and supports extremists, remains on U.N. council

    T&T are just the most egregious example of “leaders” of so called western democracies playing ass kissy with the KSA. Not one G-7 or G-20 leader or country has said anything and the UN vote says it all. Like I have always contended, there are no good guys playing the power game, just different levels of bad.

    So according to the KSA, I am now a terrorist and all because of my thoughts and non belief. The end times are right on schedule.

  4. ALCIADA-MOLE on Wed, 31st May 2017 10:08 am 

    @ap so u think Putin killing off political opponents is human rights progress?

    You think Putin is the best person in the entire Russia? I think he stayed in powa because he killed off a lot of people, not because it’s by merit.

  5. Apneaman on Wed, 31st May 2017 10:28 am 

    Stupid fucking white men are starting to sound and act just like stupid fucking Muslim men.

    “Death to the enemies of America. Leave this country if you hate our freedom,” Christian is reported to have yelled. “Death to antifa! (anti-fascism). You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism! You hear me? Die.”

    Much more monkey ‘tribalism gone wild’ to come.

  6. Apneaman on Wed, 31st May 2017 10:38 am 

    ALCIADA-MOLE, did I mention Putin at all? NO. Does Putin’s name even appear in any of the headlines of the links I so generously shared? NO. So where the fuck do these Putin loving accusations come from? How about from your paranoid mind? YES. Hey, I know, how about from now on you stop playing mind reader (that’s clogs jurisdiction) and stop attempting to put words into my mouth. Think we can manage that? Good, now run along.

  7. bobinget on Wed, 31st May 2017 11:44 am 

    Last Hopes Bashed

    Under the terms of the deal, the U.S. cannot officially withdraw until November 2019. But even an announcement that the country is looking to leave the deal shows that the White House has no plans to meet earlier targets for slashing greenhouse gas emissions.

    That much was already clear. In March, Trump ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to review the Clean Power Plan ― a sweeping regulation passed by former President Barack Obama to limit emissions from the utility sector, by far the country’s biggest emitter. The policy was already stayed by the Supreme Court in February 2016 as a result of a lawsuit filed by former Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, who is now Trump’s head of the EPA. Without the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. wouldn’t even come close to meeting its goals laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

    Trump vowed to jumpstart the U.S. economy by eliminating environmental regulations he blamed for holding back companies. In particular, he positioned himself as a staunch advocate for fossil fuels, nixing climate change funding from his proposed budget and scrapping rules that discourage pollution and boost renewable energy. But, somewhat ironically, major oil, gas and coal companies ― along with a plethora of other big corporations ― urged Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement.

    Environmental groups have little legal recourse given that the Obama administration bypassed the Senate to ratify the deal, arguing it did not constitute a treaty. But the Trump administration is still required to regulate carbon dioxide emissions as a public health threat under a 2007 Supreme Court ruling. How it plans to fulfill that legal responsibility that is unclear.

  8. Davy on Wed, 31st May 2017 12:25 pm 

    Bobieget, acts like this deal matter and much was done previously. Trump is getting little done including his environmental rollbacks. This is all talk and very consumptive for people like, bobieget.

  9. Sissyfuss on Wed, 31st May 2017 1:23 pm 

    What will the cancer eat when all that’s left is themselves?

  10. bobinget on Wed, 31st May 2017 2:09 pm 

    KSA seems to be flailing about lately.
    The latest plan is to build ships, tankers, mainly.

    By 2022 working outside in Saudi Arabia will be like walking across Death Valley in July. This summer
    in North America, try leaving your hand on a black
    car roof mid-day for a full minute. Children, don’t.

    Unless the Saudis plan to build ships out of wood or fiberglass or in massive air conditioned hangers,
    building super duper tankers outdoors will be impossible, even for robots.

    It took South Korea ten years to begin making money building ships.

  11. shortonoil on Wed, 31st May 2017 6:21 pm 

    At the beginning of 2014 the Saudi’s had $750 billion in foreign reserves, at the end of 2016 they had $480 billion. As their reserves go down their cost of borrowing goes up, and they dig themselves a deeper and deeper hole. The US sells them $130 billion in weapons that they can not afford, and Tillerson walks off with a sweat heart deal for his old employer.

    It would have been nice if someone had been at that meeting who could have represented the interest of the US. As existing reserves begin to Peter out over the next couple of years maybe Tillerson can hand that bill to the taxpayer as well? When you are back to paying $4.00 for gas just remember that it is all for a good cause. It is to finance some tribe of sand vipers shooting at each other over possession of the butt-hole of the planet.


  12. Kenz300 on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 2:45 am 

    People that voted for RepubliCONS and Trump need to REPENT.

  13. Cloggie on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 3:36 am 

    The US sells them $130 billion in weapons that they can not afford

    That remains to be seen:

    Saudi-Arabia has a strategic partnership with Turkey now and Turkey has zero interest in a conflict with Islamic Iran, much in contrast to KSA. But Turkey is the senior in the strategic partnership and has a potent army (for ME standards that is). Turkey is busy restoring the Ottoman empire in a new shape, based on cooperation with KSA, conquest of parts of Syria and avoiding conflict with Iran.

    I have always said that for Turkey ISIS was an icebreaker for the neo-Ottoman empire. Now Turkey is busy setting up a (you can’t make this stuff up) a “Syrian National Army” and “liberate” Syria from Jihadist insurgents (after Turkey helped them in the saddle first):

    The US deep state will try to block the trump-KSA arms deal, because Erdogan has included Palestine in his design for the New Middle East:

    Fascinating Erdogan speech, completely ignored by the western libtard MSM. Erdogan tells his Turkish crowd that he wants Jerusalem… and Spain back! (and that he wants peace with Iran).

    These 110 billion US weapons can and will only be used for operations in Syria, Yemen and… Palestine. But Trump doesn’t care, he has another profitable “deal”. But Congress (Buchanan: “Israeli occupied territory”) will try to block this, in the interest of Israel.

    People that voted for RepubliCONS and Trump need to REPENT.

    Keep praying Kenz, but that’s not going to happen. Enjoy your final years in America as you knew it.

  14. Cloggie on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 3:47 am 

    Should have added that for Erdogan the sport is to create a Sunni North-South corridor between Turkey and KSA through Syria and Iraq. Russia will probably quietly back this “solution”, as long as Assad can keep the cities in the West. An additional nice-to-have for Russia will be that no pipelines will be built through Syria to the Mediterranean, neither Sunni nor Shia. Game, set and pipeline-match for Vlad.

    The corridor will not be as wide as projected in this map…

    …but you get the idea.

    The new Turkish-led Middle East will give the finger to the West, just as Russia likes to see it, as it will be yet another nail in the coffin of the West (US global empire).

  15. Dredd on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 5:23 am 

    The OIl-Qaeda coup.

  16. Dredd on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 5:27 am 

    Humble Oil-Qaeda

    Oil-Qaeda: The Indictment-6

  17. Revi on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 7:48 am 

    The Saudis will try their new toys out on Yemen, then maybe get involved in some of the conflicts north of them. There will be a lot of people dead, but they are trying to build a mini empire with what’s left of their oil money. Good luck with that!

  18. rockman on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 9:55 am 

    “When you are back to paying $4.00 for gas just remember that it is all for a good cause.” Color me confused. I thought the “model” predicted much lower oil prices in just a few years and devastation of the petroleum industry. But $4/gallon gasoline implies much higher oil prices. So even if Big Oil is selling less oil and refinery products its profit margin would significantly increase.

    Seems a tad inconsistent possibility.

  19. Midnight Oil on Thu, 1st Jun 2017 10:01 am 

    Thought Mr ShortonOil repeatedly stressed there MAY be various incidents to cause the price to spike, including what he alluded to in his comment!
    Seems to me you are either not paying close enough attention or your intentions here are to promote a particular agenda.
    Probably a mixture of both, just like all the oil you are see that are a like.
    BTW, glad to read the Oil INDUSTRY is moving to Plastics…the wave of the future..LOL.

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