Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state wasn't exactly his—at least not initially. Just two weeks ago, Trump was torn in trying to choose from one of four leading contenders: Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Bob Corker, or David Petreaus. Then the name of Rex Tillerson surfaced. The Washington Post reports that while a stymied Trump was speaking with former defense chief Robert Gates, he asked Gates if he had a different name to suggest. "I recommend Rex," responded Gates. The previous day, former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice floated Tillerson's name in a meeting with Mike Pence. Rice and Gates are partners in the international consulting firm RiceHadleyGates, and they know Tillerson because ExxonMobil is a client.
Trump "seemed intrigued," Gates tells the Post. "It was not something he had considered." CNN reports that Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser to George W. Bush and the third name in that consulting group, also expressed his support for Tillerson to Pence. Former secretary of state James Baker, who knows Tillerson because his firm has represented ExxonMobil on various business deals, similarly voiced support. Trump then met with Tillerson twice. "As soon as he met him, he told people that Tillerson is the kind of guy that walks in a room and commands respect," a transition official tells Politico. Trump "liked Romney, liked Rudy, but Tillerson was a stronger guy. He liked his strength." In statements on Tuesday, both Rice and Gates said they were thrilled by Trump's pick.