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Leaked Documents Raise New Questions Over Tillerson's Russian Links

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Leaked Documents Raise New Questions Over Tillerson's Russian Links

By Andy Rowell

Later today, the 538 members of the Electoral College will meet to determine who will be the next President of the U.S.

Normally these meetings are a formality, with electors reflecting the vote results from their states, but there is growing sense that some electors might defy their party and vote against Donald Trump.

At least one elector has publicly said he will not vote for Trump as he refuses to vote for "someone who shows daily he is not qualified for the office … Trump lacks the foreign policy experience and demeanor needed to be commander in chief."

This lack of foreign policy experience has been reflected in Trump's disastrous pick for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, the current boss of oil giant Exxon, which has caused outrage from many quarters and is now the subject of satirists, cartoonists and fodder for the sketch writers at Saturday Night Live.

Apart from Exxon being the subject to a criminal investigation into lying about climate change, there are many other accusations of ill-practice against the company including its "long history of questionable deals with oil-rich countries around the world" and the fact it has "consistently tried to undermine global efforts aimed at reducing corruption in the extractives sector," according to Global Witness.

One of the main problems for Trump is Tillerson's close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which raises huge conflicts of interest. The issue has been raised by both sides of the house in the U.S. as well as the company's critics, since Tillerson was nominated.

As my colleague Lorne Stockman wrote, "There's no doubt that Rex Tillerson and Exxon's executives and shareholders will profit from his nomination to Secretary of State. The only question is by how much."

Tillerson owns Exxon stock worth $200 million. So even after leaving the company, what is good for Exxon will be good for Tillerson and one of those will be getting sanctions lifted in Russia, allowing Exxon back into the Russian Arctic. And even if Tillerson divests that stock, his lifetime of allegiance to Exxon and the oil industry will be hard to break.

This is a man who has oil in his veins.

Many have criticized his appointment, with Steve Kretzmann from OCI arguing that "The nomination of Rex Tillerson has revealed with startling clarity that our government is being set up to support the interests of Big Oil and Putin, not the American people or the planet."

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists added: "You wouldn't hire the CEO of a tobacco company to serve as surgeon general. So why would you pick the leader of an oil and gas corporation to spearhead a position tasked with national security and global climate action?"

And now further questions are being asked over Tillerson's links with the Russians.

Documents leaked over the weekend, reveal that Tillerson was a long-term director of a U.S.-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas.

Tillerson became a director of the oil company's Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas, in 1998. He was a director for just under a decade, according to Exxon.

As the Guardian reported: "Though there is nothing untoward about this directorship, it has not been reported before and is likely to raise fresh questions over Tillerson's relationship with Russia ahead of a potentially stormy confirmation hearing by the U.S. senate foreign relations committee."

The documents from the Bahamas reveal that Exxon registered at least 67 companies in the secretive tax haven. And they add to the evidence that Tillerson's Russian links are deeper than we thought, and a real cause for concern.

A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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