"He has been head of one of the largest companies in the world," Giuliani told CNN, referring to Tillerson’s dual role as chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil. "It wouldn't be unusual for the [head] of an energy business to have a relationship with Russia."
Giuliani added that the Order of Friendship, which Russia’s government bestowed on Tillerson in 2013, has been awarded to other prominent Americans, including athletes and astronauts.
The former mayor remarked that Tillerson's Russian business connections "should be looked at," but he praised the nominee for diplomatic skill in leading a multinational oil company and a track record of successful business deals with foreign governments.
In Russia, Exxon Mobil has a history of joint ventures with players in the domestic energy sector.
The US company has a profitable operation on Sakhalin Island off Russia’s Pacific coast and a drilling business in the Arctic region’s Kara Sea. Exxon reportedly has agreed to explore shale oil deposits in western Siberia as well as deep waters of the Black Sea.
President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination announcement on Tillerson came earlier Tuesday, nearly two weeks after Giuliani said he took himself out of consideration for secretary of state. The longtime Trump supporter explained that he didn’t want to distract Trump for choosing among a field of highly qualified people to serve as Washington’s top diplomat.