WASHINGTON — Rex Tillerson’s supporters portray him as an exemplary, up-by-the-bootstraps Eagle Scout who went on to lead the global petroleum conglomerate Exxon Mobil and who is perfectly suited to serve as Donald Trump’s secretary of state.

But even Republicans on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are expected to hit the Texas oilman with tough questions Wednesday at the start of a two-day confirmation hearing that will explore his record, his financing and his thinking – especially about Russia.

As CEO of Exxon Mobil Corp., Tillerson championed energy development projects in Russia and developed such close personal ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he is one of the few Americans ever awarded Russia’s “Order of Friendship.”

Their relationship has raised questions about whether Tillerson would take a forceful position against an adversary that, U.S. intelligence agencies say, used hacked emails, propaganda and fake news to try to help Trump win in November and to “harm” Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s chances.

Tillerson is probably the only one of Trump’s Cabinet picks who may get roughed up by fellow Republicans. Several, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Marco Rubio of Florida, have said they are deeply worried about any attempts by the incoming Trump administration to ignore Russia’s role in the 2016 campaign and its aggression in Ukraine and elsewhere.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who heads the Senate committee that must confirm Tillerson’s nomination, said the oilman is within “the mainstream” of Republican foreign policy orthodoxy, which has a cautious if not hostile attitude toward Russia.

The question, Corker has acknowledged, is whether Tillerson will be able to shape and change Trump’s attitudes. The president-elect has repeatedly praised Putin and has yet to publicly accept the intelligence community’s findings on Russian interference in the U.S. election.

Democrats made clear they will also focus on Tillerson’s views on Russia.

“I just want to make sure that the team is not naive, frankly, about Russia’s capacity and Russia’s intent,” said Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., who ran for vice president on Clinton’s ticket.

Tillerson is also likely to face a barrage of questions about his finances, human rights and global warming.

He has released financial disclosure documents, but not his tax returns. The documents show a personal worth of about $400 million, primarily from Exxon Mobil stock.

According to the filings, Tillerson also owns stock in Royal Dutch Shell – a competitor of Exxon Mobil – Wal-Mart, Sony, Walt Disney and KFC chains in China.

He has promised to divest his stock portfolio if he is confirmed as secretary of state.

Comments are not available on this story.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.