It’s easy to get overwhelmed when attempting to unravel the corrupt web between the Trump Administration, Russia, ExxonMobil, and the company’s former CEO — now US Secretary Secretary of State — Rex Tillerson.

While these ties are deeply intertwined and complicated, one thing is clear: ExxonMobil is looking to profit at the expense of our communities and climate. With close ties to the Trump Administration and its former CEO as Secretary of State, ExxonMobil is looking to take full advantage of the situation, even if it endangers our national security and wrecks our climate. And yet, with all the scandals in DC, and more belligerent fossil fuel puppets like EPA chief Scott Pruitt in the spotlight, Exxon and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have mostly flown under the the radar of public perception.

That is until recently when the U.S. Treasury Department slapped ExxonMobil with a $2 million fine for the company’s “egregious” violation of Russian sanctions while Rex Tillerson was running the company. Now, for the first time under this administration Exxon is getting some more of the heat it deserves, which is why its important to understand just how deep this scandal may go and what we can do about it.

When the Treasury Department announced the fines, Exxon’s response was to sue the Department rather than admit any accountability. Time and time again, Exxon has proved its intention to stick to deception, doubt and destruction with no regard for public interest.

Tillerson & PutinExxon’s Rex Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin share a laugh | Getty Images/Sasha Mordovets

To better understand what this all means for climate action, it’s important to keep the following points about Exxon’s behavior in mind:

  1. #ExxonKnew basically everything there was to know about climate change half a century ago. But instead of heeding the warnings, company executives embarked on a decades-long and ongoing campaign to sow misinformation, bankroll climate-denying politicians and front-groups, and block climate action at all levels. Exxon’s deception is the reason we’ve had a phony debate about climate change for decades.
  2. Tillerson and Russian President Vladimir Putin have a long and cozy history, most visibly when the head of the petrostate awarded then-Oil Mogul Rex Tillerson Russia’s Order of Friendship medal in 2012.
  3. Exxon’s own Rex Tillerson could likely represent the U.S. at COP23, the international climate talks where world governments will discuss the implementation of the Paris climate accord. Without significant public and international pressure, Tillerson could try to weaken the climate agreement in ways that help Exxon with their goals of expanding oil and gas extraction around the world.
  4. This latest penalty from the U.S. Treasury is not the first time Exxon acted out after not getting its way around Russian sanctions. With it’s former CEO serving as Secretary of State, Exxon has spent months petitioning the Treasury Department to waiver sanctions on Russia.
  5. And why has Exxon been pouring this level of political and financial clout into petitioning Russian sanctions? Because current sanctions block ExxonMobil from a $500 billion deal with Russian state oil company Rosneft to drill in the Arctic, a move that could be game over for the climate.

With the fossil-fueled takeover of the U.S. federal government, it’s becoming more clear that our court system is one of the keys to holding the fossil fuel industry accountable for its climate crimes. The attorneys general of New York and Massachusetts are each currently investigating whether ExxonMobil misled the public and its shareholders about climate change. In what could be the biggest case of potential fraud in history, these investigations have already uncovered disturbing revelations like Rex Tillerson’s “Wayne Tracker” alias email used to secretly discuss all things climate cover-up.  

But for the investigations to succeed, it’s important that more attorneys general join the fight. Pressure is mounting for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to launch an investigation into all that #ExxonKnew, and to choose a side: that of Trump and his fossil fuel cronies, or that of the people he’s meant to represent. With three municipalities across California suing fossil fuel companies (including ExxonMobil) for its responsibility in knowingly causing climate devastation, we could see precedent-setting litigation ensuring it’s Big Oil — not our communities — that bears the costs of climate destruction.

CA AGCalifornians take action to call on AG Becerra to investigate #ExxonKnew.

In another example of Big Oil putting its own short-term profits ahead of public interest, even Exxon’s own employees are now suing the corporation for its climate fraud, arguing the company’s decades of deception has caused irreparable damage to their pension funds.

And on February 5, 2018, the lawsuit of the century — Juliana v. U.S. — is set to go to trial. “Wayne Tracker” might not be able to be deposed, but this case could result in Rex Tillerson and Donald Trump (both named as defendants in the suit) in court.

OCT PCMOur Children’s Trust Youth Plaintiffs at the April 29, 2017 Peoples Climate March

With the first half of 2017 hotter than ever expected, and Exxon’s own Rex Tillerson serving as the United States’ highest diplomat, the fossil-fueled takeover of our economy and democracy is clearer than ever. We all must keep a sharp eye out as the shadows of these corrupt ties continue come to light and join the fight to hold Big Oil accountable for its decades of deep deception.


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