'Why is Putin the enemy?' Trump Inaugural Committee chair asks, while touting secretary of State pick

Trump's nominees 'understand the system' but are not 'of the system'

President-elect Donald Trump's decision to select Exxon Mobil Chairman and CEO Rex Tillerson as his choice for secretary of State was "genius," said Tom Barrack, chairman of the Presidential Inaugural Committee and founder of real estate powerhouse Colony Capital.

One of the criticisms of Tillerson has been perceived close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, due to having negotiated business deals with Moscow on behalf of Exxon.

But on CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday, Barrack described Tillerson's understanding of Putin as an asset.

"Why is Putin the enemy? You need Putin to solve the Middle East," Barrack argued. "No matter what anyone says, you're going to have to have a day with him. So having somebody who understands him is better."

Before settling on Tillerson, 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney was "logically considered" for the position of top U.S. diplomat, but "for a lot of reasons discarded," Barrack said, without elaborating further.

"[Trump] has a constituency. And that constituency got him in office. What he's doing [during the transition] is saying, 'I'm going to do what I said. And I'm going to find people who understand the system but not of the system," Barrack said.