Rubio, Tillerson Clash Over Ties to Russia

Rubio pushes secretary of State candidate to call Putin a 'war criminal'
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 11, 2017 2:32 PM CST
Tillerson Grilled Over Putin Connections
Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rex Tillerson clashed over Russia during Wednesday's confirmation hearing for the would-be secretary of State. Tillerson, a former ExxonMobil CEO, has known Vladimir Putin personally for years, Politico reports. And Yahoo News notes he was even given the Order of Friendship by Putin. Rubio addressed that relationship immediately, asking Tillerson if he'd label Putin a "war criminal." When Tillerson replied that he "would not use that term," Rubio described the deaths of 300,000 Chechen Republic civilians in Putin-ordered bombings and the killing of civilians in Aleppo by Russia-backed Syria. Tillerson hedged, saying he'd need to see classified information first. "None of this is classified," the New York Times quotes Rubio as replying. "People are dead."

Rubio said Tillerson's unwillingness to call Putin a war criminal was "discouraging." John McCain and Linsdsey Graham are also wary of Tillerson's ties with Russia, though other Republicans say Tillerson having a personal relationship with Putin is an "asset." Tillerson was evasive in other lines of questioning related to Russia. He said didn't know about any possible ties between Trump and Russia, but admitted it's a "fair assessment" to say that Russia was behind propaganda during the US election. He also said ExxonMobil never lobbied against Russian sanctions even though multiple discussions about sanctions between the company and the White House and lawmakers are part of the public record. (More Rex Tillerson stories.)

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