Looks like Democrats aren’t the only ones who have a problem with Rex Tillerson.
On Wednesday, Senate Confirmation Hearings began for Donald Trump’s nominee for Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson. Much of the day was spent with Democrats grilling the Exxon Mobil CEO over Russia. But they weren’t the only ones.
Republican Senator Marco Rubio also has a real problem with Trump’s and Tillerson’s affinity for Russia and Putin. And he made his feelings very clear with his line of questioning.
Rubio asked Tillerson about his position on Russian sanctions. He also asked if Tillerson believed that Vladimir Putin was responsible for the hack into our election and whether or not Tillerson believed that Putin is a war criminal.
Tillerson’s answers were disturbing.
On Putin’s involvement in the cyber attack into our election process:
Rubio: Based on your knowledge of Russian leaders and Russian politics, do you believe these activities could have happened without the knowledge and the consent of Vladimir Putin?
Tillerson: I’m not in a position to be able to make that determination. Again, that’s indicated in the report, but I know there’s additional classified information.
Rubio: Mr. Tillerson, you’ve engaged in significant business activities in Russia, so I’m sure you’re aware that very few things of a major proportion happen in that country without Vladimir Putin’s permission. So I ask, based on your views of Russian politics and your experiences, is it possible for something like this involving the United States elections to have happened without Vladimir Putin knowing about it and authorizing it?
Tillerson: I think that’s a fair assumption.
On whether or not Tillerson supports Russian sanctions:
Rubio: If Congress passed a bill imposing mandatory visa bans and asset freezes on persons who engage in significant activities undermining the cybersecurity of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions in the United States, would you advise the president to sign it?
Tillerson: I would certainly want to examine all the four corners of that.
Rubio: Those are the four corners. We would sanction people who are involved in cyber attacks against the United States interfering in our elections.
No matter where they come from, if they come from Belgium, if they come from France, if someone is conducting cyber attacks against the United State,s and we pass a law that authorizes the president to sanction them, or actually imposes these sanctions as mandatory, would you advise the president to sign it?
Tillerson: I think it is that second element, senator, that you just described that leaves the executive branch no latitude or flexibility in dealing with the broad array of cyber threats. I think it is important that those be dealt with on a country-by-country basis taking all other elements in the relationship. So giving the executive the tool is one thing, requiring the executive to use it without any other considerations I would have concerns about.
And on war crimes:
Rubio: Let me ask you this question. Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?
Tillerson: I would not use that term.
Rubio: Well, let me describe the situation in Aleppo and perhaps that will help you reach that conclusion. In Aleppo, Mr. Putin has directed his military to conduct a devastating campaign. He’s targeted schools, markets, not just assisted Syrians in doing it, his military has targeted schools and markets and other civilian infrastructure. It’s resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.
Mr. Tillerson, do you believe that Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissidents, journalists, and political opponents?
Tillerson: I do not have sufficient information to make that claim.
Rubio: Are you aware that people who oppose Vladimir Putin wind up dead all over the world, poisoned, shot in the back of the head, and do you think that was coincidental, or do think that it is quite possible or likely, as I believe, that they were part of an effort to murder his political opponents?
Tillerson: Well, people who speak up for freedom in regimes that are oppressive are often a threat, and these things happen to them. In terms of assigning specific responsibilities, I would have to have more information.
But I am not willing to make conclusions on what is publicly available.
Now I am certainly no fan of Marco Rubio. But I applaud him for his showing today. All I can say is Donald Trump makes for strange bedfellows.