Former Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson is having a hard time today, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has been a surprising reason why.
Responding to a question about Russian president Vladimir Putin, Tillerson refused to use the term ‘war criminal’ to describe him. “You are still not prepared to say that Vladimir Putin and his military have violated the rules of war and committed war crimes in Aleppo?” Rubio asked.
Tillerson attempted to filibuster by saying he would want classified briefings first. “None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson,” Rubio retorted. “These people are dead.”
Tillerson is dismissing open source information and reporting on Russia, says he wants to wait for intel — as Trump prepares to purge IC
— Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) January 11, 2017
Tillerson amazed Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NY) by saying that he has not discussed Russia with president-elect Donald Trump.
Tillerson says he hasn’t had an in depth discussion about Russia with Trump. Menendez: “That’s pretty amazing.”
— Josh Rogin (@joshrogin) January 11, 2017
Having been presented with the Order of Friendship by Putin himself, Tillerson gave lip service to geopolitical tensions. “We’re not likely to ever be friends,” he said. In his opening statement, Tillerson tried to soothe doubts about his close ties to Russia.
“Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia,” he said.
Where cooperation with Russia based on common interests is possible, such as reducing the global threat of terrorism, we ought to explore these options. Where important differences remain, we should be steadfast in defending the interests of America and her allies. Russia must know that we will be accountable to our commitments and those of our allies, and that Russia must be held to account for its actions.
Tillerson said absolutely nothing about Russian interference in the 2016 election, a fact that Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) noted. “We have deep concerns about your relationship with Putin,” he said.
But under Rubio’s questioning, Tillerson admitted that it is “a fair assumption” Russian election interference was directed by the Kremlin.
Tillerson also tripped up when he absurdly claimed that Exxon has never lobbied against American sanctions on Russia, a claim that’s just not plausible at all. Sen. Bob Corker found it incredible, replying that Tillerson had personally called him to lobby against the sanctions.
Defending his record, Tillerson insisted that such measures hurt companies like Exxon-Mobil. “The fact is, sanctions, in order to be implemented, impact American business,” he said.
After the break, he spent several minutes complaining that President Obama’s sanctions ended his Arctic drilling deal with Russia too suddenly, and explained away his sanction lobbying as a necessary measure to withdraw people and equipment.
It’s big if Tillerson lied about lobbying vs. Russia sanctions. It’s also big if he told truth about never discussing Russia with Trump.
— Michael Grunwald (@MikeGrunwald) January 11, 2017
Responding to a question about the science of climate change, Tillerson said that human activity is “having an effect, but our ability to predict that effect is very limited” — a clever restatement of global warming denial.
In fact, climate scientists are increasingly pessimistic that humanity can avoid runaway climate change. Exxon-Mobil and the Russian petrostate will do just fine, of course, but that’s the normal business model at the company where Rex Tillerson has spent his entire adult career.
Here’s video of Tillerson’s exchange with Rubio. Watch:
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