Sen. Marco Rubio goes on the attack against Sec. of State nominee Rex Tillerson

Sen. Rubio make things uncomfortable on Tillerson during yesterday’s senate hearing

Yesterday, Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and the man President-elect Donald Trump nominated for secretary of state faced harsh questions from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). It is likely that Sen. Rubio will be the key vote on if Tillerson gets confirmed or not.

Rubio went on the attack, as a member of the powerful, Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The attack was allowed to go on by Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) before many other senators had a chance to speak, and set the tone for the confirmation.

Rubio’s bull-dog approach could spell trouble for Tillerson’s nomination and signal a larger rift within the Republican Party about whether to work with Trump on sensitive issues like Russia.

Tillerson took an assertive stance early, notably Sen. Rubio, challenged him to call the actions of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military in Aleppo, Syria, a war crime. Tillerson declined to do so.

Here is a bit of the exchange between the two men.

Sen Rubio set off on an aggressive line of questioning, initially posing a simple query: “Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?”

“I would not use that term,” Tillerson said.

Sen. Rubio, outlining a list of grievous Russian offenses in Syria, said he hoped Tillerson might adjust his answer.

“Those are very, very serious charges to make, and I want to have much more information,” Tillerson said.

When Sen. Rubio got his second round of questioning he pushed Tillerson on the topic of human rights.

He asked Tillerson if he believed China was “one of the world’s worst human rights violators.”

Tillerson hedged. “They certainly have serious human rights violations,” he said.

When Tillerson equivocated on Saudi Arabia as well and Sen. Rubio appeared prepared to chastise him again, Tillerson suggested that the two were not as far apart as it seemed.

“Our interests are not different, senator,” he said. “There seems to be some misunderstanding that somehow I see the world through a different lens. I do not.”

Meanwhile, Tillerson said he was “also cleareyed and realistic about dealing in cultures” that are unlike that of the United States.

Sen. Rubio, saying there was plenty of public information — “the videos and pictures are there,” he noted — said that “it should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin’s military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo.”

But Tillerson stayed on point and refused accept Sen. Rubio’s assertion that Putin was a war criminal.

“I find it discouraging, your inability to cite that,” Sen. Rubio said.

The junior senator from Florida kept cite the deaths of Putin’s opponents, Tillerson said he hoped to learn more once he could receive classified information on the matters.

“None of this is classified, Tillerson,” Sen. Rubio shot back. “People are dead.”

After leaving the hearing after his third round of questioning, Sen. Rubio would not commit to supporting — or opposing — Tillerson, telling reporters that he was “prepared to do what’s right” even if fellow Republicans lined up behind President-elect Trump’s nominee

Some quotes used in this story came from The New York Times, the ASSOCIATED PRESS and the video was provided by C-SPAN 


Jim Williams is the Washington Bureau Chief, Digital Director as well as the Director of Special Projects for Genesis Communications. He is starting his third year as part of the team. This is Williams 40th year in the media business, and in that time he has served in a number of capacities. He is a seven time Emmy Award winning television producer, director, writer and executive. He has developed four regional sports networks, directed over 2,000 live sporting events including basketball, football, baseball hockey, soccer and even polo to name a few sports. Major events include three Olympic Games, two World Cups, two World Series, six NBA Playoffs, four Stanley Cup Playoffs, four NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournaments (March Madness), two Super Bowl and over a dozen college bowl games. On the entertainment side Williams was involved s and directed over 500 concerts for Showtime, Pay Per View and MTV Networks.