Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, had gaps in his knowledge exposed at this congressional confirmation hearing.
Tillerson, 64, a former chief executive of ExxonMobil was questioned over potential conflicts of interest and business ties to Moscow. He was ignorant of Putin’s human rights record or military actions in Syria, stating that he and Trump had not time to discuss the issue.
He did acknowledge the existence of climate change but questioned how accurately it can be measured.
At the same time as the hearing, Trump was giving a press conference in New York where the explosive allegations of his links to Russia were a hot topic.
Currently, Tillerson does not have security clearance to see all the documents relating to Trump and Russia. Speaking on the allegations that Russia hacked the Democratic Party he said, “That report clearly is troubling and indicates that all of the actions you just described were undertaken.”
Tillerson has received the Order of Friendship from Putin in 2013. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida asked him bluntly if Putin was a war criminal.
He replied, “I would not use that term.”
After which Rubio detailed carnage in Aleppo, Tillerson replied, “Those are very, very serious charges to make and I want to have much more information.”
In his opening statement, Tillerson said of Russia, “We must be clear-eyed about our relationship with Russia. Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests. It has invaded Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea, and supported Syrian forces that brutally violate the laws of war. Our Nato allies are right to be alarmed at a resurgent Russia.”
He also faced questions on climate change where when asked what ExxonMobil has done about climate change he replied, “Senator, since I’m no longer with ExxonMobil, I’m in no position to speak on their behalf.”
Tillerson until recently was ExxonMobil’s CEO for four decades.