Trump's secretary of state pick faces confirmation

Wednesday 11th January, 2017 in English News by Xarunta Dhexe
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    Trump's secretary of state pick faces confirmation

    Trump's secretary of state pick faces confirmation

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Trump's secretary of state pick faces confirmation

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee has started a confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump's pick for the next Secretary of State.


Tillerson, the longtime CEO of the multinational oil and gas corporation Exxon Mobil, was questioned over his business ties to Russia during his confirmation on Wednesday.


With no prior government experience, 64-year-old Tillerson is the target of much criticism from Democrats and Republicans who have not joined the Trump camp of the party.

The hearing comes at a time when Trump has come under increasing criticism over alleged ties to Russia's President, Vladamir Putin.

Tillerson faced a grilling on his views of Putin and tough questioning from Republican Senator Marco Rubio about whether he believed Putin was a war criminal.

Rubio specifically referred to Russia's military actions in the Syrian civil war, where it has provided military support for the Syrian government.

"I would not use that term," Tillerson said.

Sanctions questioned

Tillerson also declined to say whether he would support upholding President Barack Obama's executive order imposing fresh sanctions, which was in retaliation for what Washington charges was Moscow's hacking and other efforts to tilt the 2016 presidential election in Trump's favour.

Tillerson said it was "a fair assumption" that Putin was aware of Russian efforts to interfere in the US election.

The central question senators will pose to Tillerson is how he can pivot from a Big Oil "dealmaker" protecting the interests of shareholders to being America's top diplomat, and whether he shares Trump's view that relations with Moscow should be improved.

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The hearing was interrupted by sporadic protests.

In prepared opening remarks, Tillerson said Moscow should be held accountable for its actions and NATO allies are right to be alarmed by Moscow's behaviour.

Tillerson did not mention Russia's alleged hacking of the election in his opening remarks and said he did not discuss Russia policy during a meeting he had recently with Trump.

Bob Corker, chairman of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said he expects the Republican-controlled Senate will easily confirm Tillerson.

Rising tensions with Russia

On Wednesday, Corker said Tillerson's background as a business executive made him an "inspired choice" for the job. Corker emphasised that Tillerson had not met Trump until recently and would not be able to speak for the president-elect during the hearing.

Tillerson's confirmation hearing comes at a time of rising tensions with Russia.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia was behind the hacks of political figures in an effort to help the Republican Trump defeat Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the November 8 election. Moscow has denied the allegations.

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In another revelation, also denied by Moscow, two US officials said on Tuesday evening that classified documents that the heads of four US intelligence agencies presented last week to Trump included claims that Russian intelligence operatives have compromising information about him. Trump dismissed the reports, first made by CNN, as "fake news".

Tillerson opposed US sanctions against Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine because he said he thought they would be ineffective.