On Wednesday, Donald Trump will give his first press conference since last summer, an African-American senator will testify that his white colleague is too hostile to civil rights to be U.S. Attorney General, and the Senate will hold confirmation hearings for Vladimir Putin’s favorite Exxon executive.
Oh, and that presidential presser will come less than 24 hours after American intelligence agents (ostensibly) leaked unverified claims that the Russian government has a video tape of Donald Trump indulging pee-related perversions.
Which is to say: There is too much news today.
This was partly by design: Republicans would prefer that none of these events receive America’s undivided attention. If Trump is going to weasel his way around questions about conflicts of interest — while Senate Democrats highlight the myriad liabilities of his cabinet picks — better to have those stories competing for attention, rather than producing several days of bad headlines.
But BuzzFeed’s publication of unsubstantiated spy memos/opposition research claiming Trump is, in fact, a (kinky) Siberian candidate, has pushed the news cycle past its breaking point. To help you keep up, Daily Intelligencer will be maintaining a liveblog of the craziest day D.C. has seen for some time.
6:08: Corker brings things to a close. Says being a U.S. senator is like getting a PHD every day, because you have to take in so much information. Corker notes that Tillerson got through the hearing without even using notes, and suggests he should be graded on curve, considering that he’s coming to this position from a “different world.”
Why America should select a secretary of State who needs to be graded on a curve, Corker does not say.
5:54: Jeff Merkley notes that Saudi Arabia has used cluster munitions against civilians in Yemen. Merkley asks Tillerson what the U.S. could do to end that.
Tillerson says he hopes we can provide Saudi Arabia with more intelligence about targeting (a suggestion that ignores the possibility that the Saudis are deliberately bombing soft targets). Merkely asks what we could do about the use of cluster munitions specifically, which is unambiguously intentional.
Tillerson says he will need to review America’s policies on that subject.
5:43: Senator Markey notes that China has announced that it is going to invest billions of dollar into alternative energy. He suggests that if America does not take advantage of the global market demand for renewable energy, it will miss out on job growth. Markey asks Tillerson for his view on how America can capitalize on the renewable energy revolution.
Tillerson says that this is largely a trade issue, and that he trusts free market forces to work it out.
5:28: Senator Shaheen asks if Tillerson believes it is time to end subsidies to America’s fossil fuel industry. Tillerson says that he does not believe that energy companies receive subsidies.
5:22: Rubio argues that true foreign policy realism requires moral clarity. And the Florida senator explains that he asked Tillerson to say whether or not China and Saudi Arabia were human rights violators, earlier in the hearing, so as to test the clarity of his moral vision.
Rubio says that the rationale for Tillerson’s nomination was that, even though he lacks diplomatic experience, he has traveled the world while working for Exxon and boasts extensive knowledge of global affairs.
But the fact that Tillerson was unaware of the heinousness of Duterte’s drug war – and was unwilling to condemn Saudi Arabia and China’s human rights violations – has thrown that rationale into doubt.
Rubio says America needs a secretary of State who stands up for our moral principles. Rubio’s statement strongly implies that he does not support Tillerson’s confirmation.
5:15: Menendez reads a passage from a Time Magazine story on Russia’s expectations for Tillerson:
What the Russians want from Tillerson, however, is bigger than sanctions relief. They want to see a whole new approach to American diplomacy, one that stops putting principles ahead of profits, focuses instead on getting the best political bargain available — and treats Russia as an equal on the global stage. “For the next four years, we can forget about America as the bearer of values,” said Vladimir Milov, a former Russian Energy Minister who went on to join the opposition. “America is going to play the deal game under Trump. And for Putin that’s a very comfortable environment,” he told a radio host this week in Moscow.
Tillerson says that he hopes if the committee has taken anything from today’s hearings, it’s that these passages do not accurately characterize his views. Tillerson says he is Boy Scout who believes in duty to country, and does not view geopolitics as a game.
5:10: Senator Menendez asks if Tillerson recalls the time Exxon used legal loopholes to do business with three nations designated as state sponsors of terror. Tillerson says that he has no memory of that.
5:04: Coons reviews the various issues on which Tillerson has taken a position today that stands in tension with Donald Trump’s – among them, climate change, Iran, nuclear proliferation, NATO, and Muslim bans.
Tillerson says that Trump has been very open to his point-of-view in their private conversations, and that this was one reason he chose to accept the nomination.
5:00: Earlier, Tillerson said that the Obama administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran still allowed Tehran to purchase a nuclear weapon, as it merely barred the regime from developing their own.
Senator Coons notes that the agreement does, in fact, bar Iran from purchasing a nuclear weapon. Tillerson admits that he misspoke.
4:40: Senator Merkley asks if Tillerson sees climate change as a national security threat.
Tillerson says that he doesn’t regard climate change as a top national security threat, though he recognizes others might. Merkley notes the possibility that climate change had a role in causing the drought in the Middle East that helped instigate the Syrian crisis.
Tillerson argues that there is ambiguity about climate change’s role in that drought.
Merkely tries to make Tillerson see the broader point – that if the world is getting warmer, then droughts will occur more frequently, and the events in Syria suggest that this will create more foreign policy crises. Tillerson rejects the idea that there is a scientific consensus on whether climate change will lead to more droughts and extreme weather events of other kinds.
Merkley finds that disappointing.
4:37: Republican senator Rob Portman asks what Tillerson would do to ensure that Israel isn’t judged by a double standard at the United Nations, but treated as a regular member of the international community.
Tillerson says that Iran’s behavior in the Middle East has made it a common enemy of the U.S., Israel, and the Arab world – and that this opens up the possibility of greater cooperation between the Jewish state and Arab nations.
Portman asks if Russia has a genuine interest in fighting ISIS in Syria, or if it merely wishes to prop up the Assad regime.
Tillerson says that Islamic radicalism presents a real threat to the Russian homeland and so there may be opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and Putin’s regime on that matter.
4:26: Cory Booker notes that Trump’s national security adviser Michael Flynn has said that fear of Muslims is rational, and that Islam is a political ideology, not a religion. Booker asks Tillerson if he sees that rhetoric as helpful.
Tillerson says its critical that we deal with the Muslim world on the basis of mutual respect, not judgement of faith.
4:11: Senator Markey asks if Tillerson agrees with Donald Trump’s past statement that it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia acquired nuclear weapons.
Tillerson says that he does not agree, and that no one wants to see more nuclear weapons on the planet.
Markey asks about Trump’s recent vow to expand America’s nuclear capability. Tillerson suggests Trump was describing a modernization of America’s nuclear arsenal, not an expansion of it.
4:00: Democratic senator Chris Murphy returns to Tillerson’s refusal to condemn Duterte’s drug war. Tillerson again insists that he will not classify Duterte as a human rights violator until he reviews the facts of the matter himself.
3:50: Kaine asks if Tillerson believes that the two-state solution is the proper outcome of the Israel-Palestine conflict. (Notably, Trump’s prospective ambassador to Israel has suggested he does not).
Tillerson says that he does believe that the two-state solution is “the dream.” Kaine asks what Tillerson would do as secretary of State to advance the prospects of that dream.
Tillerson says that peace between the Israelis and Palestinians may not be possible for some time. He suggests that future generations may be more amenable to peace. Says the Palestinians have suffered terribly, often due to the failures of their own leadership.
3:45: Senator Tim Kaine asks Tillerson about his views on the crisis of migration from Central America.
Tillerson talks about improving conditions in Central American countries through foreign aid and infrastructure investment. He says measures intended to extend compassion to undocumented immigrants – like Obama’s various executive orders – have had the unintended consequence of encouraging further illegal immigration, which endangers the lives of the migrants themselves.
3:36: Republican senator Jeff Flake notes that America has diplomatic relations with many nations with unsavory governments, Saudi Arabia among them. Flake asks if Tillerson believes (as Rubio appears to) that having diplomatic relations with an unsavory government is tantamount to “making concessions” to an oppressive regime?
Tillerson says America’s disengagement with Cuba is grounded in history, and its up to Congress whether or not to change many aspects of our relationship with the Communist island.
3:32: Mark Udall notes that we gave disengagement from Cuba 50 years and it did not achieve its stated objectives. He argues that engaging with the Cuban government has allowed the United States to coordinate on a variety of important issues, including how to handle oil spills off the shores of both nations. He asks if Tillerson would end the Obama administration’s engagement with Cuba.
Tillerson said he would need to consult the State Department to review its reasoning for changing policy towards Cuba.
3:29: Democratic senator Mark Udall reminds Tillerson that he once praised the Paris Climate Accords. He asks if Tillerson thinks the U.S. should stay in that agreement, and if not, why not.
Tillerson says it’s important for the U.S. to have a seat at the table on these issues. He does not want the U.S. to leave that table. It is not clear whether staying at this figurative table would mean remaining a signatory of the Paris agreement.
3:20: Cory Gardner asks Tillerson what more the U.S. can do to force China to obey international law in the South China Sea.
Tillerson says that China has been claiming control of islands that are not rightfully China’s. He likens China’s island-building in the South China Sea to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. He says that the Obama administration’s failure to respond has emboldened China.
Gardner asks if Tillerson supports a more aggressive posture towards China.
Tillerson says the U.S. needs to send China a message about its activities in the South China Sea.
3:17: Shaheen asks if Tillerson supports banning Muslims from entering the United States. Tillerson says he does not support banning any religious group as a class, but does believe that we need to be careful about who we let into the country.
3:12: Democratic senator Jeanne Shaheen asks Tillerson why he thinks it’s important to divest himself from ExxonMobil.
Tillerson says that he was humbled by the opportunity to serve his country. And, in light of that fact, he immediately hired an ethics counsel who advised him to completely separate himself from ExxonMobil. “I don’t even want the appearance that there is any connection between myself and the fortunes, up or down, of the ExxonMobil corporation.”
Shaheen thanks Tillerson, notes his position stands in stark contrast to the president-elect’s refusal to divest from his globe-spanning business interests.
3:07: Ron Johnson asks Tillerson if he agrees that Israel has already conceded every point to the Palestinians, and the Palestinians just refuse to reach an agreement on two states. (Johnson asks this question after decrying the fact that the United Nations recently condemned Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank. Ending settlement expansion is one of the most basic pre-requistes for a two-state solution, in the view of the international community and every American president of the past three decades).
Tillerson says he knows there were offers in the past. He says the conflict can only be solved by Israel and the Palestinians.
3:02: Idaho senator Jim Risch says America’s policies on Iran and North Korea need to be re-thought and “re-announed.” Risch says he’s not going to press Tillerson on that because he knows the Exxon CEO is just getting his feet on the ground. (Apparently, Risch does not expect nominees for secretary of State to be prepared to explain their plans on top foreign policy issues).
“It’s difficult for people to understand the transition from the private sector to the world of diplomacy, is a difference,” Risch observes, but suggests he is excited by the fact that Tillerson lacks experience directly relevant to the job he’s been nominated for.
2:59: Menendez notes that Obama’s recent opening with Cuba has not ended authoritarian repression there. Suggests returning to the policy regime that failed to end authoritarian repression in Cuba for half-a-century would be wise.
2:53: Bob Menendez notes that ExxonMobil filled out a lobbying disclosure form on Russian sanctions. Tillerson suggests that Exxon might have lobbied America in favor of sanctioning its own operations in Russia. Menendez thinks this is unlikely.
2:48: Tillerson refuses to condemn Rodrigo Duterte’s policy of murdering alleged drug dealers without trial. He says he does not trust news accounts of the issue, would want to review the “facts on the ground.” Rubio notes that Duterte himself has bragged about his extrajudicial assassinations of drug dealers. Tillerson says if that’s true, he’s against it.
Rubio asks if Tillerson considers Saudi Arabia a human rights violator. Tillerson says the Saudis have different values from us, and he would like to see progress on women’s rights there. But he isn’t sure if they are a human rights violator and is worried that classifying Saudi Arabia as such would stymie the great progress the kingdom is making on human rights.
2:43: Rubio asks Tillerson if he would veto a bill ending a travel ban with Cuba.
Tillerson says that he expects that the president would not sign such a bill. Tillerson says he would advise Trump not to end the embargo on Cuba.
Rubio asks Tillerson if he would support placing Cuba back on the list of state sponsors of terror, in a tone that suggests it is obvious that Cuba is a major sponsor of terrorism. Tillerson says the decision to remove Cuba from that list will be reviewed.
2:31: Senator Cardin enters into the record a form that shows ExxonMobil spent over $3 million lobbying the government on Iranian sanctions.
2:21: Tillerson is back in session. Cory Booker returns to the subject of whether ExxonMobil has lobbied the government against sanctions. Booker notes that an entity called USA Engage did lobby against sanctions, and ExxonMobil supports that organization.
Tillerson says that Booker should ask ExxonMobil (the company that he is CEO of) about that stuff, says he has no idea what the company’s relationship is to USA Engage.
1:48: Congressional Black Caucus chair Cedric Richmond opens by likening the comittee’s decision to schedule Booker and Lewis for the second day of hearings to forcing them into “the back of the bus.”
During his confirmation hearing, Sessions represented himself as a staunch defender of civil rights, saying that a series of desegregation cases handled by his U.S. Attorney’s office were among his proudest professional accomplishments.
Richmond asks the panel to ask itself: If Sessions is such a civil rights hero, why is the entire civil rights community – every major organization and politican associated with the cause of racial equality – united in opposition to his appointment as attorney general?
1:41: Congressman (and Civil Rights hero) John Lewis testifies against Sessions. Lewis scrutinized what it means to value “law and order,” as Sessions claims to. He notes that when he was growing up in Alabama, “law and order” meant that if you looked a white person in the eye, you could be arrested.
“The forces of law and order in Alabama was so strong,” Lewis says, “we had to risk our lives to take a stand for our cause.”
Lewis calls the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act “a sad and dark moment for our democracy” – and notes that Sessions praised the decision as a “good thing for the south.”
1:24: Meanwhile, Cory Booker just became the first sitting senator to testify against the cabinet appointment of a colleague. Booker noted that the Obama Justice Department has recently uncovered evidence of systemic abuse in police departments across the country, including Ferguson, Missouri, and Newark, New Jersey. He argued that a Justice Department run by Alabama senator Jeff Sessions “would not continue this urgently needed change” as that change “demands a more courageous empathy than senator Sessions’s record demonstrates.”
“Love of country means loving all of our citizens, even the most marginalized, the most degraded and the most unfortunate,” Booker said. “The arc of the moral universe does not naturally curve towards justice – we must bend it.”
“America needs an attorney general who is resilute and determined to bend the arc,” Booker concluded. “Senator Sessions’s record does not speak to the desire, intetion or will.”
1:19: Tillerson says that he would like to do a full review of the Iran nuclear agreement. He says that the current agreement freezes their ability to develop a nuclear weapon but does not deny them the ability to purchase one. “The real important question is what comes at the end of this agreement?” He suggests that the endpoint must be no uranium-enrichment in Iran, whatsoever.
1:14: Senator Chris Coons reminds Tillerson that the intelligence community believes Russia intends to undermine the current global order, asks if Tillerson will heed the intelligence agencies’ findings.
Tillerson says he will.
Coons informs Tillerson that Trump just acknowledged that Russia perpetrated cyberattacks against the United States last year – but did not committee himself to any particular line of action. Coons asks if Tillerson would support a congressional effort to pass sanctions on Russia.
Tillerson says that he would appreciate having sanctions as a tool, but would not want to have the executive branch’s hands tied. He suggests that he would like to use the sanctions as a threat to give Putin the opportunity to change his behavior.
1:05: Wyoming senator John Barrasso asks what Tillerson will do to reassert America’s position in the world.
Tillerson says he will do this buy projecting strength, dealing from strength, forming a strategy to defeat the most pressing threats, and engaging our friends and allies. (This diverges from the Obama doctrine, which apparently held that America benefits from projecting weakness, acting without a strategy, and abandoning all allies).
12:58: Democratic senator Jeff Merkley now grilling Tillerson on his claim that Exxon did not lobby against sanctions on Russia. Merkley cites a Politico article headlined “ExxonMobil helped defeat Russia sanctions bill.”
Tillerson says that story is inaccurate.
12:52: Following Trump’s press conference, CNN tries to distance itself from BuzzFeed’s decision to publish the unverified spy memos on the president-elect’s relationship to Russia. CNN reported the the intelligence agencies had presented Trump with a synopsis of the memo, and described its allegations in broad terms.
12:43: Rand Paul asks Tillerson whether the failure of the American invasion of Iraq would influence his view on whether the United States should pursue regime change in Iran via military action.
Tillerson says this is an instance in which our values and interests may come into conflict, since we’d like to free foreign people from oppressive regimes, but don’t want to risk the lives of American soldiers unless absolutely necessary.. “What’s most important is that we protect the American people first. I think sometimes we have too many priorities.” He says any decision to pursue regime change cannot be taken lightly, and that policymakers must ask, “what comes next?” Argues the same question applies to Syria.
Tillerson says he would like to pursue regime change through nonmilitary means. But he also says we must not ignore the threat Iran’s support for terrorism presents.
12:38: Okay, back to Tillerson’s confirmation hearing. Senator Ed Markey asks Tillerson to assure the American people that the Trump administration will honor international climate agreements.
Tillerson notes that Trump won on the message, “America first.” So, his evaluation of international agreements would proceed from an estimate of how they impact our national competitiveness.
Markey asks if it should be a priority of the United States to forge climate change agreements with other countries.
Tillerson says that America should be a part of those discussions. Says nothing about whether preventing climate change should be a priority.
12:34: Trump’s drug price comments have done a number on pharmaceutical stocks.
12:19: It’s over. In sum: The president-elect condemned America’s intelligence agencies and its leading cable news network. He suggested that news outlets that report on material he deems irresponsible will lose access to his administration. He said that he would force our southern neighbor to finance our border wall, establish enormous tariffs on the goods of companies that relocate outside the United States, negotiate drug prices with big pharma, demand congressional Republicans pass a replacement for Obamacare at the same time that they repeal it (thus, contradicting Mitch McConnell’s plan), and try to establish friendlier relations with Russia, even though he believes that nation did hack Democratic institutions during the 2016 election.
His lawyer also laid out a reasonably detailed plan for minimizing his conflicts of interest. But that plan will not include the release of Trump’s tax returns – an omission Trump explained by repeating the long-discredited lie that the IRS won’t let him to release that information because he is under audit. When the press reminded him that they already know that isn’t true, Trump suggested that reporters are the only people who care about his tax returns (a recent poll found that 62 percent of Republicans would like to see those returns).
12:14: Trump says Putin shouldn’t have done the hack, but he doesn’t believe he’ll be doing it more now: “Russia will have far greater respect for our country when I’m leading it.” Trump then suggested that Hillary Clinton presented Putin with a literal reset button. He then impersonated Putin’s reaction to said reset button, “the guy said, what is this piece of plastic?”
12:12: Trump says he was aware that “they were trying to hack us,” and the Republican National Committee was able to prevent itself from being hacked, unlike the DNC, which lacked hacking “defense.”
12:07: Asked what he meant by his tweet likening America to Nazi Germany, Trump says he thinks its a disgrace that the intelligence community leaked information to BuzzFeed News, which is a “failing pile of garbage” that will suffer “consequences.”
A CNN reporter tries to ask a question. Trump says he will not give him a question because his outlet is “fake news.”
A Breitbart reporter than asks Trump what he will do about irresponsible journalism.
12:04: Trump says he likes Mexico, doesn’t blame them for taking advantage of the United States. He blames America for letting Mexico do so.
12:02: Trump vows to start building the wall this year. He says Mexico will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. “That will happen, whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment.”
Trump reminisces that when he would tell crowds that he would build a wall they would go crazy. “I’d say who’s going to pay for the wall, and they’d scream out ‘Mexico.’”
12:00: Trump reiterates vow to slap a “major border tax” on companies that relocate outside of the United States. He says the real number of Americans who are involuntarily unemployed is 96 million.
11:57: Trump says that Obamacare is a disaster. It will collapse in 2017. And the easy thing for Republicans would be to sit back and let it happen – and let the American people blame Democrats for passing that awful law. But instead, Trump promises that Republicans will do repeal and replace simultaneously. Trump promises lower deductibles, which is antithetical to most of the GOP’s alternative healthcare proposals.
11:54: Trump praises the brilliance of Jeff Sessions and Rex Tillerson in their confirmation hearings. “I think we have one of the great cabinets ever put together. And we’ve been hearing that from so many people.”
11:51: Dillon addresses the Emoluments Clause. She argues that it bars foreign entities from giving officeholders gifts, but does not prohibit fair exchanges, like “paying for hotel rooms.”
“The Constitution does not require president-elect Trump to do anything here,” Dillon says, but Trump has decided to donate all profits from foreign visitors to his hotel to the U.S. Treasury, so that the American people will be the ones who profit.
11:48: Dillon says if Trump sold his assets, it would actually make his conflicts of interest worse: Trump would still be entitled to royalties on branded properties, and the price he sold them at would be subjected to scrutiny: Was it too high? Was there pay-to-play?
If he sold these properties without his personal branding, their value would plummet and Trump should not be expected to devalue the company he has built, Dillon maintains.
11:40: Trump tax attorney Sheri Dillon comes forward to talk conflicts of interest. Notes that Nelson Rockefeller was never given this hard a time about conflicts of interest when he was made vice president. Emphasizes that Trump would be legally free to continue running his business, implying any measures he takes to avoid conflicts of interest should be met with gratitude.
Dillon says Trump’s sons will take over the business. An ethics adviser will be given veto authority over any new deals. President-elect Trump will resign from all of his organization’s entities, as will Ivanka Trump. The president-elect has already sold off his publicly held stock. He will put his assets into a trust that will hold his illiquid business assets – including branded properties and rights to royalties.
Trump canceled pending deals, which cost his family millions of dollars, Dillon says. There will be no new foreign deals during Trump’s presidency, though there will be domestic ones. He will only be aware of these deals if he hears about them through the news media.
11:37: Trump is asked whether he will release his tax returns to prove he has no deals in Russia. Trump says that he won’t because he can’t, because he is under audit (which is a lie, he is free to release his returns whether or not he is under audit). The president-elect says reporters are the only ones who care about his tax returns.
11:34: The president-elect suggests that he would never have been involved in urine play with Russian sex workers because he is a “germaphobe.”
11:31: Trump is asked how his acknowledgement of Russia’s responsibility for the cyberattacks will affect his desire to form better relations with Putin’s government. Trump praises Putin for calling BuzzFeed’s memos “fake news.” Says that if he had anything on Trump or the RNC, Putin would have released it just like he did with the DNC’s emails. Trump then goes on a tangent about the awful things John Podesta said about Hillary Clinton in hacked emails. Argues the hacked information was important (which is hard to square with his claim last week that they had “absolutely” no impact on the election’s outcome).
11:27: Trump is asked whether the intelligence agencies presented him with a two-page synopsis on the unsubstantiated Russia rumors. Trump says the meeting was confidential, but suggests he only saw the information outside of the meeting. Calls it fake news and a “disgrace.” He says he thinks Russia was responsible for the 2016 hacking, but argues that we’re hacked by a lot of people. When the OPM was hacked, “we didn’t make a big deal out of that,” Trump notes.
11:22: Trump says “pharm-ma” is getting away with murder. Suggests government will negotiate drug prices, which would be a huge break from GOP orthodoxy. Says drug companies should manufacture their wares in America. Says he will be the best jobs president God ever created.
11:20: Trump comes out swinging at the intelligence agencies, saying if they released the BuzzFeed memos, it is a great blot on their record. He thanks the news organizations that looked at that “nonsense,” and chose not to publish it. He says his respect for those news outlets has gone up a notch. Brief, isolated bout of applause.
11:18: Vice president-elect Mike Pence says he has always been a supporter of a free press. But “with freedom, comes responsibility.” Pence argues that BuzzFeed’s decision to publish “false” and unsubstantiated claims about the president-elect can only be explained by “media bias” and the American people are sick of it.
11:16: Sean Spicer appears at the podium in Trump Tower and decries BuzzFeed’s “shameful and disgraceful” publication of baseless claims about the president-elect. Calls BuzzFeed a “left-wing blog” that publishes “fake news.”
10:56: Ron Johnson says that he loves Tillerson’s private sector experience, which he says was reflected in the fact that the Exxon CEO’s opening statement used words like “reality” and “logic” – the kind of words people use in business.
MEANWHILE IN TRUMP TOWER
10:46: Environmental protestors encourage senators to “be brave,” and resist the temptation to put Exxon in charge of the State Department.
Senator Ron Johnson asks Tillerson to explain what he meant by saying “Russia does not think like we do.” Tillerson says that Russia’s central goal is to assert themselves as power in the global world order. “And so the steps being taken are simply to make that point.”
Tillerson says that Russia’s central goal is to assert themselves as power in the global world order. “And so the steps being taken are simply to make that point.”
Tillerson says that Russia’s central goal is to assert themselves as power in the global world order. “And so the steps being taken are simply to make that point.”Tillerson suggests that the conversation America needs to have with Russia is about whether it wants to always be America’s adversary, or to be a partner, at least on some issues.
Tillerson says that he considers Russia an “unfriendly adversary” at this point.
10:35: Senator Bob Menendez notes that Tillerson has called sanctions a poor tool for diplomacy in the past. Asks to know whether Tillerson has changed his mind.
Tillerson notes that sanctions are inherently harmful to American business. (Obama’s sanctions on Russia put the freeze on Exxon’s plans to drill in the Siberian arctic). So, he would like sanctions to be designed carefully.Menendez suggests that sanctions don’t hurt American business, but merely ask them to put “patriotism over profits.” He notes that Exxon lobbied against sanction against Iran. “With that as a history,” Menendez asks, “what message are you now going to be able to send to American businesses that are intent to pursue their interests” even when they conflict with our national interest.
Tillerson says that, to his knowledge, Exxon has never directly lobbied against sanctions.
10:26: Rubio asks if Tillerson considers Vladimir Putin a war criminal. Tillerson isn’t so sure about that. Rubio argues that Russia has targeted civilians in Syria. Tillerson isn’t so sure about that.
Rubio is done. He did not comport himself as a senator who is excited to vote for Rex Tillerson. If the Democrats unite against his nomination, Tillerson can only afford to lose two Republican votes in the Senate.
10:22: Rubio asks if Tillerson would support legislation that sanctioned people who were involved in cyberattacks against the United States.
Tillerson is reluctant to commit to that. “Cyberattacks are occurring from many nations,” Tillerson observes.
Rubio asks if he would support legislation that would sanction people from any nation who were involved in cyberattacks.
Tillerson suggests that he would not want the president to sign that, because he would prefer the president have the flexibility to withhold sanctions if there are other national interests at stake.
Rubio finds this answer troubling. He asks if Tillerson would advise Trump to repeal Obama’s executive orders sanctioning Russia over its 2016 cyberattacks.
Tillerson says that what we really need is a comprehensive cybersecurity policy. Makes no commitment with regard to Obama’s sanctions.
10:20: Cardin asks whether the United States maintain its leadership on climate change issues.
Tillerson says the U.S. must keep its seat at the table on climate issues. He says that climate change requires a global response, because no one nation can solve it alone.
10:15: Cardin asks Tillerson what he would have done to punish Russia after its invasion of Crimea, since the CEO has claimed that Obama’s reaction was insufficiently tough.
Tillerson says that he would have made a “powerful response that said, ‘yes, you’ve taken Crimea, but it stops here.’” Specifically, Tillerson says that he would have moved NATO aerial assets to surveil the Russia/Ukraine border.
9:55: Tillerson delivers his opening statement. He argues that America has failed to lead in recent years, withdrawing from some parts of the world while intervening in others “with good intentions” but failed results. Tillerson suggests that he is against foreign policy failures, but very much for American leadership.
Tillerson strikes some hawkish notes on China. He says China has no rights to some of the islands it claims in the South China Sea, and has violated its commitments on trade. But he argues that America and China have a shared interest in combating extremism.
Tillerson also argued that America must have the courage to hold allies to their commitments, because when we don’t, it “is an injsutice not only to us,” but also to allies that do uphold their commitments, “like Israel.” (Israel has repeatedly violated its commitment under international law not to build settlements in occupied territory).
Like Trump, Tillerson is decidedly more biting in his assessment of China than of Russia. But he does say that Russia’s recent actions have not advanced “American interests.”
9:46: Cardin notes that news reports suggest “Russia may well have” compromising information on Trump. Suggests we need to “stand up to this bully in Moscow.” Cardin says that he was disappointed in Tillerson’s prepared opening remarks (which were submitted to the committee yesterday, but not yet read). Those remarks did not have much to say about Russia’s cyberattacks during the 2016 elections, Cardin contends, but the statement did suggest that Putin’s aggression was a product of the Obama administration’s weakness. The Maryland senator, thus, asks Tillerson to tell him what, precisely, he would have liked Obama to have done differently. (Notably, Tillerson lobbied the Obama White House to lift sanctions on Russia, over its invasion of Crimea – a position that’s in tension with the idea that he believes Obama was too soft on Putin).
9:43: Democratic senator Ben Cardin argues that, “those who suggest anyone who can run a business can run a government agency does a great disservce to both,” noting that serving the interests of the American people is very different from serving the “narrow, market-driven” interests of Exxon’s shareholders.
9:30: Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker’s opening statement catalogues the many disasters that have arisen from the Obama administration’s (supposed) failure to lead. These include Russia’s annexation of Crimea, a move that the president-elect has had little interest in condemning.
9:26: Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing for secretary of State begins with endorsements from Texas senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, followed by former Georgia senator Sam Nunn, and ex-Defense secretary Robert Gates. The theme of their statements: Tillerson’s warm relationship with the Russian government and ties to the oil industry aren’t liabilities – they’re assets.
Nunn emphasized the (very real) danger inherent to hostile relations between two nations with the world’s largest nuclear stockpiles, while Gates argued that Tillerson was well-positioned to prevent America’s relationship with Russia from getting any worse.
7.48 a.m.: The president-elect denies that Russia has cultivated him as its stooge via blackmail, likens the United States to Nazi Germany.
Meanwhile, incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus decried the memo’s claims as “phoney baloney garbage,” on the Today Show.
Ostensibly, Trump believes that the big problem in Nazi Germany was that its intelligence agency was insufficiently loyal to its president.