Former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s nomination hearing on Wednesday proved skeptics concerns that he isn’t fit to serve as our next Secretary of State.
Throughout the day, Tillerson dodged key questions about conflict of interest concerns and ties to human rights violators, failed to express command of the issues, and even at times contradicted President-elect Trump on a variety of positions.
“Rex Tillerson did nothing but heighten concerns about his nomination to be Secretary of State,” said Win Without War Director Stephen Miles. “Whether it was threatening Russia and China with military force, ignoring human rights concerns, or failing to acknowledge basic climate science, Tillerson made it clear he is unfit to be America’s chief diplomat.”
“While vying for one of the most important positions on the planet, Rex Tillerson’s testimony today raised grave concerns,” said Global Progressive Hub Co-Director Michelle Dixon. “From dodging questions about support for critical global institutions and human rights abuses, to denying the threat of climate change, it is clear that Mr. Tillerson’s 40 years as CEO of ExxonMobil have not prepared him for the critical role of fostering peace, human dignity, and prosperity in our global neighborhood.”
Below are some of the day’s highlights:
Tillerson Refused To Acknowledge Obvious Instances of Human Rights Violations Around the World.
• Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) noted numerous instances in which Russian military forces had committed war crimes while Vladimir Putin was president, and asked Tillerson whether he thought Putin is a war criminal. “I would not use that term,” Tillerson replied. (See video here).
Later, after more pressing from Rubio, Tillerson refused to condemn human rights abuses in the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.
• Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) noted that under Tillerson, Exxon did business in countries with gross human rights violations and asked if there was any line he would draw on human rights violations he wouldn’t cross to do business. Tillerson refused to answer. (See clip here).
Murphy later pressed Tillerson on what he would describe as human rights violations, and again Tillerson demurred, saying he doesn’t necessarily believe what’s written in newspapers about what’s going on in, for example, Saudi Arabia or the Philippines. (Watch the clip here).
Tillerson claimed many times throughout the hearing that he would need more information to make a determination about rights abuses in these countries.
Tillerson Wouldn’t Acknowledge The Human Role In Climate Change.
• For most of the hearing when asked about climate change, Tillerson filibustered without really committing to any firm answers. When asked if humans are contributing to climate change, Tillerson simply said, “increases in greenhouse gases are having an effect” but that it’s “very hard to predict.”
• Later, Tillerson said that the science behind climate change “is not conclusive.”
Tillerson Falsely Claimed ExxonMobil Didn’t Lobby (For or Against) On Sanctions Against Russia.
• Tillerson said: “I never lobbied against sanctions. To my knowledge, Exxon Mobil never directly lobbied against sanctions.”
This is false. Not only did ExxonMobil lobbyists help defeat a bill that would have made it more difficult for the next administration to roll back the sanctions, ExxonMobil’s own lobbying disclosure forms say that they did lobby on the Russia sanctions. Some are going so far as to suggest that Tillerson outright lied … under oath.
• What’s more troubling, is that Tillerson later acknowledged that sanctions were a part of ExxonMobil’s lobbying forms, but he claimed he wasn’t sure whether they — representing an oil company regarding sanctions against oil business — were lobbying for or against them.
Tillerson Said The U.S. Should Have Confronted Russia Militarily After Its Annexation of Crimea.
• Tillerson said the U.S. response to the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea was “weak” and that instead, he would have recommended telling the Ukrainian military to amass along the Ukraine/Russia border, with U.S. and NATO military support, to prevent any Russian military incursion, and thus risking an all-out war with Russia.
• Tillerson refused to say whether the thought the FBI should investigate further a recent explosive report that Russia has damaging information on Donald Trump and that the Trump campaign was in contact with Russian officials throughout the presidential campaign.
• Tillerson falsely claimed that the Iran nuclear deal doesn’t prevent Iran from buying a nuclear weapon. In fact, the agreement explicitly says that Iran cannot “acquire” nuclear weapons. Further, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Iran has signed, prohibits such activities. He later said he misspoke.
• Tillerson disagreed with Trump’s view that South Korea and Japan should acquire nuclear weapons. “I don’t think anyone advocates for more nuclear weapons on the planet,” he said.