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tv   Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer  CNN  January 11, 2017 2:00pm-3:01pm PST

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nonproliferation treaty does prohibit the purchase of a nuclear weapon. more importantly the jpcoa which i have in provision three of the general provisions at the very front says iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons. my general approach to this agreement has been distrust in verifying. i couldn't agree with you more that iran -- >> wolf blitzer in the situation room. we are watching the senate committee on foreign relations. the confirmation hearings of rex tillerson who has been nominated to become the next secretary of state. let's continue to monitor. >> but i didn't want to move forward without someclarity that at least the paper, at least the words on the page do say that they committed to not acquiring a nuclear weapon. that was i think one of the positives about it in addition to the inspection protocols -- >> if i could correct for the record, i misspoke. during the break i went and checked my source for that and confirmed that i misspoke, and that, in fact, their commitment
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to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty -- the language that was in there about acquire some people quibble over, but their commitment to the npt was clear and i misspoke in that regard. >> thank you. i appreciate your comment in response to questions from senator markly and others about keeping a seat at the table through the paris agreement and the general approach that suggests. i believe climate change is a major concern for us in the long term and the short term, and that it's human caused and there are actions we can and should take in response to it as a trained chemist, i respect your training as an engineer, would urge you to be a tttentive to t science because i think it is overwhelming to this point. i do think the jpoa structure, p 5 plus 1 that brought it into force and is enforcing it and the paris climate agreement are two examples of tables where we should have a seat at the table and be advocates and be driving
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it. i want to ask you about one other table that was literally designed where the seat for the united states is still empty. there has been discussion about the south china sea and china's aggressive actions in building islands. the u.n. convention on the law of the sea, decade ago, was advanced by republican administration but has still never been ratified by this senate. and in june of 2012, you signed a letter indicating in your role of ceo of exxon/mobil, you supported the law of the sea. i was a member of this committee when then chairman john kerry convened seven hearings where panel after panel of four-star admirals and generals and business leaders and national security leaders and former republican leaders, the administration and senators all testified in support of this, yet we fell short of ratification. had we ratified it, we would have that seat at the table to
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aggressively assert the international law of the sea and to push back on china's actions, which during that debate were hypothetical, today are real. would you work to support the law of the sea convention if confirmed as secretary? >> well, i will certainly work with the president. we've not discussed that particular treaty. certainly my position i've taken in the past was one from the per sti -- perspective of the role i had at the time. i am aware of objection people have. that is the principal objection people have. when given the opportunity to discuss this in the inter agency or the national security council, i'm sure we'll have a robust discussion about it. i don't know what the president's view is on it and i wouldn't want to get out ahead of him. >> well, let me ask about that
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if i might, because i came to this hearing with a whole list of questions. and in response to others, you've addressed many of them. where, in my view, you have a notable difference of view from at least some of the concerns based on some campaign statements by the president-elect. no ban on muslims, no nuclear arms race, no nukes for japan, south korea, saudi arabia, no abandoning our neto allies. no deal with russia to accept the annex asian of cry krimea. all of these to me are quite encouraging. but they suggest some tension with statements made by the president-elect. how will you work through those differences? and just reassure me that you will stand up to the president when you disagree on what is the right path forward in terms of policy. >> i think earlier in the day someone asked me a similar
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question, and i said that one of the reasons that i came to the conclusion, among many, to say yes to president-elect trump when he asked me to do this is in my conversations with him on the subject we have discussed, he's been very open and inviting of hearing my views and respectful of those views. i don't think in terms of discussing or perhaps characterizing it as my willingness to push back on him. my sense is that we're going to have all the views presented on the table, and everyone will be given the opportunity to express those and make their case. and then the president will decide. and i'm not trying to dodge a question in any way, but this is one that i don't know where the president may be, nor do i know where some of the other agencies and departments that will have input on this will be under the new administration. so, i respect their rights to
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express their views also. and again, as you point out, i'm on the record having signed the letter from my prior position in which i was representing a different interest. when i hear all the arguments for myself, i don't want to commit to you that my views might not change if i hear different arguments because i was looking at it only from a particular perspective. >> and a number of senators and myself included have pressed you on making the transition from ceo of exxon/mobil and its interests and a 41-year career there to representing america's interests. i understand the concerns about sovereignty being raised in the hearings. having sat through the hearings and hearing the testimony, the best interest of the united states are seeding to that treaty and ratifying it. i have more questions and i'll wait for the next round. >> we'll begin that round now. senator card has deferred to senator menendez. only those who really have questions are going to be
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acknowledged at this time. however, anybody who wishes to come down can do so. so, it's going to be menendez, rubio, sha hee n, rubio, card in, james markly. >> sounds like a pretty full third round. i'm glad everybody is interested. >> thank you. mr. tillerson, i admire your stamina. you've been through several rounds here. and from my perspective, i hope understand while my questions may seem tough in some respects, i take my role of advise and consent of any nominee important. in your case you have a unique background coming to this job. so, trying to understand the person who is going to be the chief advisor to the president-elect in the meetings you just described where everybody gets around the table, but in foreign policy it's going to be you. so, i try to get from the past a gleaming of it so i understand where you're going to be in the future. i hope you understand the nature of my questions. let me take a quick moment. you heard a lot about cuba in proportion to things in the
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world. but i think it is rewarding a regime where the only way you can do business in cuba is with castro's son or son-in-law. they head the two monopolies inside of cuba that control tourism and everything hotel and tourism related, and everything agricultural related which are the two main areas people want to do business with in cuba. and who are they? not only are they the son and son-in-law, but they are high ranking officials of the cuban military. so, what do we do when we allow business to take place with them and you can only do business with them? i wish you could do business with the average cuban and empower them and make economic decisions that would free them in some respects. then you strengthen -- they are both high ranking officials in the military. so, you ultimately thumb the very oppressive regime that you are trying to get them to change in terms of human rights and democracy. when you do your bottoms up review that is another element i'd like you to take into consideration. let me ask you this. as you know, following up on
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senator risch's comments on iran, iran was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984 following its connection to the 1983 bombings of u.s. marine personnels in lebanon, a horrific event. killed 241 u.s. service personnel. that label on iran has unfortunately not changed. just this june the state department in its annual report on global terrorist activity listed iran as the state sponsor of terrorism. the report indicated that iran in 2015, quote, provided a range of support including financial training, equipment to terrorist groups around the world including hezbollah. it has been brought to my aa tension that between 2003 and 2005, exxon/mobil sold $53 million worth of chemicals and fuel additives to iranian customers. alarmingly, exxon did not originally disclose this business with iran in its annual 10 k annual report with the sec
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in 2006. exxon/mobil only disclosed this information to the sec after receiving a letter from the sec asking for explanations. the securities and exchange commission asked exxon to explain these dealings because iran at the time was, quote, subject to export controls imposed on iran as a result of its absence in support of terrorism, and in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and missile programs. it went on to say we know your form 10 k does not contain any disclosure about your operations in iran, syria and sudan, close quote. exxon's response has been transaction were legal because infinishian, the transactions did not involve any u.s. employees. in other words, this was clearly seen as a move designed to do business with iran to evade sanctions on iran. so, i have a few questions for you to the extent that you are familiar with this, of the
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customer at the end of that deal, and whether you can ascertain that exxon was either knowingly or unknowingly potentially funding terrorism. one of the customers in this sales to iran was the iranian national oil company which is wholly owned by the iranian government. the treasury department of the united states has determined that that entity is an agent or affiliate of iran's islamic revolutionary guard core. the irgc is iran's main connection to its terrorist activities around the world and pledge allegiance to iran's supreme leader the iatola. in other words, the irgc and the foreign arm, the kuds force are the army. they are currently in syria now helping assad remain in power. so, can you tell the committee whether these business dealings with iran did not fund any state sponsored terrorism activities by iran? >> senator, as i indicated earlier, i do not recall the
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details or the circumstances around what you just described the question would have to go to exxon/mobil for them to be able to answer that. >> you have no recollection of this as the ceo? >> i don't recall the details around it, no, sir. >> this would be a pretty big undertaking to try to circumvent u.s. sanctions by using what may or may not -- i'm not ready to make that determination -- a legal loop hole to do so. but it would be pretty significant. it wouldn't come to your level? it wouldn't come to your level that the securities and exchange commission raised questions with your company about lack of disclosure? >> that would have. i'm just saying i don't recall -- 2006 would have been the first year that i would have been looking at those things. i just don't recall this is all i'm saying. >> do you recall whether exxon/mobil was doing business with three different state sponsors of terrorism, including iran in the first place? >> i don't recall.
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again, i'd have to look back and refresh myself. >> i would hope you would do so and i would be willing to hear your response for the record because i think it's important. moving to a different thing because it's all in my sanctions field. i'm trying to understand that. regardless of whether or not you have read the bill that senator card in and i and others have sponsored in a bipartisan basis, do you believe that additional sanctions on russia, in view of everything that has been ascertained, is, in fact, appropriate? you may view that some may be more useful than others, but do you believe any additional actions in terms of sanctions on russia is appropriate for their actions? >> well, i would like to reserve my final judgment on that until i have been fully briefed on the most recent cyber events. i've not had that briefing. and as i indicated, i like to be fully informed on decisions -- >> i appreciate that. i would just say that in the public forum that you could read
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or any other citizen could read, it's pretty definitive by all the intelligence agencies of what they did. so, it just seems to me that whiem i know you're cautious and you want to deal with the facts, that's the essence of you being an engineer and a scientist and i respect that. there are some things in the public realm from which one can deduce a decision. i'd like to hear your response for the record as well. >> when i know there is additional information and there are additional facts in the classified area, i would wait until i've seen all the facts. if i knew that there's nothing else to be learned and this is all the facts and there's nothing else out there, then i would say i could make a determination on -- because this is all we know. but as i have been told, at least i'm aware, there is a classified portion of this report that, when i have the opportunity, i look forward to examining that. and then i'll have all the information in front of me. >> i have one final question, mr. chair, but i'll wait for my
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next time. >> in order for efficacy to prevail, please go on. >> so, in light of efficacy, so, here's characterizes in essence my big question for you. it is an article that appeared in time magazine, and i really want to hear your honest response. i'm going to quote from the record. what russia wants from tillerson is one that stops putting principles ahead of profits, focusing instead on getting the best political bargain available and treats russia as an equal. quote, for the next four years, we can forget about america as the bearer of values, said a former russian energy minister who went to join the opposition. america is going to play the deal game under trump. and for putin that is a very comfortable environment, he told
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the radio host this week in moscow. it's an environment where states men sit before a map of the world and they haggle over pieces available to them, much like putin -- this is the article, not me -- like putin and tillerson did while weighing the oil fields in the arctic. through the canny eyes of a political deal maker, washington's oldest commitments in europe and the middle east could be seen in much the same way, as a stack of bargaining chips to be traded rather than principles to be upheld. i'd like to hear your -- that's not you being quoted, but that's a characterization that was in one article, but beyond that it's a characterization i've heard many times. and, so, to me that comes down to the core of everything i've tried to deduce in my line of questioning to you and i want to give you an opportunity to respond to it. >> i haven't seen the article in its entirety, but i'll just deal with the quotes that you read. if you conclude that that's the characterization of me, then i have really done a poor job
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today because what i had hoped to do in today's exchange on the questions is to demonstrate to you that i'm a very open and transparent person. i do have strong values that are grounded in my person ideals and beliefs and the values that i was raised with, and they're under pinned -- i've spoken to the boy scouts earlier this morning. they're under pinned by those same values, duty to god and country, duty it to others and duty to yourself. that has guided my life for all of my life, and it will guide my values and it will guide the way in which i will represent the american people if given the chance to do so. i understand full well the responsibilities and the seriousness of it. i don't view this as a game in any way as that article seems to imply. so, i hope, if i've done nothing else today, you at least know me better. >> thank you. if there's no objection, there
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has been a response from exxon/mobil that my staff gave me relative to the sudan, iran, syria issue. i'm going to enter it into the record if that's okay for everyone to be able to peruse. with that, senator rubio. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, mr. tillerson. you can see the finish line, we're almost there. i really just have four clarifications. i don't think they'll take long. going back to the sanctions piece to build on what senator menendez just asked you, it's my recollection that your testimony earlier this morning, i had asked specifically about sanctions on those who conducted cyber attacks against the united states. not specifying russia in particular, just a bill that said anyone who has guilty of cyber attacks or infrastructure would be subject to sanctions and your answer if i recall correctly, we would want to weigh other factors. that's why you wanted the flexibility not the mandatory language. there may be other factors to take into account such as trade
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and economic with that country or actor before we chose whether or not to use a tool such as sanctions. so, in essence, even if you had information available to you or will in the future about specific actors, that alone may not be enough based on that testimony. there are other factors that you would want to take into account before making your recommendation to the president about whether or not to institute sanctions. is that a correct characterization? >> yes, it is. and i think the way i would try to explain this, at least why i'm taking this position, sanctions are not a strategy. sanctions are a tactic. and if we are going to engage -- and i'll use russia in this case, but i can use any other country that these sanctions would apply to. if we're going to engage in trying to address a broad array of serious issues, i'd like to have this as a tool, as a tactic. if it's already played, it's not available to me as a tactic in
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advancing those discussions and trying to come to some conclusion that best serves america's interests and america's national security interest. it's a powerful tool. i'd like to be able to use it tact tickly. if it's already been played, it's not available to me to use tactically. >> okay. the second is a clarification of the exchange you had with senator portman about an hour or so ago. he asked you whether there was basically any sort of cooperation with iran where we may have a confluence working on iran. that's the way we have to engage in the overall process. just to clarify, does that mean you would be open potentially to working with iran on issues that we have potentially in common such as defeating isis? >> well, defeating isis is the one that's right in front of us and we're already kooptding with them in iraq. >> okay. the third question has to do with sanctions on krimea against senator portman's question.
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i believe your answer was and i caught it on television, i had just stepped out at the tail end of the first round. and he asked -- and i think your testimony was along the lines of we won't change anything right away after we examine the situation. but embedded in that was the notion that potentially at some point there could be an arrangement in which the united states would recognize russia's annex asian of krimea if the government in kiev signed off on it or accepted it as a broader deal to ensure peace and stability. is that an accurate assessment of the testimony as i third? >> i think what i was trying to recognize is that since that was territory that belongs to ukraine, ukraine will have something to say about it in the context of a broader solution to some kind of a lasting agreement. i'm not saying that that is on the table. i'm merely saying i don't think that's ours alone to decide. >> okay. here's my last clarification. and it's more about the hearing here today in general.
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in the end of the last round, at the end of questioning, you said there was some misunderstanding in alluding to human rights. you said we share the same values, but you are clear eyed and realistic about it, end quote. i want you to understand the purpose of the questions i've asked you today because they are in pursuit of clarity and realism. on the clarity i was pleased when your statement today used the term moral clarity and that's what we've been missing the last eight years. that's why i asked you whether vladimir putin was a war criminal. you declined to label him as. i asked about china, whether they were one of the worst human rights violators in the world, which again you didn't want to compare them to other countries. i asked about the killings in the philippines. i asked about saudi arabia, being a human rights violator, which you also declined to label them. the reason was i'm not trying to get you involved in international name calling, but for the sake of having moral
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clarity, we need clarity. we can't achieve moral clarity with rhetorical ambiguity. i also did it in pursuit of realism because here's what's realistic. you said you didn't want to label them because it would ruin our chance to influence them or relationship with them. here's the reality. if confirmed by the senate and you run the department of state, you're going to have to label countries and individuals all the time. you expressed today's support from the -- which labels individuals and sanctions them. you are going to have to designate nations as sponsors of terrorism or organizations as terror groups, again, a label. and one i think a lost us care about is trafficking and persons report which specifically labels countries and ranks them based on how good a job they're doing. that concerns me because that one over the last year, the rankings and the tier system has been manipulated for political purposes. they upgraded cuba and malaysia because we're working with them to improve relations. we he didn't want to have a
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label out there that hurt the chances of doing that. that's why i think it's important. but here's the last reason. you gave the need for a lot more information in order to comment on some of these. and believe me, i understand that. it's a big world, there's a lot of topics. these were not obscure areas. i can tell you, number one the questions i asked did not require special information we have. all these sources were built on voluminous open source reporting, rights groups, the leaders sometimes themselves when it comes to the philippines, state department, et cetera, and so we're not going off news reports alone. but the selling point for your nomination has been that while you don't have experience in government and in foreign policy, you have traveled the world extensively. you have relationships all over the world, and you have a real understanding of some of these issues as a result of that. yet today we've been -- i've been unable to get you to acknowledge the attacks on aleppo were by russia and they
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would be considered under any standard human rights, somehow you are unaware of what is happening in the philippines, you are not prepared to label what's happening in china and saudi arabia, a country that my understanding you're quite aware of. women have no rights in that country. that's well documented. have you visited there, anyone who has would know. i want you to understand this, too. i said this to you when we met. i have no questions about your character, your patriotism. you don't need this job. you didn't campaign for this job. it sounds like a month and a half ago, someone said you were going to be up here today, you'd say that's not true. there's only one reason for you to be sitting behind that table and that's your love for this country and your willingness to serve. i do admire that, i do. but i also told you when we met the position you've been nominated to, is in my opinion, the second most important position of the u.s. government with all due respect to the vice-president. it is the fashion of this country for billions of people, for hundreds of millions of people as well, and particularly for people that are suffering
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and hurting. for those 1400 people in jail in china, those dissidents in cuba, the girls that want to drive and go to school, they look to the united states. they look to us and often to the secretary of state. and when they see the united states is not prepared to stand up and say, yes, vladimir putin is a war criminal, saudi arabia violates human rights, we deal with these countries because they have the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet china is the largest in the world. it demoralizes these people all over the world and it leads people to conclude this, which is damaging and it hurt us during the cold war and that is this. america cares about democracy and freedom as long, as long as it is not being violated by someone they need for something else. that cannot be who we are in the 21st century. we need a secretary of state that will fight for these principles. that's why i asked you these questions. that's why i ask those questions because i believe it's that important for the future of the
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world that america lead now more than ever. so, i thank you for your patience today. >> thank you, sir. senator sha hee n. >> thank you, mr. chairman, and thank you for giving us some additional time. i want to just comment on senator rubio's statement and senator menendez's because the concern i think i have listening to your testimony today is that your he will kweeloquence cannoe undercut. what i want to know is which values are going to prevail. and are you deferring on answering some of these questions because of concerns that statements that the president-elect has made. so, i won't make that as a rhetorical statement. i don't know that you need to respond to that unless you would like to. but i do think that's a concern
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that i have listening to the discussion today. i want to go back to nonproliferation because it got short shrift. the five most recent u.s. presidents, including barack obama, george w. bush, bill clinton, george h.w. bush and ronald reagan, i think you said this morning earlier that you do support the new start treaty which is the most recent of those agreements. but more broadly, do you support the long-standing bipartisan policy of engaging with russia and other nuclear arm states to verifiably reduce nuclear stockpiles? >> yes, i do. >> thank you. and i want to go back to climate change because i appreciate your recognition about the science and your concern as an engineer about wanting to have scientific evidence. i would argue that we have a lot
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of scientific evidence. in new hampshire we have a sustain ability institute at the university of new hampshire that produced a report that pointed out the impact of climate change in new hampshire and new england region, i won't read all of those, but two that i thought were most alarming is that for the new england region as a whole right now, the majority of our winter precipitation is rain. it's not snow. that's having a huge economic impact in new hampshire and other parts of new england on our ski industry, snowmobiling, maple sugar industry. and also by 2070 new hampshire will begin to look like north carolina. so, there are tremendous economic implications of that as well as implications on everything from our wildlife, our moose, our trout, to our
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fauna and lots of other things that affect the state. now, i do appreciate your comments about being at the table as we continue to negotiate around climate change. in 2009 the u.s. government, along with other nations that are part of the group of 20, the g-20, agreed to phase out fossil fuel subsidies. i for one believe that the science shows that fossil fuels have contributed dramatically to climate change. and while much of the responsibility for this g-20 agreement falls on the treasury department, the state department also does have a role in overseeing the objective. so, i really have a two-part question here with respect to subsidies for fossil fuels. the first is at this time when many of our oil companies, particularly large oil companies
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like exxon are reaping very good profits, do we really need to continue these subsidies? and second, if confirmed, how would you as secretary of state help to fulfill our international commitment to phase out those fossil fuel subsidies? >> well, since it's two-part question, obviously the first part, i'm happy to offer a personal view on even though that's not within state department's role to make that judgment. this just comes from my understanding of how the various tax elements and tax codes treat certain investments, certain research credits and whatnot. and i'm not aware of anything the fossil fuel industry gets that i would characterize as a subsidy. rather, it's simply the application of the tax code broadly, tax code that broadly applies to all industry. and it's just the way the tax
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code applies to this particular industry. so, i'm not sure what subsidies we're speaking of. if you want to eliminate whole sections of the tax code, then they won't apply to any other industries as well. i just say that as kind of a broad observation. so, as to the state department's role, then, in participating in sum its or discussions around others taking similar action, it would be with that view in terms of how we're going to apply things at home because i think the president-elect's made clear in his views and his whole objective of his campaign of putting america first that he is not going to support anything that would put u.s. industry in any particular sector at a disadvantage to its competitors outside of the u.s., whether it's automobile manufacturing or
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steel making or the oil and gas industry. so, it would depend upon how the domestic part of that and how that decision is made by others would then inform the positions that i would be carrying forward in the state department. >> we're going to break away momentarily. senator marco rubio is outside the hearing. he's speaking to reporters, answering questions on his tough questions of rex tillerson. let's listen in. >> he's been nominate today what i believe is the second most important position in the u.s. executive branch, the second most visible american on the planet. and from a government perspective. and, so, i intend to take this very seriously. >> do you think they'll be willing -- >> indication you won't actually be able to support his nomination? >> i wouldn't read into either one. i think it is an indication of why the hearing, from my perspective, involved the questions that it did. it's not an effort to embarrass anyone. this is a gentleman who didn't need to do this.
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i mean, he was headed for very comfortable retirement. and the only reason he's doing this is because he loves america and wants to serve it. and i respect that deeply and i wanted him to under it. but i also wanted him to understand these questions were designed for very specific reason, and that is that if we're going to have moral clarity in our foreign policy, we need to be clear. and i don't want to see us move towards a foreign policy in which human rights only matters when nothing else matters, when something more important isn't standing in the way. >> is it because of donald trump on these issues? >> this is the criteria i believe should be applied to every one of our secretary of states, no matter who the president may be. >> if he couldn't resolve your concerns in a hearing, a day-long hearing, how could he resolve your hearin resolve your concerns when the hearing is over? >> i'm going to look at this, a very important decision. i recognize partisan split of the committee and what it all means. i have to make sure that i'm
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100% behind whatever decision that i make because once i make it, it isn't going to change. >> if you make the decision to vote against him, you could staal this committee, this nomination in committee. are you prepared to be the one republican to vote no? >> i'm prepared to do what's right. i'm not analyzing it from a partisan standpoint. i was elected by the people of florida, i have a very clear view on foreign policy, in my presidential race and in reelection. i swore an oath a week ago to defend and uphold the constitution of this country. my view is that the president deserves wide latitude in their nominations, but the more important the position is the less latitude they have. it's like a cone. it's really wide. in some positions as it gets higher and higher, the discretion becomes more limited and our scrutiny should become higher and i consider this the highest of them all. >> if you decide, would you still let it go out of the committee unfavorably or -- >> i haven't analyze it this
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way. i'm not going to vote two different ways. all right? >> senator, there are also as you know, the intelligence committee having intelligence from the russians about potential information that could compromise donald trump financially and personally. have you been briefed about any of this information and are you concerned about that? >> as i said on the campaign, i'm not going to comment about anything that was procured or could potentially be the work of a foreign intelligence agency to undermine a political process. so, i have trust inial the agencies involved and obviously the congress will have a role to play at some point. not on that matter, but on anything. i'm not going to comment on things like that. >> as a critic of russia, are you concerned about trump's ties to russia? >> again, i just operate on what we know to be true and i'm not going to allow -- i think the russians have already achieved a large objective of theirs and that is to undermine the legitimacy of the -- of our presidential election, pit us against each other. i think they're sitting back and saying, you know, we've got
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americans fighting over our involvement in the elections. that's perfect. it undermines their democracy. we're going to take our job seriously. we're going to work hard to get to the truth but i'm not going to be an active participant in furthering that division until all the truth is out one way or the other. okay? thanks, guys. >> thank you. >> so there you see the news, important news. senator marco rubio of florida basically saying he's not sure if he's going to vote to confirm rex tillerson as the next secretary of state. there are 11 republicans on the senate foreign relations committee, ten democrats. jim sciutto, if he votes against, if he votes against this confirmation, that confirmation could stall as our correspondent pointed out in the committee. >> that's exactly right. it would be significant, no question, and we've been sitting here watching. what had been a very smooth hearing. there were some tough questions there, but it wasn't the fire works some had predicted going in when rex tillerson was announced particularly in light of his ties to russia, a long
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history of vladimir putin and in light of the difficulties with russia. it seemed smooth. it's interesting raising, repeatedly raising the possibility of voting against him and it's interesting, it's not really on the issue that we would have expected that to happen. we might have expected it to happen on russia, but we had rex tillerson say many times russia is not our friend, does not share our values, we have to get tougher on russia. he holds open the possibility of let's have discussions, maybe there is a way to dee escalate. he didn't come out there embracing russia. in fact, he differed with president-elect trump on the muslim ban, on giving nuclear weapons to u.s. allies on a departure from neto article 5. all those issues he was mainstream. what ends up possibly tripping him up from marco rubio's perspective is issues of human rights, not wanting to call out vladimir putin for killing civilians in syria, not wanting to call out saudi arabia for violations of women's rights or the philippine president duterte
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for extra judicial killings, not the issue we expect -- we don't know what's going to happen to trip this up. >> he said i'm prepared to do what's right when asked. will you vote to confirm rex tillerson as the next secretary of state? the people of florida elected me to do. he's leaving it open. >> he is. the question sult mattly does marco rubio want to expend this political capital on blocking one of the flagship nominees for donald trump's cabinet. it wouldn't only be an issue for marco rubio of crossing the president-elect donald trump and his choice, but it's also an issue of him crossing mitch mcconnell and creating an enemy at the very beginning of this new republican congress out of the republican leader. does he -- mitch mcconnell promised donald trump not only would he get these nominees confirmed, but he would do so quickly without drama. this could be some drama if marco rubio were to hold up this
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nomination. does he want to create an enemy of mitch mcconnell when marco rubio will have priorities of his own he wants to pass through congress. he could use this to extract concessions later from mcconnell if he shows that he's thinking about this and then ultimately does support rex tillerson. >> as you point out, jim sciutto, he really wanted rex tillerson to say that, yes, the russians are engaged in war crimes, for example, in aleppo, in syria right now. he didn't hear that. >> he didn't. deft answers i might say from rex tillerson. keep in mind if he were to get through, he would be america's top diplomat. for america's secretary of state to say to an ally of the philippines, yes, their president is murdering people. that has import. you can understand him wanting to be diplomatic as the nation's top diplomat there. but clearly not satisfying answers to marco rubio. i suppose we should give marco rubio credit that at the end of the day that's what a confirmation hearing is about,
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about asking hard questions. he said it's the the second most important job in the country. and if he feels that his conscience doesn't allow him to vote for him, then he's doing his job as a senator. >> yeah, he's very passionate about these issues of human rights. you see this as part of a bigger problem potentially for maybe for some of the other cabinet nominees? >> potentially. i mean, on all of these hearings what we're seeing consistently are democrats and some republicans really looking for the issues where they can show a wedge between some of these nominees and the republican party and the president-elect donald trump, and there are plenty of these issues, not only russia, but in some of these other issues like nato. we talked about the trans-pacific partnership today in this hearing and tillerson said he actually does not oppose it and would -- suggested he would support these multi lateral trade agreements that donald trump has not supported. and, so, i think we're really seeing sort of these fights that will continue throughout this
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administration previewed in these hearings, and democrats and even some republicans are airing them in public. that could be a problem for donald trump moving forward. >> i want to go to our correspondent on capitol hill right now. you were right in the middle of that q & a with marco rubio. the headline is he is not saying he will vote to confirm rex tillerson as the next secretary of state. >> reporter: absolutely, very significant what marco rubio said coming out of this hearing. he has significant concerns with tillerson and his answers through the course of this day long hearing. he said this is the second most important job in government. and as the secretary of state, you need to have moral clarity and speak with clarity around the world. and he said that through the course of this hearing, he was not hearing very clear answers to very clear questions, namely about russia. at the beginning of this hearing today, rubio saying that
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actually whether or not -- if vladimir putin is a war criminal, he said, do you think vladimir putin is a war criminal? rex tillerson conanswer that question. similar, through the course of the hearing, asking questions about china, one of the biggest human rights abusers, similarly mr. tillerson said a human rights abuser. i'm not sure if it's one of world's biggest human rights abusers. questions about philippines and saudi. rubio was not satisfied with those answers. so, wolf, if he votes no on this committee, it could be enough to stall the nomination because there's only one seat difference between republicans and democrats right now on the senate foreign relations committee. it could be enough to stall the nomination. there are still ways republicans could presumably avoid a deadlocked committee in which they would not be able to get the votes out of the committee. there are procedures they could do to advance the nomination to the floor and try to prove it on a full senate floor, but that is
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frowned upon. it is -- it doesn't usually happen in the senate. we don't know if it will actually get to that point. suffice to say if rubio votes no, it will be extremely significant. donald trump may have to choose another nominee, especially if he does not get that approval of the senate foreign relations committee. so, very significant. rex tillerson's testimony did not satisfy marco rubio's concerns. it is not clear what exactly will actually alleviate those concerns. he's not going to have a chance to question him further. so, other than in written testimony. a big development just now outside the hearing room for marco rubio saying he doesn't know yet whether he can support rex tillerson. he still has significant concerns about key issues that tillerson would deal with as secretary of state, wolf. >> he said i'm prepared to do what's right. he refused to say whether or not he would vote to confirm. very quickly, manu, the ten democrats on the senate foreign relations committee, you're working under the assumption that all of them will vote to
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deny confirmation. but there are some of them who might vote yea. >> reporter: that is absolutely true. it's possible some democrats could turn the other way and eventually vote for mr. tillerson. perhaps they could save tillerson's nomination. we don't know that yet. i did ask cory booker specifically, the new jersey democratic senator, are you open to supporting rex tillerson. and he said that he is open to it. he did not rule outvoting for rex tillerson. so, we'll see when push comes to shove how the democrats and the republicans on the committee eventually vote. but if the democrats decide to vote in unison and rubio votes no, that is big, big trouble for rex tillerson. and on the floor of the senate, wolf, there are also concerns from, say, lindsey graham, the south carolina republican voicing concerns about tillerson's views on russia. and if rubio votes no, i'm sure that could persuade lindsey graham, potentially, to vote no on the floor of the senate as
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well as potentially his friend john mccain, another sharp critic of russia. those are three republicans, all three of those republicans if they vote no, that means tillerson is not going to be the next secretary of state. you raise a key point, what do democrats do, they have not made a decision them self. perhaps some of them end up voting and saving rex tillerson. it could come down to the wire, wolf. >> some of those democrats have said they are certainly open to the possibility of voting to confirm. senator chris coons, he hasn't decided yet but he seemed at least open to that possibility. manu, stand by for a moment. dana bash is with us. dana, this could be the first major speed bump or hiccough in the major confirmation process for donald trump's potential nominees. >> he could. let's just talk about kind of, i don't know if it's irony or just kind of the strange situation we are in politically here with marco rubio who was one of the last of trump's primary
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opponents for the presidency for the republican nomination now potentially holding the fate of his nominee for secretary of state in his hands. and doing so, not because of politics. i mean i think it's genuine and those of us who have followed marco rubio in the senate know this is his passion, foreign policy is his passion. you can tell by the way that he questioned rex tillerson. where he was going, he really wanted answers and the fact he talked about moral clarity and realism in the way that rex tillerson would conduct himself. that kind of tells you what the answer to that, about the politics. but i do think, you know, you kind of remember back to when donald trump was making fun of rubio throwing the water over his head, little marco, that is all coming to fore. now, having said that, to your point i was actually just looking at the list of democrats on the committee, although there are ten democrats up for reelection in trump states in
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2018. many of them are not on this committee. a lot of, frankly, more liberal democrats on this committee. but it doesn't mean they won't vote like chris coons to give him who he wants to secretary of state. >> clearly russia now, the whole relationship between the u.s. and russia, non-relationship if you want to call it that, and the personal connection between the president-elect and putin, it puts rex tillerson in answering tough questions for marco rubio about war crimes, is he a war criminal, putin, for what he's done in krimea, in syria, in aleppo. it puts him in a very awkward position. >> you kind of saw rex tillerson strike that balance, walk that fine line between giving a nod to senators telling them what they wanted to hear which is, yes, russia is an adversary. i think he went further in a lot of places than donald trump did, calling russia adversary. saying he did believe russia --
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putin probably was behind the hacking. by saying that their actions in krimea were illegal. he definitely didn't want to go as far as to kind of personally criticize putin, talk about any actions that they might take against putin. and i thought it was very interesting. in addition to that, he was saying, listen, i know russia. i know vladimir putin, and i'm going to know how to talk to him. i know what they want. what do they want? they want to create their sphere of influence. they want influence in the world, and this is why they're going into krimea. this is why they're going into syria. if you can give a nod to how they are trying to spread their influence and try and bring them to the table, then he thinks that there may be a more constructive relationship. and he also said that the u.s. needs to get tougher with russia, which i thought was ironic because president-elect trump is talking about better relations. he said in ukraine that they should have -- the u.s. should have shown a more robust military posture, that russia
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accepts and respects strength and the u.s. needs to be a lot stronger. and as he did throughout the hearing, he was talking about weak leadership by the obama administration for not standing up to putin and kind of said, look, the reason we are where we are now is because of weak leadership. >> i want to be precise. the current secretary of state, and you covered john kerry, the state department right now, they have not called putin a war criminal. have they they haven't called putin a war criminal. secretary kerry has been very careful. these are legal definitions that the lawyers have to sign off on. he has gone very far up to the line to say that it looks as if war crimes have been conducted and these should be investigated and he has been not shy about criticizing vladmir putin. >> he has not branded the war criminal before the international criminal court. enter it has said it does appear that war crimes were committed by syria and russia and they
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should be look into. didn't skirt the line but looked up to it. >> tillerson has a close relationship with russia. listen to this exchange with tillerson before the foreign relations committee earlier this morning on russia. >> i think what we are witnessing is an assertion on their part to force a conversation about what is russia's role in the global world order. the steps being taken are simply to make that point. russia is here. russia matters. they are a force to be dealt with. that's a fairly predictable course of action. the important conversation we have to have with them is does russia want to now and forever be an adversary of the united states. do you want this to get worse or does russia desire a different relationship? we are not likely to ever be friends.
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our value systems are starkly different. we do not hold the same values. i also know the russian people. there is scope to define a different relationship that can bring down the temperature around the conflicts we have today. >> a very diplomatic response. those were questions posed by marco rubio. >> rex tillerson here have drew all these issues prebted a very mainstream policy for the u.s. very consistent on russia. bush tried it, obama tried it. try today get friendly. it didn't work. the muslim ban, something that
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donald trump on the campaign trail held out that possibility. so you have a very mainstream guy, a very bipartisan foreign policy there which puts him in direct contradiction with his president. does that pull the president towards the center. is this an indication this doesn't show his plans. >> i think it is the latter. when everything that i have heard, a big part of the goal of the transition and frankly of donald trump himself was to get people whom he considers peers so he does have the respect to listen to him. if rex tillerson does come to donald trump with what you call a mainstream foreign policy that perhaps he will let rex tillerson kind of lead the way on that. obviously, there are very
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specific issues where they do differ. that will be fascinate tog see. the big point we were talking about in a lot of the hearing and this press conference that trump had this morning on russia, the question going in was whether it was going to be rex tillerson's achilles he'el has done this so well and gotten an awrd. >> even if it stalls, they have procedures to bring it up for a floor vote and see what happen when is all 100 members of the senate vote? >> it is very rare. i believe the last time they this this was john volt when he was a nominee to be an ambassador. it was stalled in the committee for a very long time. they just circumvent the committee and put it on the senate floor. it doesn't happen very much for a reason. the leadership of both parties
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and the senators themselves want to give deference to the committees. that's why they exist. >> i think you need to remember, john bolt, who most of this committee did not want was one of the main candidates for secretary of state now for deputy. be careful what you wish for. if marco rubio does not vote in rex tillerson and the president-elect is force td d t look to someone else, he may look to john bolton. >> we are going to take a quick break and resume our special coverage. much more coming up right after this.
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happening now, russia to
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blame. donald trump admits he does think moscow was behind election-related cyberattacks but lashing out at u.s. spy agencies and the news media over allegations that moscow has some compromising information about him. trust's trust. the president-elect explains what he will do with his business holdings as he steps back from his country to run the country. some ethics experts still are concerned about conflicts of interest. stand by for all the new information from donald trump's news conference. breaking with the boss. secretary of state nominee, rex tillerson, exposes some important air why is of disagreement with donald trump. we are following the fireworks during confirmation hearings up on capitol hill. senate showdown. democrat, cory booker, makes an unprecedented plea to stop fellow senator, jeff sessions, from becoming attorney general of the united states. on to another critic of sessions and his


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