tv MSNBC Live MSNBC January 11, 2017 11:00am-12:01pm PST
how important this process is, to getting confirmation, as we saw what happened in 1986. more importantly, i think he took head on a lot of the critics and criticism of decisions that he's made and votes he's cast. and i thought in particular, with cory booker becoming historic, you saw the first sho for the 2020 democratic nomination for president. let's just put that on the table. certainly, that's part of the drama and theater of what he chose to do. but i also found it somewhat ironic that just in january of 2016, in legislation that he co-sponsored with mr. sessions, that celebrated those who walked from -- walked the selma mile, if you will, that he referred to him as it was a great honor to work with him and that he appreciated his commitment to civil rights. and yet now sees him as -- he referred to him as a danger
with -- danger to our country, as he's been quoted to say. the politics is not lost here. i think everyone in this town understands that. and to have this staged the way it was with the civil rights community, those who were supportive of mr. sessions versus those who were against mr. sessions, first time i've seen that kind of play out this way. i thought that was dramatic and very effective. >> michael steele, thank you. don't go anywhere. you're not getting off that easy because i'm going to have you react to what we just witnessed in the past hour. to our viewers joining us, the top of the 2:00 p.m. hour here on the east coast, welcome. we are juggling and continue to juggle many different events. we just saw the wrap-up of the sessions hearing. we saw -- we all witnessed on live televisionnbsolutely extraordinary press conference by the president-elect, his first since july. and earlier our day started with
the confirmation hearing of exxonmobil ceo rex tillerson to be the nation's next secretary of state. to set the table a bit for you, that hearing, which we are going to return to, and it took some unscheduled turns early on, that hearing has been in recess. they've been in a break. but what i just mentioned to michael steele, and what i'm going to go back to michael steele for reaction to, was this trump event. you name the topic, from russia to the intelligence community, to the emoluments act, to his business affairs, on and on and on. he touched on it. the answer was controversial. and michael, stand by, listen to this with us some of what we heard. >> disgraceful that the intelligence agencies allowed any information that turned out to be so false and fake out. and that's something that nazi
germany would have done and did do. as far as hacking, i think it was russia. russia will have much greater respect for our country when i'm leading it than when other people have led it. if putin likes donald trump, guess what, folks, that's called an asset not a liability. >> turns out that collection was just on the one topic of russia and vladimir putin. michael, a lot of people who do what you do for a living, have been around the process, were a little shaken by what they saw today on so many fronts, bumping up against not just tradition but precedent. we had a former ethics lawyer in the obama administration come on the air with us today who said that what he heard, quote, guarantees scandal, corruption and controversy for at least the first part of the trump
administration. what was your takeaway from today's event? >> i think it was all -- i sum it up in two words -- tax returns. i think the attitude that donald trump has regarding the release of his tax returns just permeates throughout the entire process in terms of how he sees what should be an arguable big wall between his governance as president and his personal affairs. he stated several times that, you know, i'm conflict-free. well, actually, you're not. while you may be in law, you're not in terms of the substance of the relationship that the people perceive you may have with some actors around the globe. the relionship your businesses ve with those same actors. all this plays out in ethical dramas that i think correctly can be assessed as problematic for an administration if they don't get in front of it. that's not what we heard today. there were a lot of questions that were left unanswered.
certain answers created more questions. and i think this is something that reince and steve bannon and others are really going to have to get in front of. it's not enough to roll out a bunch of paper and put it in front of people and say, see, these are the documents have i to sign to do what i want to do, to make sure that, you know, you feel comfortable with the separation between me and my business. it's going to take a lot more than that. and i don't think we got much of that today. >> michael, what about the advice he's getting. he hired a prominent attorney from the d.c. law firm of jones day. and if the other attorneys were talking to are accurate, what he said today is going to bump up against the law, and cases can be brought by just about anybody at any level, say nothing of what congress can do on day one. >> yeah, that's an interesting question in terms of whether or not they have spelled out for him the legal and -- not just the political but more importantly, the legal
ramifications of what he's about to do and whether or not he's listened to that. the lawyers may have advised it, but they're ultimately going to take to heart the orders that their client gives them in terms of how he wants this stuff structured and how he intends to deal with it. so, yeah, i think there's going to be a lot of legal challenges. the question on the legal side is who has standing to bring any lawsuits against donald trump to force his hand on some of this stuff. that's one thing. but i still think the underlying ethical perception is one that will create the biggest to turn for the incoming administration. at the end of the day, that eats at the american people a lot more than anything else. and for an administration that's talking about cleaning swamps and being transparent and wanting to do all these things, it starts with this, i think. >> michael steele, thank you. as we always thank you for being patient with us and sharing your opinions with us. before we go to kristen welker, who was in the room,
it's been a while since we ran through just what it is tha donald trump said on all these topics, so if you'll forgive me, this may hopscotch, as the event did. starting with a lot of car companies are going to be moving in. he meant moving into the united states, moving jobs in or, in some cases, back to the united states. our drug industry has been disastrous. they are getting away with murder. he called himself perhaps the greatest job producer that god ever created. he talked about this intelligence leak as something nazi germany would do. he called the website buzzfeed a failing pile of garbage. in a shouting match with jim acosta from cnn called cnn fake news. about senator lindsey graham, republican of south carolina, quote, he's going to crack that 1% barrier some day. about the ability of
intelligence to come up with anything damaging on donald trump, he said, there's nothing they can come up with. he accused the intelligence community of leaking the contents of meetings with him. he said the current story in the news about him, about russia having compromising information on him, is, quote, fake news, phoney stuff, crap and a disgrace. he said there was much hacking going on. he deflected at one point and included china in that. quote, if putin likes donald trump, guess what, folks, i consider that an asset not a liability. he mentioned being a germaphobe which ties in in a strange way to the story that's been circulating about him. indeed, people will tell you donald trump avoided shaking hands for a long period of his life until coming to grips with it, no pun intended, lar. he said this past weekend he
turned down a $2 billion deal with dubai. i have no conflict of interest provision as president. quote, i'd be the only one who would be able to do that. and on and on on obamacare, a disaster. it's going to be replaced simultaneously, perhaps, the same hour with its replacement. he talked about the wall with mexico. said we're going to build a wall. don't feel like waiting. that was to explain that mexico will reimburse the united states for the cost of the wall. well, kristen welker, you were the only one among us in the room for that event. dy get it about right? >> reporter: you did. i think you got the list very right. pretty impressive because he certainly did cover a lot. to kind of underscore the point you're making, this was a candidate who was in a constant state of battle. i think what we saw today is
that as he prepares to take over the reins at the white house, he's very comfortable in this space. pushing back aggressively, as you mentioned, on those reports overnight that russia has compromising information about him. really got into it with one of our fellow reporters. i think what was striking about today is not just how many questions were asked and answered, but key questions that weren't answered. and i think those are going to become some of the headlines, brian. the fact he was pressed on whether or not calling vladimir putin, liking him an asset, was he, in fact, justifying russia's hacking the u.s. election? he sort of dodged that question. will he continue with the sanctions that president obama just imposed? he dodged that question as well. i asked him if he believes his u.s. intelligence officials and if he feels he can work with them? he also didn't directly answer that question, instead saying he has directed them to get to the bottom of how cyber security can
be improved. so, i think this was a wide-ranging press conference. it covered a number of issues. but there's still a lot to drill down on as he's just about nine days out from inauguration, brian. >> kristen, we had immediately following the event -- you were making your way out to the camera position where you are now on fifth avenue. we had the attorney nor eisen onhe air, former ethics lawyer for president obama. i was so struck by his quote. i wrote it down. he said what he heard today guarantees scandal, corruption and controversy. and you heard our discussion with michael steele. is it possible that donald trump, who after all, hired a prominent attorney from the d.c. firm jones day to be his white house counsel, and can get all and any of the legal advice he pleases right now as president-elect, is it possible he is getting that bad advice
that would make him lay out a business agreement that is now open to challenge and could enshroud the start of his presidency in controversy? >> reporter: well, i think that we're in unchartered territory because we've never had a president who has also overseen a vast business empire. so, you heard the pushback. you heard his attorney there prebutt any critic who would say, why isn't he fully divesting himself from his business interests? in other words, leaving no shred of a doubt there could be no conflict of interest. the response to that is that he would still be, if he, in fact, divested himself, getting money in some way, shape or form. i think there's still a lot of thor questions around tt and also around the fact that his business interests are going to now go to his adult sons. and will that not present conflicts of interests in and of themselves? that's going to be a
case-by-case basis, brian. absolutely, this is something that is going to be open to intense scrutiny over the next four years and in these days leading up to the inauguration. we're now going to have to drill down specifically on what his team of attorneys said today and whether or not it actually stands up to legal statute. those are some of the key questions. a lot of critics saying, well, having his kids run his businesses doesn't necessarily get rid of the conflicts of interests. it just compounds some of the really tough questions. you heard him at the end, though, ending on that very striking note, pointing to the pack of manila folders next to him saying, this underscores just how complicated my business empire is. i'm hoping my sons do a good job of running this. if not, they're fired. reminding everyone at the heart of this, he is, in fact, a businessman. >> kristen, welker, thank you for that assessment outside trump tower. for those who did not see the event, on just the subject of
conflicts -- potential conflicts of interests, here is part of what donald trump had to say on that front. >> i have a no-conflict situation because i'm president, which is -- i didn't know about that until about three months ago, but it's a nice thing to have. i have a no-conflict of interest provision as president. it was many, many years old. this is for presidents because they don't want presidents -- understand, they don't want presidents getting tangled up in minutia. they want a president to run the country. i can actually run my business and run government at the same time. >> we actually have a lawyer standing by to talk to us on this front. greta vis watching this with us. what do you make of that? >> it's very complicated because he has many business arrangements. we all knew when he was elected he's a businessman. that's not a disqualifier to be president. he just has to be 35 years of age. it's going to be difficult. sometimes it's going to be
thorny and get a lot of criticism, but if he has transparency of it and let the american people know and if he follows the law to the letter of the law and he has lawyers carefully monitoring this, that's okay. but even if he does everything perfectly fine and does everything to the letter of the law, you can expect, this is washington, he will be criticized by his political opponents. make no mistake about it, this is complicated, but i think everybody has to be practical in the sense that he can't just sell all his assets and move into 1600 pennsylvania avenue. >> what is -- when you hear the ethics lawyer for the obama administration say to us this quote i've been repeating that this guarantees scandal, corruption and controversy. what about the advice donald trump is getting potentially opening the door to an early time in his administration just enshrouded in all of this? >> what you said is ethics --
ethics adviser for the obama administration, that's the first key that this has highly risk of being political. highly risk of being political. anybody who walks in that white house has the potential for scandal. it may not be business. it can be a whole lot of other things. that seems to be one of the most popular industries here in washingtwatc washington, d.c., is scandal. there's potential for it, of course there is. one thing my attention is on is not something he does during the four years in the immediate scandal but is there a risk he makes any decision now with an eye on the fifth year or the ninth year when he'll be back out as a citizen and making business decisions, is there any any decision he makes right now will in any way influence something down the road? but, you know, he was elected president. i think the fair thing to do is cut him a break on the issue of this. he's got lawyers. assuming those lawyers are decent and honorable. and we're going to have to sort
of sort our way through this. without any question, this should be subject to very, very strict scrutiny. not just today but every step of the way. >> gret tashgs thanks. we'll watch your broadcast for yo coverage of the event we all witnessed today. ali velshi remains in our studios here in new york. when he says, i have this no conflict of interest thing. >> this is interesting. we need to sort of step back from thinking about conflict of interest as just a legal phenomenon. there are all sorts of conflicts of interests because i'm makinging a decision that seems to be in the interest of one party or a large party but, in fact, i might be benefitting from that. his whole way of perceiving this is odd. there are people who will say, if you have the ability to profit, as greta says, later on, or if your sons have the ability to profit from something, that is a conflict and some of that is perceived. the idea we're standing and listening to sheri dillon, his lawyer from morgan lewis, his
lawyer for a long time, by the way, having her explain that it's not a conflict doesn't actually make it not a conflict. i take exception to something greta said, while i welcome her to the family, he can sell his businesses. it may be hard. it may be unwieldy. it may be difficult. but this is the presidency of the united states. this isn't a side job. when he continues to say that, there's some sense he's not necessarily fully accepting the gravity of what he ran very hard to do and got. this is difficult and it's complicated, to be president of the united states. if he wanted to sell his things, he could. if he wanted to put them in a blind trust, he could. he's not doing that and that's the problem. >> i keep hearing this defense that we knew what we were getting into, in effect. we knew we were hiring donald trump to be president of the united states -- >> i agree with that. i agree the people -- in many cases the people he often refers to in those industrial states who referred to him, don't care a bit about this discussion we're talking about right now.
if he brings jobs back, if he raises wages, if he gets a result that gets us better economic growth, this becomes an ivory tower conversation. >> let's do a thinghey teach you in tv school and that is reference the video that is airing on the screen right now. that solitary man is the ceo of exxonmobil, rex tillerson, for the purposes of our conversations today, he has been nominated as the next secretary of state to the united states. imagine his timing, his hearing starts today. overnight last night americans and that includes members of the house and senate, got to kind of chew on a potentially explosive story, knocked down vigorously today by donald trump, about information that russia may possess on donald trump that would be greatly compromising to him on a personal, financial and political basis. we thought we would bring a
guest of high esteem to our studio to help us talk about the relationship between the united states and russia, thomas pickering, former u.s. ambassador to russia under president clinton, 1993 to 1996. among his jobs, on behalf of this country, ambassador, welcome. >> thank you. >> good to see you again. >> it's nice to be back. >> what's the -- i always call it the viewer's guide. what do we need to know about russia, about our relationship to russia and what, if anything, set you off today listening to donald trump on this? >>e need to know t relationship is troubled, that there is- at this point there is some afemoral relationship between donald trump and vladimir putin. that might change things. it's not impossible. vladimir putin may be in the mood to change, having not progressed very far with the projects he's now undertaken,
but we don't know. the evidence on the compromise, the piece of information that is, in fact, out there that seems to be collected by the russians with the potential of having influence on donald trump is not yet verified. the u.s. intelligence community has been careful about that. and, indeed, we haven't seen after perhaps a couple of months of trying in washington that any of the press has come up with anything that says this is the real mccoy. so, trump is saying what he normally would say under these circumstances. it's fake news. we don't know how this is going to play out. we do know two things that are very important. one, russia is a very important country for us that possesses a nuclear power that could destroy us and we them and the two of us the globe. it's not a fooling around matter. the second and most important thing i would say is, the
intelligence community should not be a punching bag. the intelligence community is a serious bunch of very able people. i've known many of them over the years and have great respect for them. and they do a very tough job very well. and when 16 or 17 agencies agree, and this was on the prior material, then it's time to pay attention to them and not time to turn them into a virtual reality tv show. but get on with governance, which is something i've been saying. governance is a very tricky problem. ali velshi just said it's hard stuff, and i couldn't agree with him more. this is the toughest job in the world. and it isn't, in my view, a job you can turn into a virtual reality tv show as much as we might want to have that entertainment coming our way. >> mr. ambassador, i'm not crazy to put it another way. we're sitting here looking at guy who's been nominated for
secretary of state, in part, because of his relationship with russia and putin. and i'm not crazy in that we have heard people suddenly bending over backwards to normalize the idea of vladimir putin and russia. >> we need to be careful. i have the greatest respect for rex tillerson, and i have watched him in action, not close up, but from time to time. but i also think it's very important that as we deal with russia, we have to know we're not going to agree on everything all the time, but we also have to know there are some things we can come to agreement with them on as we did the soviet union, which is to stabilize the international situation so that people with, put it this way, trigger fingers are very careful about what they do on both sides of that divide. and i lived through the cuban
missile crisis as a young diplomat. and i was worried. a lot of us were very worried. we don't want to be back in that kind of unstable, uncertain situation where individuals on both sides n one way or another, are threatening. it is not a useful way to proceed and not something that i think we want or the russians want. so, it is time to reach out. president-elect trump do that? i don'tow. there is an openingere a i would be silly to denigratet. but at the same time, i think it requires smarts, stability and sensitivity. and those demands are very real and very important for the next president of the united states. >> ambassador, thank you. >> thank you, brian. >> thank you very much. to our viewers, we are going to be heading back into the hearing room after an update from hans nichols over at the pentagon. hans, on the story in chief, this story we first talked to
you about yesterday that has been knocking around, depending on your online source. it's been published in great detail or glancing detail. we've only published as much as our news division is able to confirm. how can you update us on that? >> well, the important thing about this is being appended to the news briefing trump got. trump was clear he never got a verbal briefing on this. but for those inside the trump organization, the transition team, and there are a lot of them that want to fundamentally reform the intelligence agency, they just got a big argument, brian. for people like general michael flynn, who will be leading the national security counsel, the nsa, for all those that want to fundamentally rethink the way the united states gathers intelligence, they have an argument. they have an argument the cia, fbi, dni, everyone was potentially a little sloppy in getting this report.
i was trying to speak to a number of people today. the plans to sort of revise and revamp the intelligence structure haven't been baked in, but there are those within the trump organization, in that transition, that really want to rethink the way it's done. brian, that's why that hearing tomorrow with mike, let's see if he gives any idea on how to rethink the intelligence agency. >> they have an argument now. now the large standing army in washington as they have just picked a giant fight with a branch of government absolutely essential to the presidency. hans nichols at the pentagon, thanks to our viewers. we are now going to go into the hearing room, listen to the confirmation hearing. this is rex tillerson, nominated to be this nation's next secretary of state. on the other side, at the
break, katy tur will be here. >> can it be effective. looking at your other options as well. i'm not dismisses ive of the sanctions -- >> you characterized the obama administration as weakness but you're saying you wouldn't necessarily do anything different? >> in that instance, i would have done something different. >> military force? >> show force at the border of the country that already had territy taken from them. >> american military? >> no, ukrainian military force supported by the u.s. providing them with capable defensive weapons. if that's not seen across the border, then it's not a show of force. >> switching gears now. this value of american value of transparency, correct? >> yes. >> and accountability in government, correct? >> yes. >> i have a concern, it's not a great one, you can allay it right now, that as leader of a private company, you made it
clear in many ways that you were first and foremost accountable to shareholders, employees and customers, but as secretary of state, you're accountable to the american public, and would be expected to keep the media, the public, constantly informed of general activities. and i just know that when my staff did a rough calculation of past secretaries, interactions with the press, clinton had over 3,200, kerry had about 3,000. when you were at exxonmobil, it was a far, far smaller number, but i imagine as secretary of state your going -- you believe in the importance of transparency, of engaging with the public, of answering to the questions that often come from the media? >> yes. and i indicated in my opening statement that that's part of earning the public trust, also to engage with this committee. that's a way to communicate with the public as well. >> you will bring press corps with you as you travel oversaes
and you will commit to having those regular interactions with the press? >> if confirmed, i will look into what would be appropriate to take. i have not -- i have not gotten that far in my thinking. >> okay. and so you haven't thought through about issues of accountability and transparency? >> i have thought through issues of accountability and transparency. your question was the size of my press corps, i think. >> no, it was not. my question was access of the media and public to the work of the secretary of state. >> we want to ensure at all times, if confirmed, the secretary of state and the state department is fully transparent with the public. that's part of my cment of being truthful and bei -- you know, holding ourselves accountable as well as others accountable. >> okay. switching gears. i'll get back to this in the next round of questioning. in fact, i'm going to yield back because it's a new line of questioning. that's all i have. >> okay.
i will -- just as a matter of sharing some information, the supplying of defense -- lethal defensive support to ukraine at a time when we were only sending used night vision goggles and mres was something that was strongly supported in a bipartisan way on this committee under chairman menendez's leadership. i just want to say that for the record. i didn't view the response to be necessarily in any way outside the norms of what this committee overwhelmingly supported at that time. i'm just saying that for information. and i'm more than glad to talk more fully about that. so, we're going to start the second round. they're going to be seven-minute rounds. and we're going to go in the same order we began. if senator rich comes in, i would like to be able to give him time since he was around
earlier and now has a conflict. with that, i'll send -- i'll turn to senator cardin again. >> well, once again, thank you, mr. chairman. first, mr. chairman, in response to senator menendez's questions about lobbying in regards to the iran sanctions act, just to make the record complete, i'm going to ask consent to put into the record the lobbying disclosure form from exxonmobil corporation that indicates the -- approximately $3.4 million was spent on behalf of lobbying the iran sanctions act. i'll put that into the record. without objection. i wanted to be cirman. putting some information into the record. >> i understand you became chairman while i was talking, but -- >> you always have to watch out. >> without objection. >> thank you.
second thing, mr. tillerson, i want to just underscore a point. we talk about in the office, this has come up several times, and that is, you keep referring to the fact of your concern in regards to the ukrainian sanctions that were imposed against russia for their actions in ukraine that you were concerned that american companies could be at a disadvantage because of europe being treated differently, the grandfather clause, et cetera. and then when we talk about leadership, and it was very true on iran. senator menendez took the leadership on this, that but for the u.s. leadership, we wouldn't have gotten other countries to act. so, if we take the position we're going to the lowest common denominator, we're not going to get anything really done. you talk about being tough and taking tough position, it requires leadership and requires us to be willing to go the extra
amount. one last point on this. i agree with senator corker. we've never had any administration believe that congress should take away their discretion. that is absolutely fact. whether democrat or republican administration, they would rather do away with congress. we understand that. we get it. but you, i assume, understand the advantage we have in america with the separation of branches of government. and it could be helpful to you as our -- if you're confirmed as our principal negotiator, to have clear directions from congress that you must impose sanctions, must impose nctions, unless you get real progress towards the issues in which those sanctions will be imposed. take advantage of the independent branch of government. work with us. so you can have those strong tools to help america's interests. i'm going to take most of my time on this round to go over an
issue senator cork and i have been working through. i'm not going to spend a lot of time going over some of the issues on tax returns. we'll save that for a different time for our committee because it really involves an internal debate here more so than our nominee. but as a result, i had sent to you 20 questions to answer that are related to the tax issues because we didn't have the tax returns. and before the close of business for asking questions, i will be proposing questions to you related to your tax issues in order to better understand areas i think we need to have information on. we are concerned about the fact -- i'm concerned. i think members of the committee are concerned. that you will have some private interests. you're going to continue to operate a farm. you're going to have a charitable foundation. you have a real estate firm. a real estate partnership.
we need to know a little bit more how that operates from the person who's going to be secretary of state. you have trusts thatre being set up and how those payments are paid out over time, we need to have a better understanding of how that operates during your term if you're confirmed as secretary of state. so, that type of information is useful to us. i'm still trying to figure out exactly how this trust you're taking restricted stock, and if confirmed, selling it to become -- or putting cash in rather than restricted stock, but then you are able to withdraw the funds from the trust in the same schedule as, i believe, as the restricted stock would have become actionable. but as a result of that, you're also putting contingencies on
your receipts so you can defer the taxes, as i understand, defer taxes for a significant period of time. these are issues that i think we have to have more transparency on, because they're big dollars. $180 million, if i understand, of restricted stock. the tax consequences are about $70 million. these are not types of tools that can be used by average americans. i think we need to know more about those types of issues. we also have concern about making sure that all of your employees have been properly documented and taxes paid. that's a standard issue that's been raised now in confirmation hearings. senator corker and i may not think it's relevant to the final -- not relevant. determinant to final confirmation but it's relevant for us to have that information before we make answers. i'm going to ask you to answer these questions for the record.
i hope we'll be able to get the cooperation in a timely way so that the committee can have this information before we're called upon to act on your nomination. you can respond. >> i'm happy to try to answer the areas of concern you have. i indicated that in the original questionnaire, that it's my objective to address concerns you have. you know, i am -- i'm also, though, mindful of privacy issues afforded to every american and privacy issues afforded under individual tax returns. i'll do my best to answer questions you have. but i hope you'll also respect the privacy of myself and my family. in the long-standing privacy of individuals' tax returns. >> i can assure you that that will absolutely be observed, as i had explained to senator corker, much of this information
is not even reviewed by members. it's strictly by people who can tell us whether we have a problem or not. i absolutely respect what you're saying. and my full intentions are to fully maintain your legitimate right to privacy. i look forward to following up on that. i thank you for your reply. >> thank you. just for the edification of the committee, i think it's true that over the last four years, i have worked as the lead republican on foreign relations to ensure that we move candidates out as quickly as possible nominees. i think at every nominations meeting we've had, that's been stated. and what i've shared with the ranking member is, we have a tradition here that we are following. this has not been a committee that has asked for tax returns. it's asked for a disclosure form. and just because we were so
overwhelmingly helpful with the democratic president's nominees doesn't mean that we want to be changing the standards or unhelpful, if you will, under a republican nominee. so i just have tried to keep things exactly the same. exactly the same. disclosures are exactly the same. and, you know, as far as getting into -- i've told senator cardin that if there is a substantial issue we need to look at that would affect senator tillerson -- excuse me. you don't want to be demoted to that. to nominee tillerson's role, then i'm more than glad to look much deeper into it. and if we need to have somebody from the outside do so. but to get into silly got-ya question, not that you've done that, that's just not what we've done in this committee. and i hope we will not turn this process into one that turns
qualified people away from wanting to serve. again, if there's some substantive issue that we need to pursue and we need to get into some private setting and have someone come in from an accounting firm that really matters as it relates to his ability to not have conflicts as a secretary of state or something like that, i'm willing to look at it, as i know he is. asking questions that are not in any way determinant in any way is belittling the committee and a huge change in the protocol and the respect with which we've dealt with nominees and their privacy. >> can i just -- >> but i thank you for working with me. >> would you just yield for one moment? i thank you for that. and i can assure you, the disagreement on supplying tax returns has nothing to do with mr. tillerson. it's a discussion we're having. it has not at all delayed any of our operations. i fully expect that i will
continue to use whatever means i can to change our committee practices so that we do have our nominees, as many other contest in the senate require, to file tax returns. that's not unique. small business, i've been told by senator shaheen, requires. second point i would make very quickly, the second point, the ability of the members to ask questions for the record and ask questions of the nominee has pretty well been respected. and i would hope that right would not be diminished. that we have the ability to ask questions of the witnesses in regards to areas that we think are important. >> no one in any way is trying to diminish that. i know you and i have agreed on a series of questions that will come from the committee itself and mr. tillerson, as i understand it, is going to answer those. i would think absolutely the aarrangement he has with exxon
is something that should be fully vetted and everyone here understands that that is going to happen and he's going to make that all forth -- and has, actually. i would just say, again, we may wish to change our standards four years from now. our most recent secretary of state, as i understand it, as a couple was worth over $1 billion. had all kinds of far-ranging investments. and as a committee, we never tried to force a tax return issue. they filled out the disclosures and we as a committee asked them questions. same thing happened with secretary clinton. so, all i'm trying to do is not in any way change the way that we operate because of the outcome of an election.
and continue to be that island of bipartisanship as we continue to operate regardless of who wins an election. i'm in no way trying to infer that you're attempting to do that. i'm just telling you what i'm attempting to do. i'm attempting to do. i'll turn to senator rubio. >> mr. tillerson, when we met on monday night, thank you for coming by, i provided you a copy of a bill which was provided in the last congress which i anticipate will be filed in the new congress by senator flake and leahy a remove the travel ban by americans to cuba. if you were confirmed and that bill were to pass congress, can you commit you would advise the president to veto that bill? >> senator, as to the current status of travel to cuba, that is going to be under discussion with the president-elect. i think he's been fairly clear on his intent that he is going
to ask all agencies essentially on day one to do a complete review of recent executive orders and the change of the status of travel to cuba as well as business activities in cuba. so, it would be my expectation that the president would not immediately approve that bill until after that review had occurred because that would be part of a broader view of our posture toward cuba. >> if he doesn't act on the bill, it would become law without his signature. my question is at this time, you cannot commit to supporting a veto of that bill should it pass? >> i would support a veto because i don't think we want to change the current status of things until we've completed that review. >> that was the question i wanted to get to. if a bill were to pass congress that would remove the u.s. embargo against cuba, and there hasn't been democratic changes on the island of cuba, would you advise the president to veto a bill that lifted the embargo on cuba? >> if confirmed, yes, i would. >> can you also commit that you
would advise the president to reverse many if not all of the obama administration's cuba regulations andxetive orders regarding cuba thatere recently submitted in 2014? >> as indicated, i expect a comprehensive review of all those executive orders. from the state department perspective, i would want to examine carefully the cry tia under which cuba was delisted from the list of terrorist nationses for terrorism. and whether or not that delisting was appropriate and whether or not the circumstances which led to that delisting still exist. >> you do not currently have an opinion at this time as to whether cuba belongs on the list of terror sponsors? >> i would need to examine all the criteria that were used to make the current determination and then utilizing the expertise of those in the state department, again, informed by the interagency process to look at those criteria that would put
cuba back on that list. >> as i'm sure you're aware, there is a dispute between china and japan over the control of the senekaku island change. if china tried to take over island chain with military force, would you have the united states respond with military force? >> we have long-standing ally commitments with japan and south korea in the area. and i think we would respond in accordance with those accords, which are not a nato-type agreement. but certainly, we have made commitments to japan in terms of a guarantee of their defense. >> i want to -- in your opening remarks you referred to human rights. i'm glad that you did. and i wanted to walk you through a few examples quickly. i shared with you when we met on monday, a political prisoner database maintained by china contains more than 1400 active records of individuals known or believed to be in detention. do you believe china is one of
the world's worst human rights violators? >> china has serious human rights violations relative to categorizing it against other nations i would have to have more information. but they certainly have serious human rights violations. >> well, since president rodrigo duterte, "the los angeles times" reports 500 people have been killed. is-n your view s this the way to conduct an anti-drug campaign? >> senator, the u.s. and people of the philippines have a long-standing friendship. i think it's important we keep that in perspective in engaging with the government of the philippines, that that long-standing friendship, and they have been an ally and we need to ensure they stay an ally. >> that's correct, mr mr. tillerson. but my question is about the 6200 people killed in these alleged drug raids. do you believe that that is an
appropriate way to conduct that operation or do you believe that it is something that's conducive to human rights violations we should be concerned about and condemning? >> senator, if confirmed, again, it's an area i would want to understand in greater detail in terms of the facts on the ground. i'm not disputing anything you're saying because i know you have access to information that i do not have. >> this is from "the los angeles times." >> well, again, i'm not going to rely on solely what i read in the newspapers. i will go to the facts on the ground. i'm sure there's good, credible information available through our various government agencies. >> one of the sources for that number in the campaign and its nature is president duterte himself who openly brags about the people being shot and killed on the streets who he has determined are drug dealers without any trial. so, if, in fact, he continues to brag about it, would that be reliable information you would look at and say, okay, it's happening? i mean, what's happening in the philippines is not an intelligence issue. it's openly rerted, multiple
press accounts, the president-elect has spoken about it, and, quite frankly, the president of the philippines has admitted to it and, in fact, brags about it. my question is, in your opinion, is that an appropriate way for him to act and should it influence our relationship with the philippines? >> if the facts are, in fact, supportive of those numbers and those actions, then i don't think any of us would accept that as a proper way to deal with offenders, no matter how agr egregious the offenders may be. >> i'm sure your aware of lack of rights of women in saudi arabia. in your view, is saudi arabia a human rights violator? >> saudi arabia does not share the same values as america. i think the question is, what is the pace of progress that should be expected for the kingdom of
saudi arabia to advance -- advance rights to women and others in the country. >> as it currently stands, do you consider what they do to be human rights violations? >> i would need more information to make a true determination of that. >> you're not familiar with the state of affairs for people in saudi arabia, what life is like for women? they can't drive. they have people jailed and lashed. you are familiar with all of that. >> yes, senator, i'm familiar with all of that. >> so what more information would you need? >> in terms of when you designate someone or label meone, que is, is that the most effective way to have progress continue to be made in saudi arabia or any other country. so, my interest is the same as yours. our interests are not different, senator. there seems to be some misunderstanding that somehow i see the world through a different lens, and i do not. i share all the same values that you share and want the same things for people the world over in terms of freedoms, but i'm
also clear-eyed and realistic about dealing in cultures -- these are centuries' long cultural differences. we can't effect them to change. in the many years i've been traveling to the kingdom, while the pace is slow, slower than any of us wish, there is a change under way in the kingdom of saudi arabia. how and if they ever arrive to the same value system we have, i can't predict that. but what i do believe is, it is moving in the direction that we want it to move. what i wouldn't want to do is to take some kind of a precipitous action that suddenly causes the leadership in the kingdom of saudi arabia to have to interrupt that. i'd like for them to continue to make that progress. >> thank you. >> senator menendez. >> thank you, mr. chairman. mr. tillerson, i know that you're new to this and i know the chairman was trying to help you out on the question of lobbingy on sanctions. you stated on the record that to your knowledge neither you nor
exxon ever lobbied against sanctions. that you were merely seeking information. i have four different lobbying reports totaling millions of dollars as required bit lobbying disclosure act that lists exxonmobil's lobbying activities on four specific pieces of legislation authorizing sanctions, including the comprehensive iran sanctions accountability and divestment act of 2010, russian aggression act, ukraine freedom act of 2014 and stanford ukraine act. i know you're new to this, but it's pretty clear. my understanding is when you employ lobbyists who submit lobbying forms under the law, you are taking a position. is that not correct? >> if the form clearly indicates whether we were -- i don't know -- i haven't seen the form you're holding in your hand. does it indicate we were lobbying for the sanctions or against the sanctions?
>> i know you weren't lobbying for the sanctions. but -- >> well, if the form -- it says specifically here, specific lobbying issues. russian aggression provisions, energy. you weren't lobbying for sanctions on energy, were you? >> i think that's a description of the subject that was discussed. and i haven't seen the form, senator, so i don't -- >> well, you don't -- let me just edify for the future. you don't need a lobbying disclosure form to simply seek information and clarification about a bill. that's not lobbying. lobbying specifically is to promote a view, a position, whatnot. so, that's -- i ask to have these included in the objection. >> no objection. >> so, there was lobbying here. i know senator booker asked you about usa engagement. you said you don't know about. but exxonmobil is listed onusa engage, whose whole purpose --
i'm sure while exxon is a huge corporation, like the state department is a big entity, you may not know every minutia what's going on but you have to generally understand you're giving direction whether to lobby on certain positions or not, you want to take certain positions or not. like you told me earlier in your world conversation with the president-elect you didn't discuss russia, it's a little difficult to think you actually don't know that exxon was lobbying on these issues of sanctions. >> my understanding is those reports are required whether you're lobbying for something or lobbying against something. you're still required to report you have lobbying activity -- >> you believe you were paying money to lobby for sanctions? >> i don't know. >> can you imagine being in a position where you would have your company and shareholders to lobby for positions that would affect your bottom line? >> i don't know, senator. it would depend on the circumstance. >> let me turn to mexico, a little different part of the
world than we have been discussing. some of us care about the western hem sphere. the president-elect stated any wall spent on the wall will be paid by mexico. vk mexico pay for it s be a hall mark chant at trump rallies. now he says the american people will pay for it and have mexico reimburse us. the last time a country tried to wall itself completely from a neighbor was in berlin in 1961. and that wall was constructed by communist east germany. former mexican president last week tweeted that somehow we are conducting foreign policy by tweets these days, that trump may ask whoever he wants but still neither myself nor mexico are going to pay for his racist monument. another promise he can't keep. close quotes. as you're well aware, the president-elect has repeatedly referred to mexican citizens who
have come to the united states as saying they're sending, quote, people that have lots of problems and they're bringing those problems with us. they're bringing drugs, they're bringing crimes, they're rapists and some, some i assume are good people. mr. tillerson, do you think mexicans are criminals, drug dealers and rapists? >> i would never characterize an entire population of people with any single term at all. >> do you think that those comments help our relationship with mexico, our third largest trading partner, a trading partner that represents $583 billion in trades of goods and services, including our second largest goods export market? >> mexico is a long-standing neighbor and friend of this country. >> and so that doesn't help your job as secretary of state, does it, if you are to achieve nomination? >> well, we're going to engage with mexico because of their importance to us in this h
hemisphere and we have many common issues of concern senator rubio took care of some things i cared about. when you and i met, you indicated on cuba you needed more time -- which is fair -- to come to your conclusion about your opinion on u.s./cuba policy and the obama administration changes. i want to share with you the latest report by -- it's not me, okay, by amnesty international. that noted, quote, despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continue. thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported. thousands, that's their quote. the cuban commission for human rights and national reconciliation, which works within cuba documented more than 8,600 politically motivated detentions of goth opponents and activists during the year. there's a group of women who march every sunday to church with glad oel yeahs, called the
women in white, they get beaten savagely because of their peaceful protest. i hope you would agree with me that if our engagement is still going to allow that to take place, then something's wrong with our engagement. something fell short. and i have a specific question on cuba. do you think that as a condition of establishing diplomatic relations with cuba, we at a minimum should have insisted on the return of fugitives, cop killers, like new jersey cop killer joe chezimart and other fugitives being harbored by the castro regime? >> i do, senator. >> thank you. now, would you finally commit yourself if you are confirmed as secretary of state to work with us and others, mexico that have cop killers and other fugitives in cuba, to make that conditioning of any future transactions as it relates to cuba? >> senator, if confirmed, i look
forward to working with you most specifically, as well as senator rubio and others, who have have a great depth of knowledge on cuba to ensure that we are not relaxing the pressure on cuba to reform its oppressive regime. certainly as i indicated in response to a question earlier and in my opening remarks, the cuban leadership got a lot out of the most recent deal. we need to make no mistake about where the flows of funds are going inside cuba and the cuban people got almost nothing. as i indicated, the president-elect has been very clear on his intent to direct a bottoms-up review of the entire relationship with cuba. >> thank you. >> i appreciate the great senator from new jersey acknowledging that when our nominee has left an impression, that i don't think he is wishing to leave. i give him an opportunity to change that. thank you. with that, senator -- >> mr. chairman, thank you. >> he has a ten-minute segment
because he missed the first round. thank you for being here. >> thank you, mr. chairman. i won't take that full ten minutes. mr. tillerson, thank you for your willingness to do this. you're going to be hitting the ground at a very difficult time as far as u.s. relationships around the world. they've spiralled out of control from time to time. and we are not in a good place in many parts of the world, primarily because of u.s. policy. and it's going to be rethought. it's going to be redeveloped. and i thank you for willing to take -- for willingness to take that on. i was struck when you were named, that this is something that's been a bit off of the radar screen of most americans, and that is, the importance of the work that the state department does in dealing with our companies and with commerce in foreign countries. most americans don't realize how difficult it i