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Rex Tillerson confirmation hearing for secretary of state — live blog

January 11th, 2017
Rex Tillerson confirmation hearing for secretary of state — live blog

Last Updated Jan 11, 2017 9:58 AM EST

Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, is testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at his confirmation hearing. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, is the chairman of the panel and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, is the committee’s top Democrat. 

9:54 a.m. Tillerson has begun his opening statement. He said he comes before the committee at a “pivotal time” and the U.S. faces “considerable threats,” which suggested includes Russia. He argued that American leadership must be reinvigorated.

“China has emerged as an economic power in global trade, and our interactions have been both friendly and adversarial. While Russia seeks respect and relevance on the global stage, its recent activities have disregarded American interests. Radical Islam is not a new ideology, but it is hateful, deadly, and an illegitimate expression of the Islamic faith. Adversaries like Iran and North Korea pose grave threats to the world because of their refusal to conform to international norms,” Tillerson said. 

“As we confront these realities, how should America respond? My answer is simple. To achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted.”

9:41 a.m. Cardin, the panel’s top Democrat, has begun his opening statement. He said that there’s no question that Tillerson has an “impressive record” but there’s a difference between leading a company and government decision-making. 

“Yet, I would offer, having a view from the C-Suite at Exxon is not at all the same as the view from the seventh floor of the Department of State. And those who suggest that anyone who can run a successful business can, of course, run a government Agency do a profound disservice to both,” Cardin said.

He said he wants to focus on “human rights, democracy, good governance, anti-corruption and civil society support” and expressed concern with how Tillerson would deal with those issues.

“Mr. Tillerson, leaves some troubling questions about how you view these issues and how you as Secretary of State intend to approach them.

Cardin mentioned that he introduced legislation on Tuesday that would “impose enhanced sanctions on Russia,” which has already received bipartisan support from key lawmakers. He added that he was “disappointed” with Tillerson’s prepared remarks that failed to mention Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

“We need to stand up to this bully in Moscow and increase the cost for his behavior,” Cardin said. “So I was disappointed that in your prepared opening remarks submitted to the Committee yesterday there was no mention about the direct, confirmed cyberattack by Russia on America.”

Cardin also slammed Mr. Trump for his comments about Israel on Twitter. 

“I also need to stress that our important partner in this part of the world – Israel – needs more than tweets about how “great” our relationship is going to be,” he said. “I hope we will hear today a concrete vision with specific proposals for the way forward in strengthening this strategic partnership.”

9:26 a.m. Outside of the hearing before it began, Corker commented to reporters on the reports about Trump and the intelligence community presenting unsubstantiated compromising information that Russia has on the president-elect.

“It’s as we all talked about before, we live in a world where it’s hard to discern what is real and what isn’t,” Corker said about the reports. “That’s why we have committees to delve into those kind of things…I have no way of knowing the veracity of the charges in the document but we do live in a world where let’s face it a lot of that kind of thing is happening.”

9:27 a.m. Corker begins his opening statement, which he appears to be doing off the cuff. He’s listing all of the foreign policy failures under the Obama administration, speaking about the emergence of the Arab Spring in 2011, President Obama’s “red line” that he never followed through on, Russia’s taking of Crimea and the destabilization of eastern Ukraine and China redrawing the map in South China Sea. 


Rex Tillerson (R), the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, takes his seat next to former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) to testify before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

He said that the U.S. has been withdrawing in its leadership role in the world, which he called a “recipe for further chaos.”

The hearing was interrupted briefly by chants from protestors inside the room.

Corker said Tillerson had never met Mr. Trump until he was considered for secretary of state. 

9:11 a.m. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former Sen. Sam Nunn, R-Texas and former Defense Secretary Bob Gates are introducing Tillerson before opening statements from the chairman, top Democrat and Tillerson himself. Tillerson, a longtime CEO of ExxonMobil, hails from Texas.

Cornyn called Tillerson “uniquely qualified” to lead the State Department.

“Without a doubt, Rex Tillerson is an inspired choice by President-elect Trump for this critical position. The depth and breadth of his experience as an accomplished and successful business leader and skilled negotiator give him a solid understanding of our current geopolitical and economic challenges, making him uniquely qualified to serve in this important office,” he said. 

Cruz said the U.S. needs a secretary of state who “understands that America is exceptional.” Cruz said the Obama administration has used the United Nations to circumvent Congress. The former presidential candidate said he looks forward to having a president and secretary of state who will “vigorously defend U.S. sovereignty.” 


Rex Tillerson (C), the former chairman and chief executive officer of Exxon Mobil, is flanked by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates (L-R), former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) as he testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing on his nomination to be U.S. secretary of state in Washington, U.S. January 11, 2017.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Nunn’s said that Russia’s values differ from America’s values and “these fundamental differences are very important.” He added that Russia deploys hundreds of nuclear warheads that could be used for ballistic missiles. Nunn called his business experience “very relevant to the world today” and “an asset.” 

Gates said Tillerson’s leadership of a major corporation will allow him to “lead the department with skill and respect for the professionals.” Gates said that the new administration was “must thread the needle” between pushing back against Putin’s bullying and Russia’s meddling in other countries and preventing a further downward spiral in the U.S.-Russia relationship.

9:05 a.m. The hearing has begun. Corker said four people will first introduce Tillerson and then he and Cardin will deliver their opening statements and then Tillerson will deliver his. Corker said the panel will take a break at 1 p.m. for 45 minutes.

9:00 a.m. Senators are expected to grill Tillerson on his relationship with the Russian government and its president, Vladimir Putin. There could also be questions regarding his position on the Iranian nuclear deal, sanctions against Russia, Israel and more. 

CBS News’ Alan He contributed to this report.