Posted: 4:36 pm Saturday, December 10th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
Amid a dustup between the Trump Transition and the U.S. Intelligence Community over Russia, some Republican Senators signaled their concern Saturday over the expected choice of the Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, worried by his ties to the Russian government, as Democrats demanded public hearings in Congress about Russia’s involvement in possible election interference.
“I don’t know what Mr. Tillerson’s relationship with Vladimir Putin was, but I’ll tell you it is a matter of concern to me,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in an interview with Fox News.
“Vladimir Putin is a thug and a bully and a murderer,” McCain said to NBC News before the Army-Navy football game. “The relationship between Mr. Tillerson and Vladimir Putin needs to be examined.”
Trouble for Rex? McCain tells @kasie: "I believe that the relationship between Mr. Tillerson and Vladimir Putin needs to be examined"
— Doug Adams (@DougNBC) December 10, 2016
McCain on Rex Tillerson as Secy of State: "I'd have to examine it"….but Tillerson's relationship with Russia is "of concern to me"
— Katie Hinman (@khinman) December 10, 2016
Tillerson and Exxon Mobil have had extensive dealings with the Russians, but some of their oil exploration deals have been slowed by economic sanctions placed on Russia over its actions in Ukraine and Crimea.
In an excerpt of an interview with Fox News Sunday, President-Elect Trump defended Tillerson, praising his “massive deals with Russia” as Exxon Mobil CEO.
Tillerson is no stranger to lawmakers on Capitol Hill as head of Exxon Mobil; but lawmakers are also no strangers to questions about U.S. policy with Russia, which has bubbled up in recent months over the elections.
I'm not challenging the outcome of the election, but very concerned about Russian interference/actions at home & throughout the world.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) December 10, 2016
As one might expect, Democrats demanded hearings and a fuller public explanation from the Intelligence Community about Russia’s actions.
“An investigation must begin as soon as possible on any evidence Russia actively worked to hijack our election,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
Inappropriate & dangerous for Trump to undermine @POTUS efforts to determine extent of Russian interference with US elections.
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) December 10, 2016
“I again call on the GOP Congress to hold hearings immediately,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA).
While Democrats pressed for answers, a number of Republicans downplayed the Russian election story, raising eyebrows about suggestions that the Russians helped President-Elect Trump.
All this "news" of Russian hacking: it has been going on for years. Serious, but hardly news
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) December 10, 2016
“Be skeptical of any claims from anonymous officials,” said Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI).
On Friday, the Trump Transition team blistered the CIA over reports that U.S. intelligence officials believe Russia was trying to help Mr. Trump win in November.
“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” the Trump Transition said in a written statement issued Friday.
A senior intelligence official told me on Saturday there would be no public reaction to Trump’s statement, as former officials mulled over the situation.
I'm less concerned by the fact that Tillerson, oil CEO, is pals with Putin than the fact that Trump wants his SECSTATE to be pals with Putin
— John Schindler (@20committee) December 10, 2016
For the President-Elect’s team, there was nothing here to see.
“It’s time to move on,” the Transition said.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.