Rubio gets tough with Tillerson on Russia, calls response 'discouraging'
WASHINGTON - Sen. Marco Rubio aggressively questioned Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson over Russia policy and said it was "discouraging" that Tillerson would not label Vladimir Putin a war criminal.
Rubio was also clearly unhappy with Tillerson's measured response about sanctions, with Tillerson suggesting efforts to build relationships might be prefered.
The tough probe follows Rubio's previous expression of concern about Tillerson, who grew close to Putin while working for Exonn Mobil. Rubio has potential to scuttle Tillerson's nomination but it remains to be seen if he will go that far to cross President-elect Donald Trump.
Wearing a stern face, Rubio pointedly asked Tillerson, "Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?"
Tillerson replied, "I would not use that term."
Rubio then brought up Russian activity in Aleppo and that enemies of Putin, including journalists, have ended up dead. Again, Tillerson was more reserved and said he would have to know more.
"None of this is classified," Rubio shot back.
Earlier, Tillerson did express a harder line on Russia, though blamed an "absence" of U.S. leadership for recent Russian actions. Tillerson called reports of Russian meddling in the election "troubling" and, pressed by Rubio, said it was a "fair assumption" that Putin was involved.