Politics

Marco Rubio Calls out Trump's Secretary of State Frontrunner

December 12th 2016

By:
Lucy Tiven

President-elect Donald Trump's prospective nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson is coming under fire for his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took a shot at the Exxon Mobil CEO Sunday in a pointed tweet:

Rubio, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, seemed to be referring to an Order of Friendship award Putin gave Tillerson roughly three to four years ago— the highest honor granted to a foreign civilian by the Russian government.

Tillerson received the award after Exxon Mobil was granted a contract to drill in a Russian-controlled sector of the Arctic.

tillerson

The deal was halted in 2014 by United States sanctions on Russia put into place after the annexation of Crimea, the WSJ reports. Exxon lost $1 billion by October 2016 due to the sanctions, Politico reports.

The business executive emerged as the frontrunner for the position soon after the Washington Post reported the Central Intelligence Agency concluded Russia intervened in the election to help Trump win the presidency.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Jack Reed (D-R.I.) released a joint-statement Sunday addressing reports on the CIA analysis.

“This cannot become a partisan issue," the statement reads. "The stakes are too high for our country. We are committed to working in this bipartisan manner, and we will seek to unify our colleagues around the goal of investigating and stopping the grave threats that cyberattacks conducted by foreign governments pose to our national security.”

McCain called Tillerson's relationship with Putin "a matter of concern" in a Saturday Fox News interview, with many media outlets scrutinizing Tillerson's ties to the Kremlin on Saturday and Sunday.

Trump, for his part, spoke highly of Tillerson in a Sunday tweet and Fox News appearance, but he didn't confirm if he would nominate him for the cabinet post.

"And to me, a great advantage is he knows many of the players, and he knows them well," Trump said during the "Fox News Sunday" interview. "He does massive deals in Russia. He does massive deals for the company — not for himself — for the company."

ATTN: reached out to Trump transition team National Press Secretary Hope Hicks for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

Confirmation hearings could prove challenging for Tillerson.

Rubio's tweet is sounding alarms about Tillerson's prospective confirmation battle. From the Washington Post:

"Rubio’s skeptical tweet is especially significant because he is one of 10 GOP members on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which must clear Tillerson before he can get an up-or-down vote on the floor. Republicans only have one more member on that committee than the Democrats, so Rubio could singlehandedly torpedo Tillerson if he chose to."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov and Alexei Pushkov — a politician in the upper house of the Russian parliament — praised Tillerson in a call with reporters and on Twitter, Reuters reported Monday.

Should Tillerson make it to a Senate vote, his nomination could be blocked by three dissenting Republicans.