Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, addressed the confirmations of two of Donald Trump's Cabinet picks, Sen. Jeff Sessions and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson during a Tuesday appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends."
About Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, whom Trump selected for attorney general, Coons said, "I have some concerns about his record."
However, the Delaware Democrat said he had worked with Sessions successfully on two different bills. "I have been able to work with him on issues that matter to both of us. My main concerns as I've dug into his record in researching for today's long hearing, is some of his previous statements, actions and positions on issues that were broadly bipartisan."
Sessions "staunchly and fervently" opposed a bill that looked at over-incarceration, Coons said in the interview. "So I will have some questions for him today in the hearing about his views on prison treatment, prison conditions, incarceration, and how we should move forward in criminal justice matters in the United States."
"Fox & Friends" cohost Brian Kilmeade asked Coons if he had concerns "when it comes to race" regarding Sessions.
Coons said he did not believe Sessions was racist, but he was concerned about Sessions' record regarding race-related issues. "I have concerns about the impact of legislation that he opposed or that he sponsored. I have some concerns about his record. I do think that we're going to examine in great detail today and tomorrow. We have three different panels of witnesses (to look at) things that happened a long time ago and things that happened more recently."
Coons said, "I am, frankly, going to focus on issues that may not be brought up by some other folks. I mentioned prison conditions and prison reform issues; I've also got some concerns about things he did around free speech, around torture, and some of his positions on the role of the attorney general, both when he was state attorney general in Alabama and the role he would take if confirmed to attorney general.
"What I'm concerned about is the impact of the policies and positions, the legislation he has either blocked or advanced. And that is what I'm going to focus on in my questions for him in the hearing."
As for ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, Coons said he has already had a private meeting with Tillerson in which they discussed issues in Russia. "I was encouraged by his responses on sanctions, on the importance of NATO, on the importance of defending our Baltic allies, and the importance of holding Russia accountable for its actions."
He said Tillerson's opinions seem to run counter to Trump's.
"The challenge now is there is some real gap between what I heard from him and what we heard from President-elect Trump on the campaign trail."
The senator said he was concerned about Trump's policies toward Russia.
"Given ongoing issues about Russia's aggression against democracy in western Europe and the United States, I would like to see us come out of this hearing with a unified position on how we're going to face Russia.
"I'm hopeful that Mr. Tillerson shows the kind of clear-eyed view of Vladimir Putin in his hearing that I heard from him when we met last week," Coons said.
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