Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., strongly backed Donald Trump's pick for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.
In an interview with Fox News, Gardner, a member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he was impressed with the former Exxon Mobil CEO during his confirmation hearing.
"Here is a guy who is not from Washington or the political world," Gardner said. "He spent nine hours before a committee without a single note, without a briefing book, without a pen and paper to write questions down.
"He made it very clear the last eight years of leadership by Barack Obama has weakened this country, emboldened leaders in Iran and made Russia have no fear of the United States . . ."
During confirmation hearings, Tillerson declined to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a "war criminal" — prompting a caustic exchange with committee member Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
"I think you had a very tense exchange . . . very terse comments back and forth between Marco Rubio and Mr. Tillerson," Gardner said.
"When Bob Corker, chairman of the foreign relations committee, came back and tried to clarify Mr. Tillerson's answer, [it] was simply this: That he believes once he has the information, once he can independently review this from experts in his State Department, he is not afraid to call it what it is.
"To me that is a war criminal, and I look forward to those findings and those determinations."
Gardner said he favored Tillerson's tougher approach on Cuban relations with the U.S.
"That is a welcome sign that we're going to be tough on those people," Gardner said. "We need to be tough on [them]. And we can't just let people get away with actions and expect the U.S. to treat them fairly."
Meanwhile, The Daily Beast reported all the Republican members of the committee and one Democrat received campaign contributions from Exxon Mobil's political action committee since Tillerson was CEO.
According to the website, the most money went to Gardner and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who each received a total of $23,000 for their campaigns.
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