Sen. Marco Rubio chastised secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson during his confirmation hearing Wednesday for his refusal to call Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal for his army's conduct in the Syrian civil war, The Hill reported.
"Those are very, very serious charges to make, and I would want to have much more information before reaching that conclusion," Tillerson retorted. "I am sure there is a body of record in the classified realm. I would want to be fully informed before advising the president."
Rubio shot back.
"What's happening in Aleppo is in the public domain, the pictures are there . . . it should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin's military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo," Rubio said. "It is never acceptable, and you would agree, for a military to specifically target civilians, which is what's happening there with the Russian military. I find it discouraging your inability to cite that, which I think is globally accepted."
Tillerson's nomination has raised questions about the decades the former Exxon Mobil chief executive spent working together with the Kremlin and his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Rubio expressed those concerns to CNN when Trump announced the nomination last month.
"The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America's interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America's foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration, and on the world stage," he said.
The exchange on Syria came after Rubio had pressed Tillerson to acknowledge the intelligence community's conclusion Russia orchestrated the hacks on the Democratic National Committee and other Democratic groups, The Hill reported.
Rubio and Tillerson also argued over bipartisan legislation introduced this week, which proposes new mandatory sanctions on Russia over the interference in the U.S. election and other aggressive behavior worldwide.
"Giving the executive the tool [of sanctions] is one thing, requiring the executive to use it without any considerations, I would have concerns about that," Tillerson said, explaining the president should have the ability to decide on a "country-by-country basis."
"What's troubling about your answer is the implication that if there's some country we are trying to improve relations with or have significant economic ties to, you may advise the president not to impose sanctions on that country," Rubio said.
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