CORKER: The Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.
We appreciate everybody being here as the Senate carries out one of its most important responsibility, which is to advice — to give advice and consent to nominees that are put forth by a president. We thank all of you for being here. Obviously, there’s a lot of interest in this hearing. We would ask those who, like us, have the privilege of being in this room, we would ask you to respect democracy, respect the right for us to have a hearing, to control yourselves in an appropriate manner, and I’m sure that is gonna be the case. This is the best of America here.
Serving with outstanding members on this committee. As a matter of fact, because of so much happening in the world today and because of the role that this committee has played over the last several years, demand on this committee has grown and — and with that, I want to welcome new members who I know will play a big role in the future of our country.
Mr. Todd Young, newly elected to the Senate, we welcome you here. This is our first public appearance. We thank you for your interest in our country’s future and for being here. Mr. Rob Portman, who also joined the committee. I think he serves on more committees here than anybody in the Senate, but we thank you for your responsible thinking and leadership. I want to thank Jeff Merkley, who I know cares very, very deeply about these issues, for joining this committee, for your principled efforts in so many regards, and I know they will continue here.
And Cory Booker, new star of the Senate, who I know will play a very vigorous role here and we thank you so much for being here today.
Just to give you a little bit of a sense of what’s gonna happen today, we have four very distinguished people, two of whom are colleagues, who will introduce the nominee and then we will move to opening statements. I will give an opening statement, our distinguished ranking member will give an opening statement and then our nominee, Mr. Rex Tillerson, will give his.
Each person here will have 10 minutes to ask questions, a little bit more than the norm. We’ve coordinated the schedule with the ranking member, but also with Senator Schumer and others, just to ensure that the American people and certainly all of us have the opportunity to ask the kind of questions that people would like to ask.
I would say to members, I know some of us have an art form of being able to ask about 90 questions in time ending about five seconds before the respondent responds. The 10 minutes includes the response and I’m gonna be — in order to be — in order to be respectful of everybody’s time, which is a little bit unusual here, we’re gonna be — we’re gonna hold to that in a very rigid way.
Our plan is that we will go until about one o’clock today if everybody uses their time. We will take a break out of showing mercy to our nominee for about 45 minutes and to many of us up here. And then we’ll come back and resume until such a time as we have the vote-a-rama that — which I think begins around six o’clock this evening.
Again, in order to make sure that all questions are answered, the ranking member and I have agreed that should there be another day necessary, we’ll begin a morning — in the morning at 10 o’clock. Hopefully, with all that will happen today, that will be unnecessary, but our nominee is very aware that that may well occur.
I think all of you know that our business meeting, again, in order to show respect for all of who are here, is moved until tonight when we have the vote-a-rama, at which time will take up the accession — Montenegro accession to NATO and will take up the — the resolution relative to Israel. We’ll do that off the floor this evening.
So, with that…
CARDIN: Mr. Chairman, can I just thank you for the accommodations for this hearing? I — I know you started it at nine o’clock as an accommodation so that we could all have a little bit more time in the morning for asking questions. And I thank you very much for that accommodating a 10-minute round.
The two of — the chairman and I have worked closely together to make sure that this hearing was the type of hearing that we’d be proud of in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And I want to personally thank you for that and welcome our four new members to our committee.
And with that, I’ll withhold until (inaudible).
CORKER: Thank you.
This — this committee has been a — certainly a beacon of bipartisanship, as was mentioned, sometimes an island of bipartisanship. But I think all of us understand the importance of us being united, especially when we leave the shore’s edge. And I know that we will continue to conduct the hearing today in that manner.
With that, we have four very distinguished individuals who would like to introduce the nominee. We thank each of them for being here. I know that they plan to spend about two and a half minutes each. To do so, we welcome you here.
We have the distinguished Senator Cornyn from Texas, the distinguished Senator Cruz from Texas, the distinguished Sam Nunn from Georgia, who we miss but thank him for his service, and the distinguished Secretary Gates who has served eight presidents. I’m actually surprised he’s not serving a ninth. But we thank you for being here.
Each of you, if you would please give your comments and then we will move to — to opening statements. Thank you for being here.
CORNYN: Chairman Corker and Ranking Member Cardin, members of the — of the committee, I’m proud to be here today with my colleague Senator Cruz to introduce a fellow Texan, Rex Tillerson, as the nominee to be the next secretary of State.
Without a doubt, Rex Tillerson is an inspired choice by President-elect Trump for this critical position. The depth and breadth of his experience as an accomplished and successful business leader and skilled negotiator give him a solid understanding of our current geopolitical and economic challenges, making him uniquely qualified to serve in this important office.
After graduating from the University of Texas with a degree in engineering, Mr. Tillerson joined the Exxon Corporation, eventually moving up the ranks and into overseas assignments in Asia, the Middle East and Europe. In 2006, he assumed command of Exxon Mobile, a tenure during which he displayed exceptional acumen, helping Exxon weather complex geopolitical obstacles to make the company into one of the world’s most profitable corporations.
CORNYN: As a lifelong Texan, Rex has been recognized for something you don’t ordinarily associate with being a powerful business leader and head of one of the largest corporations in the world. He’s been recognized for his humility and his altruism. One of my constituents recently wrote a piece in the Dallas Morning News talking about serving on a jury with Mr. Tillerson recently.
She noted that on that jury, his natural leadership ability and charisma, helped them deliver justice in a delicate and difficult case of sexual assault. Following the trial, Mr. Tillerson then donated to the local non-profit that helps support and counsel the victim after the trial.
Mr. Tillerson understands how to separate friendships and business. He knows who he works for. My first encounter with Rex is when I was attorney general. I don’t know if he remembers this, but we were on opposite sides of a lawsuit.
I was representing in my capacity as attorney general to the state of Texas and we had the temerity to sue ExxonMobil. And lets say, our first encounter was a little awkward, to say the least. But over the years, I’ve grown to admire and respect Rex and he didn’t let our differences get in the way of what we could agree on.
Since then, I’ve seen him demonstrate an uncanny ability that will serve him and our country well as its chief diplomat. And that is an ability to deftly handle business matters while maintaining and building relationships, a further testament to his integrity and strength of character.
Once he’s confirmed, I’m confident that he will be instrumental in shaping American foreign policy as we face a broad array of diplomatic challenges that will define the security and success of our nation for generations.
So thank you Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, members of the committee, for letting me introduce Rex Tillerson.
CORKER: (OFF-MIKE) for being maybe the first prompt senator I’ve witnessed here. Thank you so much.
CORNYN: Trying to set the standard, sir.
CORKER: Thank you, sir.
CRUZ: Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member, members of the committee, good morning. It is a privilege to join you this morning and have the opportunity to help introduce my fellow Texan and the secretary of State Designee, Rex Tillerson.
As many of you know, Rex is a Texan, born and raised in Wichita Falls and he’s a proud Texas Longhorn, which John and I might think is plenty enough alone to qualify him for secretary of State. But I recognize you all might set a higher bar than that.
The good news is, that is only the beginning of a long substantive list of qualifications, achievements and international relationships that Rex brings to the table. A list that I believe has prepared him to be a strong candidate to lead our State Department, as we face the monumental task of restoring America’s influence across the world.
As all of us know, this is no easy task. We live in a dangerous year and a dangerous world. And after the last eight years, we face a circumstance where many of our friends no longer trust us and many of our enemies no longer fear us.
Rex Tillerson is a serious man, who understands the value of perseverance and knows what it takes to accomplish difficult tasks. From an early age, he worked to climb the ranks in Boy Scouts to become an Eagle Scout and started as a production engineer at Exxon in 1975, eventually, climbing his way to the top as CEO of the Fortune 10 Company.
At Exxon, he led one of the world’s most respected companies with over 75,000 employees and over $250 billion in revenue. Exxon, a proud Texas Company, does business in 52 countries. And Rex has traveled the globe, negotiating business deals with world leaders, effectively advocating for the interests of his company, shareholders and employees.
The numerous achievements that Rex has earned, they don’t come without hard work, dedication and passion for one’s mission. This is the work ethic and spirit that America needs in its secretary of State.
That is the attitude that gives me confidence in the opportunity that Rex has to chart a different, better and stronger course for our national security and diplomacy. We need a secretary of State who understands that America is exceptional, who will establish policies upon that foundation of exceptionalism and who will put America’s interests first.
Repeatedly, the current administration has used the United Nations to try to circumvent the will of Congress and the American people. I look forward to a president and secretary of State, who will instead vigorously defend U.S. sovereignty.
I believe that Rex has an incredible opportunity to defend the foreign policy principles upon which President-elect Trump campaigned, to strengthen our friendship and alliances and to defeat our enemies. And I look forward to all of us working with him in the years ahead as we restore American leadership across the globe. Thank you.
CORKER: Thank you, also for those concise comments, much appreciated, thank you both for being here. And should you need to leave to go to other hearings, please feel free to do so.
CORKER: You need to turn your mic on, sir. You’ve gotta practice, leaving here for a few years.
NUNN: Well, I thank you Gentleman Corker and Senator Cardin and my friend for a long time, Johnny Isakson — Senator Isakson, members of the committee. I wish I had thought of this clock a long time ago, it would’ve saved an awful lot of agony for our committee.
So I’m gonna try to cut my statement as short as possible. And I ask the whole statement be put into the record.
CORKER: Without objection, thank you.
NUNN: Mr. Chairman, Rex Tillerson’s resume is well-known, so let me just tackle two points that I know have been raised with the committee, as well as with the Senate.
First, Rex Tillerson’s knowledge of and experience in Russia. And second, how his work in the private sector prepares him to be our top diplomat and run one of the most important departments in our government.
With respect to Russia, certain facts are clear. Russia’s recent, flagrant actions indicate that its national interest sharply differ from America’s national interest in important places, most acutely in Ukraine, in Europe and in Syria.
Russia’s values differ from America’s values, in particularly in our form of government, our commitment to personal freedom, human rights and the rule of law. These fundamental differences are very important and the fact that our interests and values differ, should always inform our policy toward Russia.
But Mr. Chairman, the important facts don’t end here. It is also a fact, that Russia today deploys hundreds of nuclear warheads on ballistic missiles that could be fired and hit their targets, around the globe in less time that it will take to have opening statements at the hearing today.
It is also a fact that for both the United States and Russia, the risk of an accidental, unauthorized or mistaken launch of a nuclear ballistic missile is unnecessarily high, particularly in our world of increasing cyber vulnerability. It is also a fact that the United States and Russia, like it or not, are bound together in areas of unavoidable common interests, including the prevention of nuclear and biological terrorism, the prevention of nuclear proliferation, false warnings of nuclear attacks and the hacking of command and control systems or nuclear facilities.
These facts lead me to an inescapable conclusion. It is dangerous for the United States and Russia and for the world to have virtually no dialogue on reducing nuclear risks and very little military to military communication. If this continues and we are guided by zero sum logic on both sides, we and Russia may be rewarded at some point with catastrophe.
This is my judgment, even when we have stark disputes, including strong evidence from our intelligence community that Russia has interfered in U.S. elections, a finding that Congress must fully examine, including its ominous implications for our political process and our security.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, there have been other moments in history where voices in both Washington and Moscow argued that our areas of disagreement were so great, that we should not work on issues even of common interests between our two countries.
For those who are considering this point, I would suggest re-reading President Kennedy’s commencement address that American University delivered just months after the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy spoke of the pursuit of peace, as necessary and rational, quoting him at an age where singular nuclear weapon contains almost 10 times the explosive power delivered by all the allied forces in Second World War.
President Kennedy rejected voices saying it is useless to speak of peace until the leaders of the Soviet Union adopt a more enlightened attitude. Kennedy warned, “Let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which these differences can be resolved.”
NUNN: Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, these words remain true today. I know Rex Tillerson pretty well. And I am confident that he is well prepared, to do what is essential for the security of our nation, to hold firm and tough where our national interests and values demand it and to build on our common interests in working with other nations, including Russia on practical concrete steps that will make the American people safer and more secure.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Cardin, and other members of the Committee, I also consider Rex Tillerson’s experience and knowledge in business as an asset and as well as his knowledge of Russia.
I think both are assets, not liability. I also consider his business experience very relevant to the world today as an asset. As I look at the world today, every significant international challenge we face has a very important business component. It’s true in Ukraine, it’s true in the Middle East, it’s true in most places. Rex Tillerson knows these crucial regions, he knows the leaders, and he understands the challenges and the risk.
He is also keenly aware of the power of the private sector and the important role it can play in addressing these fundamental issues. Mr. Chairman, in wrapping up, I’m confident that if confirmed to be secretary of State, Rex Tillerson will take off his corporate hat, but he’ll use his vast experience to devote 100 percent of his considerable intellect, energy and experience to protecting America’s interest in the troubled world we’re in.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I urge his confirmation.
CORKER: Thank you so much for being here and participating and your many, many contributions relative to nuclear safety around the world.
GATES: Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, distinguished members of the foreign relations committee. It gives me great pleasure to introduce my friend and fellow Eagle Scout, Rex Tillerson as the president-elect’s nominee to be the next secretary of State.
I’ve known Mr. Tillerson for a number of years through our shared experience in leading the Boy Scouts of America. On many of occasions, after a day of meetings, Rex and I would talk, often for hours about international affairs including Russia and Vladimir Putin.
I believe I have a pretty good idea about how he thinks about the world and the challenges we face. The secretary of State has four important roles; advising the president, negotiating with foreign governments and international organizations, representing the United States abroad, and leading the Department of State. Against a backdrop of having known or worked with 12 secretaries of State, I believe Mr. Tillerson is superbly qualified to carry out each of these roles.
He is deeply knowledgeable about the international scene and geopolitics and importantly would be an informed and independent adviser to the president. He would be candid and honest, willing to tell the president straight from the shoulder what he needs to hear. He would bring decades of experience as a tough and successful negotiator with foreign governments to the position. I’ve heard him speak often to scout groups about American values and I know he would be an eloquent and passionate representative of the United States to the world.
And finally, based on his long experience in leading a major corporation as well as the Boy Scouts, I know he will lead the Department of State with skill and respect for the professionals. Much has been said and written about Mr. Tillerson and Russia. I’ve spent my entire adult life dealing with the Soviet Union and Russia. I joined CIA over 50 years ago to do my bit in the epic struggle with the Soviet Union.
During that time, I acquired a reputation as something as a hardliner. Just ask a couple of previous secretaries of State. Yet, I knew that we not only had to resist and contain the USSR, we also had to contain the risk of conflict with it. And that meant engaging in dialogue, negotiations, and even reaching agreements limiting strategic nuclear weapons and establishing agreed procedures to prevent confrontations from escalating.
This new administration must thread the needle between pushing back against Vladimir Putin’s aggressions, meddling interventionism, ambitions and bullying and at the same time find a way to stop a dangerous downward spiral in our relationship with Russia. I believe Mr. Tillerson is the right person at the right time to help accomplish both of those goals. And so, it is with pride and confidence that I introduce him to you today and encourage his confirmation.
CORKER: We thank you all for being here. You honor us with your presence, we thank you for your contribution. You do not have to leave, but you cannot stay there so…
... we actually hope you will stay somewhere in the premise and participate if you would like.
CORKER: We have some new members to the committee today and I was thinking prior to this hearing that 10 years ago, I came on this committee as a new senator, in many ways to broaden my ability to — to serve our nation and to serve our state having been mostly a businessperson.
When I came here, the first order of business was to deal with the surge in Iraq. Pretty monumental time. We had an under-resourced effort that was taking place in Iraq and at a time when, really in many ways, the United States had unleashed forces in the region that had not been seen – not unlike taking, in some ways, a big stick and hitting a hornets nest and changing dramatically the dynamic in the region.
And so, we had the choice of whether we surge and try to be successful at what we began or take another course. Afghanistan also had been under-resourced and — and all of a sudden we began discussing things like nation-building, things that had not been part of our vocabulary for many years.
We had the Arab Spring that took place in 2011. Again, some of which was built off of some of the activities that I mentioned earlier. And we had all kinds of incoherent things that took place; the quick throwing aside of a leader in Egypt that we had known for years, an undertaking in Libya that I still have never understood what the goal was, but left a large vacuum in the region with arms spreading throughout northern Africa and other places.
We had the conflict in Syria that began, if you remember, with us cheering on the people who wanted basic human rights and more of a democracy. And then, we had the red line that our country did not follow — follow up on. After that, we had the taking of Crimea and the destabilizing of eastern Ukraine, some of which I think was driven by observing U.S. leadership in the world.
We had China redrawing a map that had been around for thousands of years in the South China Sea and claiming islands and properties and building runways and doing things that, again, until that time had not occurred. We’ve had the whole destabilization of Europe where I think confidence levels in Europe are probably the lowest they’ve been in our lifetimes. Driven by concerns about, in many cases, what our role is but also the role of Russia and what it’s been doing in the region, the role of immigrants that are flowing in, the whole challenging of the European — the European model.
And then, we’ve had a campaign, let’s face it, that has been somewhat unorthodox, one that has also given concern to our allies in the world and to many around the world as to just where America is going to be. With all of this chaos that has exhibited through multiple administrations and will continue under this for a period of time, we’ve had chaos where the United States has been withdrawing in its leadership role and to me that’s a recipe for further chaos.
So, this is a very important hearing. I’ve had the — I had the ability the other day to sit down with General Flynn who’s going to be the national security adviser and I spent time with people around him for some time and I know that, rightly so, his focus is also on our country doing well economically.
Every — every military leader we’ve had before us and certainly Secretary Gates have told us that if our nation is not strong economically, if we’re not doing the things fiscally to keep ourselves strong then our nation will be weak and our leadership around the world will be — be diminished.
CORKER: And so, I’m thankful that is the case. A lot of people here realize that it’s not also — it’s also — it’s not only important for us to be economically successful, but we understand that autocrats in other places, when they themselves are not successful, end up creating havoc around the world for nationalistic reasons to — to build support within their countries.
And therefore we don’t wish the other major countries in the world harm as it relates to economic growth. We want them to do well, countries like China and even Russia, who no doubt has conducted very nefarious activities here in our country.
Many of us has seen in the Middle East the fact that poverty, not unlike what happens in our own country, where people who lives in cities and neighborhoods have no hope, crime permeates, things occur. And we’ve seen the same thing happen in the Middle East where young people with no hope are attracted to ideologies that end up threaten — threatening our own nation.
So, I appreciate the fact that at the National Security Office, they’re not only connected to those who will be dealing with our issues of foreign policy and our role in the world, but also focus on those economic issues, which brings me to trade.
Our country has shown great leadership around the world. Rob Portman served as our trade representative in previous administrations. And there’s been a great deal of talk about what our role will be in that regard. I think most of us believe that a world that continues to focus on free enterprise, a world that continues to have democratic principals more and more permeated, is a world that’s a better place for us. And while our — while we should always focus on trade as it relates to improving the standard of living of Americans, an insularly benefit is that people within those countries begin to adopt the values that we hold so dear here in our country.
One of the things that many of us on the committee and so many in audience have been able to do is also to see the importance of American values around the world.
It’s an amazing thing to — to be in Afghanistan for instance and to see women at 4:30 in the morning — who by the way do all of the hard work in Afghanistan — up and ready to vote in the first election that they’ve voted in or to see young girls going to schools that they never had the opportunity to go to. To be in refugee camps where truly every eye is on the American that’s there with hope, to be in — to be in Venezuela and to see families who — whose loved ones are in prison for political reasons and looking to us to change that.
To be in villages in Africa where, for the first time because of American ingenuity, people — 600 million people without power now have hope with very little in the way of U.S. resources, but our leadership in setting a vision and working with others. The elimination almost of HIV, the dealing with Malaria, the dealing with other diseases like Ebola.
Many of us — all of us I think, have been in situations where young people just want to touch us; they just want to see us. They want to hug Americans because they like the people who founded our country, believe in the American ideal. It’s not just a country, but it’s their hope. It’s their vision of what their life might be with American leadership. And I believe the world’s at its best when American leads.
And I think most people at this bias believe the same thing. And we understand the importance of diplomacy and that all of us know with the one percent of the U.S. budget that we spend on efforts like Mr. Tillerson may lead. But that one percent — if we’re successful, the likelihood of the men and women that we cherish so much in our military are much less likely to be in harm’s way, which brings me to you.
(inaudible) Mr. Tillerson, who by the way, had never met Mr. Trump as I understand until a few weeks ago — a month ago. I believe, like Senator Cardin — Cornyn said that it’s very, very possible that you are in fact an inspired choice.
We look at the president to, if you think about it, approaches everything almost from an economic standpoint. That’s been the world that he has lived in. And the fact that you’ve led a global enterprise with 70,000 employees around the world, have been there for 41 and a half years, have met world leaders, know them up and — up close and personally. To me, that is going to give our new president much greater confidence in your ability to offer advice.
And I think it’s gonna give the State Department possibly the ability to have the appropriate balance with other forces as it relates within the White House and other places, as it relates to developing a vision for our country.
If you think about it, not only does the world not really understand where America is today — and all of us have had leaders in our offices wondering what is next — all of us. But if you think about the body politic here in our own country, doesn’t understand.
You look at the election, we had a — we had the Bush presidency and then we had the Obama presidency, which was not the Bush presidency. And then we’ve had this election where many things have been said and sometimes in unorthodox ways.
And so, not just the world leaders not know where we are, not do — not just citizens who watch us on television and other places, but our body politic here does not know. So, Mr. Tillerson, you’ve got a — this is a momentous time. This to me is the most important nomination that the president has made. The world paying attention to this hearing I think denotes that.
You have the ability no doubt to draw a crowd. But it’s gonna be your responsibility to define clearly what America’s role in the world is going to be. I know Secretary Gates has spoken to this many times as he talks about the way the world was when it was us and the Soviet Union. But now, it’s very different. And the American people even don’t fully understand what the future holds. You’ve got to restore our credibility secondly.
Look, the NATO alliance is shaken. Europe is shaken. Our Arab friends, because of negotiations that have taken place, are concerned about the future and I could go on and on, but I want to be respectful to other peoples’ time. But one of your first goals is gonna be is to restore U.S. credibility around the world. You’re gonna need to prioritize.
One of the things I’ve witnessed over the last several — for the entire 10 years I’ve been here actually — is there’s a lot of activity that takes place, but it’s hard to discern where it’s taking us. And so I think as a person who’s led an organization, who’s risen from the bottom, who’s been the CEO of a global enterprise may in fact be an inspired — inspired choice to prioritize, to restore credibility, which is what a company like your has had to do, to have those relationships based on trust, based on people knowing that we’re gonna do what we say.
And then lastly, you are the person that is charged with being the principal adviser to the president on foreign policy. And I think that’s the question that people on both sides of the aisle will raise most here today is — we know that — we know that the president-elect’s foreign policy is — is evolving as he takes office, as he talks to people. And there’s no way that you could speak on his behalf today. That cannot happen.
So what people here today are gonna want to know is, how are you going to advise him? You’re gonna be one of the last people to talk to him. You’re gonna be up under the hood, sharing with him what you think ought to happen. We know that at the end of the day, you’re gonna carry out his policy. And all of us have watched as other secretaries of State have tried to carry out their — their own policy and not the president’s. And we know that that does not work.
So, we thank you for being here. My sense is that you are going to rise to the occasion and that you are going to demonstrate that you are in fact an inspired choice, that you’re gonna be able to take the years of accomplishment in relationships and transfer that and translate it into a foreign policy that benefits U.S. national interest.
CORKER: Thank you again for being willing to put yourself before our country and world in this manner.
And with that, let me turn to our distinguished ranking member and my friend, Ben Cardin.
CARDIN: Well, again, Senator Corker thank you very much for the accommodations in this hearing. And I agree with your final comment. This hearing is about Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Tillerson’s views. But I think we’re gonna have some specific questions because of statements made by Mr. Trump. But we do wanna hear your views, particularly as it relates to many of the challenges that Chairman Corker went through in his opening statement.
To Senator Nunn, it’s a pleasure to have you in our committee and we thank you very much for your years of public service.
Secretary Gates, thank you for all of your service and you honor our committee, both of you, by being here today.
And I also want to, once again, welcome our new colleagues. Senator Booker, Senator Merkley, Senator Portman, Senator Young, I’ve worked with all four of you before in different capacities and I know your commitment to our national security and to foreign policy. And I know you all will be great additions to our committee.
I wanna acknowledge Senator King who is here, it’s not the first time that Senator King’s been in our committee room to observe a hearing. We gotta get you on the committee. But we thank you again, for you interest in — in this hearing.
And Mr. Tillerson, as I told you in our private meeting, thank you. Thank you for being willing to serve the public. It’s not easy, to put yourself forward, as you found since your nomination has been brought forward, your life has changed pretty dramatically. Not just for you, but your entire family. And we thank you for your willingness to serve our country.
Providing advice and consent on the nominees of the president is one of most important, constitutional powers of the Senate. It’s an awesome responsibility and one that I know that all of us on this committee, take with the utmost seriousness.
Mr. Tillerson, there is no question about your impressive record in the business world, rising through the ranks and then running Exxon, one of the largest multinational operations in the world. Yet, I would offer having a view from the C-Suite at Exxon, is not at all the same view from the 7th floor of the Department of State.
And those who suggest that anyone who can run a successful business, can of course, run a government agency do a profound disservice to both. Serving the narrow, market-driven interest of Exxon shareholders, is not the same as serving the national interest of all the American people.
Effective corporate governance in management does not always lend itself to government decision making, where bureaucracies and representative institutions, such as Congress, serve a different political and social purposes than maximizing profits.
I therefore want to get a sense of how you envision pivoting from the mindset of an oil man focused on profits, to that of a statesman, focused on promoting American interests and values around the world. As you know, Congress has a separate and co-equal branch of government has an important role to play in ensuring that the values that have animated our nations since its founding continue to flourish.
So first, I wanna share with you, as I did in our private meeting, my vision of the United States foreign policy and the role of the secretary of state in carrying out that policy. I approach this hearing and discussion today with a clear set of expectations of the next administration.
I believe strongly in a world where America works with its allies and partners, a world that is governed by laws and institutions consistent with the liberal, international order. On one where we champion our values, both at home and abroad.
Indeed, I think it’s worth spending a few minutes of this morning on the questions of human rights, Democracy, good governance, anti-corruption and civil society support. It is worth doing so, both because of the critical importance of these issues for America’s role in the world and our values are our interest, not a separate set of considerations, but also because of the nature of Exxon and your work there. Mr. Tillerson leaves some troubling questions about how you view these issues and how you as secretary of State intend to approach them.
As you may know, over the course of my tenure in the House and Senate, I’ve championed the cause of human rights and the importance of Democratic process and good governance. So when I see violations of the sovereignty by China and the South China Sea, I speak out. When I see gross human rights violations in Ethiopia, I speak out. When I see massive corruptions in countries with extreme poverty, like Ecuador and New Guinea, I speak out. And when I see severe erosion of Democratic institutions in Venezuela, I speak out.
Indeed, events over the past year serve as a stark reminder, that democracy will not defend itself. It requires those of us who believe in the enduring values of the Democratic experiment, to nature and support it and to defend it from authoritarian opponents who do not share our values.
Perhaps, the most egregious events we’ve seen recently, has been what has happened by President Putin of Russia, having effectively killed the nation’s nuanced democracy, has led efforts across Europe and the former Soviet Union to erode support for democratic institutions and calls into question well-established rules of the road.
Moscow directs efforts undermined democracy through propaganda, false news, cyber attacks and funding for populous political parties abroad. So perhaps, it should come as no surprise, that these nefarious activities have reached our shores, but it’s stunning, nonetheless.
Last week, the intelligence community found that Mr. Putin did indeed direct efforts to interfere in our elections. That’s their conclusion. They found that Kremlin attacked Hillary Clinton and directed resources to that end. I’m not saying the Russia’s efforts were decisive in our election outcome. That’s not the point. The point is that we, the United States, were victims of cyber attack of our Democratic process.
Recent news accounts, indicate Russia may well have information about Mr. Trump. And they could use that to compromise our presidency. It cannot be business as usual. That is why I was proud to introduce a bipartisan bill yesterday, with Senator McCain and several members of this committee, including Senator Menendez, Shaheen, Rubio and Portman, along with Senator Graham, Klobuchar, Sasse and Durbin, which will impose enhanced sanctions on Russia for its interference in our election and its ongoing aggression in Ukraine and Syria.
We need to stand up to this bully in Moscow and increase the cost for his behavior. So I was disappointed that in your prepared opening remarks submitted to the committee yesterday, there was no mention about the direct, confirmed cyber attack by Russia on America. But you did find time to say, it was the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent. So I wanna know exactly what additional actions the United States should have taken against Russia, in your view.
Do you, for example, support additional sanctions against Russia, demonstrating America’s leadership, like what my colleagues and I introduced yesterday? Mr. Tillerson, I’m sure you can understand why I and many of my colleagues, have concerns about your relationship with Mr. Putin.
And this is not simply a question of what you saw when you gazed into his eyes, you don’t strike me as someone likely to be naive. But also, about how Exxon conducted itself in supporting directly and indirectly, funding for the tools that Putin has used to crush democracy and descent at home and disown division abroad.
While I do not suggest it was your intent, it’s frankly not too great of a distance from Exxon’s business partnerships to Putin’s Kremlin-controlled slush funds essential for his disinformation campaign around the world. You will be representing a president who may blatantly ignore the consensus of 17 independent intelligent agencies, who have said that the Russia had interfered with our election in an unprecedented way.
The same president to whom you will report has also made it clear that he may ignore Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, his illegal annexation of Crimea. His interference in Syria, where Russian’s forces partnered with Iran, Hezbollah and Shia militia, to shift battlefield momentum towards a dictator guilty of war crimes.
Russia itself is culpable of war crimes, for its backing of Bashar Al-Assad, who has starved, barrel bomb and tortured the Syrian people into submission. And yet, President-elect Trump may take quick steps to make Putin a close ally of the United States of America.
So there’s a serious discussion to be had here today, about Russia and the president-elect’s plans for Putin. And we need to know and understand your views, as the Chairman has said, on these critical issues of national security.
In addition, if we take seriously that your tenure and experience at Exxon serves as qualifications for secretary of State, then there’s likewise a serious discussion this committee needs to have about the potential for conflicts of interest that arise, from your long corporate tenure.
For far too long, in my estimation, U.S. foreign policy has treated core governance issues as secondary considerations. If you become our nation’s top diplomat, I want to know if governance issues will become a primary consideration.
CARDIN: I’ve always worked free governance issues is one of the most important aspects of our foreign policy. I have been centrally involved in several legislative efforts over the years to bring transparency to extracted industries, to foster high standards of — on corrupt practices and to use all the tools at our disposal when it comes to supporting human rights in civil societies. So, I’m troubled that on many of these issues, Exxon, under your leadership, appears to have been pushing in the opposite direction.
Mr. Tillerson, we have much to discuss. If confirmed, you will be assuming your new job at a consequential time. Indeed, I believe the United States today stands as a turning point in history. National power, economic, military, diplomatic is being redefined and redistributed across the globe.
International institutions, international financial and economic orders are under distress. Climate change is causing irreparable harm and creating and leading to great instability. In many parts of the world, there’s a view that American power, determination and maybe more importantly our support for American values is uncertain. And clearly, candidate Trump added to that uncertainty.
We have global challenges. The Middle East is undergoing a period of unprecedented violence and instability. Iran is committed to confrontations with the United States and its allies, fomenting terrorism to challenge regional water. There are no less than three civil wars in this part of the world.
U.S. leadership is required to not only support movement towards negotiated political settlements. Six years after the hope of our spring, the region has entered into a long winter in which many governments are backsliding in inclusive politic space for civil society and open economies.
The fractured Middle East underscores my fundamental belief that the United States cannot pursue a hard-nose security agenda or economic ties without prioritizing values such as political inclusion, human rights and free active — a free active media and civil society. Without these elements, instability will persist with serious implications for countering violent extremism and stinting the flow of refugees heading for Europe’s shore.
I also need to stress that our important partner in this part of the world, Israel, needs more than tweets about how great our relationship is going to be. I hope we will hear from you today concrete visions with specific proposals for the way to forward and strengthening that strategic partnership.
And despite the challenges, encouraging opportunities exists for our country. President Obama leaves the next administration as an inheritance, strengthened relationships with historic allies in Europe and Asia, a reenergize partnership with India and growing economic relations with countries across Sub-Sahara Africa that provide promising platforms to advance U.S. security and economic interests.
I recognize that what I outlined here may not be in line with President-elect Trump’s vision of the world. But I believe that core values like standing up against violations of international law, against war crimes, against human rights violations, against corruption and speaking up for democracy and freedom of speech must be at the forefront of American’s foreign policy agenda.
Finally, I want to note that if confirmed, you’ll be taking over as leader of one of the most skilled and able workforces in — of any organization on the planet. Our foreign affairs and development professionals are truly among the most able and dedicated of our public servants on the front lines safeguarding our national security. And as ranking member of this committee, I’ve benefited greatly from their insight and counsel over the years
I hope and trust and encourage you will take full advantage of the dedicated public servants of the Department of State and USAID should you be confirmed. They’re deeply committed to protecting and extending our nation’s values and interests.
I’m certain that you and our nation will benefit greatly from a full and robust partnership between your office and the department you have been nominated to lead. Mr. Chairman, I look forward to hearing from our witness and I look forward to questionings.
CORKER: Mr. Tillerson, thank you for being here. And I think you’ve been adequately introduced.
And I think the world knows more about you than they ever thought today. So, without using any more time, we thank you for being here today.
I know you may have some family members to introduce which is always helpful. And if you wish to do so, begin with that and then with your comments.
TILLERSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Yes, I do have members of my family with me today. My wife, Renda, for more than 30 years who has kept a welcoming home when I would come back from my many travels and also for our sons and our five grandchildren. My sister, Jo Peters — Jo Lynn Peters, a lifelong educator, high school mathematics teacher — math teacher coach and teaching many, many years in the Texas public school systems.
My sister, Dr. Rae Ann Hamilton, a family practice position at Abilene, Texas for more than 30 years. And my brother-in-law, Judge Lee Hamilton is now finishing — or has just begun to serve his fifth term on the bench at the 104th District of the State District Courts of Texas in Abilene, Texas.
I appreciate so much the love and support they’ve given me in my past endeavors, but most particularly that they would come all the way up from Texas to be with me today.
Good morning, Chairman Corker and others. I’m honored to have the backing of Senator Cornyn, Senator Cruz from my home state of Texas.
I do want to thank Senator Nunn for his commitment to nuclear nonproliferation, something that he remains as steadfast today as ever. And to Secretary Gates for his service to eight U.S. presidents and his own leadership of the — as president of the Boy Scouts of America.
Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and members of the committee, it’s an honor to appear before you today as President-elect Trump’s nominee for secretary of State and seek the approval of this committee and the full Senate for my confirmation.
I come before you at a pivotal time in both the history of our nation and our world. And everywhere we look, people in nations are deeply unsettled. Old ideas and international norms which were well understood and governed behaviors in the past may long — no longer be effective in our time. We face considerable threats in this evolving new environment.
China has emerged as an economic power in global trade and our interactions have been both friendly and adversarial. While Russia seeks respect and relevance on the global stage, its recent activities have disregarded America’s interest.
Radical Islam is not a new ideology, but it is hateful, deadly and an illegitimate expression of the Islamic faith. Adversaries like Iran and North Korea pose great threats to the world because of their refusal to conform to international norms.
As we confront these realities, how should America respond? My answer is simple; to achieve the stability that is foundational to peace and security in the 21st century, American leadership must not only be renewed, it must be asserted.
We have many advantages on which to build. Our alliances are durable and our allies are looking for a return of our leadership. Our men and women in uniform are the world’s finest fighting force. And we possess…
PROTESTER: (OFF-MIKE) my home was destroyed. Senators, be brave and protect my community. (Inaudible) protect America.
Rex Tillerson I refute (ph) you. I reject you. My home was destroyed by (inaudible) family.
TILLERSON: Our men and women in uniform are the world’s finest fighting force and we posses the world’s largest economy. America is still the destination of choice for people the world over because of our track record of benevolence and hope for our fellow man.
America has been indispensable in providing the stability to prevent another world war, increase global prosperity and encourage the expansion of liberty. Our role in the world has also historically entailed a place of moral leadership.
In scope of international affairs, America’s level of good will toward the world is unique and we must continue to display a commitment to personal liberty, human dignity, and principled action in our foreign policy. Quite simply, we are the only global super power with the means and the moral compass capable of shaping the world for good.
If we do not lead, we risk plunging the world deeper into confusion and danger. But we have stumbled. In recent decades, we have cast American leadership into doubt. In some instances, we have withdrawn from the world. In others, we have intervened with good intentions, but did not achieve the stability and global security we sought.
Instead, our actions and our non-actions have triggered a host unintended consequences and created a void of uncertainty. Today, our friends still want to help us, but they don’t know how. And meanwhile, our adversaries have been emboldened to take advantage of this absence of American leadership.
In this campaign, President-elect Trump proposed a bold new commitment to advancing American interest in our foreign policy. I hope to explain what this approach means and how I would implement it if confirmed as Secretary of state. Americans welcome this rededication to American security, liberty and prosperity.
TILLERSON: But new leadership is incomplete without accountability. If accountability does not start with ourselves, we cannot credibly extend it to our friends and our adversaries. We must hold ourselves accountable to upholding the promises we make to others.
In America they can be trusted and good faith is essential to supporting our partners, achieving our goals and assuring our security. We must hold our allies accountable to commitments they make. We cannot look the other way at allies who do not meet their obligations.
This is an injustice not only to us, but to long standing friends who honor their promising and bolster our own national security such as Israel and we must hold those who are not our friends accountable to the agreements they make. Our failure to do this over the recent decades has diminished our standing and encouraged bad actors around the world to break their word.
We cannot afford to ignore violations of international accords as we have done with Iran. We cannot continue to accept empty promises, like the ones China has made to pressure North Korea to reform only to shy away from enforcement.
Looking the other way when trust is broken only encourages more bad behavior and it must end. We cannot be accountable thought if we are not truthful and honest in our dealings. As you are aware my long standing involvement with the Boy Scouts of America. One of our bedrock ideals is honesty. Indeed the phrase “on my honor” begins the Boy Scout oath and it must undergird our foreign policy.
In particular we need to be honest about radical Islam. It is with good reason that our fellow citizens have a growing concern about radical Islam and the murderous acts committed in its name against Americans and our friends.
Radical Islam poses a great risk to the stability of nations and the well being of their citizens. Powerful digital media platforms now allow ISIS, Al Qaida, and other terror groups to spread poisonous ideology that runs completely counter to the values of the American people and all people around the world who value human life.
These groups are often enabled and emboldened by nations, organizations, and individuals sympathetic to their cause. These actors must face consequences for aiding and abetting what can only be called evil. The most urgent step in thwarting radical Islam is defeating ISIS.
The Middle East and its surrounding regions pose many challenges which require our attention including Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. There are competed priorities in this region which must be and will be addressed but they must not distract from our utmost mission of defeating ISIS. Because when everything is a priority, nothing is priority. Defeating ISIS must be our foremost priority in the Middle East. Eliminating ISIS will be our first step in disrupting the capabilities of other groups and individuals committed to striking our homeland and our allies.
The demise of ISIS will also allow us to increase our attention on other agents of radical Islam like Al Qaida, the Muslim brotherhood and certain elements within Iran. But defeat will not occur on the battlefield alone. We must win the war of ideas.
If confirmed I will ensure the State Department does its part in supporting Muslims around the world who reject radical Islam in all its forms. We should also acknowledge the realities about China. China’s island building in the South China Sea is an illegal taking of disputed areas without regard for international norms.
China’s economic and trade practices have not always followed its commitments to global agreements. It steals our intellectual property and is aggressive in expansionists in the digital realm. It has not been a reliable partner in using its full influence to curve North Korea. China has proven a willingness to act with abandon in the pursuit of its own goals, which at times has put it at conflict with American interest. We have to deal with what we see, not what we hope.
But we need to see the positive dimensions in our relationship with China as well. The economic wellbeing of our two nations is deeply intertwined. China has been a valuable ally in curtailing certain elements of radical Islam. We should not let disagreements over other issues exclude areas for productive partnership.
TILLERSON: We must also be clear eyed about our relationship with Russia. Russia today poses a danger, but it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests. It has invaded the Ukraine, including the taking of Crimea. And supported Syrian forces that brutally violates the laws of war. Our NATO allies are right to be alarmed at resurgent Russia.
But it was in the absence of American leadership that this door was left open and unintended signals were sent. We backtracked on commitments we made to allies, we sent weak or mixed signals with red lines that turned into green lights. We did not recognize that Russia did not — does not think like we do.
Words alone do now sweep away an uneven and at times contentious history between our two nations. But we need an open and frank dialog with Russia regarding its ambitions so we know how to chart our own course.
For a cooperation with Russia based on common interest as possible, such as reducing the global threat of terrorism, we ought to explore these options. Where important differences remain, we should be steadfast in defending the interest of America and her allies. Russia must know that we will be accountable to our commitments and those of our allies and that Russia must be held to account for its actions.
Our approach to human rights begins by acknowledging that American leadership requires moral clarity. We do not face an either or choice on defending global human rights. Our values or our interest when it comes to human rights and humanitarian assistance.
It is unreasonable to expect that every foreign policy endeavor will be driven by human rights considerations alone, especially when the security of the American people is at stake. But our leadership demands actions specifically focused on improving the conditions of people the world over; utilizing both aid and where appropriate economic sanctions as instruments of foreign policy.
And we must adhere to standards of accountability. Our recent engagements with the government of Cuba was not accompanied by any significant concessions on human rights. We have not held them accountable for their conduct. Their leaders received much while their people received little. That serves neither the interests of Cubans or Americans.
Abraham Lincoln declared that America is the last best hope of Earth. Our moral light must not go out if we are to remain an agent of freedom for mankind. Supporting human rights in our foreign policy is a key component of clarifying to a watching world what America stands for.
In closing, let us also be proud about the ideals that define us and the liberties we have secured at great cost. The ingenuity, ideas and culture of Americans who came before us made the United States the greatest nation in history; so have their sacrifices.
We should never forget that we stand on the shoulders of those who have sacrificed much, and in some cases everything. They include our fallen heroes in uniform, our foreign service officers and other Americans in the field who likewise gave all for their country.
If confirmed, in my work for the president and the American people, I will seek to engender trust with foreign leaders and governments and put in place agreements that will serve the purposes and interests of American foreign policy. The secretary of State works for the president and seeks to implement his foreign policy objectives.
To do that, I must work closely with my cabinet colleagues and all relevant departments and agencies of the administration to build consensus. But let me also stress that keeping the president’s trust means keeping the public trust. And keeping the public trust means keeping faith with their elected representatives. I want all the members of this committee to know that, should I be confirmed, I will listen to your concerns and those of your staff and partner together to achieve great things for the country we all love.
I’m an engineer by training; I seek to understand the facts, follow where they lead and apply logic to all international affairs. We must see the world for what it is, have clear priorities and understand that our power is considerable, but it is not infinite. We must, where possible, build pathways to new partnerships and strengthen old bonds which have frayed.
If confirmed, I intend to conduct a foreign policy consistent with these ideals. We will never apologize for who we are or what we hold dear. We will see the world for what it is, be honest with ourselves and the American people, follow facts where they lead us and hold ourselves and others accountable.
I thank you for your time and look forward to your questions.
CORKER: Thank you very much for your testimony.
Do you commit to appear and testify upon requests from this committee?
TILLERSON: Yes, sir.
With the appointment today of a special envoy, we are sending an unequivocal message that the United States will be energetic, focused, strategic and serious about addressing global climate change and the corollary issue of clean energy.
Stern was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, the liberal think tank run by John Podesta, the chair of the Obama transition. Stern was a partner at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, as Vice Chair of the firm’s Public Policy and Strategy practice. Stern wrote on international climate change policy for CAP, promoting the creation of the E-8, a coalition of nations “focused on global ecological and resource problems” – (United States, China, India, Russia, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, and the European Union).
Stern was Assistant to the President and Staff Secretary in the White House from 1993 to 1998. He also coordinated the Administration’s Initiative on Global Climate Change from 1997 to 1999, acting as the senior White House negotiator at the Kyoto and Buenos Aires negotiations.
Carbon Control News reports that Georgetown Law professor Lisa Heinzerling will be joining the Environmental Protection Agency “to advise incoming Administrator Lisa Jackson on how to address climate change.” As Bradford Plumer notes at The New Republic, Heinzerling “was the lead author of the plaintiff’s brief in Massachusetts v. EPA back in 2007, in which the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the EPA did, in fact, have the authority to regulate carbon-dioxide.”
Although the administration has not confirmed the appointment, Gristmill’s Kate Sheppard reports that Heinzerling’s voicemail recording at Georgetown says she is on a two-year leave from the school because she has “taken a position in the new administration.”