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CNN NEWSROOM

Continuing Live Coverage of Rex Tillerson's Confirmation Hearing. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired January 11, 2017 - 09:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: And so I'm thankful that that is the case.

[09:30:00] 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.

[09:35:08]

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.

[09:40:08]

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.

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: 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 Equatorial Guinea, I speak out.

[09:45:07]

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.

[09:50:00]

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.

REX TILLERSON, SECRETARY OF STATE NOMINEE: 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.

[09:5502]

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.

[10:00:00] 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.