Sen. Graham: Tillerson Lacked 'Strength, Clarity' in Confirmation

The Texan had never met Donald Trump until a month ago.

Trump's nominee also branded Russian Federation a "danger" during the hearing, signaling that he is prepared to diverge from the president-elect and take a firm line with Moscow. Either they pay up including for past deficiencies or they have to get out.

"If Congress passed a bill imposing mandatory visa bans and asset freeze sanctions on persons who engage in significant activities undermining the cybersecurity of public or private infrastructure and democratic institutions in the United States, would you advise the president to sign it?"

Asked about the 3,500 extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, you weren't yet ready to say that you have enough evidence to call that a violation of human rights.

Later in the hearing, Tillerson was also grilled on ExxonMobil's knowledge of human-caused climate change in the 1970s, which is the subject of legal action against the company.

In response, Tillerson emphasized instead the "longstanding friendship" of the Philippines and the USA and the importance of keeping this in perspective in engaging with the Philippines.

"In your mind, calling a United States senator to express your belief that sanctions would be ineffective is not lobbying", Murphy said.

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Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC's Meet the Press on Sunday that he still has doubts about Tillerson.

Tillerson said he would "not recommend that". A former oil boss, Tillerson has faced tough questions about his close, even personal, relationship with Russian business and political leaders, including President Vladimir Putin.

It's just my nature to not prejudge events or prejudge and make conclusions, or conclude that someone has in fact violated this norm, or in fact now meets the standard to be labeled this until I have seen those facts myself.

"I also know that for the president, part of his priority during the campaign was, 'America first, ' so [that] is an important consideration", Tillerson said, particularly "as we ... commit to such accords, and as those accords are executed over time". Bob Corker, R-Tenn., then interjected, asking Tillerson if he had classified information whether he would be willing to call Putin a war criminal.

Tillerson broke with Trump on trade issues, saying he supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

He also said the U.S. needed to move away from always considering Russian Federation to be an adversary, and that it could be a partner at times.

"I don't think I'm going to be telling the boss how he ought to communicate with the American people", Tillerson responded.

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