Rex Tillerson Refuses to Label Vladimir Putin a “War Criminal”

Marco Rubio grills Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state.


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) confronted Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Wednesday over his close ties to Vladimir Putin, asking the former Exxon Mobil CEO if he believed the Russian leader should be labeled a “war criminal.”

“I would not use that term,” Tillerson responded.

Tillerson claimed that he did not have sufficient information to charge Putin with committing war crimes, even when pressed with the Russian president’s record in Aleppo and evidence he authorized the use of battlefield weapons to kill civilians. Tillerson also refused to say if Putin was behind the killing of dissidents and journalists in Russia.

“Those are very, very serious charges to make and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion,” Tillerson said. “I understand that there is a body of record in the public domain—I’m sure there is a body of record in the classified domain. And I think that in order to deal with a serious question like this, I would want to be fully informed before advising the president.”

Rubio, who has been a vocal critic of Trump’s views on Russia, called Tillerson’s answers “discouraging.”

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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