Dem senator  ‘encouraged’ by Tillerson’s answers on Russia

Sen. Chris CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Graham warned Pentagon chief about consequences of Africa policy: report Democrats fear rule of law crumbling under Trump MORE (D-Del.) said early Tuesday that he is “encouraged” by President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump suggests Sotomayor, Ginsburg should have to recuse themselves on 'Trump related' cases Sanders says idea he can't work with Republicans is 'total nonsense' Sanders releases list of how to pay for his proposals MORE's secretary of State nominee, despite accusations that Rex Tillerson is too cozy with Vladimir Putin.  

“I was encouraged by his responses on sanctions, on the importance of NATO, on the importance of defending our Baltic allies and on the importance of holding Russia accountable for his actions,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said on "Fox & Friends" while describing a private meeting last week with Tillerson.

Coons said he and the ExxonMobil CEO discussed Putin and Russian aggression in Ukraine and Syria, calling the hour-and-a-half-long meeting “constructive.” But he also acknowledged that there was a rift between the views expressed by Tillerson and those of Trump, who has taken a softer position on Russia. 

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“As I said to him at the end of our conversation, the challenge now is there is some real gap between what I heard from him and what we heard from President-elect Trump on the campaign trail,” Coons said.

 

During his time at ExxonMobil, Tillerson was responsible for managing the company’s Russia account and built deep ties in the country. In 2013, Putin awarded Tillerson the country’s Order of Friendship, one of Russia’s highest awards for foreigners. But those ties have prompted some critics to question what conflicts of interest Tillerson could face as secretary of state.