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Graham: Tillerson must say Russia hacked US to earn his confirmation vote

Graham: Tillerson must say Russia hacked US to earn his confirmation vote
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Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamCentrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting Graham quips key to working with Trump: We both 'like him' Centrists gain leverage over progressives in Senate infrastructure battle MORE (R-S.C.) will vote “no” on Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHead of firms that pushed 'Italygate' theory falsely claimed VA mansion was her home: report Centrists gain foothold in infrastructure talks; cyber attacks at center of Biden-Putin meeting VA moving to cover gender affirmation surgery through department health care MORE’s pick for secretary of State if the Exxon Mobil executive doesn’t acknowledge Russian interference in the U.S. election. 

“Here's what he's got to do to convince me,” Graham told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday. “I want him to be briefed by the FBI and the CIA and I want to hear from him if he believes the Russians tried to interfere in our election. 

“If he doesn't believe that, I would have a hard time voting for him.”  

Rex Tillerson faces a narrow window in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the panel responsible for vetting the State Department nomination.

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Members of both parties have expressed wariness about Tillerson, who has repeatedly done business with Moscow during his four decades at Exxon and has a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government.

The committee now has nine Democrats. If all nine of them opposed Tillerson and just one Republican joined them, Senate leadership would have to break with the committee to bring the nomination to the floor, which would be unusual for a position as important as secretary of State. 

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioWhite House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine The Hill's Morning Report - ObamaCare here to stay Lawmakers rally around cyber legislation following string of attacks MORE (R-Fla.), who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, has also been critical of the selection of Tillerson to lead Foggy Bottom.

Graham said he will also demand to know what Tillerson believes to be the appropriate response to Russia for alleged hacking on U.S. political organizations like the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

“If you do believe it, what are we going to do about it? Because Obama has been so weak in the eyes of the Russians, that that's what has led to all of this mess. And you don't want to follow weakness with more weakness,” Graham said.

Tillerson’s relationship to Russia has become the central issue in the debate over his confirmation as lawmakers continue to grapple with the CIA’s assessment that the Kremlin explicitly attempted to install Trump in the White House.

Trump has shocked career intelligence professionals by refusing to believe officials who have attributed the attacks on the DNC and others to a Russian attempt to meddle in the election. Last week, he attacked the CIA directly over the assessment, noting in a statement that, "these are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction."

Multiple panels are planning to hold hearings on the subject in the beginning of the new year.