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U.S. Republicans positive on Tillerson, Democrats have questions
January 4, 2017 / 8:02 PM / a year ago

U.S. Republicans positive on Tillerson, Democrats have questions

WASHINGTON, Jan 4 (Reuters) - Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, won over Republicans during meetings at the U.S. Senate, but Democrats - who want to delay his confirmation - said on Wednesday they want more information about his record.

Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, described Tillerson as “very much in the mainstream” of U.S. foreign policy thinking.

Tillerson, Exxon’s former chairman and chief executive, drove the company’s expansion in Russia for decades and opposed sanctions imposed over its annexation of Crimea.

Many lawmakers, including some Republicans, have expressed concerns about Tillerson’s relationship with Moscow, given its differences with Washington not only over Ukraine but also the civil war in Syria.

U.S. intelligence officials have also concluded that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help the Republican Trump win the White House.

Corker, whose committee will conduct Tillerson’s confirmation hearing, said he was comfortable that Tillerson would lead a robust U.S. policy toward Russia.

“I think that what people are going to find when they see Tillerson in the hearing is that he’s very very much in the mainstream of U.S. foreign policy,” Corker told reporters.

Senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the foreign relations panel, said after his meeting with the oil executive that he had not reached any conclusion on Tillerson.

“We’re just at the beginning of the process,” Cardin told reporters after spending about an hour with the nominee.

Tillerson did not speak to reporters.

Cardin said they had discussed issues including Russia and Tillerson’s view of sanctions, which he expects will be a focus of Tillerson’s confirmation hearing.

Cardin said it was too soon to discuss Tillerson’s agreement announced late on Tuesday to sever all ties to Exxon Mobil to comply with conflict-of-interest requirements.

Democrats have called for a delay before Tillerson’s hearing, expected next week, given the complexity of his financial records and ties to Exxon after spending decades at the oil giant.

Cardin did say he was encouraged that Tillerson told him he supported the Paris climate accord.

“That was encouraging to me. He stressed for me his background in science and that he is a believer in science,” Cardin said. (Reporting by Patricia Zengerle,; Additional reporting by Susan Cornwell; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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