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Rex Tillerson ducks queries on Exxon's climate record, lobbying in Senate hearing

Alex Daugherty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Rex Tillerson left Exxon Mobil in mid-December to start preparing for a potential job as Donald Trump's secretary of State.

During Senate confirmation hearings on Wednesday, less than a month after leaving his Exxon post, Tillerson declined to answer questions about a company he led for 10 years.

Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine, who was Hillary Clinton's running mate in the 2016 election, asked Tillerson about Exxon Mobil's history of misleading the public about what its scientists knew on the impact of climate change decades ago.

Tillerson didn't answer the question.

"You'll have to ask Exxon about that," Tillerson said, adding that he does not speak for the company anymore.

Tillerson, a lifelong Texan, was also asked by New Jersey Democratic Sen. Cory Booker whether Exxon was part of USA Engage, an oil lobbying group that has opposed sanctions on Russia in the past.

Tillerson refused to answer the question, instead referring Booker to Exxon.

A news release from USA Engage announced in 2003 that an Exxon employee would lead the organization. The Exxon employee worked for USA Engage until 2007, after Tillerson started leading the company.

During the hearings, Tillerson repeatedly said that he and Exxon did not lobby Congress and the White House about sanctions against Russia implemented in 2014 that Exxon opposed because it hurt their business operations in the country.

"I have never lobbied against sanctions personally," Tillerson said, adding, "To my knowledge, Exxon never directly lobbied against sanctions."

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