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Rex Tillerson declines to call Vladimir Putin a war criminal during Senate testimony

Alex Daugherty, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio expressed reservations about Rex Tillerson's close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin shortly after Tillerson was announced as Donald Trump's secretary of State nominee in December.

On Wednesday, the Florida Republican and one-time presidential hopeful had his chance to grill Tillerson on Capitol Hill, and he didn't hold back.

"Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?" Rubio asked Tillerson halfway through his first 10 minutes of questioning.

"I would not use that term," Tillerson said.

"Mr. Tillerson, what's happened in Aleppo is in the public domain," Rubio said. "There is so much information out there about what's happened in Aleppo. ... It should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin's military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo."

Rubio then presented evidence of dissidents, journalists and political opponents murdered under suspicious circumstances during Putin's administration, but Tillerson said he would need to have access to classified information to determine whether the murders can be attributed to Putin.

"Do you believe that Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissident journalists and political opponents?" Rubio asked.

"I do not have sufficient information to make that claim," Tillerson said. He said that it's important "that I deal with facts" when advising President-elect Trump.

"None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson," Rubio replied. "These people are dead."

"I'm not disputing these people are dead," Tillerson said.

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