January 13, 2017

Kaine Statement On Nominations Of General James Mattis And Rex Tillerson

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, released the following statement on the nominations of General James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense and Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State after participating in their confirmation hearings this week:

“I will support the nomination of General James Mattis to be Secretary of Defense. In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday, he demonstrated a clear-eyed view of our current national security environment and a deep appreciation for the challenges facing U.S. servicemembers and their families. I believe he is well-prepared to lead the Department of Defense and provide the incoming administration with wise and strategic counsel on matters of national security.

“I recognize the normal rule that a Secretary of Defense should be a person who has not served in the military for at least 7 years and believe that we should not make an exception to that rule except in unusual circumstances.   But the security challenges facing this country, my deep concerns about some members of the incoming Administration's national security team and General Mattis's solid commitment to building strong civilian/military understanding, as evidenced by his recent book on the subject, warrants making an exception in this case.

“I will oppose the nomination of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.   He has a notable record of business success and a laudable commitment to civic affairs.   But he did not demonstrate the awareness, judgment or independence I expect from our nation’s chief diplomat.

“I asked Mr. Tillerson to respond to a series of investigative articles suggesting that ExxonMobil had long understood the connection between CO2 emissions and climate change but chose to wage a public campaign to misinform the public about this scientific consensus. This issue is directly relevant to Mr. Tillerson's potential work as Secretary because of the American commitments to the Paris Climate Agreement.  It is also directly relevant to Virginia, a state seeing troubling climate effects such as sea level rise in Hampton Roads.

“Mr. Tillerson would not answer my repeated questions about what he knew about this during his 40+ years as an executive and CEO of the company. And when I asked whether he lacked the knowledge to answer my questions or was refusing to, he responded ‘a little of both.’

“His refusal caused me to question whether he could set aside the interests of ExxonMobil to execute the duties and responsibilities of the office to which he was nominated. This concern was heightened by his discussion of the U.S.-Russian relationship, his refusal to strongly condemn atrocities committed by Vladimir Putin and Roderigo Duterte, and his repeated efforts to downplay ExxonMobil's efforts to lobby against sanctions legislation.

“The U.S. needs a Secretary of State who can put the interests of the nation above any other loyalty.  Mr. Tillerson did not give me confidence in his ability to fully do that.”

###