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Rex Tillerson Refuses to Call Vladimir Putin a ‘War Criminal’ During Hearing

Senator Marco Rubio stole the show in the early portion of Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State by grilling him on Russia. Specifically, he closed with a series of questions about whether or not Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin is a “war criminal.” Tillerson was hesitant to go that far, and it escalated from there, with Rubio entering a list of Russian dissidents who died under mysterious circumstances into evidence.

The initial exchange went as follows:

Rubio: “Let me ask you this question: Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?”
Tillerson: “I would not use that term.”

Rubio then went over how Putin’s army has targeted “schools, markets, and other civilian infrastructure” in Aleppo and previously bombed  Chechen civillians in a “black flag operation” to raise his approval rating when he was Russian Prime Minister. From there, Rubio quizzed Tillerson again: In light of this, and everything else in the public record, was he “prepared to say that Vladimir Putin and his military have violated the rules of war and have conducted war crimes in Aleppo?” Tillerson said “Those are very, very serious charges to make, and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion,” adding that he felt he would need to see the classified information to make such a determination.

Rubio replied that “I find it discouraging, your inability to cite that, which I think is globally accepted.” At the point Rubio entered the list of dissidents who “were suspiciously murdered or died under highly suspicious circumstances.”

After Rubio’s questioning was over, Senator Bob Corker reframed the questions to Tillerson to get more conclusive answers, such as if the type of things described by Rubio talked about would be war crimes if he had sufficient evidence that they took place. At that point, Tillerson did concede that such actions would be war crimes.

[Photo: CNN screen grab]

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