Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsay Graham (R-SC) announced Sunday they will vote to confirm Rex Tillerson to be Trump’s Secretary of State
The confirmation of the former ExxonMobil CEO is now all but certain. At least three GOP senators were needed to kill the nomination, and it’s not clear who among the Republicans besides Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) remains as a possible “no” vote.
In their joint statement, McCain and Graham said they were supporting Tillerson even though “we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.”
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Bizarrely, the statement actually explains why they should have voted no: “Now more than ever, with America’s friends growing more discouraged and our enemies growing more emboldened, we need a Secretary of State who recognizes that our nation cannot succeed in the world by itself.”
What exactly could discourage our friends and embolden our enemies more than handing over U.S. foreign policy to a pal of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who may have worked to undermine the U.S. election?
Tillerson is not just an extreme Russophile and a longtime director of a U.S.-Russian oil company. He has also worked his entire adult life at a company whose future hinges on restoring a $500 billion oil deal with Putin that was killed by the U.S. sanctions against Russia (which came in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine).
In his confirmation hearing, Tillerson portrayed himself as a chief executive who had no idea what Exxon was doing in many areas, including those related to deals he himself had negotiated with Russia.
In his most jaw-dropping lie, Tillerson professed total ignorance of whether Exxon was lobbying for or against the sanctions that had blocked hundreds of billions of dollars of oil deals with Russia, saying, “I don’t know” twice.
Tillerson is clearly unfit for this vital cabinet post, which was first held by Thomas Jefferson. And yet the best McCain could offer on ABC in defense of his support was “Listen, this wasn’t an easy call. But I also believe that when there’s doubt the president, the incoming president, gets the benefit of the doubt.”
Yes, Donald Trump, a serial liar whose first act as President was to violate the U.S. Constitution — a man who broke decades of precedent by refusing to release income tax returns that might have shown the extent of his financial connections and obligations to Russia — deserves McCain’s “benefit of the doubt.”
What exactly would Trump have to do to lose that benefit?