President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Exxon-Mobil executive Rex Tillerson, is set to undergo intense grilling on Capitol Hill on Wednesday during his confirmation hearing.
Tillerson’s time as the chief of the energy giant and his ties to Russia are expected to be key points that senators will touch on during the hearing. With reports of hacking attempts by Moscow and the saber-rattling occurring in the South China Sea by Beijing, Tillerson will focus on building U.S. global leadership.
However, senators from both sides of the aisle will likely focus on his ties to Russia in the face of reports that Moscow and President Vladimir Putin influenced the 2016 presidential election.
Top Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that they still had plenty of questions for Tillerson even after “positive meetings” with him.
“Mr. Tillerson has got to convince me and I think other members of the body, that he sees Russia as a disruptive force, that he sees Putin as undermining democracy all over the world, not just in our backyard,” Graham said Sunday. “He has to realize that the Russians did it when it came to the hacking and that new sanctions are justified.”
Tillerson has received support from former top government officials, including former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and former Secretaries of State James Baker and Condoleezza Rice.
He also agreed to leave Exxon-Mobile last week and sell his millions of shares in stock and put the cash he receives into a trust to be overseen by a third party. He'd been with Exxon since 1975, serving as its number two for the past decade, thus severing any potential conflicts of interests.
"Rex Tillerson is doing the right thing," said Paul S. Ryan, vice president of policy and litigation at the nonprofit Common Cause. "I hope Trump follows the lead of his own Cabinet nominee."
Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., also applauded Tillerson in severing his business ties. He told NPR last week that he was pleased he had not followed his new boss’ lead.
"I complimented him on how swiftly he has completely severed ties from ExxonMobil, and pointedly said to him that my real concern is that President-elect Trump has not released his taxes, has not come up with any plan for severing his ties to his global business enterprise," Coons said.
Tillerson’s hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.