Russia dominated the confirmation hearing Wednesday of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson.
Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, conceded that Exxon had been hurt by U.S. sanctions against Russia, but said he hadn’t personally lobbied against them and knew of no instances when his company directly did so.
This raised some eyebrows. Sen. Bob Corker, Republican chair of the committee, responded, “I think you called me at the time.”
Sen. Bob Menendez noted four lobbying reports listing Exxon’s lobbying activities on sanctions:
Tillerson later said Exxon was not pressuring Congress, but merely explaining the potential impact on its business.
“In your mind, calling a United States senator to express your belief that sanctions are not effective is not lobbying,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT). “In my view, that is a distinction without a difference.”
As the interactive Muckety map above shows, Exxon employs a battery of lobby firms in Washington to advance its interests in Congress and the White House.
Tillerson has no experience in government, so maybe he’s unaware of how easily this stuff can be looked up. One would think the Trump transition team would have better prepared him for his appearance. Questions about U.S. relations with Russia, and potential conflicts because of Exxon’s operations there, were to be expected.
His performance drew immediate criticism online.
Never been proud of @marcorubio until now. Tearing apart Rex Tillerson for his apathy towards Russian strong arm tactics against democracy
— ?? Christopher Zullo (@ChrisJZullo) January 11, 2017
In short order, @marcorubio has Trump's SecState nominee Tillerson looking like he's defending Putin.
— Kevin Baron (@DefenseBaron) January 11, 2017
Tillerson's hearing has been such a disaster I don't think that the Trump press conference is really going to save him
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) January 11, 2017
Despite disclosures from Exxon documenting work in lobbying against Iran Sanctions, Tillerson says Exxon did not lobby to his knowledge.
— Chuck Schumer (@SenSchumer) January 11, 2017