Senator Coons on Rex Tillerson: “There is a real tension between [Tillerson’s] expressed views in our conversation yesterday and the views of President-elect Trump”

Sen. Coons: “…fighting for America's values is a very different thing than fighting for share-holder value”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, joined MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning to discuss his meeting yesterday with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson. He also discussed President–elect Trump’s views on Julian Assange and the U.S. intelligence community.

Excerpts from the interview:

Sen. Coons on Rex Tillerson's relationship with Vladimir Putin: “He suggested that it was just a business relationship. That while he enjoyed his time in Russia, he and his wife had a good experience when they lived and worked in Russia, that he understands the difference between being the CEO of the world's largest oil company and the role of Secretary of State. That is a question I intend to continue pressing him on, because fighting for America's values is a very different thing than fighting for share-holder value."

Sen. Coons on Rex Tillerson’s opinion of foreign and domestic policy: "A core concern for me was his view of sanctions, because he's been critical of sanctions very sharply. We talked at some length about whether he was willing to embrace the use of sanctions if they're strong, if they're multilateral, if they're enforced effectively for the advancement of human rights and American interests. He was generally positive in his response on that. He was generally positive in his response on the importance of NATO. But there is a real tension between his expressed views in our conversation yesterday and the views of President-elect Trump, so I look forward to exploring that tension further in the upcoming confirmation hearings."

Sen. Coons on President-elect Trump’s policy tweets: "…I'm gravely concerned that we have a president-elect who is conducting both domestic policy and foreign policy by tweet. As you just said a few moments ago, President-elect Trump is ridiculing the minority leader of the senate Chuck Schumer and trying to lay the groundwork for his fight repealing Obamacare with a series of tweets. One of the first things he did as President-elect was to wander into a fight with China over Taiwan, something I think was ill-advised and unprecedented. So, I raised with Mr. Tillerson my grave concerns that if President Trump doesn't rely on his Secretary of State [and] Secretary of Defense, and conducts his own foreign policy in 3am twitter wars, that we may end up in a real war."

On Trump's attitude towards Julian Assange and his continued tweets on the subject: "I'm gravely concerned that we have a President-elect who is disrespecting the entire American intelligence community. All seventeen agencies, every single element of the American intelligence community unanimously reached, with high confidence, a conclusion that the senior leadership of Russia including obviously Vladimir Putin, intentionally tried to undermine our democracy in the last election. And for him to take the side of Julian Assange over our own intelligence community, and now be apparently planning a restructuring of the senior roles within the intelligence community is really troubling. There is going to be a hearing on Armed Services, I believe later today. I look forward to a hearing on the Foreign Relations committee, on which I serve, and I think we need to be standing up in a bipartisan way and taking on this challenge of how we make America safe and strong against cyber-attacks, not just by Russia, but by our adversaries around the world."


Press Contact

Sean Coit at 202-224-5042 or Sean_Coit@coons.senate.gov