Watch Marco Rubio grill Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson

The Florida senator pressed Tillerson on his close ties to Vladimir Putin.

On the first day of his confirmation hearings, Secretary of State nominee and former Exxon Mobil chief executive Rex Tillerson was given a serious grilling by Marco Rubio.

The Florida senator, who was beaten to the Republican nomination by President-elect Donald Trump, pressed Tillerson on his close links to Vladimir Putin and his thoughts on the Russian President's past actions.

A crucial point came when Rubio pressed Tillerson on whether he thought Putin was a war criminal. He then referred to Putin/Russia's involvement in the recent civilian bombings in Aleppo, and his previous involvement in the deaths of tens of thousands of Chechens in the city of Grozny in 1999.

The exchange is notable, in part, because it's a Republican senator being critical of a Republican president's cabinet pick. The White House recently accused the GOP of rubber stamping Trump's cabinet picks and trying to force them through quickly.

Tillerson's background

Tillerson has been under the microscope for his close ties to Russia during his time as the head of one of the world's biggest oil companies.

In 2013, Putin presented him with the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors bestowed upon foreign citizens, and his apparently cozy links with the eastern nation has prompted concern with some politicians in Washington.

But while he stopped short of calling Putin a war criminal, Tillerson did say he would adopt a tough line on Russia. The Chicago Tribune reported he called Russia a "danger" to the United States and said he'd have recommended a "muscular" response to the country's annexation of Ukraine's Crimea region in 2014.

"If Russia acts with force," Tillerson said, "they require a proportional show of force."

Donald Trump himself was questioned on his Russian ties during a press conference on Wednesday, and said it should be seen as an "asset, not a liability" if he had a good relationship with Putin.

Tillerson's confirmation hearing will continue Thursday.

Next Up

Gary Kubiak

Vikings offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak announces retirement

Kubiak wraps up a career that has spanned nearly four decades.


Minneapolis police seeks public help finding missing woman

A 63-year-old woman has been missing since Tuesday

coronavirus testing

Don't want to talk to a contact tracer? MN debuts online option after positive test

The department says the survey will allow its staff to keep track of more cases at a faster pace

Family Dollar

Money Gal Coaching: 12 things you are wasting your money on

Kelly Blodgett started Money Gal Coaching after paying down nearly $50K in debt in 18 months.

police lights

Three teens charged in Minneapolis robberies

The incidents took place on Saturday in Minneapolis.

covid-19, coronavirus, ppe

Here is Minnesota's COVID-19 update for Thursday, January 21

It's the first time in exactly four months that Minnesota has had fewer than 100 COVID patients in intensive care.

icy roads, bad roads

Girl, 16, killed in crash with semi on icy Minnesota road

The crash happened in Dodge County around 8 a.m. Wednesday.

police lights

Road rage incident sees driver punch out man's window, punch him in face

The incident happened in Waite Park Wednesday morning.

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 7.01.24 AM

Minneapolis will recover $100K in costs connected to 2019 Trump rally

The Target Center operator said it'll pay the costs over three years.

Jacob Frey

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey confirms run for reelection

He has faced criticism over the city's response to George Floyd's death.


Tillerson confirmed as secretary of state

He's the former CEO of ExxonMobil.

Watch: Keith Ellison was not impressed with CNN's Jake Tapper

The Minnesota congressman was quizzed about his past association with Louis Farrakhan.

Trump gets pushback from GOP senators on Russian links

For the first time since his election, Donald Trump is under pressure from some prominent Republicans.

How Minnesota's congresspeople voted on the American Health Care Act

The new health care bill passed the House, and now heads to the Senate.

Who would be the winners and losers from the Senate tax bill?

The Senate passed the tax bill late Friday night.