Rex Tillerson responds to John McCain's criticism

Robyn Ryan
May 16, 2017

McCain originally went after Tillerson for the secretary of state's assertion that "in some circumstances, if you condition our national security efforts on someone adopting our values, we probably can't achieve our national security goals".

Tillerson said that debate over Comey's firing doesn't affect him and that he understands the line between serving the president and serving the people.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the United States can not "reset" relations with Russian Federation or start with a clean slate, calling instead for the two countries to "reengage" each other.

Asked about United States intelligence reports that Russia meddled in last year's U.S. presidential election campaign, Tillerson said, "I don't think there's any question that the Russians were playing around in our electoral processes".

Tillerson echoed his earlier statements on bilateral ties, saying relations had fallen to "an all-time low point since the end of the Cold War, with a very low level of trust". "I understand what his objectives are", Washington's top diplomat told the show.

Tillerson acknowledged that sour relations between Russian Federation and the USA are "not healthy for the world" or for US national security, but he was sober in his assessment of the future.

Still, "we have to look at this relationship in its broadest contours", Tillerson said. "It is obvious that interference in elections - one of them", the official explained.

These are not new tactics on the part of the Russian government directed not only at the U.S. but at others too, he noted.

The former ExxonMobil CEO, who was decorated in 2013 by Russian President Vladimir Putin, had said previously that the relationship between the two nuclear powers had hit its lowest point since the Soviet collapse in 1991.

Asked why Kislyak's participation was not made public by the Trump administration, Tillerson said: "You'd have to put that question to the White House and the protocol people". You can not start with a clean slate. We don't dismiss any of them.

"I make a distinction between values and policy", Tillerson said. "You cannot reset, you cannot erase the past, you cannot start with a clean slate and we're not trying to start with a clean slate", he said. "We don't give anyone a free pass on any of them".

And you know, these are not new tactics on the part of the Russian government, directed not only at us but at others.

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