If Rex Tillerson expected deferential treatment from Republicans at his confirmation hearing, he was sorely disappointed. Marco Rubio played the role of pit bull to Tillerson’s toy poodle over the subject of Putin’s behavior in Syria.

RUBIO: LET ME ASK YOU. IS VLADIMIR PUTIN A WAR CRIMINAL?

TILLERSON: I WOULD NOT USE THAT TERM.

RUBIO: LET ME DESCRIBE THE SITUATION IN ALEPPO. HE HAS DIRECTED HIS MILITARY TO CONDUCT A DEVASTATING CAMPAIGN. HE’S TARGETED SCHOOLS, MARKETS. NOT JUST ASSISTED THE SYRIANS. HIS MILITARY TARGETED SCHOOLS, MARKETS, OTHER INFRASTRUCTURE RESULTING IN THE DEATHS OF THOUSANDS OF CIVILIANS. THIS IS NOT THE FIRST TIME MR. PUTIN WAS INVOLVED IN CAMPAIGNS OF THIS KIND. BACK WHEN HE WAS JUST APPOINTED PRIME MINISTER BEFORE HE WAS ELECT ELECTED. THERE WAS A SERIES OF BOMBINGS. THEY BLAMED IT ON THE CHECHANS. MR. PUTIN ORDERED THE AIR FORCE TO BOMB THEIR CAPITAL WITH SCUD MISSILES TO HIT HOSPITALS, THE MAIN MARKET, 137 PEOPLE DIED INSTANTLY. THEY USED THERMAL BAR RACK AND FIELD EXPLOSIVE BOMBS WHICH IGNITE AND BURN THE AIR BREATHED IN BY PEOPLE HIDING. HE USED BATTLEFIELD WEAPONS AGAINST CIVILIANS. AN ESTIMATED 300,000 CIVIL YANS WERE KILLED AND THE CITY WAS DESTROYED. THERE WAS A CREDIBLE BODY OF REPORTING, OPEN SOURCE AND OTHER, THAT ALL THE BOMBINGS WERE PART OF A BLACK FLAG OPERATION ON THE PART OF THE FSB AND IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE MOTIVATION, HERE IT IS. PUTIN’S APPROVAL RATINGS BEFORE THE ATTACKS WERE 31%. BY MID AUGUST OF THAT YEAR IT WAS 78% IN JUST THREE MONTHS. BASED ON THIS INFORMATION AND WHAT’S PUBLICALLY IN THE RECORD ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN ALEPPO AND THE RUSSIAN MILITARY YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO SAY VLADIMIR PUTIN AND HIS MILITARY VIOLATED THE RULES OF WAR AND CONDUCTED WAR CRIMES IN ALEPPO.

TILLERSON: THOSE ARE VERY SERIOUS CHARGES TO MAKE. I WOULD WANT TO HAVE MUCH MORE INFORMATION BEFORE REACHING A CONCLUSION. I UNDERSTAND THERE IS A BODY OF RECORD IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. THERE IS A BODY OF RECORD IN THE CLASSIFIED DOMAIN. IN ORDER TO DEAL WITH A SERIOUS QUESTION LIKE THIS…

RUBIO: IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN, VIDEO AND PICTURES ARE THERE.

TILLERSON: …FULLY INFORMED BEFORE ADVISING THE PRESIDENT.

RUBIO: THERE IS SO MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN ALEPPO. WHAT HAPPENED IS CLEARLY DOCUMENTED. THERE IS SO MUCH INFORMATION. IT SHOULD NOT BE HARD TO SAY THAT VLADIMIR PUTIN’S MILITARY CONDUCTED WAR CRIMES IN ALEPPO. IT IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE, YOU WOULD AGREE, FOR A MILITARY TO SPECIFICALLY TARGET CIVILIANS WHICH HAPPENED THERE THROUGH THE RUSSIAN MILITARY AND, YOU KNOW, I FIND IT DISCOURAGING, YOUR INABILITY TO CITE THAT WHICH I THINK IS GLOBALLY ACCEPTED. I WANT TO IN MY LAST MINUTE AND A HALF MOVE QUICKLY. I WANT TO ENTER INTO THINGS INTO THE RECORD.

This is a good line of attack from Rubio, if somewhat unfair. Should a Secretary of State nominee be boxed into characterizing the leader of a major nation as a war criminal absent an actual investigation, etc.? Probably not. I imagine Rubio will end up voting for Tillerson but it is a sign of the mood on Capitol Hill that Russia has gone way too far this time.

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