Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) called Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s relationship with Russia “a real concern” during an interview on CNN’s “New Day.”
CUOMO: All right. Donald Trump defending his pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who is facing criticism from both sides of the aisle over his business ties to Russia, paving the way for a big confirmation battle, maybe.
Joining us now to discuss is the Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison. Mr. Ellison is also running to be chair of the Democratic National Committee.
We’ll talk to you about your political fate. Let’s talk about the state of play here. How do you feel about Tillerson, the president-elect has said some people don’t like that Tillerson is friends with world leaders? I don’t think that’s the issue. What do you think?
REP. KEITH ELLISON (D), MINNESOTA: I don’t think it’s the issue, either. I think the issue is, what are the material connections which may undermine, compromise American national security?
If you are the secretary of state or the president of the United States, for that matter, we need to know that there is nothing, absolutely nothing you’re thinking about other than the best interests of the United States. Not your company. Not your business dealings. Not what money you may have on the line.
I mean, the fact of the matter is, that this is a very troublesome situation, because if you expand this to the whole hacking situation, which our intelligence agencies have said that perhaps Russia has favored President-elect Trump, then we have to say what if they turn against him? What if suddenly they don’t like him? Will they expose things about him that they know that we don’t know?
I mean, will he be able to be full-throatedly, 100 percent for us?
ELLISON: This is a real concern.
Ellison’s comments didn’t go as far as those of South Carolina Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison – a competitor of Ellison’s in the race for DNC chairman – who called on the Senate to reject Tillerson’s nomination a few days earlier.
UPDATE: Michael McFaul – President Obama’s former ambassador to Moscow – tweeted this: