Tags: Trump Administration | Donald Trump | Fox News | Russia | Reince Priebus | Rex Tillerson | secretary of state

Priebus Defends Tillerson on Russia: Having Relationships 'Not a Bad Thing'

Fox News' "Fox & Friends"

By    |   Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016 08:56 AM

Incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus defended Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson's relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and others traditionally considered to have been working against the interests of the United States.

"The truth is having relationships with people is not a bad thing," Priebus, who chaired the Republican National Committee, told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday. "I don't know how we got to the place where having an actual functional relationship – with someone who might not be a person that we would first think of to have that relationship with – is suddenly a bad thing."

Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, was officially announced Tuesday morning as Trump's nominee to head the State Department.

However, he is already raising eyebrows in Washington for his connection with Putin, including being the recipient of a "friendship" award from Russia, but Priebus said the award is not a major issue, and does not mean the incoming secretary won't be tough on the Russian leader.

"You know what, athletes, astronauts, musicians, other Americans, Canadians, a lot of folks have gotten this award," Priebus said.

Tillerson, he continued, has maintained relationships across the world, through both Republican and Democratic administrations, and the oilman and Trump had a connection on the issue of putting American interests first.

"We have to have relationships with people who may not always be . . . the greatest people in the world," Priebus said. "In order to have world peace, in order to have peace in the Middle East, you know that you have to be able to bring people to the table that might not always like each other."

Priebus, later in the morning, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program Tillerson will also be likely to back sanctions against Russia and other nations, but they must be actions that will be enforced.

"He said [sanctions against Russia] were ineffective because they were not being enforced, so his point was unless you are going to enforce the sanctions, they are not effective," said Priebus.

"I know where Rex Tillerson is on this, and he believes the sanctions and threat of sanctions are key to diplomacy, and he is not against them, but he is setting up sanctions that are not enforced."

Tillerson also opposed the nuclear deal with Iran, Priebus said, as "he did not think it was a good product and it would not put America first."

Priebus said he was not prepared to outline the Trump administration's foreign policy plans on the "Morning Joe" show, but when it comes to sanctions, Trump believes if there are to be sanctions in place, they "need to be enforced."

"We are just getting our Cabinet put together now, and as I think president-elect outlined many times over the last six weeks, sitting down with our generals and leadership and formulating our policy and revealing that to the people will be our first order of business," Priebus said.

On "Fox & Friends," Priebus also answered reports from CBS News former Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, would be named as secretary of energy, telling Fox News it has not been "formally announced," and "CBS can report on what they want to report. It has not been [made] official."

Perry, Priebus said, would be an excellent pick, as "he's managed one of the biggest states in the country, but not just that, but one of the biggest economies in the world, so leading up the Department of Energy is something he could do very well."

Also, Priebus hit back Tuesday on reports about Trump not participating in intelligence briefings, claiming the president-elect actually is "doing his intelligence briefings every day, and we do the presidential briefing.

"I think this week we'll have three presidential briefings in the five days. I mean, this is a little bit ridiculous and over the top."

Trump has also this week canceled a long-planned press conference set to discuss handing over his business interests. Priebus said the conference will be held after Christmas, but the procedure to pull away from the business interests is complicated, and Trump is taking his time to make sure matters are handled properly.

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Incoming Chief of Staff Reince Priebus defended Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson's relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin and others traditionally considered to have been working against the interests of the United States.
Reince Priebus, Rex Tillerson, secretary of state, foreign policy
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2016-56-13
Tuesday, 13 Dec 2016 08:56 AM
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