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Coons Praises Tillerson’s ‘Very Strong’ Answers on NATO and Russia

Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) praised President-elect Donald Trump's nominee for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday for his "very strong" answers on NATO and holding Russia accountable for massacres in the Syrian city of Aleppo.

MSNBC's "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski asked Coons what he expected to hear from Tillerson on Wednesday during the Senate's confirmation hearing.

Coons said that he was initially "alarmed" by the idea of Tillerson as secretary of state because of his close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, Coons added, Tillerson performed well in their private meeting.

"In my hour and a half private meeting with him last week, he gave very strong answers to my very pointed questions about whether he can really transition from running a global oil company and delivering shareholder value from countries that have oil in them to being secretary of state and fighting for America's values, for a free press and human rights and democracy, and whether he would stand up to Putin and sees him clearly as a thug and autocrat and opponent of Western democracies," Coons said.

Coons added that Tillerson will struggle to get confirmed if he does not give firm answers like he did in their private meeting.

Brzezinski followed up by clarifying whether Coons witnessed strength in Tillerson's answers in their private meeting.

"Yes, I did. He gave very strong answers about the importance of NATO, about holding Russia accountable for the massacres in Aleppo, for the invasion and occupation of Crimea in the Ukraine," Coons said. "I'm hopeful he will be as forthcoming in the hearing today."

Tillerson has faced scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats alike since he was nominated for the position due to his past business dealings with Russia and Putin as the CEO of ExxonMobil. Tillerson received the Russian Order of Friendship award from Putin in 2013 for doing deals with the state-owned Russian oil company Rosneft, whose chairman, Igor Sechin, is viewed as a Putin loyalist.