The Latest: Tillerson says Putin would have known of hacking

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Latest on activities in Congress (all times EST):

10:38 a.m.

Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, says it’s a “fair assumption” Russian President Vladimir Putin knew about Moscow’s meddling in America’s 2016 presidential election.

Tillerson is telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he’s not privy to the detailed intelligence about Russia’s hacking. But he says he read the declassified report released last week about Russia’s interference.

Tillerson says in response to a question from Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, he would not describe Putin as a “war criminal.”

Rubio says Russia’s support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and bombing in Aleppo should not make it hard to say that Putin is responsible for war crimes.

Rubio has said he has “serious concerns” about Tillerson as America’s top diplomat.


10:30 a.m.

An immigrant brought to the United States as a child is testifying on the second day of Sen. Jeff Sessions’s confirmation hearing for attorney general.

The Alabama senator has opposed President Barack Obama’s program to allow young immigrants who came to the United States as children to go through background checks in exchange for a promise they would be safe from deportation.

Oscar Vazquez earned a degree in mechanical engineering and served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan.

Sessions opposed the comprehensive immigration bill that would have given a path to citizenship to the estimated 11 million immigrants living here illegally.

Testifying on behalf of Sessions, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey called Sessions “principled, intelligent, honest and thorough.”


10:25 a.m.

Rex Tillerson says Russia had no legal right to annex Crimea in 2014.

President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state is telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he would have advised a more robust response than the Obama administration delivered.

The Exxon Mobil CEO is telling the panel that the U.S. should have told Russia that the land grab “stops right here.” He adds that “If Russia acts with force, that requires a proportional show of force that there will be no more taking of territory.”

Tillerson opposed the sanctions the U.S. levied on Moscow following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The penalties cost the energy giant hundreds of millions of dollars.


10:02 a.m.

The top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee says Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state should make clear how he plans to pivot from the “mindset of oilman” to that of the nation’s top diplomat.

Sen. Ben Cardin made the distinction at Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing Wednesday, saying there’s a difference between being driven by profits and serving as the president’s top adviser on critical foreign policy issues.

Cardin also criticized Tillerson for not mentioning in his prepared opening statement to the committee didn’t address Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election as detailed last week by U.S. intelligence agencies. The president-elect has been dismissive of the findings.

Democrats say they are concerned about Tillerson’s business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin. They are expected to press Tillerson on whether he agrees that more and tougher sanctions against Russia are needed. Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship in 2013.


9 a.m.

A group allied with House Republican leaders says it is spending $1 million for a TV ad praising GOP efforts to replace President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul with “a new path forward.”

Repealing Obama’s law is Republicans’ major legislative initiative this year.

The American Action Network was presenting the ad nationally during a “town hall” with House Speaker Paul Ryan on CNN Thursday. It will also be broadcast this month in the districts of 10 House Republicans who won tight 2016 elections and five other senior GOP lawmakers.

The ad features soft-focus shots of happy families and never mentions Obama’s name.

The announcer says Republicans will provide “more choices and better care at lower costs” without “disrupting existing coverage.”

She says, “House Republicans have a plan to get there.”