WATCH: Cory Gardner gives some love to Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for Secretary of State

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Colorado’s junior U.S. Senator, Republican Cory Gardner, appeared impressed with Rex Tillerson, Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of State, following a nine-hour confirmation hearing this week.

Tillerson is the former CEO of ExxonMobil with no previous formal diplomatic or government experience. His ExxonMobil PAC gave money to Gardner, as well as every other Republican and one Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that screened him Wednesday. Gardner took in the most cash from the PAC with a $23,000 haul, tied with Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, The Daily Beast reports.

Speaking on Fox News, Gardner said he was impressed by how Tillerson faced questions for so long without notes, a briefing book, or “without a pen and paper to write questions down or ideas down or cheat sheets down,” and instead “did it all from his experience and understanding of the world.”

Tillerson faced tough questions about Vladimir Putin and Russia from Florida GOP Sen. Marco Rubio, a harsh political foe of Trump during the 2016 presidential primary. The New York Times reported the ExxonMobil oil company “has billions of dollars in deals that can go forward only if the United States lifts sanctions against Russia.”

So naturally questions about Russia took up plenty of oxygen in the hearing. One exchange making headlines following the Wednesday hearing is when Rubio asked Tillerson if he would characterize Putin as a war criminal. Tillerson said he would “not use that term.”

Appearing on Fox News following the hearing, Gardner said he personally considers Putin a war criminal and looks forward to Tillerson independently reviewing information from experts at the State Department and calling Putin’s actions what they are.

Here’s Gardner’s appearance on the show “Fox and Friends”:

According to a live blog of the hearing at CBS News, Tillerson and Gardner had an exchange during the hearing, which led the could-be-Secretary of State to say, “Diplomacy will be ineffective if it’s not backed up by the threat of force.”

In the Fox interview, Gardner declined to say if he would vote for or against Tillerson and that he had more questions for him. His office did not respond to a voice message before this story was posted, but on Thursday, Gardner went on Colorado talk radio and said he appreciated Trump’s private-sector cabinet picks. He said he was impressed with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who faces hearings as Trump’s nominee for United Nations ambassador, and Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary. Asked if he planned to support Tillerson, he told the radio host, Dan Caplis, “I think at this point that he is somebody that the president should be able to have on his cabinet.”

Rubio hasn’t yet committed to voting for Tillerson, which could derail Tillerson’s confirmation. Republicans only control the committee by one member.

As Slate reports, “The Senate can then bypass the panel and bring his nomination to the full chamber for a vote, where he would need only a simple majority. There, his nomination would be likely, but not guaranteed.”

As for Colorado’s Democratic U.S. senator, Michael Bennet, who is not on the screening committee, he “takes the Senate’s advise and consent role seriously and does not want to prejudge nominees without a full vetting,” said his spokeswoman Laurie Cipriano. “He hopes to meet with Mr. Tillerson before his confirmation vote,” she continued. “Based on his hearing, Michael continues to have concerns about his judgment on Russia, sanctions policy, and overall independence.”

Photo by Gage Skidmore for Creative Commons on Flickr.

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