Ben Cardin says he is 'deeply troubled' by Rex Tillerson's stance on Russia

Cardin declines to signal whether he'll support, oppose Tillerson for State.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Tuesday he is "deeply troubled" by President-elect Donald Trump's pick to lead the State Department -- but he did not signal whether he would oppose or support his confirmation.

Trump announced Tuesday that he intends to nominate Rex Tillerson, the chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, as the nation's top diplomat. The pick has drawn praise from many Republicans, though some -- including Arizona Sen. John McCain -- have previously questioned the choice.

The president-elect described Tillerson Tuesday as "among the most accomplished business leaders and international dealmakers in the world" and called him "the embodiment of the American dream."

In a statement, Cardin said he is troubled by Tillerson's "vocal opposition" to U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia following its invasion of Crimea in 2014. The Maryland Democrat will lead questioning for his party at Tillerson confirmation hearing next year.

"Mr. Tillerson has demonstrated he knows the corporate world and can put his shareholders’ interests first, but can he be a respected Secretary of State that puts the national security interests of the American people first?" Cardin asked. "It remains to be seen."

Yet Cardin's statement was less critical than those issued by other Democrats. Cardin's predecessor as the top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, called the choice "alarming and absurd" this month.

Cardin, who almost never signals his thinking on a major vote, said he wants to "know more about Mr. Tillerson's worldview" and said he looks forward "to meeting with Mr. Tillerson as I lead my Democratic colleagues through a thorough, thoughtful confirmation process where we will scrutinize his record, experience and qualifications for the job."

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