Meow. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) came out with the claws during the hearing for former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state.

Rubio started by asking Tillerson if he considers Russian President Vladimir Putin a war criminal. Tillerson, who ran a company that had many deals with Russian STATE OWNED companies, refused to take the bait:

“I would not use that term,” Mr. Tillerson said.

Here’s the exchange:

“So based on all this information and what’s publicly in the record about what’s happened in Aleppo and the Russian military, you are still not prepared to say that Vladimir Putin and his military have violated the rules of war and have conducted war crimes in Aleppo,” asked Rubio.

“Those are very, very serious charges to make and I would want to have much more information before reaching a conclusion. I understand there is a body of record in the public domain, I’m sure there’s a body of record in the classified domain. And I think in order to deal with a serious question like this…,” Tillerson was said before Rubio interjected.

“Mr. Tillerson, what’s happened in Aleppo is in the public domain, videos and the pictures are there,” said Rubio.

“I would want to be fully informed before advising the president,” said Tillerson.

Rubio replied, ‘There is so much information about what’s happened in Aleppo…there’s so much information out there, it should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin’s military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo.

Okay, I admit that like most people, I felt outraged Tillerson would not admit Russia’s role and the anger boiled more when Rubio listed the travesties caused under Putin’s watch. But I’m also very close to the subject.

After a cool down, a friend reminded me that Tillerson could not and would not agree with Rubio’s assessment no matter how much evidence Rubio threw at him.

If Tillerson said yes, he would effectively admit that ExxonMobil is in business with a war criminal. Yes, technically, Exxon has deals with Rosneft, but it is state owned and if you don’t think Putin isn’t behind the scenes pulling the strings, you’re not paying close enough attention.

I covered this over at Breitbart when Exxon executives traveled to Moscow to sign the deals after the Treasury Department passed sanctions against Igor Sechin, the CEO of Rosneft, who is often called Putin’s right hand man. I went into depth about how the Kremlin toppled those in charge of Rosneft to bring it into state control and it was not pretty. Putin also creepily stood behind Sechin when he signed the documents to seal the deal.

Tillerson stating he considers Putin a war criminal could have caused problems. Tensions have already increased since the election with accusations of Russia interfering with our election and Trump supposedly wanting to be besties with Putin.

Can you imagine what would happen if Tillerson said yes? The media is already hungry to cause rifts in Trump’s administration before it even happens and Rubio basically tried to hand feed it to them.

In the third round, Rubio backed off a bit:

“I have no questions about your character, your patriotism. You don’t need this job, you didn’t campaign for this job,” he told Tillerson. “But I also told you when we met that the position you have been nominated to is, in my opinion, the second most important position in the U.S. government.”

Rubio added, “You gave the need for a lot more information in order to comment on some of these. I understand that, this is a big world and there’s a lot of topics; these are not obscure areas.”

Tillerson reminded Rubio that they are both on the same sides, even if they take different approaches:

“Our interests are not different, senator,” he said. “There seems to be some misunderstanding that somehow I see the world through a different lens. I do not.”

But Mr. Tillerson said he was “also cleareyed and realistic about dealing in cultures” that are unlike that of the United States.