- Associated Press - Saturday, January 7, 2017

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey senator who sits on the panel that will hold confirmation hearings for President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of state is expressing concerns about the nominee’s “overall depth of understanding” of United States foreign policy.

But Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez says he remains open to the nomination of Rex Tillerson and looks forward to hearing more from him during the upcoming Foreign Relations Committee hearings. Menendez is a senior member and former chairman of the panel.

Menendez made the comments Friday during an event in Newark, one day after he met with Tillerson in Washington. The pair discussed issues related to several nations, including Russia, Cuba and Turkey.

Menendez called Tillerson a smart man but said he had “serious concerns” about the nominee’s world views.

“While he correctly identified Russian aggression across eastern Europe as one global challenge, he didn’t offer any concrete solutions to countering Russia,” Menendez said. “I am deeply alarmed that Tillerson referred to Russia being ‘not the partner we hoped they would be.’ Russia is certainly not a partner, and I would go as far as to say they are an adversary in many respects.”

Menendez also said he plans to press Tillerson at the hearings on whether he will support sanctions against some of his own past business contacts, including Russia.

“We need a champion of the American people, not a friend of Putin, directing our foreign policy.”

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