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Graham: Trump has blind spot on Russia
01:11 - Source: CNN

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Rex Tillerson is President-elect Donald Trump's choice to be secretary of state

The GOP senator said if Tillerson rejects intel, he might not get the lawmaker's support

CNN  — 

Sen. Lindsey Graham said Wednesday it will be difficult for him to support President-elect Donald Trump’s Cabinet nominees if they don’t accept US intelligence on Russia’s alleged hacking in the 2016 election.

“I’m looking for people who understand the world as it is,” he said on CNN’s “At this Hour.” “If a nominee for a critical job doesn’t understand what the Russians are up to, I’ll have a hard time believing they have the judgment to do their job.”

Lawmakers have expressed concern about the relationship between Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson and Russia, given his involvement with the country while he was heading ExxonMobil. Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded Tillerson the Order of Friendship, one of the highest honors Russia gives to foreign citizens.

Graham said if Tillerson rejects the intelligence pointing to Russia’s involvement, he might not get the lawmaker’s support.

“He’ll have a hard time getting my vote because it’s clear,” Graham said. “You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes.”

Graham said he’s “perplexed” that Trump sees other foreign threats for what they are but not those from Russia.

“What bothers me is that President-elect Trump seems to get the Chinese for what they are. The Iranian agreement is bad. He gets that. He understands the threat we face from ISIL,” Graham said, using another common acronym for ISIS. “When it comes to Russia, he seems to have a blind spot, and I’m completely perplexed because the Russians are undermining democracy through the entire world.”

If Trump doesn’t respond to the Russians appropriately, other countries may feel emboldened to hack the US in future elections – and this time it might be the Republicans on the receiving end, Graham said.

“Sanctions are coming, President-elect Trump. I hope you will after Friday understand that the Russians did interfere in our election,” he said, referring to the day Trump is expected to receive an intel briefing on the hacking. “They did they did release information embarrassing to the Democratic party. It did affect Hillary Clinton.”

“It could happen to the Republicans in the next election by Iran or China if you don’t push back now,” Graham added.