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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says he’s ‘riding for the brand’ – and ready to talk to North Korea

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson considers himself a boy scout who is “riding for the brand” – the American people – and is ready to negotiate with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in an effort to keep the dictator from bombing the United States.

Tillerson told “60 Minutes” Sunday in a rare interview that Kim’s New Year’s boast – that the entire U.S. mainland is within his country’s nuclear strike range – “does make us nervous. It also — it also stiffens our resolve.”

“That kind of a threat to the American people by a regime like this is not acceptable, and the president’s meeting his responsibilities as commander in chief of asking our military — Secretary [Jim] Mattis at the Defense Department — to ensure we are prepared for anything,” Tillerson told CBS’ Margaret Brennan.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says military options are on the table in case he fails in diplomacy efforts with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Tillerson said the military options are on the table “in case I fail” at a diplomatic solution, and he is working with Chinese officials to avoid a conflict with North Korea. Tillerson said that until Kim is ready to negotiate, the United States will keep pressure on the regime with economic sanctions. 

But the United States is not dangling a carrot to make North Korea talk. “We’re using large sticks, and that is what they need to understand. This pressure campaign is putting — is having its bite on North Korea, its revenue streams. It’s having a bite on its military programs,” Tillerson said. 

“I’m here to serve my country. I committed to this president. My word is my bond. I ride for this brand.”

– Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

RUSSIANS ALREADY MEDDLING IN US MIDTERMS, TILLERSON SAYS

He continued: “Our diplomatic efforts will continue until that first bomb drops. My job is to never have a reason for the first bomb to drop. And we don’t know precisely how much time is left on the clock.”

In addressing his own personal credo, Tillerson, who became an Eagle Scout at 14 and says the scouting program “really shaped who I am,” follows “the Code of the West.”

He explained: “As the West was unfolding, there wasn’t a lot of law enforcement, and people basically relied upon each other’s word and ‘as my word is my bond.’ And I’ve used that throughout my life as well, even at ExxonMobil. I would sit down with the head of state for that country or the CEO of that company, and we’d look each other in the eye, and I’d say, ‘All I need to know is that you’re going to live up to your side of this deal, and I give you my word I’ll live up to my side of this deal.’ And then a lot of the Code of the West was people were very loyal to their organizations. And the phrase ‘riding for the brand’ is a phrase that’s always stuck with me . . .

“The State Department, the United States Government, the American people are my brand,” he said.

Tillerson addressed how often he speaks with President Trump – “every day even if it’s only for a few minutes” – and the former ExxonMobil CEO with no prior government experience says he had no idea Donald Trump was interviewing him when he showed up at Trump Tower in New York City to speak to the president-elect in December 2016.

“We met in his office in Trump Tower, and he just began by asking me, ‘Why don’t you just kind of talk about how you see the world.’ So we just – we walked around the world for about an hour,” Tillerson recalled. “And then after that, then he kind of went into a little bit of a sales pitch with me and said, ‘I want you to be my secretary of State.’ And I was stunned.”

Tillerson laughed as he said he had no idea it was a job interview, and thought he was just going to share some ideas with the then-president-elect, just as he had previously done with President George Bush and President Barack Obama.

Pushing aside reports that he will step down – “the only person that knows whether I’m resigning or not is me” – Tillerson offered what he would like the American people to know about their secretary of state:

“I’m here to serve my country. I committed to this president. My word is my bond. I ride for this brand. That’s why I’m here, and nothing anybody else says is going to change that.”

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EU news: European Central Bank wants more control amid soaring tensions with London

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EUROZONE chiefs are demanding more control over financial regulation if an EU plot to take lucrative trade from the City of London is successful.

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Senate begins debate on Covid relief bill after limiting $1,400 checks, adding new spending

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WASHINGTON — The Democratic-controlled Senate voted Thursday to begin debate on President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package in a party-line vote that sets the stage for a contentious process with Republicans.

The procedural motion passed by a vote of 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking the tie. It came after Senate Democrats made some changes to the House-passed version, including new limits to eligibility for the $1,400 cash payments.

“It is time to tell the American people that help is on the way,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said before the vote.

The Senate could pass the bill as early as this weekend, after debate and votes on amendments. The process was delayed after Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., forced the entire 628-page bill to be read on the Senate floor on Thursday afternoon. Once passed, the House will need to vote again on the bill before it can be sent to the president.

The legislation is the product of negotiations between the Senate Democrats and Biden. The bill does not need any Republican votes to pass because Democrats are using a special budget process to bypass the filibuster.

Other changes include boosting the health care subsidies under COBRA for jobless people from 85 percent to 100 percent, and making all Covid-19 student loan relief tax-free, said a Senate Democratic aide. There’s also another $200 million for Amtrak, $510 million for homeless services under FEMA and $175 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

The Senate bill also slaps new “guardrails” on the $350 billion for state and local relief, the Democratic aide said. That provision is a leading target of Republican opposition.

The legislation also provides $8.5 billion in relief for rural health care providers. Sen. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, has pushed for extra funding in that area.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted the Democratic bill as a “partisan spending spree” shortly before Thursday’s procedural vote.

Before a final vote can be taken, there will be a period of unlimited amendments, known as a vote-a-rama. Republicans say they are planning to try to put Democrats on the spot with myriad amendments, forcing them to defend politically contentious provisions in the bill. That will likely include motions to “strike” certain policies.



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Sturgeon shamed as 'incompetent' SNP comes under question in tense FMQs 'Nicola must quit'

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NICOLA STURGEON has been shamed during a tense grilling in FMQs over claims the SNP were ‘incompetent’ over handling sexual harassment allegations against Alex Salmond.

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