Seven military veterans who oppose the nomination of former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state commandeered the office of Sen. John McCain, R.Ariz., Thursday and reportedly stood in military formation to demand that he lead a vote against Tillerson’s confirmation.
“We have a real concern about an oil executive becoming secretary of state,” one of the protesters, Marine Corps veteran Matt Howard, later told Business Insider. “We know that this has been an industry and a person that has used the military to subsidize his own ability to make profit.”
“This is clearly an irresponsible pick for secretary of state. And we really want to see Sen. McCain make the right decision and reject his confirmation as secretary of state and encourage other members to reject him.”
The protest was live-streamed on Facebook by Greenpeace USA:
“I did not sign up to protect oil or the interest of people lining their pockets,” one of the protesters featured in the video could be heard saying.
“Exxon is not a friend of the United States,” added another veteran.
The protest was presumably spurred by what McCain said Tuesday, when he claimed that he had not yet decided whether he would back Tillerson during the official confirmation vote next Monday.
“When I see what Vladimir Putin has done in the way of literally committing war crimes intentionally … then I question the recipient of a friendship award with Vladimir Putin,” the Arizona Republican told CNN host Chris Cuomo, referencing Tillerson’s close friendship with the Russian president.
He noted, however, that he was still learning more about Tillerson.
“I had another conversation with him yesterday where I think he explained better to me his relations with Vladimir Putin,” he said.
It appears the protesters hoped to convince McCain to vote against Tillerson’s confirmation, though whether that goal was achieved remains unclear.
What did happen though was that all seven veterans were arrested after they reportedly refused to leave the senator’s office.
“Sen. McCain appreciates the professionalism of the U.S. Capitol Police and all that they do to protect senators, staff and visitors to the U.S. Capitol,” a McCain spokeswoman later wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes.
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