(Recasts with Kerry's Trump comments)
By Yeganeh Torbati and Lesley Wroughton
WASHINGTON Jan 10 U.S. Secretary of State John
Kerry on Tuesday warned of the dangers of authoritarian populism
and offered a thinly veiled critique of Donald Trump's prolific
use of Twitter, saying it allowed the president-elect to avoid
In his most pointed public comments about Trump since the
Nov. 8 presidential election, Kerry also suggested that the
president-elect's Cabinet nominees were getting a free pass from
Congress for failing to submit tax returns and other
documentation before their Senate confirmation hearings.
"Every country in the world better ... start worrying about
authoritarian populism and the absence of substance in our
dialogue," Kerry told a Washington forum.
"If policies are going to be made in 140 characters on
Twitter, and every reasonable measurement of accountability is
being bypassed, and people don't care about it, we have a
problem," Kerry said.
As an example of the absence of substance in the political
debate, he said climate change was given short shrift during the
campaign between Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
He contrasted his own vetting for secretary of state and the
paperwork he had to provide with exceptions he said are being
made for Trump Cabinet nominees before their confirmation
In December, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob
Corker said the panel had not asked Rex Tillerson, Trump's
choice for secretary of state, to provide his tax returns, which
Corker said was in accordance with precedent.
Tillerson, the former chairman and chief executive of
ExxonMobil Corp, has not submitted tax returns, but his
financial disclosure and ethics agreement has been made public.
Kerry, a former senator and 2004 Democratic presidential
nominee who became President Barack Obama's secretary of state
in 2013, said it is "quite amazing when you think the hoops I
had to jump through with respect to papers submitted,
documentation submitted and tax returns. ... Suddenly that's not
Asked if he believed Trump's nominees were getting "a free
pass," Kerry chuckled and dodged the question.
Walter Shaub, director of the federal Office of Government
Ethics, said in a letter to senators last week that he had
"great concern" about the hearing schedule for Trump nominees
who had not completed the ethics review process, and said it
would be "cause for alarm if the Senate were to go forward with
hearings on nominees whose reports OGE has not certified."
With 10 days to go before Trump takes office, Kerry said
there had been few high-level contacts between current State
Department officials and Trump's transition team.
Asked about the transition at a forum at the nonpartisan
U.S. Institute of Peace, Kerry said, "It's going pretty smoothly
because there's not an enormous amount of it."
"There are some people who have been in the building for a
period of time, but you know quite candidly, I think there has
not been a lot of high-level exchange at this point in time,"
Kerry said he had not yet met with Tillerson, but expected
to do so soon. Kerry and Tillerson spoke last month by
telephone, according to the State Department.
A spokeswoman for the Trump transition team said she had no
comment on Kerry's remarks.
Tillerson's Senate confirmation hearing is scheduled for
Wednesday, and will be closely watched in part due to concerns
about his relationship with Russia as ExxonMobil's top
Trump has called for better ties with Russia, while some
fellow Republicans in Congress are pushing for a harsher
response to what American intelligence agencies have concluded
was Kremlin meddling in the presidential election.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by