Transcript: Sen. Mark Warner on “Face the Nation,” April 21, 2024


The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, that aired on April 21, 2024.


MARGARET BRENNAN: We begin today with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner. Good morning, and good to have you here. 

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-VA): Thank you, Margaret. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So- Senator $61 billion in aid to Ukraine, about 60% of that stays as an investment into the US industrial base, as I understand it. President Zelenskyy said this morning on another network, it’s important that they get crucial long range artillery, like attack comms, is that what this money will pay for? And if so, when will they actually get them? 

SEN. WARNER: Well,the great news is, this is finally happening. It should have happened six months ago. The next best time is right now, this week. We’ve seen the Ukrainians overperform. If you step back for a moment and think about the fact that for most of my life, most of America’s defense forces were focused on Russia. Now and the last two years, with less than 3% of our defense budget, two years running, with the Ukrainians have eliminated 87% of the Russians pre existing ground forces, 63% of their tanks, 32% of their armored personnel carriers, without a single American soldier lost, because of the courage of the Ukrainians, and the equipment they’ve received from us, and from our European allies. Getting this additional equipment as quickly as possible- I hope once this gets to the President by Tuesday or Wednesday, that these shipments will be literally launched with that longer range ATACM– 

MARGARET BRENNAN  

— By next week? 

SEN. WARNER: I hope once the President signs, we’ve been told that there is it is the President signature, making sure Congress does its job that these materials will be in transit by the end of the week. And on that schedule, what it will do is it’s clearly been the case that the Ukrainians morale has been great, but it’s been undermined over the last couple of months, when they have been literally given out rationed bullets, eight to 10 bullets a day. And on artillery shells, Russians ten to one, you can’t underestimate that Ukrainians’ grit, determination, but if they don’t have the materials, they can’t carry this fight to the Russians. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will they get those long range artillery? 

SEN. WARNER: Yes

MARGARET BRENNAN: Not just ammunition? 

SEN. WARNER: The ATACMS- I believe the administration was prepared over the last couple of months to prepare or to provide ATACMS. It is written into this legislation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Gotcha. So you talked about rebuilding the industrial base and what this does, okay. According to the State Department, China has helped Russia rebuild its defense industrial base, which has an impact on the battlefield as well here. How have they been able to just blow through US sanctions or defy them to help the Russians, who are fighting Ukraine? 

SEN. WARNER: Well, if we look back again, I think we would all acknowledge that the sanctions regime has not been as tight, as we like to see. China being the worst offender with direct military support. India, a country I’m very supportive of, but India in terms of purchasing Russian oil and giving that hard currency to Russia, for them to go out into the marketplace and acquire arms. It’s one of the reasons why I think this package, which the House just passed, we will take up this week, that says, we have to be ready to be prepared for our national security interests, not only in Ukraine and Russia, also in terms of military assistance to Israel, but with additional humanitarian aid for the Palestinians who are in such great challenges. And there’s about eight or $9 billion for the Indo Pacific region because of the concern that we have about China’s aggressiveness towards Taiwan. Clearly, the Chinese linkage to Russia, combined with the fact that the Iranians are- are providing drones, for example, for Russia and the outlier nation, North Korea. I know the terminology used to be Axis of Evil, this may be the 2024 Axis of Evil combination of nations.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And Speaker Johnson has used that language. One of the other things that the House voted to do was move this TikTok bill through. So this would force the Chinese own parent company ByteDance, to divest it- to sell it, but they have the better part of a year to do so. The Chinese government says they’re not going to allow that. ByteDance doesn’t want to sell it. So if this just gets stuck in the courts isn’t the reality that TikTok is not going away? 

SEN. WARNER: Well, what we’ve done and I’ve been arguing this case for well, over a year, I had a broad bipartisan bill that said, let’s look at these, not just Chinese, Chinese, Russian technology companies in a broader basis where they have a day in court, but if they pose national security risks, I mean, a couple years back, it was the Chinese telecom company Huawei. We- many American telcos bought them and we’re now spending American taxpayer dollars to rip those equipment out because there are national security risks. Huawei- I- TikTok, 170 million Americans a day, 90 minutes a day– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — Right. 

SEN. WARNER: That’s frankly, more than the power of eyes that your network reaches on a daily basis. And that information and many young people on TikTok get their news, the idea that we would give the Communist Party this much of a propaganda tool as well as the ability to scrape 170 million American- million Americans personal data, it is a national security risk.

MARGARET BRENNAN: It is a national security risk, according to US intelligence community, that has a direct impact potentially on US elections. TikTok accounts– 

SEN. WARNER: — On US elections this year–  

MARGARET BRENNAN: — Yeah- targeted candidates from both political parties during the midterm cycle in 2022. That’s the Worldwide Threat Assessment– 

SEN. WARNER:– This is a– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — TikTok is not going away before November. 

SEN. WARNER:–Well, here is the–  

MARGARET BRENNAN: –so that means it’s an active threat.

SEN. WARNER: There is plenty of creativity on TikTok, there are people that make their living off of TikTok as social influencers. I don’t want that to go away. I simply want to make sure that the individuals pulling the strings are not ultimately functionaries of the Communist Party of China. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I understand, But even with this significant bill, the timeline is such that it doesn’t take it away as a risk for the election. And it seems the US government is so limited in so many ways when it comes to these election influence efforts.

SEN. WARNER:  The timeline of giving– this committee a complicated transaction, to give it up to a full year, I think just from a business standpoint, makes sense. The one thing we do have in place, and I’m not putting a whole lot of solace in this but I was at the Munich Security Conference earlier in the year ear when all 20 of the major social media companies, including Tik Tok, including Twitter, X, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, you name it, they have all said they would have a voluntary agreement about disinformation and misinformation and elections because with artificial intelligence, the ability for people to see this our images here, maybe having words that we don’t speak-

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

SEN. WARNER:  Is out- scare the dickens out of all of us. And the truth is, you know, these 20 companies have a guaranteed voluntary agreement, they’ll take on watermarking, which will indicate it ultra-ultra content, be willing to take this content down, but the proof is gonna be in the pudding. The parliamentary elections in Europe start in less than 60 days. So we are going along with our European partners to say all right, companies you promised, show us what you’re doing.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So this other measure that was approved as well, Section 702, it’s a key surveillance tool, was reauthorized for two years instead of five. Take a listen to what the CIA director told my colleague Norah O’Donnell Friday about how his agency is using this authority.

[START SOUND ON TAPE]

BILL BURNS, DIRECTOR OF THE CIA: It’s reauthorization, its passage, I think, is a crucial tool to fight fentanyl because something like 70% of all the successful disruptions of fentanyl traffic moving into the United States that we’ve been a part of have come directly from intelligence derived from 702.

[END SOUND ON TAPE]

MARGARET BRENNAN: So these changes to 702. How does it help fight the trafficking of fentanyl? What difference is there?

SEN. WARNER: Let’s remember what 702 is. It is the ability for the United States government to surveil, listen in, on non Americans foreigners who are abroad. And many times the fentanyl drug cartels are being run out of Mexico, many times supplied with basic goods out of China. And this ability to listen in on the bad guys’ communications is extraordinarily powerful. Matter of fact, the President gets a daily brief of all of the intelligence hotspots around the world. Sixty percent, Sixty percent, of what he reads each day, is material that comes out of the 702 program. Now, let me be clear, there have been times in the past where particularly the FBI didn’t even follow its own rules on making sure that a foreign individual, foreign terrorist that might be talking to American, that we put appropriate protections on that American

MARGARET BRENNAN: That led to some of this Republican criticism.

SEN. WARNER:  What independent of some of the debate on the bill, and I was proud to be, as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the person leading the charge on the bill. But five years ago, the FBI itself was screwing up on 30% of their queries, just meeting their own criteria. We put in place reforms. The screw up level has dropped from about 30% to less than 1%. We put requirements so that you can no longer do batch queries. We got to make sure FBI agents have to show a national security purpose. If a journalist or a political figure or a religious figure, were even to be query- query about, you have to get approval from me, the director, the deputy director, or head, the National Security Division. We think we’ve got a very strong reform bill. It’s why it passed the Senate 60 to 33. And- but I also need to say that the- the folks who are against this, they have- they have a right. We need to have the kind of strict oversight. We need to constantly be wary of the government’s misuse or overuse of these tools. And I think we had a good spirited debate on Friday night.

MARGARET BRENNAN   All right, Senator, so much to talk to you about good to have you here in person.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Margaret.



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