Transcript: Senator Marco Rubio on "Face the Nation," February 6, 2022

Full interview: Senator Marco Rubio on "Face the Nation"

The following is a transcript of an interview with GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida that aired Sunday, February 6, 2022, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to FACE THE NATION. There is an overwhelming amount of news this morning, especially on the international front, but we want to start with two extraordinary developments that threaten to further divide the Republican Party and impact our democracy. Late Friday, Republican National Committee members voted to censure Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for their work on the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol and the attempt to overturn election results, saying the two were part of a quote, "Democrat led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse." The former Vice President, Mike Pence, rebuked President Trump's insistence that Pence could have rejected the Electoral College results on January 6th.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: I had no right to overturn the election. The presidency belongs to the American people and the American people alone. And frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president. Under the Constitution, I had no right to change the outcome of our election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We begin with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio. He is in Miami. Senator, we invited you to come on the show to talk about China. I want to get there, but I have to start here. Do you agree with Mike Pence?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, if President Trump runs for re-election, I believe he would defeat Joe Biden, and I don't want Kamala Harris to have the power as vice president to overturn that election, and I don't- that's the same thing that I concluded back in January of 2021. You know, when that issue was raised, I looked at it, had analyzed it and came to the same conclusion that vice presidents can't simply decide not to certify an election.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  So Donald Trump was wrong? 

SEN. MARCO RUBIO: Well, as I said, I just don't think a vice president has that power because if the vice president has that power, Donald Trump would defeat Joe Biden in four years or two years, and then Kamala Harris can decide not- to overturn the election. I don't want to wind up there.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. So yes, so this appears a turning point for the party, though. Does the RNC speak for you when it says that this is a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse. Was January 6th legitimate political discourse?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, anybody who committed crimes on January 6th should be prosecuted. If you entered the Capitol and you committed acts of violence and you were there to hurt people, you should be prosecuted and they are being prosecuted. But the January 6th commission is not the place to do this. That's what prosecutors are supposed to do. This commission is a partisan scam. They're going after- they're- the purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and and harass as many Republicans as--

MARGARET BRENNAN: That's what you believe--

SEN. RUBIO: --they can get their hands on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --your two Republican colleagues are doing? Liz Cheney-- 

SEN. RUBIO: Well I believe--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --and Adam Kinzinger?

SEN RUBIO: --that's what the commission is doing. Well, let me tell you, I know that's what the commission is doing because they're focused well beyond January 6th. There are people, for example, like in an older member of the RNC whose husband just died and she wasn't even in Washington on January 6th--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But that's not what the censure said. 

SEN RUBIO: But she signed some papers. No, but well, I'm sure it is because that's what- she- she- she wasn't even in Washington on January 6th. She can't afford to lawyer up, and she's being harassed by this commission. This commission is nothing but a partisan tool designed to go out and smear and attack and get their hands on as many people as they can, including people that weren't in Washington on January 6th.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, sounds like you say they do speak for you. Let's get to China.

SEN. RUBIO: Well, no I told you where I stand on that commission. I think that commission is a scam. I think it's a complete partisan scam. And I think anyone who committed a crime on January 6th should be prosecuted and if convicted, put in jail. I do not believe that we need a congressional committee to harass Americans that weren't even in Washington on January 6th, that were not in favor of what happened on that day, have condemned what happened on that day, but they want to smear them anyway. I'm against that, yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sources tell CBS News that Vladimir Putin has assembled about 70% of the forces that he would need for a full invasion of Ukraine. He could take the capital within just two days. As many as five million refugees would be driven into surrounding countries. He could do all this within 10 to 15 days of where we are right now. What impact do you see this happening having on the United States?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, the impact would begin by destabilizing Europe. This is the single greatest threat Europe has faced since the 1940s and- and as you've pointed out, the refugee surge would be one. But I think it would have a global impact because we're now all of a sudden once again living in a world in which countries and leaders can decide that something belongs to them and they go in and take it by force. And there are plenty of- multiple countries in Europe that have complaints about treaties that were signed over 100 years ago in some cases. We know how China claims- its claims on Taiwan. It has territorial disputes with India on its borders. So if we now live in a world where you can just go in and take a country because you claim it or parts of it belong to you and you can do so militarily, well, we've entered a very dangerous period in human history once again. So I think it has enormous consequences if- if and when that happens.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden has made clear he won't use US combat troops. He will use sanctions, financial warfare. Given how Xi Jinping, the president of China, embraced Russia's President Vladimir Putin just in the past few days. Do you see this as a way that these two countries can just blunt the impact of U.S. sanctions?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, there are two things here. The first is there is no- I want it to be clear, there is no U.S. combat role in Ukraine. There isn't going to be one. I don't know of anyone who supports it, not even the Ukrainians. That said, I think that Vladimir Putin has to pay a high price if he does this, not just for him to pay the price, but for other countries to see the high price of doing that kind of thing and other leaders. And I think that price should be A., his economy should be crippled and hurt badly. That will require unity not just from the Europeans, but other countries around the world, but beginning with the Europeans. If they're not going to impose those sanctions and stick with them, then that- then- over- over time, he will be able to blunt it. But the other thing that's going to happen is the easiest part for him is going to be the invasion. The harder part is going to be the occupation. Ukrainians are not going to welcome him with roses. He's going to have to explain to Russian mothers why their sons keep coming home injured, killed and maimed from this occupation of- any country on Earth knows how painful and difficult it is to occupy a country that doesn't want you there for a substantial period of time- It should be us with our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. I think that he'll pay a tremendous price that way as well. And- and so those are the two things that I think need to happen if in fact, he moves forward with this, as I believe personally, I hope I'm wrong. I really do. I hope I'm wrong. But I truly believe that he has decided that he wants Ukraine to be neutral. He's going to impose neutrality. He'll either get it through a signed agreement or he'll impose it militarily.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and as I mentioned, this alliance between Russia and China seems to be building. On China itself, more than one million Muslim- mostly Muslim minorities, are in detention camps in China. According to the State Department, they're subject to forced sterilization, abortions, rape, torture, forced labor, restrictions on prayer, restrictions on movement. I know you've been working to try to restrict imports made by forced labor inside these camps. But is it really possible to clean up the supply chain because China is such an economic behemoth here?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, a couple of things that we need to do, the first is we need to do this no matter what, because this country has to be a country that makes things again. If we've learned anything over the last couple of years is that you have to have a manufacturing and industrial capability and you can't be dependent on foreign supply chains entirely, especially those located in a place like China because of a pandemic, a war or out of leverage against us. You could be cut off and create an economic crisis. But the second is we've passed that bill. We passed a bill that says if something is made in a factory in that part of China, we are going to presume it's made by slave labor and not allow it into the country unless companies can prove that that's not the case. So I think that will obviously address some of it, but ultimately the best thing we can do not just to not have supply chain disruptions, but also not to be so dependent on China, is to reindustrialize America, which was a terrible mistake when we sort of thought that we could be a great power and not be an industrial power.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which companies are the worst abusers on this front?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, it's interesting, you ask. Obviously, I think there are many American companies like Nike and others that have definitely benefited from the supply chain that's located in that part of the world. And- and the list could be even more extensive than that because there are people that are buying from subcontractors. Many of them know they're sourcing material from that area. But- but they have continued or continue to allow it to happen. And so we saw the lobbying efforts of Apple, of Nike and others- and others just representative chambers arguing that this would raise the costs for consumers. But ultimately, it's slave labor. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

SEN. RUBIO: And- and it's a horrific genocide.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and Tesla just opened a showroom in the province where these camps are located. I mean, American businesses still seem to be more than willing to try to tap the Chinese market.

SEN. RUBIO: Well, it's one of the largest markets, the second largest market in the world and in some industries, the largest. I understand the profit motive behind it. And that's fine. But- but I understand that with their view of it, that's- that's their agenda. But our agenda has to be the national interest of the United States, not to mention what's right or wrong in the- in the world. And ultimately, it's important for policy leaders to push back and say, look, we want American companies to be prosperous and do well, but not in ways that undermine American national security interests, which in the case of China, they are.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about what's happening on US soil. The FBI Director Chris Wray gave a pretty extraordinary speech last week, saying China and its threat here in the United States is greater than it's ever been before. He said China is actually targeting people inside the US. Listen to this.

FBI DIRECTOR CHRIS WRAY: We're seeing the Chinese government resort to blackmail, threats of violence, stalking and kidnappings. They've actually engaged criminal organizations in the U.S., offering them bounties in hopes of successfully taking targets back to China.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you combat that kind of espionage on US soil without the United States itself becoming a surveillance state?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, it's difficult, it's not easy, and it's a new threat that we face. But what he's pointing to, there is the example of a Uyghur. Let's say there's a Uyghur in the United States who's involved in speaking out against those abuses that are going on in China. They are trying to lure those people to come back to China. And the way they do it is they threaten their family over there, but they might even align themselves with some sort of a triad group or some street gang of that nature in order to go and personally try to intimidate these people. They have sent people to this country to do that sort of thing as well to harass and intimidate. Whether it's the Uyghur issue or general political topics as well. If you're speaking out against China and you're a Chinese national or former Chinese national, you have families back over there, they try to harass you through your family over there. And increasingly directly here. And so I think the first step is to sort of reveal it and call it out and do it what the director just did. I think the second step is to expel these people. Once we've identified that some agent of influence from China is on US soil going after people living in this country and trying to intimidate them, those people should be immediately expelled from the country, even if they're here under diplomatic cover or, in many cases, they're here under business cover,

MARGARET BRENNAN: But is enough being done on this front?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, I think there's now a growing awareness on this. This is a new thing that's emerged over the last few years that they've become more and more aggressive about it. So it remains to be seen. I mean, we've got to do more and I think more needs to be done at the local level. Look, if you go into a local police department in this country and you tell them there's a Chinese agent operating in your community, that's something they've never dealt with before. In some places, there's a little bit of hesitancy simply because they've never heard that and they don't realize what that threat means. So this is something we're going to have to develop the capacity to do. I don't think there's a lack of willingness to address it. I just think it's something that we don't have a lot of experience addressing it, but we have to because it's happening and it's real. And every year it gets worse.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And can you do it without impacting the rights of Chinese Americans or Chinese nationals who are living here?

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah, in fact, it's Chinese nationals living here that are being threatened and intimidated. And one of the great threats that exist there is many of them are hesitant to come forward and report what's happening to them, to the authorities because they're specifically told not to do so or their family are going to be harmed. So I think we've got to develop greater trust. We have to understand you're the perpetrators are working on behalf of the Chinese government, but the victims are disproportionately Chinese Americans who are living here and they're Americans and they deserve the protection of our country. So it's a- it's a tricky balance, but it's one we need to be able to distinguish.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Rubio, thank you for your time this morning.

SEN. RUBIO: Thank you.

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