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Transcript: Sen. Mark Warner, chair of Senate Intelligence committee, on "Face the Nation," Nov. 12, 2023

Warner: Congress has done "nothing" on guardrails for tech
Congress has "done nothing on any guardrails" on social media and technology, says Sen. Mark Warner 09:10

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Mark Warner, chair of Senate Intelligence committee, that aired on Nov. 12, 2023.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we're back now with Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner of the state of Virginia. And the Democrats were- were celebrating what happened in Virginia this past week with your elections. You said it was- you told the White House, what happened in Virginia was the first election of the 2024 national election cycle. What do you mean by that?

SEN. MARK WARNER: Well, I meant that while there was a lot of focus on the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, the Ohio abortion question, and Virginia, a purple state, where not only abortion, but gun rights, voting rights were all on the ballot in terms of Democrats' positions versus the Republicans'. And I think it sets the stage well for the President. And I think one of the things that has not gotten into the analysis, I mean, clearly abortion was a big issue. But I also think Virginia, very reliant on the federal government, and a lot of defense establishment, a lot of federal workers. I think the overall craziness that's come out of the House of Representatives left a message that even when the Republicans in Virginia would try to appear moderate, I think Virginians were afraid if they got total control of the state government, it would be the extremists, the MAGA crowd, that would drive the bus the same way that's happening, unfortunately, at the national level. And I think that played into the Democrats, you know, taking back the House, keeping the Senate and stopping some of that agenda.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But the President's own approval rating is low. So, when people draw a direct line and say Democrats did well here, so therefore, a year from now, President Biden's coasting to victory. Do you agree with that? Or do Democrats have a Biden problem given that his approval ratings are- are not high?

SEN. WARNER: The president's approval ratings are tough; I am the first to acknowledge that. But I also think the President has repeatedly said, at the end of the day, this is not a choice between Joe Biden and a perfect alternative, particularly if the choice is between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. I think Virginians- I think Americans will reject that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That also comes down to a question of enthusiasm and turnout, right? In tight elections. And we've seen some particularly young progressives, on this issue, we've been talking about Israel and Gaza, be very vocal in their frustration. And in tight races, states, like Michigan matter a lot. And there are over 200,000 Muslim Americans in that state. Do you see this divide on this issue hurting the President with Democrats?

SEN. WARNER: I think it has a potential to and that's why I think all of us are urging Israel. Clearly Israel has the right to defend itself, has the right to take out Hamas. Hamas is holding many of the Palestinians, people using them as shields. But we also- those images on your show today. They're horrific. So, what Israel has to realize, and this is why we've been pushing for these pauses, why we've been pushing to make sure that the settler violence on the West Bank is controlled. This is a battle for hearts and minds for Israel, not just a military battle. And those hearts and minds go across our country. They go across the region. And if they are- if there's not more consideration about Palestinian casualties, you could see this already tragic event, spill over into violence on the West Bank, coming out of Lebanon, and obviously making it harder in America to maintain our traditional support for Israel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: America's Israel's number one arms dealer. That's what we do. So, does something need to change in terms of this potential aid package that is being debated in the Senate? 

SEN. WARNER: Well, I think questions have been raised about how this aid will be used. I've raised some of those questions privately. We also have to pair that with humanitarian assistance. And that is absolutely critical. We've, again, seen these horrific images. But I also think as we think about this package, we also need to realize I hear a lot of the Republicans who want to bash Iran, bash Iran, bash Iran, and I get it, alright. The Iranians are bad guys. But they then seem to forget the connection between Iran and Russia, and some of these very same folks who want to help Israel, but then want to walk away from Ukraine. I think walking away from Ukraine at this time would be a historic mistake that would pay negative repercussions literally for years to come.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident that package, Ukraine and Israel and border and Taiwan, can pass?

SEN. WARNER: I'm confident if we can put all those pieces together. And I believe that not only money, but we do need to make some policy changes on border. The devil's in the details, but I think if we get that package combined, it will definitely pass.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We're going to take a break and come back and talk to you on the other side of it. So, please stay with us senator. We have more Face the Nation. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to Face the Nation. We continue our conversation now with Senator Mark Warner of Virginia. You- in your position as head of the Intelligence Committee have been cracking a lot of the competition with China, particularly in the technology space. The White House seems to be very focused on reestablishing military to military ties with China. What are you watching for out of this summit with Xi Jinping?

SEN. WARNER: Well, I do think reestablishing these military ties or communications are important. Because we saw when we shot down the Chinese balloon, nobody picked up the phone on the other end. And unlike Russia, where we've had 75 years of conflicts, but lots of back-channel communications, because our- our contest with China is newer, we don't have that level of communication. So, I think that's very important to be reestablished. I also think the President needs to push President Xi on the continuing intellectual property theft, that some years accounts for close to $500 billion of intellectual property being stolen. And I firmly believe when we've seen no retreat from China, in terms of its level of technology investment, I absolutely believe that national security in the 21st century is more than tanks and guns. It is who wins the battle for artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and advanced energy that the level of Chinese investment, for example, on rare earth minerals coming out of Africa is huge. And we need to be able to counter that with America and with our friends.

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, you want guardrails, I imagined, setup with China on artificial intelligence and the like. But legislating around a lot of this is really hard, and not moving very quickly.

SEN. WARNER: Well Margaret, let me tell you, I did the bill that was terribly bipartisan. 13 and 13, Democrats, Republicans about saying we need an approach that's not simply focused on TikTok but on all foreign technology that might pose a national security risk from China or Russia or Iran. And suddenly, we had the extremes on both the left and the right come out against that legislation. It needs to move. Because, particularly now, as you see, literally 40% of young people get all their news from TikTok. So, I hope those kinds of issues will be- we can get some energy behind them now coming after this summit. But this technology competition, we've had military competitors like Russia, we've never had an economy- it's making the investments the way China is in these new technology domains. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So, Microsoft this week came out with a report that said Russia, Iran and China will interfere in the 2024 presidential race. Not- they were certain about this, and other close presidential races worldwide. Is your legislation going to stop something like that? 

SEN. WARNER: I think our legislation will take on an issue like a TikTok, which is, I am afraid, could be used as a propaganda channel. For the CCP, the Communist Party of China and my beef is with the CCP. It's not with the Chinese people with the Chinese diaspora. But around artificial intelligence, where I think we need to be humble, because candidly, we've done nothing on any guardrails on social media and on technology writ large. The two areas where artificial intelligence could have enormous negative effect tomorrow is interfering in our public elections. But it also could have a tool in terms of interfering in our public markets. And I've been surprised we've not seen more manipulation, for example, of stocks using AI tools. So my hope is perhaps we can get a coalition between those who favor making sure public markets and honoring a fair and with as well as those who are concerned about interference in our elections to build the kind of coalition because taking on big tech, I've been there for years and got a pretty much zero record and nobody in Congress has got a good record on this. I think we need that kind of coalition because the election interference could be enormous.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Very quickly- is that Washington Post report that Ukraine was behind the attack on Nord Stream accurate and is attacking civilian infrastructure acceptable?

SEN. WARNER: Margaret, I'm not going to comment on anything that comes out of classified intelligence. We do know that Russia has a history of misinformation and disinformation, but we'll continue to follow that issue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for your time today.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you. 

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