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Transcript: Evelyn Farkas talks with Michael Morell on "Intelligence Matters"

FORMER SENIOR PENTAGON OFFICIAL-TURNED-CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE ON RUNNING FOR OFFICE

In this episode of Intelligence Matters, host Michael Morell speaks with Evelyn Farkas, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia during the Obama administration and current Democratic candidate for New York's 17th Congressional District. Morell and Farkas discuss the recent surge in congressional candidates with backgrounds in national security and the rigors of pursuing elective office. Farkas shares her views on the Trump administration's strategies vis a vis Iran, Russia and China. She also weighs in on ongoing election security threats and the security risks  posed by climate change.  

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Excerpts

  • On why she's running: "Honestly, I feel like it's an all-hands-on-deck moment. What's happening internationally and domestically requires all of us to be more actively engaged… I was convinced that the voters want, and not just in my district but elsewhere, they want someone who understands what's at stake when it comes to national security. It's not the fundamental reason they elect someone to Congress, but it's an additional reason."
  •  On election security: "Some people have come up to me, in public fora, and either privately or publicly asked, "Are we out of the woods? Should we be worried about this next presidential election?" And my answer to that is we are not out of the woods."
  • On confronting China and the value of alliances: "[W]hile I say that I think it's a good thing that President Trump took a firm line with China, the mistake he made was then he turned around and took an even firmer line, more hostile line towards our closest neighbors and trading partners, namely Canada and Mexico, and then our European allies, Japan, South Korea. You don't go into any kind of battle, whether it's economic or military or political, without allies."

INTELLIGENCE MATTERS - EVELYN FARKAS

CORRESPONDENT: MICHAEL MORELL

PRODUCER: OLIVIA GAZIS, JAMIE BENSON

MICHAEL MORELL:

So, Evelyn, welcome to the show. It's great to have you on Intelligence Matters and, more importantly, it's great to see you again.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Likewise. Likewise. This is great.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So maybe the place to start is with your background. And what I'd love to know is how did you get interested in national security? How did you get interested in Russia and Eurasia? Can you kind of talk us through all of that?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. So I like to say I come on my interest in international affairs honestly. I come at it honestly meaning I was the child of

Hungarian refugees. So, as you know, because you're part Hungarian.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yes, I am.

EVELYN FARKAS:

(LAUGH) Both my parents left Hungary after the '56 revolution. So they were fleeing communism, came here with nothing, had to start over again, learn English. I didn't learn English actually until I went to kindergarten and I was four years old.

They moved out to Westchester County, which is a fantastic place to raise a family. Excellent public schools. That is really what I credit my success to, really, the fact that they moved there. Of course, coming to America was the first start. And I just was really schooled growing up on the bad history that we had had, and primarily involving Europe, World War I, World War II--

MICHAEL MORELL:

How did they talk--

EVELYN FARKAS:

--the Holocaust.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--about what it was like to live in communist Hungary?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Oh, well, they didn't have to explain it because I also experienced it. So when I was two was the first time it was safe for them to go back, and then they went back a couple of times, as I was growing up. So I actually went and visited my grandparents, and they would say, "Don't speak loudly in front of that lady. She's living in--" they divided my grandparents' house up into apartments. And, because that was what communism was about. No one should have a bigger home than anyone else.

And one of the ladies they put in the house, intentionally was spying. She was reporting to the government on our conversations. And you can imagine, (LAUGH) kids running around would say whatever. Probably I was about ten at the time that they told that to me. So I knew very, very clearly that there was not freedom to say what I wanted, even as a ten year old, under communism.

I saw the economic disparity at that age. We would bring huge suitcases full of everything, jam, Levis, of course, that was legendary. But medical things, aspirin. Communism was not a good system. It was repressive, right? You didn't have freedom of expression. You couldn't say what you wanted without fear of going to jail. And then economically, it was horrible. Ultimately it collapsed because of both things, really, but the economic one was something everyone felt.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And what was it about their character, right, that led them to say, "We're leaving. We're going to find a better life"?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Well, so in part it was, not character, it was just the circumstances they were born into and raised under, which is to say that they were considered intelligentsia. So they were educated. My father, because he was already 30 when he left Hungary. My mother was younger, but she came from a middle-class family and so, again, had property. Also in my father's case.

So they were already considered suspect, enemies of the state. They were already relegated to lesser jobs. My father, who had been a lawyer, trained to be a lawyer and a judge, was doing manual labor. Then he was lucky enough to get an office job.

But when the revolution broke out, he participated. He was there when the protestors took over the radio station. And he knew that, when the Russian tanks came back-- because the reason people could escape was the Russians left. The small Russian military contingent that was there was defeated by the protestors. But the Soviet Union was going to come back. And so everybody took the opportunity, before the Soviets came back--

MICHAEL MORELL:

I see.

EVELYN FARKAS:

--to leave. And my father was one of those, because he recognized that, when the Soviets came back, they were going to say, "Oh, that guy was there, participating in the protests." In my mother's case, it was her parents knew she would have no future economically under that system, and they wanted her to have a future.

And actually, my grandparents stayed behind with two very young children, and their other four children left Hungary, the two girls together, my mother with her sister, and her sister's best friend, and the parents. That I can't even imagine. My mother was I think 17 at the time, and her sister was 16. Leaving them in the care of someone else to cross an international border, not knowing if they would see them again.

But my grandparents, on both sides; on my father's side, only his mother was alive, but they understood. They wanted their children to have freedom. And they were very educated. So I think that was part of what motivated both my parents.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So did your parents' experience and your own experience, does that influence how you think about immigration?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Absolutely. Absolutely. First of all, people who are fleeing their countries, they're doing it out of necessity, either political necessity or economic necessity. And the one thing we learned coming out of World War II was that we had done a grave injustice to many people, first and foremost the Jewish people who were fleeing a holocaust in Europe. And they came to our shores, and we turned hundreds of them away, thousands probably. I don't know the actual number.

But that was a crime. And after the Second World War, as you well know, the United States, we were at the vanguard of setting up systems so that we couldn't commit those international crimes again, that we wouldn't inflict further harm and damage and death upon people.

So I believe strongly in international law. If people want to seek refuge in the United States, they should have the opportunity. We will process them. They may not be actually able to stay in the United States and live here because they may not meet the criteria, but there is a fair system in place. I think we need more people, we need more money. We need to man the border better.

But I don't think the answer is to be hostile. All of the immigrants who have come to the United States have contributed greatly. We are a country of immigrants. And actually, if we want further economic growth in America, we'd better be taking more immigrants in.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So your interest in national security comes from that experience. Can you just talk a little bit about your career then? Your time on the Hill, on the Armed Services Committee, and then your time in the executive branch.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. So I'll start a little earlier because I said I learned about this horrible history. I went to graduate school at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, there's these great books called Horrible Histories. Have you ever--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. (LAUGH)

MICHAEL MORELL:

--seen them?

EVELYN FARKAS:

No, but--

MICHAEL MORELL:

They're for kids, and they're particularly for boys to get boys interested in history. But they're all the gory stuff of history, right, in this kind of comic book format. But it got both of my boys interested in history. Anyway--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Okay, I have five nephews.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--they're called Horrible Histories.

EVELYN FARKAS:

I'm taking (LAUGH) notes, and I have also five godchildren and there are boys there. So what I did was I went to graduate school and I determined to study diplomacy because I wanted to prevent all this horror. And I studied ethnic conflict and nationalism. And the crazy thing was, while I was in grad school, the war in Bosnia came to an end. And I had an opportunity to go, as a human rights officer, in the immediate aftermath. And one of the things that really sort of marked me deeply was that experience because I went on exhumations, they dig up the bodies--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, yeah.

EVELYN FARKAS:

--in these sites of the war crimes where people were murdered. And the thing that I describe most vividly because it's the thing I never forgot was seeing, among the bones and the dirt, this pink parka of this little girl, probably six years old, who had fled with her family into the forest. And was killed in the forest with her family.

So that, again, I was like, "We are the strongest military power in the world. When I go to Washington," which I did, as you said, subsequently, "I'm going to work so that American military might keeps us safe and keeps the world safer." We need a strong military in order to do that. We need deterrence in order to do that.

So I worked on the Senate Armed Services Committee, as you said, for seven years, for Carl Levin, drafting and passing legislation as a senior staffer. Was involved in all kinds of discussions, including his no vote on the Iraq war, interestingly. Most people don't know about that--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Right. Right.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. And he had an alternative resolution, which was to give more time to the inspectors. And then, as you said, I went into the administration. And my last job, I was working for President Obama as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, which is in the headlines now. I did not anticipate when I took the job. I thought I was just protecting eastern European (LAUGH) democracies. And it turned out, no, I was actually working on defending our democracy as well.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So here's the fundamental question, right? A career national security official, nonpartisan, nonpolitical. And you've made the decision to run for Congress.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Why?

EVELYN FARKAS:

I never would have foreseen this. If I thought about it, maybe as a retired person, I might have done something political, if anything. Honestly, I feel like it's an all-hands-on-deck moment. What's happening internationally and domestically requires all of us to be more actively engaged.

And I literally was in Tbilisi, Georgia, Republic of Georgia, about a month (LAUGH) ago. Or, no, feels like a month ago, September. Woke up at 4:00 in the morning thinking, "What if this president gets reelected? What will I do?" Because I disagree with him deeply on everything and I think he's dangerous for our country. And so I said to myself, "I'm going to get involved politically." Because what I had been doing up until then, as you know, was think tank-type work and working on MSNBC as a contributor. And I thought, "That's not going to cut it."

MICHAEL MORELL:

You were doing what I'm doing.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Exactly. (LAUGH) Yeah, which is important. It's explaining to people what's at stake. It's helping them think through what their positions are. That's very important. But I suddenly thought, "I could do more. If he wins again, I'll do more."

Well, literally two weeks later, my representative, my hometown representative, Nita Lowey, announced that she was retiring. And so it started a whole process because friends of mine, I had told them proudly I had my plan B for if (LAUGH) Trump wins.

And so ultimately, I was convinced that the voters want, and not just in my district but elsewhere, they want someone who understands what's at stake when it comes to national security. It's not the fundamental reason they elect someone to Congress, but it's an additional reason.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So there's a pattern here. You're not--

EVELYN FARKAS:

(LAUGH) Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--the first national security person to run

for Congress. And you're not the first female national security person. So we have a Elissa--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--Slotkin, we have Abigail Spanberger, right? We have all these people who had a career in national--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Mikie Sherrill, I just saw her.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--security. Exactly. So is there something special about women from national security who have decided to run for political office, or am I making too much of that, do you think?

EVELYN FARKAS:

I don't know if the gender part matters, I'd have to think about that a little bit more. But certainly national security people, because I have to hasten to point out my friend Tom Malinowski who ran successfully from New Jersey, running again; Jason Crow. So there are a host of men, Max Rose from New York also.

So there are a host of male national security experts. So I think it's probably more that national security people who, as you said, have tended to be nonpartisan mainly because what's at stake on the national security front we have all agreed, across the aisle, on what the fundamental principles are and what the objectives are.

But for the first time, we've seen a president where he's caused sharp disagreement. He's really overturned what we considered sort of the consensus among Republicans and Democrats. And so that I think has galvanized a lot of us to say, "Wait a minute. He's actually overturning the entire order of things. It's not the how we do what we do, it's what."

We disagreed, let's say, when I worked for Carl Levin, with President Bush about how we achieve a safer world, right? But we didn't disagree that we needed to be part of NATO, that we needed to work with allies. There were a lot of things that we agreed on fundamentally.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And I know there's a lot of other issues, right, that are extraordinarily important to people. Their jobs and their health care and all that kind of stuff. But you're kind of special because you've got this national security background. And I'm wondering to what extent the folks that you talk to in your district, and who you are trying to get to vote for you, how interested are they in the world? How interested are they in what America is doing in the world compared to all those other issues?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. So the electorate in my district is

actually very interested in how we are behaving in the world. But more importantly, I would say, first and foremost, they are interested in how our world approach, how our foreign policy impacts them, right?

So the environment. My district has the Hudson River running through it. People in my district are very concerned about rising water levels, about sewage overflowing into their properties and also into protected areas, right? Marshlands. So it's important to them, as a first-order issue, right?

And when I go to fora, I'm actually quite surprised because people will bring that up almost immediately. The other thing is that this president has fomented a great sense of insecurity. Economic insecurity, but also he's done nothing about gun safety. He's threatened to take away our health care. He's eroded women's rights.

So that fear factor, I address it by saying

I want to reinstate, I want to protect the American dream. The American dream is a positive thing. Don't be afraid. Your government can actually help you, right? We will protect your democracy. We will protect your right to a rule of law. And at the same time, we'll provide you with some economic security by, for example, a public option in health care. So I try to address the fears that the president just likes to stoke by kind of speaking about it as a positive agenda.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So were there factors that, as you thought about running, were holding you back from making that decision? Were there downsides?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes. So I spend a lot of time, I'm sure you've heard this from other people you know in this town who run for office, calling people up asking for donations. It's a very weird thing. It's like running a startup business, but you're asking people to invest in your campaign.

There's no pot of money right from the beginning. So I basically hire a team of experts, very dedicated, hardworking people. I don't pay them right away because I have to first raise the money. So that's an odd aspect of it. I don't really like it very much. But it does bring me back in touch with old (LAUGH) friends, so that's--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

EVELYN FARKAS:

--a positive thing.

MICHAEL MORELL:

By the way, I don't like making phone calls (LAUGH) and raising money either. I would find that extraordinarily difficult--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. It's for a--

MICHAEL MORELL:

--and I wouldn't like it.

EVELYN FARKAS:

--good cause. I'm really going to work my butt off and defend democracy and economic opportunity. But, yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So maybe we could shift a little bit and talk about some national security issues, and then come back again at the end to the campaign. But maybe the place to start is with Iran. We've just been through a pretty incredible two weeks with the Iranians. Your thoughts on that?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. Look, my thought on it is, and I don't think this will surprise you because you know how this works in government, when you conduct an attack of this nature, of this magnitude, of this kind of import, right? Taking this guy out was a really big move because he was not just a military leader, he was kind of like a minister of defense and a minister of foreign affairs and a military leader sort of rolled up into one, right?

And so we should have had a plan, first and foremost, to address any backlash. But it should have been embedded in a greater strategy of what we're doing in the Middle East. And just like the two times that the president announced we were withdrawing troops from Syria, it seems to be a one-off kind of helter-skelter move. And these are really dangerous things to do because we are now at risk.

The Iranians, they've attacked the two bases with missiles, right? There was a loss of life, a significant loss of life in the takedown of the Ukrainian aircraft, which is just horrible. The Ukrainians and the Canadians, the huge loss of life of all the people on board.

So my biggest beef with it is that I'm not bemoaning or mourning the death of the

general, it's just that it was done in a way that was not well thought out. And ultimately, it brought us closer to potential conflict with Iran. Now, it looks like the Iranians stepped back. But, again, war should be a last resort. We should do what we can to deter and punish, if necessary, but manage it.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So, Evelyn, the one thing that I struggle with on the Soleimani strike is this question of whether there was intelligence, right, about--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--the Iranians planning significant attacks against U.S. facilities in the Middle East. And I say to myself, "Gosh, if that intelligence existed, and somebody put it in front of me, and the interagency concluded that best way to disrupt these attacks and save the lives of a couple hundred U.S. service members or U.S. diplomats was to take this guy out, I'd raise my right hand and say I'm all in." Right?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right. Right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So how do you think about that piece of it?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah. So I agree with you. I think, if there was really an imminent attack being planned on American citizens, absolutely, that would have been a very viable option. And if taking Soleimani out, if the intelligence community determined that that would have foiled the attacks, then I think it's warranted.

The problem is that, as we heard from members of Congress, including Senator Mike Lee, who's a Republican, that is not the case that was put before members of Congress when they, unfortunately after the fact, informed them. Because there's a long tradition of telling key leadership, the top leaders of Congress, right before you take an action like this. I was on the Hill and I remember very clearly how that worked.

And my boss would know things before anyone else would know, right? It was not just a courtesy, it was smart because Congress pays for these things. They pay for the missiles. So my perspective on it is that, if that intelligence did not exist, if there was no clear intelligence that we had high degree of confidence in, right, to use intelligence terminology, that again made it much less justifiable internationally which, again, puts America at risk. Because the other part of this is that we didn't inform the allies in advance either.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So you talked about the need for a strategy in the Middle East. What would that look like?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Well, first and foremost, it would be a vision of how we want to put an end to the war in Syria. How we want to create more constructive relationships among the great actors in the region. It would be mainly a diplomatic effort. What this administration has done is to focus on putting pressure on Iran only. Frankly, mollycoddle is the word that comes to term. But basically, cozying up inappropriately to the murderous Saudi regime. Even though we need Saudi Arabia, but again, the way we've approached Saudi Arabia has been inappropriate.

The way we've approached Iran has been to withdraw from the nuclear deal, which did put a brake on their program. And put additional pressure on Iran with the idea being that somehow Iran would cave and we would get a better diplomatic deal. Except that there has been no plan, as far as I can see, to bring Iran to that negotiating table to get that better deal. All we did was put Iran's back to the wall, ratchet up the tension. It resulted in back-and-forth military action, and no greater security for anyone in the world.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So let's go to your favorite country, Russia. (LAUGH) So you were actually at the Pentagon when we were being attacked, when our democracy--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--was being--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Well, actually, I'd left after the electoral attack.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Okay. But this country you--

EVELYN FARKAS:

But I understood it. (LAUGH)

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah, this country that you have been following your entire life, right, attacked our democracy. And they're still at it. Talk a little bit about why they're doing that, number one. And number two, what should we be doing about it that we're not?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right. So Vladimir Putin, sitting in the Kremlin, he would like a sphere of influence. He'd like to go back to the Soviet system. Why? Because he likes the corrupt economic system, he likes the autocratic system. That's what keeps him in power, that's what keeps his cronies in power.

They don't want a full-fledged democracy. They don't want the countries that used to belong to the Soviet Union to be democratic. They want them as part of their sphere of influence. Well, guess what? The only country that can really prevent that is the most powerful country in the world, the United States. And we are the country that has stood up for the eastern European countries to have the right to pick their system of government and their political allegiances, meaning NATO or the European Union.

And so Putin determined, at some point in time, look, long ago, it predates really 2016, but certainly when he came back to power in 2011, he wanted to weaken us. He wanted to weaken our international influence, and ultimately divide us as much as possible against one another. Some of that is actually Soviet tactics, as you probably know from your long intelligence career back in those days. They would use our racial tensions, use the weaknesses in our society against us.

But what they did this time was they used our technology to directly get at our citizens, to directly go to African Americans and say, "Don't go and vote for

Hillary Clinton because she's not on your side," through Facebook, right?

And then of course they stole information. And in the past, the Soviets would use the information against us privately. But they made it public. They weaponized it politically. So that's just some examples of what they did. Of course, they also approached Trump folks in his campaign and tried to get them to work with them. We don't know the full story of that because Mueller told us some of it, but we don't actually know the whole story.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So I assume that you think that it is a huge deal, right? The fact that they attacked our democracy.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Absolutely.

MICHAEL MORELL:

I called it the political equivalent of 9/11.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yeah.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Do the folks in your district understand the significance of what the Russians did? Or do you have to end up explaining it to them?

EVELYN FARKAS:

I think that, on some level, they do. Certainly the ones who are really big supporters of Hillary Clinton feel that somehow she was robbed of the election and that the Russians probably had something to do with it. Do they understand exactly how it might have happened? That, for example, Cambridge Analytica had information on voters, swing voters, that was then provided through Paul Manafort to the Russian government because had that Kilimnik guy who was a known Russian actor as a conduit potentially to the Russian intelligence services.

Meaning, that important voter data got to the Russians, which could have then be used by them to manipulate Facebook and the other social media. We don't have the fingerprints for all that, as far as I know. So do my voters, do my future constituents understand that? I don't think they understand the granularity of it. But they know something went wrong.

Some people have come up to me, in public fora, and either privately or publicly asked, "Are we out of the woods? Should we be worried about this next presidential election?" And my answer to that is we are not out of the woods. The intelligence community told us that the Russians are still actively attacking us. And it's not just the elections. They're sitting on electric grids, on water supply grids, on infrastructure.

And this is something the intelligence community reported on to the American people, but I feel it somehow has gotten

lost, that the media is not covering it. And what that is all about is a backup plan. If they want to coerce the United States, they want to keep us out of a conflict, or they want to somehow get their way with us, they can use the bots that they have in our systems to cut off electricity.

It's pretty extreme, right? We don't expect them to do it because they should be smart enough to know how America responds when we're attacked in that fashion. You mentioned 9/11, Pearl Harbor. But nevertheless, that's how the Russians operate.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So I'm sure you've thought about this. But if I were the Russians, I'd come after you, right?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Well, they do every day--

MICHAEL MORELL:

Because--

EVELYN FARKAS:

--I check my Twitter feed. (LAUGH)

MICHAEL MORELL:

--you're exactly the kind of person they don't want in Congress. So do you see any activity on the part of the Russians that's aimed against you?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes. As I said, on Twitter, all the time, there are bots and I'm constantly reporting them. But what can you do? And some people don't know they're Russian bots, so there are actual people who also re-tweet Russian propaganda. Right now, it's very focused on Ukraine and besmirching Ukraine and Biden and all of that. I also worry about hacks. So we're very careful in my campaign about our security. We watch everything very carefully. And I have a paranoid perspective, but rightfully so.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So the last big one, and maybe the most i

mportant, at the end of the day, is China.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right.

MICHAEL MORELL:

For what the world is going to look like, there's probably no more important relationship than the one between Beijing and Washington. And some people have just focused on trade, but I'm sure you agree there are much bigger issues here. So how do you think about what our approach to China should be?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right. So first of all, I would say, with China, we have a chance to have a constructive relationship if we're firm and if we stick to international law and international institutions. And work hard to shore them up, and make it clear to the Chinese that there are rules of the road and they have to abide by them. And that's on trade, and that's on issues of sovereignty, issues relating to Hong Kong, Taiwan.

So my perspective is that the Chinese government, unlike the Russian government, they still think the status quo, the international system offers them some benefit, right? Because they're not trying to overturn it the way the Russians are. So we should use that to our advantage and make it clear, again, that they have to play by the rules. Because they have watched closely how we've allowed Russia to get away with murder, literally, and a whole host of other things, right?

So I think, on the trade front, I'm glad the president has been firm with China. That's a good thing, because they were playing so unfairly in the economic arena. But the president also has weakened WTO, which is the place where we enforce the international rules of the road on trade. So we need to shore up the international system. We need to make it clear to the Chinese that they have to abide by the law.

On issues of sovereignty, so South China Sea, the territorial disputes that the Chinese have with their neighbors, there I think we need to be more creative. We need to use more robust democracy. Because even the United States has been kind of guilty of relying too much on deterrence and the military tool, right, in that conflict in particular, when it comes to the South China Sea.

We really should try to shore up the Hague Tribunal. Right now, the Chinese are in violation, blatant violation of a Hague Tribunal decision that came down in favor of the Philippines.

Now, the Philippines are also letting the Chinese be in violation of it, but I don't think we should. And so a lot of it really requires full-on attention, diplomatic attention. We need a secretary of state that will prioritize that in the right way.

MICHAEL MORELL:

And I don't think it's possible to succeed with China, and not possible to succeed on so many other national security issues without allies.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Correct.

MICHAEL MORELL:

You would--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Correct.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--agree?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes. And that is I guess the fundamental mistake this president made. So while I say that I think it's a good thing that President Trump took a firm line with China, the mistake he made was then he turned around and took an even firmer line, more hostile line towards our closest neighbors and trading partners, namely Canada and Mexico, and then our European allies, Japan, South Korea. You don't go into any kind of battle, whether it's economic or military or political, without allies. That's our biggest asset.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. So maybe we can talk about national security capabilities a little bit. So the strength of our military, the strength of our intelligence services, the strength of our diplomatic capabilities, the strength of our development assistance. Seems to me that all of those have eroded over the past couple decades. You're in kind of a funny situation because I know you agree with having robust capabilities--

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes.

MICHAEL MORELL:

--but you're also in a party where they don't want to spend a lot of money on those things. So how do you square that?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Right. Well, so I don't think you have to pick guns or butter. I'm for both. Okay, yes, so we need to redo our taxes so we can pay for both, right? Right now, capital gains are not taxed appropriately. Right now, the very wealthy, they didn't ask for this Trump tax scam cut, and they got this tax cut, but meanwhile the middle class took it on the chin in the blue states.

So in my State of New York, it's a real problem for people. They already were suffering under the burden of high taxes, and what President Trump did with his I call it a tax scam legislation really is hurting them every day. So we need to address the budget, right? That's how you get more money into the Treasury.

And then I think the issue is to be smart about where you spend money on defense, for example. We have a lot of expensive legacy systems. By legacy I mean big airplanes and ships that are old, and we need to think more creatively about, first of all, obviously, making sure we have access to the newer models and making sure that prices are fair.

But then also dealing with asymmetric threats, because they're the ones that Russia's using to attack us. So if we don't have better cyber capabilities, all of our tanks and aircraft carriers are not going to protect us from a cyber attack. And in fact, those platforms will be more at risk because they're becoming also increasingly automated. So cyber defenses don't cost as much. We need to put more money into those.

The other thing is I really think, when you talk about the weakening of those communities -- intelligence community, defense community, diplomatic, and development -- what I think we're really talking about first and foremost is the weakening of morale. The loss of experienced personnel because they were hounded politically under this administration.

What happened with regard to this Ukraine bribery scandal that the president unleashed upon all of us resulted in very excellent, as we saw on television, foreign service officers being attacked. And they are senior, and everyone below them is watching. And so I think the biggest problem is leadership, what a president and the president's cabinet are supposed to do is provide leadership, boost morale. And that is a really important resource in and of itself.

MICHAEL MORELL:

So, Evelyn, let me maybe finish up here with two questions. The first is how do you bring people together, right? How do you bring Americans together at a time when, politically, you need to attack the president to win the primary that you're fighting, right? So how do you do both of those things at the same time?

EVELYN FARKAS:

I think you appeal to what people care about day to day. Again, I mentioned taxes, I mentioned the environment. People want to work together on these things. They are happy to work across the aisle as well. Initially, you do have to, though, have a political fight. You have to have a political debate.

You have to make very clear that there is climate change, that all the scientists in the climate change field agree, 100% of them, that there is human-caused climate change, that we're facing a crisis, and we have to act now, or yesterday. So I think we do need to be blunt and we do need to speak clearly.

But when we talk about what to do, there is a way to do it, I suppose. If people want to deny what caused the climate change, you can still work with them to address it, right? So I can see myself going to Congress and dealing with people on the other side of the aisle who still refuse to believe the science behind the climate crisis, but might still be concerned because the water level is rising in their communities as well.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Yeah. And then the last question is running for office and sticking to your values. I know that you are a person of deep integrity. But I want to tell you a little bit about my experience. I did a few media events for the Clinton campaign and I would talk to the media. And I really deeply believed that she would have made a great commander in chief, and certainly a better commander in chief than Donald Trump. And so I said that, and I believed it.

But I also, at the very same time, felt pressure to spin a little bit, to kind of go beyond the facts. And I really tried to fight that, but I found in the middle of a heated campaign that that is difficult to do. And I know that you're a person of integrity. Do you feel that same kind of pressure?

EVELYN FARKAS:

Yes. So you have political advisors and they'll tell you, "Our position is this." And then I'll say, "No, no, wait a minute. (LAUGH) What's my position?" you know? And you can give me options, right? But, number one, I may actually have a really firm view on X, Y, or Z. I may be open to hearing options, but ultimately it's my position. I'm not putting forward some position that the party has decided should be my position.

So I think that's the beauty of being 52 years old and running for office. I think, when I was younger, it would have been harder to resist it. And if you know who you are inside your soul, then it's easier to resist. And I'm sure though that there will be moments where I'll have to check and say, "Wait a minute, wait a minute," over and over again, probably. I'm just starting this, and I feel very clearly about what I believe. And I think bearing that in mind. But it's easier when you're more mature, when you already have a strong sense of self and what you believe in.

MICHAEL MORELL:

Evelyn, thank you so much for joining us.

EVELYN FARKAS:

Thank you, Michael. Thanks so much.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *

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