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Transcript: Sen. Marco Rubio on "Face the Nation," December 9, 2018

Rubio on Trump's ties to Cohen case
Rubio reserving judgment on Trump's alleged connection to Cohen case 07:36

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida airing Sunday, December 9, 2018, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: Good morning and welcome to "Face the Nation." We've got a lot to get to today and we begin with Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio. He is in Orlando this morning. Senator, welcome to "Face the Nation." 

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Thank you. Good morning. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Chief of Staff John Kelly is set to depart the White House at the end of the year. He was often seen as sort of a force of stability. What will his departure mean in terms of being able to work with the White House and get things done?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I don't think it'll impact negatively in any way our ability to work with the White House or to get things done. I have a lot admiration for General Kelly. I've always found him to be a professional-- someone who works hard and gets things done. And like every administration, you know, the president's-- there'll be changes in that position-- it's a hard and difficult job and, and so obviously he'll be missed.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's a lot of news in terms of the developments on the front of the special prosecutor. On Friday federal prosecutors also said that President Trump personally directed illegal payments through his attorney Michael Cohen to women who-who claim to have affairs with him. The president is denying all wrongdoing here. What do you make of these charges and do you stand by him?

SEN. RUBIO: Well remember I think it's important to remind people there's- that's two separate probes going on. I think you're, in that case, you're discussing the one out of the New York- the prosecutor- the U.S. attorney's office out in New York, and then there's the Mueller probe. Look we're a nation of laws. We have a system by which government can acquire information, put that information and evidence together and make presentations before judges. 

And in this particular case the- there's individuals, not the president, who've been accused of crimes who have pled guilty to crimes and this is part of their sentencing process. And separately from that is the right of someone to argue that the evidence is not what you say it is. And so everyone is entitled to that. No- just like no one is above the law in this country, no one is beneath it either. That said, obviously you know, you read some of these details, we're going to wait for more information. 

We're doing our own probe in the Senate Intelligence Committee and I'm usually cautious about discussing the matter of the Russian interference portion of it because we're not done with our work yet. I can tell you this, that some of the things that have come out over the last couple weeks, particularly with regards to Mr. Cohen, has- have led the committee to go back and interview witnesses or attempt to interview additional witnesses again based on other testimony in the past. Clearly these are things that are to be taken into account and seriously and I would caution everyone just continue to wait until all of this plays out. But- but it's important that- that we- that this continue to move forward. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So I understand you saying there that you stand by the president.

SEN. RUBIO: Well again there's nothing- there's- there's no reason to not stand by anybody in this moment. There are pleadings, there are cases, there are evidence, we're gonna wait for all of it to be out there. And I would caution everyone to wait for all of it to be out there until you make judgment. Your judgment may not change but nonetheless judgments should be made on the basis of all the information that is before you. 

That is most certainly what we're doing in the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. So as I've said repeatedly I believe that Mr. Mueller's probe should continue and move forward unimpeded. Both of those findings will be there before the American public. We'll see what it all shows when put together and we'll move on from there and see what needs to be done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We also learned this week that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was cooperating with prosecutors on at least three investigations. Does that concern you?

SEN. RUBIO: Well ultimately the fact that he's cooperating with prosecutors? I think, obviously--

MARGARET BRENNAN: On multiple fronts--

SEN. RUBIO: --it's good because it gets--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --multiple investigations--


MARGARET BRENNAN: --now. That was new information, a new development.

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah, I'm interested in- in the truth. I want to know what happened and if someone didn't do anything wrong here, we don't want to be unfair and unjust. If someone did something wrong here it is important, in the interest of the country and the rule of law, that those people be held to account. 

That's what I've always been in favor of, the truth, finding out everything that happened. Making sure that we're not out there accusing people of things that didn't happen. And those are ongoing probes and- and some of it we're beginning to see glimpses of- of pieces of information. I would argue that Mr. Mueller probably has more information than the rest of us do, certainly the general public does.

MARGARET BRENNAN: In your role on the Intelligence Committee I know this week we had a significant development with China, this extraordinary move of the U.S. seeking the extradition of a Chinese telecom executive from the firm Huawei. Last time you were- one of the last times you were on this program you actually said that company and other Chinese telecom firms need to be banned from doing business in the United States. Are you going to try to introduce something in the new Congress to do that? 

SEN. RUBIO: 100 percent absolutely. And here's why. We have to understand Chinese companies are not like American companies. OK. We can't even get Apple to crack an iPhone for us in a terrorist investigation. There isn't a single company in China that doesn't have to do whatever the government tells them to do. They are legally required to do it. And trust me if they don't do it they'll find a new CEO to run that company or a new company to take that company's place. 

When the Chinese ask a telecom company, we want you to turn over all the data you've gathered in the country you're operating in, they will do it. No court order. Nothing like that. They will just do it. They have to. We need to understand that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you didn't have enough support on this last time. Do you now have the support-- 

SEN. RUBIO: Well hopefully that'll change now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --of the White House to try to get American companies to stop having this part of the supply chain? 

SEN. RUBIO: I sure hope so. I hope we do because I think both Huawei and ZTE and multiple Chinese companies pose a threat to our national interests our national economic interests and our national security interests. And in the Huawei case what they're accused of here- what she is accused of- is violating the Iran sanctions. 

So at a minimum we should be doing to them what we did to ZTE when they violated the sanctions law and which included not having access to American suppliers. And I hope that's what will happen that's we're encouraging the administration to do as soon as possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The president did make a nomination for Attorney General William Barr. He has made some past comments regarding the Russia probe that some view as prejudicial. What do you make of that and does he have your support?

SEN. RUBIO: Well I can't comment on whether I support him or not yet. I haven't even begun to review his qualifications or his record in the past. I know he's been through the Senate process before. I'm going to watch the judiciary process very closely. At the appropriate time I'll meet with the nominee and-and get my own take on it and then I'll have a decision to make. I-I generally do not support nominees for the most part unless I know them personally and well until they have worked their way through the committee process. So I know he's gone through this process before. There's plenty of record out there for us to review before we make that decision. So right now you know I-I don't know if I support him or not. I, I- I hope I can because I think that's an important role that we need to fill. But I need to learn more about the nominee and about what he's done in the past before I can make that decision 

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about the U.N. ambassador? You may need to learn more about her, but does Heather Nauert have the kind of credentials needed to be America's representative at the United Nations?

SEN. RUBIO: You know I think she's been at the State Department now for almost two years, she's traveled extensively. I most certainly think she has the ability to do the job well, which is to be America's advocate in this international forum. Again, she will go through with Foreign Relations Committee, we'll have a chance to interact with her, ask her questions privately and publicly and then make that judgment--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should it be cabinet--

SEN. RUBIO: --so I don't--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --level position?

SEN. RUBIO: Well again, I-I'll have to meet with her. She'll have to go through our committee before I can answer that question for you. She's just been nominated. I don't know her well. I don't know much about her work and I know she's been the-the spokesperson at the State Department. But the things you're asking me is does she have detailed knowledge of foreign policy to a level that will allow her to be successful at the United Nations. I don't know. I need to meet with her. She needs to go through our committee and answer questions and then I'll be able to make a judgment on it. And-and so I-I'm sorry. I mean I will have to wait until I be able to do all that to tell you 100 percent whether I can support her or not.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Rubio, thank you for joining us this morning. 

SEN. RUBIO: Thank you.

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