Transcript: Sen. Marco Rubio on "Face the Nation," October 14, 2018

Rubio: U.S.-Saudi relationship should be "completely revised" if Saudis killed missing journalist

The following is a transcript of the interview with Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida that aired Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, on "Face the Nation."  


JOHN DICKERSON: A member of both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees joins us now from Miami, Florida Republican Marco Rubio. Welcome, senator. I want to start with Hurricane Michael. Panama City, other places, absolutely devastated. What can you tell us about the latest in Florida?

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, a few things obviously, Panama, I've gotten to Panama City and I've met with and seen the drone images there from the emergency operations center in Bay County and it's deep devastation. I've lived through a bunch of hurricanes myself going back to Andrew and here in South Florida, and what I saw in Panama City reminds me of Andrew. I mean literally there was, I think the whole power grid has been shredded, but in all this conversation, and that's very important, and you know Mexico Beach is wiped out and all of that-- but, but I want everybody to remember one thing and that is that there are these inland areas away from Mexico Beach, away from Panama City, not on the coast, these are rural areas, a lot of them have older residents, poorer residents, people that could not evacuate even if they wanted to-- many living in manufactured housing and mobile homes, large mobile homes but nonetheless mobile homes, multi-acre properties off of dirt roads-- who are completely isolated at this very moment. And I know crews are working hard to get to them. But these are the first people, these are the likeliest people to be forgotten, and I think that is where the real challenges lie ahead in the next few days in terms of saving lives and getting to people quickly.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Let me switch topics now to the case of Jamal Khashoggi. You, you said that if it turns out that Saudi Arabia had something to do with his murder that quote, "a complete revolt against our policies with Saudi Arabia would take place in Congress." Where do you think the state of that revolt is and what are the possible range of actions Congress could take?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, on the first point I think everyone's waiting to find out exactly what happened and frankly this is the kind of case where we may never know exactly what happened. It was a denial. But that said there is news reports out there that there is some sort of audio-video evidence of what occurred. If that were to emerge or any other facts were to emerge or frankly if questions here aren't answered. There's no video of him leaving that facility. There's going to be a big problem. 

I can just tell you that in Congress right now there is no pro-Saudi element that's going to stick with our relationship with Saudi Arabia as it's currently structured if in fact they lured this man into this consulate, killed him and then you know cut up his body and sent a team to go into that country to kill him in the first place. That's just an unacceptable thing. 

We should never accept that from anyone in the world. It undermines our credibility and our moral authority around the planet to go after regimes like Putin's or Maduro in Venezuela or others. As far as the options that are concerned, people talk a lot about the arms sales. Our relationship with Saudi Arabia extends well beyond arms sales as well. And I would just say it's unfortunate because Saudi Arabia is an important part of our Middle Eastern strategy. They are a key leverage and hedge point against Iranian influence in the region. But that cannot supersede our commitment to human rights.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about the moral question here. The president has recently secured the release of Andrew Brunson from Turkey. So working on the one hand on that account. But in this account he said basically because there's 110 billion as he claims arms purchases on order from Saudi Arabia that you know that's, that's essentially more important or has to be weighed here in the response. Give me your sense of, of your reaction to that, that moral position the president took?

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah, I would have phrased that differently. It's not about the money. There are plenty other countries that would want to buy arms from the U.S. and frankly that, I would have phrased it very differently. The important thing is that when you sell arms to a country, so, it's true what he said that they can buy from China, Russia or anybody else. When you sell arms to Saudi Arabia, it gives you leverage over them because they need replacement parts. They need the training, so it's, it's the kind that you know you can't sanction a country by cutting them off of something if you never provided it in the first place. So it is true that arms sales gives us leverage.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mention leverage. Were you surprised the president said up front that these arms sales were something that he wanted to protect? In other words, aren't those, isn't that your leverage in your argument with the Saudis and he sort of said right away those are too important to mess with.

SEN. RUBIO: Look if you don't sell arms, they're going to buy them anyways. And then in the future when you want to influence Saudi behavior on another topic, you're not going to have anything to threaten them with or anything to hold over their head. But to me it isn't about the money. I don't know if the president had just been briefed and that's kind of how he used it or expressed it. But the bottom line is I mean there, the money, there's no way, there's not enough money in the world for us to buy back our credibility on human rights if, if we do not move forward and take swift action on this if in fact, if and when it's proven to be true.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you a question about climate change in the wake of Hurricane Michael. Congressman Carlos Curbelo, a Republican colleague of yours, believes that Republicans need to stop questioning the science behind climate change. He said that, that America was saddling young Americans with an environmental debt that was as bad as the fiscal debt. What's your response to that?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, I respect Carlos tremendously, he's been a leader on that topic. My view is climate, sea level rise, these are measurable things. You can measure that. So there, it's not even a scientific debate at some point it's just a reality debate. You can measure whether sea levels are higher than they used to be, warmer than used to be and the like. For, as a policymaker the fundamental question is, what can we do about it? And if if fact humans are contributing to that, what public policy can we pursue that you can actually pass, does not destroy your economy and can be effective.

JOHN DICKERSON: But what the congressman and others are saying is, is that if you believe the science about human contribution that there are mitigation efforts you can take with greenhouse gases and that that's where there needs to be a little more focus from Republicans is on admitting that, that climate change is caused by human activity and taking actions whether it's coal plants or emissions from cars or methane gas to actually get, get it where the problem is occurring.

SEN. RUBIO: The increases come from the developing world and in other places but we're not a planet, we're a country. And the question becomes I, I don't think in my mind anyway the debate has been necessarily about, always about whether or not it's human contribution. It's about whether the public policies that are being advocated would be effective.--

JOHN DICKERSON: --So--

SEN. RUBIO: --In light of the fact that in other places carbon emissions continue to grow and by the way technology is moving us in the direction that those who support those measures want us to go anyways.

JOHN DICKERSON: --So your view then, Senator is that humans are the chief contributor to climate change, in this recent period? You- that's--

SEN. RUBIO: --my view is that's what--

JOHN DICKERSON: --settled for you?

SEN. RUBIO: My view is that- that's what a lot of scientists say. I think there are others that dispute what percentage of that is humans and not. I'm a policymaker. There's no way that I can ever debate with a scientist or people who spend their whole life on that--

JOHN DICKERSON: --But do you accept their finding?

SEN. RUBIO: What I can debate is public policy. I can- I can accept this and that is that we're going to have a debate about human contribution because scientists are saying that and, you know, a few are saying not- something different. But if we're going to have that debate about whether certain laws should be passed in order to alleviate what some scientists or a lot of scientists are saying is the cause of this, that has to be balanced with the public interest and other topics like the economy and the like.

JOHN DICKERSON: OK. Well we're- we're out of time we'll have to leave it there Senator. Thanks so much for being with us.

SEN. RUBIO: Thank you.