Transcript: Sen. Mark Warner on "Face the Nation," June 2, 2019

Warner: Barr has "little credibility" for Russia probe review

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia that aired Sunday, June 2, 2019, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: With us now is the senior senator from the state where this happened, Virginia's Mark Warner. Senator, the Virginia Beach police chief said today that he didn't believe any other kind of gun legislation would have prevented this. The weapons were purchased legally and he entered the building in a legal manner. But we do know former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords' organization that rates gun safety and violence, says every 10 hours in the state of Virginia someone is killed with a gun. Is this something your constituents just have to adjust to?

SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, Margaret first of all, we're all heartbroken about what happened in Virginia Beach. Twelve victims, eleven of them public officials, since they work for the city. And thank God for the police officers who rushed in and took down the shooter or chances are there could have been more deaths. And we're still not sure what motivated this shooter. I've been in touch with city officials and the governor, and there may not have been anything with this specific case that could have prevented it, although obviously additional mental health assistance would be- would be critical. 

But we've got to recognize that this just doesn't happen in other civilized nations at this level of violence. And while it's too early to talk about what specific actions, I do think there ought to be some kind of lowest hanging fruit like universal background checks that might not have done anything in this particular case but might prevent some future incident, particularly in terms of identifying somebody that might have mental health issues in terms of their ability to obtain a firearm. I do think there are certain areas where we could and should come together in terms of action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What about suppressors? Apparently the shooter had one on his weapon and that muffled the sound so that victims couldn't run and hide.

SEN. WARNER: Well, I think that's an area that there ought to be a legitimate debate. I have- I have felt that we ought to take steps against assault like assault weapons. The suppressors, I'd like to hear what the legitimate reason is in terms of either self-defense or hunting or why a suppressor is needed. But again there- there- there may not be any single item here. But we can't become in a sense callous about the fact that whether it's the number of folks in Virginia that are taken out by firearms or the- the numbers of mass shootings that have taken place already this year. 

You know, the basic underlying fact is this just doesn't happen in other nations at this rate. And I think we all ought to, in a sense, put some of our politics aside and- and sort through how we can find some common action to prevent some of these actions in the future.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. We heard from the special counsel this week for the first time we heard from the attorney general about the Mueller report. Is there any question in your mind that the counterintelligence probe involving the Trump campaign was not legitimate?

SEN. WARNER: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. This was a appropriate actions taken by the FBI, taken by some of our intelligence community. Matter of fact if they had not acted, it would have been the height of irresponsibility. There was evidence of Russian intervention. I wish candidly in many ways the Obama administration had done more to get this message out. And one of the things I know there was lots of back and forth on the obstruction issue. But what I hope Americans would remember from the Mueller presser this week was where he started his comments and ended his comments which was that America was attacked by a foreign power. And chances are they will be- they or others will be back. 

This is the same testimony that the FBI director Christopher Wray, again a Trump appointee, made a few weeks ago before Congress. And it is the height of irresponsibility. That Congress has not acted to make sure that our elections in 2020 are more secure. I would argue that there are three things we could do next week when- this week when we come back. First we ought to go ahead and pass bipartisan election security legislation to make sure for example that there's a paper ballot trail after every vote.

MARGARET BRENNAN: There's been no floor time allotted for this.

SEN. WARNER: There's been no floor time allotted. Second, we ought to put some guardrails on social media so there's not an ability for foreigners or other entities to create fake accounts and manipulate our whole political debate. And third, even if we accept the fact that Mueller's said even though the one hundred and forty plus connections between Russians and Trump officials it didn't rise to the level of conspiracy, we ought to say on future federal elections if there is a foreign entity trying to intervene, there ought to be an affirmative obligation to report back to the FBI.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to play for you a sound bite from our Jan Crawford's interview with Attorney General Barr when he was talking about the president's characterization of some of the investigators.

*TAKE SOT*

JAN CRAWFORD: You don't think that they've committed treason.

ATTORNEY GENERAL WILLIAM BARR: Not as a legal matter, right.

JAN CRAWFORD: But you have concerns about how they conducted the investigation.

ATTORNEY GENERAL BARR: Yes. But, you know when you're dealing with official government contact, in- in- intent is- is frequently a murky issue. I'm not suggesting people did what they did necessarily because of conscious, nefarious motives. Sometimes people can convince themselves that what they're doing is in the higher interest, the better good. They don't realize that what they're doing is really antithetical to the democratic system we have. They start feeling themselves as the guardians of the people that are more informed and sensitive than everybody else.

*END SOT*

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is there a possibility that as the attorney general suggests all of this was born out of a misguided sense of justice, and what is wrong with raising some of the questions that he has about the standards for decision making?

SEN. WARNER: Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed the fact that the Russians intervened in our elections. Our bipartisan committee, the last bipartisan effort on the Hill looking at this issue, reaffirmed unanimously that the Russians massively intervened. If we had not acted, if our intelligence community and law enforcement had not acted, they would have been irresponsible. And candidly, Mr. Barr has very little credibility with me and I think the vast majority of, candidly not just Democrats, but many Americans because he time and again is not acting as our attorney general but as a personal advocate for Donald Trump.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The attorney general is beginning this investigation, though, into--

SEN. WARNER: Yes.

MARGARET BRENNAN: --the counterintelligence probe.

SEN. WARNER: Have- have at it because facts will confirm what the intelligence community and law enforcement did was right. We as- as the Intelligence Committee have looked into the beginnings of this investigation. Again I will restate what I said earlier. If law enforcement and the intelligence community had not started an investigation when they had evidence of Russian interference they would have been- it would have been the height of irresponsibility.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Since you have oversight in your committee role of the intelligence agencies will you receive any kind of update from the agency chiefs? I know Adam Schiff on the House side has asked in a letter for regular updates. Are you going to get those?

SEN. WARNER: We are continuing to ask for regular updates. And one of the most important items that we can receive and we're in the process of re- obtaining these documents. What was the counterintelligence evidence, not the conclusions that Mueller put out, but the evidence that Mueller received. For us to finish our job, we need that evidence.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But can you unequivocally say politics played absolutely no role in influencing the decision makers when they opened and conducted this count?

SEN. WARNER: I saw absolutely no evidence that politics played any role. And, again, if law enforcement and the FBI had not opened an investigation when they had as much evidence as they did of Russian intervention, they would have been irresponsible. Matter of fact one of the ironies is I believe Barr and Trump have repeatedly criticized the Obama administration for not doing more--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right--

SEN. WARNER: --to get the word out before the election.

MARGARET BRENNAN: North Korea. Reports out that their top negotiator and four other officials have either been removed or possibly executed for the failure in Hanoi. Can you confirm that?

SEN. WARNER: I cannot confirm it today, but we'll- I'll get a brief this week it's a--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Who's briefing?

SEN. WARNER: We will get briefed from the intelligence community. But it's- again if true, it is a remarkable- further evidence of how- how draconian and extreme the Kim regime is. And I think again this president's notion that he has built this personal relationship with this murderer because even if these individuals have not been murdered, we know the Kims', I believe cousin or uncle was murdered by anti-aircraft machine in a- in a brutal, brutal way. It raises real questions whether this so-called personal connection is going to lead to a safer world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Warner thank you for joining us today.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Margaret.