Transcript: Sen. Mark Warner on "Face the Nation," November 4, 2018

Warner: Economy on "sugar high"

The following is a transcript of the interview with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia that aired Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, on "Face the Nation."


JOHN DICKERSON: We turn now to Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner. Today he's in Wytheville, Virginia getting ready to go canvass for Democrats in Virginia including his colleague Tim Kaine. Good morning Senator. You're going to be knocking on doors —

SEN. MARK WARNER: Good morning, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: — what is your pitch?

SEN. WARNER: My pitch is this election people need to get out and vote. If they are concerned about what's going on in Washington if they're concerned about a president that doesn't act very presidential when we see moments of crisis over the last few weeks they need to have their votes counted. And frankly even folks who may agree that the economy is going pretty good I think many, many people realize we need a check on this president and we've seen evidence of that in the last three weeks, when this president was not able to bring the country together after the shootings or the bombing attempts. 

We saw it when the president, you know, kind of randomly said that he could override the Constitution with a stroke of a pen. People know that we have rule of law in this country. And then in the last couple of days where he said that he's going to take fifteen thousand of our military troops, take them out of Iraq and Afghanistan, no plan, move them to the border and then allow those troops to fire on kids who might be throwing stones.

JOHN DICKERSON: But —

SEN. WARNER: That's pretty remarkable, I think, and this president — just one last point, John. I don't think he understands that words matter. In the last 48 hours in Nigeria, troops shot on students throwing rocks and they turned to President Trump's words as a vindication.

JOHN DICKERSON: Well let me come back here at home, the jobs report on Friday —

SEN. WARNER: Sure.

JOHN DICKERSON: — was even better than forecasters expected. Employers added 250,000 jobs. Unemployment rate is 3.7. Wages grew 3.1 percent. They haven't been doing that. If we focus on the James Carville maxim, "it's the economy, stupid," you named a couple, a lot of things but the economy is strong. Why should people want to change course, accepting all the things you said, why would they want to change course with the economy humming like this?

SEN. WARNER: Because I think one thing people realize is that we're in a sense riding a sugar high from a two trillion dollar tax cut that was unpaid for. Now the economy is doing pretty well right now I grant that. I think the hangover is going to be pretty bad as we go into next year but we can debate that later. What I think people are concerned about is, they're concerned about this president that frankly, even if you agreed that the economy is going well, that we need to have some level of check on him. The founders set up a system of checks and balance. We got a president in Donald Trump that is totally unchecked at this point. And rule of law and frankly America's standing in the world is being undermined.

JOHN DICKERSON: I want to ask you about election security, but quickly on the Intelligence Committee report, your own report. Do you think that's going to come out before the end of the year?

SEN. WARNER: That's my hope. We've still got a number of individuals that we have to see. Many of the ones who frankly pled already out with Mueller, we need to see some of these are principles. But I want this to be done because at the end of the day, the American public needs to know, not only what happened in 2016 in terms of Russian interference, but how we're better prepared to make sure it never happens again.

JOHN DICKERSON: On this election security question, how secure will the elections be on Tuesday?

SEN. WARNER: Well, John, I think we've made great progress particularly at the individual polling stations and in the tabulation of votes. So I think people should go out and vote with confidence. I am concerned that this White House, though, has frankly held back. We've got a broadly based bipartisan election security bill that I think would have gotten 90 votes in the Senate, that would have made sure that every polling station had a paper ballot to audit after the fact if there was ever any kind of intervention. And, unfortunately, the White House stopped that legislation.

JOHN DICKERSON: Are you expecting any kind of an attack on Tuesday, what would that even look like, and is the U.S. in a position to respond?

SEN. WARNER: I think we are much better. DHS has been doing a very good job in terms of working with individual election registrars. The fact that we have a federal, state, and local circumstance and election means that these are lots of different lines of control. But there is a good cooperative relationship. I think it would have been better if, in the aftermath of 2016, this White House, after that kind of attack, would have actually appointed someone in charge of election security. Unfortunate, Mr. Trump has not done that. Matter of fact he even eliminated the position of cybersecurity at the White House, which I think is a totally wrong move because where we're potentially vulnerable is the ability of Russia or some other foreign actor to either break into some of the voter files at the, at the kind of, at the national level or at the vendor level. And then also what I'm more concerned about is a flood of fake accounts or fake manipulation through social media, where again we've made some progress. But the companies have not moved as far as they need to move.

JOHN DICKERSON: Finally, Senator, quickly you received a briefing this week on the murder of journalist or columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Following that, you said there was enough evidence for Congress to act, even if the president doesn't. What kind of action are you expecting Congress to take?

SEN. WARNER: Well, first of all, John, I've not received that full briefing. The whole gang of eight will, but I believe that it is, that the evidence that the Turks have pointed out, that Khashoggi was brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate and frankly, John, I don't think under President Reagan, under President Bush, or Obama, or Clinton, that any so-called ally would have taken that kind of action because they know America at that point stood for a free press and human rights. Again, the president's words matter, and I think that you're seeing our so-called allies take pretty unusual actions. I think Congress will act, whether it's cut back on arms sales, whether it's looking in terms of some of our nuclear accords, I do think there is an opportunity here and I commend Secretary Pompeo and Mattis for trying to urge the Saudi Arabians to end this brutal war in Yemen. And if there is an opportunity in this moment to get that done that would be a step forward.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right, Senator Warner, we thank you so much for being with us.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you, John.