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Transcript: Sen. Ted Cruz on "Face the Nation," November 21, 2021

The following is a transcript of an interview with Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz that aired Sunday, November 21, 2021, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who joins us from Houston. Good morning to you, Senator.

SENATOR TED CRUZ (R-TX): Good morning, MARGARET. Good to be with you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Overnight, you did see Chinese state run media release images of tennis player Peng Shuai in Beijing. It's the first time she's been seen in two weeks since she mysteriously disappeared after criticizing and claiming that one of the former leaders of China committed sexual assault against her. Do you have any idea what- what is going on here?

SEN. CRUZ: Well, we don't know for sure, but there are reasons to be deeply, deeply skeptical. Peng Shuai was one of the best tennis players in the world. She's the first Chinese player ever to be ranked number one in the world in doubles for women's or men's. And she posted on social media a serious allegation of sexual assault. Sexual assault by the former vice premier of China, by a former member of the Politburo Standing Committee. And within 30 minutes, the Chinese communist government caused that that accusation of sexual assault to miraculously disappear. And since that point Peng Shuai has not been seen. Now-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Should the U.S. be doing more?-- 

SEN. CRUZ: After there- there was criticism, after everyone noticed she disappeared, they- they put out- There was an email that claimed to be from her that- that frankly read like a bad- bad Saturday Night Live, like a hostage email. And these latest images that the Chinese government is putting out, they're trying to pretend everything is OK. But I got to say, the Women's Tennis Association has been extraordinary standing up to China. They have been defending this athlete. They've been calling on China to have full and complete transparency, and the Chinese communist government is flabbergasted because they're not used to seeing sports leagues--


SEN. CRUZ: --or- or- or big corporate interests stand up to them. I really commend--


SEN. CRUZ: --the Women's Tennis Association for putting their players first.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And I know you and I have talked about that in the past, when sports leagues don't do that. But so despite concern right now that China is carrying out, actively, a genocide against Muslims in that country, it's still set to hold the Olympics in three months. President Biden has said he's considering a diplomatic boycott. Do you think he should go further because other 2024 presidential candidates, and I know you are considered to be likely one of them, are really kind of competing to be as hard line as they possibly can on China. Nikki Haley, Tom Cotton say this should be a full boycott. Do you support one?

SEN. CRUZ: Yeah. So, listen, I've been leaning in hard saying we ought to move the Olympics out of China, that's what we should have done. The IOC refused to do that. I think it's a mistake to have a full boycott of the Olympics. You know, Jimmy Carter tried that in the 1970s. All it did was punish a generation of athletes. We've got young men and young women, Americans, who spent their whole lives practicing for this moment. I don't want to punish those young athletes. What we ought to do- I do agree with the notion of a so-called diplomatic boycott--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --You agree with President Biden?--

SEN. CRUZ: --which means we don't send high ranking cabinet officials over there. We don't send- we- we try to minimize the attention. But I also think it's important we do two things at the Olympics in China. Number one, that we actually show the courage the Women's Tennis Association is showing to call out the murder, the genocide, the torture, the lies, the complicity in COVID-19 of the Chinese communist government to speak the truth. And then number two, I really hope our young men and women that they go over there and kick their commie asses. We need to win in the Olympics.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. Putting that aside, there are, on a practical level, corporations who spend a ton of money on sponsorships around the Olympics: Coca-Cola, Google, Procter and Gamble. They're all Olympic sponsors. Should they still go ahead with those activities?

SEN. CRUZ: Look, I- I think it makes sense for corporations to cut off their ads. I'd love to see corporations show a tiny bit of courage. You know, when China engages in horrific slave labor, companies like Nike turn a blind eye. When you look at the NBA, I'm a die-hard hoops fan, the NBA's reaction to China's terrible. Terrible. They're terrified of upsetting the Chinese communist dictators. They value the money so much that in fact, you know, you and I both remember when Daryl Morey, who was the general manager of the Rockets, sent one little innocuous tweet about Hong Kong and the NBA bent over backwards groveling to the Chinese communists. I was in Hong Kong at the time. In fact, you and I did a show at that time.--


SEN. CRUZ: --I dressed in all black in solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters.--


SEN. CRUZ: --I understand why the NBA did it. They're looking at hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions of dollars. I understand why Nike does it. But you know what- what is really impressive about the Women's Tennis Association is they've said they will cancel their matches in China. They will give up tens of millions or hundreds of millions of dollars, if Peng Shuai is not released, if there isn't transparency. That's the kind of courage we need other players to have.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Understand, and they are standing alone on that. I want to ask you about your blocking a number of President Biden's nominees to national security posts. The White House said it's an unprecedented effort of obstruction, Sen. Murphy said, "talking to you it's like dealing with the terrorists." Aren't you playing politics with national security?

SEN. CRUZ: Well, actually quite the opposite, I'm trying to get President Biden to stop acquiescing and surrendering to our enemies. In China, I introduced an amendment to say that we should not purchase any green vehicles or solar panels made with slave labor in communist China in concentration camps. Every Democrat but Joe Manchin voted against it. On Russia, one of the first things Joe Biden did was surrender to Vladimir Putin on Nord Stream two. He gave Putin a multi-billion-dollar pipeline, a pipeline that we had stopped. I had authored bipartisan sanctions legislation. Democrats and Republicans overwhelmingly supported my legislation, and we killed that pipeline dead. Joe Biden came in and surrendered. It is MARGARET, I believe, a generational geopolitical mistake. If this pipeline is allowed to go online, it will give billions of dollars to Russia. They will use it well for military aggression against America and our allies. It will undermine European security, American security and- and enriches Russia. And Biden simply surrendered to Putin. That was a mistake. And so I place the hold on these nominees in order to try to pressure Biden to follow the law,--

MARGARET BRENNAN: When will you lift it?

SEN. CRUZ: --to follow the law. I'll lift it when he follows the law. And in fact, I've suggested a simple, reasonable compromise which, as I've said, I will lift many of the holds if he simply triggers under a law called CAATSA, which is a Russian sanctions law passed with overwhelming bipartisan support. Under CAATSA, he could list Nord Stream 2 AG, which is the umbrella company for Nord Stream, and then delist it. That would solve his political objective of surrendering to Putin, but it would trigger an automatic congressional override veto. I've said if they trigger the override veto- the vote, then I'll lift the hold. But the reason Biden doesn't want to do that is he knows that- he fears he will lose in Congress because its policy of surrendering to Russia is indefensible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I'm going to keep talking to you, Senator. I'm going to ask you to stay put if you could, because I have to take this break and we're going to continue our conversation on the other side of it. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION, we want to continue our conversation with Sen. Ted Cruz. Senator, just before the break, we were talking about the importance of standing up to some of the autocrats around the world. I'd be remiss if I didn't ask you about the state of our own democracy. I know you have condemned the violence on Jan. 6, but in that book Peril, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa reported detailed conversations you had with the President Donald Trump at that time on Jan. 6, and that you knew there was no congressional authority to overturn the election. Didn't indulging the doubters damage our democracy and our standing in the world?

SEN. CRUZ: Well, I haven't read that particular book, and I didn't happen to have any conversations with President Trump on Jan. 6-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Didn't you talk to him as they detail in the-- 

SEN. CRUZ: But I can tell you under the constitution-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --but they detailed a number of conversations you had in the book with the president about challenging the election.

SEN CRUZ: I have no idea- I have no idea what that book says-- but I did not have any conversations with them on Jan. 6. But I also know what the constitution provides and the--

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Or leading up to Jan. 6?--

SEN. CRUZ: --I had many conversations with him in days and weeks and months leading up to Jan. 6, I-I talked to the president sometimes as often as once a week or once a day. But my point is simple. Under the Constitution, Congress has a role, it has a responsibility when it comes to certifying votes. And what I did, I brought together a group of 11 senators, and we objected to call for a Foreign Electoral Commission to review the claims of voter fraud and to assess and make a determination to consider the evidence. And there's a strong historical precedent for that.--


SEN. CRUZ: You look at 1876 and the election of 1876, there was a contested election. There were serious allegations of election fraud, and what Congress did in 1876 is it appointed an electoral commission--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But the- the people--

SEN. CRUZ: --it consisted of five members of the Senate, five members of the House, five Supreme Court Justices.--  

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know- you know that what you're laying out is an intellectualized argument here is not what people gathered and chanting things like "{hang} Mike Pence" were talking about. You know that?

SEN. CRUZ: Look, I think the violence that happened on that day was horrific. I think any acts of violence, regardless of your political orientation, if you're right wing, left wing or you have no ideology at all, if you commit an act of violence, if you assault a police officer, if you're violent against anyone, you should be prosecuted and go to jail. And that's what the law is. And so, I absolutely condemned acts of violence. But- but what? What are the inspiration for the 11 senators in a constitution- in a constitutional option, which I think would have been much better for our democracy because we right now have a substantial chunk of our country that has real doubts about the integrity of the election. And if we had had a credible electoral commission do an emergency audit, it would have enhanced faith in democracy. But instead, Democrats and a lot of the press decided to just engage in incendiary rhetoric rather than acknowledge voter fraud is real. It is a problem-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: --Well, do you have- I want to--

SEN. CRUZ: --and one of the allegations of voter fraud needed to be examined on the merits.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK, senator. There is no evidence of fraud that would have really drawn the outcome of the election into doubt. You know that. I want to ask you about 2024 and a race. I want to ask you, are you--

SEN. CRUZ: Voter fraud has been persistent from the very first election that has ever occurred.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you going to run for president in 2024? Would you challenge President Trump or are you endorsing him?

SEN. CRUZ: Look, I have no idea what's going to happen in 2024. Donald Trump is going to have to make a choice. First of all, whether he's going to run or not, I think if he chose to run, he would be very, very formidable. I can tell you that- that when I ran in 2016, we came incredibly close. I came in second. There's a long history of runner-ups becoming the next nominee, and it was the most fun I've ever had in my life. But there's a lot of time between now and 2024. My focus right now is 2022 because I think next November is going to be a wave election, an awful lot like 2010 was. I think Republicans are going to retake the House, they're going to retake the Senate. And I am spending my time recruiting candidates, supporting candidates and working to retire both--


SEN. CRUZ: --Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer from their leadership positions. Because I think the damage being done--


SEN. CRUZ: --to the country, inflation, jobs being killed, open borders, weakness on foreign policy.--


SEN. CRUZ: --I think Virginia and New Jersey were foreshadowing for what's coming November of next year.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Senator, it sounds like- sounds like a campaign slogan. All right. We will be right back.

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