WASHINGTON – Yesterday, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) was joined by Committee Vice Chair Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) for a joint interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, where the Senators discussed the Committee’s bipartisan oversight efforts and how the U.S. needs to tackle the rising threats posed by the Communist Party of China.
On the need for access to classified material found in the residences of Presidents Trump and Biden:
“This committee has had a long bipartisan history of doing its job. And our job here is intelligence oversight. The Justice Department has had the Trump documents about six months, the Biden documents about three months, our job is not to figure out if somebody mishandled those, our job is to make sure there's not an intelligence compromise. And while the Director of National Intelligence had been willing to brief us earlier, now that you've got the special counsel, the notion that we're going to be left in limbo, and we can't do our job, that just cannot stand. And every member of the committee who spoke yesterday and I wanted the director to hear this, regardless of party said, we are united in we have to find a way to do our job. That means we need these documents, we need that assessment.”—U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner
On the Intelligence Committee’s priorities:
“I actually think if there's one issue that still is extraordinarily bipartisan, it is a growing concern about China, and a recognition that in this technology race, second place is not good enough for us.” —U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner
“I want to have an approach that says, we need to look at foreign technology investments, foreign technology development, regardless of country, if it poses a national security threat and have some place that can evaluate this. We need a frame to systemically look at this… 138 million users in America use TikTok on a regular basis. Average about 90 minutes a day. The fact is, the algorithms that determine what you see on TikTok is determined out of Beijing by China. And the proof is, if you look at what Chinese kids are seeing on their version of TikTok, which emphasizes science and engineering, versus what our kids and the kids around the world are seeing, it is dramatically different. So, both from a data collection and from, frankly, a propaganda tool, it is of huge concern.” —U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner
On social media regulation:
“I've been saying for years, and we may not fully agree on this, but on all these social media companies, a lot of good, but there is a dark under belly. And the fact that the United States historically, we would have set some rules of the road for these entities in terms of standards, in terms of protocols, in terms of appropriate behavior, in terms of questions like even like basic privacy. But our failure to do so has mean we have ceded that leadership, oftentimes to the Europeans, or to individual states, and I think that's, frankly, a loss of American leadership.” —U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner
Video of Sen. Warner and Sen. Rubio’s full interview on Face the Nation can be found here. A transcript follows.
CBS’s Face the Nation
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you have any timeline in terms of when you will get visibility into the documents of classified material that both President Biden and President Trump had in their residences?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Margaret, unfortunately, no. And this committee has had a long bipartisan history of doing its job. And our job here is intelligence oversight. The Justice Department has had the Trump documents about six months, the Biden documents about three months. Our job is not to figure out if somebody mishandled those, but our job is to make sure there's not an intelligence compromise.
And while the director of national intelligence had been willing to brief us earlier, now that you've got the special counsel, the notion that we're going to be left in limbo, and we can't do our job, that just cannot stand.
BRENNAN: But the intelligence community would say their hands are tied, because this is an ongoing, active Justice Department investigation.
So what would meet the level of -- of addressing your concerns without compromising that?
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I don't know how congressional oversight on the documents, actually knowing what they are in any way impedes an investigation.
These are probably materials we already have access to. We just don't know which ones they are. And it's not about being nosy. You know, the -- here's the bottom line. If, in fact, those documents were very sensitive, materials were sensitive, and they pose a counterintelligence or national security threat to the United States, then the intelligence agencies are tasked with the job of coming up with ways to mitigate that.
BRENNAN: Does the director even know what the materials were?
SEN. WARNER: Well, we got a bit of vagueness on that, because, again, I believe you want to make sure the intelligence professionals and not political appointees were making some of that.
That makes sense to me. But I would even think that, if the -- President Trump and President Biden would probably want to have this known, if they say there's no there there. Well, there may still be violations on handling.
SEN. RUBIO: Let me tell you how absurd this is.
There isn't a day that goes by that there isn't some media report about what was found where, what -- some sort of characterization of the material in the press. So, somehow, the only people who are not allowed to know what was in there are congressional oversight committees.
So, it's an untenable situation that I think has to be resolved.
BRENNAN: The idea that some of these documents go all the way back to when President Biden was a senator, does that suggest that there's something more than a problem in the executive branch?
SEN. WARNER: Agreed. That's why the notion of, we're not going to give the Oversight Committee the ability to do its job until the special prosecutor somehow says it's OK doesn't -- doesn't hold water. We have a right, as not only members of the Intelligence Committee, but as part of the leadership, to read virtually every classified document. We got a problem in terms of both classification levels, how senior elected officials, when they leave government, how they handle documents. We've had too many examples of this.
And, again, I think we've got the bipartisan bona fides to say, let's put them in place on a going-forward basis, a better process.
BRENNAN: So, you -- you threatened to withhold some funding to some of the agencies yesterday.
SEN. RUBIO: I'm not in the threat business right now.
But we certainly are -- there are things we need to do as a committee every year to authorize the moving around of funds. I think the director of national intelligence and other heads of intelligence agencies are aware of that.
You know, at some point, I would prefer for them just to call us this morning or tomorrow or whenever and say, look, this is the arrangement that we think we can reach, so that the overseers can get access to this. I would prefer not to go down that road. But it's one of the pieces of leverage we have as Congress.
SEN. WARNER: We're going to figure out a way to make sure that we get that access, so that we can not only tell the American people, but we've got another 85 U.S. senators who are not on the Intelligence Committee who look to us to get those assurances.
BRENNAN: What is it that you, as lawmakers, can do? Is it new regulations when it comes to transitions?
SEN. WARNER: The director of national intelligence is the individual that's the chief officer for intelligence classification.
I think -- and there's been a number of other members of the Senate, both parties, have been working for years on the notion that we overclassify.
SEN. WARNER: The number of things that we read in a SCIF that somehow then appear in the newspaper begs the question.It's kind of been an issue that's been bubbling for a long time.
SEN. WARNER: I think that this -- I think this series of events pushes it to the forefront.
And, again, we have the power to write legislation, which then executive agencies have to follow.
BRENNAN: In terms of record-keeping.
SEN. WARNER: In terms of record-keeping, in terms, literally, of at least guidance on classification issues. I mean, there has been -- and again, this director of national intelligence, I'm going to give her credit. She has been at least acknowledging and, long before this issue came up, said, we need to work on this issue of declassification, overclassification. Every director says it, and then it kind of gets pushed -- pushed back. I think one good thing that may come out of this is that we're going to find a way to resolve this issue on a going-forward basis.
BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. For all the division on Capitol Hill, one subject that invites at least some bipartisan unity is the threat posed by China. For more, we return to our interview with the leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner and Marco Rubio.
BRENNAN: President Biden is reportedly close to issuing an executive order when it comes to restrictions on U.S. investments in - in China. But there's concern about risking further escalation. What's your view on how far that action should go?
SEN. RUBIO: The Chinese have found a way to use capitalism against us and a - and what I mean by that is the ability to attract investment into entities that are deeply linked to the state. The military commercial fusion that exists in China is a concept that we don't have in this country. We have contractors that do defense work, but there is no distinction in China between advancements in technology, biomedicine, whatever it might be, and the interest of the state.
And then the second is, obviously, the access to our capital markets.
And the third is the risk posed. We don't, up to this point, have not had levels of transparency in terms of auditing and the like on these investments of the -- into these companies. When you invest in these companies and U.S. exchanges, you don't have nearly as much information about the bookkeeping of those companies as you would an American company or a European company because they refuse to comply with those restrictions. So, there's systemic risk to our investments and then there's also the geopolitical reality that American capital flows are helping to fund activities that are ultimately designed to undermine our national security.
SEN. WARNER: Beginning of the 20th century, I was a believer that, you know, the more you bring China into the world order, the more things will all be copacetic.
SEN. WARNER: We were just wrong on that. The communist party, under President Xi's leadership, and my beef is, to be clear, with the communist party, it's not with the Chinese people or the Chinese (INAUDIBLE), wherever it is in the world, but they basically changed the rules of the road. They made clear, in Chinese law, that every company in China's ultimate responsibility is to the communist party. Not that their customers. Not to their shareholders.
We have actually, in a bipartisan way, did over -- didn't get a lot of attention, over the last seven years, have been out and we've done 20 classified briefings for industry sector after industry sector about these risks. Frankly, pre-Covid, we kind of got nods.
SEN. WARNER: But, you know, some pushback because a lot of companies were making - were making –
BRENNAN: Because companies just wanted access to the market regardless of the risk.
SEN. WARNER: Were making a lot of money off Chinese tech companies.
BRENNAN: Exactly. Exactly.
SEN. WARNER: Now, post-Covid, I think there is an awakening that this is a real challenge. And I think the good news is that not only is there an awakening, you know, in America, but a lot of our allies around the world are seeing this threat as well.
SEN. RUBIO: I - I think there was a -
BRENNAN: So you want restrictions on biotech, battery technologies, semiconductors, artificial intelligence?
SEN. WARNER: I want to have an approach that says, we need to look at foreign technology investments, foreign technology development, regardless of country, if it poses a national security threat and have some place that can evaluate this. We need a frame to systemically look at this. And, frankly, if it goes just beyond the so-called CFIUS legislation about inbound or outbound investment.
BRENNAN: That's a committee looks at the national security risk.
SEN. RUBIO: But understanding that for, you know, 20 years ago everybody thought capitalism was going to change China. And we woke up to the realization that capitalism didn't change China, China changed capitalism. And they've used it to their advantage and to our disadvantage. And not simply from an old Soviet perspective to take us on from a geopolitical or military perspective, they've done so from a technological and industrial perspective. And so you have seen the largest theft and transfer of intellectual property in the history of humanity occur over the last 15 years. Some of it funded by American taxpayers.
BRENNAN: They have the biggest hacking ability program than any other nation. The intelligence community says they're the world leader in surveillance, in censorship. How restricted should their ability to access this market be?
SEN. RUBIO: I think it is nearly impossible for any Chinese company to comply with both Chinese law and our expectations in this country. Chinese law is very clear, if you're a Chinese company and we ask you for your data, we ask you for your information, we ask you for what you have or we ask you to do something, you either do it or you won't be around.
BRENNAN: You want to ban Chinese companies from investing in America?
SEN. RUBIO: Well, I think there are certain investments where there's no way we can protect the country from doing it. Do you - you know, we go back to TikTok, people say, who - you know, why do we care about what some 16- year-olds are doing.
SEN. RUBIO: I don't think the threat is that some 16-year-old likes these cool videos that are on there, which I admit are - are attractive, obviously, because of the artificial intelligence makes it so. It's the massive amount of data that they're collecting, not on one 16-year-old, not on 1,000 16-year-olds, but on millions and millions of Americans that give them commercial advantage, potentially the advantage of being able to shape American public opinion in a time of crisis, that - that just give them extraordinary insights that allow them to steer the conversation in this country in any direction they want.
BRENNAN: But this has been talked about for three years now.
SEN. WARNER: But - but let's -
BRENNAN: The Trump administration tried to ban it. The Biden administration still hasn't pulled the trigger.
SEN. WARNER: Maybe we were all a little bit slow to recognize the challenge here. You know, it is both a data collection entity. Now, it may not collect as much data as some of our American platforms, but it is very much, at the end of the day, still responsible to the communist party.
But think about this, Margaret, 138 million users in America use TikTok on a regular basis. Average about 90 minutes a day. The fact is, the algorithms that determine what you see on TikTok is determined out of Beijing by China.
And the proof is, if you look at what Chinese kids are seeing on their version of TikTok, which emphasizes science and engineering, versus what our kids and the kids around the world are seeing, it is dramatically different. So, both from a data collection and from, frankly, a propaganda tool, it is of huge concern.
BRENNAN: Yes. CBS spoke to TikTok about their plans and the company said they had come to an agreement over the summer in terms of how they could structure things to separate and create a wall to protect against some of these concerns. They said they can continue operating in the U.S. by offering data protections.
Do you both know what they are offering. And you're laughing so I'm guessing this isn't sufficient?
SEN. RUBIO: I don't know what the data protections are. And there's a technical aspect to it. But it's beyond the data protections. I filed a bill to ban it last year.
SEN. RUBIO: We're going to re-file it again this year.
BRENNAN: You are?
SEN. RUBIO: It's bipartisan. It's bicameral. Some people are not willing to go that far, but I certainly think it's the right place to be. But, in the end, we've got to do something about it, whether it's a ban or something else.
I - I honestly don't know - I -- as I sit here with you today, I don't know how our national security interests and the operation of TikTok in this country, as long as it's owned by ByteDance, can coexist.
SEN. WARNER: And I'm - and - and --
BRENNAN: You want to force the sale?
SEN. RUBIO: I - I want -- I've been wanting to do that for three years.
SEN. WARNER: I may have a slightly different approach. I'm going to sit down and see how we can work through this. But I've been hearing - and I've been trying to give the Biden administration now more than two years to see, is there a technical solution here? And I'd be willing to take a look at it.
The Biden administration has not announced that. And I think the problem is, this is technically extraordinarily hard to do. TikTok has repeatedly said, oh, America's data, not being seen in China. And repeatedly we've seen Chinese engineers having access to American data.
BRENNAN: But it's already been downloaded 200 million times.
SEN. WARNER: This is -
BRENNAN: How do you convince a 16-year-old to delete the app and get rid of the phone? I mean is -- isn't this very hard to put the toothpaste back in the tube?
SEN. WARNER: This is - this - this -- absolutely. But this is one of the reasons why I think Congress has been horribly unsuccessful at this. I've been saying for years, and we may not fully agree on this, but on all these social media companies, a lot of good, but there is a dark under belly. And the fact that the United States historically, we would have set some rules of the road for these - for these entities in terms of standards, in terms of protocols, in terms of appropriate behavior, in terms of questions like even like basic privacy.
SEN. BRENNAN: Right.
SEN. WARNER: But our failure to do so has mean we have ceded that leadership, oftentimes to the Europeans, or to individual states, and I think that's, frankly, a loss of American leadership.
You know, for most of my lifetime we led virtually in every innovation area. We suddenly woke up with, you know, 5G or wireless communication where China was, you know, setting the standards. We - we woke up an industry like semiconductor chips and woke up -
SEN. WARNER: We used to own this and we've lost it. We've seen now the solar industry where it's all migrated to China.
If -- think about, you know, this notion around quantum computing, the ability to break any kind of encryption, or artificial intelligence, those technologies are driven by an authoritarian regime out of China. You know, I don't care where you fall on the political spectrum in America, that's not good news or for free people anywhere in the world.
BRENNAN: Aren't you - aren't you going to run head long into business interests here in the United States? I mean just look at Elon Musk. The U.S. government relies on his company SpaceX. He has a majority in car company Tesla. He has control over the internet connection in Ukraine via Starlink. And he now owns Twitter.
You said there's no one in the world more dependent on the communist party than Elon Musk.
SEN. WARNER: Exactly (ph). My concern is, you know, if you look at Mr. Musk's public statements, they're almost all supportive of the oversight regime in China, and they're almost all derogatory about the oversight regime in America and in Europe.
And part of that, I think, whether it's knowingly or not, is, where does he get all his batteries that go into all these Teslas? They are, you know, built in China, mostly, frankly, with a lot of Uyghur labor. And Senator Rubio has been the leader on trying to make sure that the Chinese communist party's treatment of the Uyghur people is prohibited. And, you know, I've yet to hear from Mr. Musk how that kind of contradiction about comments about the CCP in China and what he's dealing with Uyghur labor, how that's not going to influence some of his decisions.
SEN. RUBIO: It goes beyond Elon Musk. I mean business interests have invested, both in access to the Chinese market, but also in the means of production. And it's allowed them, in many cases, historically, to be deputized, include - and that includes the finance and investment world -- to come to Washington and argue for things that are against the national interest but in favor of their short and midterm profit line for their investors for their company.
BRENNAN: Senator Rubio, as a conservative you have to feel a little bit uncomfortable with talking about government intervention in private industry. But that has been the U.S. solution in some ways to the semiconductor issues you were raising, the subsidy, to try to bring chip making back to America.
SEN. RUBIO: Well, I would argue this, that I don't believe in government intervention in the private sector, but I do believe in government intervention in our national security. So, capitalism --
BRENNAN: These are subsidies.
SEN. RUBIO: Well, so capitalism is going to give you the most efficient outcome. But sometimes what do you do when the most efficient outcome is not in our national interest, because it's more efficient to buy rare earth minerals from the Chinese, it's more efficient to have things built over there in many cases, but is it in our national interest to depend on them for 80 something percent of the active ingredients in our pharmaceuticals? I could argue it was not. And in those instances, where the market efficient outcome is not in our national interest, it is my opinion that we default to the national interests because without our national interests and our national security, the other things won't matter.
We are not a market. We're a nation. And the market exists to serve the market, not the nation to serve the market.
BRENNAN: The $50 billion that taxpayers just pumped into to the chips bill and semiconductors, that's just the start. That you think other legislation is coming like that?
SEN. WARNER: I'm saying - what I'm saying is we need - you know, one of the reasons that it took us $52 billion and that was for most semiconductors and next generation wireless, was because candidly I think we went asleep at the switch for a long time and we had to suddenly play catch-up because we'd seen China advance and we had also seen Taiwan, our friend and one of the reasons why we need to be supportive, where, frankly, every advanced chip in all of our satellites and - and sea craft are made in Taiwan.
We were chasing after the fact. If we can get ahead on - on some of these key areas, I don't think we will need that kind of investment. But we are going to need to make sure that we've got a plan in place to make sure that these new technology domains don't all end up in China.
SEN. RUBIO: We need to identify, what are the critical industries and capacities that our country needs to be able to have without being leveraged or having to go through the Chinese to get it. And then we need to figure out what government's role is.
Now, I want to make sure that we're not turning this into a lobbyist trial where every industry comes here and gets money. And we have to make sure that if we're going to invest in research, that that research is protected, that there's sufficient safeguards, because what's the point of putting billions of dollars to innovate something they're going to steal anyway?
But I do think, again, this is not about government running or owning these companies. We're not going to rely on the Chinese or someone else to make it for us because we'll be denied that capability in a time of conflict.
BRENNAN: Can you get that through a divided Congress?
SEN. WARNER: I actually think if there's one issue that still is extraordinarily bipartisan, it is a growing concern about China and a recognition that in this technology race, second place is not good enough for us.
BRENNAN: We actually haven't had a bipartisan interview like this in about three years. So, to see a Democrat and a Republican sit down and talk about issues of substance is great to see.
SEN. WARNER: Thank you.
BRENNAN: Thank you both.
BRENNAN: We'll be right back.