The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, that aired on “Face the Nation” on Sunday, March 26, 2023.
We go now to Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He joins us from King George Virginia. Good morning to you, Senator.
SEN. MARK WARNER:
Good morning Margaret.
It was a pretty intense five hours of questioning of Tiktok CEO this past week. Your bipartisan bill has White House support, and it would deal with Tiktok by giving the Commerce Department power to review and potentially ban technology flagged by US intelligence as a credible threat. Will it pass in a divided Congress?
Well, Margaret, will – we’re now up to 22 Senators. 11 Democrats. 11 Republicans. We’ve had strong interest from the House. I think they wanted to get through their hearing. And clearly while I appreciated Mr. Chew’s testimony, he just couldn’t answer the basic question. At the end of the day, Tiktok is owned by a Chinese company Bytedance. And by Chinese law, that company has to be willing to turn over data to the Communist Party. Or one of my bigger fears, we got 150 million Americans on Tiktok average of about 90 minutes a day, and how that channel could be used for propaganda purposes –
-or disinformation, advocated by the Communist Party.
But has the White House made clear to you that they want this bill to pass and do intend to ban it? Or is a forced sale more likely?
Well, I think the White House is very in favor of this bill. And clearly this is not just a phenomenon in America. We’ve seen Canada act. We’ve seen the UK act. Matter of fact, the Dutch said, if you’re a media person, please get off TikTok, the Chinese are spying on you. India’s already banned the bill- banned it outright. We give the Secretary of Commerce the tools to ban, to force a sale, other tools. And end of the day, one of the things that may lead to a ban is the Chinese Communist Party has said they felt like the algorithm, the source code that resides in Beijing, is so important that they’d rather see a ban than give that source code up to be placed in a third country, which again, I think speaks volumes about the potential threat that this application poses.
Well, the Commerce Secretary though recently said that the politician in her thinks a ban will mean losing every voter under 35. Forever. And if you look at use of Tiktok I mean, just last week, President Biden showed up and celebrity videos on Tiktok from the White House. Plenty of lawmakers, including your Democratic colleagues, Senator Cory Booker use it. A number of House progressives use it, given how important this platform is to Democrats, can you actually get TikTok taken care of before 2024 when you might need it for political outreach?
SEN. WARNER: Margaret, I think there’s a lot of creative activity that goes on on Tiktok, but I absolutely believe that the market- if TikTok goes away, the market will provide another platform and at the end of the day, that could be an American company. It could be a Brazilian company, it could be an Indian company. All those companies–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but the Commerce Secretary is saying there’s a political cost if it goes away–
SEN. WARNER: –operate within a set of rules that–
MARGARET BRENNAN: and that’s what she fears.
SEN. WARNER: I think –
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’re empowering her.
SEN. WARNER: Listen, I have met- I have met with Gina Raimondo on this issue. I think she will make very clear that she believes TikTok is a threat as well. And listen, if at the end of the day, you could end up with a forced sale. And that forced sale also makes sure that the core algorithm, the source code resides someplace different than China, that could be a outcome that would be successful as well. At the end of the day, you cannot have American data collected. Nor can you have the ability for the Communist Party to use TikTok as a propaganda tool.
60% of the company is owned by other investors, including US firms. So is this a policy that you really need to address with Americans to stop them from investing in companies like this?
Well, that’s one of the reasons why I think our approach – the RESTRICT Act says – rather than dealing with Tiktok in a one off fashion, or a few years back, it was Huawei, the Chinese telecom provider or years earlier, the Russian software company Kaspersky. We need to have a set of tools, rules-based so they can stand up in court, Tiktok would still did get his day in court, even under our law that says, if there’s a foreign technology from a place like China and Russia, and it poses a national security threat, and one of the things we also require is that the intelligence community has to declassify as much of this information as possible. So it’s not simply like, hey, trust the government, we got to make the case. And I do think at the end of the day, if it ends up with a ban, there will be other platforms for the literally millions of influencers and folks who like this kind of video platform, they’ll still be able to get it.
Very quickly. They’re a number of Republican lawmakers who plan to meet with Taiwan’s president when she is here on US soil. Are any Democrats, will you?
You know, I I’m not sure when the president of Taiwan is coming to the United States –
-they announced March 30 and again in April.
SEN. WARNER: Okay, I’m not sure. Well, if there- if there’s an invitation made to me and other Democrats, listen, I would like to have that meeting as well. I think protecting and ensuring the security of Taiwan is in America’s national interest.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you, since you sit on the Senate Banking Committee about this rolling turmoil that we are in. You are one of 16 Democrats who voted in 2018 to change those Dodd Frank banking regulations regarding the mid-size banks, which obviously has been scrutinized, because that size bank is where we have seen recent issues. I know you’ve defended the vote in recent days. Do you think there needs to be more regulation of mid-size banks, now?
SEN. WARNER: Well, Margaret, Tuesday, we’re going to start getting the facts at the Senate Banking Committee. And if it ends up that a stress test that would have been applied to these mid-size banks would have spotted this, of course, I’d add additional regulation. I think, though, what it appears to me is two things happened. One, basic banking regulation. If this has been only a $5 billion bank, not a $200 billion bank, should have spotted the fact that this management, and the regulators missed basic banking 101, the interest rate mismatch. And two: one of the things that I think we also have to look at is this was the first time we’ve had an internet-based run. There was literally $42 billion taken out of this bank in six hours. That’s the equivalent of 25 cents on the dollar. And I’d like to know why some of the venture capitalists spurred this run in the first place.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Interesting topic. I want to ask you, though, as well, about your relationship with SVB bank, and political donations. USA Today had a great big list of all of the entities SVB’s political action committee or CEO had donated to. It’s the DNC. It’s President Biden’s 2020 campaign. Senator Schumer says he’s going to give back the money he received or donate it. Representatives Maxine Waters, Ro Khanna have returned the donations. You received $21,600 from their political action committee, nearly six grand from its CEO. Do you feel any pressure to give those funds away? Is there a point to it?
SEN. WARNER: Well, first of all, Margaret, campaign contributions have never affected my policy choices. They never have, and they never will. We’re going to hear the facts on Tuesday. And if there’s malfeasance at the bank, of course, I’m gonna give the money back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay. Senator, before I let you go, I want to just follow up on what you shared with us when we spoke back in January, when you were very frustrated that the administration wasn’t sharing more information about the classified materials improperly held by the current president when he was out of office and the former president. You’ve been briefed. Any more clarity on this? Any further information?
SEN. WARNER: We need more information about these documents. And more importantly, we need to make sure that what the intel community has done to mitigate the harm. And we’re still in conversations with the Justice Department, the administration’s position does not- does not pass the smell test. We’ve got a job not to go into the legal ramifications, but to make sure that the intelligence community has done what’s right. And we’ve got some additional tools, we can restrict some of the spending. We’re in active conversations with the Justice Department. But we’ve got to get those documents
MARGARET BRENNAN: Specific to what just happened this week in Syria, with the Iranian-aligned groups attack on U.S. presence there. Are you satisfied with the amount of information that’s being shared? What is going on? And should there be a more robust response from the Biden administration to stop these kind of attacks?
SEN. WARNER: Well, we’ve got a few thousand troops there in Syria and Iraq. I’ve been briefed by the intel community. Protecting, frankly, the Kurds who are finishing wiping out the remnants of the ISIS forces, and, frankly, helping guard some of the ISIS prisoners. It has been a dangerous area, but I think the administration’s response has been appropriate. So far.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Some of your Republican colleagues have publicly complained, though, that the attack that was fatal Thursday morning wasn’t briefed to Congress until Thursday night. Does that concern you? I mean, Iran was a key topic being discussed on the Senate floor that day.
SEN. WARNER: We have no illusions about the malicious nature of the Iranian regime, and how they help these groups in Syria, Iraq, and frankly, across the whole region. But in this case I do think the administration briefed us in an appropriate way. And I think the response to the missile fire, or the drone attack from one of these Iranian-sponsored groups. That’s a dangerous part of the world. But our troops are doing something that’s terribly important in terms of making sure that we eliminate the final vestiges of ISIS.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right, Senator Warner, thank you for your time today. Face the Nation will be back in a minute. Stay with us.
Full interview: Sen. Mark Warner on “Face the Nation,” March 26, 2023
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