Transcript: Sen. Dan Sullivan on “Face the Nation,” April 21, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, that aired on April 21, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Alaska Republican Senator Dan Sullivan who is also here with us. It was a busy weekend here in Washington–

SENATOR DAN SULLIVAN: Yeah, Margaret, good to be back on the show. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, this Ukraine aid that finally has moved, President Zelenskyy was on another network this morning and he said the U.S. will send a signal with this, that this will not be a second Afghanistan, the U.S. will stay with Ukraine. If Donald Trump wins this next election, can you guarantee the U.S. will stay with Ukraine?

SEN. SULLIVAN:  Well, listen, I can’t guarantee anything, but it’s actually good that the President- President Zelenskyy mentioned Afghanistan because Margaret, this gets lost too much. I think we gotta look at how we got to the situation of Ukraine. I believe strongly that the weakness coming out of the Biden White House, they cut defense spending, you know, every- every year in terms of the President’s budget. Their energy policies exude weakness, and the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan emboldened Putin to undertake the invasion of Ukraine. So we gotta remember, kind of broadly, more strategically, where we are. But as you know, I was a supporter of the defense supplemental. And I think it’s not just going to be important for Ukraine, as you and I have talked about before, it’s going to be really important for the industrial base of America, which has atrophied dramatically. 60% of this bill goes into building weapons, everything from submarines to–

MARGARET BRENNAN: — In many Republican districts too, which is why it’s so surprising it took so long to get through the House.

SEN. SULLIVAN:  All over the place. So I think it’s important, but again, you know, a lot of this, in terms of where we are on Ukraine, from my perspective, comes from the weakness of the Biden administration, and, you know, the president’s inability to actually make the case on Ukraine. He’s given two speeches on Ukraine in the last two years, and all his speeches do is kind of villain- villainize another part of the Congress– 


SEN. SULLIVAN: –He hasn’t tried to bring people together.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We could have a historical argument for the next hour– 

SEN. SULLIVAN: — Well the history’s important– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — going back years about green lights being given to Vladimir Putin around the world by leaders in many countries.So let’s talk about– 

SEN. SULLIVAN: — The history on this is important– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: — I’m not saying it’s not, but let’s talk about the future here, and the signals being sent. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban met in March with Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago, and then he gave an interview. And in that interview, he said that Trump told him, he will not give a penny to fund Ukraine. And that is why the war will end because Ukraine cannot stand on its own feet. We know he’s not a fan of President Zelenskyy. So why do you think he will be persuaded? He might win this election.

SEN. SULLIVAN: Well, listen, I mean, President Trump put out a statement recently where he thought it was important to support- support Ukraine. He actually also mentioned the Europeans need to do more and he actually mentioned something, as I just said, that it was very unlikely the war would have started, had he still been in the White House. So– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Russia hadn’t withdrawn from Ukraine- You know, they’d gone in- in 2014. So this argument over “Trump would have made a difference,” it didn’t make a difference–

SEN. SULLIVAN: — Well look I think–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –for his four years in office.


— Again, the broader- the broader issue, particularly between Biden and Trump right now, you know, where are we- is the world a safer place for the United States and our allies today as it was four years ago? I think that the answer to that is unequivocally no. But let’s get back to your question. I do think that the Republican Party in the House and in the Senate is still very much the peace through strength party. This is the tradition of Republicans, Reagan, the Bush presidencies, Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you just talking about the Senate or the House? Because there were more Republicans in the House who voted against Ukraine aid than voted for it. 

SEN. SULLIVAN:  Well, but actually look at some of the other votes. There was a vote- Republicans in the House two to one rejected an amendment to strip funding for Ukraine, two to one in the house and–

MARGARET BRENNAN: — That was Marjorie Taylor Green’s effort.

SEN. SULLIVAN:– Correct an- and, you know, we’ll see what the Senate does this Tuesday on this bill. One of the things that I think the Speaker did a good job on with regard to this legislation is actually-he actually improved it for a whole host of reasons. But I predict that you’ll probably see a majority of Senate Republicans supporting this legislation. And like I said, peace through strength- this is important because Donald Trump was part of that tradition very much, remember President Obama cut defense spending by 25%. His second term, he gutted readiness. This is what Democrats sent-Presidents do, Biden did it-Obama did it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m-I’m gonna talk about some of these mixed messages in the house with our congressman ahead senator–

SEN. SULLIVAN:– Okay, but look I mean –

MARGARET BRENNAN: – It’s not-it’s not still clear – 

SEN. SULLIVAN: – I think our party is still a peace through strength party, one of the dangers of my view– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: –but as just said you can’t guarantee a Trump administration

SEN. SULLIVAN: –well nobody can guarantee anything–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –but he hasn’t even endorsed this bill publicly.

SEN. SULLIVAN: He came out with a statement last week saying something that you know, Ukraine was important–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –No he says everyone agrees Ukrainian survival and strength should be much more important to Europe then to us, but it’s also important to us, get moving Europe. That was the best that Republicans got out of him. David Cameron from the U.K., 

SEN. SULLIVAN: – let me make one other point–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –the Polish President–

SEN. SULLIVAN: I think that we’re kind of given Joe Biden a bit of a pass on, not just as I mentioned how we got here, but the execution of the Ukraine–


SEN. SULLIVAN: –Effort is you know, literally every major weapon system that the Ukrainians have said they need from HIMARS, Patriots, stingers, tanks, F-16s, now ATACMs, every single weapon system, this administration, delays, delays because they’re scared of, you know, making Vladimir Putin mad. The Senate, you saw Mark Warner there a second ago, you interviewed him. In a bipartisan way we come in and we say, Mr. President, you have to give them these weapon systems, they finally relent. Think about where we’d be Margaret, if, you know, a year and a half ago, we would have gotten all these weapons systems in Ukraine.

MARGARET BRENNAN: — Or six months ago, if Republicans in the House actually held a vote to do what they did just yesterday, but I need to move on to the climate because I know you’re also passionate about this and what the Biden administration just announced about your state of Alaska. The President wants to conserve 30% of us lands as part of his climate change efforts. And he has limited oil and gas drilling in parts in the national petroleum reserves to protect polar bears and other things. And then he also blocked a role- road, excuse me, crucial to operating a copper and zinc mine. You said this is suicidal and lawless.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Those are strong words. 

SEN. SULLIVAN: Well, it’s lawless. He doesn’t have the authority to do it. And I could go into all the laws that support me on that. It’s, as I say, national security suicide. Look, this president won’t sanction the Iranian oil and gas regime. You may have seen Senator Blumenthal and I put sent a letter to the President on Friday saying you need to do that. But he has no problem sanctioning Alaska that this administration has issued 63 executive orders and executive actions, singularly focused on Alaska to shut our state down. Now that of course, hurts my constituents. But Margaret, national resources, energy critical minerals, that’s an American strength, this should concern all kinds of Americans. I’ll mention one final thing that I really wanted to highlight here. You know, I’ve been in the Senate nine years, I have never seen such a cynical and dishonest display coming out of any presidency. When this President on Friday with Secretary Haaland announced that they did this because the Alaska Native, the indigenous people on the North Slope of Alaska, asked them to, they wanted them to ,these- the leaders of the North Slope of Alaska, were unanimous in opposition to this. They tried to meet with Secretary Haaland, she wouldn’t meet with them. This is a rule that focuses on their lands where they’ve been living for 1000s of years. And then the President says, well, I did it because the indigenous people of Alaska wanted it. That is a lie. And I- it is a lie and go look, go see what the indigenous people of Alaska from that part of my state said, they’re very upset and the President was canceling their voices and now stealing their voices. It was really a despicable move.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, Senator, we have to leave it there because of the break, but I know you could talk with me on this perhaps again in the future– 

SEN. SULLIVAN:– Thank you–  

MARGARET BRENNAN: — more in depth. We’ll be right back.

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