Transcript: Sens. Mark Warner and Marco Rubio on “Face the Nation,” March 10, 2024

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sens. Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia, and Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, that aired on March 10, 2024.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Thank you for doing this–


MARGARET BRENNAN: –and for speaking in the bipartisan way you’re sitting down with us today. How would you both define the greatest national security threat facing our country right now?

SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-VA):  Well, I would define the immediate threat of making sure we push back Putin’s aggressive behavior in Ukraine, that we try to resolve the circumstance in Gaza, where you can eliminate Hamas, but also recognize the humanitarian challenge. But frankly, over a longer term, the bigger challenge, I think, remains China. We’ve never had a nation of equivalent economic size. And they are investing in technology domain after technology domain, where they hope to not only be number one, but frankly, dominate the field. And I think Marco and I, and our committee has really been at the leading edge of trying to expose that whether it was 5G or whether it was challenged around TikTok or the the need to make sure we bring the semiconductor industry back, but that China long term threat.

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah I think in a broader sense, I would say that the world is, you know, countries around the world have determined the unipolar world is over, and they seek to challenge it. In China’s case, they want to, if not replace, at least be an alternative to an American led system that’s been in place, certainly since the end of the Cold War, and even predating back to the end of the second world war. The Russians argue that they’re a great power, who are who deserved to have buffer nations outside of their borders that they have control over. Hence, you know, they want a bunch of Belaruses. That’s what they want Ukraine to become, and other places like that. And and then Iran wants to be, they want to export the Islamic Revolution throughout the Middle East, and they already have proxies operating inside of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. They want to threaten Jordan, Bahrain, and ultimately make Israel an unlivable place and have regional dominance in that way. And then you’ve got North Korea, which is increasingly becoming aggressive in- in the way it’s responding to South Korea in both rhetoric and actions. So all these are interrelated. It’s a challenge to the world order of and it’s led this loose coalition of countries who and sometimes work in concert to challenge not just America, but our alliances.  

SEN. WARNER: And I think what Marco just said is, these authoritarian regimes are more closely aligned than they were even five years ago.

MARGARET BRENNAN: On the immediate issue of the Middle East, Ramadan begins this Sunday, there’s concerns that because of a high degree of tension in the region, a spark could really lead to an explosion. Through the U.S. national security lens, how concerned are you about the rising risk to U.S. interests in the Middle East because of the close alliance with Israel’s war in Gaza?

SEN. RUBIO:  Well, I think the risk is it’s pre existing, obviously, now we have active shooting going on and people back and forth that always leads to mis- miscalculation risks, and in some cases, hostility like we’ve seen already from the Houthis out of Yemen. The goal,  I think it’s a mistake to view October 7, simply through the lens of the Palestinian Israeli question. I think the reason why Hamas was armed, equipped and felt the confidence is this broader narrative, this broader objective that Iran has to drive the US out of the region.  It is why they are conducting attacks in Iraq and Syria, they want a US troop presence out of the region completely. So then–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Should it stay? 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you believe that those 2500 troops in the region should say

SEN. RUBIO: I do and the reason why I believe that is because they are not only there on the counter ISIS mission, let’s not forget that group is still existing, and it’s still a threat. But because they sit, the reason why Iran wants us out of there is that are we are stationed at key points that tie Damascus and Baghdad and all these supply routes that Iran wants to dominate, if we were gone, these proxy groups are now be at the border of Jordan, be able to threaten Jordan and ultimately threaten Israel as a result. But I am concerned I mean, whether it’s Hezbollah and up in the north of Israel, whether it’s what’s happening in Gaza, whether it’s what’s happening with Yemen, the risk of of conflict is very real. It’s a dangerous and tenuous situation. There’s no doubt about.


MARGARET BRENNAN:  President Biden’s reviewing whether to keep those troops in Iraq in the same numbers. 

SEN. WARNER: And I’ll be anxious to see what he says. I do think, though–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you think they should stay?

SEN. WARNER: I think in terms of current basis, yes. Because as long as we’ve got these Iranian backed militias, and others, promoting a level of violence, and I agree with Marco in terms of trying to push us out, but I also think, potentially out of this enormous tragedy, the tragedy of October 7, and now the humanitarian tragedy of 30,000, Palestinians killed. You gotta look at some level of optimism- Israel had already aligned with a number of the Sunni states in the region. I was recently in Saudi Arabia, I think they would like to find some level of peace, post the Gaza conflict with Israel, a stronger defense relationship with the United States. I do think we need to acknowledge the Shia driven efforts to not only push us out but also undermine the Sunni states in the region. And there could be an opportunity for a grander alliance, but that will mean the, the violence has to stop. And you know I think we both have a lot of respect for Bill Burns, the CIA director who has been doing yeoman work, trying to negotiate this hostage exchange, which would lead to at least that short term ceasefire.

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Biden wants to establish a port in Gaza to try to bring humanitarian aid in. It’s not exactly clear the cost, the U.S. military role. Do you think that is a good decision? And given what has happened, this tragic incident recently with a hundred civilians killed, some of them shot by Israeli soldiers according to the IDF because they were clamoring for food. Do you see any clear evidence of who is to blame for that violence that day?

SEN. WARNER: I don’t have the after action report. But I do think this, I mean, remember, United States has been the largest single donor to humanitarian efforts for years in the region. And I think it is important that we continue to show that. I mean, the airlift approach is more symbolic than it actually getting relief to most folks. But the idea and I’ve discussed this with some of the folks in administration, of using Cyprus as a staging point where the aid can be checked to make sure nothing else gets in, the potential then of having that aid moved from Cyprus, to a place where we can set up the equivalent of a field hospital that could help provide the particularly in North Gaza, the humanitarian relief, that is both the right thing to do. And I think the right thing to do in terms of, particularly as we go into Ramadan, hopefully lowering some of the tension, but also shows America’s concern for some of the humanitarian costs in the region. 

SEN. RUBIO: I would just add one thing to this. And that is, it’s important understand why. Everybody’s in favor of helping innocent civilians who are caught in the crossfire of any conflict. I think it’s important to understand the reason why aid can’t get to them. And the principal reason why is Hamas has built this system of tunnels, it’s expensive. I mean, I don’t care if they got a great deal on the concrete, it’s expensive to build this extensive system of tunnels, millions of dollars, that’s money that could have gone to create an economy, to feed people, to build hospitals and, and serve civilians. They didn’t do it. And there’s real concern, and I think, very legitimate reason to believe that any aid that goes in there will be grabbed by Hamas used for their purposes, at the expense of the civilian population. Hamas has a track record of zero when it comes to caring about the lives of civilians or of society in general. They’re an entirely war footing. That’s all they do. And, and I think there’s just real concern that- real reason to believe that any additional aid would be taken- would go directly to Hamas will be controlled by them. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you know, that the U.S. Ambassador David Satterfield, who’s handling that, has said, in written letters to Congress, that they have no evidence that Hamas is stealing the aid, certainly not defending Hamas at all. But saying that aid can continue to be pushed into Gaza without Hamas stealing it, the issue is the criminal groups–


SEN. RUBIO: Well, I’ll just respond personally, I don’t know what he’s talking about. Because   how does Hamas get food? Hamas does not have an economy. Hamas does- Hamas- everything Hamas gets comes from abroad, from Iranians and from what they take. I think the evidence is in place that they have existed as an organization without any means of generating revenue other than what they are able to capture from others, that’s just common sense.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sure, but in terms of now, with the aid getting in now?


SEN. WARNER: I- I think the- the food and water and other relief aid I think it is- you’ve got to make sure you have a distribution system. But I think I agree with Ambassador Satterfield. But let’s also step back for a moment. And I think a lot of the arms, food, other things that have supported Hamas was the fact that they have this tunnel network, which is close to 500 kilometers. I don’t think we- any of us fully expected that. And they have been able [to] secure that. The fact that we are 140 days, roughly, into this invasion, I think most of us, even in the region, thought the Israeli Defense Fund- Defense Forces would be able to take out Hamas. 140 days in, they’ve basically taken out only about 35% of the Hamas- Hamas fighters, and literally have only penetrated less than a third of the tunnel network. 

And one of the things and again, as I think Marco indicated, the extensive network, we’ve had- we brought in some of our experts (unintelligible) to say that if- if this was us trying to take out this tunnel network, could we do it quicker, more efficiently? And candidly, the answer was, maybe we could be a bit faster. But when Hamas is gruesomely holding the hostages, to prevent some of the takeout of the tunnels? This is one of the lessons, this and I think the lesson of drones and in Ukraine, are two of the things in terms of military doctrine I think that we’re gonna have to learn from both of these conflicts.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But- but just to button that up. I mean, when Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister, says total victory is “within reach”, weeks away. You are not describing total victory within weeks. 

SEN. WARNER: I- I have not–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re saying the impact’s tiny. 

SEN. WARNER: Meeting with- meeting with folks in Israel, in the military community, in the intelligence community, the idea that you’re going to eliminate every Hamas fighter, I don’t think is a realistic goal.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And you agree with that? 

SEN. RUBIO: Well, I think that it is possible to achieve a situation in which Hamas does not have the capability to do what they did on October 7. That doesn’t mean Hezbollah doesn’t step in and take over now as a result, that doesn’t mean that a new Hamas offshoot wouldn’t recreate it. This is an ongoing challenge. And at the end, the head of this entire snake is the Iranian regime. They are the ones that provide the weaponry and the funds. There’s no Hamas fighters starving to death. There’s no Hamas leaders starving to death. They’re all fed. They all have medical care. And they all have all the assistance they need to continue to do the things they do. What you don’t want is a Hamas that can continue to launch missiles, particularly against civilian sites inside of Israel, which is the goal here of Iran, and that is to make Israel an unlivable place, so they can drive every Jew out from the river to the sea, and- and- and dominate the region. Do I think it’s- do I think it’s possible to degrade Hamas for some period of time and deny them the capability to- to be able to do that to Israel? Yes. But ongoing, moving forward, there’ll be challenges, because some new group will pop up. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: And- and it’s a U.S. national security risk, the longer this goes on, is it not? 


SEN. RUBIO: Well, all of it is–

MARGARET BRENNAN: In terms of fomenting, within the region–

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah, beyond- well, beyond that, I would say that–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –instability?


SEN. RUBIO: –understand that one of the things that the Iranians believe is that the one impediment facing them to regional domination is the presence of the United States, in Jordan, in Syria, in Iraq, anywhere. They don’t want us in that region and they certainly don’t want Israel to exist either. And so they will continue to target us until they believe they have driven us completely out of the region. And it gives them freehand to then go after Gulf states and ultimately threaten more countries in the region, starting with Bahrain and Jordan, but I th- I don’t think that would be limited to the- just those two kingdoms.

SEN. WARNER: And most of the nation states in that region. Frankly, some of this goes back to the Sunni-Shia divide between Iran being Shia and the- the most of the Gulf state region being Sunni. They are no fans of Iran as well. I think they want our continued presence in the region as well. And again, the fact that Saudi and Israel pre-conflict, we’re talking about diplomatic relations and stronger economic ties, that is only going to come about once peace comes to the region. And frankly, there has to be a future for the Palestinian people.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to move to China, if we could, you identified that as the largest threat. Last year, you told me technology competition with China is the issue of our time. Just this week, out in California, a federal indictment was unsealed where a software engineer for Google was charged with transferring artificial intelligence technology to Beijing. How far ahead it- is the U.S. versus China in AI? 

SEN. WARNER: Well, first of all, remember, the FBI, as of about six months ago, were still opening two counter-espionage cases a day against China. And one of the things that Senator Rubio and I have done on a bipartisan basis is try to go industry by industry in America and  warn them of the potential theft of intellectual property, $500 billion a year, the fact that China is investing, you know—I’ll talk- I’ll speak to AI in a moment—but in quantum computing, in bio, a lot of our time spending on- on bioengineering activities China’s taking, they’re trying to next generation energy on small modular nukes, which is a power source, if they can sign up a country for 50 years or 100 year contracts. I think we need to compete against that. On AI, it’s a little bit- I believe, a little bit of a better story. You know, a couple years back when we thought the country that had the most data and the most compute and the most engineers might purely win, that’s not proven to be the case. The vast majority of innovation is still taking place in this country. If you look at all of the major AI companies, they’re virtually all American. I don’t underestimate China. But we have that innovative economy, that- that frankly, still benefits with us. And frankly, the Chinese regime is reluctant to allow these large language models to be used by their population, because, frankly, they might find the truth about what the regime has done all the way back to Tiananmen Square in 1989. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: There are reports that China lags the U.S. by about a year. Is that consistent with what you’ve been briefed?

SEN: RUBIO: I- I don’t know how to characterize the timeframe. But I would say that’s not really the issue per se. Be- first of all, I- we’re clearly, I think, ahead, simply because they steal our stuff, we’re not interested in stealing their stuff. So there’s a reason why they want our stuff, because it’s better. I think the bigger concern is how it would be utilized and the advantages that it gives them because all of their companies and all the corporations, there’s no independent companies in China, they all must do the bidding of whatever the Chinese Communist Party tells them to do, and that’s– 

SEN. WARNER: And that’s the law in China–


SEN. WARNER: –that’s the law, as of 2017–

SEN. RUBIO: –and they’re supported by government so they can underprice everyone in the marketplace. So they can reach a level of proficiency in AI and deploy it with the support of their government that allows them to basically corner the market in all kinds of key things, autonomous vehicles, additive manufacturing, you name it. And so these are real advantages. The other advantage they have which drives AI, is data, they are able to compel and or steal and collect the data of billions of people, including their own population, but also here in the United States. And that data is what feeds AI and AI models, which will allow them to do certain things good enough to not just threaten our national security, but to threaten our economic vibrancy, and to put American innovation at a tremendous disadvantage. So Huawei is a good example. It’s not AI driven. They’re not the best telecommunication company in the world. But because they are supported by the Chinese Communist Party, they are among the largest in the world. And they have dominated market after market because they offer a product that’s good enough for a low enough price and a little bribe on the side for your friends in the government.

SEN. WARNER: And let me- let me just add here, we saw, as Marco just said, you know, China on, say, autonomous vehicles. They control not only the rare earth minerals, but really where the- their control came was on the processing of these minerals. What I’m afraid of is if you add AI tools with advances in bio, you could have, finally, breakthroughs that are remarkable. Now, the real innovation, I think, many times, will stay here. But if China builds up the bio-manufacturing capability, we may innovate, but the actual products, whether they be drugs, whether they be chemical compounds, whether they be new sources of energy, they could control the manufacturing sector. It’s, again, one of the reasons why we need to put those kind of technology competition in the national security umbrella.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, your colleague, Ted Cruz said, “Congress doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing when it comes to regulating AI.” Is he right? You’re saying Congress has to do a lot here. He’s saying it’s not really possible.

SEN. RUBIO: Well, it’s a new area. I mean, there’s, there’s no doubt that it’s a new area that we have to make sure- there’s two things to keep in mind. The first is, I still think there’s a lot more to learn about how it’s going to be applied and where regulation can make sense. The other is, and we’ve learned this from other technologies, they develop so- they move- innovation in that space, moves much faster than the ability of Congress to legislate or regulate, and so- and even our agencies. So I don’t think he’s wrong when he says that there still isn’t a clear understanding of what it is government can do to build safeguards. And then there’s the factor that this is borderless. I mean, at the end of the day, what we may regulate the uses of AI domestically, may not apply to some other place that may decide, here we won’t have those limits. So there’s a lot to unpack here. And I still think Congress is learning, we got to do it right, that’s the key– 

SEN. WARNER: And listen, I’ve spent a lot of time on AI. And I’m not sure there’s a linear relationship between me spending more time and actually getting smarter on the issue. It’s really hard. But I would point out to some of my colleagues, that idea of, “we shouldn’t put any guardrails,” is how we ended up with a social media environment now, where- I think there’s very few Americans that doesn’t think child bullying, to ability to have our elections manipulated with my social media firms and others- that putting a few guardrails in place might have made, might have made some sense. And my fear on AI, and I’m not sure we need whole new legal regimes, but let me give you a perfect example. The ability for AI tools, at speed and scale, to manipulate our public markets is unprecedented– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But we don’t have legislation on this yet.

SEN. WARNER: We may not need new laws, we have existing SEC laws. But there might be higher penalties, for example, because the speed and scale which these AI tools could be used for manipulation, I think that’s not breaking new ground. But it is saying our regulatory structure needs to try to keep up and we’re always going to be lagging innovation. But that doesn’t mean throw in the towel.

SEN. RUBIO: I would add one more thing about AI and that is something I hope we can start talking about. AI is going to disrupt white collar jobs, jobs that people went and got degrees and even borrowed money to get degrees. It’s going to disrupt white collar jobs in the way that deindustrialization and technology advances in productivity disrupted blue collar jobs. And we’ve seen the tumult that’s created in societies around the world. We need to start thinking about the economic displacement that will follow the ability of a machine to do the work that it used to take 10 people with advanced degrees to do. And that I think that applies to the media, increasingly, I think it’s going to apply- it’s already applying to Hollywood. And I think there are industries beyond that where it’s going to apply. We need to start thinking about some of the disruptions that are coming.

SEN. WARNER: And one of the things that- I know, but I just think this is- we still have a tax and accounting and reporting system that still favors investment on a piece of hardware. You buy a computer, you get a tax credit, you know, it’s viewed as an asset. We don’t do near enough to incent- investment in human capital to actually make humans stay up and stick up, because Marco is right, there is going to be much more massive disruption amongst what was traditionally viewed as knowledge-based jobs. That doesn’t mean jobs are gonna go away. But we do need to have a, I think a new tax and accounting framework on how we invest in people. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: China’s ramping up its military spending. Senator Rubio, you recently voted against the national security supplemental that would have sent 5 billion to the Indo Pacific and to help Taiwan. Why do you think that money can wait?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, I don’t think it should wait. I just don’t think it should be held hostage on the issue of whether or not we’re going to deal with our border and what I think should be attention paid to the border. And this is an issue of, of disagreement among, here, people in congress–

MARGARET BRENNAN –I’m sorry, I thought Republicans were insisting that the border be linked.

SEN. RUBIO: I did. But not- but the proposal they put forward would not have secured our border, on the contrary, it would have allowed– 

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you voted against the border deal that–

SEN. RUBIO: No, we never voted on the border deal. 


MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, procedurally, it never–

SEN. RUBIO: No, it was never voted on procedurally–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –moved forward.

SEN. RUBIO: –It was withdrawn. And the reason–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You did not support the bipartisan agreement–

SEN. RUBIO: Because the deal wouldn’t- the deal would not have fixed the problem. The way you fix the problem is by reversing the executive orders that President Biden put in place in his first month in office, which directly led to this crisis. For the first time in American history, we have a president that’s decided to make the exception the rule. No longer detaining people- our law is very clear, it defines who is allowed to be in our country, and it says they should be detained through removal. And we stopped doing that. We had exceptions, you know, the Dalai Lama shows up at the border, we’re gonna let him in, exception. They turned the exception into the rule. And it’s sent the message to the whole world–

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know it’s an incredibly complex issue in terms of who you can deport, and only 72 hours they can be held in federal facilities, and the complications with Venezuela– 

SEN. RUBIO: No it’s not, but the law is very clear. It says they need to be detained through removal. That’s the law of the United States–


SEN. RUBIO: How you apply it is where the differences have come– 


SEN. RUBIO: –and it’s led to this crisis. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: You are saying that the aid to Taiwan is being held hostage to the border, but you are saying the border needs to be handled first. Help me, how are you going to surge–

SEN. RUBIO: –Oh no, it’s not very complicated–


SEN. RUBIO: It’s very simple. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: –To deal with the threat you’re saying 

SEN. RUBIO: Well the–


SEN. RUBIO: I’ll tell you what, if we would have done a bill that would have voted for the money to Taiwan and the Indo Pacific and money to Israel, I would have voted for that. But they want Ukraine in exchange for the border. And- and the same way they’re holding Israel funding hostage. They won’t do Israel funding without Ukraine and I support helping Ukraine. But I believe that our national security begins in our own country at our border where today you have thousands of people a day walking into the country, many of whom we do not know who they are, some of whom we are now seeing are members of a Venezuelan street gang called Tren de Aragua, which is spreading throughout the country. They wreaked havoc in Peru, they wreaked havoc in Venezuela before that, and now they have elements here in our own country. That has to be a priority. And insisted–

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you get aid to deal with Taiwan, now?

SEN. RUBIO: Let’s vote for it. Let’s put up a bill of votes on Taiwan.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You’re saying it has to be a standalone–

SEN. RUBIO: No. It doesn’t have to be. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Five billion dollar–

SEN. RUBIO: I mean, if the President tonight at the State of the Union, I know we’re taping this, and he announces that he’s going to re- put back in place the policies that allowed us to detain single adults until the removal proceedings were done. I’ll vote for that, I’ll vote for that bill.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That requires a lot of funding, you know that, you would be for–

SEN. RUBIO: It doesn’t require funding. That’s the existing law of the country.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Border Security says it needs more funding, as does ICE– 

SEN. RUBIO: –Well let’s do the funding for that–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –and all the other agencies–

SEN. RUBIO: –But- but it starts with the executive order, which is what applies our laws, which he refuses to do. Because it would require him to admit that Trump was right about the border. 



SEN. RUBIO: –I am sure Mark agrees with everything I just said.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think you’re gritting your teeth through that–

SEN. WARNER: I would simply say this- I would just say this.


SEN. WARNER: The border is a mess.


SEN. WARNER: There are certain things that the President can do executive order–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –The President says the border is not secure–

SEN. WARNER: –But let’s go back to what President Trump said. President Trump said, change the law so I can do more. I respectfully believe that what Senator Lankford put forward was as tough of a border deal as it could get passed in this Congress and even next Congress. Because unless there is a 80-member shift one way or the other, in either political party, I think politics is the art of the possible, I think it was a good deal. And I agree with Marco. We need to get the money to China and Taiwan, we need to get the money, both humanitarian and for Israel. But I think the issue that I’ve been is most wrapped around is if we walk away from the people of Ukraine at this point, after in the last two years, the Ukrainians, with our help and the Europeans help, at literally the cost of less than 3% of our defense budget, have eliminated 87% of the Russian pre-invasion ground forces, 63% of their tanks, 32% of armored personnel carriers. If we don’t stand by Ukraine right now, the rest of the world should never trust us again. And this notion that, and I would go back to early comment, these authoritarian nations are watching each other. If people say she is a threat, and if they don’t believe that if President Putin is successful in Ukraine, and that will then put NATO and American troops in harm’s way. She will take lessons from that. I think there was an enormous linkage. So I do hope we’re finding the way. I think most of us, the vast majority, frankly, I think 300 votes plus in the house for Ukraine, if that was put up as a standalone, but I- and I hope we get it done. We have to.

MARGARET BRENNAN: They run out of ammunition in April.

SEN. WARNER: They run out of ammunition–

MARGARET BRENNAN: President Zelenskyy–

SEN. WARNER: –Ukraine needs more soldiers. No matter how patriotic you are as a Ukrainian, the idea that you would go into the military when you get issued 20 bullets a day when you’re being outshelled 10 to one, when the Ukrainians have performed much better than any of us hoped, when we brought Sweden and Norway into NATO, and if–


 SEN. WARNER: I’m sorry, Sweden and Finland into NATO. If we don’t stand by that commitment, then I think this will be a mistake of- as historic as some of the mistakes made in advance of World War II.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you respond to that?


SEN. RUBIO: We have seven point–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –I mean you are for aid to Ukraine.



SEN. RUBIO: –But we have 7.2 million- I responded very simple and that is–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –No but in the art of the possible as- as

SEN. RUBIO: –Well 

MARGARET BRENNAN: –as the senator framed it–

SEN. RUBIO: The art of the possible is- if it’s not–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –In this moment.

SEN. RUBIO: We have 7.2 million people in this country that have been here over the last three years. Some of them we don’t really know who they are. New York just deployed National Guard troops to the street because of a migrant crime wave. But we have a serious problem here at home. And so I think that we have to go to Americans and say, okay, first and foremost, our priority is going to be to deal with our issues here. And all I’m asking is that be made a priority equal to–


MARGARET BRENNAN: So if President Biden–

SEN. RUBIO: What we’re doing around the world–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Tomorrow said, oh, I’m going to put in an emergency action to, you know–

SEN. RUBIO: –He’s already said he might.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Essentially mimic “Remain in Mexico,” you’d say, fine, here’s 60 billion dollars for Ukraine?

SEN. RUBIO: Sure. That’s what I said. That’s what I’ve said from the very beginning. I didn’t want them to pass a law. Are there things we can do to improve our asylum process? Sure. But we don’t need that to get back to where we were in December of 2022- December of 2019-, or 2020, I apologize, when the numbers were nothing close to this. We have a migrant wave that began in mid-January of 2021. Because people calculated that if they got here, they were going to be able to stay and 85-90% of them were right.


SEN. RUBIO: It’s drawing more people to come here. That’s unsustainable.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I think most Americans in fact, polling backs us up, believe that there is an issue that needs to be dealt with in the border. But you are linking them right now. You are.

SEN. RUBIO: No different than the people that are linking Israel aid to Ukraine. Because they won’t vote for a standalone Israel bill. They want unless we do Ukraine, and I’m saying I won’t do Ukraine, unless we secure America’s border.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, so you are linking them?

SEN. RUBIO: Just like they are with Israel.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You, I want to ask you specifically. You, Senator, helped to spearhead an effort with Senator Kaine on a bipartisan basis to prevent any president from unilaterally withdrawing from NATO.


MARGARET BRENNAN: Did you write that with Donald Trump in mind, because he’s the only president that I can recall who has ever threatened–


SEN. RUBIO: No, I wrote it–

 MARGARET BRENNAN: –to withdraw from NATO.

SEN. RUBIO: I wrote it, I can’t speak for Senator Kaine. I wrote it with the belief that it’s an important alliance. If NATO didn’t exist, we would have to create it. It’s one of our strategic strengths that we have in the world, because China doesn’t have these alliances, for example, and neither do the Russians for that matter, or the Iranians for that matter. But I believe Congress needs to play a role in deciding whether we’re going to remove ourselves from that. That said, I will tell you that despite what people may say is rhetoric because I acknowledged that Donald Trump does not talk like a member of the Council on Foreign Relations on these issues. He actually increased troop levels in Poland and I saw them. I was there when that happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: He was trying to draw down from Germany and virtually Poland, President Biden, reverse that.

SEN. RUBIO: And so the point being is that I don’t believe Donald Trump will remove us from NATO. I do think he is going to do, admittedly in an unorthodox way, what virtually every American president has done since the onset of NATO, and that is to demand that some NATO countries do more. And it’s interesting–


SEN. RUBIO: What’s that?

MARGARET BRENNAN: I said, Vladimir Putin has been very effective in that argument to date.

SEN. RUBIO: Which argument?

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ramping up. Spending by NATO members, they have all increased since the invasion of Ukraine. The White House, I just want to make sure I get to this, the White House declassified information about this anti-satellite technology that your colleague in the House, Mike Turner, raised alarms about. Are we sleepwalking into a crisis?

SEN. WARNER: We- we have been monitoring this for years. The idea of a nuclear weapon in space, which would go against all previous treaties, could that have enormously destructive effects? Absolutely. Matter of fact, you know, were Russia to detonate a nuclear weapon in space, it doesn’t discriminate between American satellites and Russian satellites, or for that matter, Chinese satellites. It would literally take out thousands of satellites, it could potentially take out GPS systems, if not at LEO, but at MEO, the Medium Earth Orbit. One of the things I think the administration is trying to do is also bring that pressure from countries that have worked with Russia, like China, and unfortunately, to a lesser extent, India to say, you know, you need to pull back, but we are monitoring this. I think- I’m disappointed the way it was- the information was released. And we just had a brief on it again last week.

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah. It’s not a new issue. It’s one people have been tracking. I don’t know what’s been declassified, I’m not going to speak to it in detail. All I’m gonna say is that when you talk about things- this is not about keeping secrets, but when you talk about things, you make it harder to learn more things about it because those who you are trying to learn from will figure out pretty quickly that you’re onto something. I think this is a significant and serious threat. It’s not the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it’s a big deal. And I think there’s work being done to address it. So it’s not some thing that came out of left field and people weren’t monitoring it, but I agree I don’t like the way it was handled. I think it’s- I think it’s in some way set us back a little bit, but–

MARGARET BRENNAN: The disclosure?

SEN. RUBIO: That’s about all I’ll say. Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I’m being told we are out of time. I did want to get you both on TikTok, if I could.

SEN. RUBIO: I’m against it.

MARGARET BRENNAN:  I know, you’re consistent in that.

SEN. WARNER: We- we have different–

MARGARET BRENNAN: But, the Biden campaign joined TikTok, Senator Warner.

SEN. WARNER: And- and I said- and I said that sends a pretty darn mixed message. Because the Biden administration supported my earlier bipartisan legislation that we- would lead to a path of potentially banning TikTok. Because I believe that TikTok, both controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, both collects data. And as a news source, literally, half of young people in America get a lot of their news, all from TikTok.

MARGARET BRENNAN: A hundred and seventy million Americans are on it.

SEN. WARNER:  And the idea- if you don’t think the Chinese Communist Party can twist that algorithm to make it the news that they see reflective of their views, then I don’t think you appreciate the nature of the threat. And we were joking would- would the United States ever allow China to buy CBS? I don’t think they would. And we- we might have slightly different ways on how we go at this, but we think this is a national security issue.

SEN. RUBIO: Look, here’s what- I’m going to try to explain it very quickly. The danger in TikTok is not that somebody goes on that video and you know puts something up that looks stupid or silly. Okay, the- here’s the challenge. The reason why TikTok is so attractive, its value is it has an algorithm, a recommender engine, which is one of the best in the world. That is owned by ByteDance. Under Chinese law, ByteDance must own it. And the only way that that recommender engine works is if they have access to the data. So it doesn’t matter who you sell TikTok to, where they’re headquartered, doesn’t even matter where they stored the data. The- as long as ByteDance engineers in China have access to the algorithm- have access to that data- control the algorithm, they have to have access to American data to make it work. And that’s what we need to confront. That’s the reality here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You like this House bill? 

SEN. WARNER: Listen, I think there’s- I think there’s a lot of creativity on TikTok. And I think if they had to disgorge as long as the algorithm moved, if this was a Brazilian company or French company or Canadian company, it wouldn’t cause me near the consternation.

SEN. RUBIO: I don’t know about the House-  I haven’t read it in detail yet. In fact, even as we speak, they’re in committee. So it might be changed. It’s not an easy thing to resolve, but ultimately, what we have to focus on is who owns the algorithm, because whoever owns the algorithm will have- will have access to the data, no matter who the name on the door is, that algorithm is what- is what we need to go after because if you can’t- it doesn’t work without the data–


SEN. WARNER: And manipulating that algorithm can mean what kind of information you’re going to see. And if you don’t think that could be used as a- the most powerful propaganda tool ever, then I don’t think you appreciate the–

MARGARET BRENNAN: In an election year.

SEN. WARNER: In an election year, then you don’t get this threat.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. I have so much more to ask you. But I’m told–

If I can. You Senator Warner said last month that we are less prepared for foreign interference in 2024 than we were in 2020. What exactly are you concerned about?

SEN. WARNER: Well we have nation states, China, Iran, Russia, who know that interfering in our elections is both effective and cheap. We have a lot more Americans who have, for a variety of reasons, less trust in any of our institutions, including our voting system. We have a court case that was in the Fifth Circuit that had restricted the voluntary communication between social media and the FBI or CISA, and you have that cauldron of change going on. And then you throw in artificial intelligence tools that can bring deepfakes or voices or other manipulation at a speed and scale that’s unprecedented. And we’re gonna- we have dealt with this at a classified level, we’re going to have public hearings on this, we need to make sure the American public is educated and at least aware and thinks- thinks before they believe everything they see. The tech companies have said they’ll put watermarking on altered material, but we need to hold their feet to the fire on that.

SEN. RUBIO: It’s the area of malign influence, right? And it’s not very expensive to basically figure out what are the issues that already divide Americans so let’s amplify messages that put them at each other’s throat, that makes their politics even more conflictive, we already do a pretty good job of it on our own, help us do that. And that doesn’t just deal with elections. We’re beyond just election interference with malign influence, it’s now an effort to influence our policy debates, to divide us year-round on a regular basis. And it’s not that expensive to do. So Russia does it and they’ve done it for a long time. The Chinese want to get into this business, the Iranians and others will join them because- not just here we’ve already seen examples of it in other democratic nations. It’s a growing risk. And I think one of the first things you have to do is talk about it so people understand what it is we’re trying to describe. It’s not hacking ballot boxes. It’s hacking the minds and our political debate in this country by exacerbating pre- existing tensions to the point of boiling over.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And it’s not clear how people are supposed to protect themselves against what you just described.

SEN. RUBIO: Well it begins with awareness and the understanding that sometimes these messages that are being driven or some of these things that people are putting up online are not real or they are a video of something that happened halfway around the world 10 years ago, not down the street one month ago, but they’re things that are designed to get people angry. And you know, the algorithms feed this, because people love content that shows something outrageous, and more people will view it. So it’s easy to push this. And before you know it, people are out there voting and at each other’s throat over something that may not even be real.

MARGARET BRENNAN: This is the biggest risk for election night.

SEN. WARNER: It’s a huge risk. Now, we got a job to do. And I hope others will advance this as well. Twenty tech companies said in an agreement in Munich that they would try to put watermarking and that would indicate if content has been altered, or- or deepfake.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Is that sufficient?

SEN. WARNER: And they- they’ve said they will take it down. But it’s all voluntary. So we need to keep the pressure on. And frankly, I think the administration needs to lean in more. And I think we need to do a better job. I think people were potentially more aware, even four years ago under President Trump, do a better job of educating that with these new tools like deepfakes, you know, don’t believe everything you see and hear.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sorry. Just to follow up on that. You mean, you need the Biden administration officials out there more, specifically identifying what’s true and what’s not.

SEN. WARNER: I think we all need to be out there. I think we need all to be out there. There has been a hesitancy after this Fifth Circuit case, to even have voluntary communications. I remember in the aftermath of 2016, when Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook said, Gosh, if there are bad guys operating on our platform, foreign influence, tell us. We had a good working relation- even under President Trump, where there was a lot of information being shared, because of this case, there’s not been as much sharing and I think, frankly, the- there was an exemption given. I think the Biden administration lawyers need to be a little more forward-leaning on letting these communications, voluntary take place. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ok. Do you want the last word on that?

SEN. RUBIO: Well I would just- No I think this is a- it’s a complicated area, because it’s possible that someone is out there saying something that they personally believe and have a First Amendment right to express, but it’s being amplified by a foreign power. And so I think that’s the difficult balancing act here. Because a lot of people would say look my views on this happen to align with what some country around the world thinks, not because they told me, but because it’s what I honestly believe as an American. The malign influence is when the foreign power says we are going to do everything in our power to drive these messages on both sides by the way to get them to fight with each other. That’s the effort that we have to have more insight on and find a way to communicate better so that some of these people that are out there expressing these views, at least understand that their message is being amplified by a foreign adversary, even though they choose to continue to believe the way they do, but it’s complicated. I mean, it’s- and this is the reason why adversaries get involved in the business of doing this because they know how hard it is to stop.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Gentlemen, thank you for being generous with your time. Thank you.

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