Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Chairman of the Intelligence Committee, slammed the Biden administration on Sunday for continuing the obstruct the committee’s investigation into Biden’s and former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified materials while not in office.
Warner made the remarks on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” with host Margaret Brennan when asked if there has been any update on the matter since January.
“We need more information about these documents,” Warner said. “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,” he added. “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: 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.
SENATOR MARK WARNER (D-Virginia): Good morning, Margaret.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It was a pretty intense five hours of questioning of TikTok’s 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 U.S. intelligence as a credible threat.
Will it pass in a divided Congress?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: 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…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: … or mis or dis-information advocated by the Communist Party.
MARGARET BRENNAN: 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?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, I think the White House is very in favor of this bill.
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.
MARGARET BRENNAN: 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 in celebrity videos on TikTok from the White House. Plenty of lawmakers, including your Democratic colleague 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?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Well, 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 operate within a set of rule of law.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right, but the commerce secretary is saying there’s a political cost if it goes away. And that’s what she fears.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: I think…
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’re empowering her.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Listen, I have met with — 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 an 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.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Sixty percent of the company is owned by other investors, including U.S. firms.
So is this a policy that you really need to address with Americans to stop them from investing in companies like this?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: 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 its 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.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Yes.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: So it’s not simply like, hey, trust the government. We got to make the case.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you, since you sit on the Senate Banking Committee, about this rolling turmoil that we are in.
Do you think there needs to be more regulation of midsize banks now?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: If it ends up that a stress test that would have been applied to these midsize banks would have spotted this, of course, I would 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…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: … taken out of this bank in six hours. That’s the equivalent of 25 cents on the dollar.
And I would 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. 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?
SENATOR MARK WARNER: We’re going to hear the facts on Tuesday. And if there’s malfeasance at the bank, of course, I’m going to give the money back.
MARGARET BRENNAN: OK.
Senator, before I let you know — 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.
SENATOR MARK WARNER: Mm-hmm.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You’ve been briefed. Any more clarity on this? Any further information?
SENATOR MARK 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: All right, Senator Warner, thank you for your time today.