Senator Marco Rubio joined me today to discuss the latest developments in campaign 2016, the Iran deal on which he must vote soon, and, of course, Hillary’s server and the issue of recklessness with the nation’s security its existence and cover-up via the destruction of 31K+ emails raises:
HH: Beginning this hour with Marco Rubio, United States Senator from Florida. Senator Rubio, congratulations, you had a great debate last week, got a bump in the polls. I’m sure that feels like a great start to the campaign.
MR: Yeah, I mean, the polls are not something we watch very carefully, but we were happy to do that last week. We’re looking forward to the next one. I understand they have a pretty good panel asking us questions.
HH: I hope so. Let’s start with the headline. Yesterday, former Secretary of State Clinton turned over her server and thumb drive to the FBI just as the inspector general of the intelligence community confirmed that there was top secret, even SCI material on it. Senator Grassley, your colleague, has blasted this, as did Speaker Boehner. The Speaker said, “Secretary Clinton’s previous statements that she possessed no classified information were patently untrue. Her mishandling of classified information must be fully investigated.” Any of your committees in the Senate have jurisdiction over this, Senator?
MR: The Intelligence Community. And of course, we’re going to get into this jurisdictional fight between the State Department and the intelligence community about, you know, who does that information belong to, but I said it from the first day that this is revealed. If you go back and see the record, from the very first day this came out, I said here’s the biggest danger, and that is she received information that was classified and/or sensitive. But you know, it doesn’t have to be classified to be important. The Chinese, the Russians and others, they’re not just looking for classified information. They’re looking for sensitive information, things that given them insight into our thinking, into our strategy. And there is no way you have all those emails going back and forth between her and her top deputies, and it doesn’t include sensitive information, not to mention information that’s been classified. So it’s just really reckless and irresponsible.
HH: In early March, General Petraeus, who’s a hero, I mean, an honest to God hero, pled guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information in violation of 18USC section 1924. NPR pointed out at the time that former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, former CIA director John Deutsch has pled guilty to the same offenses. Do you see any difference between what they did and what former Secretary of State Clinton has done?
MR: Well, let’s get all the facts before we, I’m prepared to say that. But let’s just say it’s deeply concerning. Obviously, this is not, we need to see what happened. I mean, was this information being shared with people outside of the government just because they were friends and she wanted their advice? But I think what we know for sure already is that she was using a private server that was not protected, and she used it to traffic in classified, and with no doubt, sensitive information. And it’s just an irresponsible way to act. It really is for someone who is running on the notion that she’s experienced and competent. This is really incompetent.
HH: The former acting director of the CIA, Mike Morell, told me on this show, confirmed that the Russians and the Chinese and maybe the Iranians and others probably had real time access to her server. Have you heard that? Do you agree with that assessment?
MR: Well, I haven’t heard that. I think you assume it. Look, the Chinese and the Russians spend a tremendous amount of time. They hack into the computers of political campaigns. They’re obviously looking at the emails. So I think anyone who is in a high profile position at the federal government, or for that matter involved in the daily debates of our society and have influence over decisions should assume that anything that they are talking about on email is being looked at by foreign intelligence agencies. And you saw John Kerry say as much the other day.
HH: Yes, but it appears as though Mrs. Clinton was unaware of that threat.
MR: Well, either unaware or didn’t care after a while. Again, it goes back to the competence issue. It really is a reckless, incompetent way to behave, and I think really calls into question her credibility.
HH: Now Senator Rubio, I think GOP primary voters, and we’ll explore this at the Reagan library at the debate in a month, are looking for someone who will bring a hammer to the sense that there are two sets of rules – one for the Clintons and one for everyone else. Are you that guy?
MR: Well, there certainly, if you look at their record over the years, right, they have a very deliberate pattern, and that is they try to elongate the story, drag them out, drag them out, and then ultimately say this is old news, we’ve been talking about this forever, let’s move on. They chalk everything up to being politically motivated. And quite frankly, they outlast the media. The media is interested for a few weeks, and unless something new develops, they move on. If this was anybody else, and we saw it with Petraeus, we saw it with others, they’d be all over it. There is a bias. We know that. Those of us who have a view of government that’s limited government conservatives, we know that we are not treated the same way that the left is going in. But I do think it’s, but you’re starting to see that it is impacting the views of the American people. Again, you look at this polling out there, and it’s not the horse race I’m interested in, but there are dynamics in those polls that are interesting. The number of Americans who have confidence in her as somebody who is honest and trustworthy has dramatically dropped. So it is getting through, and I think we’ll continue to erode the support she has.
HH: Last night, your friend and your competitor, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida, had this to say at the Reagan Library.
JB: ISIS grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat. And where was the Secretary of State? Where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this? Like the president himself, she had opposed the surge, then joined in claiming credit for its success, then stood by as that hard-won victory by American and Allied forces was thrown away. In all of her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once.
HH: This is a surprising line of attack for many people, Senator Rubio. What do you make of Jeb Bush’s attack on Secretary Clinton?
MR: Well, I didn’t hear the whole speech, I read some stuff in the press this morning. This issue about ISIS is a little bit more complex, obviously. I do think that Iraq played a part in it, but ISIS was al Qaeda in Iraq. That’s who they were. They were destroyed, the Sunni uprising that rejected them and drove them away, and they were driven into the mountainous regions that borders between Syria and Iraq. And so that’s where they were. And then this civil war began in Syria, and the civil war created this ungoverned space, this vacuum, and it was then that I began to warn openly and repeatedly to the White House, we have to do something. You’ve got to find some group we can work with on the ground, not because we think they’re Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, that are going to create this Canadian-style democracy in Syria, but because if we don’t empower non-radical jihadists, it is going to leave behind a vacuum that is going to be filled by radical jihadists. And so they didn’t do it, and that’s what happened. These Syrian, this uprising of ISIS was largely foreign fighters who poured into Syria and used Syria as a place to grow and then ultimately crossed over into Iraq and have now spread to multiple places, including, by the way, Afghanistan now, not to mention Libya, Lebanon increasingly, etc. So it really, the genesis of ISIS did not necessarily begin in Iraq. It actually began in Syria when a vacuum was created that allowed foreign fighters to flow in and empower ISIS to grow in strength and power.
HH: Is that failure central to your campaign against Hillary Clinton when she’s the nominee?
MR: It is, because you know, presidents don’t just need to deal with crises. They need to anticipate them. And the President couldn’t look around the corner. Understand that he was, he believes he was elected to disengage us from the Middle East and to do nothing, and that was their argument. We’re not going to get involved in Syria in any way, because you’re going to entangle us in an additional conflict. My argument was we are going to get entangled anyway. The question is do we get entangled now before the radical jihadists grow stronger, or do we wait six months, a year, a year and a half, and then we’re facing a radical jihadist group that’s harder to handle? And that’s what happened. They didn’t do anything. The vacuum was created in Syria. It was filled by radical jihadists. They were able to recruit donors and foreign fighters. They broke into Syria. They stole weapons caches, they took vehicles, a lot of armaments the U.S. left behind because of the surge, and because of equipping the Iraqis, and have grown into this armed insurgency that now controls territory.
HH: Her policy director, Hillary Clinton’s policy director, got a question about this yesterday, Jake Sullivan, and he didn’t provide any details about her strategy for ISIS, but he said American boots on the ground cannot fix Iraq, and he said more will follow. What do you make of that response?
MR: Well, I don’t know who’s asking for a massive invasion of Iraq or any repeat of that. I actually have personally said that the ideal scenario, the one that I think has the highest chance of success, is for Sunnis themselves, and armed Sunnis, to defeat radical Sunnis. And that would mean a combination of ground forces contributed by Egypt, the Saudis, other Gulf kingdoms, the Turks, the Iraqis themselves, the tribes in that area. And I also think we should empower both Christian groups and Kurds to defend themselves, but ultimately, I believe that a radical Sunni group must be defeated by Sunnis themselves. We have to help with special operators, with additional air strikes, logistical support, and in the short term, with some high-profile special operations efforts that subject ISIS to humiliating public losses, to erode some of this image that they’ve created internationally that they’re an unstoppable and unbeatable force. That’s what we need to do. No, I don’t know of anyone that’s calling for 100,000 American troops, and I think the ideal setting is for Sunnis themselves to defeat them on the ground. But they won’t be able to do it unless we convene them, and they won’t be able to do it without our help.
HH: Before I turn to the Iran deal, I want to talk about Cuba, because it was announced today that the Department of State will not be inviting Cuban dissidents to the reopening of the embassy that John Kerry will preside over. In essence, we’re giving them the back of our hand, Senator Rubio. What do you make of Secretary Kerry’s decision?
MR: It doesn’t surprise me one bit, and I wrote him a letter two days ago asking him to meet with them. But this is par for the course with these guys. It doesn’t surprise me at all. They have basically ignored the whole human rights issue. They gave it lip service. They say oh, we remain concerned. Meanwhile, this weekend, dozens of protestors were rounded up and beaten, peaceful protestors, women among them. We have the photos to prove it. Cuba is not going to change until the Cuban government changes. And the Cuban government has flat-out said we are not changing anything. This is not a story about a Cuban government that’s saying we’re in the process of reform, we need time, be patient with us. They have flat-out said nothing is going to change. We’re going to continue to be who we are and do what we do, and so it doesn’t surprise anybody. And as far as Kerry not meeting with them, it’s just par for the course. It’s what they’ve done repeatedly since this whole thing started, and I don’t think they’re genuinely interested in pressing that point.
HH: Will you close that embassy if you’re elected president?
MR: Yeah, I mean, first of all, the facility is an intersection, so it’ll still be there. It will not be called an embassy when I’m president, because embassies are designed for countries we have diplomatic relations with, and we shouldn’t have diplomatic relations with an anti-American communist dictatorship that continues to oppress its own people 90 miles from our shores. We have now given them international recognition, and what we’re basically saying is your form of government is legitimate. We recognize it as a legitimate form of government that represents the Cuban people. We shouldn’t. I don’t.
HH: Let’s turn now to Iran, Senator Rubio. The President says look, this deal’s an improvement over the status quo. It pushes back Iranian nuclear breakout from months to years, and the only alternative is war. Your response?
MR: It doesn’t push it back. What it actually does is allow Iran to basically walk into a nuclear status in the next decade. And by then, they’ll have both conventional capabilities that are greater than what they have now, and they’ll have a long range rocket to deliver that weapon with. The only thing that will stop Iran, the only thing that will cause Iran to abandon and/or long term suspend their nuclear weapons program is the combination of devastating economic sanctions combined with a credible threat of military force if they actually move forward on one. This takes both of those options away, because Kerry likes to say well, in eight or ten years, if they break out, we’ll know and then we’ll attack it. Well, in eight to ten years, the price of attacking Iran will be much higher than it is now, for example. The price of attacking Iran could very well be a targeted missile strike on Tel Aviv or Jerusalem or Cairo, or potentially even the Continental United States if they continue their ICBM program. Why don’t we have the credible threat of military force on North Korea? If we were to attack North Korea’s nuclear program today, the response would be an attack on Seoul, Tokyo, Hawaii, Guam and maybe even the West Coast of the United States. So it’s no longer a credible option. Once the credible threat of military force is off the table, because of what the Iranian response will be, they will become a nuclear weapons power, and the world will have a radical Shiia cleric possessing nuclear weapons and the ability to hit the United States.
HH: The flight of General Soleimani to Moscow on a commercial airplane came up at the debate on Thursday night. Not many people got the significance of that. He’s responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. He’s the leader of the Quds Force. Is there a new axis of evil, one that involved Putin, Khamenei and Soleimani?
MR: Yeah, it goes further than that. We really have reached the point, look around the world, all the problems in the world today are created by totalitarianism – totalitarian governments, totalitarian groups. It’s China in Asia, and North Korea in Asia, it’s Iran in the Middle East, it’s ISIS in the Middle East, it’s Putin in Russia. Every single one of these groups have something in common. They are totalitarians. These are not democracies. These are not republics. These are totalitarian governments and totalitarian organizations, and they are creating all the problems of the world. And so the world faces, once again, a battle between liberty and freedom on the one side, and totalitarianism and oppression on the other. And the world is wondering well, we know who won it in the 20th Century. Who’s going to win that in the 21st Century? And if you look around the world today, the powers of totalitarianism are ascendant. You have Putin basically, I think his goal is to destroy NATO, to do something at some point, whether it’s the Baltic states or somewhere else, that proves that Article 5 of NATO is never going to be enforced. And at that point, you’ve destroyed NATO, and then he can claim well, the West brought down the Soviet Union, but I, Vladimir Putin, brought down NATO, because I exposed it as feckless. And that’s just one example of the kind of friction points we now face in the world. And by the way, Soleimani traveling to Russia, that’s a concerning development, because this is one of the countries whose help we need to enforce this deal if they violate it, and that travel was a violation. So there you go.
HH: John Hamre at CSIS, he’s one of the leading analysts of this, suggests that the deal could be made less worse if the United States permanently based B-2’s in Israel, forwarding our nuclear responsiveness to a time that would be effective. What do you make of that idea?
MR: Well, I haven’t studied it in depth to understand all of its ramifications, and I haven’t heard what the Israelis would say about it. You know, they’ve never asked us to station or provide American servicemen to protect them. They’ve always been willing to do it themselves. They’ve just asked us to help rearm them when they run out of bullets and rockets. So I don’t want to comment on something I haven’t studied carefully, but I do think it’s important, for example, that missile defense becomes a high priority. I don’t think it makes the deal better, but it’s one of the things we’re going to have to deal with one way or the other. ICBM’s have become increasingly available now to countries around the world who increasingly are investing in them, and Pakistan’s investing in them now, and the Saudis could easily buy that capability, not that I think they would target us. But my point is that ICBM’s have become something that’s not as hard to possess. And as a result, you can anticipate that over the next 20 years, multiple countries will have them. We have to have the ability to defend the homeland from that.
HH: Let me turn to two domestic policy issues before we run out of time. The Defense Appropriations is being filibustered, and some of your colleagues in the Senate have been on this show – Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham. They defend the filibuster. Others, like Governor Walker, have said break the filibuster and start sending the President these bills. Should we invoke the Reid rule to break the filibuster to put the President on the spot, Marco Rubio?
MR: You know, I would love to be able to put the President on the spot. I’m cautious, and here’s why. Had it not been for the filibuster, there are a lot of bad things in addition to what’s already happened that would have happened. It was the only thing that kept us from stopping all sorts of things from moving forward. And so we don’t, in American politics is a process of constant change. And maybe at some point over the next decade or less there could be a Democratic majority in the Senate and the House, and a president. And suddenly, you know, they could, whatever progress we’re able to make over the next few years, they could unwind. So it’s kind of a catch-22. To be honest with you, I don’t want a federal government that does all that much. Obviously, we need to do a lot now, because we have all these horrible things that have happened primarily out of the administrative branches, the regulations and the bureaucrats. But I don’t mind anything that makes is harder for government to pass a lot of laws. You know, from time to time, you’re frustrated, because there’s things you want to do and you can’t do because of the filibuster. But I’m concerned that if you get rid of it what that could mean if Chuck Schumer becomes majority leader, or some other Democrat, and an Obama-style person wins an election. Suddenly, we have no way to stop them.
HH: All right, my last question goes to what is probably the largest toxic spill on land in American history, the Animas River. It was the EPA that caused it. The EPA administrator for that region is Sean McGrath. He’s another Obama political operative. He served from the beginning in the Obama administration, the White House Governmental Affairs before being shuttled over to run the EPA. It’s like the OPM director, Katherine Archuleta. Cronyism is everywhere, and they’re not competent, Marco Rubio. What do you make of the EPA polluting in this massive, destructive act, and what’s it go to the competence of the Obama administration generally?
MR: Well, obviously, it calls that into question. And it’s a horrifying thing that’s happened, and it’s because of the incompetence of the EPA. And my guess is they’re going to be sued for millions and millions of dollars in damages. Those farmers now that are in that area, a lot of them are Indian tribes. They can’t even water or irrigate, because they could lose their crops, because the only water they’re allowed to use is water that’s being tanked in, and it’s for drinking and bathing and cooking. So they don’t have any ability to irrigate their crops, and they could lose those crops, which for many of them is their livelihood. But here’s the bigger problem. They’re completely unresponsive. They’re providing no insight, no information, nothing whatsoever. And you see the governor of, for example, New Mexico, Susanna Martinez, expressing extraordinary frustration that even after they make this mistake, they go into a defensive posture. They clam up. So it’s not just the crisis they’ve created, it’s their response to it that belies arrogance and this notion that yeah, we’re sorry it happened, but we don’t need to give you any more information, because we’re the EPA and you can’t do anything to us. So I think it’s both competence and arrogance at play.
HH: Senator Marco Rubio, I look forward to talking to you at the Reagan Library in a month. I appreciate you joining me. Perhaps we’ll talk between then and now as well. Thank you.
MR: Yes, sir. Thank you.
End of interview.