Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Mark Warner, D-Va., sat down for a rare bipartisan interview in which they criticized the Director of National Intelligence’s refusal to brief members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on the contents of the classified documents found in both President Biden’s and former President Donald Trump’s residences.
Rubio, the committee vice chair, and Warner, the committee chairman, appeared together on CBS News’s “Face the Nation” after attending a closed-door briefing last week with Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. The DNI reportedly said the separate special counsel investigations into both cases prevented her from granting them visibility into the documents.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents following an FBI raid of his Mar-a-Lago home in August. Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate Biden’s handling of classified documents after materials were found in unsecured locations in this home in Wilmington, Delaware, and the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C.
Rubio and Warner voiced frustration that Congress and the American public are being kept in the dark about the contents of the classified material in either case unless that special counsel says it is okay.
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“The Justice Department has had the Trump documents about six months, the Biden documents about three months – our job is not to figure out if somebody mishandled those, but our job is to make sure there’s not an intelligence compromise,” Warner said. “And while the Director of National Intelligence had been willing to brief us earlier, now that you’ve got the special counsel, the notion that we’re going to be left in limbo, and we can’t do our job – that just cannot stand.”
“I don’t know how congressional oversight on the documents, actually knowing what they are in any way impedes investigation,” added Rubio. “These are probably materials we already have access to, we just don’t know which ones they are. And it’s not about being nosy, you know, here’s the bottom line: if, in fact, those documents were very sensitive, the materials were sensitive, and they pose a counterintelligence or national security threat to the United States, then the intelligence agencies are tasked with the job of coming up with ways to mitigate that.”
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“It’s an untenable situation that I think has to be resolved,” Rubio said.
Warner said the argument that they cannot do their job “until the special prosecutor somehow says it’s okay doesn’t hold water.”
“We have a right, as not only members of the Intelligence Committee, but as part of the leadership to view virtually every classified document,” he said. “But we’ve got a problem, in terms of both classification levels, how senior elected officials when they leave government, how they handle documents. We’ve had too many examples of this.”
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Some Republican committee members have threatened to withhold funding from intelligence agencies if they are not provided more visibility into the documents.
“There are things we need to do as a committee every year to authorize a moving around of funds,” Rubio said. “I think the Director of National Intelligence and other heads of intelligence agencies are aware of that. At some point, I’d prefer for them just to call us this morning or tomorrow or whenever and say, ‘Look, this is the arrangement that we think we can reach so that the overseers can get access to this.’ I’d prefer not to go down that road, but it’s one of the pieces of leverage we have as Congress.”
Warner signaled he would support threatening funding.
“We’re going to figure out a way to make sure that we get that access so that we can not only tell the American people, but we’ve got another 85 U.S. senators who are not on the Intelligence Committee who look to us to get those assurances,” Warner said.