The following is a transcript of an interview with GOP Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah that aired Sunday, January 15, 2023 on “Face the Nation”.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And now we turn to Republican Congressman Chris Stewart from Utah. Hello to you, sir.
REPRESENTING. CHRIS STEWART (R-UTAH): Hello.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You serve on the Intelligence Committee, which requested more information from the Director of National Intelligence regarding the Biden documents. But when you were on CNN last week, you said you really doubted there was anything that could endanger national security here. Do you think that’s just an overreaction to the story?
REPRESENTING. STEWART: No, I don’t know. I mean, I think it’s unlikely that, you know, when President Trump had this similar experience, some media and others claimed, oh, he has nuclear codes, nuclear secrets. I said at the time, I find it extraordinarily unlikely. And I think the same would be true of this situation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there…
REPRESENTING. STEWART: Probably not that type of- that type of information. But if I could make this point very quickly about, you know, the likelihood of him not being aware of it, I mean, not only am I on the intelligence committee, I was an Army pilot I’ve flown the B-1, I’ve dealt with classified documents most of my life. And you should know, each of these documents, they have a cover sheet that is read. It indicates what the classification is and why it is classified. Each page has a classification markup. It’s not the kind of thing you just sit on your desk and think, Oh, I forgot they’re classified. It is very clear that they are classified. And for those who think that, well, the president didn’t realize he had them. It’s just nonsense. Of course, he knew he had them. They are so obvious.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you apply that standard to both cases here. CBS reports that there was top secret information in the documents found in Biden’s possession. You told CNN there could be even more sensitive information at a higher classification than that. TS/SCI. Do you know that is a fact? Have you been informed?
REPRESENTING. STEWART: No, we don’t know that yet. Although it was… it was reported, but it would be very, very important. I mean, SCI, Special Compartmented Information, it limits it to a few dozen people, in some cases, in some cases even less. It would be amazing if that were the case.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because that’s what we reported. Was it in the Trump case that there was TS/SCI, this level of classification. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has decided not to comment on these matters at this time, has it advised your committee when you might get some sort of update or information on the 45th or current president?
REPRESENTING. STEWART: Yeah, well, we know the Director of National Intelligence can choose not to comment to the American people. But she can’t choose not to give us feedback. We asked for an analysis of these documents, of the potential harm they may have caused. And I expect that we will receive that in the next few weeks. And we should receive that in the next few weeks. If these documents were available for a long time, in an environment as open as a garage, for heaven’s sake. Now I understand the garage was locked as the president pointed out. But they were always available. It is important for us to understand the potential damage to these documents and the availability of these documents this may have caused to US and US security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what are you expecting to achieve in the next few weeks? Because I understand the director hasn’t been briefed on the Trump case yet.
REPRESENTING. STEWART: Yes, again, we expect to have an analysis of what those documents were, their classification, the material that was included in them and the potential security breaches and the threat to national security of the fact that these documents were not secure.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, I want to move on, because I understand that you’re on the appropriations committee as well. The treasury secretary says we’re going to hit that debt ceiling on the 19th and we’re going to have to take extraordinary steps to make sure the feds pay the bills here. Can you – can you guarantee that the Republicans will work with the Democrats to make sure we don’t trigger an economic crisis?
REPRESENTING. STEWART: Well, we definitely want to work with them. And we hope that they will work with us and that the president will work with us. Look, I’m not a fan of government shutdowns. Honestly, I don’t know anyone who is. It doesn’t help. On the other hand, I want to make this point, it’s so important, look, the reason we’re facing the inflation that we are, that’s been generational, and it’s worth remembering that it’s been hurt the poorest among us. The working poor are the most affected by inflation, and the main cause, in fact I would almost say the only cause, is government spending and government debt…
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, that’s a stack of issues that we’ve covered in depth in this program. But on this issue, regarding your job in Congress, can you avoid having the solvency of the United States in question, if, you know, by reaching an agreement to settle this issue before we come to a position to talk about a government shutdown?
REPRESENTING. STEWART: Yeah, well, I think we can and we should, but to end with the point because it’s actually relevant to your question about inflation because government spending, if that’s true, and it is true, then you must understand that there will be Republicans who will say that we must reform. We have to use it as a vehicle to try to limit our spending, our debt and our deficits. And I am one of them. And there are many more that will be, so the question you’ve asked now is, those two principles, you know, the fact that we need to reform and reduce our deficits in our spending, can we reconcile that with at the same time, we don’t want to damage the credit of the United States government. This is our goal. I think Republicans agree on that. I hope the president is too. And I hope we will come to an agreement on this.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I hope so. I want to ask you about George Santos, like you heard me ask your fellow Democrat. Can we trust an elected official who is the subject of so many investigations as a legislator? Should he resign?
REPRESENTING. STEWART: Well, that’s a tough question. Look, I don’t know Mr. Santos, I’ve never had the opportunity to talk to him. As you observe-
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need to talk to her to get an answer to that question?
Well, no, I don’t, which is to say, as I was going to say, as you watch this, it’s pretty hard not to conclude that he’s a bit of a goofball. He clearly lied to his constituents. And as far as you’re concerned, it’s going to be very, very difficult for him to gain the trust of his colleagues. And I don’t know what he will do. I mean, the reality is you can’t kick out a congressman. Ultimately, it really comes down to Nassau County voters. I can tell you this, if I was in this situation, I don’t know how I could continue to serve and I had- I guess you have to ask the same question.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We’ll keep asking that question. MP, thank you for your time this morning. We’ll be back in a minute. Stay with us.