The following is a transcript of an interview with GOP Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah that aired on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, on “Face the Nation.”
MARGARET BRENNAN: And we turn now to Republican Congressman Chris Stewart of Utah. Good morning to you, sir.
REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UTAH): Good morning.
MARGARET BRENNAN: You sit on the Intelligence Committee, which has asked for more information from the Director of National Intelligence in regard to the Biden documents. But when you were on CNN last week, you said you really doubt that there’s something that could endanger national security here. Do you think this is just an overreaction to the story?
REP. STEWART: No, I don’t. I mean, I do think it’s unlikely that, you know, when President Trump had this similar experience, some of the media and others claimed, oh, he has nuclear codes, nuclear secrets. I said at the time, I find that extraordinarily unlikely. And I think that the same thing would be true of this situation.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, there–
REP. 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 being unaware of this, I mean, not only am I on the Intelligence Committee, I was an Air Force pilot, I flew the B-1, I’ve dealt with- with classified documents almost my entire life. And you have to know, every one of these documents, they have a cover sheet that’s that’s read. It says what the classification is and why it’s classified. Every single page has a classification marking on it. This isn’t the kind of thing that you just sit on your desk and you think, Oh, I forgot that they’re classified. It’s very clear that they’re classified. And for those who think that, well, the President didn’t realize that he had those in his possession. It just is nonsense. Of course, he knew that he had them. They’re so obvious.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And you’re applying that standard to both cases here. CBS is reporting that there was top secret information in the documents found in Biden’s possession. You told CNN that there may be even more sensitive information at higher classification than that. TS/SCI. Do you know that to be a fact? Were you informed of that?
REP. STEWART: No, we don’t know that yet. Although it’s been- it’s been 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, some cases even less. That would be extraordinary if that was the case.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Because that was what we have reported. Was that in the Trump case, that there was TS/SCI, that classification level. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has decided not to comment on these matters at this point, have they informed your committee when you might get some kind of update or briefing either on the 45th president or the current one?
REP. STEWART: Yeah, well, we do know this, the Director of National Intelligence can choose not to comment to the American people. But she can’t choose not to comment to us. We have requested an analysis of these documents, the potential harm that they may have caused. And I expect that we’ll receive that within the next few weeks. And we should receive that in the next few weeks. If these documents were available for a long period of time, in such an open environment as a garage for heaven’s sakes. Now I understand the garage was locked as the President made the point. But still they were available. It’s important for us to understand the potential damage to these documents and these documents being available, it may have caused to the American and American security.
MARGARET BRENNAN: So what do you expect to get in the next few weeks? Because I understand the director has not yet briefed on the Trump case.
REP. STEWART: Yeah, again, we expect to have an analysis of what these documents were, the classification of them, the material that was included in them and potential security breaches and the threat to national security as a result of these documents not being secured.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Okay, I want to move on to other matters, because I understand you’re also on the Appropriations Committee. The Treasury secretary says we’re gonna hit that debt ceiling on the 19th and have to go into extraordinary measures to make sure the federal government pays bills here. Can you- can you guarantee that Republicans will work with Democrats to make sure we don’t trigger an economic crisis?
REP. STEWART: Well, we certainly want to work with them. And we hope that they’ll work with us and the President will work with us. Look, I’m not a fan of government shutdowns. I honestly don’t know anyone who is. It doesn’t help. On the other hand, I do want to make this point, it’s so important, look, the reason that we’re dealing with inflation that we are, which has been generational, and it’s worth remembering that it hurts the poorest among us. The working poor are those who are most impacted by inflation, and the primary cause, in fact, I would argue almost the single cause is government spending and government debt–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, it’s a pile of issues that we’ve covered in depth on this program. But on this issue, dealing with your work in Congress, can you avert having the credit- credit worthiness in the United States called into question, if, you know, by actually coming to an agreement to deal with this issue before we get to a position of talking about a government shutdown?
REP. STEWART: Yeah, well, I think that we can and we should, but to finish by 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 have to understand there will be Republicans who will say, we need to reform. We need to use this as a vehicle to try to put some limits on our spending and our debt and our deficits. And I am one of them. And there are many others who will be, so the question that you’ve asked now is, are those two principles, you know, the fact we need to reform and cut our deficits in our spending, can we reconcile that with at the same time, we don’t want to harm the credit the United States government. That’s our goal. I think Republicans are aligned on that. I hope the president is as well. And hopefully we get to agreement on that.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Hopefully. I want to ask you about George Santos, as you heard me ask your democratic colleague. Can an elected official who’s under that many investigations be trusted as a lawmaker? Should he resign?
REP. STEWART: Well, it’s a hard question. Look, I don’t know Mr. Santos, I’ve never had a chance to talk with him. As you observe–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you need to talk to him to have an answer to that question?
REP. STEWART: Well, no, I don’t, which is, as I was just gonna say, as you observe this, it’s pretty hard not to conclude he’s a bit of a goofball. He clearly lied to his constituents. And to your point as well, it’s going to be very, very difficult for him to gain the trust of his colleagues. And I don’t know what he’s going to do. I mean, the reality is, is you can’t expel a member of Congress. At the end of the day, it really is up to the voters in Nassau County. I can tell you this, if I were in that situation, I don’t know how I could continue to serve and I had- I suppose you need to ask that same question.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We will continue to ask that. Congressman, thank you for your time this morning. We’ll be back in a minute. Stay with us.