March 23, 2023

The following is a transcript of an interview with Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey that aired Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, on “Face the Nation.”

MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to Democratic Senator Cory Booker in Newark, New Jersey. Good morning to you, Senator.

SEN. CORY BOOKER: Good morning. Thank you for having me on.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to start on the news of the moment. Mark Warner, fellow Democrat Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee tweeted, “There is no way the Communist Party of China would allow a balloon like this to fly over the Chinese heartland.” I wonder if you personally are concerned that it was allowed to enter U.S. airspace at all?

SEN. BOOKER: Well, again, Mark Warner is right. We should not have had this kind of incursion into the United States. And I’m glad that the military, in a very sobered fashion, was able to shoot it down and give us more materials to analyze and study. They made a decision that was focused on protecting human life. And we know that the debris field, ultimately when it was shot down, was miles long. So again, we have a real problem with China on a number of issues. From their human rights violations to their violations of international business law, to even the challenges we’ve had with them on overt spying. So I’m grateful that the military took decisive action when they did and how they did. But we obviously have issues here.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the issues with espionage, as you just indicated, go into a number of different areas. Due to national security concerns, Congress had banned TikTok, for example, the social media app on federal devices. Your home state of New Jersey has also put restrictions in place, but you still use it personally. Does that mean that you think it’s too late to go ahead and ban this? It’s already on 200 million American devices? Is it just so integrated that that espionage is something we have to live with?

SEN. BOOKER: No. Absolutely not. And I think there’s two ways to approach this one. The proactive step of banning and on government devices, is something that the United States federal government is doing states and even localities are doing. But the other way to go about this is going directly to the company, they are now working with US intelligence folks to try to make sure that the proper precautions are taken, so the Chinese cannot get access and use it for spying. 

So this is something we have to take seriously. It is an issue for American companies who have their secrets stolen. It is an issue that we have to have around our military. And frankly, it’s an issue for many of our allies, as we are seeing a real global competition between two ways of life — authoritarian governments that routinely violate human freedoms and human rights and the world democratic order of democracies that believe in freedom, and want to see free markets around the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there’s been debate on this for years now. Due to the outrage you’re seeing from the public in this moment, is there an opportunity to move on some of this legislation?

SEN. BOOKER: Yeah, there is a strong bipartisan view that we need to begin to take even more action. So I’m happy on the Foreign Relations Committee, that we have taken steps around sanctions, that we as a Congress, in a bipartisan fashion, have done things to select to protect U.S. supply chains to get more independent from potential Chinese aggression when it comes to chip manufacturing, and doing it on a domestic level. This is one space where I have seen some of the best bipartisan work in the last Congress in making sure that we are meeting the threats that the Chinese could pose to our safety, security and national secrets.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ll see what happens in this Congress. And on that point, I want to ask you about the meeting you had with fellow Democrats at the White House on Thursday in regard to police reform. What agreements did you all come up with? And is it anything you can get Republicans to sign on to?

SEN. BOOKER: Well, first of all, I want to again, express my condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols. This was a really horrific murder. We saw a man on the ground, handcuffed, being beaten, and eventually die as a result of his wounds. This should not happen in the United States of America. As we just said, globally, we should be setting the standard for human rights, civil rights and for public safety. But yet we’ve seen this happen with too much regularity. Names that we should not know nationally, that we do from George Floyd to Breonna Taylor, to Eric Garner. This is just too much. 

And so I’m grateful that the president has taken decisive action in the last Congress with an executive order, but it falls to Congress to find a bipartisan way forward to make sure that we are doing what is necessary, to raise police standards and professionalism to create more transparency and accountability in American policing. And so as a person who has been trying to lead this and has been building a coalition of law enforcement leaders, law enforcement, union leaders, civil rights activists and others, As I believe we can find a way forward, it is going to be more difficult in a divided Congress. But I believe that a moment like this, a moral moment like this requires decisive action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, we’ve been through moral moments before and negotiations have failed as they did when you were talking to your Republican colleague, Tim Scott, back in 2021. He says that this House progressives police reform bill, I assume he means George Floyd acted won’t go anywhere. But he has given an impassioned speech saying he wants solutions that would have made a difference, specifically more grants, more de-escalation, training and duty to intervene training. Is this a starting point for talks?

SEN. BOOKER: Absolutely, I’ve been talking to people on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the Capitol, in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate. I’ve been a part of large bipartisan work on as you said, big moral moments. Heck, in the last Congress, I was happy to be a supporter, and co-sponsor, original co-sponsor of the legislation laid on our side of the aisle by Chris Murphy, that got the first bipartisan gun legislation done since the 1990s after a long time. We can do that here. 

There is a pathway forward, and I’m going to be tireless and not stop until we do significant things to make Americans safer, and to make our policing standards higher. And I’m not standing alone on this. The fact that we have police leaders, the largest union that represents the majority of police, that we’ve been able to come together on bipartisan ideals. I think there’s a pathway forward, though I’m very sobered in a divided Congress about our ability to get it done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you talking to Tim Scott now about this?

SEN. BOOKER: I don’t think Tim Scott and I have stopped talking. Let’s be clear, Tim and I have been a proven partnership–


MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, you walked away from the talks a year ago, so you did stop negotiating. Are you renewing those negotiations?

SEN. BOOKER: Again, Tim, and I have not stopped talking. We’re guys that have gotten the opportunity zone legislation done. We’ve gotten the criminal justice reform done. We may have stopped formal negotiations, but he and I are actually friends. We may be in different parties and disagreed on a host of stuff, but the reality is, we’re two black men in America, we’ve had really awful experiences with law enforcement that law enforcement leaders say are unjust. We’re motivated, and I’ll continue to work with him and Lindsey Graham and other folks in the ways that I’ve done before to get big legislation or important legislation done.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One issue you put to the side back in 2021, was that really hard issue of qualified immunity, which is whether to hold individual officers accountable for, or the entire police department accountable civilly for police misconduct. Lindsey Graham, who you just mentioned there, tweeted that “holding departments accountable makes sense  because in America, if you run a business and produce a product, you’re responsible for your actions, the same should be true for police departments.” Is he offering you the start here of something?

SEN. BOOKER: You know, I’ve had conversations, meetings with Lindsey Graham, in this Congress as well. He is somebody that agrees with me that there is common sense here. You can’t have accountability, without consequences when things go wrong. And to have a world in which we don’t say, as a country, that we’re going to have the highest standards of policing. We’re going to set the national example for these ideals of accountability and transparency. Again, this is something we all as Americans should agree with. 

And we should definitely agree that the things we’re seeing too often now because of body cameras, and other filming, have to stop in our country. This is wrong. And I’m happy that I have Republican colleagues that agree this is wrong, and we’re trying to work something out. And I’m going to continue with it. And I’m grateful for the President of the United States, to members of the House of Representatives like the Congressional Black Caucus. We’re determined to try to get something done — maybe a big comprehensive bill, on this Congress, that might be hard, but we can find ways to do things that make things better.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator Booker, thank you for your time this morning. 

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