Warner Briefs Constituents on the Prospect of War, the Need for Internet Regs and Don Trump Jr.

May 13, 2019

Virginia’s Senior Senator, Mark Warner, was in Charlottesville over the weekend, briefing reporters on several controversies including the possibility of war with Iran, intervention in Venezuela and the need to regulate social media companies. 

U.S. Senator Mark Warner talks with the CEO of Charlottesville-based software company Willow Tree about efforts to regulate social media.
Credit RadioIQ

Mark Warner said he was distressed that the White House is disregarding inquiries from Congress and hoped the legislative branch would step-in if Donald Trump were to attempt a military attack on Iran.

“I think Iran is a real challenge, a real threat," he told reporters.  "In past administrations we had an international coalition standing up against Iranian actions.  Unfortunately now, it’s just the United States and Israel that are standing up, and I think, frankly, that doesn’t make us stronger in terms of standing up to Iranian aggression.”

He also said he hoped American troops would not be sent to Venezuela, where Russia has attempted to shore-up an unpopular president – Nicholas Maduro.

“Every estimate is that close to 80% of the Venezuelans know that Maduro is driving their country over the brink. You’ve got quite literally mass levels of starvation, but I think it’s important that the Venezuelans and the Latin Americans themselves take the lead in getting rid of Maduro,” Warner said.

He called for  Congress to enact new rules governing large social media companies – to safeguard customer privacy, assure transparency and to let people know if they’re dealing with a bot.  And, finally, he called on allies of Donald Trump Junior to stop making such a fuss about a Senate subpoena demanding the president’s son return to the Senate Intelligence committee to answer new questions.  Warner said other members of the Trump family had done so without complaint.  

Here's what Virginia's Senior Senator had to say:

He opposes intervention in Venezuela?

“Maduro is a bad actor.  I think Maduro should go, but I think with our long history, and frankly not good history of interventions in Latin America, I don’t think there should be any kind of American military intervention.”

He supports greater regulation of social media companies.

"I’ve been working on a series of pieces of legislation on how we make sure in the digital world we have transparency, how we make sure that we don’t have the kind of abuse that took place when Russians manipulated Facebook and Google and Twitter back in the 2016 elections.  We ought to have a right to know what information Facebook and Google have on us.  We have a right to know how much that information is worth, and if we choose to move, for example, from Facebook, there out to be ease of portability to move your data to another site.

Warner says the dark web is a growing problem.

“And I don’t think anyone has found away to contain that – the ability to access illicit drugs,  pornography and for hate groups to gather together.  My fear is hat we may see the dark web actually populated more, so I’m looking at legislation that says, ‘Shouldn’t Americans have a right to know when they’re being communicated with by a human being versus a machine – a bot.  Shouldn’t we have a right to know when somebody says they’re Mike, and they’re posting from Charlottesville, but it’s actually originated by Boris in St. Petersburg.  Social media companies were initially viewed as telephone companies, so they had no responsibility for content, but today, where we’ve got 65% of Americans getting most of their news from Facebook and Google, maybe we need to examine that.”

Has the co-chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee heard from Donald Trump Jr. since issuing a subpoena, calling on the president’s son to return and answer new questions?

“I’m very proud of the fact that we’re the last bi-partisan investigation that’s looking into the Russian investigation.  I’m not commenting on any of our specific witnesses, but I will say it’s fairly outrageous that some of Trump Jr.’s allies are acting like this is not normal business.  We said to every witness, that we reserve the right, if they had inconsistencies in their testimony, now that we’ve had the Mueller Report and the Cullen testimony, to be able to call witnesses back, and what’s remarkable is all the other witnesses have agreed.  Even other members of the Trump family have been willing to come back, but I’m not going to comment on the specifics of Donald Trump, Jr.  I’ll just leave it at that.