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Vice Chairman Rubio’s Opening Statement at CIA Nominee Hearing
Washington, D.C. — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered opening remarks at the committee’s open hearing on the nomination of Kate Heinzelman to be General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency.
A video of Rubio’s opening remarks can be found here and a transcript of his remarks is below.
Rubio: “Thank you, Chairman Warner, and thank you, Ms. Heinzelman, for being here, and welcome to your family. And thank you for the chance yesterday to meet and to discuss your nomination.
“As I discussed with you, the General Counsel at the CIA is an important role, given the work the agency does on behalf of our country. The CIA can’t execute its worldwide mission in accordance with the authorities provided to it without counsel providing policy and legal advice to the Director.
“No agency in American government is above the law, certainly not the CIA, and it’s important that their activities always be within the law. This committee was created to provide oversight of the CIA and the entire intelligence community. That said, it is important that counsels, at the same time, do not impede the operations of the agency when working under presidential authority and with congressional support through authorization and funding. The role of counsel is to make sure they’re following the law, but also not to become an unnecessary impediment to the very difficult work of acting on behalf of the national interest of our country.
“I do want to make a broader, editorial point, which while related to this nomination is not a direct statement about you. I’m interested to learn more about you and your background and so forth. It really is a broader, editorial point about an ongoing pattern we’ve seen with some of the nominees in this administration, particularly in the intelligence community….
“Since [President Biden] took office, we’ve now processed a number of nominees, not just to the intelligence community but to other agencies, who have at some point done work on behalf of either the Chinese Communist Party [or] Chinese entities directly linked to the Chinese state. I understand people don’t like it characterized as such, but that is what it is. And anyone who understands the nature of the threat posed by China understands that’s what it is.
“Here’s how the pattern generally has gone. These are highly credentialed folks, there’s no doubt about it. They begin their work in a position of trust in national security in the executive branch.
“They leave there even more highly credentialed, and they go work for an international corporate law firm.
“At that firm, despite having held positions in government which he or she should have [learned] the true nature of the threat from China, and all the ways they seek to influence American policy, they end up representing or doing work on behalf of some state-controlled entities in China, representing them generally on matters such as helping them understand U.S. law.
“Fourth, this increasingly credentialed person, now who has worked in the executive branch, has worked outside of government, seeks to come back into government service at the highest levels, in which trust and judgment are paramount. And then that individual is nominated for a position.
“So this pattern, the reason why I point it out is I think two things are at play here. The first is how difficult it has become to find highly qualified and credentialed individuals to serve who haven’t at some point in the private sector interacted with Chinese Communist Party-linked entities, because that’s just the nature of the challenge that we face from China. As a broader editorial, I really hope this administration is more sensitive about this in the months to come and in the future nominations that await.
“This is really a commentary on our U.S. international-based law firms and how their business model in many ways is now enabling and supporting the soft power and the subversive efforts of CCP-controlled entities.
“This doesn’t make any of these people that have been nominated in the past bad people. It doesn’t even disqualify them from important or rewarding work on behalf of the [U.S.] government. But I think it begins to demonstrate for us two things. Again, as I’ve already pointed out, [it demonstrates] how hard it is to find people that are in a position to serve who haven’t, at some point, rubbed up against the influence efforts of the Chinese government. And I think it also potentially reflects how some [in the Biden Administration] are diminishing how pervasive this has become, and what a difficult challenge this China threat has become for us.
“With that said, I look forward to learning more about you, your background, your qualifications, your view, and your role, should you be confirmed. The General Counsel position is a really important one, as we discussed yesterday. Yes, it’s about making sure they’re following the law, but it’s also about providing advice and counsel on options that exist to serve the national interest of our country, within the framework of what the agency is authorized to do. I think that’s just as important in this role.
“So thank you for your willingness to serve, and we look forward to hearing your testimony.”