Sen. Warner: Sanctions on Iran 'strengthen our hand'

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," December 19, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Passing new sanctions legislation now will undermine our efforts to achieve a peaceful resolution and greatly –


CARNEY: -- greatly increase the chances that the United States would have to take military action. We don't believe it will be enacted. We certainly know it's not necessary. If it were to pass, the president would veto it.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The White House press secretary today talking about the prospect of Iran sanctions. We are joined by one of the cosponsors, Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner, in our Center Seat tonight.  Senator, thanks for being here.

SEN. MARK WARNER, D - VA: Thanks for having me, Bret.

BAIER: Why are you doing this? Why do you think it's necessary to do this despite what the White House is now saying, an urgent plea not to do it?

WARNER: Well, we filed the legislation. And it won't be taken up until after the break. We've seen Iran, that the only thing that keeps them negotiating is to keep the pressure on. And this legislation doesn't kick in additional sanctions until after the six months the administration has requested. It allows the president to grant an exemption. And the notion of simply waiting and not keeping the pressure on I think we've seen time and again does not force this regime to negotiate in good faith.

BAIER: So the pushback from the White House -- they've said some strong things today both on the record and behind the scenes -- doesn't persuade you not to do it?

WARNER: I think this is a unique opportunity. And I give Secretary Kerry and the negotiating team credit for moving forward. I think actually keeping this pressure on helps strengthen his hand. Let's face it, if the Iranians are looking for excuse to get out of negotiating, they can find that. As a matter of fact in the last few weeks they have not been back to the table. So we think this is the right action to take. And I think it will actually strengthen our hand.

BAIER: Charles?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Do you think the Senate leader Harry Reid will allow this to come to a vote?

WARNER: I'm not sure. I think what we wanted to do was put this statement down, show that it is clearly – if it got to the vote, I think would be successful. The fact the Senate believes that the only reason any progress has been made, even in terms of first step is because of the toughness of the sanctions. And we have seen the Iranian currency fall. We have seen the Iranian economy in tatters. We think we need to keep that up.

Now, clearly there will -- none of this will kick in for six months. So if there's an ability to get to that second stage of the agreement, have at it. But this is not a regime that we should trust on any sense.

KRAUTHAMMER: The White House has pushed back really hard on this. Have you felt any personal heat from the White House?


KRAUTHAMMER: Do you think it's right for Democrats to intervene in the negotiations of a president, particularly their own party, as they are arguing you're --

WARNER: We have heard from the administration repeatedly that we should not add additional sanctions at various times. And each time the initial sanctions have been added they have actually strengthened our hand.

KRAUTHAMMER: So why don't they see it that way?

WARNER: I think this is a delicate balance. We have other negotiating partners in terms of P5 plus 1, that -- and we don't want to give Russia, China, or anyone else an excuse to leave the negotiations before we get to that hopefully second step. And that is part of the balance. I thought long and hard before joining this effort, but nothing about the Iranian regime, to my mind, warrants trust.


A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: If you look back at the debate, which was an extremely dramatic moment in September before the government was shut down, over Syria and a vote that never took place in the Congress, do you believe that deeper, more committed and frequent consultation with the Congress, both with regards to Syria and all of our conflict, but now with Iran would have helped the administration succeed in the deal like this?

WARNER: I think that as somebody who has been an executive longer than a legislator, a former governor, I think legislators always wanted to see more consultation, more conversation. Whether it would have -- the situation in Syria was very fluid. We have got to acknowledge, though, the goal of getting rid of the chemical weapons is actually taking place.

STODDARD: And you're confident that there's not, that there's no holes in the agreement about chemical weapons in Syria.

WARNER: I'm not 100 percent confident, no. But I also know that versus the alternative which could have led to enormous repercussions lord knows which way, the fact there was an actually an agreement, that weapons are being removed, I believe is a step.

STODDARD: Is there any way the administration could have consulted more with the people who were supporting new, increased sanctions, and avoided this kind of standoff that we're seeing?

WARNER: Second guessing months later on Syria, that's your job. My job is to actually find ways to get to yes on it.

BAIER: Let's turn to one of the judge's favorite topics here.

NAPOLITANO: Senator, there are 9 million of these cellphones in your state of Virginia.

WARNER: As the cofounder of Nextel I was --


JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYSTS: First, I must say it's a pleasure to meet with you and an honor to be able chat with you. There are 380 million of these in the United States. The federal government headed by the president of your party says that his spying apparatus should be able to have access to all of them, to what they do, to where they are, to what's said on them, without a search warrant about anyone. This week a federal judge said that's unconstitutional and it doesn't work. This week the president's own review board said we're not ruling on the constitutionality but there are better ways to find out who the bad guys are. Where do you stand?

WARNER: Listen, I think that there are a lot of bad guys out there. And these policies that we were saying is this president --that were actually started by President Bush –


WARNER: -- have been supported across the board from the intelligence community. On our recent Intel bill, I actually added additional amendments would have allowed other independent intervention into a FISA court to make sure.

NAPOLITANO: Harry Reid wouldn't let them vote on it.

WARNER: Well, yeah. But I think a step forward. But I would just say this -- I've looked at some of the other alternatives and I'm still looking at them, but the notion that somehow this metadata is more secure held by simply the telcos for an extended period of time, the cost and the ramification of how that will play out, the telcos does not want to hold this information as long as we would need. It's not as clean a deal as some folks have proposed.

BAIER: Reforms are coming.

WARNER: Reforms are coming.

BAIER: Bottom line.

WARNER: Reforms are coming. But it is also a very dangerous world, and much longer debate on section 215 I saw some of it earlier --

KRAUTHAMMER: Will it be Congress that makes the reform or are you going to rely on the judiciary?

WARNER: I think that there will be a parallel passed. The judge, we obviously saw he stayed his own orders. This will get appealed. In the interim, though, I think some of the reforms in the Intel bill move forward. And strong, obviously the Judiciary Committee has a broader approach.

KRAUTHAMMER: And if the judge ruled unconstitutional and preempts the Congress.

WARNER: A judge that then put a stay on his own order.


BAIER: More with the panel and Senator Warner after a quick break.

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