The following is a transcript of an interview with Rep. Mike Gallagher, Republican of Wisconsin, and Raja Krishnamoorthi, Democrat of Illinois, that aired on Nov. 19, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, Republican Mike Gallagher and Democrat Raja Krishnamoorthi. Good morning to you both gentlemen. We like bipartisan conversations on this program. So welcome back.
REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI: Good morning, thank you.
REP. MIKE GALLAGHER: Good to be here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to put it to you both then, can you work together to pass this, what $4 billion, President Biden is asking for for Taiwan and Asian allies before the end of the year? Congressman Gallagher, Republicans are in control,so I’ll go to you first.
REP. GALLAGHER: I think we can and I want to salute the ranking member for his leadership and setting the serious tone that our committee has been operating under. The rest of Congress has been descending into what looks like a high school reality TV program, but we’ve been able to work together and so that gives me a lot of optimism. Particularly in light of the growing threat to Taiwan. One thing that went almost unreported, amidst Biden, and Xi’s summit is that Xi tripled down on his threats to Taiwan. He reportedly said to the president in their meeting that peace and stability in the region are less important than solving the Taiwan question. The CCP’s official statement afterwards said that we need to stop arming Taiwan and support their reunification efforts. So all of this should remind us that no amount of relentless diplomacy will make a difference if we don’t fix the fundamental problem, which is that the balance of hard power across the strait and throughout the Indo-Pacific region is eroding and with it, the risk of war is increasing, which is why we need to act before it’s too late.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Krishnamoorthi, you’re confident before the end of 2023, this is gonna pass?
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: We have no choice, we have to pass this. The President’s absolutely correct. To ask for this funding not only for Taiwan, but for Ukraine, as well as Israel and other priorities, they are all inextricably linked. We have to make sure that we send the right message to Xi Jinping. Now, a recent survey showed that a majority of voters believe that a war is possible in the next 10 years and they’re very concerned about it. Three quarters of Democrats and Republicans want us to prevent war and the best way to do that is to make sure that we deter aggression by equipping Taiwan with what it needs to prevent aggression, but also to tone down the rhetoric and make sure that we have diplomacy with the highest levels of the CCP.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Tone down the rhetoric- rhetoric in an election year, no less. Congressman Gallagher, I read that you want to subpoena potentially the main sponsors of a dinner that Xi Jinping attended with some of the biggest CEOs in the United States. CEOs from Blackstone, KKR, Pfizer, Boeing, FedEx, Apple, BlackRock. What do you seek to achieve there? Don’t you know the names of everyone who bought tickets?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, I never mentioned a subpoena. So I don’t know where that report is coming from.
MARGARET BRENNAN: It was in Bloomberg.
REP. GALLAGHER: I’ll comment broadly on the dinner, which I thought was disgusting- well, Bloomberg got it wrong, in this case. $40,000 to eat coffee-rub flank steak and sip Cakebread Sauvignon Blanc with Xi Jinping and what’s worse than that is the fact that they gave him a standing ovation. This a communist dictator, who has committed a genocide in Xinjiang, who is committing a cultural genocide in Tibet, who has completely destroyed civil society in Hong Kong, who’s risking as we just talked about provoking world war three, to give him a standing ovation. And what’s even worse than that is it wasn’t just the people you’d expect, like Tim Cook from Apple or BlackRock, it was American defense contractors. All the more reason why Congress, I think, needs to step up to cut off the flow of U.S. capital to Chinese military companies to specify the appropriate level of de-risking or diversification so we have a healthier economic relationship, to modernize our military, because corporate America and Wall Street have proven time and again, they’re willing to sell out American interests in order to make money in China.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But the two economies are so incredibly intertwined.
REP. GALLAGHER: Absolutely.
MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, the very fact that Rahm Emanuel, the President’s ambassador to Japan said, “literally have their R&D, their intellectual property, stolen from them,” and they gave Xi Jinping a standing ovation. Doesn’t just tell you that China’s great- greatest leverage here is financial and the reality is that it’s not going to be unwound?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, it has to be unwound at least in part. I’m not arguing for a total decoupling- go head Raja, sorry.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: I personally think it has to be.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Go ahead.
REP. KRISHNAMOORTHI: No, I was just saying that, I think that our- even without any U.S. government action, I’m- I’m heartened that a lot of companies in the private sector are de-risking, are reducing their exposure in China. That particular dinner left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t think that people were paying $40,000 for the coffee-crusted steaks. They were- they were paying for access. I hope that they also brought up some of our concerns with regard to economic aggression that the CCP is routinely practicing against American entities. For our part on the select committee, I want to just say, I’m very glad to be working with Mike on ways to work with the Biden administration to reduce our investments and entities in China that are fueling the PLA’s military modernization and human rights abuses. Thankfully, the Federal Thrift Savings Plan listened to us recently, when they decided to remove investments in precisely those entities. So, I think what we’re doing on the committee is having a difference.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Gallagher and Krishnamoorthi, I want to ask you about what you thought was achieved at the summit because expectations were set very low, right? Just answering the phone military-to-military and getting China to enforce some of its existing policies to cut down on the flow of fentanyl precursor chemicals. So do you both think this was a success just to simply have the two leaders face-to-face?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, I welcome the establishment of a crisis communication channel in so much as it reduces the risk of miscommunication leading to war. I’m skeptical of the fentanyl agreement, I have to confess only because we’ve seen this movie before. But certainly, I- anything to reduce the devastating effects that fentanyl is causing all across America would be welcome. My concern more broadly, and why I think it’s too early to characterize this one way or the other, is that whenever we have summits like this, we tend to pay cash up front, but for the CCP, the check is always in the mail. And as I said before, the most important form of communication is the investments we make in our own hard power posture in the Indo-Pacific and they were simply not just moving hard enough. We’ve had two administrations now of different parties that have failed to implement a deterrence by denial posture in the Pacific.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Congressman Krishnamoorthi was it a success?
Well, I think it’s very promising. I think that the agreement with regard to cooperation on fentanyl is a good first step. I also liked the establishment of the military-to-military communications channels. I- quite frankly, I liked the fact that Xi Jinping was pandering, and he’s going to send a few pandas to the United States and increase commercial flights both ways. What I would have liked to see a little more is talk about the human rights abuses, and the crackdown on Uyghurs, Tibetans and dissidents in China. I’m hopeful that we can see more action on that particular score. But, look Margaret, the expectations for this summit were super low. You know, as long as a Chinese spy balloon isn’t flying over the U.S. now, following this latest meeting, I think that is probably going to be viewed as having met expectations and exceeded them probably.
MARGARET BRENNAN: The comments from Xi on the pandas was a little squishy, too. It wasn’t a hard commitment that everyone’s getting their pandas back here, but- but Congressman on the one thing that you have, as I understand it, subpoenaed was in regard to an illegal bio lab in California. Your committee took this on. What did you discover and what’s your message to the administration?
REP. GALLAGHER: Well, local officials in Reedley discovered this illegal bio lab where there were transgenic mice, there was all sorts of equipment that were vials containing Ebola, HIV dangerous pathogens, and when they called the CDC and the FBI, they refused to investigate. The CDC hung up on them in many cases. We also discovered that the owner of the bio lab, Jesse Zhu, was a fugitive. He was here illegally, he was fleeing a 330 million IP judgment against him and he was receiving all sorts of unexplained wire transfers to the total of $2 million from China. He was a China- Chinese national. Bottom line is, we just don’t have appropriate trip wires in place. You can buy some of this stuff illegally online, we need to have a more robust defense in depth for Bio Labs like this, we can’t allow this to happen again, and we need to support local officials, not hang up on them when they call the federal government.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Understood, more to talk about with you both thank you for your time today. We’re gonna have to leave it there. We’ll be back in a moment.