The following is the full transcript of an interview with Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, that aired on “Face the Nation” on April 23, 2023.
MARGARET BRENNAN: We go now to Democratic Senator Chris Coons, who joins us from Wilmington, Delaware. Good morning to you, Senator. I know you’ve said you feared this violence for the past few weeks. And it was this intense fighting between Sudan’s armed forces and a paramilitary group that led to this dramatic evacuation. Do you think the US should have pulled out sooner?
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, Margaret, if I’d been on this show, just two weeks ago, we wouldn’t have been talking about fighting in Sudan, because there wasn’t any. There were special envoys from the UN, the AU, the US all negotiating with these two generals, General Hemeti, General Burhan of the regular army and the paramilitary. I’m still hopeful that they could return to a civilian government. It unwound fast in just the last week, and I’m grateful that our Special Forces have now successfully overnight evacuated the US nationals who work in our Embassy in Khartoum. This is a temporary suspension. It’s my hope and theirs that we will be able to return to Khartoum, and the situation will stabilize. But Margaret, this is the same sort of thing that happened in Kyiv in Ukraine that has happened in other countries and Yemen and Syria, where when the fighting gets intense quickly, we rely on our Special Forces to evacuate US nationals who staff an embassy in a country that descends into a war zone.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I know you’ve been saying the country may tip into all out civil war. Russia and China have really been extending their influence throughout Africa, Russia and Sudan as well, including that paramilitary group Wagner. They- they have left behind hundreds of American civilians in Sudan, who now don’t necessarily have a way out of the country. Are you concerned about how the United States can use some kind of leverage to help its citizens escape?
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Well, Margaret, just a reminder that Sudan is a vast country, it’s the third largest country in Africa, a country of 45 million people spread over a huge amount of territory. Yes, I am concerned about the safety and security of US Nationals who’ve been serving in humanitarian missions or in other ways across the country. There are quite a few US-Sudanese dual nationals in the country, and the UN and the US and a number of other countries will do their best to help return to civilian rule to end the fighting to support a stabilization in Sudan. But as for right now, an evacuation through some overland convoy is the most likely path out for folks who work for the UN in the World Food Program, for example, who serve other countries in Khartoum and around the country and for those remaining US nationals who may wish to leave.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But does the US have any leverage to stop the fighting?
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Just a reminder, Margaret, this is a country that for 30 years was under the brutal dictatorship of–
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Omar al-Bashir. It was on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list. We don’t have a deep relationships with the Sudanese military or with the paramilitary force, the RSF. We have some leverage in that we provide development assistance, humanitarian relief, but frankly, these two warring factions have started what may well be a fight to the finish. And we may have limited leverage in the next couple of weeks and months as they carry out a fight to see who will ultimately be in control of the security of Sudan.
MARGARET BRENNAN: And that is why there’s so much concern. I want to ask you as well about your position on the Judiciary Committee. CBS interviewed earlier this week an attorney for an IRS agent who is seeking whistleblower status from Congress to share information, he says, would contradict sworn testimony to Congress by senior political appointee regarding the investigation into Hunter Biden. Do you think it’s worth looking into the possibility of undue influence here?
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Look, anyone who comes forward and seeks whistleblower protection status should be given that status. That’s part of what we’ve put in place over many years. A system that allows career folks who work in different federal agencies the chance to blow the whistle and testify if they see something wrong. I’ll remind you nothing’s been presented yet. This person hasn’t come forward in any detail. If and when they do, if there’s any substance to it, I expect that the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin and the ranking member will ensure that they are fairly and appropriately treated.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you confident in the conduct of Attorney General Merrick Garland? When it comes to this case?
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: I am. Look, President Biden from the days he was campaigning to his first days as president made it clear that he thought restoring the independence of the Department of Justice, removing any political influence for potential investigations was a core value that he brought to this service as president, and I’m confident that’s in no small part why he chose a seasoned circuit court judge, someone with also deep experience at DOJ. I am confident that Merrick Garland has conducted himself appropriately here.
MARGARET BRENNAN: CBS reported back in October that the FBI had gathered evidence sufficient enough to charge Hunter Biden with tax and gun related crimes and sent it to the US Attorney in Delaware. And we know that in the coming days Mr. Biden’s attorneys are set to meet with the US Attorney in Delaware. Do you have any sense if this is going to conclude soon? It’s been ongoing since 2018.
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: No, I don’t, Margaret, nor should I. It is an ongoing investigation that as you say has been conducted for years. The US Attorney here in Delaware is the US attorney who was appointed by the previous administration.
MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: And look if there are any charges ever brought, we’ll discuss them at that time. At this point, I think this is a long going federal investigation, which I hope will reach a conclusion at some point soon.
MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Senator Coons, thank you for joining us this morning and giving us your perspective.
SENATOR CHRIS COONS: Thank you, Margaret.
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