Live from Music Row, Wednesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) to the newsmaker line to discuss foreign policy and Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act.
Leahy: We are joined on a newsmaker line right now by our good friend, United States Senator Bill Hagerty. Good morning, Senator Hagerty.
Hagerty: Good morning, Michael. Good to be with you.
Leahy: I’ve been watching these reports about Sudan, and it looks like that country is just imploding in a civil war. I’ve seen reports that there may be as many as 16,000 Americans stranded there.
Can you give us an update on what’s going on in Sudan and are we doing enough? You’re a foreign policy guy and ambassador to Japan. Can you give me an update on what we’re doing there?
Hagerty: What we’ve done is we’ve stepped away from the progress that the Trump administration made. If you look at where we were with Sudan, the fact that they were a participant in the Abraham Accords that members of my own team today worked very hard on when they served in the Trump administration. We had Sudan as a partner with Israel.
We were bringing peace to the Middle East. The Biden administration has stepped back. They’ve worked with Iran. They’ve created discord in the Middle East, disharmony. They’ve obviously done nothing to create the economic opportunities that were envisioned in the Abraham Accords.
Instead, what’s happened is that they allowed this country to devolve into civil war. We’ve got 16,000 Americans. I’ve seen the exact same numbers that you decided, Michael, 16,000 Americans whose lives are at risk right now. We have a situation where the U.S. embassy is evacuated.
They’ve done so without taking care of the Americans that were left, and as you mentioned, I was the U.S. ambassador to Japan, a country where we have, on any given day, a quarter of a million Americans there. And the last thing that I would’ve done is leave before I took care of those Americans who are my responsibility.
So we’ve got yet another complete disaster that the Biden administration’s left behind. You’ve got countries like Japan, France, and the UK that are in the process of evacuating their people now. The Biden administration is just telling the folks that are stuck there to shelter in place.
Leahy: Isn’t it the case that in circumstances like this, there’s very little that anybody but the president can do? He seems to be utterly incompetent in protecting American interests abroad.
Hagerty: I think we saw the greatest demonstration of that incompetence in Afghanistan. We have never seen an embarrassment like that to America, and it’s happened on Joe Biden’s watch. He has not been held accountable. I think every American remembers what happened, certainly deep in the bottom of their heart they know that we were embarrassed as a nation. And when our adversaries saw what happened, people hanging off the planes as they were flying out of Kabul. When our adversaries saw that, that emboldened them, that’s what I think was a major influencer on Russia, they stepped up their presence on the Ukrainian border. Again, we did nothing there. Russia enters Ukraine. China stepped up in the Ortiz and the Taiwan Straight. They stepped up the number of ships that they are floating down the Taiwan straight. We’ve seen a tremendous amount of pressure from China regarding Taiwan and other places. Since the fall of Afghanistan, similarly, in the Middle East, it’s become far more unstable.
All of our adversaries saw that, and at the same time, our allies looked at it too and saw that America is not a trusted partner anymore. That would’ve never happened under President Trump. And Joe Biden delivered us a massive embarrassment there that’s precipitated more unrest around the globe.
Leahy: Speaking of emboldened adversaries, China is emboldened, not just militarily, but economically. You just introduced a proposal to urge the Biden administration to sanction this company called Huawei for their activities on the cloud. Can you explain exactly what that’s about?
Hagerty: It’s an extension of a problem that I think many of our listeners this morning, Michael, have heard about. Huawei is a champion technology company from China. This is the same company that China wanted to deploy 5G technology for all of our telecommunications systems here in America.
And frankly, they’re doing this in many countries around the world right now. They’re giving away Huawei 5G systems to smaller countries that are willing to take a free telecommunication system from China not knowing or unwittingly knowing that these systems are eventually going to be susceptible to Chinese spying.
Can you imagine giving up cloud computing here in America to a Chinese champion company like Huawei? We worked hard and with the Trump administration, we actually were able to block Huawei from our 5G systems here in America. I did the same thing when I was ambassador to Japan to get the Japanese to block Huawei out of their telecommunication systems.
And now the Biden administration is, in front of their eyes, looking at Huawei, trying to provide cloud computing. And it’s not just Huawei. Alibaba Cloud, another DESE champion co-company, is also involved in this Huawei. Alibaba Cloud, they’ve got operations here in the United States.
In fact, Alibaba has opened two cloud data centers in California, right in the heart of Silicon Valley. And what this means is that we are exposing our data to the extent our data goes up and uses these services travels on these rails, if you will.
We’re exposing all of that data to the Chinese Communist Party, and the CCP is scarfing up as much data as they can. Take a look at TikTok. I don’t know that they’re using the data today, but if they’re able to crack the code on cloud, on quantum computing, they can use the data at some future point to basically crack our cryptography to scoop up all types of personal information on us and eventually use it to control people in other nations the same way they control people in their own country.
Leahy: The Biden administration, it seems to me, Senator Haggerty, they’re also, they’ve also dropped the ball on any efforts to stop fentanyl trafficking into the United States. I think you’ve done something about that. Tell us about what you’re doing there.
Hagerty: I’ve got a piece of legislation called the Stop Fentanyl Border Crossings Act, which basically takes Title 42 that’s about to go away in just a couple of weeks in May. Title 42 is going to go away.
That’s the last tool that our border patrol has to turn back people at our southern border. Title 42 was originally used to turn away people because of fears of health concerns. In that case, the pandemic.
I want to modify Title 42 to make the concern, not the pandemic, because we all agree that’s over. But the concern is illegal border crossings of drugs and drug overdoses, and if you look at what’s killing Americans today, The number one killer of Americans in the age group of 18 to 45 is drug overdose, a huge health problem.
The Biden administration continually looks the other way. You couldn’t even get Joe Biden to mention the word fentanyl, but fentanyl is what is killing young people across this country. It’s killing people in Tennessee. It’s killing people in every state.
In fact, they’ve turned every town into a border town right now cause of the number of illicit drugs that are coming across that border. Three times I’ve taken this to the four of the Senate three times. The Democrats have blocked it; if you can believe this, I put it back out again. I think we’re right at the precipice of having an avalanche of both human traffic and drug traffic coming across that border as soon as Title 42 is lifted.
This is our chance to modify it, to stand up, to push back, and to give the Border Patrol at least one tool to fight the crossings of illicit drugs, and if the Biden administration refuses to impose this, I think we’ve made loud and clear they do not care about the health and safety of Americans.
Leahy: When you were ambassador to Japan, Mike Pompeo was Secretary of State. Is that right?
Hagerty: He was.
Leahy: Our current Secretary of State is Anthony Blinken. There was a report at Just the News, John Solomon’s, that Anthony Blinken, according to the former acting director of the CIA, was the guy that organized the letter from 51 Intelligence Community Specialists that falsely claimed that the Hunter Biden laptop was a Russian disinformation campaign. Can you compare and contrast how Mike Pompeo served as Secretary of State with the way Anthony Blinken has served as Secretary of State?
Hagerty: Michael, there’s no comparison at all. You have Mike Pompeo who graduated number one in his class from West Point, who served in our military, a business person in his own right, and who was the director of the CIA before he became Secretary of State.
He understood the tools of war, he understood the tools of intelligence, and I think was a remarkably strong Secretary of State. You compare that to Tony Blinken, who is, who proven himself to be obviously just a political operator.
Somebody that could care less about the law, could care less about the truth, and would do anything to win. Even perpetrate a lie. The lie of Russia, Russia, Russia, and to get these 51 or 52 intelligence officers to sign up to this lie, to use this as a tool to distract the American public to basically give us this information so that they could change the outcome of an election.
I’ve been shocked to read these reports. Our Secretary of State needs to be a person that actually understands and appreciates the tools of intelligence, not someone that would abuse it to win a political race. I think Tony Blinken has lost all credibility. I’ve been extraordinarily disappointed to hear this, and I’m waiting for his resignation.
Leahy: Is that the first public call you’ve made for the resignation of Tony Blinken as Secretary of State?
Hagerty: Yes, it is. I think that if this is true and I should clarify that, we need to investigate it. But if it turns out to be true, then Tony Blinken is completely in incapable of leading the State Department. He’s incapable of leading our diplomatic efforts as the nation, and he’s incapable of being Secretary of State.
Leahy: And let’s add the clarification to that, Senator Hagerty. What you’re saying is, if it is true that Secretary of State Blinken organized the letter of 51 former Intelligence officers that falsely claimed that the Hunter Biden laptop was disinformation, if that is true, then you are calling for Secretary of State Blinken’s resignation. Do I have that right?
Hagerty: Yes. That is correct.
Leahy: You made some news with us, Senator Hagerty, but you waited until the last minute! (Hagerty chuckles) We appreciate that. Actually, you made news throughout it.
Hagerty: I appreciate your insightful questions, Michael.
You’re always on top of these issues, and it’s something that’s deeply concerning to those of us that are following this closely. And then my role as the ranking member of the subcommittee on the management of the State Department. This is a deep concern that we have someone competent to manage the State Department.
And if this is true, that this type of political operation was actually led by our Secretary of State, and the accusations are very concerning, we need to investigate it promptly and we need to get to the bottom of it. But it is true. It is extraordinarily damaging.
Leahy: When are you going to be back in Nashville?
Hagerty: Hopefully, by the weekend.
Leahy: We hope to see you then. And of course, in your spare time, if you want to come in studio, we’d be delighted to have you.
Hagerty: Michael, thanks so much. Good to be with you today.
Leahy: Thank you, Senator Bill Hagerty.
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Bill Hagerty” by Bill Hagerty.