Vivek Ramaswamy is a man with a specific plan to disrupt the federal bureaucracy that operates as what he calls an unconstitutional fourth branch of government. He's running against ex-President Trump, who many think is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, but Vivek Ramaswamy is also defending Trump against what Ramaswamy considers the corrupt practices, including misuse of the Espionage Act by the Department of Justice, which he'll explain. And he talks about the areas of agreement he has with the Democrat candidate running against Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. And he'll also talk about where he differs with RFK, Jr.
Sharyl Attkisson interview with Vivek Ramaswamy
Note: There may be minor typographical errors in the transcription.
Sharyl Attkisson (00:06):
Hi everybody, Sharyl Attkisson here. Welcome to another edition of the Sharyl Attkisson podcast. If you feel as though there's a corrupt federal bureaucracy that puts its own interests first and our interests last. If you feel it's a hopeless position, you'll want to hear today's interview with Republican presidential candidate, Vivek Ramaswamy.
Vivek Ramaswamy is a man with a specific plan to disrupt the federal bureaucracy that operates as what he calls an unconstitutional fourth branch of government. He's running against ex-President Trump, who many think is the leading candidate for the Republican nomination, but Vivek Ramaswamy is also defending Trump against what Ramaswamy considers the corrupt practices, including misuse of the Espionage Act by the Department of Justice, which he'll explain. And he talks about the areas of agreement he has with the Democrat candidate running against Joe Biden, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. And he'll also talk about where he differs with RFK Jr. Here's Vivek Ramaswamy.
Sharyl Attkisson: You just put out some information in which you said you were supporting a repeal of the Espionage Act. Can you first of all tell us what the Espionage Act is?
Vivek Ramaswamy (01:30):
Sure. So it is an ancient law from 1917 passed under Woodrow Wilson's tenure. Keep in mind, Woodrow Wilson is the godfather of the administrative state. People sometimes forget that part. He passed this law. It's one of the most un-American laws that has ever been passed that effectively criminalized political dissent against World War I at the time, was what it was intended to criminalize dissent against. But it criminalized all kinds of dissent in under the name of espionage. That act has been modified numerous times over the years. At the time it was supposed to only apply during peace time. Now, I mean, excuse me, during war time. Now it applies even during peace time, and that is actually the statute that Jack Smith is using to charge President Donald Trump. It's purposefully vague.
It has been used throughout its history, not just now. It's throughout its century old history to target political opposition. Julian Assange sits in foreign exile while Chelsea Manning, the person who actually leaked the documents to him runs free because her sentence was commuted by President Obama. To me, for the obvious reason that she's a member of a favored political class, she's transgender. It's the weaponization of the law against politically disfavored defendants and the selective use of the law to protect people who happen to fall in politically favored classes. And that's un-American.
Sharyl Attkisson (02:55):
Since I don't know, if you could just briefly say what is the theory under the Espionage Act against President Trump for the documents?
Vivek Ramaswamy (03:04):
It's a great question that you're asking, right? It's that he was actually supporting some kind of act that was antithetical to the interests of the United States. In this case, that he held onto documents too long that actually belonged to the federal government. Because they were sensitive documents, military documents, and that was contrary to the interest of the United States, that's the vague law on which he's being charged. That's one of the problems with this espionage act though, is that it stops or at least it relieves prosecutors from the need to use more narrowly tailored laws. There's the Presidential Records Act, which actually deals with who I've ever thought, records that a president can take with him. That's exactly what that law was written to determine and govern. Yet the indictment against Trump does not mention that act once because they get the cop out for the broad, vague law passed under Woodrow Wilson back in 1917.
And if you want to get a little legal and technical and have a little fun with this, and I've built businesses. I didn't practice law, but I am trained as a lawyer. I did go to law school. So I'll wear that hat and have a little fun with it here. Actually under that legal theory, you're asking about the legal theory that Trump's being charged on. You hear all about classified and unclassified documents, that's what the media's talking about. Nobody's pointed out an obvious fact that I'll share with you, which is that the theory of the law that's being used to charge Trump with under the Espionage Act, that doesn't just apply to classified documents, it actually applies to any document that could include militarily sensitive information even if such information were technically unclassified. So think about it, the Presidential Records Act came after the Espionage Act much longer over half a century later, and it expressly gives the US president the right to retain unclassified documents.
Yet the legal theory used under the Espionage Act would technically criminalize behavior even if it included unclassified documents that a US president took with him. Those two laws are then in conflict. Arguably, the Presidential Records Act supersedes then the Espionage Act as it applies to past US presidents. So these are arguments for courtrooms, not for broad audiences necessarily who might get put to sleep by me going into the details of this stuff. Maybe your audience likes it, I don't know.
Sharyl Attkisson (05:21):
Our audience is going to really, really appreciate this.
Vivek Ramaswamy (05:24):
Oh, do they like it? Because I like to get technical then. So then think about that, is there's a law that came in 1978 that literally is in conflict with a broad vague statute from 1917. This is the problem when you have broad, vague statutes. Is they either nullify the later more narrowly tailored laws or they're overruled by the narrowly tailored laws, but prosecutors pretend like they're not. That is a formula for corruption, that is a formula for administrative state police abuse. And keep in mind, this very law, the 1917, what was the Espionage Act, which came with the 1918 Sedition Act thereafter, was used to round up hundreds of anti-war activists. Hundreds by the hundreds. I mean even Eugene v. Debs was effectively arrested for the high crime of, wait for it, criticizing the Espionage Act. So I'm not making this stuff up. This is the nasty history of this very law, and you keep going down this path.
I don't mean to be conspiratorial about it, I'm just taking the history and extrapolating it forward. Now they're using it to go selectively after President Trump. What comes next? Dissenters against the Ukraine War. I mean Ukraine is becoming a sort of modern secular religion in America. To say that if you don't support this yellow and blue flagged country, more yellow and blue flags flying around government buildings than there are flags in the United States if you walk around Washington DC on a given day. As I recently did with my son when we took a tour of the buildings, I was shocked to see it. Well, I wonder if that's going to be criminalized next. And if so, folks who are against the war like me might then be in trouble.
That's not America. And so that's a big part of why I'm running for president. But I don't believe in just staying at the level of the high level slogans. I like getting into detail. I like getting into the statutory history. So that's what I published in the Wall Street Journal today was a detailed history of this Espionage Act and why it's fundamentally un-American and why when I'm president, I will repeal it. And while I'm waiting for Congress to do it, I will instruct the Department of Justice that they will not bring another case under this flawed Un-American law.
Sharyl Attkisson (07:30):
So there are many examples like the one you gave that's happening to President Trump. And I feel as though the propagandist and the establishment people who see Trump or Kennedy or you as a danger to them continue to rely on these methods which are questionable, potentially unconstitutional. Maybe they have no grounding in actual law, but what happens when the people who would be enforcing the law are the ones committing the alleged bad acts or even the crimes? And I say that because we kind of all, at least there's a big segment of society that kind of understands what's going on and feels like there's nothing they can do about it as they see example after example.
For example, they see that President Trump, there was an attempt to frame him as a Russian stooge in 2016 using false information at high levels of our intelligence agencies. And yet nothing came out of that because people said, "Well, that may be bad, but it's not illegal." Well, if that's not some attack on our constitutional system, I don't know what is. But if the people who would have to enforce that are part of the conspiracy, then what do we do?
Vivek Ramaswamy (08:45):
Well, if you want to take a look at this pattern, just go to the hard facts that you laid out. That was a party in power, Obama as president, Biden then as vice president. That literally tried to plant a mole in the campaign of the opposition party by taking false misinformation, actual misinformation about Russian collusion to a FISA court, a secret court to then get the warrant. So that's already un-American as it gets a party in power trying to plant a mole in the campaign of the opposition party on the basis of alleged Russian interference, which itself was actually a product of probably Russian, Hillary Clinton created. The facts now suggest Russian misinformation. So that's bad enough. Now that same guy is now running again, who by the way, is my opponent in this election and I'm running against Trump because I want to lead this country forward, and I can get to that later.
But now let's just look at these facts. That same opposition party that Vice President Biden now is president. Now is saying, "Okay, okay, that's not good enough." Trying to plant the mole with the secret FISA court that didn't work last time. We will arrest and indict the leading opponent in this election right now. At behest of police force, at the federal level, even at the state level in New York, for example, invoking federal law to do it. That is not America. We are not supposed to be a country where the party in power uses moles or now outright indictment power to stifle its political opponents. That is wrong. And the funny thing I'm, it's an awkward position for me because I'm running to win this race and it would be a lot easier for me if Donald Trump weren't in it. And yet the media refuses to do its job asking basic questions like what Merrick Garland was told by Joe Biden or what Merrick Garland told Jack Smith?
The media didn't want to answer that question, so I submitted a FOIA request trying to get to the bottom of it myself because yes, I want to win the election, but what's the point of winning the election? It's to preserve a constitutional republic. What's the point if we're just going through the motion and that republic is itself a hollowed out husk of itself? I refuse to see that happen and it's going to take every one of us doing our part.
Sharyl Attkisson (11:00):
Well, I think that that was therein the big thing that happened in the 2015 time period. The press decided, normally they would be watch dogging some of this stuff and they could force some action. There are different branches of almost government you could call the press, that if Congress isn't doing its job, maybe the media steps in and pressures it. But there was such a successful campaign to controversialize candidate Trump that the press got on board with suspending their normal ethical and journalism guidelines and rules. They even said this because they said they considered Trump so uniquely dangerous that they didn't have to follow the normal practices.
I argue that's the time when it's most important for us to follow our established practices. Not when you like somebody, but when you maybe dislike somebody. You have to. That's why the rules are set. The thing I hear most often from people now and people who like you, by the way, they feel helpless, so they see a lot going on and what we just talked about, but also culturally and in other realms, and they feel as though there's nothing they can do. It's too late. It's gone too far. It's too intertwined in our federal agencies and our political system and our media now. What do you say to that?
Vivek Ramaswamy (12:14):
I say that I understand why you feel that way, and there have been times in the last couple of years that I've felt that way too. If you read my second book, Nation of Victims, I wrote, Woke Inc. But the second book, Nation of Victims. You'll probably get a sense from reading it. I was in a pretty dark place when I wrote that book. Wrote The parallels to the ancient Roman Empire's fall, the parallels are striking to where we are as a country today. But today, I genuinely believe it. I'm 37 years old. I'm the first millennial ever to run for US president as a Republican. I genuinely believe it that our nation itself is actually just a little young. We're going through our version of adolescence, figuring out who we're going to be when we grow up and when you go through adolescence, at least it was true for me, right?
You go through this deep period of self-doubt and conflict and losing your sense of who you are. As a nation we've lost our sense of who we are. We're a country now where the party in power behaves like it's an autocratic state. That's not America. But I think we can be stronger if we're able to get to adulthood. It's not going to happen automatically. It's why I'm running for president. It's going to take some very specific action to get there. I think one of the mistakes that certainly Republicans have made is this false narrative of thinking that this administrative state can be reformed. It cannot be reformed. I will not make a false promise, but it can be shut down. The US president has strong constitutional authority and statutory authority to shut down aspects of the federal government, the executive branch that should not have existed.
The US Department of Education is on my list. The FBI is on my list. The IRS is on my list. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is on my list. The ATF is on my list. We can go all the way down. And I don't believe in boasting or making false promises or puffing my chest, but I'm just going to say something that's true. I think I am the single most well-versed presidential candidate in modern history who has an understanding of how to actually shut down the administrative state. And there's laws like five USC 33-02 hasn't been used by a US president to set the guidelines for the Office of Personnel Management, the OPM. That's like the HR department of the federal government. I've been a CEO of a company before. It's really important if you're a CEO of the HR department.
That's where a lot of the nonsense comes from in corporate America today reports into the CEO and doesn't become a beast unto itself. Well that's what's happened in the federal government. There's this myth that you can't fire people. Actually, it doesn't work that way. Read the law. Sometimes there are certain positions where you can't fire individual people for fear of political retribution, but mass layoffs are absolutely not covered by those civil service protection laws. All you need is 60 days notice. There's a presidential reorganization statute in 1977 that says if there are redundant agencies or if it's about promoting the economy, the US President, the people that we the people actually elect, absolutely who would ever thought has the power to run the government? So if there's one thing, let's say I'm leaving office in January, 2033. My kids will be entering high school. My older son will be, at least. It's for them that we're doing this.
What will we create? What will I leave as my legacy? Forget Democrat or Republican. The people we elect to run the government will once again be the people who actually run the government, not this cancerous, bureaucratic, managerial class that actually runs the show today. That's the number one threat to liberty, to prosperity, to our constitutional republic, to economic growth in this country, the corruption of the FDA and its relationship to the pharmaceutical industry, all the way to the FBI and the Democratic Party today. And by the way, the Democratic Party today could be a different party tomorrow. It's the same FBI that went after Martin Luther King and tried to threaten him into committing, blackmail him to commit suicide, that's now going after different political opponents today. This is goes beyond Republican versus Democrat issues. This is a 1776 issue. Our founding fathers set into a government with three branches of government, not four.
And by the time I'm through in, January 2033 when I'm leaving office, giving my farewell speech, that's the one thing I will tell you we will have done. Is that we will have shut down the administrative state, restored the three branch constitutional republic, and in the process created a country that my kids' generation can actually be proud of again. And there's a reason why young people aren't proud to be American anymore. They have good reasons, I'm sorry to say, to have lost their sense of pride in this country, but we're going to bring it back for them. Grounded not in just fake optimism, but in restoring the truth of the matter.
Sharyl Attkisson (17:20):
Much more after a short break.
This audience is also extremely interested, you touched upon the pharmaceutical industry, in what Kennedy had to say, and I think Trump has touched upon it, but Kennedy has I think a very special understanding. And you probably too because of your business background with the biopharmaceutical industry, that the whole focus of our system has become pharmacy related. The pharmaceutical companies teach what's taught in med schools. They write the books, they lead the continuing medical education classes. And if it's one thing I hear most often on health from people other than it's hard to get an appointment, people are being told what to do by their insurance companies now and not really guided by them.
They feel like by their doctor's advice, but it's that they really feel left out in terms of figuring out what's wrong. They feel misdirected. You get a pill or a medicine when you go in and no one's trying to find out why you have the problem. And on a big scale, what do you think about Kennedy's thought, which parallels with my thinking. On there are some really big chronic disorders that have been virtually ignored in this country that are really hurting the health of America while we've been misdirected to focus on things that are not nearly as big a problem, if you're going to prioritize. And I think that's part of, part that is probably because of the pharmaceutical influence. What do you think?
Vivek Ramaswamy (18:50):
Yeah, so I'll address on this. I'm actually closer to Kennedy, much closer than I am to Trump, and then I'll tell you where I'm different than Kennedy on an adjacent issue, which is where the puck is going. Which is what they did during the Covid autocratic regime, that's exactly where they're going with climate. And I'd wish to convince Kennedy on this one because I think he's fallen for that trick. But on let's talk about the pharmaceutical stuff. I think he's actually saying the quiet part out loud. I've seen it firsthand, which is that the pharmaceutical industry loves chronic diseases. In fact, they have a disincentive to cure them. If they cured the chronic diseases, they would never have the long run cash flow streams that they otherwise reside on. In a crony capitalist relationship with the government, with a mutual capture, with the FDA. I mean the big pharma's bureaucratic ranks, the staffing of those ranks is literally mirrored on the org structure of the FDA itself.
So this is an industry that's unlike other industries because A, it's a monopoly industry by design, you get a government ordained patent. And then it's a regulated industry with extremely high regulatory apparatuses that lend themselves to capture, to mostly keep out new competitors. So that combination creates an industry that behaves more like a government than it does like an industry because it's not subject to the normal checks of competition. I think the number one lesson over the last few years are the mistakes that we made during the Covid pandemic. So if we're to take away just a couple key lessons from the Covid pandemic, we just say next time around, absolutely no mandates and absolutely no government seizure of control over medical autonomy or suppression of free speech. Principles next time, absolutism on free speech, whenever there's a catastrophe like situation, health related or otherwise. As an independent-minded person, whether it's a war, whether it's a pandemic, whether it's the looming existential threat, they'll sell us of climate change.
Be aware, whenever someone's selling you an emergency, they're actually trying to usually pack in some other agenda. Here are the principles. Free speech has to reign supreme. We would not have closed those schools if we had been allowed to say that we shouldn't have closed those schools. We would not have adopted the vaccine mandate policies that we did if we had been allowed to actually challenge them. We would've known sooner that it originated in a lab in China if literally you had been allowed to say on the internet that it originated in a lab in China. So free speech is principle number one. Principle number two is no mandates of any kind and actually let individual choice actually guide the outcome. If the value proposition of something that's supposed to protect you is compelling enough, most self-interested people will actually do it and be persuaded on the merits rather than actually being forced into doing it.
Now, here's where I differ a little bit from Kennedy is I'd encourage him to just take that same set of learnings and then open our eyes to what's happening with the new climate agenda. This is a new secular religion. Don't fall for that trick. It's a new secular cult that now says, substitute Covid for climate and say that, oh, we have to stop living our lives the way we live them. Abandon carbon emissions at all costs. And if you want to call out the forest, the same people who are hostile to carbon emissions are also now hostile to the best known form of carbon-free energy production known to mankind, which is nuclear energy. Because the climate agenda has nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with powered dominion control punishment. China's own zero Covid policy had as much to do with Covid as our climate policies have to do with the climate.
And so the way I see this is don't... I'm not just looking at this from the standpoint of the health- related issues. I care about those issues deeply, and that's a big part of where Kennedy and I share interests in common, a little different from Trump. But I want to zoom back out from that and say, "How do we actually avoid relearning those same lessons in a different context?" And I disagree with those and I've heard him quoted me and saying it of censoring people from being able to express what they'll call climate misinformation. Because again censorship is not the way. And anytime they're trying to censor you from expressing an opinion, nowadays the truth of the matter happens to be the more likely you are to actually be right about it. So I like to be consistent on my positions, both on Covid and climate.
Sharyl Attkisson (23:08):
One frightening thing though, you talk about lessons learned and there are still, the CDC is saying it's mistakes that it made. It did an internal, people called it an independent review. It wasn't independent, it was an inside review that gave a soft landing to all the criticism and said, really what we did wrong is we're too scientific and we just need to be better at response. They didn't get to the heart of anything they did wrong in that as far as I think most people are concerned. And then to hear Dr. Fauci in recent months say he thought that the whole rollout of the vaccines and everything we did would be a model for the next time. So he's not only standing by what happened, but saying this is what we'll do the next time. So I don't think... Let's call it the establishment. I don't think they're acknowledging a lessons learned. So that's pretty dangerous.
Vivek Ramaswamy (23:59):
And I call this a technocracy actually. First of all, the CDC should be on that list that we shut down as well. But that's the real divide of our time. I'm loving our conversation so much. I wish we could go for hours. I'm about to hop on a flight, so maybe, hopefully this is the first time of many we're going to end up chatting. But you're putting your finger on the right pulse. It's not a 2023 Republican versus Democrat divide. That's the illusion, it's the projection. The real divide is between the technocracy and the vision of an actual constitutional republic of citizens. It's the old world versus the new world, really. I mean this is what 1776 was all about. In 1776, we fought a revolution that said that the people determine how we answer our differences on climate, on Covid, on racism, on whatever it might be.
Every citizen's voice and vote counts equally, that's how we determine our path forward as a society. Which is different from the old world European monarchical model where they said the people cannot be trusted. It has to be a small group of educated intelligentsia, labor elites, business elites, church leaders that get together in the back of palace halls and determine what's right for the rest of America. Well, now it might be the Palace Hall might be the corner office of BlackRock on Park Avenue in Manhattan or some drab government building of a three letter agency in Washington, DC. It's the same old monster rearing its head again. And that's why I think we live in a 1776 moment in this country. The real question is, Democratic or Republican. The real question is, do we trust the citizens of this country, we the people to self govern or do we not?
And if we're honest about it, there are people in both parties on both sides of that issue. That's the debate we really need to have in the open. That's what I'm smoking out in this Republican primary. I stand on the side of reviving those values of the American Revolution. My job is to let people know what I think. Whether I win this election or not, that's the choice of the people. But that's the side I fall on. And if there's one thing I aim to deliver, it's to restore that 1776 vision of an actual constitutional republic that has three branches of government, not four. Where the people can actually hold the people we elect politically accountable instead of the unelected, bureaucratic, managerial class that actually holds the keys to power today.
Sharyl Attkisson (26:18):
Well, thank you so much for your time, and we going to have you... Your folks have already committed, whether you know it or not, to being on my TV show, Full Measure in the fall.
Vivek Ramaswamy (26:26):
Sharyl Attkisson (26:27):
We'll also have other candidates on as well, and I really look forward to that conversation and appreciate your time very much today. Thank you.
Sharyl Attkisson (27:39):
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