Transcript: Sen. Richard Blumenthal on “Face the Nation,” June 18, 2023

Blumenthal on probe into PGA-LIV merger

The following is a transcript of an interview with former Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, that aired on “Face the Nation” on June 18, 2023.

ROBERT COSTA: In recent months, the world of professional golf has been divided into two camps with players forced to choose between being either part of the PGA Tour or an upstart Saudi-backed golf league known as LIV. The two leagues recently announced plans to join forces and there’s been considerable backlash among some players and in Congress, due to Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights abuses, and the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal launched a Senate investigation into the merger and he joins us this morning from Bridgeport. Senator Blumenthal, thanks for being here.

SENATOR RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thanks for having me, Bob. 

ROBERT COSTA: Senator, you’ve demanded more information from the PGA and LIV about how this agreement came together. Tell us, what exactly do you want?

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: The subcommittee- Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which I chair, is essentially trying to uncover the facts about what went into this deal, who was behind it and whether there was any improper conduct or wrongdoing and what the structure and governance will be of the entity going forward. There are very, very few details, but remember, what we have here is essentially a repressive, autocratic foreign government taking control over an iconic cherished American institution for the clear purpose of cleansing its public image. The Saudis have been very explicit that they have a strategic objective here. They’ve been engaged in numerous malign activities antithetical to American interests and values, killing Jamar Khashoggi (sic), as you mentioned, as well as other journalists, torturing and imprisoning dissidents and critics and supporting anti-democratic activities, even terrorist activities, like 9/11, as well as the internal war in Yemen. So there’s a real risk to American interests in the Saudis taking over this American institution. We want to get to the bottom of it. 

ROBERT COSTA: Well, how deep are you willing to dig? You’ve asked for records from the executives, do you want records from the players?

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: We welcome player cooperation, we have reason to believe that players are dissatisfied with this result. Many of them feel betrayed, as do the 9/11 families. And so we’re seeking records and documents right now. I’m not going to prejudge where we’re going. Obviously there are options–

ROBERT COSTA: Is a subpoena on the table, Senator Blumenthal? Is a subpoena on the table if you don’t get what you want? 

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: Any of the tools at our disposal, including subpoenas and hearings, recommendations for action and legislation are all on the table. We are ready and willing to seek information by whatever legal means we have to obtain it.

ROBERT COSTA: How soon could a hearing be held on Capitol Hill?

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: I think a hearing is possible within weeks. The American people deserve a clear look at the facts here. Again, not prejudging what the conclusions will be. But, what the Saudis are doing here is not taking control of a single team or hiring one player. They are, in effect, taking charge of the entire sport and it’s not just a Saudi individual. It is the regime. 


ROBERT COSTA: Is that a national security concern, Senator?

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: I think there are national security implications to this deal. Anytime there is foreign influence by a repressive regime over a central American institution, there is a security risk. And remember, this institution plays a central role in our society and culture. The players are ambassadors and role models and there are economic implications. The Travelers tournament beginning this week is going to have an economic impact on local economies here in Connecticut in the tens of millions of dollars. So there are clearly risks to American security in a repressive regime having this kind of influence over a central, iconic cherished institution.

ROBERT COSTA:  When you say this kind of influence the counter has always been the claim that it’s a minority stake by the Saudis. What’s your response to that?

SEN. BLUMENTHAL: We still have yet to hear authoritatively what the terms of the deal are. But, reportedly, the chairmanship is going to go to the head of the Saudi public investment fund, the PIF, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who is a close confidant of the ruling monarchy. And, so we have every reason to believe that the Saudis are taking control. And the 9/11 families feel betrayed. So do the players, and I sat with the leadership of the PGA tour just about a year ago in Cromwell, they sought to enlist me and my colleagues in supporting their efforts to bring back players from LIV. There is an ongoing antitrust investigation reportedly by the Justice Department. A lot is going on here and it should be.

ROBERT COSTA: A lot more to hear from you in the coming weeks. Senator Blumenthal, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it. And the PGA Tour declined our invitation for Commissioner Jay Monahan to appear on the broadcast as he’s on medical leave, but they said in a statement they are quote, “confident that once all stakeholders learn more, they will understand how it benefits our players, fans and sport.” We’ll be back in a moment.

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