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tv   Axios Interview with Sen. Mark Warner  CSPAN  December 22, 2017 8:00pm-8:34pm EST

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>> tonight on c-span2, interviews with senator mark warner of virginia and white house economic advisor gary cohn. former secretary of state madeleine albright and other foreign policy analysts discuss u.s. global leadership. and later, a house hearing on funding for downs syndrome research. thursday morning senator mark wearn told an interviewer that he believes congress in 2018 will pass a bill to fix problems with the tax reform bill. he also answered questions about the russia investigation and next year's midterm elections. the interviewer is mike allen of axios. this is a half hour. >> morning and welcome to the festive edition of axios news
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shapers. [applause] hope you enjoyed the hot chocolate bar on the way in. holly reuben and her team had for us, we love the christmas music as well. welcome to c-span. thank you, c-span, for being here, and welcome to the c-span audience, and welcome all of you. axios is here to make you smarter, faster on the topics that matter, and we follow the same format with our events, bringing smart brevity to bring you into the worlds of business, tech, media and politics. i'd like to thank the bank of america for making this series of news shaper conversations possible. we appreciate especially this great doubleheader that we've had, and i want to thank all my axios colleagues who are here. we're honored tond have this morning somebody who has been my governor and who has been my senator. i am a constituent, and we have this morning the vice chairman of the senate intelligence
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committee and senator from virginia, senator mark warner. senator? [applause] >> so without the smart and brevity, i'm not sure i fit in either of those categories. >> and you are a morning person, so thank you. >> not the case, not the case. [laughter] so we're down to four days til christmas. this is not your usual pattern. >> yeah. my normal shtick in any event that i come to in december is that i am well known for leeing groups in with "twelve days of christmas," but i guess that's not on the agenda this morning. >> so, senator, we have the tax cut, the biggest since 1986. could -- would business have lived with less? the corporate rates have been cut down to 21%. would it have been possible to get business to support something less? >> well, mike, this is -- >> [inaudible] >> probably the most single
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disappointing legislation that i've been involved in in the eight years i've o been in the senate. and i have been desperately interested in doing appropriate tax reform. i was the founder of the so-called gang of six that said the simpson bowles plan made somex sense. at that moment the bid and the ask around simpson-bowles was in that 27, 28% rate on the corporate rate. that would have been done in a fiscally-responsible way. i think businesses would have been ecstatic at a 25% rate. >> and how much money would that have saved? >> that would have saved for every point, roughly you safe about $100 billion. so the differential between a 21 and 25 is about a $400 billion savings. but let me take a minute, if you can, and say what my critique's a little different than maybe some of the traditional democratic critiques of this bill beyond all the process battles, beyond the fact that this was done in the dark, that there was no bipartisan effort
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that, frankly, tax reform is donehe best with transparency because if you don't have it, you're going to screw it up. and if we look back historically to the '86 act, that ended up having 88 votes at the end of the time and stood the test of time for 30-plus years. this piece of legislation absolutely will not. >> so, wait, you think that part of this will be undone? >> i think that there will be -- there are so many mistakes that have been made in the legislation t not consciously, t because tax policy is enormously complex that within the first six months of this this coming year there'll be a fix-it bill that will come about. one, we could have done this in a fiscally responsible way. the estimates are that it's going to add a trillion to what i would argue is over $2.2 trillion to the debt, and we're already $20 trillion in debt. has not a good circumstance in terms of future investment.
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that's's because you've got the existing debt hole, but you also have the additional interest off of that deficit, that debt. and, frankly, the presumption that many of of the perm tax cuts would be extended, point number one. two, our colleagues have said this is going to be more simple. baloney. our tax code is going to be exponentially more complicated particularly around pass-throughs. third is, clearly, i've got concerns that the disproportional benefits all went to folks at the top. fourth is, and this is one that i think will be an area of a huge amount of focus going forward with, i think they -- while well-intentioned -- got a lot of the international tax component, just the set-up of it, frankly wrong. and we maymp see the reverse of what is expected take place where this will actually incent more and more businesses to move more jobs offshore because of
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the, well, they've got the international average, and you can still game where you put your factory versus where you put your intellectual property in a way that could be abusive. so what is so disturbing to me was, and i had lots of conversations with both businesses and republican colleagues about in that said, and i support a lower tax rate. i support repatriation. they could have said, hey, we're going to allow you to bring this money back at a very favorable rate, but why don't you, business, or guarantee you're going to put a meaningful training program in place for everybody that makes less than $80,000 a year. or, last point, not only for your business, but your supply chain, if you've lost a lot of jobs that have gone international, why don't you agree to put them in communities that have been hurt by trade. there was, i think, a real willingness from the business community, i felt, to engage in that dialogue. but this was done in such a rush to provide a tax cut, not reform, a tax cut by this
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arbitrary date of christmas that i think, unfortunately, this is a huge missed opportunity and will come back and bite my republican colleagues. >> and when you look ahead to november, do you think that they will regret it politically? >> absolutely. absolutely. there is -- show me a time in any wep democracy -- western democracy where when you've got an economy that's running at relatively full steam, and we're relatively low unemployment, that you do a massive tax cut that's not very well targeted with entirely or borrowed money, youel will not see the growth assumptions that have been built many and, frankly, the growth consumptions that are built into the republican plan no economist has predicted. i think it will fall short. i think you will see actual job loss. and i think particularly if the president and his allies move to what they will call welfare reform which is just code for taking on medicare, medicaid and social security suddenly saying, oh, my gosh, we don't have
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enough money, and now we've got to cut the social safety nets, i think that will come back and -- >> do you think that this bill will cost senate republicans the majority? >> i think there is a list of challenges, one being this focus on tax cuts. two, i don't see how, from what i've heard, there could be a real effort to do meaningful infrastructure. again, one of the aspects that could have come out of the tax reform effort -- >> we'll get, the president's economic adviser, gary cohn -- >> excuse me, sir. >> go ahead. >> no, i was just also going to say and there's that other little looming problem out there around the russia investigation. so i think there's a variety of factors that at this moment in time don't bode well. >> we're going to turn to the russia investigation very shortly, but -- and excuse me for that, but i just wanted to interject yesterday on this stage the president's economic adviser, gary cohn, told us on january 3rd they're turning to, a, infrastructure, and, b what
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they call welfare reform. you call it entitlement reform. what are the chances, take them one by one, what are the chances of getting democratic votes on an infrastructure package? >> well, mike, i think the, you know, as somebody who prides myself that every piece of legislation i've worked on i've had a republican partner, you know,n i've been -- this tax bil has left me and i think a number of others bitterly disappointed. because i think we could have added value to this process. and as we move to infrastructure, gosh knowser we need it. but i don't know how they're going to have a meaningful infrastructure plan when the president's own budget cuts funding to the highway trust fund. i mean, my fear is they're going to come up with a plan that focusesth on additional tax
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advantages more for equity without real money. all the tax advantages in the world and all the tolling in the world doesn't pay back certain rural bridge repair and other things that are not paid more -- >> just reading between your lines, it sounds like be they played their cards right, it would have been possible to get democratic votes. >> if think there would have bn a much greater chance if they had not approached the tax bill thee way they had. i don't think there's a chance for a flurry of tax -- there's plenty of equity out there for infrastructure. m trucked be some additional -- there could be some additional debt. i've got legislation that says we ought to have a debt vehicle, we're the only international country in the world that doesn't have a debt financing tool what you ultimately need on infrastructure, new money. and i'm not sure where they're going to get it. >> so for those or who are tweeting, hashtag axios, 360, senator warner saying that the way the tax bill is handled
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makes it less likely they can get democratic votes on infrastructure. is the same true of welfare reform? >> i think it becomes virtually impossible to take on entitlement reform. and i -- >> okay. >> -- back in the -- >> and they would need 60 votes for that. >> it would need 60 votes. and back in simpson-bowles phase, we had a recognition that with an aging population there are ways that you can improve the longevity of medicare and social security and ways that actually helps protect the most vulnerable and maybe makes somebody like me who's been successful pay a little more. but when we did that plan, we started with those reforms were teed as well to a trillion dollar increase in revenues, not what we're looking at now, a $2 trillion decrease in revenues over the next decade. >> senator warper, i mentioned at the top among the hats you wear, you're vice chairman of the senate intelligence committee, so you're helping run one of key hill investigations
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of the russia matter. yesterday on the senate floor you gave a red lines speech where you talked about your red lines warning the president not to fire the special counsel, bob mueller, and not to pardon witnesses. why did you feel the need to give this speech at this moment? >> mike, i don't go down to the floor and give long speeches a lot of times. i know how much additional information that we're receiving on the intel in our investigation. we've not reached any conclusions, but the importance of what we're doing i said a year ago this iss the most important thing i'll ever work on, i feelin that more strongly today than even a year ago. and we don't even have near the tools that robert mueller has in his investigation. where he's already had two indictments and two guilty
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pleas, and i believe more to to come. so over the last number of months, there started with some really fringe voices around the august recess saying,, you know, maybe mueller is -- we've got to indict mueller's integrity, question this. and at that moment i was really proud because at least in the senate democrats and republicans alike all said, no, no, need to protect the special prosecutor. because remember how we ended up with a special prosecutor. because nobody would have ever presumed that a president would fire a sitting fbi director and then go out and basically trash that fbi director in a white house meeting with the russian foreign minister. that took place. and so there was chaos, and rod rosenstein did the right thing, and he picked a person with impeccable credentials, lifelong republican bob mueller. and then those voices, and it seemed like there was an effort to curtail that because democrats and republicans alike
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said we need to protect the special prosecutor and allow him to finish his job. but a funny thing has happened as we've seen some of these plea bargains come forward. you have one news network who one of their commentators who have called this investigation a coup. you've got a presidential spokesman who said, you know, quote-unquote, the fix was always in on donald trump. you have, i haven't seen the whole story, but my understanding the president's son having some new conspiracy theory. and then you have some comments that, to my mind, seem beyond bizarre coming from are certain members of the house. so it appears that as mueller gets closer, the coordinated drum beat was increasing. and i felt with what i know and how i think this would put us into the realm of a constitutional rye can sis -- crisis should he act and with congressco potentially leaving town for a few weeks, i wanted
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to go down and, hopefully, lay a marker down with the white house. but equally importantly, you know, call on my colleagues that this is a moment, god forbid that will happen. i want to take the president and his lawyers at his word that he has no intention of firing the special prosecutor, but i also would add or hopefully not issuing pardons or getting rid of rod rosenstein. but i hope in this will never be a moment that we'll never have to act upon, but i think real character of how this congress and this senate will be judged will be how we react if we work to take that kind of action. >> senator, if we had music, we would have suddenly dark, rumbling music based on what you said just then. what do you think is going to happen while congress is away for the holidays? >> i hope that we, you know, have a great holiday season and nothing goes on. that would be --
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>> but do you have intelligence otherwise? or what do you fear or what are you trying to suggest? >> mike, i'm not suggesting anything other than the fact that the tone and tenor of the comments coming out of certain of the president's allies both elected and otherwise should send a chill through all of us. i mean, that rule of law trumps any individual person in our country. we have division of powers. there is not executive action without restraint. and again, my hope is that come back from the recess and you can say, well, you know, warner, nothing happened. that would be, that would be the best outcome. >> a senator, in your speech you talked about the growing, a growing seemingly coordinated effort to undermine the mueller investigation coordinated by whom? >> i think that is a fair
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question. i don't know who it's coordinated by, but i would say this: that when yesterday morning the association of fbi agents -- and if you were ever to make a broad sweep at least in terms of the fbi agents that i know, the vast majority of them are republican. but the fbi agents association came out with a very harsh comment directed at the white house and the president saying, you know, he does not serve law enforcement writ well, writ large well when his comments undermine basically not only mueller, but in effect the whole integrity of the fbi. and i would say, i would be astounded at this, but for the fact that early on in his tenure this same prime minister refused to accept -- this same president refused to accept the unanimous conclusions of our whole intelligence community in terms of russian active measures and intervention in our elections.
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so when a president or allies go out and undermine law enforcement or undermine the intelligence community, you know, the damage that is done, the damage that's done longer term to kind of our institutions' validity -- lord knows, we know what he says about you folks in the press, but usually doesn't matter, democrats or republicans, things like the integrity of the intelligence community and law enforcement in this countrynt he generally been kind of off limits in being questioned. and i think we're getting into, again, uncharted territory. >> senator, if you look at your tv interviews over year, you've been pretty candid on what you have and don't have in your investigation, what you know and don't know. your view of how much there is there seemed to have waxed and waned over years. where are you at the moment? >> we continue to both have interviews, and we continue to receive documents and
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information. i'll repeat what i said earlier. when i said a year ago that this investigation was the most important item i'll work on in my public life, i feel that more strongly today thans i did a yer ago. i feel it is absolutely critical that the full truth come out. now, i also want to take a moment and step back and say i'm really proud of our committee. i've got a great working relationship with richard burr. our committee's maintained bipartisan approach. we've had some bumps, but we are still kind of, you know, proceeding ahead. we've got a number of witnesses scheduled for january. and i would say we've really, you know, not shyly, but say we've really put some points on board already. one with, there is complete conclusion from everyone in government with potentially the exception of the president that russians massively interfered in our elections in a coordinated
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way that was unprecedented. and that conclusion has, frankly, helped now as we've seen french who are much more atubed to some of this than we were -- attuned. brits who have gone back and re-examined brexit. i think from a national and international standpoint, that acknowledgment is important from a national security standpoint. secondly, the russians attempted to tap into -- not change votes, but tap into 21 states' electoralin systems. at first, dhs was very slow at acknowledging that or telling the state election officials. they had this caf and a-esque example pause they weren't cleared. the chairman and i said, no, that'sic ludicrous. now there is a much better relationship, there's actually a bipartisan group out of harvard work on electoral security. and in our state, in virginia, i pushed the state board, and we changed out some of our voting
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machines that were potentially vulnerable. >> so -- >> and the most important piece of this is, and where i think we've made the most progress, and that t is exposing the underbelly of social media. i mean, i -- i'm a technology guy. i'veal been in the tech business longer than politics. facebook and others are great iconic, american companies. but these companies basically blew off my concerns and others' concerns a year ago. >> we're going to -- >> over the last several months, that's changed. >> just to cross a t on the investigation, based on your comments here about your documents and witnesses, it sounds like you're in a wax phase. >> i wouldn't say this challenge was the most important challenge i'll take oni didn'tif i didn'te it was serious that we allow this investigation to finish and, obviously, mr. mueller's investigation who has much more extensive powers than ours does
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to rub its course as well. >> does your invest have weeks or -- investigation have weeks or months to go? >> our investigation's going to take as long as it takes for us to talk to all the appropriate people. >> yout mentioned some witnesse. jared kushner's come and talked to your staff. will you call him back to talk to the full committee? > i think there are -- we set up a different process than, say, the house and others. it's the chairman's call, and i think it was probably right one, was that the first -- for the most part, the first round of interviews would be done by our staff investigatory team who is a very good team so it wouldn't be one politician trying to outdo the other. but that was done with the presumption that some of the key witnesses would need to to come back. we can debate whether yea come back in public or private. i would lean more towards public. and i think most members -- democratic and republican -- it will be hard for them to reach any final conclusions without being able to see some of the principals and, obviously,
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mr. kushner would fall into that category. >> so you expect jared kushner to be called back to talk to the senators. >> i don't know how we reach conclusions without the principals involved in some of these activities that individual senators having the chance to question them. >> and you said that should be public. do you think it will beua publi? >> i think, again, i'd rather, you know, work through that with richard burr. >> okay. and is donald trump jr. also in that category? >> absolutely. >> so. you mentioned that the social platforms blew you off, and since then you have learned a lot from them. have you learned more from the social platforms since that public hearing? >> we have -- i take this in kind ofle two or three stages. from our initial concerns raised november/december of '16 through about may, we basically got the
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brush-off. between facebook and twitter. you know, starting in may i think, start with facebook where a lot of the focus has been, i think they recognized there was an issue. i don't believe they put appropriate assets behind fully investigating. i still don't believe that they've exposed all of the russian activity. they've exposed activity from one troll farm in st. petersburg. i think there are more activities than one entity in russia.. that activity picked up, and they proactively made a lot of steps. they, twitter, google with youtube in advance of the hearing. we held the hearing, and there have been a few announcements after that. there will be that we want in terms of transparency -- >> what else will you ask for? >> you know, i'm very interested in making sure that individuals who were, who had received
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russian-based propaganda and not so much the ads are the tiniest component. it is more fake pages that then you have a series of bo, s that push -- bots that pushed traffic to those pages. and someone is reading a page that might be on football or might be on some social, you know, vegetarianism, and all of a sudden you're reading about why vladimir putin is the greatest guy in the world. >> well, you said that you thought that this happened just now in the alabama senate election. tell me what -- >> we've heard that, you know, there were, that some of the democrats were setting up sites that might have been at first, you know, encouraging people to be supporters of alabama football which is, you know, an easy thing to do t in alabama. and after you picked up enough followers around alabama football, youba could then, you know, filter in as well comments about the upcoming election. i think what you'll see and if
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you take the russian active measures on the internet, if you take just what we know and one of the things i hope as well is that outside researchers could get a better look at some of the data to do a more independent analysis. but a small amount of paid advertising, give me 30 or 40 great hackers with the ability to create fake pages and then let me, you know, rent enough bots to push traffic so those pages get some additional interest and generate a buzz on their own, and you've got a model where we can take any story no matter how out there and get it on to virtually all of your news feeds. and to the point -- and i mentioned this backstage concern that i've been told about companies and individuals in the valley who are basically going tos copy the russian playbook which also, by the way, can be used by china, other adversaries, copy the russian
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playbook and are going to start creating american-based firms for corporate warfare using these exact tools. we are seeing, i think, the beginnings and one of the concerns i have kind of writ large in national security is i think conflict in the 21st century will less be about tanks, guns and even rockets and much more about cyber attacks and misinformation and disinformation. >> what do you mean by corporate warfare? >> it might mean where company a decides to take on company b by putting out fake pages and starting a rundown of another corporate's profits. i for a long time have felt that a lot of h the underpinnings in our corporate, and, you know, kind of our click-through advertising model is already manipulated by bots and people that might be rented on an individual basis from are foreign countries who spend all day clicking on a certain site. i think the whole notion around digital advertising a bit more transparency would be really help.ho >> and it sounds like based on
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the comment that you made about that one st. petersburg farm, it sounds like you think that even now -- i'll ask it this way, even now is facebook being fully forthcoming? >> i would like to have a higher confidence that they've really done the investigation of all possible russian and some of the russian sites were actually, you know, started or activated outside of russia but were still controlled by them. >> has that occurred? >> i don't -- i believe there's more work to be done. and, you know, let me give facebook credit. they have moved dramatically, and i think you're going to see more movement shortly. but this was an area that, you know, we celebrated. you know, this fundamentally transformed our world, but there was an underbelly. and, you know, when you -- if you think about, if you believe that information is the new oil, these are the only kind of enterprises, and we look at our phones on average about 150 times a day, and a lot of that due to your kind of constant
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clicking to this. [laughter] but this is the only kind of enterprise that every time we interact with that phone -- and my background is as a cell phone guy, so i'm partially responsible as well, i guess. we actually administer power to that enterprise -- add more power because we give them more information about them. and as we get into the world of a.i., you know, the changes you've seen in the last three years will pale compared to the changes in the next five years. >> and you made some news there. it sounds like one of the additional transparency measures that you're going to be calling for, and you said there are several of them, is you want independent researchers to have access to what? >> i would like them to have access to at least the overall, you know, for example, we have hundreds of thousands of page views, accounts. facebook came later and said it was only x number of accounts that they thought were russian-based. but then they came up with literally tens of thousands of
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instagram posts at the very end. i mean, the capacity of the intelligence community to kind of sort through all that, i just think kind of an independent third party almost academic analysis of i how we make sure n a going-forward basis, i just believe americans ought to have the right to know if they're reading a a story or a political commentary, they ought to be ablest to know whether that is generated by a real human being and whether that human being is actually an american or not. that doesn't mean you have to go beyond that. you know, i think we need the, you know, privacy and other protections, but i think those ought to be basic components. .. i think there is, in every
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upside we have not seen the downside. i tknow we are just about out time but i would take this as well, and another item. as we look -- i doubt mavis artese but there are a dozen tech firms in china all waiting with valuations many of them north of $10 million good and growing exponentially. they are about to come sweeping through the american marketplace. i think we have to be concerned what the rules are that they operate under in china where chinese government has a lot more access to the data information. whether that backdoors could end up infiltrating the american system. we have already seen that already with kaspersky lab. this is a new wave of conflict
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in the 21st century. and again, there is some hope there's no democratic or republican solution. this ought to be a place we can work collaboratively. >> we have rapid round questions. your gift in business was seen as office turned out to be a pretty good investment. what is going to be the story of the year in 2018? >> i think it will be the fact the united states america does not have, and i talked to the initiation about this, they could take not just of the administration but we go back to obama and bush. the fact that america has no articulated cyber doctrine on how we will push back against other nationstates like russia and china who mess with our elections, steel intellectual tproperty and invade and perpetrate many of our defense systems. i think that will be the story. >> the senate majority control, it's only backstage you think it is a jump ball.
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>> yes and i think democrats can jump a little higher. [laughter] >> editor, your guilty pleasure is the apple store. what do you -- >> i just got the new 10. so i will take possession of it tomorrow and see if it, i hope that it has, my last version had a few more bugs and apples. versions did. or the russians are penetrating everywhere! [laughter] >> senator, thank you very much. [applause] thank you for the great conversation. now we're going to hear a quick message from the bank of america and it includes an info graphic. we will be back in two seconds. >>


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