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Meet the Press Transcript - December 21, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2014

CHUCK TODD:

This Sunday--

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.

CHUCK TODD:

President Obama says Sony Pictures was wrong to cave to the demands of North Korean hackers and cancel the release of The Interview. Has a dangerous precedent been set? Also, how should the U.S. respond to North Korea's cyber attack? And can the government protect businesses and the public from cyber blackmail? Plus, two police officers are shot and killed in New York City this weekend, adding more tension to an already stressed city.

WILLIAM BRATTON:

They were, quite simply, assassinated, targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe.

CHUCK TODD:

We'll have all the latest. And President Obama ends our Cold War policy against Cuba.

MARCO RUBIO:

This entire policy shift announced today is based on an illusion, on a lie.

CHUCK TODD:

But not everyone is happy. I'll be joined by Florida Senator and possible Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio. I'm Chuck Todd, and joining me to provide insight and analysis this morning are MSNBC's Chris Matthews, former Bush White House political director Sara Fagen, former Democratic governor of New Mexico, Bill Richardson, and Breitbart news columnist John Nolte. Welcome to Sunday with Meet the Press.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, this is Meet the Press with Chuck Todd.

CHUCK TODD:

And good morning. In a moment I'll be joined by the lead lawyer for Sony Pictures to discuss the aftermath of the North Korean cyber attack on Sony Pictures. But first, two New York City police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot at point-blank range Saturday afternoon, killed while they were simply sitting in their patrol car.

Both police commissioner William Bratton and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have called it an assassination. The suspect, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, then killed himself with the same gun. According to police, he allegedly started the day shooting a former girlfriend in Baltimore, who is now recovering in the hospital.

Social media posts from the gunman point to his actions being related to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. The tensions between the police and the mayor were on full display last night, as members of the New York Police Department turned their backs on Mayor de Blasio as he walked through a hospital last night.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough president, and also a former NYPD officer, joins us from New York City. Mr. Adams, let me get your reaction first to Patrick Lynch of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association in New York, and Mayor Bill de Blasio's office's response. Here's Mr. Lynch.

PATRICK LYNCH:

There's blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protests, that's blood on the hands, stop on the steps of City Hall in the Office of the Mayor.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, Mr. Adams, before I get your reaction, let me read the mayor's statement from his office. "It's unfortunate that, in a time of great tragedy, some would resort to irresponsible, overheated rhetoric that angers and divides people. Mayor de Blasio understands that this is the time we must come together to support the families and the friends of those brave officers that New York City lost last night, and the entire NYPD community." Mr. Adams, though, to Mr. Lynch's charge, what is your response to it?

ERIC ADAMS:

Well, first of all, our hearts go out to the family. In addition to that, when the bullet strikes the body of a police officer, the emotional paths continue. So I understand some of the concern that many people have in the law enforcement community. But this is not about one voice. This is about the voice of the entire city crying out for unity, crying out of saying, "How do we come together and deal with real issues in policing, at the same time, protect our officers?" I wore that uniform for 22 years of my life. I had a bulletproof vest on, protecting our community. And I know how trying and difficult these times are.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, we've had a lot of protests. We've had a lot of heated rhetoric. Do you believe that contributed to this?

ERIC ADAMS:

No, not at all. I think that we cannot mix the two. Those who were calling for police reform were not calling for police retribution. They were not calling for harm to police. And we cannot allow someone to get in the way of moving towards police reform.

Blood is not on the hands of the mayor. Blood is on the hand of this sick person that took the life of two innocent police officers. Innocent people should not die in America. It doesn't matter that they're wearing a police uniform or a three-piece suit. Innocent people should not die in America. And we're better than what we're seeing. And now is the time for adults to stand up and decide the direction.

CHUCK TODD:

Two weeks ago we were talking about trust issues between the African-American community and law enforcement. Today we're going to be talking about trust issues between law enforcement and the mayor of New York City. How do you fix that trust issue?

ERIC ADAMS:

I don't think that's the issue. I think the over 30,000 police officers in New York City are professionals. They're going to get up every day and do their job, just as we saw when our center of trade collapsed, our police officers still respond. We cannot allow what seems to be a contractual or other methods that are in the way of moving forward in policing to think that the men and women who wear blue uniforms as law enforcement officers are going to move away from that. That assassination was not an attack on individuals, it was an attack on our belief in public safety. And we cannot allow an attack on public safety in America.

CHUCK TODD:

Now, you wrote an op-ed in The New York Times a couple of weeks ago. It used the headline, We Must Stop Police Abuse of Black Men. Are you concerned that any reform efforts that people have been talking about when it comes to law enforcement, the grand jury process, that something like that halts it in its tracks?

ERIC ADAMS:

No, not at all. I think that we've reached a point where the grandchildren of civil rights marches are now in the street, marching. This used to be an issue that was in the African-American and Caribbean and Hispanic community. Now the diverse group of young people of all ethnicity, white and black, are stated America we're better in the violence we're seeing. They're saying that we're better than the lack of police reform.

And so I don't think anything is going to derail that. We're not going to allow the sick mind of one individual to get in the way of creating a symbiotic relationship between the police and the community. And I think we need to move forward and be responsible professionals during these very difficult times.

CHUCK TODD:

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President, thanks for coming on Meet the Press this morning. I appreciate your time.

ERIC ADAMS:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Now to the story that has dominated the news this week, North Korea's cyber attack on Sony Pictures. When Seth Rogen pitched The Interview, his new comedy about two journalists tapped by the C.I.A. with its fascinating North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un, he can't have had any idea that the truth would turn out to be even stranger than the fiction he was acting out. The film, which wasn't expected to be a box office smash, is now the most talked about movie of the year, despite the fact the public has yet to see it.

((BEGIN TAPE))

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.

NATALIE MORALES:

The president calls out Sony for caving to the demands of hackers.

MICHAEL LYNTON:

We have not caved. We have not given in. We have persevered, and we have not backed down.

HAILEE JACKSON:

What started out as a Hollywood comedy has quickly turned into an international crisis.

PETE WILLIAMS:

President Obama's surprisingly forceful comments followed a public statement from the F.B.I. concluded that North Korea was behind the Sony hacking.

JOHN MCCAIN:

It should be a wakeup call that a country like North Korea has this kind of capability.

DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

We have no real policy to handle this.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I think it says said something interesting about North Korea, that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of the satirical nature, starring Seth Rogen.

LIZZY CAPLAN:

The C.I.A. would love it if you two could take him out. Take him out.

JAMES FRANCO:

Take him out?

SETH ROGEN:

Like for drinks?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

I think they made a mistake. I wish they had spoken to me first.

MICHAEL LYNTON:

A few days ago, I personally did reach out and to speak to senior folks in the White House. We do not own movie theaters. We cannot determine whether or not a movie will be played in movie theaters.

BILLY BUSH:

Stars burned up social media. Ben Stiller tweeted, "Really hard to believe this." Rob Lowe blasted Sony, comparing the company to the British prime minister who rolled over to Hitler.

PAPARAZZI:

Seth, how do you feel about Sony pulling the plug on the film?

BILLY BUSH:

Sony's secret efforts to rally Hollywood's power players met with a deafening silence.

MEL BROOKS:

I waited till Hitler was dead.

JIMMY KIMMEL:

Yeah!

MEL BROOKS:

I don't know how crazy they are. So I'm going to ask you to stop talking about it right now.

BEN STILLER:

I think the audience has a right to choose what they want to see.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

We can't start changing our patterns of behavior any more than Boston didn't run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.

((END TAPE))

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined now by David Boies, lawyer for Sony Pictures Entertainment. He of course was lead counsel for Vice President Gore in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case of 2000. And he represented the plaintiffs in the California Proposition Eight case, which legalized same-sex marriage in California in 2010. So he'll be a familiar face to many viewers. Mr. Boies, welcome back to Meet the Press.

DAVID BOIES:

Good to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

Let me start with the statement that Sony Pictures made and why they decided to delay the release. They said at the end of the statement, David, that, "We had no choice." Well, you had a-- how do you have no choice in releasing it? They had a choice, they just chose not to release it. Is that correct?

DAVID BOIES:

Well, not really. You can't release a movie unless you have a distribution channel. The theaters were subject to threats of physical violence against the theaters and against their customers. And quite understandably, a large number of them, a majority of them, decided not to show the picture when it was scheduled.

When that happened, Sony really had no alternative. Nobody was stepping up. In the three weeks where Sony fought this issue by itself, nobody, maybe George Clooney, a few other people like that, but none of the second guessers who are now out there saying, "Oh, what a terrible thing this is," none of them were standing up to help Sony then.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, Mr. Boies, actually, the president is quoted this morning an interview that he taped Friday but it's new this morning. He's saying, had Sony contacted him, he would have called the distributors. He would have pushed these theater owners to air the movie.

DAVID BOIES:

Right. Well, I wasn't there in the White House. You heard in the introductory section the fact that Sony did talk to senior people in the White House before this decision was made. I think we ought to move beyond who was responsible. Look, this is a state-sponsored criminal attack on an American corporation and its employees.

If the N.S.A. had invaded people's privacy like this, people would have been outraged. North Korea does it, and couples it with physical threats, and people sort of sit back for three weeks while Sony fights this issue on its own. I think that what we have to do is use the President's recognition of the importance of this issue, as a rallying cry, so that all Americans can unite against what is really a threat to our national security. If state-sponsored criminal acts like this can be directed against Sony, it can be directed against anybody.

CHUCK TODD:

You're using "criminal acts" instead of "terrorist." Does Sony, do you believe that if you get a legal ruling that this was terrorism, you get some financial cover on this. Are you looking for that kind of ruling?

DAVID BOIES:

I'm not debating whether it ought to be called "criminal," "vandalism," "terrorism." What we know is that that's was a state-sponsored attack on the privacy of an American corporation and its employees. And what Sony had been trying to do is trying to protect that privacy, trying to get back what was stolen, and asking everybody to cooperate in that, not to aid and abet. Whether you call them vandals or criminals or terrorists, whatever you call them, they're bad actors. And people shouldn't be cooperating with them.

CHUCK TODD:

Did you believe that Sony could be held liable had violence occurred in a movie theater during a showing of this movie?

DAVID BOIES:

I don't know whether there would be liability or not. But what I know is, when you have physical threats against people's lives, and there wasn't anybody-- these threats were public, okay? There wasn't anybody stepping up when those threats were made and saying, "Oh no, we're going to take care of this. We're going to protect the public. We're going to make sure that nothing happens there."

And in those circumstances, whether it's a legal liability or not, I think you just have to be very careful with people's lives. And remember, Sony only delayed this. Sony has been fighting to get this picture distributed. It will be distributed. How it's going to be distributed, I don't think anybody knows quite yet. But it's going to be distributed. And what Sony has been trying to do is to get the picture out to the public. But, at the same time, be sure that the rights of its employees and the rights of the movie-going public are protected.

CHUCK TODD:

Do you think the government needs to come up with a law that sort of indemnifies corporations that get attacked like this?

DAVID BOIES:

Well, we did something like that in connection with the 9-11 attacks. I think we've got to recognize that this is not a Sony security problem, this is a national security problem. And the government has got to lead.

The F.B.I. has just been terrific in this. They have been diligent, unbelievably competent, in helping analyze and understand what the source of this attack was. Now the rest of the government has got to get behind it and has got to figure out a way that we can protect our national security. Because this is a national security threat. I think the president is beginning to recognize that. And I think that's a good thing. But now we've got to have some actions following from the words.

CHUCK TODD:

You think the President's comments were helpful on Friday to you?

DAVID BOIES:

I think they were helpful in some respects. I think it was helpful to have the president recognize publicly that this was an unacceptable attack, that we cannot have state-sponsored attacks that are designed to censor what we do here in this country. I would have liked to have seen it a little earlier. And I would have liked to have seen it without the sort of "blame the victim" aspect of it. But I think the positive aspects of it, where I think we are now beginning to come together as a country and recognize this is a threat, I think that's positive.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, David Boies, the lead attorney for Sony Pictures Entertainment, thanks for coming back on Meet the Press. Appreciate it.

DAVID BOIES:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thank you. All right, let me bring in the panel. And I have a special guest with the panel, Kal Penn, comedian and actor, well known, of course, for many roles, including Kumar in the Harold and Kumar movies. He also worked for President Obama as an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement. Kal, thanks for joining the rest of my distinguished panel here. But let me start with a couple of quick questions. Sony's decision, as an actor, was it something that bothered you?

KAL PENN:

First of all, thanks for having me, Chuck. And yeah, it did bother me. You know, I think I echo a lot of sentiments that other colleagues of mine in Hollywood have had. And look, the folks at Sony are our friends. They're our coworkers. I can't imagine the horribly tough decision that they were in, in terms of privacy and records and things that were embarrassing being released, not to mention all the intellectual property.

But at the end of the day, the president had said, you know, I think it does set a dangerous precedent. I think it's sort of a tricky situation for Sony to say their hands were tied. I don't think that's necessarily true. Exhibitors or theater owners certainly pulled the movie. But Sony owns mechanisms like Play Station that's been selling movies online for years. I mean they could have put it on video-on-demand. When they pulled down their Facebook and Twitter pages, you know, that sort of shows me that they're not really backing the film.

CHUCK TODD:

It was interesting, Mel Brooks's comments seem to me, he said he waited until Hitler was dead to start mocking him. And there has been some criticism that says was this over the top in the way Kim Jong-Un was portrayed. What do you say to that?

KAL PENN:

I haven't seen the film, so I don't know. I think you can obviously argue on both sides, was this movie in poor taste or was it not in poor taste. But that's always the conversation when you're dealing with satire. I remember in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, we had our James Adomian playing a fictitious George Bush. And a lot of folks had the same conversation, is this in poor taste or is it not? I think that's the beauty of art, particularly in, you know, kind of comedies like this. You can always have that conversation.

CHUCK TODD:

John Nolte, first of all, welcome to Meet the Press.

JOHN NOLTE:

Good to be here.

CHUCK TODD:

This is at Breitbart, a conservative news organization. But you've spent a lot of time covering media and covering Hollywood. You wrote a defense of Sony here, and was surprising to a lot of your conservative followers that you defended Sony's decision to delay the release. Why?

JOHN NOLTE:

Well, I think that it's not up to Sony to fight North Korea. That's the government's job. I think they kept their product viable. I don't think it's a good precedent, if you're threatened by a foreign government, to squander an $80 million investment on Google or on You Tube. People are saying that they should have just gone ahead and streamed it.

There's still a win that could be pulled out of this. And I think what David Boies said is true. The government needs to come in, they need to make it as safe for Hollywood to make movies about North Korea as it is for the airlines to fly planes in the face of al-Qaeda. And once those structures are put in place, once those safeguards are put in place, some shield from liability, then let's release the movie. We can all say, "Nanny, nanny boo, boo" to North Korea. It can make $100 million. And that's a win.

CHUCK TODD:

Chris Matthews, it does seem, you know, the president was-- he was trying to protect American ideals, right. He was being the President of the United States. And then you had Sony, who's worried about Sony.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Imagine, I always like to flip the thing to figure out how he really thinks. And suppose the president came on that press conference and answering the question what he thought of Sony's decision, he said, "I agree with them. They had to pull the film." Regal had refused to show it. He would have buckled. He would have been part of the buckling.

He had to separate himself from that decision from the American people. He had to play Churchill, not Chamberlain. That's his role. Sony had its profit making decision to make. Different decision. The president of the United States should stand for strength and confidence. But he could have done better, even. I like what he did Friday, a couple days before, a couple weeks before, if he'd said, "We're gonna find a way to indemnify these theaters, is a national threat."

But we go on airplanes all the time, every one of us get on airplanes with these threats floating around. Because the Americans have got to be resilient. That's the number one role of our president. To be resilient.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

But guess what, there's still an active lawsuit, I think, against United Airlines from 9-11.

SARA FAGEN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

So, you know, there was an attempt--But, you know, so if you're Sony--

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--indemnifies a big part of this.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, from Sony's point of view, you think Congress is going to go there?

SARA FAGEN:

Well, I think Congress is going to have to do something. You know, you can't have American businesses being threatened by bullies around the world. And, you know, the thing that's really scary about this is, look, as bad as this is for Sony and its free speech, and it's Hollywood, it's an American institution, imagine if this was a financial institution.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SARA FAGEN:

Imagine if this was the electric grid.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

SARA FAGEN:

That's what's really frightening about this.

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Richardson, you've been to North Korea. You've negotiated with these rogue guys. You didn't believe North Korea was capable of this.

BILL RICHARDSON:

No, I didn't.

CHUCK TODD:

You've been very skeptical.

BILL RICHARDSON:

I-- I was skeptical.

CHUCK TODD:

Are you still?

BILL RICHARDSON:

No, I think the proof is conclusive. But the issue is going to be what kind of response.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

BILL RICHARDSON:

And I do think we'll need to respond.

CHUCK TODD:

Was this terrorism?

BILL RICHARDSON:

I think you put them on the terrorism list. I think secondly, you also find a way to squeeze cash so that the leadership of North Korea can't get that money through Macaw banks. The key here is China. The telecommunications structure of North Korea--

CHUCK TODD:

Built by China.

BILL RICHARDSON:

--is from China.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SARA FAGEN:

Uh-huh.

BILL RICHARDSON:

And so China has to press the North Koreans to stop this cyber terrorism. We've got to get rid of some of the North Korean hackers in China. And then lastly, the internet process in China, for North Korea, needs to be shut down. And we don't know if China will help us.

CHUCK TODD:

Kal Penn, if you get offered a script that you think could be controversial, could end up-- do you think you and other actors may have second thoughts, sitting there going, "Boy, do I want to? On one hand, I want to be a part of this. Looks fun. Satirizing terrorist X, rogue leader Y?" But do you think now this is going to-- you know, it's human nature. "Do I want to be in the center of this? Do I want to be in the middle of this?"

KAL PENN:

I don't know. Obviously, you get to take the moral high ground and speculate. I think this is something that actors deal with all the time, right? But usually the reaction to something that you know might offend a certain group of the population is you know they're going to write letters. Studios know that they're going to have to mitigate protests outside of theaters.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

KAL PENN:

But there are rarely calls to actually censor or pull down a film. And rarely have studios actually buckled to that. So those are conversations I think most actors and writers are used to having, but certainly not of this scale. So I don't know. I mean it's a really good question.

CHUCK TODD:

Why are you one of the few that have been comfortable speaking out publicly?

KAL PENN:

I don't know. You invited me. I don't know have particularly controversial to say

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

No, I say that, because a lot-- there has been-- you know, George Clooney didn't get anybody to sign publicly on his petition. Is there fear in Hollywood?

KAL PENN:

I think there's fear. But I also think there's probably some confusion about exactly what's going on. I think, you know, what was it, it was on Wednesday when Sony said that they have no plans to release the film. On Friday they then said that they might release it video-on-demand. They're fully backing the film. Then on Saturday morning, they pulled down all the social media, which confused a lot of actors, I think, 'cause they still have movies from six years ago that the trailers are on YouTube.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

KAL PENN:

The studios don't take them down because they know that there's a longevity to just keeping that stuff up. So I don't know that it's fear as much as confusion. You know, I don't know that any of us are saying anything particularly controversial, anything that's going to anger either our friends at Sony or anyone around the world.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Kal Penn, thanks for joining the panel. You guys--

KAL PENN:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

--stick around. Appreciate it. We're going to talk about cyber security next. In just over a minute, how should the government officially respond to this North Koreaa attack? And what do we have to do to protect corporate and private citizens? We're going to be joined by our expert panel in a minute.

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CHUCK TODD:

Welcome back. We've been discussing the North Korean cyber attack that sent shock waves through Hollywood. But how vulnerable are we as a nation to further attacks? And what more does the government need to do to protect businesses and the public? I'm joined by Michael Leiter, former director of The National Counter-terrorism Center, Michael Chertoff, who, of course, served as Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, and Christopher Hill, a former ambassador to South Korea. Welcome all.

Michael Leiter, let me start with you. At The Counter-terrorism Center, cyber terrorism seems to be something that Washington has had a hard time getting, quote unquote, "Excited about," and trying to do something about. Those people have called for this problem to be tackled, and yet, nothing's happened. Is this the wakeup call?

MICHAEL LEITER:

I think the problem we-- is it seemed too ephemeral for people. They couldn't quite get their hands on it. Even when things like the Target hack and credit card numbers were stolen, they didn't fully understand. And it was told to me by an executive at Sony, "If it takes a salacious amount of celebrity gossip to get Americans to listen and realize that companies can be hacked and material destroyed, then maybe there's some silver lining here." And Congress and the president and the private sector, I think, will take note of this. And maybe, with the new Congress, we'll get some action.

CHUCK TODD:

Secretary Chertoff, does it matter whether we call this terrorism or not?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

Well, I think it does matter, Chuck, because I think it puts it in perspective. There are a couple of things about this that I think are different from what we've seen before. First, this was a destructive attack. It wasn't just effective information or something that could affect one's credit score. This actually damaged and destroyed infrastructure in a major company.

The second thing is this is the first time we've seen an act of terrorism that attempts to coerce behavior. That is the essence of terrorism. And the threat here that we're going to commit physical acts of violence if the movie's not pulled out of movie theaters, is exactly the kind of thing that can the Danes experiences when there were cartoons about Mohammed--

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

--that offended some extremists. So I think this is really crossing into a new terrain.

CHUCK TODD:

Ambassador Hill, you have alot of familarity with the North Koreas and dealing with them. Were you, first of all, surprised at the sophistication? And second, what can be done to punish them?

CHRISTOPHER HILL:

Well first of all, North Koreans don't mind that the rest of us don't like them. But they don't like to be mocked. And I've seen that on several occasions from them. So I'm not surprised that they did this. And frankly, I'm not surprised that they have the technical prowess to do this. I mean they have-- it's a kind of complicated economy, with most of it very much third world, but certain segments, including their nuclear program, that are first world.

So I'm not surprised that they actually did this. And now the question is what we need to do about it. And I think we do need to punish them. And I think we do need to be proportionate in how we do this, and probably it's something where we may not want to get up and acknowledge our fingerprints on it. So I think we need to be deliberate, look through what the options are. But we absolutely do need to respond. And we cannot-- we have to deter this kind of behavior in the future.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, let's talk about these deterrents. Michael Leiter, and Secretary Chertoff, I want both of you to comment on this, which is the idea of retaliating with a cyber attack ourselves. United States government unofficially, apparently, has done this at least once that we know of, of a cyber attack, the Stuxnet Iran. You know that nobody ever confirms this. But that's been widely reported and widely sourced. But there's been a debate inside the National Security Committee whether this is ethically something United States should do. Are we going to start getting into the cyber warfare business?

MICHAEL LEITER:

Well, we already are in the cyber warfare business. But the real challenge we have in terms of using cyber offense is that we live in a glass house right now, Chuck. It's not just Sony. Sony is good at defensive. Sony has invested in this. They've seen attacks before.

And the rest of the U.S. corporations have the same vulnerabilities that Sony does. So we can't just look at the private sector. The private sector is going to have to re-architect. The U.S. government is going to get much more involved in defending. And then we will finally have the option of being more offensive. But I think until we set up those defenses, being offensive is going to be very challenging.

CHUCK TODD:

But Secretary Chertoff, should we be engaging in cyber warfare, ethically?

MICHAEL CHERTOFF:

Well, I don't think there's an ethical issue here. I think there's, as Mike Leiter points out, there's a practical issue first of all in terms of our own vulnerability. Also, recall North Korea's a nuclear state. It's very close to South Korea and Japan. And those are considerations, as well.

But I agree, we cannot let this go unanswered. And in addition to the suggestion that Ambassador Richardson made about putting them on a terrorist list, back on that list, we ought to at least consider some kind of covert action that would make them pay a price. Last thing, Chuck, is this. If they are using the Chinese infrastructure as a way of carrying out these attacks, we have to have a much more serious conversation with China.

You know, the president signed this climate agreement. Everybody was patting themselves on the back. And then, within a matter of weeks, China becomes an attack vector for a major terrorist effort against the United States. And that's a problem.

CHUCK TODD:

Ambassador Hill, it does seem as if China, the leadership, is actually split about how much more political capital should they be spending defending North Korea. Should the United States try to drive a wedge right through there?

CHRISTOPHER HILL:

I think, first of all, the Chinese are never very happy to be defending Hollywood. But I was just in China. And I was really struck with the degree to which they are just fed up, sick of the North Koreans. So I think it is a good time to really be engaging with them in a deeper way on North Korea.

And I think ultimately, these cyber issues. I mean this needs to be further developed. I mean there need to be more than just international covenants, maybe international laws. But that's, I think, down the road. In the meantime, I think we do need to work very closely with the Chinese. They're the key to this issue. They're the key to North Korea's nuclear issue. We really need to work with them.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Ambassador Hill, Secretary Chertoff, Michael Leiter, our laws, we've got a lot of work to do to catch up our laws with our defenses there. Thank you, all three of you. Coming up, President Obama made some history over this week by deciding to extend an olive branch to Cuba. But there are some in Congress who are not happy about it, including my next guest, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

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CHUCK TODD:

This week's announcement on U.S. relations with Cuba will do little to change the situation in Guantanamo Bay, where 132 detainees are currently being held at that Cuban base. Those who call for its closure point to it as a rallying cry for our enemies. The other side sees it as a practical prison option for detainees who cannot be moved to facilities inside the United States.

So we have two experts: Chris Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union and Cully Stimson of The Heritage Foundation, to argue for and against the closure of this controversial prison camp. That and more can be found on our website MeetThePressNBC.com. When we come back, we'll have more on Cuba with Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

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CHUCK TODD:

And welcome back. This week, President Obama announced moves to normalize relations with Cuba, writing another chapter in the complicated history of U.S.-Cuban relations that goes back to the Spanish-American War of 1898. In a moment, I'll be joined by one of the President's fiercest critics of the new policy, Marco Rubio. But first, let's take a look at why our relationship with our near neighbor off the coast of Florida has been so fraught.

((BEGIN TAPE))

CHUCK TODD:

It starts in 1959. The U.S. has huge influence on Cuba. But a group of guerrilla fighters led by Fidel Castro overthrows Cuban President Fulgencio Batista, and establishes a socialist revolutionary state. At first, many in the U.S. saw Castro as a potential ally, welcoming the end of Batista's brutal and authoritarian regime. Here is Castro on this show in 1959.

FIDEL CASTRO:

Democracy is my idea. I am not communist. I am not agree with communists.

CHUCK TODD:

Let's fast forward to 1961, the height of the Cold War. President Kennedy, wary of Castro's relationship with the Soviet Union, sends 1,400 Cuban exiles to invade the island at The Bay of Pigs, in a disastrous attempt to overthrow the regime. Kennedy's failure to oust Castro alienates many first and second-generation Cuban-Americans from the Democratic Party for a generation.

1962, the Kennedy administration establishes a full economic embargo on Cuba. That October, the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. spy satellites discover Soviet nuclear missiles on the island. The president orders a full naval blockade of the island. At the brink of nuclear war, a back channel deal with the Soviet Union is made and war averted.

1980, the Mariel Boat Lift. Cuban President Fidel Castro allows the mass emigration of 125,000 Cubans to the United States. But relations continue to sour as it appears Castro emptied out his prisons. More trouble in the '90s. Cuba shoots down two civilian aircraft operated by an American anti-Castro group, prompting Congress to pass the Helms-Burton Act, codifying the embargo into U.S. law and making it impossible for the president to end it unilaterally.

In 2000, Cuba back in the spotlight. The immigrant status of a young Cuban boy transfixes the nation. Elian Gonzales's international custody battle divides the country and Florida, the state that ultimately decides the most closely contested presidential election in a century. 2014, a half century later, a break in the stalemate, something that candidate Obama hinted at.

PRESIDENT OBAMA (TAPE):

It's time for more than tough talk that never yields results. It's time for a new strategy.

CHUCK TODD:

The prospect of normalized relations with Cuba on the horizon but steep challenges ahead in the form of potential opposition on Capitol Hill.

CHUCK TODD:

I'm joined by Florida Senator and potential Republican 2016 presidential candidate, Marco Rubio. Senator Rubio, good morning. Welcome back to--

MARCO RUBIO:

Good morning.

CHUCK TODD:

--Meet the Press.

MARCO RUBIO:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

What was working with the old policy?

MARCO RUBIO:

Well, I think that's not the question. The question is what new policy can we put in place so we'll actually achieve our goal? Our goal for Cuba is freedom and liberty for the Cuban people. And my opposition to what the president has done is it won't do anything to further that cause.

On the contrary, just yesterday, Raul Castro gave a speech where he made very clear that there will be no political changes on the island. Nor did the president ask for any. So if you're going to make concessions to Cuba, if you're going to recognize them diplomatically, you're going to have more commerce with them, there has to be some reciprocal opening on their part towards democracy. There was none in this engagement. So that's why this policy is misguided.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, I mean, by going back. But you acknowledge the old policy wasn't working?

MARCO RUBIO:

The old policy, I keep hearing these reports about how the old policy was designed to overthrow the Castro regime. That's false. The embargo's original purpose was to protect American companies because those properties had been expropriated.

CHUCK TODD:

Right.

MARCO RUBIO:

American companies in Cuba had their assets seized. And so, in order to prevent that, that was the reason why the embargo was put in place. The new purpose of the embargo in the 21st century was to serve as leverage, and leverage towards democracy. We now have sanctions in place with the embargo that allows us to remove those sanctions. And it's codified in exchange for a democratic opening. What the president has done here is given away much of that leverage in exchange for zero democratic opening.

CHUCK TODD:

Look, you've heard the criticism, though, of this Cuban policy, that it flies in the face of U.S. policy toward China, U.S. policy toward Myanmar, U.S. policy toward Vietnam. Why should Cuba be treated differently than China?

MARCO RUBIO:

We should actually learn our lessons from those policies. You talked about China as an example. We reestablished both commercial and diplomatic relations with China in the 1970s. Certainly the Chinese economy has grown. But politically, they're more repressed than they were to 20 or 30 years ago. There's no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, no free access to the internet, no elections, no political parties.

So in essence, that is the model that Cubans will try to follow. They're are going-- they wholly control the economy. They're going to use all the benefits of access to the U.S. markets to grow their own, line their own pockets, the government. But there isn't going to be any political opening, Raul Castro made it clear. And Vietnam and China are the model for that.

CHUCK TODD:

So if you're president, would you change our policy with China? Would you pull back on the engagement?

MARCO RUBIO:

Well first of all, comparing China and Cuba is really not a fair comparison. There are geopolitical realities, as well, to why we reengaged with China. And that included splitting them from the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. China is the second largest economy in the world, the most populous nation on the planet, the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world.

So there are geopolitical realities with China that do not exist with Cuba. Cuba is a small, impoverished island in our hemisphere that our policies have an opportunity to help bring freedom and democracy to. If I were president, what I would have done is I would have actively and vibrantly engaged with democracy activists inside the island of Cuba, who, of all, and many of whom, wanted changes in Cuba policy, but who all feel betrayed by this president. He completely ignored them and threw them to the side in this whole process.

CHUCK TODD:

Now you made an interesting charge in a previous interview earlier this week. I'm going to play that clip and ask you about it on the other side.

((BEGIN TAPE))

MARCO RUBIO:

If Cuba was a right-wing dictatorship, right now the Obama administration would be calling for increased sanctions. And I would support them. But because it is a left-wing dictatorship, they actually find some support in some editorial pages around this country. And it's outrages.

((END TAPE))

CHUCK TODD:

The president of the United States this week signed new sanctions against a, quote unquote, "Left-wing dictatorship," of authoritarian regime in Venezuela.

MARCO RUBIO:

Right.

CHUCK TODD:

So, you know, isn't there a contradiction in your attack there?

MARCO RUBIO:

No because--

CHUCK TODD:

I mean he is sanctioning a, quote unquote, "Left-wing dictatorship" in Venezuela. Obviously, with Cuba, he's trying to change the policy.

MARCO RUBIO:

Well first of all, look at the example of Honduras. There was what the president claimed to be a coup d'etat in Honduras. And the U.S. took action against the Honduran government back in 2009, even though it was the Supreme Court that ordered the president removed, who at that time, was a liberal. That was a left-wing, basically, had become a dictator, which is a model that we've now seen followed throughout the hemisphere.

And the Venezuelan example is perfect. I'm glad you raised it. So on Wednesday, the president announces a new policy towards Cuba, lifting sanctions. On Thursday, he signs a bill imposing sanctions on Venezuela. But Venezuela's human rights violators have learned all their tactics and in fact received support for those tactics of violating human rights from the Cuban government. So there's no consistency here on behalf of this administration.

CHUCK TODD:

I want to get you to react to a fellow Republican Senator of yours, Rand Paul of Kentucky. He sent you a series of tweets, I will roll them on the screen, about his support for lifting of the embargo versus your criticism of the lifting of the embargo. And he has various questions here, "If it doesn't hurt Cuba, why do you want to keep it?" And essentially calling you the isolationist. What do you say to Senator Paul?

MARCO RUBIO:

Well, look. Rand Paul has, if he wants to align himself and become a supporter of the Obama foreign policy, particularly towards Cuba, that's his right. He has a right to do that. My interest here is singular. And that is freedom and democracy for the people of Cuba. I want people in Cuba to have what people in the Bahamas have, what people in Jamaica have, what people in the Dominican Republic have, which is freedom and elections.

And I just don't think that this policy that the president has put in place furthers that goal. In fact, I think it makes it harder to achieve. Because you're now going to provide hard currency for a repressive regime to fund their repression of the Cuban people.

CHUCK TODD:

Can you imagine running in the same Republican primary as Jeb Bush?

MARCO RUBIO:

You know, Jeb, if he runs, will be a very credible and formidable candidate. And he's someone I have tremendous respect for. As I have outlined earlier, you know, when you reach a point where you're thinking about running for president, as I am, what you have to make your decision on is not on who else is running. It's on whether you think that's the right place for you to achieve your agenda and serve your country.

If I make that decision that that's the right place for me to serve at this moment in my life, I'll run for president. And that's what my decision will be built on. But, you know, I have tremendous respect for Jeb Bush. And I think, if he runs, he'll be a very credible and strong candidate.

CHUCK TODD:

All right, Marco Rubio, Florida Senator, thanks for coming on Meet the Press.

MARCO RUBIO:

Thank you.

CHUCK TODD:

Thanks for sharing your views. Coming up, speaking of Jeb Bush, there was a big hint this week that he's more likely to run than not. So, as 2016, is the coverage going to be all about the cable catnip of Jeb versus Hillary or actual primaries that still have to take place. I'll be back with the Nerd Screen to explain. Those primaries are going to be tumultuous.

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CHUCK TODD:

Nerd Screen time. This week, Jeb Bush took the first step towards a 2016 presidential bid by announcing on Facebook that he's officially exploring the possibility of running for president. He's going to start a leadership PAC to start funding that exploration. So what is his first hurdle?

Well, according to our new NBC-Wall Street Journal Poll, it will be winning over the conservative base. Take a look at these overall numbers. Among Republican primary voters, among just about every group of Republican primary voters, Jeb Bush does pretty well. Second overall, 63% of Republican primary voters, say they could see themselves supporting Jeb Bush. Only Mitt Romney does better. Little name recognition helps there.

But let's look at key party conservatives. That's about half of overall Republicans. And on this, Jeb Bush doesn't break 60. Look who does, Rand Paul, tops among them. Then Romney, then Mike Huckabee, then Ted Cruz, then Jeb Bush. Now you see why a lot of folks are saying, "Okay, Jeb Bush in a general, maybe. How does he get through the primary?" Well, for Jeb, he's thinking, "Make sure all of these guys run. The more, the merrier."

Now let's take a look at the other side of the aisle. When it comes to the Democratic primary, our new poll numbers show just how dominant Hillary Clinton is. The former Secretary of State has support from 80% or more of voters in the Democratic Party, and every demographic group inside the Democratic Party, she is well into the 80s.

But if she decides not to run, our numbers show what a race would look like between Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. And this is where you would see some familiar trends. Joe Biden edges Elizabeth Warren among every Democratic voting group except one. And that is white Democrats. White Democrats are sort of the progressive elites of the party. These are the same folks that fueled Bill Bradley, fueled Gary Hart, fueled Paul Tsongas.

Back to Elizabeth Warren, already topping Joe Biden among those folks. So you could see this could end up breaking down in the same way we saw Gore-Bradley, Mondale-Hart, maybe Kennedy-Carter and perhaps Obama-Clinton. But we'll see. Barack Obama had something going for him when he had progressive whites. He also had African-Americans. Could Elizabeth Warren get that? Not too sure.

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CHUCK TODD:

And we are back. The political earthquake inside the Republican Party, Sara Fagen, was Jeb Bush doing what a lot of us were skeptical that he was doing. He's running until he says he's not now. Before, he was thinking about it, but we all assumed he wasn't. He's in. You're from Bush world. Is Bush World excited about this?

SARA FAGEN:

Bush World is so excited about this. In fact, one of the operatives at the party committee told me there was a palpable cheer outside in the bull pen--

CHUCK TODD:

No kidding.

SARA FAGEN:

--when that came across the transom. So, yeah, all of us who have been close to the Bush family saw our inboxes light up with the excitement about his potential candidacy.

CHUCK TODD:

And financially he would dominate, raising money in Texas.

SARA FAGEN:

Yes.

CHUCK TODD:

In Florida. Maybe even Wall Street. John Nolte, one of the reasons I wanted you on representing this, the wing of the party, that is like going, "Wait a minute, no more establishment, no more Buses."

JOHN NOLTE:

Yeah, he's already showing belligerence towards the base. And I guess he could have a strategy to get out of the primary. But he should talk to John McCain and Mitt Romney about how much you need the base to turn out in the general election. You do need them to show up.

SARA FAGEN:

But here's the thing. Here's the thing, Chuck. All you have to do is look at the Florida press corps that covered Jeb Bush when he was governor. They're shocked that people are calling him anything but a conservative.

CHUCK TODD:

Eh, it's the '90s.

SARA FAGEN:

Yes. But look, this guy vetoed $2 billion from state budgets, including Republican lawmakers. He was vetoing spending before the Tea Party existed. He cut taxes every year in office. He was a very strong conservative governor.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Governor Richardson, a lot of Democrats are fearful if Jeb Bush was the nominee, aren't they?

BILL RICHARDSON:

Well, I'm fearful. Especially his connection, potential connection, to the Hispanic vote, which a Republican in a presidential race, all they need, like his brother, is about 40% of that national vote. Where I think that--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Could Jeb Bush do well in New Mexico?

BILL RICHARDSON:

Yeah, he's got a Hispanic wife. He speaks a little Spanish, not too good. But I-- I think he--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--Spanish is probably better than Hillary's.

BILL RICHARDSON:

Yeah. I think his drawback will be foreign policy. And I think you saw this with Rubio, where I think President Obama's initiative on Cuba is going to be very popular by the time the election happens. And although I think Rubio has a point. Cuba has to deliver. What we don't know, by the way, on Cuba is how Fidel Castro's going to react to this.

CHUCK TODD:

Where is Fidel?

(OVERTALK)

BILL RICHARDSON:

He was there. He was down on this. But I think Cuba has to release political prisoners.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

BILL RICHARDSON:

They have to be more positive on civil society. They have to end the repression of pro-democracy groups, both on the internet. So this is going to be a debate in 2016.

CHUCK TODD:

I'll be curious if it is a debate. Because I think it's a chance that this isn't as big of a debate, at least the Cuba part of this, Bush and Clinton.

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--I'm sorry but let's ring the bell here for Peggy Noonan here.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Because she said, and she's for this deal, this opening of Cuba, even though she hates Castro, like the rest of us. She said she wants to imagine Castro as an old man looking out the window of his sick room--

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

--and seeing the tourists snapping pictures of him with their iPhones as he goes down and realizes he lost.

CHUCK TODD:

But let me go Bush Clinton, dynasties. Is this the American way?

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well, it's more the Republican way. The Republican Party's a more genteel party. It's whose turn it is.

CHUCK TODD:

Not this Republican Party. I don't think they're--

(OVERTALK)

CHRIS MATTHEWS:

Well, historically. I mean Nixon got his second chance. Reagan got his third chance. And Bush got his second chance. Dole got his fifth chance. He finally got a chance and even McCain got his chance. The Democrats are acting more like that now with Hillary. The Republican Party tends to go-- if they got with the hot hand this time, who is it? Who is the hot hand in the Republican Party if it's not the guy whose turn it is? That's the kind of thing. Because we know the hot hand in the Democratic Party, it's Elizabeth Warren.

CHUCK TODD:

So who's the frontrunner right now in the Republican Party, is it Jeb Bush? Is it Rand Paul? Or is it no one?

SARA FAGEN:

I think that there's a series of primaries that are occurring right now. There's the quote unquote, "Establishment primary," which is--

CHUCK TODD:

Jeb's way ahead in it all of a sudden, isn't he--

SARA FAGEN:

Well, I think he's ahead, for sure.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah.

SARA FAGEN:

Then there's the, you know, who's the opposition party? That's the Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz primary. And then there's the everybody else primary. And there's some really strong candidates in the everyone else primary.

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, that's all the governors.

SARA FAGEN:

Yeah.

CHUCK TODD:

John, you agree with that?

(OVERTALK)

JOHN NOLTE:

Yeah, I think that someone could still come in. I think a guy like Governor Walker. The establishment likes him. The base likes him. He might be able to unite this. And I think Jeb Bush is going to have a big problem with common core.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Education, I think that's going to be a bigger one than even immigrant. All right. I'm going to keep it there. But I want to show this before we go. It's become a tradition at the end of the year. President, before he leaves for his holiday vacation, whoever the president is. He gives an end of the year press conference. Well, this year is one that is for the record books, of sort. See if you can guess why.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Josh has given me the "who's been naughty and who's been nice" list. And I'm going to use it to take some questions. And we're going to start with Carrie Budoff, Cheryl Bolen, April Ryan, Julie Pace, Lesley Clark, Roberta Rampton, Colleen McCain Nelson, and Juliet Eilperin.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it's Juliet Eilperin, but that's--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Sara Fagen, when you were in the White House there, how gender diverse was that White House press corps versus how it is today?

SARA FAGEN:

Well, it's certainly a lot more gender diverse. And, you know, but the difference, of course, is that the Bush White House was also more gender diverse than--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

Look at you, putting in a little plug there. It was a very diverse White House, as well. I think it was a neat little thing there for Josh Earnest. So good for him, the White House Press Secretary, for pulling that off. That's all for today. Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas. We'll be back next week, because we're not taking a holiday break. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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