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Meet the Press Transcript - July 13, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, JULY 13, 2014

DAVID GREGORY:

Next on Meet the Press, the Middle East in turmoil is a high-stakes crisis for President Obama, from war In Gaza to the threat from Iran. This morning, I’ll ask former U.S. Mideast Envoy Martin Indyk what a potential Israeli ground invasion of Gaza means for the future. And, my exclusive interview in Vienna with Iran’s foreign minister. His tough words on Israel and his resistance to U.S. demands in crucial nuclear talks. He insists Iran will not dismantle nuclear capacity because it has no interest in making a bomb.

Back home, the politics of the immigration crisis. Can the president find agreement with Republicans to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.

ANNOUNCER:

From NBC News in Washington, Meet the Press with David Gregory.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good morning. Israel is stepping up its attacks on Gaza despite international pressure for a ceasefire. For the first time, evidence of a potential ground invasion as Israel briefly sent commandos in to warn some residents to evacuate their homes. Palestinian authorities saying more than 170 people have been killed. In Israel, air raid sirens as far north as Tel Aviv are sounding as Hamas continues to launch rockets into the country causing damage and injuries, but no deaths.

I'm joined now by Martin Indyk in his first television interview since stepping down last month as the Obama administration's Mideast envoy. He also served as America's ambassador to Israel during the client administration. Martin, nice to see you. Thanks for being here.

MARTIN INDYK:

Thanks for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

So what is next? What's the calculation? Is it a ground invasion to stop the Hamas rocket fire?

MARTIN INDYK:

I think Prime Minister Netanyahu is extremely reluctant to go in on the ground. Doesn’t see how that can really serve Israel's purposes. What he wants is an end to the rocket fire and he's looking for ways to pressure Hamas to do that. Pushing now civilians outside, out of the northern parts of Gaza so as to try to put pressure on Hamas from the civilian population and give him room to try to clean up the rocket fire and launches. But he's a very cautious man when it comes to using force and I think he's very reluctant to go in. And in a sense Hamas knows that. And so the bluff of mobilizing all of these tanks is not working in terms of getting Hamas to stop the firing.

DAVID GREGORY:

The backdrop here is a horrible breakdown in the peace process that you were in the middle of and tried to advance with the help of Secretary Kerry and President Obama. And now you have an unraveled situation that unravels further. What does American leadership have to look like now? Is it to press for a ceasefire? Is it to constrain Israel? What?

MARTIN INDYK:

Yes, it's to press for a ceasefire. And I don't think there's a problem on the Israeli side. They will agree to a ceasefire. The problem is how do you get Hamas to agree to a ceasefire. They're looking for something that they can claim as a victory and they're looking for somebody to pay for the salaries of Hamas people in Gaza because they've been cut off from their natural sources of revenues by the Egyptians.

So the whole question is how you leverage Hamas. I think President Obama and Secretary Kerry want very much a cease fire and are willing to do what they can to achieve that, but until Hamas decides that it's going to call of the rocket fire, it's hard to see how this comes to an end.

DAVID GREGORY:

There's probably agreement among Israel, even the Palestinian leadership, it's important for people to understand, President Abbas, Egypt as well, that they would like Hamas to go. And then maybe there's chances for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. What does that take to get that to happen?

MARTIN INDYK:

I think you're right, that there's this strange confluence of agreement that Hamas is the problem for Egyptian and the Palestinian authority under Mahmoud Abbas and Israel. But to actually change things, take control away from Hamas in Gaza, Qaddafi require a major ground operation by Israel.

Clean up Hamas, with its 20,000 militia and all of those rockets. And then perhaps have the U.N. come in and take control and hand over to the Palestinian authority. That kind of stirring up of the status quo, with all of the costs involved, is something that, not withstanding their confluence of interests, none of the parties are prepared to count on.

DAVID GREGORY:

In less than a minute now, you've said that a fundamental lack of trust, and even just bad blood between the Palestinians and the Israeli leaders, caused the peace process to break down. What did you mean?

MARTIN INDYK:

Well, I think beyond that, what we can see is all of those factors were operating, but essentially what we discovered was that Secretary Kerry strongly build that the status quo was unsustainable. He's been proven right yet again today. But what was discovered was that the status quo is actually sustainable for the two leaders, more than for us. And that's why we really couldn't achieve a breakthrough.

And that's what we're seeing at the moment again. That maintaining the status quo is less costly in terms of political risk and, in this case, loss of life, than really shaking it up and making peace. And the problem with that situation is it but comes a chronic situation now in which a preference for the status quo leaves a vacuum that's filled by extremists and violence.

And then the parties try to clamp some stability back on, but there's no fundamental breakthrough to the kind of risky, costly decisions necessary to achieve peace. We're ready to do that when they're ready, but we can't do it without them being ready for it.

DAVID GREGORY:

Martin Indyk, thank you so much for your perspective this morning. Very interesting you think there'll be restraint on the part of an Israeli ground invasion potentially into Gaza. Martin, thank you so much.

I want to turn to more to these foreign policy challenges facing President Obama, Israel on the brink, as we’ve discussed with Hamas. ISIS terrorists control large parts of Iraq and Syria. And the threat from iran, is it purusing nuclear weapons? This morning, Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Vienna to take part in high-level talks aimed at forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear program, and he says chances remain slim for a deal.

I traveled to Vienna for a wide-ranging interview with Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, who has extensive experience on the world stage. And, I started by asking the foreign minister why Iran is determined to keep its extensive nuclear capacity, if it claims indeed it does not want a nuclear bomb?

(BEGIN TAPE)

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Well, actually, I think what we have said, should give confidence to people that we're not looking for nuclear weapons. We have said that our entire nuclear energy program can fit in a very clear and well defined picture. That is we want to produce fuel for our own nuclear reactor. Nuclear power reactor. And we have a contract that provides us fuel for that reactor. But that contract expires in seven or eight years.

DAVID GREGORY:

Because reupping that is not a problem. As the American have told you--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Right?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Actually, it's more complicated than you'd think. The United States built the reactor for us in the 1950s. And for the past 20 years we've been searching all over the world for fuel for that reactor. And the United States is not holding up providing the fuel itself, but that’s prevented other from providing fuel to Iran.

To the point that a few years ago, three, four years ago we had to announce that if you're giving us 20% of fuel for the American built reactor in Tehran, we have to produce it ourselves. They thought that we couldn't do it, but we did it. And now that reactor Iraq running on fuel. We want to be able to work with the international community. We want to ensure that nobody is concerned about Tehran's nuclear projects.

DAVID GREGORY:

So to that point, if that's what you want to do, it's important that our audience understands. When we talk about centrifuges and nuclear power, centrifuges are how you enrich uranium. Enriching uranium is the key component, ultimately, of making a nuclear weapon, if it's done at a certain speed. And then it has to be weaponized. If you really want to say to the international community, "We don't want a nuclear weapon," are you prepared to dismantle a good portion of the nuclear capacity, the number of centrifuges you now have?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

I don't think it would do the job. As somebody who has worked all his life for non-proliferation I can tell you that the best way to ensure that Iran will never break away, will never break out, is to allow an internationally monitored nuclear program.

Because we have the technology. We have the know how. We have the equipment. So the only way, realistically, to deal with this, is to have a genuinely peaceful program that can be worked in a transparent fashion, without the need for the imposing arbitrary restrictions.

DAVID GREGORY:

So with respect, the international community is divided about a lot of things. They're actually not divided about one thing. They think Iran is up to no good and wants to build a nuclear weapon. So why not say definitively that you will eliminate the bulk of your capacity, the bulk of your centrifuges to say to the world, "We really won't fight. We really won't build a weapon."

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Yeah. First of all, that’s a different international community. They day I went to a meeting of 5 plus 1 or E-3 plus 3 in New York, they said we represent the internationally community, and I told them “I'm just coming to you from chairing a meeting of 120 countries called the Non-Aligned Movement, where Iran has been the chairman and is the chairman. And they support us.” They believe, actually, 180-some members of the NTC believe, and they repeatedly said it in 1990 and in 2010, that countries' choices, of their fuel cycle, should be respected.

So it's not the international community. A few countries who have concerns. And we are talking to them in order to address those concerns. But those concerns, there are international criteria in order to address those concerns. And we have given them opportunities to find resolutions, realistic resolutions, in order to address those concerns.

One of those is to freeze, as the leader pointed out, that you don't need this capacity tomorrow. You can produce this capacity over a length of time. And we are prepared to work with Five Plus One, with members of the Five Plus One, with others in order to make sure that the confidence is created.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you won't commit to a specific number of centrifuges. Another way of saying that is you won't commit to dismantling a bulk of your capacity.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

No, I will commit to everything and anything that would provide credible assurances for the international community that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons, because we are not. We don't see any benefit in Iran developing a nuclear weapon.

DAVID GREGORY:

How could you not see a benefit? I mean you're a Shia state surrounded by Sunni states, many of whom are your enemies. You know full well the deterrent factor that a nuclear country like Pakistan can wield in the international community. You can have more of the influence regionally. Cynics would say, "Why wouldn't you want to have a nuclear weapon?"

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Actually, all these calculations are wrong. In fact we need to go out of or way in order to convince our neighbors that we want to live in peace and tranquility with them, because the politics of geography, the fact that we're bigger, the fact that we're stronger, that we're more populous, the fact that we have a better technology, the fact that our human resources is by far more developed than most of our neighbors. All of these provide us with inherent areas of strength that we don't need to augment with other capabilities.

DAVID GREGORY:

But if that’s the case --

(OVERTALK)

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

That is why nobody considers our neighbors in Pakistan as a stronger force in the region than Iran, simply because they have nuclear weapons. In fact, I believe nuclear weapons reduces countries' influence in our region. It doesn't help anybody.

The fact that everybody in the international community believes that mutual assured destruction that is the way the United States, Russia and others, get seek peace and security through having the possibility of destroying each other 100 times over is simply mad.

And that is why I do not believe that you need to inculcate this mentality that nuclear weapons makes anybody safe. Have they made Pakistan safe? Have they made Israel safe? Have they made the United States safe? Have they made Russia safe? All these countries are susceptible. Now you have proof that nuclear weapons or no amount of military power makes you safe. So we need to live in a different paradigm. And that's what we are calling for.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about a couple of other areas and then I'd like to return to this at the end. Let's talk about the war in Gaza. Iran has supported Hamas in the past. Rockets that are being fired into Israel, Israel believes were actually provided by Iran. How do you see this situation playing out?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Well it is extremely regrettable that people are being killed, hundreds of innocent men and women and children have been slaughtered, almost 100 people being killed, over 500 have been wounded in Gaza, and the United States is not taking any action. We know that all the weapons that are used by Israel in order to attack civilians in Gaza have been provided by the United States. And we don't see any move by the United States to condemn that.

DAVID GREGORY:

What about Hamas--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--firing rockets into the country of Israel.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

It was the Security Council in order to put an end to this. We call for an immediate end to all of these activities.

DAVID GREGORY:

You condemn Hamas?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

We do not condemn people who are defending themselves. We believe that actions that are putting civilians in jeopardy in Gaza that have placed restrictions on civilians to get access to medicine. To food. Have tried to starve the civilians in Gaza. They need to be vehemently condemned by the national community. The United States and the rest of the members of the Security Council have a moral and legal responsibility to put an end to this. And address the fact that they haven't taken any action in order to address this.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

We’ll have more of my exclusive interview later in the program and Foreign Minister Zarif talks about Iran’s influence in Iraq and the threat from ISIS terrorists in that region as well.

But now, I want to turn to the politics of the immigration crisis, a big story over the last couple of weeks here in Washington. Thousands of unaccompanied children continue to cross the U.S. border. The president pressuring Congress now to help him fix the problem, requesting $3.7 billion in emergency funds.

I've got two key members of Congress to talk about this First here with me, the Republican Congressman Mike Rogers from Michigan, chair of the House Intelligence Committee. Chairman, it's good to have you here. What does working with the president here look like to find a solution?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Well, obviously when this happened, it certainly appears that most of the parties have gone to their mutual corners, if you will, and we've got to get through that. But more importantly, the president has tools in his toolbox that he can do immediately to stop this.

So Dianne Feinstein, the co-author of the bill that allowed for these folks who are not from Mexico or Canada, that bring minors into the country, not be deported right away. There's circumstances, and she believes as the co-author, that would allow them to immediately and responsibly get these children back to their home countries. And that's where the president needs to start. So he needs to re-engage. Folks who are doing administrative work on the border, they need to make sure they send a very clear signal.

Now, here's the interesting thing. This is a bipartisan issue. Hillary Clinton says if you want to stop this you need to start sending these kids back to let people know, "Don't put them in a criminal pipeline to come into America." Certainly Dianne Feinstein thinks there's a way for the president to be--

DAVID GREGORY:

The majority of them have to go back home, is your point?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Well, think about what we're doing. This isn't a walk in the park to get from El Salvador or Honduras into the United States. These are criminal gangs. These are organized criminal gangs. These kids are subject to sexual exploitation. They're subject to drug exposure. Some of them are being recruited or pressed into gangs along the way. We're losing these kids along the way. And imagine the experience--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But doesn't that raise the point, then why just turn them away? Do you not have to come up with a process that can safely return them?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

No, no. We can safely get them home. The problem is by encouraging the behavior that you see and not stopping this attitude--

DAVID GREGORY:

But who is--

(OVERTALK)

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

--this behavior.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is that fair to say the president's somehow encouraging them to come?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

The policy on the border certainly is encouraging this behavior. If I believe, and I'm in El Salvador or somewhere else, that I can pay a criminal gang, think of that, to take my children through some very dangerous circumstances to get to the United States and then they're going to open up with loving arms and keep those kids, you're encouraging that behavior. And right now there are--

DAVID GREGORY:

But that's--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--the 2008 law, right? Isn't that--

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

No, I disagree. Even Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, said that's just not right. That's a wrong interpretation of his authority to get those kids back home safely and humanely. But, again, think about it. Now all our command energy is on this, so all the border folks are trying to figure this out. And how to put them around the rest of the country, that time, that energy is better spent trying to get them back home.

And it's better for the children. You don't want kids exposed to this sex trafficking and drug use. And, again, some of those kids are being recruited for press gang-type activities in these criminal organizations, all on that route up to the United States.

DAVID GREGORY:

You're going to be leaving politics. Do you lament the Republican party's stand on immigration reform? On an unwillingness to come together to find some path to citizenship for those illegal immigrants here to somehow fix some of these problems?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

To say this is a Republican problem is just completely wrong.

DAVID GREGORY:

It's a Republican political problem for sure in elected politics, is it not?

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

But the Democrats have the same problem. And so I think there's a way to move forward on this that's responsible. Most Americans, I mean it's off the charts, say, "Hey, secure the borders first." Think of this. This is a problem that we talk about it, and it certainly has serious consequences.

Oh, by the way, the public health security problem is now growing. We're going to have the highest number of measles cases than we have in over a decade. And 97% of those cases have been imported. But secondly on this, you have a national security problem and a public health problem.

We have from 10 countries of interest, Afghans, Pakistanis, Saudis, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, other places. We know that those individuals are using the southern border to infiltrate the United States. That is a serious national security issue. And while all our focus has been on this, guess what? They're taking advantage of that opportunity.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. We'll watch that as well. Chairman Rogers, always good to have your views. Thanks so much for being here.

REP. MIKE ROGERS:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me turn to the Democrats here. Democratic Congressman Joaquin Castro of Texas joins me now. Congressman, you're from Texas. Your government, Governor Perry, has been in the news a lot this week. And back in 2012, it was two years ago, he wrote the administration and said, "We have an influx of illegal immigrants trying to get into the border." Why didn't the administration do a better job of heading this off before it go to this point?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

The fact is, David, that the administration has been trying to work with Congress to pass an immigration reform bill for over two years. And so it's been folks in Congress, and specifically in the House of Representatives, who've not moved forward on a bill that would have helped us prevent some of the things we're seeing on the border now.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, but you've got Democrats saying--

(OVERTALK)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

But the second part is for--

DAVID GREGORY:

--now additional money, changes to the law is not what they want. There are Democrats who are feeling pressure from immigration reform folks on the left saying, "You can't deport these people. That is not the humane thing to do."

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

Well, that's because that 2008 law, passed under George W. Bush, was passed for a reason, because the problems with sex trafficking are real. And also, David, because many people believe that these kids should have a chance to make their case for asylum. So I think we've got to be careful when we consider completely doing away with that law.

DAVID GREGORY:

So you don't support what the president is saying here, which is the majority of even the children need to be deported?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

Well, I think those are decisions for an immigration judge to make, not for the president or myself or any member of Congress. That's a decision the judge will make. But the point is that these folks need to be given a chance to go to court and argue their case. And I think it also raises the question of who we consider to be a refugee in America in the 21st century. And that's a very tough question for us. And it tugs at our conscience.

DAVID GREGORY:

In less than a minute here, even Democrats have said this is a Katrina moment for President Obama. That it has not been handled well. Wasn't anticipated well. Has not been handled competently. Do you agree?

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

No. The fact is that this was not the president's last opportunity to get to the border. I think you will see him go down there. I think that it's important for him to get down there at some point. And to let people know that he personally is attending the situation.

Jeh Johnson has been down there five or six times. He's keeping the president apprised of everything. But also, David, to say thank you to the people of Texas who have offered food, clothing, shelter, everything that they can to these kids to be helpful.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Congressman Castro, we're going to leave it there. Thank you so much for your time.

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY: Coming up next, our political roundtable debates this already scorching political summer in Washington. We’ve been talking about the issues: Foreign policy troubles, this immigration debate, even the Republicans suing the president.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SPEAKER BOEHNER:

He's been president for 5 1/2 years. When's he going to take responsibility for something?

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:

The best thing you can say for them this year is, they haven't shut down the government so far.

(END TAPE)

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Welcome back. At a time when Washington is getting very little done and the economic recovery is uneven, Cleveland, Ohio may be America’s new comeback kid. LeBron James is returning -- you might have heard -- and the GOP is heading there for its 2016 convention. In this morning’s Meeting America, our Kevin Tibbles asks how Cleveland is beating the odds.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CROWD:

L-B-J! L-B-J!

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Happy days appear to be here again for a Rust Belt city once the butt of America’s jokes. The triumphant return of LeBron James is just the latest sign that brawny, blue-collar Cleveland is fighting back.

The steel mills once again flex their muscles. Global giant Arcelor Mittal has 2,000 employees and is hiring more. Mike Longa trains them.

MIKE LONGA:

I saw my dad coming down here ever since I was little I wanted to work down here. It provided for my parents put five of us through college. I hope it does the same for me and my family.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

You can’t build a city without beer, says Patrick Conway. He, along with his brother, own Great Lakes Brewing. Great Lakes is a modern, environmentally sustainable facility that is also expanding. Locating next to Lake Erie’s fresh water made sense.

PATRICK CONWAY:

This is our Yosemite. And over 90% of beer is water or in the case of bud light 99% (laughs)

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Restaurants and bars line streets that just a few years ago were derelict and dangerous. It is a Cleveland in renaissance driven by health care and manufacturing that the Republican Convention will visit in 2016.

PATRICK CONWAY:

The Republican Party felt that why don't we be part of a city that's on the upswing.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Still, there is a ways to go. The Slavic Village neighborhood was devastated by the foreclosure crisis and many of the scars remain. But here too, new building and hope.

KEVIN TIBBLES (TO CHRISTIAN TOBIN) :

Are you glad you fought for this community?

CHRISTIAN TOBIN:

Absolutely. I wouldn’t trade living here for anything

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Christian Tobin and her family stuck it out.

CHRISTIAN TOBIN:

Everyone goes through something negative in their life it's what you do in that adversity that makes you or breaks you.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

As for the prodigal son’s return to the Cavaliers, the time has come to kiss and make up.

CHRISTIAN TOBIN:

It's like a bad breakup an ex is an ex for a reason. But Cleveland is forgiving because whatever's best for Cleveland, that's what we're going to do.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

The King is back. Long live the king and his town. For Meet the Press, Kevin Tibbles.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

And the roundtable is here. Rick Santorum, 2012 Republican presidential candidate, former Senator from Pennsylvania as well. Jennifer Granholm, former Democratic governor of Michigan. Kim Strassel, editorial board member of The Wall Street Journal. And for the first time on the program I'd like to welcome Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of The Detroit Free Press, winner of the Pulitzer Prize this year. Congratulations to you.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Welcome to all of you. Okay, here's the big political question, Rick Santorum. If you're a candidate in 2016 and you go to the convention in Cleveland, do you praise LeBron for making a good political move here?

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

Look, I'm a Pittsburgher, and Cleveland and Pittsburgh, very tough rivalry. It's like sibling rivalries. But just like a sibling rivalry, when your brother does well you're really excited. And I'm so excited for Cleveland. It's as great blue collar town. Good luck for him. Good--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

A good legacy for him or does he look bad?

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

No, I think the fact that he said, "I'm going to go back there and talk about hard work and contribute to my community," those are all very positive things. A lot of good mojo going for Cleveland.

(OVERTALK)

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

I worked here in Washington for five years and went home to Detroit where my work could matter more. LeBron's doing the same thing.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

The prodigal son, the prodigal son--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

That is the advice right there. An unfair swipe at Bud Light, by the way, in that piece, which is my favorite. I think that was wrong

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

It’s good. It’s the market

(OVERTALK)

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

I mean it’s a long interview. You aired it.

DAVID GREGORY

Jennifer Granholm, let me ask you about the challenges that the president's facing on immigration. Here he is, he loses the shot at getting immigration reform and now this border crisis. And getting a lot of heat from even those in his own party that he doesn't look like he's engaged enough. He's not down on the border looking at it, dealing with it.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Well, I mean it's ridiculous to think that a photo op is going to result in policy. What's going to result in policy is the Republicans in the house actually giving him what he's asking for, which is really what everybody's asking for. They want quick due process.

They want to be able to deport those who are appropriate quickly. They want to be make sure that people are treated humanely on the border so that we don't look like the poster child of some third world country refugee camp. They want to make sure that there's a message sent to Central America that if you send your kids here, our borders are not open. And they want the borders secure.

DAVID GREGORY:

But--

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

All five of those things, Democrats and Republicans want. So there should be no reason

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, then what's holding it up, Kim Strassel?

KIM STRASSEL:

Look, the president here -- people are talking about the photo op. The mistakes were made earlier in this in that he has really set back the cause of immigration reform in this way. The Republicans, it's been a bit of a phony excuse, saying the border's not secure. The border's not secure.

So this presidential action on DACA, the deferred action, it has inspired a lot of people to run up to the border now. And it's given Republicans an additional reason to say, "This is why we couldn't do reform." Now, they bear a responsibility for not taking the road on this as well. But if the president really cares about immigration reform, some of his executive actions in the past have really--

DAVID GREGORY:

But it seems--

KIM STRASSEL:

--helped deter this.

DAVID GREGORY:

--seems to me, Rick Santorum, part of this is what kind of country do we want to be. You have a lot of tension about the circumstances that some, especially children, are going through to get here and why they want to be here, versus people in communities on the border and beyond saying, "Look, we just can't absorb all of these folks."

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

Well, first up, I disagree with Kim. The border is not secure. It's obviously not secure. So the idea that the Republicans have this phony thing that the border's not secure, it's not phony. I mean you have a half a million people are coming this year--

KIM STRASSEL:

But people are not coming up here to sneak over. The kids who are coming up are saying, "Take me into detention."

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

Well, that's because we have a president who said, "Hey, if you come, you're going to be able to stay because we're not going to enforce the law--"

(OVERTALK)

KIM STRASSEL:

No, he did not say that. He did not say that.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Stephen, if you can answer that point, because they obviously push back hard on that.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Yes. I think what the president was saying is that for the people who know no other country than this one, this should be home and you should not be sent away. That's not the same as inviting--

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

Well, you're saying no other country. These are people who came here illegally, so they obviously knew no other country at some point--

(OVERTALK)

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Children.

KIM STRASSEL:

--who had been here forever.

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

But that's the point. Well they didn't say decades. They said if they're here. And so one they get here they're going to be here. And then there will be those children who no know no other country. But see, that was the message that was sent. Obviously the message that was sent, because

(OVERTALK)

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Don’t you think the bigger picture--

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

you have tens of thousands of children coming.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can I ask, go ahead.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Isn’t the bigger picture here about a country, the sons and daughters of immigrants, sitting--

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

As I am.

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

--around this table, yourself included, saying to other people who want no more or less than what your family had. The opportunity to be part of the greatest nation on Earth. And we're saying to them, with our broader policy, that we aren't going to welcome them--

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

That's not--

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

-- anymore.

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

First off, we are accepting more legal immigrants than we ever have in the history--

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

From some countries.

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

It's all chain immigration. And it's from the very countries that people have been coming from, because most of the immigration is tied to people who are already here.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get into, just as the president wants some action with this with Congress, we've got the specter of Congress suing the president. Talk of impeachment that Boehner struck down. But this is now becoming a huge fundraising opportunity on both sides, Kim Strassel. To what end are we seeing all of this?

KIM STRASSEL:

Look, I think there's been a lot of talk about whether or not John Boehner didn't do this to gin up his base this fall. But I think that that's actually unfair. If you look at the suit that they're putting together, there's actually been a lot of attention and focus on doing it in a very legally-specific way because there's a huge belief among Republicans that in fact the president has been exceeding his authority.

So they're going to do this in a very narrow way. They're going to look at this particular question of the employer mandate and the fact that the law very clearly said it had to go into effect at a certain time and the president has unilaterally changed that. So there's a lot of substance behind this.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

If a Republican president were taking these steps on the Affordable Care Act, Democrats would be crying foul?

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Oh, except for George Bush took these very steps when he passed Medicare Part D and took some time to implement pieces of it. Nobody raised it by then. This case is complete hogwash. I mean it is as Akhil Amar--

DAVID GREGORY:

That's a legal term, right?

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Well, right. Akhil Amar was a legal scholar at Yale.

(OVERTALK)

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

It's the legal equivalence of birtherism. It's not going to fly. But the reality is, does anybody see the irony in the fact that John Boehner's House voted last year 264-161 to actually delay the very provision that he's suing to have the president enforce right now? There is a bit of irony in this.

DAVID GREGORY:

Rick, can you answer for me kind of where you see this year in Republican presidential politics? I ask this as a piece of that debate. The party on immigration. The party debating itself over foreign policy. National security policy. And then these kinds of grassroots issues on healthcare and the like.

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

As I've talked about it across the country, we're a very divided party right now. And I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. We're having really good debates within the party about our position on national security, our position on immigration, a whole lot of other things.

What we need, though, is a positive vision. One of the reasons I wrote blue collar conservatives just recently, was to provide a positive way forward for the conservative movement, because right now we're arguing about a lot of things that are not, in my opinion, core to where the American public's concerns are. And the American public's concern is that middle income Americans, lower income Americans, aren't rising. Aren't seeing the opportunities. And that's what we have to focus on.

DAVID GREGORY:

The Obama economy. One of the issues too is the president's leadership. And for the table here, with about a minute left, this question of Iran and its nuclear weapons. Even if there is a deal, Kim, there's going to be a tough sell to Congress to say, "Okay, we think we've got a deal with Iran. We should ease up on the sanctions." It doesn't seem like either party is very willing to let the president get that deal.

KIM STRASSEL:

This is, again, a good example of bipartisanship in Congress. Is both in the Senate and in the House, Democrats and Republicans, they don't want to go backwards. They want tougher sanctions.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

KIM STRASSEL:

And that's one thing--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Does it resonate at home for you, this idea of the threat from Iran whether they have a nuclear weapon?

STEPHEN HENDERSON:

Absolutely. I mean I think anyone on the globe thinks that we don't need more nuclear states in general. And we certainly don't need this state, which has shown itself to be responsive. The interview you had earlier today shows how irrational the thinking is.

DAVID GREGORY:

And do you believe them? You've worked on these issues long and hard in Congress--

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

Well, we were in the green room watching your interview and all, Democrats, Republicans, we were all laughing.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Yes. Not at you

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

This is not--

(OVERTALK)

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

Well--

DAVID GREGORY

Yeah

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

But no, we were laughing at him saying, "He must have the toughest job." I wanna go after him lying, just bald face, irrational lying. No one believes him. Nobody on either side of the aisle believes that these folks are trustworthy partners.

DAVID GREGORY:

I think it is striking that the Republican is likely, in 2016, to argue for a restoration of American leadership in the world, which eight years later is precisely how President Obama, Barack Obama, ran at the time.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Well, I think that is interesting. That the Republicans have an internal debate, as we've seen with--

DAVID GREGORY:

They do.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

--the missive that Rick Perry just lobbed against rand Paul on Friday, calling him an isolationist. So they've got to resolve their own internal disputes--

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

I'm with Rick Perry on that.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Pull out that seat and break out the popcorn as we watch what happens.

(OVERTALK)

FMR. SEN. RICK SANTORUM:

It's a legitimate debate, and we have to have one, but I know the Republicans are gonna come down.

DAVID GREGORY:

Okay, we’re going to take a break here. Coming up, the terrorist threat from the group known as ISIS, more of my interview with Iran’s Foreign Minister -- why he says that that terrorist group must be driven from Iraq and Syria, coming up.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Now, more of my exclusive interview with Iran’s foreign minister in Vienna. We discussed his views of the broader Middle East, particularly whether the U.S. and Iran are unlikely allies in Iraq.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me ask you about Iraq. How will Iran use its influence there? Does Nouri al-Maliki have to go?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Well, we believe that's a question and a decision that the Iraqis will have to decide.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

No one believes that you don't have tremendous influence over that government.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

We do have tremendous influence because we have followed correct policies. We have followed the choices of the people. In Afghanistan. In Iraq. In the rest of the region. And that is why we exercise great influence there. Not because we have military power. Not because we try to control people. But because we've tried to respect people.

And my advice to the United States would be do the same. Try to respect the Iranians. Try to respect the Iraqis. Try to respect people in our region. And it works much better for your interests and for the future. So that respect requires us to do two things. First of all, now that it's a very dangerous terrorist onslaught on Iraq, which does not target only the Shia population in Iraq, but targets every member of the Iraqi society.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

You're talking about ISIS.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

I'm talking about--

DAVID GREGORY:

-- Iraq.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

The so called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. It has killed more Sunnis in Syria than it has killed Shias. And it is putting more Sunnis in jeopardy in Iraq than the past with Shias. So we need to address that very serious problem, which is going to be a major security problem, not just for Iraq but for Saudi Arabia, for Syria, for Turkey, for everybody.

DAVID GREGORY:

For Iran as well.

(OVERTALK)

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Well, Iran as well.

DAVID GREGORY:

Which begs the question.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

All of the region.

DAVID GREGORY:

Does Iran feel that it is common cause with the United States for the future of Iraq? Would you like to see it stay together? Do you think it'll break apart?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

I believe Iraq, it is in the interests of everybody, and I mean everybody, in the interest of stability in our region, to keep territorial integrity of Iraq. To keep Iraq one. All attempts to break out are short sighted and will hurt even those who are trying to do it. So it is in the interests of not only Iran but the United States and all other countries--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

How does Iran and the United States come together to defeat ISIS?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

We need to be on principles. We need to respect the choices of the Iraqi people. We need to use whatever influences we have in Iraq, as well as in Afghanistan for instance. In order to convince various portions inside the country that the best way to move forward is through inclusivity. Is through working together.

And that is the call that we have made to every element of Iraqi society. We are in contact with various people inside Iraq. We have been in contact before this very horrific incident of the attack by ISIS. And we continue to call on all forces in Iraq to work together to form an inclusive government that represent and respect the wishes of the Iraqi people. Now, whoever the Iraqi politic-- Iraqi parliament can come up with as a speaker of the parliament and as the prime minister, Iran would respect as a neighboring contributing influence. Our advice to them is not to pick this man over this person but our advice to them is to pick a government that can represent the entire Iraq and that can bring peace and stability to the region.

DAVID GREGORY:

170,000 people have been killed in Syria. A third of them civilians. Why does Iran continue to support the Assad regime?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

The question is why the United States continues to support forces like ISIS that are wreaking havoc in this region. This is the problem. The United States and some of its western allies have--

DAVID GREGORY:

But that's the--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Is it fair to say the United State is supporting ISIS?

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Or other opposition groups?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

The United States is supporting those who are trying to dismantle Syria. To destroy Syria using these tactics. You cannot pick and choose. This is the reality of what--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Isn't that what Iran is doing?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

This is the reality of the situation in Syria. We have called from the very beginning to respect the will of the Syrian people, to allow the Syrian people to determine their future. To allow the Syrian people to use political processes in order to attain the objective. How has--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But Minister, this is the force of Assad’s fist, it’s not the will of the people, is it?

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

No.

DAVID GREGORY:

You talk the will of the people.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Not only that. It's not. It's the number of Syrians who turned out to vote in Lebanon, who were not worried about Assad’s fist. The problem is we're not supporting an individual or any specific group. What we are saying is why don't the United States abandon its idea of putting preconditions on the Syrian people about who they decide to govern them.

Let the political process form. Let the Syrian people have the will and have the chance to determine their own future. You want this for yourself. Have the respect. I think in dealing with our region that's the key word. Have the respect to allow people to make their own decisions. Don't make our decisions for us. Let us make our own decisions and we will have a much more secure and better world.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me come back to where we began with a final question on the nuclear talks. You said repeatedly it's so important for the West, meaning America, to respect Iran. It seems like a big issue for America and the West, is trust of Iran.

And there are several points that seem to go to that mistrust. Efforts to conceal nuclear facilities by Iran like Fordo. Inspectors still haven't gotten access to a facility that's near Tehran. Iran has studied how long it would take to actually produce a weapon, so that mindset has been there.

And President Rouhani, as has been released before, has written in his book, talking three years ago about how in the past he would negotiate with the West to buy time so that Iran could further develop its nuclear program. If you take those things together, can you understand how people feel like there's something going on here that Iran doesn't want the world to see.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Well, if I may, first of all, all of this does not happen in a vacuum. Why did Iran need to conceal its program? And everything we did was lawful, but the minute we made it public the United States would try to prevent our access to various facilities. Even to fuel for its own built reactor, the United States prevented it.

Now, nobody can question that we own uranium enrichment facilities outside Iran. We own 10% of EURODIF. But we haven't been able to get a gram of EURODIF. You keep talking about the facility, the Fordo facility. When the United States talk about bombing the Iranian facilities out of existence, what do you expect Iran to do? Iran would create a facility that is not susceptible to being bombed.

That is what any rational country would do. It's not that we want to build nuclear weapons in that facility. It's our program. You threatening it, not you, the United States government and Israel is threatening to attack it. To use bunker busters to destroy it. So we need to take it to a place that it cannot be destroyed.

So you talked about other facilities. If you are a cancer patient in Iran and need radio isotopes in order to get treatment, you cannot get it. You can only get one dose after going through several different procedures. And even that you cannot do now because all the banks have been bullied by the United States not to accept Iranian money. So you've got to put cash in a suitcase, take it to somewhere in Europe, buy a single dose of radio isotopes to be able to treat the cancer patient.

You put a country with the manpower, with the technology, with the human resource, with scientists. Most of the Iranian scientists working in the United States are among the best scientists. So we have the intellectual capacity. A country with all of this, with the wealth, with the resources, you deprived it of the ability to gain access to international markets. And then you expect it to simply sit and lie quietly. It won't happen.

What we need to do is to establish a new paradigm. That new paradigm is to provide incentives for Iran to stick to a strategic doctrine that we do not need nuclear weapons, but we cannot be deprived of the science and technology that the rest of the world has.

I can assure you, I can assure you, that within the next 11 days, we can reach an agreement that would put all the concerns, all the concerns that are serious, if you want not to be allayed of your concern then you will never be allayed. But if you want to address these concerns, then all of these concerns can be addressed.

If you're talking about even a hypothetical breakout, we can extend this breakout to over three to four years. Not three to four months, but in reality to three to four years. In every aspect of our nuclear program. So that it will not be even conceivable to people for Iran to go for a bomb. We are prepared to do all of that, but in a realistic framework and we have presented ideas about it. We are engaged in very serious discussions with our partners in Five Plus One. I hope that they are working on the basis of the realities and not on the basis of illusions.

DAVID GREGORY:

We’ll leave it there. Foreign Minister, thank you very much.

MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Jeffrey Goldberg is here now, columnist at Bloomberg View, national correspondent for The Atlantic. And Jeffrey, a lot of our audience may not have heard Foreign Minister Zarif in that kind of detail. What's the reality check on his views and what he's saying?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

It's a breathtaking interview. Breathtakingly audacious. I mean let's just take Syria, just as one example. His government, the Iranian government, is the prime supporter of the Assad regime, which has used chemical weapons and chlorine gas and barrel bombs to murder, among others, thousands of children, innocent children. More than 9,000 children have been murdered by the Assad regime. So put aside everything else, just that alone, makes--

DAVID GREGORY:

And the Iraq issue stood out to you as well?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Well, this is one of the cosmic jokes of what he's saying, is for years the Iranian government was directly responsible for killing probably 1,500 American soldiers in Iraq. Now, all they want is for America to come back and kill Iran's Sunni enemies. So I mean there's an audacity to many of the things that he said that are shocking.

DAVID GREGORY:

So this whole debate about Iran's nuclear weapons. They have nuclear capacity. They say they don't want a weapon.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

We talked about the politics of selling this to Congress. May be tough for President Obama right now. What about just the facts here for the region? What is the danger?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

The danger is that this is a country that destabilizes the entire region. That supports terrorist groups. I mean let's not forget, this country is considered the prime sponsor, state sponsor, of terrorism in the world by the Obama State Department. So do you want the prime state sponsor of terrorism in the world to have nuclear weapons? Obviously they have a nuclear program--

DAVID GREGORY:

And you think they want the weapons?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

They spent billions and billions on developing intercontinental ballistic missiles. There's only one reason to have ballistic missiles and that's to put nuclear warheads on them. And we know from every source, the international community, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N., every intelligence agency around the world, they obviously are trying to get to the point where they can reach the nuclear threshold and break out if they want. That's why these negotiations are so important.

DAVID GREGORY:

And that's why they might not work?

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

And they may not work here in the end.

JEFFREY GOLDBERG:

Well, what we know is that because of the pressure of the Obama administration and Congress and the international community the Iranians agreed to go to negotiations. What we don't know is whether the supreme leader, the guy he works for, would ever agree to dismantle those programs.

DAVID GREGORY:

And that's the key issue. You cover the region widely, so thanks for that reality check this morning, Jeffrey Goldberg.

A note here. You can also see the extended version of the interview with Foreign Minister Zarif on our website - MeetthePressNBC.com. I ask him among other things about internet freedom or the lack thereof in Iran. We’re back here in sixty seconds with the big question that will drive the political conversation here in Washington this week.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Finally from us here, the week's big question in politics. The politics of immigration. The president's Katrina moment or a GOP dodge. Rick Santorum, you start us off.

RICK SANTORUM:

I think optics matter. I think the president not going to the border is the same thing as George Bush flying over New Orleans. I think you have to be there. You have to pay attention. You have to care.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is that just a photo op or something more meaningful?

FMR. SEN RICK SANTORUM:

No, I think you have, David, the substantive question here, give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. That has to mean something.

DAVID GREGORY:

What does America stand for here?

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

I think both--

DAVID GREGORY:

The politics of it here. Still tough for the GOP.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

No, I mean, look, more people are trying to separate this out from comprehensive immigration reform. If we had it, some of this would not be happening at the moment.

DAVID GREGORY:

And this is now a problem on the left for the president who says deport them?

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Well, I don't think it's as much a problem on the left. I do think it is the GOP's Katrina moment.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right, well--

(OVERTALK)

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Because they haven’t done--

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman Castro disagrees with the president's approach.

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

Well, but--

DAVID GREGORY:

Somebody in his own party from Texas--

FMR. GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM:

I don't know that he does. I think that everybody agrees. And the same principles apply. But I do think that the GOP failing to do what the president is asking, and failing on immigration, really it's a problem for them.

DAVID GREGORY:

Alright, we've got to go. Thank you all very much. Appreciate you being here. You can find the big question and weigh in with your response on our facebook page. That’s all for today. We’ll be back next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet the Press.

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