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Meet the Press Transcript - June 1, 2014

MEET THE PRESS -- SUNDAY, JUNE 1, 2014

DAVID GREGORY:

Next on Meet the Press: The nightmare is over for America's last prisoner of the Afghanistan war, Bowe Bergdahl. He's a free man after nearly five years in Taliban captivity. But despite the obvious good news, there are concerns over the fact that he was released in exchange for five Taliban prisoners from the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Has a dangerous precedent been set? I'll ask Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel who joins me exclusively from Afghanistan.

And following his exclusive interview with Brian Williams, Edward Snowden has been called a traitor and a coward by Secretary of State John Kerry. But after hearing him speak, does the American public agree? We'll bring you the results of a brand new NBC News poll. Plus, reporting the reality of war. Ahead of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, our Tom Brokaw is with us. He'll have a fascinating report on how the battlefield experience shaped the vision of one of Hollywood's most iconic directors.

ANNOUNCER:

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

DAVID GREGORY:

Good morning. On a particular busy Sunday morning, Bowe Bergdahl was transferred immediately from Afghanistan to a U.S. Medical center in Germany. Earlier, I was joined exclusively from Afghanistan by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. But first, our chief Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski, has the remarkable story of Sergeant Bergdahl's capture, detention, and release.

(BEGIN TAPE)

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI:

In the White House Rose Garden with President Obama late Saturday, Bowe Bergdahl's parents sounded totally overwhelmed by the news.

BOWE BERGDAHL'S MOTHER:

We will continue to stay strong for Bowe while he recovers. Thank you.

BOWE BERGDAHL'S FATHER:

Thank you so much. We just can't communicate the words this morning when we heard from the president.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI:

Five years ago, in June 2009, Private Bowe Bergdahl walked away from his combat outpost in Afghanistan and was taken captive by the Taliban.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:

What's your name?

BOWE BERGDAHL:

My name is Bowe Bergdahl.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI:

Three weeks later, his captors released the five of five hostage videos.

BOWE BERGDAHL:

Well, I'm scared, scared I won’t be able to go home.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI:

By Christmas, the Taliban was using Bergdahl as a propaganda tool. Apparently under duress, he spoke out against the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan.

BOWE BERGDAHL:

And I'm afraid to tell you that this war has slipped from our fingers.

JIM MIKLASZEWSKI:

It took two years for the first sign of a breakthrough. The Taliban offered to free Bergdahl in exchange for the release of five Taliban leaders held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. But U.S. defense and intelligence officials at the time considered the five among the most dangerous at Guantanamo. And in secret Pentagon documents, obtained by Wikileaks, the five detainees were all described as mid- to senior-level Taliban, high risk, likely threat to the U.S., and recommended for continued detention.

But with the U.S. war in Afghanistan winding down, there was increasing pressure on the White House and Pentagon to get Bergdahl released before most American military pulled out of the country. So five years after he was taken captive, Bowe Bergdahl was freed this weekend. Only six hours later, the five Taliban detainees were on a U.S. military transport plane to Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, the Pentagon.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Earlier I spoke exclusively, as I say, with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. He was at Bagram Air Base near Kabul in Afghanistan. I began by asking him about those reports that the timing of this operation was prompted by concerns about Bergdahl's health.

(BEGIN TAPE)

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, David, as you know, he has been held for five years. And that's five years of very difficult living. And we don't know yet all the specifics and details. He is in Landstuhl, Germany, in our medical facility there. Our healthcare professionals are now with him and they will be giving him complete checkups.

We will be giving him exactly what he needs. And until we get his evaluations we just don't know much more. Although, he did walk to the extraction helicopter. He did perform the basic duties and responsibilities when that process took place. But beyond that, I wouldn't want to speculate.

DAVID GREGORY:

Can you take us inside what happened? How you were actually able to get him? How these negotiations proceeded with the Taliban?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, first I want to congratulate, again, all who had something to do with this. But also to thank the emir of Qatar, the Qatari government, and all the people in Qatar who helped make this occur. The transaction really was done by the Qatar government and the emir's commitment to getting that accomplished. We facilitated that in different ways. But in the interest of our own intelligence and procedures, I don't want to go much further than that.

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is potentially a good sign, if you think about the future of Afghanistan. If Bergdahl was held by the Haqqani network, really the hardened Taliban fighters who operate out of Pakistan, does this pave the way for perhaps a new round of negotiations with the Taliban, directly between the United States and the Taliban, about the Taliban's future in running Afghanistan?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, it could, it might, and we hope it will present an opening. As you know, we have strongly supported an Afghan-led effort to come to an agreement with the Taliban. As you know, we had engaged with the Taliban up until 2012. They broke off those negotiations. We've had no formal relationship since then. So maybe this will be a new opening that can produce an agreement.

DAVID GREGORY:

There is some blowback to what is being treated as very good news, the release of the prisoner. Some in the United States, members of Congress, have said, "Look, Congress is supposed to be consulted before there's any prisoner exchange." Especially prisoners from Guantanamo Bay. Hardened Taliban fighters who have been linked to killing Americans in the theater of war in Afghanistan.

The chairman of the Intelligence Committee, Republican Mike Rogers, issued a statement saying, "This fundamental shift in U.S. policy signals to terrorists around the world a greater incentive to take U.S. hostages." Further, he said, "I have little confidence in the security assurances regarding the movement and activities of the now-released Taliban leaders. And I have even less confidence in the administration's willingness to ensure that they are enforced." Are these prisoners being released from Guantanamo a national security threat to the United States or our allies?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, David, let's slow down for a minute and back up and look at the facts here. Sergeant Bergdahl is a member of the United States Army. This was a prisoner exchange after five years he'd been a prisoner of war. As to notification of Congress, yes, there is a 30-day notification. I notified the appropriate committee leadership, different committee leadership yesterday. That's part of the responsibility I have as the secretary of defense.

And we did this under the timeline we did it for the very reason that I explained when you asked me the first question. This was, potentially, in our opinion, to save the life of Sergeant Bergdahl. As I said before, we had information that his health could be deteriorating rapidly. There was a question about his safety. And we found an opportunity. We took that opportunity. I'll stand by that decision. I signed off on the decision. The president made the ultimate decision. We did spend time looking at this.

As to Guantanamo, the president made very clear he wants to close Guantanamo. We do have responsibilities that we don't let anyone out of Guantanamo, and I will not sign off on any detainee coming out of Guantanamo unless I am assured, unless our government assured, our country can be assured that we can sufficiently mitigate any risk to American security.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you worry about a precedent here, Mr. Secretary? The prospect that prisoners of Guantanamo could be sought after by the Taliban or other terrorist groups? That other troops could be vulnerable now, other Americans could be vulnerable because the government could be accused here, in effect, of negotiating with terrorists?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, first of all, we didn't negotiate with terrorists. As I said and explained before, Sergeant Bergdahl was a prisoner of war. That's a normal process in getting your prisoners back. That's first. Second, as to your bigger question, we are dealing with terrorism and hostage-taking all the time, everywhere.

I think America's record is pretty clear on going after terrorists, especially those who take hostages. And I don't think what we did in getting our prisoner of war released in any way would somehow encourage terrorists to take our American servicemen prisoner or hostage. In war, things are always dangerous, and there are vulnerabilities, as there are around the world. But our record, the United States of America, in dealing with terrorists, in finding and hunting down those terrorists, is pretty good, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to ask you one more about this. What about an investigation into what happened here? As we have reported, this was five years ago when Sergeant Bergdahl essentially left his command post. There are questions about why that happened. That was mysterious. His father was saying that he was having some difficulty speaking English upon his release. What questions would drive an investigation for you?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, first of all, we are focused on, as we have accomplished in the last few hours, the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl. He is a member of the United States armed forces. Second, our priority now is to get him all the care he needs so that he can be integrated back into society. And third is, at the same time, the reunification with his family. That's our focus now, and that's going to continue to be our focus.

DAVID GREGORY:

But is there anything that concerns you, that has raised a red flag for you, that you'd like to get to the bottom of regarding his original disappearance and captivity, and the circumstances of him now? Particularly the question that it didn't seem as to why he was struggling to speak English now?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, David, he's been held by the Taliban, we don't know where and we don't know under what circumstances, for five years. As far as we know, he was not held with any other Americans or any English-speaking people. We don't know that yet.

I'm not surprised that there are still questions. And until we get the facts exactly what the condition of Sergeant Bergdahl is, we can't go much further in speculating. But, you know, this is a guy who probably went through hell for the last five years. And let's focus on getting him well and getting him back with his family.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you specifically believe that he was tortured?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

I don't know. Again, David, I don't know until we can work this through. But, again, the first issue is his health, and then we'll get into all the other parts as to what his conditions were like and the follow-on questions to his captivity..

DAVID GREGORY:

Mr. Secretary, I just want to touch on the other big story this week of course, and that is Secretary of the Veterans' Affairs Administration Shinseki resigning amid this scandal within the V.A. There are questions about the care that veterans are getting today and the lack of service that they have gotten as the internal audit has found. You've got some 22,000 veterans from Afghanistan, where you are, who will be returning home. How does this get fixed going forward?

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL:

Well, it must be fixed. That's first. Let me first address General Shinseki. As President Obama said in thanking him for his service to our country over an entire career, we owe Shinseki that debt of gratitude for his service.

Now, the bigger issue, which you have just asked me about: There are problems. We know from the V.A.'s inspector general's early and initial investigation that they are probably systemic. We need more facts. But the fact is, as President Obama said, we are going to act now. We must act now to fix whatever is wrong.

I'm committed to do that, as secretary of defense, to continue to help Veterans' Administration leaders. We do that now. We work very closely with the Veterans' Administration. We'll continue to do that. We'll continue to offer everything we can offer in order assist them. But we have no higher responsibility in our country than to take care of these men and women whose selfless service we depended on, and continue to depend on to this day. And we'll fix it.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

For more reaction to that interview, I'm joined now by Michael Leiter, national security analyst for NBC News, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center. And, Michael, I want to focus on these Guantanamo prisoners who were released. According to McClatchy this morning, the five detainees were on the Obama administration's list of detainees to be held indefinitely without charges. How big of a risk now to release these detainees to Qatar?

MICHAEL LEITER:

This is significant, David. There's always a range of people in Guantanamo. There are low-level fighters all the way up to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the core Al Qaeda operatives. These guys are very close to the Khalid Sheikh Mohammeds. They're not core Al Qaeda, but they were serious leaders: the deputy defense minister of the Taliban, the head of the intelligence organization, a key governor.

These are people who helped lead Taliban's relationship with Al Qaeda pre-9/11, helped fight against U.S. interests post-2001. And they will be, in the coming years, once they're finally released from Qatar, they I think will be key in the future in the Taliban.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, and they could be back in Afghanistan. You're a terrorism expert; part of your job in the government was to protect America or our forces in the field in war against terrorists. What's changed that would make the administration think, "It's okay to take this risk now"? We wouldn't have done it a couple years ago.

MICHAEL LEITER:

One key change: The war is coming to an end. The president's announcement-- it's coincidental that this released happened the same week as 9,800 troops now; no troops by 2016. But the fact is, we are winding things down. We are leaving Afghanistan. During the period where we had 10,000, 20,000, 50,000 troops in Afghanistan, you couldn't let people like this out. This is an exclamation point on the fact that we are withdrawing, and this is now for the asking.

DAVID GREGORY:

But what about Guantanamo Bay and these other prisoners? I mean, are they in effect bargaining chips on the intelligent scene?

MICHAEL LEITER:

Well, this is a very difficult position, and I think actually getting more of them out will be harder now because of congressional reaction to the president's release in this case. There are still many people there who we cannot let go.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Michael Leiter, thanks so much for your expertise this morning. I'm joined now by Paul Rieckoff, he's the founder and CEO of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Adam Kinzinger, Republican congressman from Illinois. He is an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, still serves as a pilot in the Air National Guard.

I have you both here to talk about the fallout from the V.A. scandal, Shinseki's resignation, and where things go. Congressman, let me start with you though on this key point about the release of the Taliban prisoners. As a member of Congress, a Republican, do you oppose what you just heard from Secretary Hagel, and his rationale for releasing those prisoners?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER:

Look, let me say this: Welcome home, Bowe. There's a lot of questions about why he got captured, as you tried to get an answer to, that you did not an answer to, in terms of abandoning his post. So I'm going to celebrate him coming home.

The release of five mid- to high-level Taliban is shocking to me, especially without coming to Congress. It says in the law you have to notify Congress. I mean, putting five people potentially back on the battlefield; even though our troops are out in 2016, which I think is shocking that the president once again went along with a timeline, just like he did in Iraq. Now we're going to have five people potentially on the ground targeting American troops, Afghan troops, and the Afghan people. There's a lot of questions that need to be asked here. This whole exchange is shocking to me, and I'm very disappointed.

DAVID GREGORY:

Paul, any veteran has to celebrate this moment, when a comrade comes home. The question though about what happened here: Walking off his post; the questions now about what happened to him in captivity, difficulty speaking English. What questions would you want to know more about?

PAUL RIECKHOFF:

Well, we just want to welcome him home. I mean, we have to underscore that point. This guy has been in captivity for five years. Most of America forgot his name or never knew it to begin with, and the veterans community, the military community, has been tracking him.

This is more important message that's been sent to our forces, that, "We will always come for you." I was taught that in basic training. "If you are captured, America will not forget about you and we will come for you." And that's an important message to send to our troops now, and forever.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get right to the V.A. scandal. Here's what the president said: "Shinseki's out. We gotta make sure the veterans who are not getting the care one by one get the care." But there are needs. What specific needs are there right now that the government has to address?

PAUL RIECKHOFF:

Well, first of all, we've got to clean house. I mean, the V.A. has a systemic problem, so we need a total turnaround. This is not something where we can middle around the edges; this has to be a national call to action, a defining moment for the president and for our country to finally step up and support our veterans. So who we name now will be key. It's unfortunate that we didn't have someone ready, given that the scandal took four weeks--

DAVID GREGORY:

How is it--

PAUL RIECKHOFF:

--to unfold.

DAVID GREGORY:

--that Shinseki didn't know? How did this bad news not get to him?

PAUL RIECKHOFF:

You know, I don't know. We've been trying to tell him. There have been congressional testimonies. Me personally; every other veterans' group in the country have been trying to warn him, trying to warn the president. The IG report has been supported by dozens of other IG reports, GA reports; they didn't listen. And now is the time for us to turn the corner, listen to our veterans, listen to their needs. And let's finally turn this around because it's dogged our country for decades.

DAVID GREGORY:

Congressman, I want to know the answer to that question, which is Shinseki apparently didn't know and that enraged him, as the president said the other day, but how didn't he know? That's the key part of this that you have to be wondering about as well.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER:

Yes, I think that is the key. I mean, a good leader knows what his subordinates are doing. And if he doesn't have control over his subordinates, he really gets in there and figures it out. And so I think that is a question.

Look, I don't want to impugn the reputation of General Shinseki. He was a great guy. But I thought it was time for him to go, to get new blood in there. And the new person, whoever long term it ends up being, I want to see people fired. I want to see people prosecuted by the law for those that created this secret waiting list.

That's what we have to do next: Clean house, as Paul said. We need to say, "Hey, those in the background, you can go to a private doctor. You can get some things taken care of." We have to get dead serious about this. This is not the end; this is the beginning of taking--

(OVERTALK)

REP. ADAM KINZINGER:

--control of the V.A.

DAVID GREGORY:

There's been so much information, I want to put a graphic on the screen to remind our viewers about some of the key points here about the wait for care. This is what the inspector general found: 1,700 veterans, not even on an official appointment waiting list. An average wait of 115 days for a first appointment. Hospital leadership, quote, "significantly understated time the veterans waited for first appointment." Paul, your experience with veterans, is this a fair statement: "They're happy with the care, once they get it"?

PAUL RIECKHOFF:

Yes, quality care is generally good, but access to care has been horrible, and continues to be horrible. And this is not an isolated situation.

DAVID GREGORY:

And they needs are greater.

PAUL RIECKHOFF:

The needs are greater, and they're growing. This is not an isolated situation. The IG was investigating 41 other cities, so this scandal is very far from over. We need folks to know that now the fact that Shinseki's gone is a good step, but the new person has to be in power. We need oversight. We need accountability. We need influx of technology, and talent. And we need America to stay focused.

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, focus, and this is a key question for Congress, Congressman, which is are you prepared not just to see people fired and prosecuted. Are you prepared to vote to spend more money to give the V.A. more doctors, more resources to deal with this growing need?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER:

Well, look, the V.A. budget is much higher than it was ten years ago. It's going to continue to increase. And I think you'll see Congress-- we've always put our military and our veterans above almost anything we do, it's so very important. So, yes, you'll see a willing Congress.

You've seen the chairman of the V.A., Chairman Jeff Miller has been very big on this, talking about access to care for veterans. But the key is, the answer is not just throwing more money at a problem. The key is holding people responsible that aren't having outcomes, getting to the bottom of what the problems are, and ensuring that they have the best quality of care.

So we'll spend what we need to, but the answer isn't just to spend more money on a problem. The answer is to get real outcomes, and I think we can do that. And hopefully the new secretary and the president himself will take a keen interest in this, and we can see some results finally.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, Congressman Kinzinger, thanks so much, as well. Paul Rieckhoff as well.

BOTH:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you here. We wanted to get some more reaction on this scandal in the V.A. Our Kevin Tibbles visited one of the largest military bases in the country and found grave concern, as you might imagine, about the future of the U.S. military and how we care for our troops at home. It is today's Meeting America.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Fayetteville, North Carolina, is Army through and through. Its neighbor, Fort Bragg, is home to more soldiers than any other base in the country. And today, people are reeling from the resignation of the secretary of the V.A. and what they see as the mistreatment of this nation's veterans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:

You recommend the hushpuppies?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:

Yes.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

And at Grandson's, where folks flock to the lunch hour buffer to chow down and chat, they are steaming.

ROCHELLE JAMES:

I think it's just the message that, "We don't care. You know, we understand you went over there, you served our country, you done your job. But, you know, now that you're back home, we don't care."

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Rochelle James' husband was deployed a year in Iraq. She says the V.A. is overwhelmed, understaffed, and that the departure of General Shinseki solves little.

ROCHELLE JAMES:

I think he's just a figurehead. I don't think he's the actual problem.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

And as the longest wars in our nation's history slowly wind down, they ask, "Isn't that when soldiers need the V.A. most?" Jane Bell's son is in the Navy.

JANE BELL:

If they understood what military families go through since Iraq and Afghanistan, and honestly truly cared what they go through, we wouldn't even be talking about this.

JERRY HALL:

We owe them everything that we can give them.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Jerry Hall wore the green beret in Vietnam.

JERRY HALL:

It's very upsetting. It's individuals who are concerned about greed and getting their bonus over the welfare of our veterans. And that is criminal.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Jerry has come to the Airborne & Special Operations Museum to remember those who fought alongside him.

JERRY HALL:

I think our foreign policy right now is weak. It's ambiguous. We're not sure, you know, exactly what we want to do. And our potential adversaries, they see that, and they take advantage of it.

JANE BELL:

We have way too many deployments, and families are literally being torn apart. We don't belong policing everyone anymore.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

Some question how America can claim to be all-powerful when it leaves those who have served it powerless.

ROCHELLE JAMES:

As a nation, I think it says that we are looking more for power instead of being compassionate. We want to be on top all the time. You can't be on top all the time and still take care of home.

KEVIN TIBBLES:

They want veterans to get the care they have earned. And they're convinced the V.A. needs more than simply a shakeup at the very top. For Meet the Press, Kevin Tibbles.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Thanks so much, Kevin. Coming up next here, Hillary Clinton at war with her critics over Benghazi. Our roundtable debates if the latest strike, in her book, is helping or hurting her presidential cause. And traitor or patriot? Following his exclusive interview with Brian Williams, what does the public think of Edward Snowden? And how did views change? We'll bring you the results of an exclusive new NBC News poll.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Good week of politics, and the roundtable's here. I'm joined now by Jane Harman, former Democratic congresswoman from California, now president and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Newt Gingrich, former Republican speaker of the House between '95 and '99, who ran for president in 2012; Rana Foroohar, who is the assistant managing editor at Time magazine; and our own political director, Chuck Todd.

So, so many issues here, but I want to talk about Edward Snowden because it's been such an interesting conversation, I think, for the country after Brian Williams' exclusive interview with him this week. And we wanted to know just how his own words, speaking to the public, might have changed views. And, Chuck, you did some new polling around this to gauge people's attitudes. Let's look at some of those findings that you put together.

(BEGIN TAPE)

CHUCK TODD:

Yeah, let's do. New polling we conducted before and after Snowden's exclusive interview with Brian Williams, that we are revealing for the first time here, shows at least for now his appearance does not seem to have changed many minds.

More Americans disagree with Snowden's decision to leak N.S.A. documents than agree; that number essentially unchanged from a January 2014 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. When it comes to Snowden himself, 27% of those surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of him while only 13% view him positively.

But note the age gap: When it is limited to 18 to 34 year olds, the numbers nearly flip. 32% view Snowden positively, 20% negatively. And that younger support may be reflected in the shift of the conversation online. Thousands of tweets poured in and tracking data from NBC News show responses to the hashtag "patriot" or "traitor" were neck and neck leading up to the interview. But once Snowden started talking, the hashtag "patriot" took the lead and ultimately won out by nearly 20 points. What's next for Snowden? One thing that's clear from his interview, he wants a deal.

EDWARD SNOWDEN:

Whether amnesty or clemency ever becomes a possibility is not for me to say. That's a debate for the public and the government to decide. But if I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home.

CHUCK TODD:

And that's exactly what critics and government officials say he should do.

REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

As far as I'm concerned, he needs to come to the United States, he needs to face justice.

CHUCK TODD:

Famed whistleblower and leaker of the Pentagon Papers, Daniel Ellsberg, disagrees.

DANIEL ELLSBERG:

He knows that he could not get a fair trial. He could only inform the public and inform reporters about the significance of the information he's given to them when he's outside the country.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Interesting, Chuck, that views did not change, that America seems pretty entrenched on this debate about traitor/patriot, good thing/bad thing that he did.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, it is. And there's always been-- you know, on Snowden, it really has been in threes, I would say. Like, there's a third that really are hyper "traitor," hyper "patriot." And then there's a third of the country that has sort of shrugged their shoulders. I think they're disappointed that maybe the president didn't have a conversation about the country about this, wasn't fully honest, but at the same time sees the upside security-wise of some of these surveillance tactics.

So I think that that's what bails the administration out here, because public opinion, I think him personally, you know, if he had 20 million, 30 million, 40 million people viewing him, I think public opinion would flip on him bigger.

DAVID GREGORY:

Newt Gingrich, can you understand-- some people I've talked to this week have been struggling with this. In other words, struggling with the idea that basically who is he to decide, right, what secrets to reveal, but also struggling with the very nature of the program still. And the fact that he is quite eloquent in his description of what he did, and forceful in his own differences. Can you understand people being uncomfortable--

NEWT GINGRICH:

Oh, sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

--with this firm decision?

NEWT GINGRICH:

I understand being uncomfortable. But the fact is, you know, Callista and I went about a week ago and visited the National 9/11 Museum. And I would just urge people to go and visit the National 9/11. What right does any single American have to decide that, more than the president, more than the Congress, they're going to leak our secrets? This is the act of a traitor.

Now, you can decide that's too strong a language. He may be a patriotic traitor. He may think, in his own mind, he did the right thing. This was treason. This was extraordinarily dangerous to the country. And if he gets to decide, what about the next person, and then the person after that? We are in a war with people who want to destroy us. They're very clear about it. And he ended up aiding and abetting the enemy.

DAVID GREGORY:

I just want to offer the other side for a point of discussion, Jane, which is one thing he gets at is that this country did not have a real debate all of these measures. And so there was a security apparatus that was put in place that got beyond the debate of the American public, and Congress failed to really keep that debate going.

JANE HARMAN:

Well, I was there, and we did have a debate once it was disclosed by the Bush administration, in his first term, that the authority used for the program was the president's commander-in-chief authority. And it didn't go through Congress and it didn't comply with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congress amended F.I.S.A. in 2008, and we had a debate. I wish more people had--

CHUCK TODD:

Wait a minute.

JANE HARMAN:

--listened instead of--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--years later we held a debate.

JANE HARMAN:

Well, yes, but four of them were in secret. We had a debate; we tried to amend it earlier. Took a while. Congress doesn't move very fast, especially since Newt left.

(OVERTALK)

JANE HARMAN:

But can I just finish my thought? We should have had a better debate. Labeling this guy a traitor before he's convicted I don't think is fair. But I think what he did was, 1) he wasn't a whistleblower, and, 2) it's not just that he leaked information about so-called spying on Americans. He leaked our technology playbook, and that really compromises--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

But what about what he says, which is you can't prove that there was any real damage done.

JANE HARMAN:

Look, I think--

DAVID GREGORY:

How does he know that, as an out--

(OVERTALK)

RANA FOROOHAR:

Well, right. And I think both sides have some credibility problems. I mean, the fact is that the administration has been evasive and on occasion lied about its espionage tactics. But, on the other hand, I would have more of a belief in Edward Snowden if he wasn't a guest of Vladimir Putin. You know, I think that there are sort of problems on both sides. One of the things that's very interesting to me about your numbers is that younger people have a more favorable impression because they're actually less worried about how their data is used. So that's an interesting juxtaposition.

CHUCK TODD:

Well, they're used to it. I do think there's something in that. On one hand, we're sort of used to the world being that way. On the other hand, I think there is this sense of-- the way young folks I think relate to Snowden goes to this generational, this idea that millennials, "You know what? I'll take it into my own hands. I can do this." So I think there's also part of Edward Snowden that sort of represents I think more of a culture of the millennium.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, Newt, here's Secretary Hagel this morning in our interview when I asked him to respond to what Snowden himself said, which is, "Hey, the government can't prove their claim that my disclosures actually harmed anybody." This is what Secretary Hagel said.

SECRETARY CHUCK HAGEL (ON TAPE):

David, his disclosures have damaged the security of this country, and I'm not going to get into a point-by-point inventory of the specifics of how he's done that. I think it's been very clear: Every responsible position in our government who have had any responsibility for security or intelligence, from N.S.A., from cyber command, the Defense Department, from the State Department, have said the same thing. Let me assure you, there is plenty of evidence. He did damage to the security of this country.

NEWT GINGRICH:

Look, the first time there's a major attack on the United States, all the millennials are going to decide they really want the government to protect them. The core idea here, that one person has the right to judge very complex issues more than the commander-in-chief, more than the Congress, more than the secretary of defense, is an act of such extraordinary arrogance that it threatens the very fabric of our national security.

And people need to understand, this is a big deal. And that this guy is dangerous. And the precedent he sets, if we decide it's okay to be a Snowden, then we are really going to have dramatically crippled our--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

So where to go then, Jane? What is the future for him? He's, I mean, unlikely to get any kind of clemency by any administration.

JANE HARMAN:

Right.

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm sure he wants to come home and wants to cut some deal, but he's not inclined to serve a long prison sentence.

JANE HARMAN:

Well, but let's go through this. He goes to Hawaii, where we have the least secure facilities. He then arranges in advance to have the journalists and the filmmaker before he goes to China. He then goes to Russia. He claims neither country has exploited his information.

He has every right to try to cut a deal. I'm sure that deal won't be enormously favorable to him. But he should cut a deal. He should come back. He should serve prison time. And I think that that's where it should come out. And the lesson to other kids ought to be that, "Watch out here. This is--"

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me--

JANE HARMAN:

--"very dangerous."

DAVID GREGORY:

I want to move on and talk a couple of minutes about Hillary Clinton, the issue of Benghazi, which is going to be a hot political issue here going forward. Her new book, Hard Choices, coming out, and an except released on Politico on Friday. Here's a portion of it in which she engages on this.

"I will not be part of a political slugfest on the backs of dead Americans. It's just plain wrong. It's unworthy of our great country. Those who insist on politicizing the tragedy will have to do so without me." She wants to take this on.

CHUCK TODD:

Yep. And get it out of the way.

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

This is what she's up to, and it's a very concerted effort. You have to be looking at a just as a press rollout, not to judge left or right here. You can be impressed with what they did. They said, "We know that that Benghazi chapter is going to be all the news, and we don't want that to be the news the first time that it comes out."

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. And she--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--is running, and she wants to do all this?

CHUCK TODD:

"We'll leak it early. Second thing we're going to do, we're going to go ahead and go on Fox News." You know that they had been covering Benghazi more than anybody else, and we're going to be able to say, "Brett Baer was able to ask me all these questions about Benghazi." That's all it means, when it comes up in 2015. So you can tell this is a--

DAVID GREGORY:

Is it, though?

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--campaign game plan.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is it, though? What's the key question she's got to face next.

RANA FOROOHAR:

Well, the key question I'd like to see answered in this book is why she was not front and center? Why Susan Rice was the one on the Sunday shows? I think that that's an issue I haven't seen answered in the excerpt. There's a lot of legalese and, you know, I think frankly her tally in being dense is pretty accurate. I don't think that there was anything venal going on. But it's interesting that she was not the front person. And I think she's going to have to answer that question.

DAVID GREGORY:

To you both?

NEWT GINGRICH:

Well-- I actually Boko Haram's going to come back and bite her much more than Benghazi.

DAVID GREGORY:

This was the--

(OVERTALK)

NEWT GINGRICH:

This was the fact that she rejected naming them as a terrorist group. And it's a trait of the State Department; it goes back, frankly, into the Bush administration. And she did nothing to correct it. Which is why, by the way, the Cairo riots and the Benghazi riots were wrong. The State Department's first inclination is, "It can't be that they hate us." It’s why I heard the secretary of defense here talking about finding moderate Taliban.

(OVERTALK)

RANA FOROOHAR:

West Africa is going to continue to be a huge issue--

JANE HARMAN:

And I think Hillary Clinton was honest. She's taken full responsibility for Benghazi. She appointed an accountability review board and implemented all 29 of their recommendations. As for Sunday shows, she said it's not the same thing as jury duty; some of us like being on your show, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes. Thanks a lot.

JANE HARMAN:

And take the red eye back to be on your show, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes. Thank you.

JANE HARMAN:

But nonetheless, I think this congressional committee is going to reveal what most of us know, which is--

DAVID GREGORY:

But see, this--

JANE HARMAN:

--there's no there there.

DAVID GREGORY:

Here's the bigger question for me, as a policy matter: What is America's responsibility in a place of chaos, whether it's Afghanistan post our withdrawal, whether with Libya post some kind of invasion? What is our sense of responsibility?

JANE HARMAN:

We have to protect our people in the field. We have to protect our embassies and consulates, and we didn't do a good enough job there--

(OVERTALK)

CHUCK TODD:

--go into Libya though. I mean, we chose--

DAVID GREGORY:

And that's when you can't--

CHUCK TODD:

You know, when you choose to do this, and we tried to do this, the infamous leading from behind. But this was, to me, what the policy debate should be about, is what was the policy? Was that a--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

Alright, well, let me do this.

CHUCK TODD:

Which is why Benghazi was so dangerous.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me get a break in here. We're coming back later. We'll come back also with this story: Ahead of the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the landings, our Tom Brokaw will join me with the unique look at how one of Hollywood's greatest directors captured the reality of war in vivid detail.

GEORGE STEVENS, JR. (ON TAPE):

Gave it to the projectionist, and I said, "My God, that's D-Day."

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We are back. Next Friday, President Obama and other world leaders will gather in northern France to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the dramatic invasion that changed the course of World War II and, indeed, world history. Our special correspondent Tom Brokaw will be there for NBC, and he joins me now. Tom, good morning.

TOM BROKAW:

Good morning, David. You know, in World War II, it was all in. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we have been fighting the two longest wars in our nation's history with less than 1% of our population. But 70 years ago, Clark Gable was in uniform, Jimmy Stewart was in uniform.

And what we have just learned recently is the permanent role of five of the most excellent directors you can possibly imagine in the history of film: George Stevens Jr., William Wyler, John Houston, John Ford, and Frank Capra. These men went to war. They not only went to war, it changed their lives, and it changed the way that we see movies.

(BEGIN TAPE)

TOM BROKAW:

Five of Hollywood's finest directors, all at the top of their game: John Ford, John Houston, William Wyler, Frank Capra, and George Stevens.

MARK HARRIS (Author, “Five Came Back”):

These guys were artists, so they wanted to make great movies. They were patriots, so they wanted to serve their country. And just as men, they wanted to tell the truth.

TOM BROKAW:

Filmmaker George Stevens Jr. remembers when his father signed up to serve.

GEORGE STEVENS, JR.:

He saw Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, the film about Hitler and Nuremberg. And the next day, he arranged to go in the Army.

TOM BROKAW:

But it was a discovery that Stevens made in his father's archive almost four years ago that would change forever how we view D-Day and the war in Europe. Some old rolls of Kodachrome film, perfectly preserved.

GEORGE STEVENS, JR.:

Went and sat by myself in the screening room and up on the screen came this blue sky, ships, barrage balloons in the sky. And I said, "My God, that's D-Day."

TOM BROKAW:

A war that was in black and white in our collective memory.

VOICE IN FILM:

Signal corps cameras catch the full drama of the fateful hour.

TOM BROKAW:

Suddenly in vibrant, startling color.

GEORGE STEVENS, JR.:

You see along the way just going through France, like, they'd see dead German bodies. And then you see the picture, and there's just something so personal, to see it in color. And the festiveness of the liberation of Paris, you know, the girls in their summer dresses, August the 25th, 1944. My father and his friends had the greatest day of their lives.

TOM BROKAW:

Stevens recorded some of the most joyous moments of the war -- as when the U.S. and Russian troops met on the Elbe River to seal Germany's defeat -- and some of the sinister -- discovering the depths of Nazi depravity.

MARK HARRIS:

Stevens said that he could never direct a comedy again after what he had seen at Dachau.

TOM BROKAW:

Stevens and the other directors succeeded in telling one great truth about those who answered their nation's call seven decades ago.

MARK HARRIS:

This was a war fought by human-scale people. We've seen their heroism as larger than life. They were human beings who became larger than life; they didn't start that way.

GEORGE STEVENS, JR.:

Oh, I think the war was at the center of their life. As they approach 40, they go to war and see something else. And they come back, and they have a different attitude toward making films.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Tom, amazing images, just to see them in color. And it also strikes me, as you'll be there, Tom, here's 70 years after D-Day at a moment when the U.S. is pulling back from war in Afghanistan. The president's talking a lot about American power in the world, how to wield it, and it's not always by going to war. It's a striking irony now, where we are today.

TOM BROKAW:

Well, it's a different world now, David, and gratefully it's a different world. We'll never see the likes of D-Day again. There had never been anything like it before and there won't be again in our future. But at the same time, D-Day will be a reminder of what can be accomplished when allies work together and when everyone understands what's at stake, every citizen, all the way from the best directors and the biggest stars in Hollywood down to some kid living on a dairy farm who signs up and, nine months later, is piloting a four-engine bomber. So it was a unique time. And the interest in it seemed to grow I think in part because of the magnitude of it. So much was at stake, and we're just now beginning to understand that, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. Tom Brokaw for us. Thank you so much, we really appreciate it.

TOM BROKAW:

My pleasure.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to see you. We'll take a break. Coming up here, the Isla Vista California shooting rampage took place despite California having some of the toughest gun laws in the country. I'll have exclusive reactions from former New York City mayor and anti-gun campaigner Michael Bloomberg who speaks out for the first time since the tragedy.

MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (ON TAPE):

The parents of this kid knew he had a problem, knew he'd do something. Cops couldn't do anything.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

We're back. Last weekend's horrific mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, once again focused attention on the nation's gun laws and raised concerns about the mental health system in America. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is spending $50 million of his own fortune to take on the National Rifle Association and push for more controls on gun ownership. I sat down with him in New York for his first reaction to this tragedy.

Let me start by asking you about guns. This rampage in Santa Barbara, as heart wrenching as it is, is there any reason to think that it gives new momentum to the debate for more gun restrictions?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, you would certainly hope so. We've had shootings on campus and, at the same time, some states are passing laws to explicitly let people carry guns on campuses. I don't know what you were like when you were in college, but my recollection of college 50 years ago is kids just should not have guns on campus.

The real problem here is we have too many guns in the hands of criminals, people with psychiatric problems (as this guy obviously did), and minors. And we've got to find some ways to stop that. We're making a lot of progress. Some things feel two forward, one back. But the public understands what's happening here.

DAVID GREGORY:

But more specifically about mental illness, because this is where you may have some agreement with the likes of the National Rifle Association. How do you make it more difficult for somebody like this young man, with some signs of mental illness, to get a weapon?

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

Well, you always have to have due process and you can't just go incarcerate people. And psychiatrists will tell you they can't predict which people with mental illness are going to get a gun and start killing people. But you do want to have laws that let you get a temporary restraining order.

The parents of this kid knew he had a problem, knew he'd done something. Cops couldn't do anything. Now, you don't want cops to be able to go and grab somebody off the street and institutionalize them. It should be a process. And long term, that's what most of these laws allow. We don't have that thing that a the cop could use right away. Maybe you'd have to go before a judge and make a case. But you can solve that problem.

And also, well, states to populate the distribute of who is mentally ill. It's hard to do because some people go to their private doctor, and how do you find out about it? Nobody says any law is going to solve all the problems. What we do know is that a lot of people with mental illness do things that are destructive to themselves and to others.

We also know that there's an enormous problem with domestic violence around this country. And in the 16-odd states that have background checks for gun show sales and internet sales, just make it a little harder. One step harder; not perfect, but a little harder to buy a gun. Domestic violence in those cases is down like 40%; shootings of cops is down like 40%; suicide rates with guns are down 50%. It works. It's not perfect, but it gets you there.

DAVID GREGORY:

You have made it very clear you want to take on the N.R.A. politically.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

No, I want to make sure that the public gets together, tells the Congress and their state legislatures, "We want reasonable background checks." We don't want to end the Second Amendment. This is nothing about gun control, it is about just making sure three groups that 80% or 90% of the public thinks should not have guns don't get them.

DAVID GREGORY:

Do you have that public opinion perhaps on the side of that argument: It is a political reality that a lot of folks who believe in greater restrictions don't vote on that issue when those who believe in protecting their gun rights absolutely vote on that issue, and that's what gives the N.R.A. a political advantage.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

David, maybe I'm too cynical but I think it's really all driven by the politics of election and reelection. If they people that vote think that the public wants one thing and that it will influence their re-electability, they'll go that way. And if they think there's another single issue advocacy group that's not supported by the vast bulk of the public, but has enormous clout at the polling booth where you get people to come and you fund ads and that sort of thing, they'll vote the other way.

And so what we're trying to do is to make sure that people that really care tell their congressman that this-- I think every one of those the federal government, legislature, the Senate and the House, so watch the video of this father the other day saying, "No more."

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor Bloomberg, thanks, as always.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG:

You're welcome. All the best.

DAVID GREGORY:

And coming up here, our images to remember this week. A special tribute to the late Maya Angelou.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Now to a special Images to Remember: a tribute to the extraordinary life of Dr. Maya Angelou. Passed away this week at the age of 86.

(“IMAGES TO REMEMBER” SEGMENT)

DAVID GREGORY:

We've been monitoring the conversation online in response to our Chuck Hagel interview, Secretary Hagel, a lot of reaction on Twitter, including this question, "What's the future of Guantanamo Bay?" Chuck, you tweeted this, got a lot of conversation going: "On MTP Chuck Hagel calls Bergdahl's release a prisoner exchange, refers to Bergdahl as POW. U.S. government does not classify Gitmo as POWs." The future of Gitmo, important here.

JANE HARMAN:

Got to close it to win the argument with would-be terrorists in the future.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes, but these are enemy combatants.

(OVERTALK)

JANE HARMAN:

Well, we've never--

(OVERTALK)

DAVID GREGORY:

--we haven't called them that.

(OVERTALK)

NEWT GINGRICH:

--would-be terrorist worries about Guantanamo; they worry about defeating our civilization. And they couldn't care less what we do.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right. Let this conversation continue.

RANA FOROOHAR:

I agree with Jane. I think you've got to close it. I think that this situation though sets an interesting precedent about when you trade prisoners, when you don't, and that's got big implications.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yes. This debate will continue. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it. Continue the conversation amongst yourselves as well. That is all for today. We're not here next week because of NBC Sports' coverage of the French Open tennis final. Some preemptions of late; we're sorry, but we will be back in two weeks. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

* * *END OF TRANSCRIPT* * *