Alex Witt   |  January 19, 2014

Iran nuclear deal set to begin

Alex Witt talks to former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson about the implementation of the Iran nuclear deal, his take on President Obama's NSA proposals, and the Chris Christie scandal.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> new mexico governor bill richardson , who previously served as secretary of energy as well as ambassador to the u.n. mr. ambassador, i guess this name will go with this day. thank you very much for joining me.

>> thank you, alex . nice to be with you.

>> i'm glad you're here, sir. it's very early, but the nuclear talks so far, would you deem them as being successful?

>> so far, but i'm very nervous. the reduction from 20% of enriched uranium to 5% has to happen. it's good the inspectors are there. the worry i have is that the hardliners in the iranian government , perhaps some of the religious leaders and other hardliners there that oppose this deal will get the upper hand and kill what i think could be one of the most far-reaching agreements that deal with persian gulf issues, energy, nuclear weapons . our allies, saudi arabia and israel are nervous about this. the congress is nervous. but if it happens, and i commend secretary kerry for pursuing these talks, it would be enormously far reaching. the key, alex , will be the next six months, when we try to get a permanent deal. right now, it's just a temporary deal. $7 billion worth of sanctions are lifted. so it's just very early in the process.

>> it is. i'm sure you've seen this interesting "new york times" article today in which the report is that parliamentary and trade representatives from europe have been flocking to teheran for the new year. they're trying to position themselves. how does that impact when going forward?

>> our european friends , especially the french. our french friends, they like to do business. obviously iran can see the benefit of this. if it means that they're going to close their nuclear weapons capability, europe, that has been part of the sanctions, especially the strongest sanctions on energy, on gasoline will start investing there. so this probably would be a good sign for iran . now, if iran doesn't come through with these reductions in enriched uranium , continues its nuclear weapons programs, a lot of those investments will dry up.

>> let's switch gears. i want to talk you about the president's nsa reforms. what's your take on them?

>> well, i think the president did what he had to do, a balance between privacy and security. he basically is not changing much of these intelligence programs, which as a former policymaker, i want to tell you they're very valuable. he basically said on the foreign courts, on the courts that are going to be formed, that he's considering making them stronger. have the congress have more input. in terms of the collected data that comes from all those telephone monitoring, who's going to control it, maybe a separate panel. he's invited congress reviews. privacy of foreigners. issues of their telephones. foreign leaders. he's basically saying we need those changes. but in the end, i think the congress -- you know, i remember when i was on the intelligence committee in the house, the chairman came up to me, because i was asking him some questions. he said, you're on a need to know basis , but you don't need to know . so i think in the end, alex , there will be some reforms, but the structure of our intelligence, our nsa, our surveillance will probably stay the same.

>> i'm curious your thoughts on how the revelations about foreign spying have affected our diplomacy with other countries. has it affected it, do you think germany in particular?

>> well yeah. it upsets countries like germany. they've been the most visible. brazil. they cancelled a state visit . these are important countries. yeah, so it has hurt. but, you know, spying happens -- everybody does it. so it's a question of having some safeguards. i think the president said we're going to have some safeguards, it's going to be limited. obviously if there's al qaeda or leaders that are hostile to us and we have a little built-in advantage by knowing what they're up to, that's healthy. so again, i think the president struck a good balance between privacy, especially the issue, alex , of the courts. there being a secret court that decides whether you can tap the telephone of somebody. i think that is a good safeguard.

>> something interesting was said by house intelligence committee chair mike rogers on "meet the press." i'd like to have you listen to this with me.

>> let me just say this -- i believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms of an fsb agent i don't think that's a coincidence.

>> you think the russians helped snowden ?

>> i think there's questions to be answered there. i don't think it was a gee whiz luck event that he ended up in moscow under the handling of the fsb.

>> now, i want to mention here that both "the new york times" and reuters reported last month that intelligence officials told them there was no evidence that snowden had any outside help. so putting all that together, what's your reaction?

>> well, i agree with those reports that he didn't have any outside help. he seems to be wanting to be an international hero. i mean, he is at fault. i think he should be prosecuted. because he has hurt this country. and it's not just -- he is being praised for saying well, the nsa was doing a lot of surveillance. but there's some information, secret information that he's given to other nations that hurt america's national security . so i'm not saying there's a russian connection. i don't know. i'm no longer in government. but it doesn't strike me as that's the case. but snowden being treated as a great american hero , i don't believe that. i think he needs to be prosecuted. i don't think he's a traitor. but to basically now ascribe all these russian motives, i'm not sure there's enough information to say that.

>> i want to draw on your experience as former state executive and talk about the allegations that have been levelled against chris christie by a new jersey mayor. what is your interpretation?

>> well, alex , when you're a governor, it's a very personal job. when you're a senator or a congressman, important jobs, but you with weather storms. you can be out there giving speeches. when you're a governor, everything you do is scrutinized, and you make decisions every day that affect lives of other political leaders . you have a major say in projects. so, you know, it's gotten partisan. my view is that this issue is not over for governor christie. it's payback time. it's a partisan atmosphere. but i think if he stays and weathers the storm by substantiating that he didn't know anything about this bridge issue, that the primaries are two hours away, he weathers the storm. but this is a continuing problem to for him, and now all these other political leaders are coming out of the woodwork. so, you know, in a way, i can see what's happening. it kind of happened to me sometimes. because you're the everything. a state like new jersey that has a powerful governor that controls a lot of the projects and funding and patronage, you know, you're the subject of this intensive scrutiny, and when you're down, it's payback time. so i can see what's happening.

>> okay. well, former governor, secretary and ambassador bill richardson, thanks