Meet the Press   |  June 02, 2013

1: Roundtable reviews Justice controversy; Schumer details new bill

A Meet the Press panel of experts takes a look at the controversy surrounding the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder. Plus, Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., joins the show to discuss immigration legislation.

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

>>> this sunday, national security versus freedom of the press. the tension and the political fallout as the attorney general appears to backtrack. republicans have their sights set on attorney general eric holder . did he level with congress about whether he sought to criminalize the work of journalists?

>> with regard to the potential prosecution of the press for disclosure of material, that is not something that i've been involved in, heard of, or would think would be a wise policy.

>> holder reportedly regrets the treatment of the press in recent leak investigations and tries to reach out. has it worked? how should the administration balance the protection of secrets and the free flow of information. we'll ask the chairman of the house intelligence committee , michigan congressman mike rogers , about that. and the expected nomination of former bush administration official jim coemy as director of the fbi .

>>> also, the president back to business and tries to shake off scandal. will the irs investigations undermine work on job creation and immigration reform ? with us democratic senator from new york , chuck schumer .

>>> later, our political round table. what michele bachmann 's exit means for the tea party . does the president have an economic plan for the second term? and a discussion of the new study this week that shows more and more women are the primary breadwinners in american families.

>>> good sunday morning. news this weekend foreshadowing another bad week ahead for the irs . as an inspector general report is expected to reveal lavish and wasteful spending at irs conferences around the country. we want to start with another political distraction for the obama administration . the attorney general eric holder under fire for investigationing leaks to the news media. he pledged to reassess some of the justice department guidelines. he has now also become a political target for republicans . joining me now, former senior add va viser to the obama re-election campaign, david axelrod . republican congresswoman from tennessee, marshablackburn. jonathan alter , republican strategist ana navarro and tom friedman . i want to get everybody's impressions of the attorney general under fire. david axelrod , my question is, is this a holder problem or is it a president obama problem at this juncture?

>> i think, look, the sport, the sie civic sport of washington , d.c., is -- there's a serious public policy issue underneath all of this that i think we have to resolve as a country which is there are things that you have to keep secret for the security of the people who are risking their lives out there. and for national security , how do you balance that against the public's right to know, which is a very sacred principle as well. that's a discussion we should be having.

>> i think part of the discussion we have to be having is also a question of leadership. if that's what it is. there's obviously going to be a political target for holder, for republicans and the media that are going to target him, but i'm focused, too, on the president. and the idea of making no apologies and then appearing to make apologies about all of this. here was the president middle of last month when he came out -- when the seizure of the a.p. phone records first surfaced. this is what he said.

>> leaks related to national security can put people at risk. they can put men and women in uniform that i've sent into the battlefield at risk.

>> yet then within a week he's changing his tune. this is what he said now.

>> i'm troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable. journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.

>> tom friedman , was this a president and attorney general , do they think they overreached and alienated people normally with them, the news media?

>> that's what makes this case interesting. because there was overreach maybe on both sides to some degree. red lines were crossed. clearly red lines were crossed on the department of justice in effect criminalizing reporting. at the same time, you know, you look at that fox report about north korea and other people i respect a lot, walter peyton and jack schafer made this point. you do have to scratch your head about what was the news in there that justified we had a source in the korean leadership. to me clearly the doj went too far. you saw the president, i think, reflecting that. i do think, i share david 's view, we got to talk about this. not everything that's secret is news. what should be news is malfeasance, misbehavior, lying. not the fact we have a source in the north korean leadership.

>> congresswoman, do you think the attorney general needs to resign at this point?

>> i think that the attorney general has definitely lost the trust of the american people . when you are out in my district, people feel betrayed by the conduct of this administration and this attorney general . and, you know, it is an issue of leadership. just as david sets the standards and decorum for his department and his classroom, the president sets that for the administration . and people are wanting answers. they don't want excuses. they want accountability. they don't want evasion. they have lost the trust. i think it'll take a generation to rebuild trust in the federal government at this point.

>> let me bring in tom brokaw who's with us from new york . special correspondent for nbc news, obviously. tom, you've talked about this. this week you've covered and lived through a lot of these in washington . you were struck and tom friedman just mentioned it, by something that walter pinkus wrote in the " washington post ." he wrote, when will journalists take responsibility for what they do without circling the wagons and shouting that the first amendment is under attack when the first amendment advocates say rosen , meaning james rosen of fox news, was falsely characterized as a co-conspirator? they do not understand the law. when others claim this investigation is intimidating a growing number of government sources, they don't understand history. is this is a leadership issue, tom, for the administration ? is this purely a press versus government issue?

>> walter pinkus is one of the most serious and senior investigative reporters in washington , d.c. just that statement touched off a moot court debate on the internet. i think it's a combination of all those things. the problem with how you determine whether something is in the public's right to know when it is classified in some fashion doesn't have the law of physics attach toed to it. it's very subjective. everyone has a slightly different opinion. but in most cases when a news kor organization like the associated press or rosen , it begins a dialogue with the government. obviously the administration is scrambling to clean all this up. but it seems to me that on this sunday morning after last week that eric holder still is in the cross hairs here. what did he know? when did he know it? what did he do about it? that will play out this week.

>> do you think this is a real olive branch to news organizations? an off the record meeting to discuss changing the guidelines for how leak investigations are pursued?

>> i think the burden is on both is government and the press to work out a more clear set of guidelines, both for their exchanges with each other and then so that the public can be involved in this as well. as i said earlier, the problem always is that the first amendment, "a," is not unconditional. but at the same time, the burden is on the government. it can be very murky in terms of what the impact is. i talked over the weekend to a very, very senior ex-intelligence official from the united states government . and he laughed. he said, look, this administration and all prior administrations have used classified material when it's been to their political advantage. and he was astonished, by the way, that eric holder , the chief legal officer of the united states , has recused himself in the associated press case. so we still have a way to go here, david .

>> do you think -- you've seen these kind of investigations before. meaning the judiciary investigation, committee investigation of the attorney general . this could be elongated. you have this morning on "the new york times" government officials talking off the record or on background about his effectiveness. does he stay in the job?

>> boy, i think it's tough to see how he does at this case. it's up to the president. what we're seeing "new york times" in the today is that familiar washington two-step. officially getting the endorsement of people like david axelrod and the spokesman for the president. but at the same time, there's another part of that two-step that is going on in which people think it would be better if he left. it would be better for the president to get this cleaned up. he has become obviously the lightning rod for a lot of the criticism just on this panel. and certainly in republican circles. from a political point of view, one of the ways that you can measure the impact of all of this and the fairness of it, think if this had happened in the bush administration with john ashcroft as the attorney general . you know full well the democrats and the left would be going very hard after them with these issues that are in play.

>> tom brokaw , thank you very much. we'll see you coming up on thursday nights this summer on the military channel . your special series of iconic moments in history called "the brokaw files." thanks very much for spending a couple minutes with us this morning.

>> thanks, david .

>> david , reaction to that.

>> i think those two issues live together. i think you can at once say we have to protect these classified matters as tom said that have grave consequences and cannot be in the public domain . on the other hand, we have to find a set of rules and laws --

>> jonathan alter , can you imagine a republican president doing what this president did? i mean, they came out there and they said, no apologies. these are serious crimes. we're going to investigate them. a few days later they said, you know what? maybe we overreached here.

>> i can't imagine mitt romney doing that because he wrote a whole book called "no apologies." people in that party have a policy of not apologizing. what's missing here, david , is a distinction between investigating leaks, finding out who was betraying secrets and prosecuting journalists. these are two different matters. in the past presidents have been very frustrated by leaks. ronald reagan said, i've had it up to my keister with leaks. this goes all the way back to the adams administration when they put in the acts. this is not a new debate. what's new and what's different is this idea of criminalizing the reporting part of it. look, in world war ii before the battle of midway, the " chicago tribune " released the u.s. battle plan. the roosevelt administration decided we're not going to prosecute the tribune for that in the middle of the war.

>> who's been prosecuted --

>> i was very uncomfortable and i think it was wrong to use the term co-conspirator. that's a legal term . what journalist was prosecuted? i totally agree you. you shouldn't criminalize reporting. but the fact is no journalist was prosecuted.

>> no. but if you have the fbi saying that the journalist is a, quote, co-conspirator, using that kind of language, that is starting to move down that road.

>> quit comment here and move on.

>> the administration went too far.

>> clearly.

>> i think that's very clear. i think the president recognized that a week later. but i think it'll be a shame if all this comes down to is just eric holder and we don't use this as a real teaching moment.

>> right.

>> when somebody goes too far, there also needs to be consequences. you know wh, what we saw this week was the cyag meeting. cover your ag. at the same time you see there's news media that chooses not to go. i've never been to an off the record meeting that's announced previously. it seems like an oxymoron to go d d discuss the freedom of the press in a closed door meeting.

>>> chuck schumer , welcome back.

>> nice to be with you.

>> let me start on this issue of the future of the attorney general . we have seen whether it's the huffington post or jonathan turley , law professor , writing in " usa today " that he should resign, senator roberts saying he should resign, tom brokaw saying this morning hard to see how he could hold on to his job with all this pressure. do you think the attorney general should keep his job?

>> there have been all kinds of accusations but i haven't seen anything that would prevent him from continuing to do his job. let's not forget, for about two years many of our hard right colleagues spent a lot of their time on fast and furious and i'm sure there were calls for holder to step down. he continued to do his job well. then the ig exonerated him on fast and furious . so obviously if there's wrong doing, we should find out who did it. but the president has confidence in holder and i believe he's going to stay.

>> and you have confidence?

>> listen, yes. the -- as i said, i haven't seen a single accusation that prevents him from doing his job.

>> what about whether he committed perjury in front of the house committee when he says he's never been involved in the potential prosecution of a journalist yet his own affidavit names james rosen of fox news as a co-conspirator for getting classified information .

>> yeah. i don't think there's perjury. there's been no professisecution or attempted prosecution of any journalist so there can't be perjury. the warrant is a tool to get information. i don't think the two were contradictory. i don't think any good criminal lawyer would say there's a scintilla of evidence of perjury.

>> if there is a long investigation by the judiciary ex committee into the attorney general , is that a good thing for the country?

>> look, we should investigate and find out what went wrong. particularly with the irs situation. i think the other two on the media shield, we need some new laws. that's for sure. and we need an independent arbitor as your panel pointed out. it's one big mess. you cannot have the justice department be both the player and the umpire. so the bill that lindsey graham and i have proposed, where there'd be an independent arbiter, judge, to balance the two very real needs of freedom of the press and preventing leaks is the way to go. in terms of the irs -- sorry.

>> this doesn't cover national security issues, does it?

>> yes, it does.

>> how so?

>> obviously it provides more leeway on national security as it should than other kinds of leaks. but in three ways. first, if the administration is saying it's national security , you have an independent arbiter determine if it is. second they can determine the ambut. for instance, in the a.p. the judge could say maybe getting the phone records of four of these a.p. reporters has to do with national security . the other 16 don't. finally and maybe most importantly, it requires there be notice to the news organization. so a.p. or fox news would get notice. and could go to court and try and suppress it.

>> let me can you about to the best of my recollection -- irs . new information coming out about lavish spending at these conferences. there's been a video produced of irs employees getting together preparing line dances for conferences. they're spending a lot of money on producing these kinds of videos. a lot of companies do this. we're talking about government employees. in the context of everything that's happening this has got to be the last thing the irs needs.

>> absolutely. and the new director, the acting director of the irs said he would put an end to it. it's outrageous, any kind of wasteful spending like this must be put down, particularly at these times.

>> you talk about the irs investigations and the targeted conservative groups. you lobbied the irs to look into these groups. you didn't specify conservative groups. there are those on the right who say you and others effectively did. you were really targeting conservative groups not to be given that tax exempt status .

>> no, that's absolutely not true. first, our letter came a year and a half after they started targeting the tea party . so it couldn't have caused it, that's for sure. second, look what our letter says. it says form a bright line and determine how much political activity a so-called social welfare organization can do before they lose their tax exempt status . our letter is is actually the solution. i would propose that we say -- we pass legislation that more than 10% -- if more than 10% of your activity is political activity, you lose your tax exemption . if you had a bright line it wouldn't be up to some bureaucrat to make their own determination, perhaps wrongly based on political needs. it would be the same standard for all groups, liberal, conservative, democrat, republican. that's what we need. our letter actually the solution to the problem.

>> you're obviously focused on immigration reform . you're part of the gang of eight. this is a question about the president's agenda in light of all of these scandals and controversies that the administration faces. i talked to one of boehner's top guys this week who said if senators say they can get republican votes in the senate and it's automatically going to transfer to getting votes in the house, they're wrong. it's going to be a long slog in the house as well.

>> first, we're going to put imfwrags on the floor starting on june 10th . i predict it will pass the senate by july fourth. we're hoping to get 70 votes, up to 70 votes which means a lot of republicans . we're willing to entertain amendments that don't damage the core principles of the bill but improve the bill just as we did in committee. we came out of the committee very strong. our gang of eight stuck together and we picked up orrin hatch 's vote as well. these so-called scandals have not diverted us one iota. you have on the gang of eight three of the people who have been most critical of the president on some of these other issues. for the future of america, job growth , middle class , straightening out this system. it hasn't interfered one iota. we are moving forward because we believe in a bipartisan way this is so vital for america. we'll have a good bill. congressman boehner is in a box. there are about 60 or 70 of his people who are against any immigration reform . but at the same time, he knows that the republican party will be consigned to a minority party for a generation if they're anti-immigration. my advice to him, let's see what happens in the senate bill . if we can come out of the senate with close to a majority of the republican senators and almost every democrat, that may change the equation in the house and the thinking in the house among mainstream republicans . and they may want to go for our bill.

>> do you have a warning for republicans who want to make the irs and personal issues affecting the president the main theme of 2014 ?

>> my warning to the republicans is look at 1998 . all they did is spend their time on the impeachment of bill clinton . and for the first time the incumbent president didn't lose seats in the house. certainly there should be investigations. and of the irs , which is i think is the really serious one of these three. the others are serious, but we haven't seen wrong doing. the press shield area is a mess. and you need independent legislation as i mentioned. but if they go too far, they will lose. and the -- looking into these investigations is no substitute to focusing on the economy, jobs for the middle class . republicans are right to want to look at these things. if they emphasize it too much they're going to pay a price at the polls in 2014 .

>>> more with our roundtable in a moment. a new study out this week that more and more women are becoming the primary breadwinners in american families. some equal pay issues with that as well. also the impact.

>>> first, we're going to talk to the house intelligence chairman mike rogers of michigan. his reaction to the leak story.

>>> the alarming report this week that chinese hackers gained access to the nation's highly classified defense system. that's coming up