Meet the Press   |  June 02, 2013

2: Rogers shares views on Justice probes, Jim Comey

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers visits Meet the Press to discuss recent controversies at the Justice Department and the nomination of Jim Comey to lead the FBI.

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

>>> we're back. joining me now republican congressman from michigan, chairman of the intelligence committee , mike rogers . congressman, welcome back.

>> thanks for having me, david .

>> let me ask you about these intelligence leaks, the news leaks and the investigations. you have been among the most outspoken saying some of the national security leaks have been very damaging to the country. in light of the a.p. story and the seizure of those telephone records. at the time the attorney general defended what he did. this is what he said last month.

>> i have to say that this is among if not the most serious, it is in the top two or three most serious leaks that i've ever seen. it put the american people at risk.

>> that was his defense for what he was doing. now they're talking about changing the guidelines and trying to offer an olive branch to the press. are you concerned that the attorney general has folded on this?

>> well, listen, as a former fbi agent, certainly as the chairman of the intelligence committee , keeping classified information secret is incredibly important for our national security . however, i think that dragnet that they threw out over those a.p. reporters was more than an overreach. and it really is not very good investigative work. as a matter of fact, you normally want to target -- you narrow that list down. then you might be able to go for someone's phone records or e ma mails. but that dragnet approach i argue is a little dangerous when you talk about first amendment protections for a free press. same with the co-conspirator issue. that just defied logic to me. it almost seemed like someone wanted to get around the notion that they had the shield protection law. if you look at the law and you look at what they did, it would have been exempted from that. there's, i think, a lot of questions that need to be answered there. but at the same time, we do need to remember that these leaks are serious and for those folks who are leaking information that may lead to the death of sources or people who are cooperating with the united states or men and women who are serving in combat, there should be consequences for that.

>> do you think that the attorney general leveled with congress, with the judiciary committee , with your colleagues, when he said that he was never involved in the potential prosecution of a journalist given that he named as a co-conspirator a journalist in the affidavit?

>> certainly the timing is, i think, problematic for the attorney general . i think that has to be thoroughly investigated. i think you need to lay out exactly what the testimony was, exactly the timeline when he signed and checked off that they should move forward with going after -- naming him as a co-conspirat co-conspirator, then find out what reconciled that with his testimony. i think all of that needs to be tone. but this pattern of deception administration wide is starting to become concerning. when you look at the irs and you look at the benghazi issue and you look at the a.p. issue, i think the trouble here isn't even the individual specific scandals. it's this broader notion that there's a pattern of this activity. i think that's what concerns people. what you don't want to have happen is americans lose faith and trust in their institutions. that, i think, is what's at risk here. we better get this back in the box so americans can rest easy at night knowing we're working for them and not against them.

>> bottom line, do you think the attorney general should keep his job? should he resign?

>> yeah. i think that's going to be up to him. i think how he handles this moving forward is critically important. i've argued from the beginning they just need to lay it out on the table. americans are more forgiving if you tell the truth up front. this moti this notion that you're going to leak some things out, hold some things back, administration wide on these issues, i think has been damaging to them, certainly damaging to the public trust . i think it's going to be up to him. there should be a thorough investigation. those facts should go where they should go. include ing ifthat takes it back beyond the attorney general to make that determination. one of the thing we've got to do here is restore that faith and that trust. that only happens when the truth comes out and people who -- who have gone beyond the pale of the law are held accountable.

>> let me ask you more broadly about national security . we're talking about in the context of leaking that kind of information. the president talking recently about the state of the war on terror and how that should be rethought as we move forward both in his administration and for future presidents. he in his speech recently declared an end to the war. susan rice , who appeared on this program in september, said al qaeda was decimated. we know there is a trove of information that was recovered when osama bin laden was killed in that compound. not all that information has been released. you've had a chance to review some of it. do you agree with the assessment that the administration has made about the strength or lack of of al qaeda ?

>> i think it is -- we are in a wrong direction here if we think we can pull back and let this thing go. you have over 500 schools have been closed in afghanistan. majority of girls schools. last week the taliban poisoned 74 girls trying to go to school. the boca haram in northern africa area have killed some 3,000 people. these are islamic extremists . that's revamping up. you have the problem in mali. in algiers. in libya. all with al qaeda extremists. in may of this year 1,000 people were killed in extremist violence in iraq. you have 90,000-plus people killed in syria over what is a growing sectarian problem, which is now becoming a regional proble problem. saying that this thing is over and we can all just rest easy and start to change the policy to try to address this i think is dangerous to our national security . i don't think it fits the facts on the ground . whatever our politics are, republican or democrat, conservative, liberal, doesn't matter when you're talking about national security .

>> you want to see more of those documents released?

>> we're going over the documents. again, i think the week -- first week of june. my committee is going over and having folks up again for a review of the documents. we should take a look at what can be released and what should be released. i think there is some value in some of that information retaining its classification for national security reasons. i don't think it's the majority of it. i think we ought to seriously give consideration to allowing more than a 17 documents that were selectively picked by the administration to be made public. i think that doesn't probably tell the whole story.

>> a couple of quick ones. jim comey now is going to be announced, former bush administration official, for director of the fbi . you were once up for that job. people pushing for you. what do you think of it?

>> i think it was a very safe, logical choice for him. he has a good reputation for prosecutorial work in new york. i think that's good. i was fortunate enough to have the working men and women of the fbi who were advocating for that selection. i'm humbled by that experience. the bureau is going to be a very key player moving forward. what we've already seen, the extremism and violent jihad, has approached the shores to the united states in ways we haven't seen before. that means that the fbi is front and center of that fight. and we've got some problems to work through. this notion of an intelligence-based investigation versus a criminal-based investigation and what that means in the confines of the law. getting this right will really mean the difference between life and death for americans . that challenge, i think, has to be met here in the months ahead.

>> case in point, this florida shooting of the apparent friend of cztsarnaev, the boston bomber who was killed by authorities, shot by the fbi . should there be an investigation into the circumstances as it turned out he was unarmed after he was shot and there was talk of a scuffle there? are you concerned about this?

>> absolutely. every shooting is investigated and should be investigated. we should get to the bottom of it. you know, i always -- there used to be a saying when i was in the fbi . it's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6. you ask these individuals to go into these meetings and some of these folks are violent. and it's their job to come home at night as well as to enforce the law. and if they're going to make an error, i hope they do it for their families. now, that does not give them the excuse to go beyond the bounds of the law. that's what that investigation should determine. we need to make sure that it was all done in accordance to the law. again, monday morning quarterbacking, if someone appears to be violent, knowing that this individual has violent extremist ties, i think that agent has to make a decision in an absolutely fraction of a second. we all should consider that also in the course of that investigation.

>> all right. chairman rogers, we're going to leave it there. more to discuss. we're out of time this morning.

>>> back to our roundtable. i want to widen some of this out. talk about politics in the president's second term. david axelrod , you wanted to make an additional point about these irs investigations. to what extent they are undermining what the president wants to do. what his big ideas here are for a second term.

>> the point i want to make on the irs , you heard senator schumer say these 501-c4s, these are the groups the irs was looking at, should have a standard that no more than 10% of their activities be involved in politics. but someone has to make that judgment. i think there's something pe kul yar about that. the whole concept needs to be looked at. groups applying for axing exemption and to keep their donors secret. how do you decide what's political and not political? you're inviting this kind of problem. i think that ought to be looked at. in terms of the issue itself --

>> congresswoman, respond to that point.

>> see, the problem with this is, they were going after the conservative groups and not after liberal groups. so there was a targeting mechanism that was built into that. and then individuals, conservative individuals that seem to be going after. it is the irs using their position for political intimidation. david , i can't imagine --

>> congresswoman, i think it was an idiotic thing to do. but i will point you to the inspector general 's report that said it wasn't done for a political reason. they were flooded with applications.

>> you know what, david , that's tough to swallow. when you're a republican it's hard to swallow that. it wasn't done for political reasons when the words chosen for target words were conservative, tea party . when you have a group that was supporting -- the 2007 group freedom watch we saw yesterday come out where donors were getting audited and targeted as well. not just the groups.

>> their work --

>> it's very hard -- it's very easy for your side to say it isn't political. it's very hard for our side to accept it when we're the ones being tart geted.

>> it was the inspector general -- i've said this many times. if there was somebody political involved in this it never would have happened. because it was the stupidest thing you could imagine.

>> chairman camp has worked on this for two years. we've been getting anecdotal evidence for two years. you look at what lois lerner did. you know there had to be an agenda. 157 visits?

>> let me get in here for a second.

>> when bush was president, how many times did he visit them? z

>> i don't think it was 157 times.

>> let me get in here for a second. this is part of a bigger issue that the president faces. which is where is his agenda left in all this? i want to show something. you wrote about how to get a job this week which got incredible response. here's a poll from quinnipiac. what should be a higher priority? investigating benghazi and a.p. at 22%, people said, relatively low. the economy and unemployment was at 73%. clearly a much higher priority as you look at that poll. the president is coming under fire for losing his scope effectively in a second term to rebuild america. to usher in economic restoration.

>> well, that's the tragedy for him. it's a tragedy for all of us. because we are in the middle, i would argue, david , of a huge inflection where two points i would make about this moment. one is that the -- the thing that sustained the american middle class for 50 years was something called high wage middle skill jobs. there is no such thing anymore as a high wage middle skill job. there's only going to be a high wage high skill job. so every decent middle class job today is actually being pulled in three directions at once. it's being pulled higher. it takes more skill to have. it's being pulled out. more software, robots, automation and people around the world can compete for it. and it's being pulled down. it's being outsourced to history, to the past, being made obsolete faster. i had an experience a couple weeks ago. i had to deal with hertz for a pretty complicated change in reservation. for the first time i did the entire transaction with hertz without any human interaction. this was a complicated interaction i had. it really made a point of that. what's been happening to blue collar jobs, that kind of pac-man of automation outsourcing and digitization is now coming after white collar jobs as well. this requires a huge strategic response for the country.

>> jonathan alter , you write about this in "the center holds" in your new book. you write this about the president's economic legacy and how it impacts him politically. it was impossible, you write, to predict how obama's agenda would fair. fights over the debt ceiling and 100 other issues laid down the road. he would almost certainly be judged turg and after leaving off on whether the american economy finally shook off and began to thrive again. if the economy revived more quickly democrats would likely do better than expected in the 2014 mid-terms which would allow the president to make more progress on his agenda. if economic growth stalled he would be seen as more of a lame duck. how does he seem now?

>> this is how presidents are judged. right now the economy seems to be moving forward. there's been some good economic news. you can imagine that if mitt romney had been elected, and this is one of the reasons the stakes were so big, david , that right now everybody would be saying, well, the economy is doing better again because we slashed taxes on the wealthy and we slashed regulation, we slashed programs for the poor. so this last election, i argue in the book, was hugely, pivotally important. if romney had won it would have validated the entire conservative argument for what to do about the economy. and it would have discredited things like infrastructure, which is critical for getting these folks that tom was talking about employed. and education. because the ryan plan and other things slashed funding for education, medical and scientific research that creates a lot of jobs. so what the president i think needs to do is to get back on the beam with the big things that got him re-elected. the first person -- first president re-elected twice with more than 51% of the vote since dwight eisenhower in half a century. so the point is that he has to focus on college completion. because if they don't get a college degree , they are road kill in the global economy . and he has to focus on rebuilding america and bringing the republican party , the party of lincoln, who is a big infrastructure man, built the railroads, teddy roosevelt , big infrastructure man, bring the republican party back to its roots, come together on a big infrastructure plan.

>> ana, looking at the democrats from where you sit, you're seeing democrats who are critical of the president. saying, look, the second term is getting away from you. things you've tried, you've made a big stand on, like guns and such have not panned out. you got to get back to jobs.

>> look, i think absolutely he's got to focus on jobs. and we all have to focus on jobs. the entire government has to. but we've got to walk and chew gum at the same time. we cannot look the other way when you've got things like government overreach. when you've got the criminalization of important government agencies like the irs . you just cannot look the other way. that's what makes our country great and what makes our democracy so strong. that there are checks and balances. and that we do have mechanisms to be able to detect when there are these abuses of power. if there are abuses of power going on, they need to be addressed.

>> david , can the president, will he be seen as somebody who fixed the economy?

>> i agree with everything everybody just said. i think tom's right. the challenge of our time, the president would say that if he was sitting here, how do you push back on the forces --

>> and government and their jobs.

>> and so that's why he has a budget and he's pushing for early childhood education , more college entry, research and development , infrastructure, all of these things are important to do exactly what tom's talking about. and that's what -- i do think that he needs to focus on those things as the fall comes and we have this big budget debate. that is really what's at stake.

>> here you have this question with michele bachmann retiring this week, the staying power of the tea party which is going to argue, that sentiment is that government cannot be the driver of all these things.

>> well, and government can't be the driver, but the biggest impediment to jobs growth in this country right now is the implementation of obama care. the 29 1/2 hours, getting under 50 employees, health care becoming too expensive to afford. this program is too expensive to afford. it was to be $800 billion. now it's $2.6 trillion. come on. people are not hiring. when you look at the labor force participation rate , being where it was in jimmy carter 's day, and you look at people coming out of college in your 18 to 24-year-old group, where you're at 50% -- i mean, 13% unemployment? you've got problems.

>> let me take a break here. i want to come back. i want to check in with tom friedman about what's royaling the middle east now and what the president can do about it.

>>> i want to widen our discussion to talk about a new issue that came up this week. more and more women, obviously it's been happening for more than just this week, becoming primary breadwinners in their families. how is that impacting families around the country. the discussion about hey kevin...still