Meet the Press   |  July 07, 2013

1: Sen. Menendez, panel discuss future of Egypt

Foreign Relations Committee Chair Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., Ayman Mohyeldin and a Meet the Press panel discuss the state of affairs in Egypt and how the nation moves forward politically.

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>>> this sunday, breaking news on two fronts this morning, the crash landing in san francisco and the chaos in the streets of cairo as president morsi pushed from power .

>> we've got a 214 heavy san francisco tower.

>> a pilot distress call as asiana airlines flight 214 crashes upon landing at san francisco international airport . we talk to the top investigator who arrived on the scene just hours ago.

>>> plus, the unfolding crisis in egypt . deadly clashes in the streets, and now confusion over who is in charge. we veal the latest from the ground in cairo .

>>> plus, america 's role now in the spotlight as president obama walks a fine line between promoting american values and protecting american interests. we'll hear from the chairman of the senate foreign relations committee , new jersey democrat bob menendez .

>>> plus, our political roundtable on the fights back home. the obama administration decides to postpone a key part of the president's health care law . critics claim it's the latest evidence that the law should be repealed.

>>> and the fight over immigration reform now moves to the house. i talk to a key republican lawmaker involved in the negotiations, congressman raul labrador of idaho.

>>> good sunday morning. we want to go to our developing story this morning. tom costello covers aviation for nbc news. he's got the latest on the tragic crash landing in san francisco that claimed the lives of two chinese citizens and sent 182 passengers to area hospitals. tom, as you have done some initial reporting, what is what they know tell us about what happened?

>> reporter: this is asiana airlines flight 214 coming from seoul in south korea , 10 1/2-hour flight into san francisco airport , and on approach at about 11:27 yesterday morning on runway 28 left, apparently by all accounts this plaenl came in a little low and a little slow according to eyewitnesses and literally the tail slammed into the sea barrier wall just before runway 28 left begins. the plane then slammed down onto the runway and skidded down the runway before then going into a grassy area. immediately the emergency chutes deployed. there was an evacuation of all 300-plus people on board this plane. unfortunately, as you reported, there were a couple of fatalities. the investigation is now going to focus on why this happened, of course. was it pilot error ? was there a mechanical issue? was there some sort of an avionics issue? it is interesting that the president of asiana airlines this morning said he does not believe that there was an engine problem. now, the ntsb investigators have really not spent a whole lot of time in those engines yet, so what does the president of the airline know that perhaps investigators haven't yet ascertained? has he been speaking with his crew? has the crew already suggested what the cause of this was? was it crew cents a share that's going to be very much the focus of the investigation. the ntsb has already now recovered the black box and the cockpit voice and flight data recorders. they'll be on their way to washington, d.c., and they hope they'll learn from those what was being said and discussed in the cockpit but also what was happening on all those avionic flight data screens in front of them in the cockpit.

>> tom costello starting us off this morning. thanks very much. the chairman of the ntsb , who is on the ground in san francisco , debby hersman joins me now. chairman, you've said this morning off lot of good information to start going through. describe what that is.

>> well, we have a good number of survivors, and i think we're very thankful that the numbers were not worse when it came to fatalities and injuries. it could have been much worse. we have crew that survived that we can interview. and significantly, we have cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders that have been recovered, went back on a red eye last night under federal escort to d.c. we hope to audition those in our headquarters in the next 24 hours .

>> i know you have an opportunity with investigators to actually go through that burned-out fuselage. those pictures are dramatic of you, also the aftermath of this flight. the bit of information that you do have, no distress calls reportedly from the flight crew , and as tom costello mentioned reports from the airline that there was no engine trouble. i realize you can't make conclusions. what does that lead you to believe, though, at this point?

>> you know, we have a lot of information to go through, and i think at this point everything is still on the table for us. we have to not only identify what we're focused on but also to rule things out. to do that we need good evidence, we need to document that. we need to corroborate that with information from air traffic control teams, radar, flight data recorder information, vok pit voice recorder information. we'll have our first full day on scene and our team will be very busy.

>> anything at this point you've been able to rule out? the weather, terrorism, other aspects of the crash?

>> we have no indication that there was a criminal act involved here. but i can tell you we have an excellent working relationship with our law enforcement counterparts, particularly the fbi that supports us in our work. we will continue to work with them. no indication of a criminal act at this point. good weather conditions. vfr, good visibility. we know that. we will be look at all of that information as part of our investigation as we begin to comb through all of the data. we're looking at hundreds of parameters potentially on a flight data recorder . that will gives us a lot of insight into this aircraft and what was going on.

>> chairman debby hersman, thanks for joining us this morning.

>> thank you.

>>> now we turn to the developments in egypt . chaos on the streets. the big story of the weekend was that mohammed elbaradei was to be named the interim leader of the country. then that was walked back. and just hours ago, dr. elbaradei canceled his appearance with he here on "meet the press." i was able to reach him by phone. he said he had laryngitis and a fever and under doctor's order for no television interviews, but there's a lot of confusion about what's going on and whether the opposition to him being an interim leader is what was really at work here. he told me he expects to be named as early as today firmly the leader of egypt , but he also said, his words, that the country is falling apart. now to our correspondent on the ground in cairo . this protest you're seeing today, amen, pro-morsi backers trying to get him reinstated.

>> reporter: that's correct. in fact, there are rival demonstrations that are being held across the country. but for the past several days supporters of the ousted president have been holding sit-ins not too far away from the republican guard headquarters where they believe the president to be held. at this point they are demanding that the president be reinstated as the leader of this country. now, the military, which attributes its ouster of the former president to a popular revolt , says that it is trying to quickly put a civilian government here in place. they've already appointed an interim president to run the country. but more importantly, a lot of controversy surrounding who will become the country's interim prime minister . effectively running the day to day affairs. as you mentioned, dr. elbaradei was the name floated around yesterday. his office confirmed that he would be the prime minister. but late last night, initial reports suggest that some of the more conservative political organizations here objected to having dr. elbaradei serve as the interim prime minister . and so as of right now there has been no appointment and this country right now remains without an effective government to run the day-to-day affairs. why that's so important, because the security situation in the country continues to deteriorate as these rival protests have shown over the past several days. when opponents and supporters of the president get together, it becomes very violent. we've seen more than 100 people killed in the last week in terms of clashes and that is why many are afraid without an effective government this situation can continue to worsen. david ?

>> amen month ha dean on the ground for us in cairo . thanks very much. let me turn to the former egyptian ambassador to the united states . mr. ambassador, welcome to "meet the press." there are reports you would become the foreign minister in a new government that would be formed on this interim basis. but my question to you this morning, sir, is who is going to be in charge of egypt and how does anyone govern egypt at this particular moment?

>> let me start by saying that, as you said, we do not yet have a prime minister. consequently, we don't have any nominees for any of the cabinet posts, including that of foreign minister. we are trying to establish a government that the interim president is consulting to try to get the widest possible support for the new prime minister, and hopefully he will announce the prime minister's name within a few hours or a day at most, i hope. once that's set, you will also have a roadmap set out by the president how to return to the constitutional discussions and two settles of elections for parliament and for president.

>> the question about the muslim brotherhood and the islamists is a really important one. dr. elbaradei told me this morning that he likened what many people call a coup to an impeachment process. the reality is that the egyptian military had to force out the government and the president was democratically elected . will you not as an opposition reform figure come to rue the day you had to rely upon the egyptian military to achieve this kind of change?

>> i think it's important to look at the context. you have 20 million to 30 million people out on the street. the military has a choice between intervention and chaos. and they had to respond to that. as the president responded to the people. 20 million to 30 million people on the streets here is equivalent to 50 million to 60 million on capitol hill . your president would have responded to the people there in one political form or the other. there was no response. so i think the military acted in response to the people, not their initiative. they did oust the president, that's true. but then they handled over government immediately to the interim president. so the fact they seized power or wanted to seize power is frankly incorrect.

>> but why wouldn't this happen to the next administration against whom there might be popular dissent? i mean, the template here is for opposition in the streets to ultimately force the military's hand to change the path of democracy .

>> when you're looking at the numbers here, 20 million to 30 million people, that is more than half of our political constituency. any president who has that kind of opposition has to understand he has a problem, he has made mistake, and he has to respond to them. had the president responded to the people, he would have been able to find different ways to do this. this is not about what the military did. we are looking for a democratic process that's inclusive, that's transparent, that's accountable, that includes everyone.

>> well, you --

>> and islamists .

>> what is the role of the muslim brotherhood now moving forward? will islamists now not believe that democracy is available for everyone except them? and what are the consequences of that?

>> no. every effort has to be made to include islamists . they are part of egypt . the issue is not including them. the issue is neither side can have exclusive control over egypt . so i'm fully supportive of including them, and we intend to work toward that objective.

>> finally, ambassador, there is a question for a lot of americans about the safety of egypt right now. there are a lot of visitors from this country who go there. the pyramids themselves are just ten minutes in guiza from cairo . before the revolution , you had some 270,000 americans who travelled there on some sort of holiday. at this particular juncture, are you prepared to say to americans that it's safe to travel to egypt ?

>> needless to say there is tension and turmoil. i still believe it's generally safe. but one of the reasons why the military intervened was to try to prevent widespread chaos and move us into a political transition. so i would hope tourists feel comfortable in the near future .

>> ambassador, thank you very much for your time this morning. i appreciate it.

>> you're welcome.

>> we'll get reaction now from a terrific roundtable. joining me, senior fellow with the woodrow wilson center , robin wright , columnist for "the new york times" tom friedman , columnist for "bloomberg view" and also with the "atlantic" magazine, tom goldstein , and from nbc news our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell and our political director chief white house correspondent chuck todd . welcome to all of you. tom friedman , you wrote this morning, can e egypt pull together anyone who has followed these politics knows this is a region where extremists tend to go all the way and moderates tend to just go away.

>> yeah, david . i put this in the context of several such surges by moderates over the years. uprising, the revolution in lebanon. they take it, take it, take it, and finally push back. i was in egypt a few weeks ago and that's what i saw happening. the ambassador alluded to it, can you get a national unity government ? if you look across all these arab awakenings, there is one principle that has to be applied -- no victor, no vanquish. anyone who thinks you can rule egypt alone, syria, lebanon, the list is so heavy. they are in such a deep hole that unless they can mobilize their populations together to lift them out of this hole, they're all heading for human development disasters.

>> jeffrey, you wrote morsi was freely elected, that these demonstrators could have exercised their right at the ballot box but they didn't want to wait. ultimately, it was the military that intervened.

>> right. look, the simple truth of the matter is is that this was a -- the events of last week are a victory for progressivism in a kind of way and a defeat for democracy .

>> what do you mean by that? you wrote that.

>> obviously the muslim brotherhood is a totalitarian party fundamentalist party, anti-christian, misogynistic party. let's not kid oufrss about what they are. their removal from power is good in that country for christians and other minorities, but it also reflects a defeat for democracy in the following sense. we know that this is not going to be the last time the military intervenes in this process. and if there had just been some level of patience on the part of liberals, the muslim brotherhood might have imploded on its own accord. now they're put in a position to be martyrs and move more radically and possibly get involved in terrorism like we see in egypt .

>> that's the big question. if you look at the history of the muslim brotherhood , the intellectual fathers coming out of the brotherhood with al qaeda , what does this por tend that democracy is not for them?

>> this is a big challenge. what happens in egypt has an enormous impact on what happens across the region. this big question of whether islam and democracy are compatible. the lessons for some of those who are taking to the streets in support of the muslim brotherhood and the only civilian democratically elected president in egypt 's 5000-year history, is is there a place for them? can they be part of the process ? a coup is a coup is a coup. the military acted in a way that sends a strong signal that if they don't like who's in power then they're going to move in. that's not a good precedent for egypt .

>> look, they took over but they gave power back right away, the ambassador said. that's hardly comfortable for democrats.

>> one of the big lessons here is that free and fair elections, as this was deemed by all outside observers, including the united states , does not mean democracy . what morsi was running was not a democratic system . it was majoritarian, not inclusive. and that was eating away at the core of what we call democracy . it's a lesson we've seen before. we've seen it with hamas in gaza, that elections are one thing, but that does not mean a democratic outcome.

>> chuck todd just back from africa with the president. this administration again, as it was a couple years ago, seems bike a bistander, not a real actor.

>> they do, but that is the one lesson they'll take away from what went wrong in the transition to morsi. the united states , president obama involved in pushing mow move bark out, then hands off, let morsi go. not this time. this time the plan is you will see the obama administration , the obama government more involved in building the democrat -- because it goes to andrea points. elections are not enough for democracy . you have to learn how to govern, too. this time the u.s. government is going to be more hands on, helping them build all parts of this new government both in the interim basis and helping them hold this election, realizing the president owns this, whether he likes itover not. there's no more sitting back.

>> confident in the military, confident they'll give power back right away, that this could actually turn out well more in america 's snaifr.

>> i think it's hopeful. there's a wonderful little detail in some of "the new york times" reporting today which said at a key moment when morsi was being pressed by another foreign minister to back off and try to salvage this, he was told when he refused to bring more people into his government that mother says this will not continue, mother being the united states . the fact is that america has been very involved in this. they took that lesson as chuck was just saying. and patterson , the ambassador there, criticized for sticking with morsi too much from the street.

>> you bring up our ambassador patterson , ann patterson , tom friedman , she said this weekend in one of the statements that raised a lot of eyebrows, let me be clear, military intervention is not the answer, as some would claim. neither the egyptian military nor the egyptian people will accept it as an outcome. some interpreted that as support for the morsi government. secretary of state put out a statement saying that's absolutely not the case. the administration refuses to call this a coup. what is the role of the administration at the moment?

>> there are so many things that are not being answered. morsi being elected and then ramming through a constitution pro- islamist without the rest of the country really getting a say, that also was not really a smart thing to do. so everyone has behaved badly here. you know, to pick up a point jeff said, one of the problems in all these countries, they are pluralistic, but they have no pluralism. we just re-elected a black man whose middle is hussein who defeated a woman running against a mormon. no one does that. we are freaks. the only way these kun trips are going to be able to govern horizontally -- for all these years they've governed vertically, from the top down with iron fists. the colonial powers are gone. now the iron fist in generals are gone. the only way they can be governed is horizontally. can they right writhe a social contract for how they live together with their pluralism? that's what's at stake.

>> can we talk about elbaradei ? is he if the future?

>> he may well become is brim prime minister. there's still a sense the job may become him oom oop. he's probably more attractive to the outside world more than he is known inside of egypt . he did work for the international atomic energy agency for which he won a nobel prize , but he also boycotted the three democratic elections inside egypt . he was calling for another one in what were supposed to be upcoming parliamentary elections . if you're going to believe in democracy , you have to participate in it. and this is where we're getting into this period that you think the last year wutz tough, wait till the next year, because of all these natural divisions. i think egypt is a very pluralistic society in that they're a huge array and not even all the islamists are united.

>> just lacks pluralism. that's the point i'm making. that's the problem. it's deeply pluralistic but it doesn't have a pluralistic effort.

>> all these divisions i think will make the transition very difficult because it's not just who is ruling egypt but how it's ruled. they have to decide on the basic problem of the constitution. it's been suspended. do they amend it, rewrite it? last time around they put it to a referendum and 77% of the people supported it.

>> comment here?

>> look, it's a very interesting thing because this was the muslim brotherhood 's big chance. they've been waiting 08 years to take over egypt and they blew it. they put a bump kin in charge, a guy who was in over his head, who while over his head pretty much tried to seize absolute power . there was a coup in november when basically morsi tried to put himself beyond judicial review and tried to take over absolute rule. that's when things turned south for him. they have blown it. tom is exactly right. they have not shown themselves to be ready to be leaders of a pluralistic society.

>> another aspect of the u.s. response, congress. joining me now is the chair of the senate foreign relations committee , democrat from new jersey, bob menendez . senator, welcome back.

>> good to be with you.

>> let's talk about the u.s. response. you said back in march that american security assistance to egypt cannot be a blank check . do you think the administration failed to exert the pressure, a billion and a half in u.s. aid , to egypt to put more pressure on morsi at a time when he was becoming a wayward leader?

>> well, i do think that the reality is that this is a very nascent democracy . this country doesn't have a history of democracy . what we expect of democracy overnight is not something we're going to see here. we were trying to nurture along a path that would move the what really needs to happen, which is they need to get an egypt for all. that's the only theyway they succeed. that means participation in the government of all different sectors of egyptian society. and so, the reality now is what do we do and using our assistance as leverage at the end of the day --

>> how do we do that?

>> i'm sorry?

>> how do we use that leverage now?

>> look, i think first of all we have to make sure that the military gets the very clear message we want to see a transition to a civilian government as quickly as possible. i think we have to get a process in which we urge all of the parties to participate together, that we come to an election as soon as possible, that that can be put together, that we look at the possibility of a new constitution, and at the end of the day , you know, while we have already made some obligations on that $1.4 billion by no means have we made the overwhelming amount of that obligation. this is an opportunity to have a pause and say to the egyptians you have an opportunity to come together, you have to have the military understand that that's what we're looking for, a transition right away, as soon as possible from any efforts. they have shown themselves not to be interested in power directly because, just as in the mubarak uprising -- and these demonstrations were bigger even than the mubarak uprising -- they moved towards a transition to a civilian government. we just have to make sure that the transition this time is much better, more pluralistic, and that brings an egypt for all.

>> chairman, you follow these issues closely. this is a bad day for political islam , not just in egypt but elsewhere. the turks apparently very unhappy about this and a lot of people are watching including an expert at brookings who knows the muslim brotherhood very well. this is something he wrote. he said 2013 with will stand as an historic moment in islamist lore, shape fugue chur generations of islamist activists and deepening their already powerful narrative of persecution, repression, and regret. america is blamed enough as it is. no reason to add another reason to the list. the obama administration would be use wiese to distance itself from the army's actions and use its leverage particularly to promise financial assistance and respect the rights of islamists . how important is it to keep the muslim brotherhood in the fold here unless they separate and even take up arms struggle?

>> it would be much preferable had president morsi called early elections and subjected himself to elections and shown whether he had the support of the nation. that didn't happen. of course an egypt for all includes in my mind participation from the muslim brotherhood . but, you know, president president morsi himself acted rather dictatorially back in november when he said these decrees were not something subject to judicial review , when he said the constitutional assembly was not subject to judicial review . so at the end of the day , while i would have liked to have seen early elections and then see him test his support among the people and the people would have had a choice and therefore less likely to have them be further -- be radicalized, at the end of the day , that's not what happened. so now the question is can we bring everybody together to create a more inclusive society in terms of the representation that it has in government? if we can do that, then egypt has a possibility. i agree with tom friedman that if, in fact -- if it's not an egypt for all, then succeeding in the future in addition to the political issues, the tremendous economic challenges that exist. but we have vital national security interests here. we care about transit to the suez canal . we care about the sinai. we care about not having attacks on gaza into israel. these are all -- we care about terrorism. so these are all critical issues in national security that we have to look at as it relates to our own engagement moving forward.

>> senator, let me ask you about another national security concern. that is nsa leaker edward snowden , still stuck at a hotel in this transit zone in russia's airport in moscow. he's been offered asylum now by venezuela. there are other countries in latin america including bolivia and nicaragua offering him asylum. chairman of the foreign relations committee , what are the repercussions? what should the repercussions be for those countries if they grant him asylum?

>> well, clearly it's very clear that any of these countries that semisnowden offer him political asylum is taking a step against the united states , making a very clear statement. i'm not surprised by the countries that are offering him asylum. they like sticking it to the united states . i think, you know, you have to look, you know, whether you look at trade preferences that may exist with these countries, other elements of our policy, our aid, our trade. you have to look at it and decide, in fact, if any of these countries actually accept snowden and he gets there, then you're going to have to decide how you react. but clearly any such acceptance of snowden to any country, any of these three or any other, is going to put them directly against the united states . and they need to know that.

>> senator, quickly, before i let you go, one domestic question. that is the fight over health care . the administration saying this week they're going to delay the employer mandate, a key part of the health care law . how concerned are you that the administration has just sparked a new fire among critics of this health care law who say that it's unworkable, it was not well thought out and ought to just be repealed?

>> well, david , if ten angels came swearing from above that this is the best law for the country's health there would be opponents who would say the angels lied. the reality is that this is an opportunity to get it right. 96% of all companies in america weren't subject to the mandate because they're under 50 employees. those who are subject to the mandate, 95% of them already offer insurance so, we're talking about probably 1% of the american workforce that works for a company subject to the mandate that didn't get insurance and will be able to get it in the health exchanges that open up in october. so i think getting it right is important, and that's what the administration was trying to do. opponents will take any movement. had they not taken the time, they would have criticized them for not giving them the right type of regulatory framework for the reporting to take place. so the reality is i think the criticism would come no matter what.

>> senator menendez, thank you very much. i appreciate your time. we're going to take a break here. andrea and chuck will stick around with us. jeff, tom, robin, thanks for your insights.

>>> coming up, did the obama administration give political ammunition delaying that key part of the reform on health care ? is there a reason to expect further delays now? plus the immigration reform plight. that moves on to house. i'll speak with congressman raul labrador of idaho all coming there is