Nightly News   |  December 18, 2013

US Sochi delegation snubs Putin

For the first time since 2000, the U.S. delegation to an Olympics will not include a member of the first family, a vice president, or former president. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>>> now to a surprising decision from the white house about who will represent the white house at the winter olympic games in russia in february and who is not. the president and first lady are not going. some of those they have chosen to send will be there in effect to send a message about the russian crackdown on gay people . chief white house correspondent chuck todd from the north lawn with details on this tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: good evening, brian. it's no secret that relations between russia and the united states and specifically president obama and vladimir putin are not good. a post cold war low. it appears the hard feelings are now spilling over into the upcoming winter olympics . for the first time since 2000 , the u.s. delegation to an olympics will not include a member of the first family, a vice president, or a former president. instead the delegation to sochi will be led by a former cabinet secretary , janet napolitano , and feature two openly gay former athletes, olympic medalist caitlin cahow and billie jean king . the president cancelled a summit due to russia offering asylum to edward snowden.

>> i think this delegation brings attention to the remarkable diversity of the united states .

>> reporter: the president has been leveling criticism at russia for months.

>> every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam . people's sexual orientation shouldn't have anything to do with it.

>> reporter: america's ambassador to russia said in september the u.s. will walk a diplomatic line on these issues when the games begin. is the united states encouraging social protest of sorts at that time olympics ?

>> no. that's not our job.

>> reporter: like mexico '68? does the united states want that?

>> athletes are athletes. they are not diplomats. that's for us to do. we want to protect their views while they are there.

>> reporter: cahow hopes her presence as a delegate sends a signal to russia and others.

>> i'm going as a representative of the united states which embraces my dignity and my freedom. i will go to russia gladly.

>> reporter: some believe the president inadvertently snubbed the athletes and the olympic committee which could hurt the u.s. chances at hosting in the future.

>> you could make a compelling argument that president obama is disrespecting the american athletes by not going himself. it would be a different signal if president obama had gone himself and sent billie jean king with him.

>> reporter: while a delegation solution is a diplomatic poke in the eye the u.s. could scare tourists away if the it issues a travel alert for sochi. the games will take place less than 100 miles from one of the terrorist hot zones, the north caucuses of russia but there are no current plans to issue the alert.

>> all right, the olympics already fraught. before we let you go, there was news today at the white house regarding the nsa data mining .

>> reporter: the white house decided to make public a report that it solicited from an outside task force to figure out how to reform the nsa's collection activities in a way that restores trust with the agency. they made a bunch of recommendations. here are four that matter. they would like to see that it no longer would have the government house the so-called me ta phone and internet data. let the phone and internet companies themselves do it. no more blanket court orders for phone and internet data. let the government show legal cause for every instance when it needs phone and internet data. allow private phone companies to make public each time it is forced to turn over data to the company and perhaps take the nsa away from the control of the military and instead have a civilian put in charge who is subject to senate confirmation and congressional oversight . the president hasn't decided if he'll accept any of the recommendations. we will find this out after the new year.

>> chuck todd with all of it from the white house