MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, we are covering the breaking news this morning. NSA leaker Edward Snowden on the run now as the government files formal charges against him.
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Plus, our own congressional summit on the hottest issues of the president’s second term.
The immigration fight is coming to a head with high stakes and big leadership tests for both the president and the GOP. The stock market stumbles. How much volatility is ahead in the economy? And what should Washington do?
And, the debate over spying. Is the country still behind the NSA surveillance programs or does the president need to make a public case to keep it going? With us, four key Capitol Hill voices. Assistant Democratic leader in the Senate Dick Durbin of Illinois; the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, key conservative voice on immigration, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma; Democratic Congresswoman from California, Loretta Sanchez; and the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan.
Then, our political roundtable on Obama’s rough patch. Critical reviews of his trip to the G8 and his efforts on Syria, falling approval ratings. Is his second term slipping away?
ANNOUNCER: From NBC News in Washington, the world’s longest running television program, this is MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
GREGORY: Good Sunday morning. A busy one. We've got breaking news here that we are following this morning. NSA leaker Edward Snowden is on the move. He has left Hong Kong. He boarded a commercial flight to Moscow a few hours ago, final destination unknown, but he is expected to land in Moscow in just a few minutes. The Hong Kong government issued a defiant statement claiming the U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law. And WikiLeaks posted a statement just moments ago saying Snowden is, quote, “Bound for a Democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks.” That organization, as you know, responsible for other high-profile leaks of classified information. All of this as the U.S. has charged Snowden with espionage and the theft of government property and has made clear that they intend for him to face justice here in the United States. Many questions remain. We want to talk to the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, who is with us exclusively this morning, in just a moment. But first, I want to bring in the man who actually broke the NSA surveillance story for The Guardian newspaper columnist Glenn Greenwald. He has got additional information this morning. Glenn is in Brazil this morning. And I should point out there is a very big delay between us on the satellite, so I want to be mindful of that. And Glenn, so as I begin this morning, tell us where Snowden is? Where he is ultimately headed?
MR. GLENN GREENWALD (Columnist, The Guardian): Well, I think the-- the where he is question is one that you just answered which is he is on a commercial flight to Moscow. Where he is ultimately headed is unknown. In every conversation that I have had with him over the last three weeks, he has stressed that the key contacts for every decision that he is making is as McClatchy reported this morning the Obama administration has been engaged in an unprecedented war against whistleblowers, people who bring transparency to what they are doing, and he believes that it’s vital that he stay out of the clutches of the U.S. government because of the record of the Obama administration on people who-- who disclose wrongdoing that the political officials are doing in the dark and he apparently is headed to a Democratic country that will grant him asylum from this persecution.
GREGORY: So, he does not intend to return to the United States. He intends to fight extradition. What else does he intend to do? You have been in contact with him. Is there additional information he is prepared to leak to bolster his and your claim that he is actually a whistleblower and not a criminal responsible for espionage?
MR. GREENWALD: Sure. I think the-- the key definition of a whistleblower is somebody who brings to light what political officials do in the dark that is either deceitful or illegal. And in this case, there is a New York Times article just this morning that describes that one of the revelations that he-- he-- he enabled that we reported is that the director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, went before the U.S. Congress and lied outright when asked whether or not the NSA is collecting any form of data on millions of Americans. His response-- Director Clapper’s response was, “No, sir." As The New York Times said today, even Clapper has had to say that that statement was absolutely false. And the very first conversation I ever had with Mister Snowden, he showed me the folder in which he had placed the documents and labeled it, “NSA Lying to Congress,” that proved as we reported that the NSA is bulk collecting the phone records of millions of Americans indiscriminately, exactly what Clapper denied to the Congress was being done. As for illegality, The New York Times also said today that the bulk spying program exceeds the Patriot Act and there’s a FISA court opinion that says that the U.S. government, that the NSA engaged in unconstitutional and illegal spying on American citizens. That court opinion is secret, but he showed me documents discussing internally in the NSA what that court ruling is, and that should absolutely be public.
GREGORY: With regard to that specific FISA opinion, isn’t the case, based on people that I’ve talked to, that the FISA opinion based on the government’s request is that they said, well, you can get this but you can’t get that. That would actually go beyond the scope of what you’re allowed to do, which means that the request was changed or denied, which is the whole point the government makes, which is that there is actual judicial review here and not abuse. Isn’t this the kind of review and opinion that you would want to keep these programs in line?
MR. GREENWALD: I don’t know what government officials are-- are whispering to you, David, but I know that the documents that I have in my possession and that I have read from the NSA tell a much different story which is that there was an 80-page opinion from the FISA court that said that what the NSA is doing in spying on American citizens is a violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the bounds of the statute. And it specifically said that they are collecting bulk transmissions, multiple conversations from millions of Americans, not just people that are believed to be involved in terrorist organizations or working for a foreign agent, and that this is illegal. And the NSA then planned to try and accommodate that ruling. But I think the real issue, as journalists and as citizens is, why should we have to guess, how can we have a democracy in which a secret court rules that what the government is doing in spying on us is a violation of the constitution and the law and yet we sit here and don’t know what that ruling is because it’s all been concealed and all been secret. I think we need to have transparency and disclosure, and that’s why Mister Snowden stepped forward so that we could have that.
GREGORY: There are reports that he’s ultimately headed to Venezuela. Is that your understanding?
MR. GREENWALD: I don’t-- I’m not going to talk about where he’s headed or what his plans are. I think it’s up in the air. I’m not actually sure where he’s headed and he’s my source for these stories. I’m not going to talk about where I think he’s going.
GREGORY: Well, that would meet the criteria for what he’s outlining-- what you’ve outlined this morning in terms of where he’d like to be.
MR. GREENWALD: Right. Well, Venezuela has a democratically elected government, though it has lots of problems in its political system. And I think the real question is why should an American citizen who joined the U.S. military, worked for the CIA, worked for the NSA-- why does he feel that he has to flee the United States simply because he stepped forward in a very careful way, goes to newspapers, reveals wrongdoing and lying on the part of U.S. government officials, why does he feel that he has to flee. And McClatchy article this morning answers that question. It says the Obama administration has been unprecedentedly aggressive and vindictive in how it punishes and treats whistleblowers as enemies of the state. And I think that’s really the question we need to be asking is why are whistleblowers being treated in this fashion?
GREGORY: You’re-- you-- you are a polemicist here, you have a point of view, you are a columnist, you’re also a lawyer. You do not dispute that Edward Snowden has broken the law, do you?
MR. GREENWALD: No. I think he’s very clear about the fact that he did it because his conscience compelled him to do so, just like Daniel Ellsberg did 50 years ago when he released the Pentagon papers and also admits that he broke the law. I think the question, though, is how can he be charged with espionage? He didn’t work for a foreign government. He could have sold this information for millions of dollars and enriched himself. He didn’t do any of that either. He stepped forward and-- as we want people to do in a democracy, as a government official, learned of wrongdoing and exposed it so we could have a democratic debate about the spying system, do we really want to put people like that in prison for life when all they’re doing is telling us as citizens what our political officials are doing in the dark.
GREGORY: Final question before-- for you, but I’d like you to hang around. I just want to get Pete Williams in here as well. To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn’t you, Mister Greenwald, be charged with a crime?
MR. GREENWALD: I think it’s pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I’ve aided and abetted him in anyway. The scandal that arose in Washington before our stories began was about the fact that the Obama administration is trying to criminalize investigative journalism by going through the-- the e-mails and phone records of AP reporters, accusing a Fox News journalist of the theory that you just embraced, being a co-conspirator with felony-- in felonies for working with sources. If you want to embrace that theory, it means that every investigative journalist in the United States who works with their sources, who receives classified information is a criminal, and it’s precisely those theories and precisely that climate that has become so menacing in the United States. That’s why the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer said investigative reporting has come to a standstill, her word, as a result of the theories that you just referenced.
GREGORY: Well, the question of who’s a journalist may be up to a debate with regard to what you’re doing and of course anybody who’s watching this understands I was asking a question. That question has been raised by lawmakers, as well. I’m not embracing anything. But, obviously, I take your point. Mister Greenwald, just stay put if you would for just a moment. I want to bring in Pete Williams. I appreciate you dealing with the delay as well. Pete, can you just bring up to speed on where the Justice Department is on this? What is that they are prepared to do now that Snowden has done? What he’s done?
MR. PETE WILLIAMS (NBC News Justice Correspondent): Well, the request for extradition will follow wherever he ends up. What I'm told is, first of all, we know that the charges were filed actually under seal a week ago in the Eastern District of Virginia right across the river from Washington, and the Chinese-- the Hong Kong government was informed of that, and the U.S. sought the next step, which is an arrest warrant. And then after he was arrested, the extradition process would start. Administration officials say that the Hong Kong officials came back to the U.S. just this past Friday night with additional questions that the U.S. was in the process of responding when the Hong Kong authorities notified the U.S. that they decided to let him go. Now, in their statement, the Hong Kong government says that the charges the U.S. filed, quote, “Did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.” I think it’s fair to say that there’s-- the U.S. is upset about this because it’s the administration’s claim that the filing of the charges was a back-and-forth with the Hong Kong authorities. They wanted to make sure that they would conform to the treaty, the extradition treaty the U.S. has, and that they’d received assurances that it would, so this is a-- this is quite a surprise, I think it’s fair to say, the administration. But David, I think from now on this is a diplomatic issue not a legal one, because it’s quite obvious he intends to seek asylum and that’s where this process goes next.
GREGORY: What are the lengths to which the administration may be prepared to go? I’m not asking you to-- to speculate, but what are going to be some of the menu of choices that they’re going to have to be discussing?
MR. WILLIAMS: Well, the only ones I know are the diplomatic and illegal ones. Whether there-- whether there are more exotic ones, to sort of grab him and bring him back, I wouldn’t know and of course they wouldn’t say. That would obviously be very controversial although I’m sure there are many members of Congress who would agree and others who would think that it was the wrong thing to do. But as far as I know, this is strictly a legal and diplomatic one obviously-- I mean, I suppose if-- if that was going to the course, the U.S. had the chance to do that when he was in the-- in Hong Kong and chose not to.
GREGORY: All right, Pete, thank you so much. One last question for Glenn Greenwald. Glenn, I just would like you if you would to respond to your critics who as you know have made a case against you, against Snowden saying, look, this is not a case of a courageous whistleblower who worked through the system even available to whistle-blowers to report if-- if something that you may think is abuse. These-- this is a partisan who is single-handedly deciding to expose programs that there is both support for and in doing so illegally that this is more of an agenda and that there’s frankly a lot of concern that one person would take it upon himself to-- to undermine a program that a lot of people believe is actually helpful to national security.
MR. GREENWALD: Right. This is what the U.S. government, what you just-- what you just-- that the claim that you just referenced has been saying for decades. They said the same thing about Daniel Ellsberg. They said the same thing about whoever leaked the Bush NSA eavesdropping program to The New York Times in 2005 or who told The Washington Post’s Dana Priest about CIA black sites. This is how the government always tries to protect themselves from transparency is by accusing those who bring it of endangering national security. There’s been nothing that has been revealed that has been remotely endangering of national security. The only thing people who have learned anything are the American people, who have learned the spying apparatus is directed at them. But let me just quickly say it isn’t Edward Snowden who’s making the decisions about what has published. He didn’t simply upload these documents to the internet or pass them to adversary governments, which is what he could have done, had he been inclined or had his motive been to harm the United States. He came to two newspapers The Guardian and The Washington Post and said I want you to be extremely careful about what it is that you publish and what it is that you don’t publish. Only publish what Americans should know, but don’t harm national security. And we have withheld a majority of things that he gave us pursuant not only to his instruction, but to our duty as journalists. That’s what whistleblowers and journalists do every single day, David. That’s how Americans have learned about wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. government, through this process.
GREGORY: All right, Glenn Greenwald, I really appreciate you coming on this morning and for your views. Thank you very much.
Joining me now, Democratic Senator from Illinois, the Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin; Republican Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn; Republican Congressman from Michigan, the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers; and the Democratic Congresswoman from California, Loretta Sanchez. Welcome to all of you. I want to go through some of the hot topics on Capitol Hill right now and move through some of these things. But I’ve got to start here with this breaking news. And let me go with you, Chairman Rogers, reaction to what you’ve heard in to the developments this morning.
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-MI/Chair, House Intelligence Committee): Well, it’s concerning. Obviously, what appears to be as of today that he is flying-- will-- will catch another flight from Moscow, many believe to Cuba. We know that there is air traffic from Moscow to Cuba, then on to Venezuela. And when you look at it, every one of those nations is hostile to the United States. I mean if he could go to North Korea and Iran, he could round out his government oppression tour by Snowden. So you think about what he says he wants and what his actions are, it defies logic. He has taken information that does not belong to him, belongs to the people of the United States. He has jeopardized our national security. I disagree with the-- The Reporter. Clearly, the bad guys have already changed their way. Remember, these were counterterrorism programs essentially, and we have seen that bad guys overseas, terrorists who are committing and plotting attacks on the United States and our allies, have changed the way they operate. We’ve already seen that. To say that that is not harmful to the national security of the United States or our safety is just dead wrong.
GREGORY: And Greenwald mentioned the FISA opinion, some eighty pages long. He doesn’t have the opinion but he’s-- he’s got documents supporting it essentially saying that the government overreached, went beyond its authority, and-- and in fact, he says, we can establish illegality as opposed to what I suggested to him, which was-- it was a judicial review and then a change was made. What do you say?
REP. ROGERS: This is obviously why the program works. There is judicial review and there is judicial pushback, and rightly so. This is the problem with having a thousand-piece puzzle, taking three or four pieces and deciding that you’re now an expert on what that picture looks like. You’re going to get it wrong. They’re getting it wrong and it’s dangerous. So what happened was the court looked at it and said because of a technical difficulty, you’re collecting more information than you’re allowed to collect. You have to fix it. They came back, they stopped collection, they went back, they reviewed it, they figured out how to correct that. That’s exactly the kind of thing you want to do. And by the way, it was reported to Congress as well. We reviewed it. We agreed that they had over collected, and we also agreed the-- the mitigation, the way that they tech-- used technology to make sure they weren’t collecting certain bits of information was adhered to. That’s the way you want a classified system to work when you’re not trying to tell the bad guys how we do things.
GREGORY: Before I bring everybody else in, what lengths should this administration go to track Snowden down? The diplomatic route as Pete Williams reported on could be very difficult if he ends up in Venezuela. You’re chairman of the-- the House Intelligence Committee. What should this administration do?
REP. ROGERS: They should use every legal avenue we have to bring him back to the United States. And, listen, if he believes that he’s doing something good--and by the way, he went outside all of the whistleblower avenues that were available to anyone in this government, including people who have classified information. We get two or three visits from whistleblowers every single week in the committee, and we-- we investigate every one thoroughly. He didn’t choose that route. If he really believes he did something good, he should get on a plane, come back, and face the consequences of his actions.
GREGORY: Is he gone? Do you think he’s gone? Not to return?
REP. ROGERS: I-- I don’t-- I’m not sure I would say gone forever. I do think that we’ll continue with extradition activities wherever he ends up and we could-- should continue to find ways to return him to the United States and get the United States’ public’s information back.
GREGORY: Let me bring in Senator Durbin, and we-- this is obviously being reported widely on Twitter this morning, Senator, as you can understand, WikiLeaks tweeting that he has just landed in Moscow. Edward Snowden has just las-- landed in Moscow. So, he’s gone from Hong Kong and on his way potentially to Venezuela, perhaps somewhere else. Specifically react to Glenn Greenwald who says this administration is criminalizing investigative journalism, criminalizing the release of information that could really contribute to a healthy debate about this kind of surveillance, and that Snowden is not guilty of espionage.
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL/Assistant Majority Leader): Well, listen, every president of both political parties, first responsibility is to keep America safe, period, but to do it within the confines of the constitution. And that’s exactly the debate we’re engaged in now. I’ve been a critic of this bulk collection for years. I’ve offered amendments in the judiciary committee and on the floor. I believe that it should be restricted. I don’t think it currently is-- is serving our nation because it goes way too far. If there’s a suspect in the city of Washington with some linkage to a terrorist, will we collect the phone records of everyone who makes a phone call in area code 202 for five years? If there’s a reasonable and specific suspicion, we should go after those who are thought to be complicit in any act that could jeopardize America. Having said that, though, this administration has an awesome responsibility to keep us safe and when it comes to classified information has to take care that we don’t jeopardize the lives of Americans, our troops, our allies and friends around the world by releasing these sorts of things in a public fashion.
GREGORY: Senator Tom Coburn, you’re following events this morning. How important is it at this juncture to get Edward Snowden back to the United States so that he can face justice? Because what’s clear is that he is not only seeking to avoid that but that he plans to stay in hiding and continue to leak information to bolster his own case for being a whistleblower and not a criminal and to continue to try to press the debate here on this issue.
SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK): Well, I don’t know that-- that we’re going to have a lot to influence that, David. I think the more important thing is what is-- is NSA, how well is it looked at? It’s-- it’s the most over sighted program in the federal government. I’m known as a pretty good critic of most of the programs of the federal government. I believe that this is a well run within the constitutional framework of its guidelines and that we, in fact, if you-- if we could talk about everything, which we can’t, which is one of the problems with this, Americans would be pretty well satisfied. The other thing that I think is, is that if you look at the institutions that are trusted in this country-- and we have a real waning of confidence in the institution of government. When you look at the-- the scale, Congress is on the bottom and the U.S. Army is on the top. And our military has done a great job running this program within the confines of the program as it was set out in Congress. And also, just to counter what Senator Durbin said, we don’t listen to anybody’s phone calls. We don’t-- we don’t go and monitor the phone calls until we have a connection with a terrorist. And that’s-- that’s the key point with which you can even go to access this. So it’s a whole different story than what has been blown out of proportion of what actually happens.
GREGORY: All right. Congressman Sanchez, you’ve been critical of these programs. You heard Glenn Greenwald this morning saying that there-- that it’s not as targeted as you may think, that the government is, in effect, sucking up information from e-mails and from phone calls that goes way, way beyond the Patriot Act. There have been Republicans who have said this, James Sensenbrenner, that goes beyond the Patriot Act. How concerned are you?
REP. LORETTA SANCHEZ (D-CA/Homeland Security Committee): Well, as you know, I have not voted in favor of any Patriot Act or any of the FISA Amendments or anything else that goes with it particularly because I have been concerned in this area. You know, I mean the Supreme Court has been pretty straightforward about the Fourth Amendment. They’ve let it err on the sense of national security. It’s the Congress actually who can rein it in, but it’s the Congress who’s actually allowed it to be much broader and have collection happen. And my biggest point is that not everybody in the Congress is given access to what is really happening. And so when our American public says, hey, we don’t know about this and why are you doing this, I mean, maybe we can’t tell everybody in our nation, but you would think that 435 members of the House and a 100 senators should have access and ability to understand what the NSA is doing, what all the other agencies, intelligence agencies are doing. And actually have a good debate and maybe it has to be behind closed doors, but certainly with all deference to-- to our chairman here, he may have information, I doubt he has everything and knows everything, but certainly I am limited even when I ask.
GREGORY: What about-- what about Snowden? Do you think, as Glenn Greenwald does, that it’s preposterous to charge him with espionage? Is that your view?
REP. SANCHEZ: Clearly under the laws that the Congress has set and that the Supreme Court under its prior rulings he has broken the law. I mean, that’s where we are.
GREGORY: You’d like to see him brought to justice here in the United States?
REP. SANCHEZ: I am very worried about what else he has and what else he may put out there. I am worried about our national security.
GREGORY: Chairman, let me bring you in on this. Senator Schumer saying this morning that there are some indication that Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, had advanced knowledge of Snowden’s flight and his travel plans. What are the ramifications of that if it’s true?
REP. ROGERS: You know I-- it wouldn’t surprise me. I don’t have information to that effect, but it wouldn’t surprise me. Putin has been playing a thorn in the world’s side in Syria. We think that they may not be playing honest with their adherence to the nuclear treaty. They’re very aggressive around the world trying to regain their influence. They’ve modernized their nuclear fleet. Listen, Russia is a country that wants to get back on the world stage and I don’t think they really care if they do it in a way that’s in the best interest of good citizenship around the world. This shouldn’t surprise us. They have a very aggressive intelligence operation in the United States. I’m sure they would love to have a little bit of coffee and a few conversations with Mister Snowden. That’s why this is so serious and why we need to be so aggressive about making sure that people understand the difference between somebody who betrays their country and gives secrets away that will protect American lives at the expense for whatever he hopes to gain in the company of the Russians, in the-- in company of the Chinese Intelligence Services, in the company of what you can only imagine is Cuban and Venezuelan Intelligence Services, as well.
GREGORY: Senator Durbin, Howard Dean, a progressive, who ran for president, of course at a time when there were progressives meeting out west this weekend in the Netroots conference. He said something on Thursday that I want to show and get your reaction too. This is about what the president ought to do. He said, “I think the American people are willing to give us some privacy-- give up some privacy in exchange for safety, but I think the president has to essentially ask our permission… This reason this country works is because we are governed with the consent of the governed… I think the American people support the president, but he’s got to go on television and explain what the program is, why he thinks we need it, and what it has accomplished.” Do you think the president needs to do more now to keep Americans onboard with what we’re doing?
SEN. DURBIN: Well, the president’s already started that. He had the first meeting with the Civil Liberties Oversight Board which has that specific responsibility within the federal government. There should be more activity, more statements by the president, and engage the public. To go back to Senator Coburn’s point, I never said that they had access to the conversations, only to the phone records. But it’s still a significant piece of information about each of us. David, we live in a world where people are tweeting every random thought that comes into their head and going to Facebook every night and disclosing things about their personal lives. We are sacrificing giving up voluntarily our privacy, the public sector and private sector gathering information which could limit our privacy. And it’s time for a national conversation, where should we draw these lines?
GREGORY: I want to switch gears. I’ve just got a couple of minutes left. Again, I appreciate you all bearing with me the fact that this breaking news has come up. But Senator Coburn, let me get your views on immigration right now at a critical time, as we’re heading toward a vote, as the Senate is moving on this, the House will take it up, what do you think in the end we’re going to end up with, if anything, on immigration reform?
SEN. COBURN: Well, my hope would be that we have a cogent border security plan, that we solve the-- the difficulty of those living in the shadows, that they can come out, and that we don’t ask the American people to trust us but we actually put out a cogent plan that actually solves the problem--border with walls but also with doors, much like Reagan had espoused, and a way to where we continue this grand experiment where we have a mix of everybody coming here to better their families, better our country, and secure and enhance both their freedom and ours.
GREGORY: Congresswoman, is whatever’s being debated on terms of border security in the Senate, is it enough to affect what’s going to happen in the house? If you look at the experience of the farm bill here, are you going to be able to overcome conservative opposition to the idea of reform in a pathway to citizenship to get meaningful reform?
REP. SANCHEZ: Well, that’s really Speaker Boehner’s job to get his votes out of his conference. But I believe if you’re going to look at 30 billion dollars more into border security, I mean, that’s-- that’s not been put aside, this whole issue of border security, because we’ll have the money to do that. The whole issue that’s it’s an economic drain, we just found out this week, hey, it’s about 900 billion dollars in the positive. So I believe from three standpoints, we need to get this done and now is the time. We need to get it done from a homeland security perspective, we need to get it done because it’s better for our economy, and we need to get it done because it’s about traditional American family values, keeping our families together. These are families that are deacons in our church, PTA moms, little league coaches. They are part of our American fabric, already.
GREGORY: All right. We’re going to leave it there. Again, I appreciate it. Other topics that I wanted to cover including the economy and more on immigration, but we’ve run out of time and, especially, with this Snowden news. Chairman, Congresswoman, thank you. Senators, thank you both. Look forward to having you back on soon to talk about some of these other issues. We’re going to come back here with our political roundtable. It’s been a rough ride for the president of late to have these controversies surrounding the IRS and, obviously, the NSA surveillance stories just to name a few. And we’re only five months past the inauguration. Is this second term now starting to slip away? We’re going to talk about the politics with our roundtable, Former Press Secretary for the President, Robert Gibbs; Republican Strategist, Mike Murphy; the Democratic Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed; Former Chair and CEO of HP, Carly Fiorina; and NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director Chuck Todd here, as well. We’re coming back right after this.
GREGORY: The president’s approval rating takes a dip, and Speaker John Boehner suffers a surprising defeat this week. Coming up, the leadership challenges for both men as Washington prepares to take on one of the biggest issues yet, immigration reform.
Plus, are we closer to being able to use one of these on flights during takeoff and landings? We’ll talk about it with our roundtable after this brief commercial break.
ANNOUNCER: Now, it’s your turn to bring something to the table. Viewer’s today’s question. Weigh in now at Facebook.com/meetthepress.
GREGORY: We are back with all this breaking news about Edward Snowden with our roundtable. Joining me, the Former White House Press Secretary, now NBC News political contributor Robert Gibbs; Republican Strategist, Mike Murphy; the Democratic Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed; Former Chair and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Carly Fiorina; and our NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent, Chuck Todd. Welcome to all of you. Chuck, this is something of an embarrassment and certainly a concern for this administration that thought it had an extradition-- an agreement worked out.
MR. CHUCK TODD (Political Director, NBC News/Chief White House Correspondent, NBC News): It is and when you’re hearing Pete’s reporting about what happened in this diplomatic back and forth with Hong Kong, this is clearly a-- the-- the U.S. government is kind of have to figure out, is there going to be retribution against Hong Kong, what is that that’s going to-- what is the fallout over that? And let’s not pretend the minute now that he’s in Moscow and the-- and the way he’s going to go, he is not coming back anytime soon. And the ability to get that done, I mean, I saw firsthand this relationship between the United States and Russia specifically between President Obama and President Putin, it’s-- it’s-- it’s cheap to say it’s cold war-like…
MR. TODD: …but it’s cold. It is a relationship that is chilly. So the idea that somehow Moscow is going to be cooperative with United States and the U.S. government wants-- wants an (Unintelligible). It’s not going to happen. And in-- in many ways, Putin always looks for little ways that he can stick a thumb in the U.S. government’s eyes and-- and Obama’s eyes and this is a little way to do it.
GREGORY: Robert Gibbs, you have been in the middle of these kind of delicate situations before when you were inside the White House. Not a lot of great options right now as…
MR. ROBERT GIBBS (White House Press Secretary, 2009-2011/Former Senior Adviser, Obama 2012 Re-election Campaign/NBC News Political Contributor): No.
GREGORY: …you have somebody who is perhaps going to a place that it would be difficult to get him from and who is working with journalists like Glenn Greenwald and others to put out information that will continue to shed light on these programs and push the debate.
MR. GIBBS: Yeah. There is no question these are-- are a lot of bad options. And as Chuck said, I don’t think landing in Havana or Caracas is going to increase our likelihood that Mister Snowden will be flying on a government plane back to the United States anytime soon. I think to build off of what Senator Durbin said, I think, you know, it is incumbent upon this administration and this White House to have a more robust conversation about these programs. I don’t know that this is a huge debate that it’s taking place outside of the beltway, but it is obviously one this morning that’s raging inside the beltway and a greater discussion as much as you can about transparency and about what these programs are and what they aren’t. I will say you have-- you listen to a lot of the coverage and you would think we had literally millions and millions of FBI agents listening to every single call that every single American is making. That’s simply not true.
MR. GIBBS: And I think having that discussion actively with the American people is an important thing to do.
GREGORY: You know, part of the tactics of this and part of the debate is frankly around journalism. And Glenn Greenwald referenced it when I asked him a question about whether he should or will face charges, which has been raised. And, you know, I want to acknowledge there is a-- a debate on Twitter that goes on online about this even as we are speaking and here’s what Greenwald has tweeted after this appearance this morning, “Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?” And I want to directly take that on because this is the problem with somebody who claims that he is a journalist, would object to a journalist raising questions which is not actually embracing any particular point of view. And that’s part of the tactics of the debate here when, in fact, lawmakers have questioned him. There is a question about his role in this, The Guardian’s role in all of this. It is actually part of the debate rather than going after the questioner, he could take on the issues and he had an opportunity to do that here on-- on MEET THE PRESS. What is journalism, Mike Murphy, and what is appropriate is actually part of this debate?
MR. MIKE MURPHY (Republican Strategist): Absolutely. And the great irony to me in all this is so-called whistleblower can only go to almost rogue nations to hide, because then with this rule of law, he’d get extradited. He’s a felony. He’s a fugitive. It’s a bad sign for Hong Kong that has built an image of having its own independence from the PRC with its own system of law. That’s up in smoke today and that’s going to have repercussions in our relationship, I think, with the Chinese. So we’ll see what happens. He may wind up on the run in Caracas, but it’s clear he’s a felony and a fugitive and he will not have a good life now.
GREGORY: Kasim Reed, mayor of Atlanta, you’re outside the beltway dealing with issues like the economy and-- and government regulation and implementation of Obamacare.
MR. KASIM REED (Mayor of Atlanta, GA): Yes.
GREGORY: But you’ve got and you heard it from Glenn Greenwald this morning, you’re hearing it from Edward Snowden, they want to keep a debate alive to get people focused on what they believe is not just controversial but actual abuse.
MR. REED: Well, here’s where we are. What we know is we have a president that wants to have a path for law-abiding citizens to be removed from this process. Listen, all of these members of Congress, put a bill on the floor. All of the chatter and debate that we’ve been listening to can be addressed by putting a bill on the floor, but the reason that people won’t put a bill on the floor is because with that bill would come responsibility. And the fact of the matter is both presidents, Bush and Obama, have done a pretty significant job, strong job of keeping this country safe. If you’re the House-- House member or senator that puts a bill on the floor to address these issues, you know what, you’re going to own it.
MR. REED: And if you think of how the country felt on the day of the Boston bombings, that horrific incident, amplify that times 25 or 50, which are the number of terrorist incidents that we have been able to interrupt because of these kind of programs. So they need to be reined in, but these folks there making all these commentaries from-- from the cheap seats, should put a bill on the floor.
GREGORY: Carly Fiorina, you know, I think the point is important because what Congress has failed to do is actually have the guts to have a debate. If you want to debate these things, then don’t pass the Patriot Act in perpetuity, don’t give the president authority to wage a military campaign without coming back and saying, hey, maybe we ought to review this. But Mike Hayden, who ran the NSA, was on this program last week, and he made the point that there has-- these programs cannot operate in the dark. They have to be politically sustainable. And here’s what he said last week that I thought was quite interesting. We’ll show it to you.
(Videotape; 16 June 2013)
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN (Ret. Former NSA Director/Former CIA Director): I think it’s living in this kind of a democracy we’re going to have to be a little bit less effective in order to be a little bit more transparent to get to do anything to defend the American people.
GREGORY: Your thoughts.
MS. CARLY FIORINA (Former Chair & CEO, Hewlett-Packard/Founder & Chair, Good360): Well, Mike Hayden was a great NSA leader and he’s a great friend, and I agree with both him and the Mayor. I think there is a moment of opportunity here. When we get past the specific of Edward Snowden, there is a moment of bipartisan opportunity to step back and say, how is it that we should be holding these vast complicated agencies accountable? I actually think the IRS and the NSA scandal have something in common. Whatever you think, you don’t need to think the president politically motivated the IRS and you don’t need to be against the NSA program to raise the profound question of when you have such vast bureaucracies. How do we hold them accountable? How does Congress meet its oversight responsibility? How do the American people come to trust government again knowing that big bureaucracies actually are held in check somehow and we have a way of determining that the people who work in them are not abusing power but are competent and ethical? That’s an important debate to have.
GREGORY: Chuck-- Chuck, your comment on this, also this-- the Glenn Greenwald issue and the journalism debate that’s underway this morning.
MR. TODD: Well, first of all, we’ve changed culturally. There is a culture of transparency. We live with it now, social media. There is this expectation particularly with a certain generation that we should know more. And the government has been slow. Government institutions have been slow to respond to that. So I think that they have to-- when the-- when the-- when the country changes culturally, government should respond to the cultural change in that-- in the country and when it comes to transparency and when it comes to what the government’s doing, how much information we as a-- as a governed people expect to have, we expect to have more information, not less. We expect this so I think that’s a case where the president in particular, but Congress has also failed to sort of respond to the country culturally. This issue of-- of journalism and whistleblowers, you know, I’m hesitant, you know, on one hand, I do-- I do think that the-- the Justice Department was overbearing on what they did with a-- with a number of these folks, what they did at the Associated Press, what they did to Snowden. And I’ve-- I’ve had people who are uncomfortable having phone conversations now with different sources, even on the-- the smallest of levels. So in that respect I understand the-- the skittishness on the other hand. On the other hand, you know, Glenn Greenwald, you know, how much was he involved in the plot? It’s one thing as a source, but what-- what was his role-- did he have a role beyond simply being a receiver of this information? And is he going to have to answer those questions? You know, there is-- there is-- there is a point of law. He’s a lawyer, I mean, he attacked the premise of your question. He didn’t answer it.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah, and the one thing I was saying that-- two big points to this. One, it’s never been easier in human history to be a whistleblower than now…
MR. MURPHY: …like departments of whistleblowing. So the-- I know, there’s not a legitimate path to hear these grievances, but I think the other point people have to understand…
MR. TODD: I disagree that-- that the path within government stinks. It is not a protected path.
MR. MURPHY: Well, I-- we disagree on that.
MR. TODD: I don’t think it’s great.
MR. MURPHY: The digital world has changed everything. The internet is an incredibly effective tool for terrorists and outlaws. So it’s not surprising that the security side of the state is trying to compete with that. So people have to understand the miracle of being able to send your cat photo around the world in a nanosecond and having all your information online, changes everything. And government is struggling with how to not let that be a free channel for bad people to use as a tool and on the other hand not be, you know, ubiquitous in-- in shattering privacy. It’s a very complicated debate because of the digital revolution.
GREGORY: Robert, one of the things that-- that Chuck and his team wrote on First Read this morning is about the-- the notion of being leaderless in Washington. And one of the struggles for the leader of the government, the president, is finding his voice on this. I mean, he has spoken, but rather cryptically about the-- the utility of these programs and his view about it. Is that a problem?
MR. GIBBS: Well, one, it is hard to talk about these programs without being in some ways cryptic because…
MR. GIBBS: …as you-- as you heard Michael Hayden talk about, as the more transparency that we give-- and we do need to give a necessary amount in order to sustain these programs politically and in public opinion, but you have to be careful as to not just talk about what Mike talked about, which is give terrorists basically the playbook for how we’re monitoring their communications. But, you know, I-- I think it is-- it is important to have this debate. We do have to have something that in the end comes out of this that is-- that is politically sustainable. And, you know, you saw it beginning this week with the current head of the NSA talking about the plots that have been disrupted. I do think, again, an honest conversation about what is and what isn’t being collected so that, like I said, I don’t turn on the TV and I hear people talk about they literally-- there must be the millions and millions of FBI agents that are listening to every single phone call in this country. Not only is that…
MR. TODD: Congress have done that.
MS. FIORINA: Well, I…
MR. TODD: And you're responsible…
MR. GIBBS: But not only is that not…
MR. MURPHY: But a lot of them (Unintelligible) agents.
MR. GIBBS: Right. But not only is that not happening, it’s incapable of happening.
MS. FIORINA: I do think one of the reasons it’s important to step back and kind of begin to talk about some of these profound questions, distrust is created when people can’t square the circle. So on the one hand, you hear people say, oh, we’ve disrupted 50 terrorist plots, and on the other hand Boston happens, we were warned about this person twice, and yet somehow that occurred. And we know that terrorists get on the internet all the time and get a how-to book to do all kinds of things. So I think people are having trouble reconciling what appears to be a lot of oversight with something like Boston. And in the end, as we all know, it’s human nature. If you don’t know something, you assume the worst. The American people have woken up to the fact that they don’t know a whole lot about…
MS. FIORINA: …what government is involved in.
GREGORY: Let-- let me do this-- let me do this. Let me…
MR. REED: …bought to justice in five days.
MS. FIORINA: But they also killed and wounded many.
MR. REED: No-- absolutely, but over a ten-year period, I would take the-- take the hand that the United States has had and the diligence that law enforcement has displayed since 9/11 and it is essential to Americans that when-- when something terrible like that happens, those individuals be brought to justice.
MS. FIORINA: I agree.
MR. REED: All of these-- all of these-- all of these measures were necessary as it relates to Boston.
MS. FIORINA: I agree with you.
GREGORY: Let me get a quick-- well, let me do this. I got to get a break in here. I want to come back with our roundtable, talk about the immigration fight.
Also another big story this weekend, Paula Deen--her apology, what it means for her future after using racist language. We’re back with our roundtable right after this.
GREGORY: We have a live picture from Moscow. A media spectacle there now as the flight that believes-- believed to have Edward Snowden on it is being greeted by, you know, people waiting for the flight but also journalists as this will be an evolving story about Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, where he eventually goes and one that will be getting a lot of attention as we move forward. Chuck Todd, yes the other question that’s going to be getting a lot of attention as we move forward is, what’s happening on Capitol Hill this week over immigration and whether, in fact, reform is really at hand and what we end up with in the end?
MR. TODD: I have been one of these people that says oh don’t pay attention to all the chatter that immigration could get killed in the House, it may not get through the House. Then once the Senate gets 70-plus votes it will move its way. And then watching the debacle on the foreign bill, watching Speaker Boehner bring a bill-- the entire leadership bring a bill to the floor that they thought they had the votes for and they couldn’t do it, I do-- you know, and it goes through this point you were bringing up with Robert, which is this-- I saw the president overseas essentially neutered, inability to do really much on Syria, not-- there isn’t this sense of urgency, how do you get Russia to move off of its support of Assad and sort of this stalemate that’s going there, inability to use the platform of as leader of the free world there, watching the speaker of the House, totally not being able to lead the House. Well, it makes you wonder how does immigration get the through? The Senate is working. Senate’s a lonely, tiny little body here that seems to be working with some sort of diligence here. They’re going to get something through. I still think it will get 70 to 75 votes. I’m no longer believing that it can get through the House.
GREGORY: Well, that’s-- I mean, you know, Lindsey Graham on this program last week, Mike, was saying it's a death spiral for the GOP if they don’t get reform done. But there are a lot of people in the House who might be willing to take him on on that.
MR. MURPHY: Yeah. No, look, I’ve been a fanatic for this issue for a long time. I’m a huge supporter of immigration reform and now the bill has been kind of loaded up with this border surge, which is a political maneuver, an expensive one, to try to get it through the conservative wing in the House and its dicey. I’m hoping it passes because I’m tired of watching democratic inaugurations in Washington, but it could very well fail.
MR. GIBBS: Leaving aside the irony that to get conservatives to support immigration reform, we should double the size of a government bureaucracy in the Border Patrol. But I do think one of the things that Mike and many Republicans that are supportive of this are going to have to face is the reality of if this dies in the House with this huge amount of border security in it, they’re going to have really tough conversations with Latinos and Hispanics about what this party stands for, do they really want people to come out of the shadows.
GREGORY: Hold on. Let-- I just want to get Mayor-- Mayor Reed in on something with Paula Deen. Again, an abrupt switch-- switching of gears, but a big story this weekend--Paula Deen, of course, the-- the Food Channel has been (Unintelligible) apologizing for using the N-word in the past, really a-- a-- a debacle here from your-- from your home state, what do you make of it?
MR. REED: Well, one, I want to remind folks that if the president hadn’t been re-elected, we wouldn’t be having a debate about immigration. We’d be on to something else. So I don’t think he’s been neutered. But regarding Paula Deen, I just think it’s very unfortunate. What she’s basically said is she used language from her childhood and growing up in the past, but we all have to change. So I think folks are going to be hearing what she has to say over the next few weeks. I think she has apologized once-- she’s going to continue to do that. But it is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable language.
GREGORY: All right. We’ll take another break here. Come back in just a moment.
GREGORY: That is all for today. I want to thank everybody very much. You can watch this week’s PRESS Pass conversation with economist and author Jeffrey Sachs on his new book To Move the World about John F. Kennedy’s push for peace with the Soviet Union during the last year of his presidency. That is on our blog MeetThePressNBC.com. We will be back next week. If it’s Sunday, it’s MEET THE PRESS.