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updated 1/19/2014 12:22:52 PM ET 2014-01-19T17:22:52

DAVID GREGORY:

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Good Sunday morning. So, no matter what you think of Edward Snowden and his decision to spill secrets about how the government conducts domestic surveillance, he started one big debate. Without him and what he did, it is hard to imagine the president giving the speech he gave this week.

Bottom line, the spying programs are here to stay, it appears. But the president says he would like to protect your privacy better. So, I'm gonna have reaction from top voices in Congress and the digital world this morning as we grapple with the future of privacy in America. Plus, as Chris Christie raises money in Florida this weekend, he's also trying to get his presidential ambitions for 2016 back on track. This morning, new allegations of strong arming by his administration from a New Jersey mayor.

Is the bridge scandal widening or is this politically motivated pile-on? We'll talk about it. I wanna go first to our roundtable. Joining me here, Andrea Mitchell, Nia-Malika Henderson, from the Washington Post Herald Ford, and Newt Gingrich. To all of you, isn't it significant that after all the hue and cry, after all these revelations by Snowden, the president has, in effect, ended this debate by saying, "These programs are going to stick around. I need them to keep the country safe"? Newt Gingrich?

NEWT GINGRICH:

Well, that is a very significant speech in the sense that here's a guy whose bias would be for civil libertarians, but after five years of daily briefings in the White House has said, "You know, the world is really dangerous and we really need these tools to be safe." And I think it's very hard to imagine fundamental changes in the program against President Obama's wishes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Yeah. I mean, that's a question of reformers. Are they going to say, "No. We're going to challenge these programs. We want to still stop this bulk collection of data"?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Well, reformers are already saying that they want to stop the bulk collection. The biggest change that he made was to say that the government would no longer store the collected metadata, all those phone records. But he hasn't said how that's going to happen.

DAVID GREGORY:

Right.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And the telephone companies are not equipped to do the kind of instant searches. They don't have that kind of data mining. So, he's putting it on Congress. And the other thing that nobody is really talking about here is that in June 2015, this whole thing goes away unless Congress reauthorizes it.

DAVID GREGORY:

But all the more reason for Congress to step up and have a real debate. And look, the cat's out of the bag on a lot of this stuff. So, go down there and say what you're for.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

That's right. And they're calling for him to do that. It sounds like a big speech, small changes, more to come, with a Congress that, so far, hasn't been very productive with much of anything. There is a movement, I think, in the House for ending this entire program, right.

It got a lot of votes, actually, in the House side, but a lot of division in terms of where to go on this. You have the leaders of the top two committees, Feinstein and Rogers, come out and basically rubberstamp what the president said. But it definitely feels like the devil is in the details.

HAROLD FORD, JR.:

I was in Congress when 9/11 happened, there was a lot of angst. And we need to be reminded people were worried that we were not connecting dots. People were worried that there was intelligence and evidence that was not being shared amongst various agencies, that the government was not listening to the people it should have been listening to.

So, we need to put all of this in context. And I hope when Congress has this debate, that someone will play the devil's advocate and make clear we kill more terrorists using drones. People may not like drones, but it replaces or is a substitute for American soldiers being on the ground.

Two, learning more and more about terrorist plots. I live in New York City. I'm thankful that we have programs that do this. I don't think there's any doubt that we wouldn't be having this conversation without Snowden. I'm not a Snowden fan. He should come back home and face the music. Because I believe what he did was break the law. But, at the same time, if we can answer the one question that Andrea laid out, where do you store the data, or, more importantly, who should store it?

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, the big question is, talking to privacy advocates and critics of these programs, they say the reason this is so significant is if you continue to allow the government to collect all this data and basically create a single database, there is the potential for abuse. You know, this country has been through Watergate, been through Hoover at the F.B.I. We know the kinds of excesses that can happen. You don't want that potential there.

NEWT GINGRICH:

Well, first of all, if we look at the IRS scandal, we have plenty of opportunity of abuse with paper. I mean, the power of the government is enormous. And that's why, as a conservative, I like smaller government. But the question is if you draw a sharp line and say for the purpose of defending America, you can learn these things. None of them can migrate over to the criminal justice system. And then, you should make it a felony. This is why Snowden has to be tried. It should be a felony for any of that stuff coming over to the criminal justice system.

HAROLD FORD, JR.:

Meaning if they use information for the purposes of going after. I agree 100 percent.

NEWT GINGRICH:

We use information. The F.B.I. uses it, the justice uses it.

DAVID GREGORY:

We'll continue this. You all will be back and I'm going to talk to the intelligence chairs you mentioned, Feinstein and Rogers, in just a few minutes as well, getting some reaction from the digital world as well. But I want to turn now to another big story in politics this morning, get to the latest on the new allegations of bullying by the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

A new development over the weekend. Hoboken New Jersey Mayor Dawn Zimmer claimed Christie's lieutenant governor threatened to withhold Hurricane Sandy relief funds for her city if she did not report a development project, rather support that project, backed by Governor Christie. So, this is part of what she said on the MSNBC program, Up with Steve Kornacki.

MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER (ON TAPE):

The fact is that the lieutenant government came to Hoboken. She pulled me aside in the parking long and she said, "I know it's not right. I know these things should not be connected. But they are. And if you tell anyone, I'll deny it." And, so, the bottom line was it's not fair for the governor to hold Sandy funds hostage for the City of Hoboken because he wants me to give back to one private developer.

DAVID GREGORY:

Joining me now, the man leading the investigation into the bridge scandal, Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski. And from Palm Beach, Florida, this morning former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a close ally of Governor Christie. I'll get to you in just a minute, Mayor Giuliani. Let me start with Assemblyman Wisniewski. You hear this charge by the Hoboken mayor. How much weight do you give it at this point?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

Mayor Zimmer's a serious voice. She's a well-respected mayor in New Jersey. I think we have to give the allegations serious thought. Because it is a pattern that we've heard time and time again throughout New Jersey. She is, perhaps, one of the first mayors to actually come forward and say that this specific thing happened. I think the committee needs to look at the facts, hear his story, look at the emails, and consider where we go next.

DAVID GREGORY:

Here's a response from Governor Christie that I want to put up on the screen. "Governor Christie and his entire administration have been helping Hoboken get the help they need after Sandy, with the city already having been approved for nearly $70 million in federal aid, and is targeted to get even more when the Obama administration approves the next rounds of funding."

The governor and Mayor Zimmer have had a productive relationship, with Mayor Zimmer even recently saying she's, quote, "very glad he's been our governor." It's very clear partisan politics are at play here as democratic mayors with a political ax to grind come out of the woodwork to try to get their faces on television. You just described it as a pattern you're hearing more and more of. The only pattern that's been in evidence here with the governor re-elected is how much support he's had from elected Democrats in your state.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

Well, and Mayor Zimmer was one of those elected Democrats early on who has always said very nice things and said that Governor Christie had done--

DAVID GREGORY:

They held back until he looked weakened by this other issue?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

Well, I'm not sure exactly what caused Mayor Zimmer to wait until now. But clearly, the allegation that she was asked to support a redevelopment project where there was funding from the port authority, which we're investigating, in turn for her getting money for her municipality raises serious allegations. We don't know where it goes. We don't know if there's more to it. But I think it's something the committee has to consider as part of the overall investigation.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, here's one of the criticisms of you thus far.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

Sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is that there's a rush to judgment here. You're a democrat. You used to run the state party.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

That's true.

DAVID GREGORY:

You've got the national Democratic Party piggybacking on allegations and on aspects of this investigation. You've issued very broad subpoenas. And you've said that it's hard for you to believe that Governor Christie didn't know that his top staff was ordering those lanes to be closed on the George Washington Bridge. Isn't this kind of stacked against him here?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

No. It's not. First of all, this investigation started out because of a toll increase on the George Washington Bridge and of the port authority crossings. We were looking at the finances and operation of the port authority. Somebody closed lanes from Fort Lee during that.

We started asking questions about the lane closures, and suddenly we're looking at emails where somebody in the governor's inner circle sent an email to close those lanes for clearly what are not governmental purposes. This story, interestingly enough, didn't start with Democrats. It started with the Wall Street Journal, hardly a liberal paper, that started questioning what happened with the George Washington Bridge lane closures. And we followed this step by step. There's been no rush to judgment, I've said time and time again.

DAVID GREGORY:

You said no rush to judgment. Respectfully, you've talked about the specter of impeachment before you gathered all this information.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

What I said, David, is there's absolutely no document that connects the governor to this. His office is connected, not him. I've said that talking about impeachment is premature. There's no connection that he knew or that he directed it. What we do know is that someone senior in his staff sent an email to close the lanes.

We know that senior people in his staff were involved in trying to do damage control and come up with the cover story for it. And, so, we have lots of questions. And I have said that with all of his senior people in the midst of a reelection year, it's hard to believe that he knew nothing until January 8th.

DAVID GREGORY:

What's the end game, then? A very broad subpoena for the office of the governor. Presumably, you want any communication that would indicate he had direct knowledge to shut down those lanes. Is that what you're after?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

No. What we want to know, first of all, it's a legislative inquiry. We're not a prosecutorial agency. We want to make sure this can't again. The fact that four people have lost their jobs over it doesn't stop this kind of abuse from happening again.

So, we have to change the laws. The only way we can do that is to find out how it could happen in the first place. The subpoenas help us get to the root cause of who told Bridget Kelly she could send this email? Why would she send it? It seemed to be a preordained conversation. Because reading that email, you don't get any other conclusion that there was a communication before then.

DAVID GREGORY:

Here's what I really want to know.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

Sure.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is Chris Christie a bully who abused power? Or are you seeking to criminalize the rough and tumble of New Jersey politics?

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

No. No. I mean, New Jersey politics is rough and tumble and that's not going to change. But abusing power should not be condoned. You know, everybody mistrusts government. And when things like this happen, it only gives them another reason to say, "There they go again."

And, so, we have to make sure that it can't happen again. And that's the one way we restore trust in government. But this is not preordained and we have no connection to Governor Christie. We're going to look to see who else in his office knew. We're going to follow the trail where it leads step by step.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Assemblyman, thank you very much for your time this morning.

JOHN WISNIEWSKI:

David, thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

I appreciate it very much. Let me turn now to the former mayor of New York City, Republican presidential candidate as well, Rudy Giuliani, who is with us from Palm Beach this morning. Mr. Mayor, welcome.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Good morning, David. How are you?

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm well.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Thank you for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, and so you just heard from the assemblyman. Is this an even-handed approach as an investigation? Or do you think it's a political witch hunt?

RUDY GIULIANI:

David, when you announce before you're even investigated you don't believe the subject of the investigation or the person who's the ultimate focus of the investigation, it would seem to me the assemblyman has an ethical obligation to step down, to recuse himself. He's no longer an impartial arbiter of the facts.

I mean, he's announced he doesn't believe Governor Christie. I don't know how he could even come to that conclusion. There are no facts on the table that contradict Governor Christie. Every fact seems to indicate that Governor Christie is telling the truth. Whether he is or he isn't, that's what the investigation is for. The person conducting the investigation has now announced the conclusion of the investigation, that he believes the governor is not telling the truth.

He should not be handling this investigation. It gives it no sense of credibility and it clearly was a partisan witch hunt. My goodness, the head of the Congressional Reelection Committee for Democrats was down here protesting Governor Christie, a national Democrat protesting in front of a fundraiser when Governor Christie is down here. Clearly, this is a very, very well-orchestrated democratic kind of organizational effort to try to hurt Governor Christie. Who was the only Republican who was beating Hillary Clinton in any poll at any time.

DAVID GREGORY:

Certainly, understanding the potential motivation of the Democrats, at the same time, isn't that classic deflection? What about the merits? You heard the Hoboken mayor. You've seen some of the evidence trails. These are senior aides who ordered this closure. How concerned are you about-- when you start with this new charge of bullying? How much weight do you give that?

RUDY GIULIANI:

Well, I don't know. Mayor Zimmer, just shortly before she made this revelation, said that she didn't believe that any holdup in the funds had anything to do with any kind of retribution for not endorsing the governor. I'm informed that she said that.

She also said she liked working with Governor Christie. So, I think you have to look at her current statement in light of her former statements because this became an orchestrated pile-on. Look, the allegations are serious about the closure of the bridge. No question about it. But, on the other hand, the governor faced up to the allegations in a very serious way.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, you're a former--

RUDY GIULIANI:

He held an hour and a half press conference.

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to interrupt you.

RUDY GIULIANI:

He held an hour and a half press conference. He held the people accountable who were responsible for it, something the president has failed to do with Benghazi, president has failed to do with the IRS. He's given an example of a leader taking responsibility for something that was, no question about it, David, wrong. This shouldn't have happened. It was beyond stupid to try to get back at a guy for not endorsing the governor by hurting the people of New Jersey. That was crazy.

DAVID GREGORY:

But mayor, you raise again the specter of the IRS and other Republicans have done that. I think it's fair to point out that for those who have raised that issue, what they said is the culture was created by President Obama for this kind of abuse to have occurred. That link has never been proven or established. But if that's your standard, then isn't Governor Christie accountable for creating a culture where this kind of abuse could've occurred and been ordered by top lieutenants?

RUDY GIULIANI:

But that happens four or five times in every administration. Every governor, every mayor, every president has his people do something wrong. And then, all of you rightly ask, "Did the culture create it? Didn't it?" If the culture did create it, then you have to change the culture.

But that's different than saying, "You're responsible for abusing power. You're a bully. You're terrible. You're awful." Look, the president says he didn't know about what happened with the IRS. I believe that's true. The whole issue gets resolved if the president straightens it out and doesn't happen again.

I think that's the way you evaluate one of those things. That's a very, very ambiguous and amorphous charge that the culture created it. My goodness, you know, things go wrong in every administration. So, then, the person in charge has to take accountability for it, has to make it clear, "I didn't really want you to do that." I can't tell you how often I had to do that. People would do things. They thought I wanted it. I didn't. I had to straighten it out. I'd have to say, "I don't want it." And it didn't happen again.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, final question for you as to whether Christie's political prospects in 2016. Should he decide to run? If they've been scrambled, when you look at these questions in this investigation about the bridge and other issues, when you look at Hillary Clinton and questions about the Benghazi fallout and questions for her, at the end of the day, you've run for president. You've watched this closely. Do you think it's still Christie versus Clinton?

RUDY GIULIANI:

Could be. I can see this working out to Chris' favor. I don't mean the underlying facts. They were wrong. But the fact is, things go wrong. Things will go wrong if he or Hillary Clinton become president. Question is how are they going to handle it? He's given a textbook case in how to handle it.

Stand up, answer the questions, hold people accountable, make sure it doesn't happen again. I think the test of time will only tell you who the candidates are going to be. I don't want to remind you who the candidates were, you know, back when I was running at this point, so.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right.

RUDY GIULIANI:

It changes.

DAVID GREGORY:

Mayor Giuliani, it does change. We'll leave it there. Thanks very much for your time this morning. I appreciate it.

RUDY GIULIANI:

Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

Let me continue with this idea of the political prospects. The bridge scandal has scrambled Christie's 2016 prospects at some point in this period of kind of the invisible primaries. The New York Times this morning quotes top Republican donors, saying that Christie's got to be careful about who he surrounds himself with as advisors. And an early test is coming over the course of this weekend with a fundraising swing through Florida. Our Kelly O'Donnell is Palm Beach this morning and she's been tracking Christie's moves down there. Good morning, Kelly.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

Good morning, David. Good to be with you. Christie's halfway through a busy schedule of events here in Florida. And he's meeting with that important group within the Republican Party, the donors. I'm told some donors did not want him to come. Other insiders say he was received very well by hundreds in attendance. And he's here to help Florida Governor Rick Scott -- his friend -- and his party.

(BEGIN TAPE)

KELLY O'DONNELL:

Despite troubles at home, Chris Christie takes hold of his national place in politics this weekend, mixing with big donors at private fundraisers for Florida Governor Rick Scott. But no plans for Christie and Scott to appear together publicly. Christie has kept his fundraising schedule, including a Thursday night event for a New Jersey Senate candidate.

FRED MALEK (REPUBLICAN FUNDRAISER):

These Florida events were scheduled a long time ago. And to duck out of them now would only invite controversy and criticism. He's doing the right thing by going down and doing these.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

But it's tricky trying to balance business with ongoing damage control over the bridge scandal.

MIKE MURPHY (REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST):

If I were him, I'd hold back on the donor politics for a little while, just because it's going to fuel the fire of all this chatter about his political ambitions. And now is not the best time to have that go on.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

This Florida trip is a test of Christie's star status, becoming chair of the Republican Governor's Association just eight weeks ago.

KELLY O’DONNELL (TO GOV. CHRISTIE):

Are you getting encouragement?

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE:

Oh, yeah. I'm really excited that, you know, I'm going to take of the chairmanship. And I'm getting great response, both from donors and from my fellow governors.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

The R.G.A. hopes to raise as much as $100 million this year, with Christie at the helm, and has more than $45 million in the bank.

GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE:

My focus is going to be raising the funds that are necessary to be able to get the stories of these governors out.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

Democrats say Christie is now damaged.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (CHAIR, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE):

The pattern is continuing to develop. I think it's going to start to spiral out of control for Chris Christie. Because this is a clear case of where there's smoke, there's even more fire.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

For now, fellow Republican governors are standing behind Christie.

GOV. SCOTT WALKER:

I think the bottom line is he stepped up. I think any of us, as governors, Democrat or Republican alike, if there's a challenge in the administration you step up, acknowledge it, dealt with it.

KELLY O'DONNELL:

And surveys, including our own NBC Marist Poll, suggest Christie may have weathered the storm short term.

MIKE MURPHY (REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST):

So, what he needs to do is what I think he did at the state of the state speech: get back to work being governor. Get back to policy. Get back to issues people care about. And if I were him, I'd stay out of politics for a while, while this kind of cools off.

(END TAPE)

KELLY O'DONNELL:

A somewhat different test today, an event to attract new donors, new contributors to the party. That will be held at the home of billionaire Home Depot co-founder Ken Langone. And then, Christie has more on his plate. He is scheduled to go to Texas and Illinois next month. David?

DAVID GREGORY:

Kelly O'Donnell on tough duty in sunny Florida this morning. Thanks, Kelly, very much. Appreciate it. We're going to have more on this story coming up on Meet the Press. The bridge scandal versus fallout over Benghazi. (MUSIC) The roundtable will be back and weigh in on how both Republicans and Democrats may try to use the scandals to their advantage as we get closer to 2016.

Plus, did Edward Snowden get any help? I'll ask two leaders in Congress, the chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committee. And he was Secretary of Defense and head of the C.I.A. So, what does Robert Gates think about the president's proposed spying reforms? You'll hear his very first response to the president's speech when he joins me later here on the Meet the Press. It's all coming up after this break.

ANNOUNCER:

Meet the Press is brought to you by the Boeing Company.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

And we're back. Now to the debate over government spying. I spoke with the heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrat from California, Dianne Feinstein; and as well as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, both the intelligence chairs, Republican from Michigan Mike Rogers. It was their only interview together since President Obama's important speech on Friday.

(BEGIN TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

Senator Feinstein, Chairman Rogers, welcome back. Good to have you both. So, the future of spying, it seems to me, is very much like the present. Chairman Rogers, do you view this as a big victory?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Well, I thought the most important victory was the president standing up and saying, "Hey, the program did not have abuses. This wasn't sinister. It wasn't a rogue agency. It was legal and proper." You know, some of the suggestions on how to move forward I have some concerns with. But I thought it was really an important role for the president to play. I wish he would have played it seven months ago, but I was glad to hear it yesterday.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, Edward Snowden, whatever you think of him, he leaked these documents, he leaked the information about these programs. And Senator Feinstein, there's a big hue and cry and a big debate. But basically, the president says that these programs are here to stay.

And critics of the speech, as I've been reading them, seem to say very little will change. Barton Gellman writes about it in the Washington Post and here's what he says: "Obama placed restrictions on access to domestic phone records collected by the National Security Agency, but the changes he announced will allow it to continue or expand the collection of personal data from billions of people around the world, Americans and foreign citizens alike." That doesn't seem like a lot of privacy protection.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Well, I would disagree with Mr. Gellman. I think that what the president has said is that he wanted to maintain the capability of the program. That, as Chairman Rogers said, it has not been abused or misused. And it is carried out by very strictly vetted and professional people.

Now, what he said is, "By March 28th, I'm asking the attorney general to come back to me with some suggestions and probabilities of how the data might be stored by others in the government." And I think that's a very difficult thing. Because the whole purpose of this program is to provide instantaneous information to be able to disrupt any plot that may be taking place.

And, you know, I think a lot of the privacy people perhaps don't understand that we still occupy the role of the great Satan. New bombs are being devised. New terrorists are emerging, new groups. Actually, a new level of viciousness. And I think we need to be prepared. I think we need to do it in a way that respects people's privacy rights.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well--

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

And, well, let me make one other point. When you look at what companies collect, the government does not seem to be a major offender at all.

DAVID GREGORY:

That is in the difference, of course, chairman, that it's only the government that can deprive you of your liberty, you know. Google or Amazon, you still have to click to acquiesce. And they have a lot of that personal information. The government seems to want total awareness.

And that's where, even in the name of security, a lot of critics say, "Sorry. That is an invasion of privacy. And that is going overboard." And Edward Snowden himself, when he was interviewed in the Washington Post, he said the following about what he thinks is lax oversight. The issue was, basically, what entitled Snowden, now 30, to take on the responsibility of being the oversight. "The whole question 'Who elected you?' inverts the model," he said. "They elected me the overseers."

He named the chairs of the Senate and House Intelligence Committee, both of you. "Dianne Feinstein," he said, "elected me when she asked softball questions in committee hearings," he said. "Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what the court was ever intended to do.

"The system failed comprehensively and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should've addressed abdicated their responsibility." So, reformers have another chance. I'll start with you, Chairman Rogers. Will anything change?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Well, first of all, I mean, I couldn't disagree more. That's like having the janitor at a bank who figured out how to steal some money deciding matters of high finance. This was a thief, who we believe had some help, who stole information the vast majority had nothing to do with privacy. Our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines have been incredibly harmed by the data that he has taken with him and we believe now is in the hands of nation states.

DAVID GREGORY:

Who helped him?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Well, there were certain questions that we have to get answered. Where some of this aid, first of all, if it was a privacy concern he had, he didn't look for information on the privacy side for Americans. He was stealing information that had to do with how we operate overseas to collect information to keep Americans safe. That begs the question. And some of the things he did were beyond his technical capabilities. Raises more questions. How he arranged travel before he left. How he was ready to go, he had a go bag, if you will.

DAVID GREGORY:

But how high level, do you think?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Well, let me just say this. I believe there's a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don't think that's a coincidence, number one. Number two, and let me just talk about this. I think it's important.

DAVID GREGORY:

You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

I believe there's questions to be answered there. I don't think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.

DAVID GREGORY:

That's a significant development if it's true.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Well, I said we have questions we have to answer. But as somebody who used to do investigations, some of the things we're finding we would call clues that certainly would indicate to me that he had some help and he stole things that had nothing to do with privacy. And just real quickly, though.

DAVID GREGORY:

Real quickly.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

The oversight that is conducted, that's what is the interesting thing about this. With all the disclosures, we find out, holy mackerel, the court's involved. Both the Senate and the House committees are involved. There was plenty of oversight of the programs. And it was very restrictive, only 288 times that they even used the business records in 2012.

DAVID GREGORY:

Well, Senator Feinstein, is there any chance that some of your colleagues who disagree with you will be successful in shutting down the program, the bulk collection of this metadata?

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

I don't believe so. The president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability. He wants to look for others in the government holding the material. So, I think we would agree with him. I know a dominant majority, everybody, virtually, except two or three on the Senate Intelligence Committee would agree with that.

He wants to make some changes in the FISA court that you have to have the approval of the court before you query, the amicus concept involving a panel would come into being. But the important thing to me is the president very clearly said, "We need this capability to keep people safe."

Now, let me say one thing about Mr. Snowden. I heard him on television say that he went there with the intent to scrape our systems, that he obtained a scrape tool, and he began to scrape over, I believe, a two-month period as much as he could get a hold of. If this is somebody who comes upon something and says, "This isn't the right thing for the government to do. I want to go out and talk to people about it." He came there with the intent to take as much material down as he possibly could.

DAVID GREGORY:

And do you agree with Chairman Rogers that he may have had help from the Russians?

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

He may well have. We don't know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is really to set sort of a new level of dishonor. And this goes to where this metadata goes. Because the N.S.A. are professionals. They are limited in number to 22 who have access to the data. Two of them are supervisors. They are vetted. They are carefully supervised. The data goes anywhere else. How do you provide that level of supervision?

DAVID GREGORY:

Is it critical, then, to get to the bottom? And will you investigate who might have been involved and whether there was any link to the Russians?

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Absolutely. And that investigation is ongoing.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Sure. But you have to remember al-Qaeda has changed the way they communicate based on this. That puts our soldiers at risk in the field. That's a real dangerous consequence. Nation states have started to make changes that concern us great.

We're going to have to rebuild whole aspects of operations from our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines that will cost billions and billions of dollars because the information he stole and gave, which we believe is now in the hands of nation states, who are doing something with it. There's no honor in that.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right, we'll leave it there. Senator Feinstein, thank you very much for being here. Chairman Rogers, thank you as well.

REPRESENTATIVE MIKE ROGERS:

Thank you.

SENATOR DIANNE FEINSTEIN:

Thank you.

(END TAPE)

DAVID GREGORY:

I wanted to get a different perspective on all of this this morning from a privacy advocate who is also part of that digital privacy movement and an outspoken critic of government spying. Alexis Ohanian is the cofounder of Reddit, an online community with over 100 million unique visitors last month alone.

Users post anything from articles to images to random questions and thoughts. Stories then become popular on the site through a simple up or down vote from their users or Redditors. He's also the author of Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century will be Made, Not Managed. And Alexis joins us now. Welcome to Meet the Press. Good to have you.

ALEXIS OHANIAN:

Thank you for having me.

DAVID GREGORY:

I think of this as a bigger debate about the future of privacy in America. And what I just heard Dianne Feinstein say, as a chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is we're going to have to give up some privacy. Because, as she said, we still operate in the States as the great Satan. She said we face a new level of viciousness. So, to you and others who are opposed to these programs, she's saying, "That's got to be more important."

ALEXIS OHANIAN:

Yeah. And to me, that is a false choice. In fact, I remember hearing President Obama campaigning on the false choice the Bush administration was positioning when they were trying to do this very same thing. I think it's really important for us to realize that it's possible for us to have security while also not overstepping our right to privacy.

DAVID GREGORY:

As I listen to you and others who oppose these programs, the thing is the bulk collection. It's all the metadata. The government is committed to doing that, they're committed to having a huge database with our information. Now, look, there has not been evidence of abuse, even if you think that mere act is abusive, the collecting of all of that data.

ALEXIS OHANIAN:

Indeed. But I would not like to have that hanging over my head. I think it is absolutely possible for the N.S.A. to do their job without the bulk collection of America's phone records. And I think if these leaders believe that to be true, then they would encourage, or at least be looking forward to a proper congressional investigation, the sort of thing that will actually get us some answers, that has subpoena powers, that has the ability to sift through and actually give the American people the transparency that we deserve.

DAVID GREGORY:

Even Ed Snowden talked about this, that a child growing up today is not going to really understand what the concept of privacy is. So, don't you also turn toward some of the leading tech companies in the world that were started here in America, Amazon and Google, and look at what they're doing to compromise our privacy, not only compiling data, but sharing that data, selling that data? Is that just as much of a concern as what the government is doing?

ALEXIS OHANIAN:

Well, David, I think you pointed it out earlier. There are certainly platforms that we go into knowing that we are sort of giving up our privacy because we're sharing some tweet with the world, right? But there are plenty of others where we go in with an expectation of privacy. And that's a contract that we have with our service providers.

In fact, I think one of the strongest points that hasn't been made yet is the fact that I believe Forrester estimated about $180 billion is going to be lost in revenue because countries and citizens around the world no longer want to do business with American companies. Because they no longer trust that their private data is safe. I'm an entrepreneur. I'm an investor. There's real business cost on top of this, on top of the very important civil liberties costs.

DAVID GREGORY:

And no doubt a younger generation of Americans, too, is going to be looking at this politically. And this is going to be a big issue in our politics, don't you think?

ALEXIS OHANIAN:

Absolutely. And mark my words, I think, as Mr. Ellsberg recently pointed out in a Reddit AMA, I believe history will look back on Edward Snowden as a whistleblower.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. Well, and that debate is going to rage on as well. Alexis Ohanian, thanks so much for being here. Happy to have your perspective.

ALEXIS OHANIAN:

Thank you for having me, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

We're going to take a break here. We're going to come back with our roundtable. (MUSIC) Back to more politics, thinking about 2016. I know it's early. But you do have this Benghazi report that came out this week, critical of the administration, Republicans critical of Hillary Clinton, the bridge scandal as well.

So, will all of this put a dent in the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie? Or will it be forgotten by the time we start voting in 2016? Plus, former defense secretary Robert Gates will be here in studio with me with his first reaction to the president efforts to reign in government spying, what we've been talking about. It's all coming up on Meet the Press.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

The New Jersey bridge scandal, the Benghazi fallout. Are these lasting issues for Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton? Or will they both be forgotten by 2016? A roundtable is up next to debate it after this brief break.

***Commercial Break***

CHRIS CHRISTIE (ON TAPE):

You asked me and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years. And I want to assure the people of New Jersey of one thing. I was born here. I was raised here. I'm raising my family here. And this is where I intend to spend the rest of my life.

DAVID GREGORY:

Chris Christie this week battling against these charges in the bridge scandal and the fallout from it. Back with our roundtable, Andrea Mitchell, Nia-Malika Henderson, Harold Ford, and Newt Gingrich. So, what do we think about this? Newt, you've been in this pressure cooker before in the run-up to 2016. How does this wear on them?

NEWT GINGRICH:

Well, that last quote, as he meant it, is a little strange. He's going to serve out his second term? I mean, that's what I heard him just say.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

Until he doesn't.

NEWT GINGRICH:

Yeah, until he doesn't. "My intention is to be here, unless my attention changes, and it's not going to change until it changes, so trust me." I mean, one of the dangers, as you know, is not the initial problem. It's the pressure cooker. It's the things you didn't expect until you handle the problem. You know, it's Ken Langone lecturing you in public. And, so, we'll see. Christie's got to relax and understand this is a marathon. This could go on for three to six to nine months. And he's not going to get rid of it easily.

DAVID GREGORY:

And he could have this investigation around for a long while, and that's what I was asking the assemblyman about.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

I mean, I think what he has to focus on is the investigation. He probably should not have gone to Florida and fulfilled that commitment. Because in Florida, if he's, first of all, behind a gated community with the wealthy, with Ken Langone, who's also telling the New York Times at the same time he didn't hire the right people. So, there's criticism--

DAVID GREGORY:

Wait. You’re cautioning about who he's surrounding himself with, right?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And this is Langone, who wanted him to run in 2012. He was one of his strongest supporters. I think the Democrats are probably overdoing it by following him around and trailing him, looking like they're piling on. But he's got to deal with the investigation and make sure that if everything he said is correct, he's home free. But he's got to make sure, and there are a lot of emails out there.

DAVID GREGORY:

But this is why the environment thing is so important. Right, Harold? I mean, this is culture and environment. That stuff does matter in terms of rounding out what you think of him as a leader.

HAROLD FORD, JR.:

There's no doubt about it. As I'm listening to him, one of the things that strikes me is that he constantly talks about himself, and he talks about "I." And, I mean, I actually was caught up in the traffic in one of the days coming back from somewhere in New Jersey that day. And I can't imagine if I faced an emergency situation, a health care situation, how I would have felt. And the fact that I have not heard him say, "I apologize to all the people who were inconvenienced by the incompetence of my staff." It's always, "I've been asked to do this by the voters and I'm going to fulfill this obligation."

I mean, voters didn't ask him anything. He ran for office. I mean, I don't remember any voters from New Jersey begging him to run. Don't get me wrong. He ran, he was elected, and he was reelected. He had to focus on his job, try to get through and answer all these questions. And I'm a believer if there's nothing there, he'll get through this.

DAVID GREGORY:

But here's the other issue. I brought up Benghazi and we talked about Hillary Clinton. The Senate Committee's report this week about Benghazi, that the attack could have been prevented, very singular in its criticism of the State Department not providing adequate security. And then, Republicans saying, "Look, this all goes back to Hillary Clinton. Here was Marco Rubio, who may be a candidate in 2016, amplifying that point.

MARCO RUBIO (ON TAPE):

She has ultimate responsibility, Secretary Clinton, did at the time, for the security of our personnel. No one has been held accountable to date, certainly none of the decision makers have. And as she herself has said, the buck stops at the top.

DAVID GREGORY:

Nia, you start, but both of you in terms of impact for her.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON:

I mean, you have this report that comes out. It mentions her once. In some ways, it didn't sort of corroborate the main charge that Republicans had been making, which is that there was a cover-up. I think the discussion of Benghazi, and we heard it in 2012 as well, so far, it's been sort of a boutique issue among Republicans.

It hasn't yet been, I think, embraced in the same way by the general public. I think it does get to what Hillary Clinton actually did as Secretary of State, right. Does she have a sort of counter narrative? You know, what's her biggest accomplishment as Secretary of State? We don't really know that. And at this point, Benghazi is standing in for her term as Secretary of State.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And this report corroborated what the State Department's own independent review board did report last year. I think there are big questions about the State Department not increasing security, about what we now learn that is new in this report, that the Pentagon, General Ham, offered Ambassador Stevens, tragically, twice more security. And he did not want it.

He wanted to rely on the local militias. That's a tragic error. He knew them during the war. He was the point person in Benghazi during the war. And he had way too much confidence in the locals and did not heed the warnings of their own intelligence people. So, the breakdown in communications between state and C.I.A. is a profound mistake. I think critics will say it goes to Hillary Clinton's leadership of the State Department. I don't see it as a political issue.

DAVID GREGORY:

But Republicans are going to want a definitive accounting and they're going to want to really press her.

NEWT GINGRICH:

I think any Republican strategy which tries to nibble at Hillary Clinton is hopeless. I mean, she has been in public life for 40 years. She was named the government field person in 1972. I mean, the idea that suddenly we're going to learn something new about Hillary Clinton.

ANDREA MITCHELL:

She was on the Nixon Impeachment Committee staff.

NEWT GINGRICH:

In fact, she's a lot like Nixon in her capacity to survive forever. So, she's a fact. She gets beaten. She's going to get beaten because Obamacare keeps dictating. She's going to get beaten because we're losing the war in Afghanistan and Iraq.

She's going to get beaten because there are big decisions and she's caught between loyalty to a president whose base is still loyal and the country. Now, if that happens, she'll lose. But we're never going to beat her on nitpicking smaller issues.

HAROLD FORD, JR.:

One question about Benghazi is what has been done since to ensure that we don't face another predicament like this? Do our assets around the globe, do these embassies around the globe in their difficult, challenged places have the kind of resources and assets they need to protect men?

ANDREA MITCHELL:

And they don't.

HAROLD FORD, JR.:

And that, to me, that question has not been answered fully.

DAVID GREGORY:

All right. A lot of this is really a question of much staying power these issues have when we're so far off. Thank you all very much. We're going to take another break here. Coming up, the future of American warfare. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is here with us. It's his first interview since President Obama's important speech on spying. He was the former head of the C.I.A. I'll get his response when we come back with him right after this.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

Here now, some of this week's “Images to Remember.”

(“IMAGES TO REMEMBER” SEGMENT)

DAVID GREGORY:

Our images to remember. Up next here, he was Secretary of Defense and head of the C.I.A. So, what does Robert Gates think the president's intelligence reforms will mean for keeping America safe? The man who insisted on wearing a neck brace for his book tour, it's his first interview since the president's speech coming up next.Our images to remember. Up next here, he was Secretary of Defense and head of the C.I.A. So, what does Robert Gates think the president's intelligence reforms will mean for keeping America safe? The man who insisted on wearing a neck brace for his book tour, it's his first interview since the president's speech coming up next.

***Commercial Break***

DAVID GREGORY:

I'm back now. And I'm here with former defense secretary Robert Gates. He was head of the C.I.A. He's been making all week with his new memoir, Duty. This is his first interview since Obama gave the speech on spying and the reforms that he's proposing. You've had a good sense of humor about this brace, but you did have a serious fall. Are you doing okay?

ROBERT GATES:

I'm doing fine. Thank you.

DAVID GREGORY:

A little bit uncomfortable for you, though?

ROBERT GATES:

Inconvenient.

DAVID GREGORY:

So, you said in the book, I remember at one point, whether it had to do with, you know, torture, or what's called enhanced interrogation techniques. You thought there should have been a top-to-bottom review of all of the security measures put in place after 9/11.

It took a long time to get around to some of the surveillance programs. Do you think the president has the balance right in what he's talking about now, which is you gotta have these programs that will try to make your privacy a little bit more of a priority?

ROBERT GATES:

I actually do. I think that acknowledging the importance of these programs and that they are valuable, that they help protect America, I think is very important. Trying to figure out some ways to provide some reassurance to Americans that these programs are not a danger to their privacy, to their civil liberties, I think, is also important.

I'm not sure that, you know, we'll see whether the Congress and the executive brand can do something about who holds the metadata. I think that's a more complicated problem than may seem to be the case on the surface. But I will tell you I think that along with the balance in the president's speech, I think that the Intelligence Committees, particularly under Dianne Feinstein and Mike Rogers, very different political philosophies, have done a terrific job in overseeing this.

DAVID GREGORY:

But do you acknowledge that without these leaks, which, you know, were very dangerous, as the president said, we wouldn't really be having this kind of transparent debate, and that Congress wouldn't now be having a real transparent debate about whether this is a good or a bad thing, and whether privacy is too compromised by it?

ROBERT GATES:

Well, I think that the important thing is after all of the leaks and after all the publicity, you have the chairs of the Intelligence Committees on the Hill saying no wrongdoing has been found. The president's saying this, no wrongdoing, no abuses.

This is all about something that might happen in the future and what kind of restrictions do you put in place. So, I think that, you know, as I said about reviewing some of the post-9/11 issues, I think there's always value in going back and looking at these programs. But you don't need a series of leaks that are terribly damaging to the United States to do that.

DAVID GREGORY:

A lot of your memoir and some of the criticism inside the administration you've talked about a lot. One of the things that really struck me was how emotional being Secretary of Defense was for you, and how responsible you felt for our soldiers sending them into harm's way. And you write about that sentimentality even, perhaps, influencing your judgment in a way that you would prefer it had not.

Here's something you write in the book. "During World War II, General George Marshall once told his wife, 'I cannot afford the luxury of sentiment. Mine must be cold logic. Sentiment is for others.' Icy detachment was never an option for me because of the nature of the two wars I oversaw. I could afford the luxury of sentiment and, at times, it overwhelmed me." You talked about weeping every night writing condolence letters.

ROBERT GATES:

Yes. I began, I think in early 2008, to tell the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and also the young people at the service academy that I had come to feel personally responsible for them, as though they were my own sons and daughters. And by the end of the four years plus, I began to think that my priority, my opposition to our intervention in Libya, my opposition to military engagement elsewhere, I kept saying, "Can I just finish the two wars I'm already in before we go looking for another one?" And I began to feel that, you know, my priority was protecting the troops and that that might be affecting my objectivity in advising the president where they might need to be used.

DAVID GREGORY:

Is that much emotion, that much sentiment the wrong thing for a defense secretary? Or does it help you keep your priorities straight?

ROBERT GATES:

Well, I don't know. All I can say is that I've had the parents and the spouses over the years of a number of those who have been wounded or even deployed and served tell me how much it meant to them to know that somebody in Washington cared that much about their own son and daughter.

DAVID GREGORY:

Couple of quick ones. I've been saying all morning that I wanted to ask you about the future of war. Here is what you said back in 2011 at West Point. "In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it." Does that mean to say that you think Iraq and Afghanistan will never truly be won, will never be seen as victory?

ROBERT GATES:

I think that one of the other things that I write in the book is that if you look back to the Korean War, there are very few instances where we have been militarily engaged in a major conflict where we have come out with what we saw as a victory, as clear cut as in World War II or in the First Gulf War in 1991.

Whether it was Korea or Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan, there is not a conclusion to these conflicts that end in a victory parade. And the other aspect of this that I think is important as we look at the future of war is, as I put in the book and as I said often as secretary of defense, in the last 40 years, our record in predicting where we would use military force next, even six months out, is perfect.

We've never once gotten it right. From Grenada under President Reagan to Haiti to Panama to Balkans, against Iraq twice, Afghanistan, Libya twice, you name it. We didn't know six months ahead we were going to be in those places in those kinds of conflicts.

DAVID GREGORY:

This is Meet the Press. You know, I think a lot about politics. And you write about Hillary Clinton quite favorably, her pragmatism, her judgment. You were often in a agreement with her on national security matters. You have said in other interviews you think she'd be a good president. You are a Republican. Could you imagine voting for her?

ROBERT GATES:

Well, I think where I am now is that I think it's clear in the book that I have a lot of admiration for Hillary. I don't think that the Democrats welcome having a Republican handicap their 2016 race.

DAVID GREGORY:

You're not going to get off that easy. You can still vote for her without handicapping her. You don't want to answer that.

ROBERT GATES:

I'm going to be evasive.

DAVID GREGORY:

But you do think she'd be a good president?

ROBERT GATES:

I worked with her in the national security arena for two and a half years. I have a lot of respect for her, what she did, and the way she conducted herself as Secretary.

DAVID GREGORY:

Darn. I think that's about as good as I'm going to get. Mr. Secretary, thanks so much.

ROBERT GATES:

Thanks a lot, David.

DAVID GREGORY:

Good to have you here. That is all for today. We're going to be back next week. If it's Sunday, it's Meet the Press.

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