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TODAY   |  May 30, 2013

Tom Brokaw: Justice Dept. has ‘explaining to do’

NBC’s Tom Brokaw weighs in on the scandals facing President Obama, saying the Justice Department has “a lot of explaining to do” over the subpoenaing of reporters’ records.

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

>>> now to washington where we mentioned the heat is on attorney general eric holder . just one of the controversies swirling around the white house these days. tom, good morning.

>> good morning.

>> i know you've got a special on the military channel , we want to talk about that in a moment. let's talk about what's happening in washington. eric holder under fire with fairly aggressive prosecutions involving the subpoenaing of records of reporters in some cases tracking their movements. there are calls, again, for him to resign. the heat is always on this attorney general, but do you think this is more serious threat to his?

>> well, i think there's a lot of explaining that the justice department has to do. on the other hand, this is a complicated case. this is a case involving the fox news reporter. it was a highly secretive intelligence report that he got very early at a time when the -- when the united states government was trying to deal with the reality of what was going on in north korea . at the same time, i think that the justice department owes the press and the country an explanation of why they felt it was necessary to prosecute it. and that's not been very forthcoming. obviously the republicans are taking full political advantage of all of this. i don't think the meeting today should be off the record. i think if it's worth knowing about, let's put it on the record.

>> you're referring to this meeting that the attorney general has called with the bureau chiefs of major news organizations. some news organizations have said if it's off the record, we won't go, others have said we will go.

>> i think you should insist it go on the record. and by the end of the day , it may be on the record. prominent among the institutions that said we're not going to be in an off-the-record session.

>> and very quickly, you made a remark that journalists on the other hand shouldn't have what you call a glass jaw when it comes to some of these investigations citing the first amendment?

>> well, the first amendment is a critically important part of the constitution. it is not unconditional, obviously. any number of us over the years have been in dialogues and in conversations with senior government officials about when something can be disclosed and under what circumstances. and it's kind of case by case. it's not unconditional. so i don't know enough entirely about this case, but i do think it ought to be discussed out in the public.

>> let's turn to the special i mentioned a few moments ago that premieres. this is a beautiful opportunity. you get to walk through the nbc news archives and kind of update and reflect on some of these moments. i want to play an interview you did with president clinton back in 1993 . take a look.

>> how long do you think it'll be, mr. president, before there's a first husband.

>> not long. not long. i think a woman will be elected president probably in my lifetime. i certainly hope that one will have a chance to run. i think that, you know, people are in this country are increasingly moving to the position that everybody ought to be able to fulfill their abilities.

>> that's a priceless piece of videotape.

>> 1993 , the first year in office. and you saw the rapt attention mrs. clinton was paying to all of that. it's amazing when you stop to think about. all they've been through, 1993 , 20 years ago, and they're still at the top of the attention span in this country. no more prominent politician than bill clinton than what he's doing with the global initiative. and the big question is, is she going to run when '16 rolls around?

>> you must have had a great time strolling through the archiv archives.

>> well, it's a great opportunity. the military channel is part of discovery and said we'd like to open the brokaw files. we've got a lot of stuff to put on the air. i was honored for 48 hours , went off the deck on an f-14 over afghanistan and came back. looking forward to that.

>> and you can catch "the brokaw files" tonight at 10:00 on the military channel .