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tv   Meet the Press  NBC  May 19, 2013 8:00am-9:01am PDT

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this sunday, damage control by the white house on several fronts. how much harm will it do to the president's second term agenda? president obama under a cloud of scandal, as congress bears down on irs officials who targeted conservative groups. >> this week confirms everything that the american public believes. this is a huge blow to the faith and trust the american people have in their government. >> the key questions now -- who initiated the targeting and why? who else in the administration knew? and why was congress misinformed for so long? with us this morning, the president's senior adviser, dan pfeiffer, the republican leader in the senate, mitch mcconnell of kentucky, and the man leading a congressional investigation
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into the irs, chairman of the house ways and means committee, dave camp. and later the political fallout from benghazi and the justice department seizure of phone reports from the associated press. plus former secretary of defense donald rumsfeld returns to "meet the press." this time he's out of office and weighing in on the big issues in "rumsfeld's rules." >> announcer: from nbc news in washington, the world's longest running television program, this is "meet the press" with david gregory. >> good sunday morning. tough week for president obama. one columnist wondering if the president like president clinton before him could actually emerge stronger from all of this, while others see the swirl of the controversies making it stronger for the president to succeed with his second-term agenda. the president is going to address congratulations watts at moorehouse college this morning. and thursday he'll deliver a
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speech on counterterrorism. here this morning one of the men trying to direct a response to all of these controversy, the president's senior adviser, dan pfeiffer, a man who has been with the president since his 2008 campaign. good to have you here. >> thank you for having me. >> i've been reading that the white house wouldn't spend more than 10% on these controversies. jay carney, the president secretary, dismissed the idea these are scandals at all. is that the president's view that these are nothing more than minor distractions? >> there's no question there's a very real problem at the irs. it's a problem that needs to be addressed and that it never happens again. that's why the president has asked for the resignation of the acting irs director and we appointed an acting commissioner and do a 30-day top-down review and make shoo this never happens and those who did wrong are held accountable. >> you don't buy the theory there's a big cloud, scandal over this president sp.
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>> no. we've seen this from the republicans before. they try to drag washington into a swamp of partisan fishing expeditions. the president has business to do for the american people. >> we're going to hear from dave camp, the acting official who is now dismissed. this is one of the things he said. i want to get your reaction. >> listening to the nightly news, this appears to be an example of coverups and it seems like the truth is midden from the american people just long enough to make it through an election. >> how do you react to that? >> there's no evidence to support at that. the first time the white house was aware of this investigation was a few weeks ago when our office was notified it was happening. at that point, we had no idea what the facts were. congressman issa has been aware of this investigation since before the election. he didn't say anything publicly for very good reason. as he said, want to make sure you actually have facts before
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you raise allegations -- when you're talking about a nonpartisan entity like the irs. >> but there was information during the course of the election year about potential targeting. do you not see the white house falling down on the job, the administration failing to look into something that is so incendiary? >> it was looked into bit inspector general. that's how the process should work. now we have a report. the question is what are we going to do about that report? >> could the administration have done something independent of what the inspector general is doing? >> no, we have a cardinal rule in these situations, which is you don't interfere in an independent investigation, you don't do anything to give the appearance of interfering with an investigation. we took the exact right steps. >> you talk about a gop play book. you made a comment that said "gop overreach" which was to michele bachmann. there isn't a weekend, she said, that hasn't gone by when people
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haven't asked me about impeaching obama. when you commented on that, is that you going on the offense saying this is the gop overreaching? or is this something you're actually concerned about? >> there is no question that republicans are trying to make political hay here. we have to know what the facts are. if the independent inspector general report said two things that are very important, one, that there is no evidence that anyone outside of the irs influenced this conduct here and, two, that he did not believe there was political motivation. the conduct was outrageous and shouldn't have happened regardless of motivation but the idea to try to turn this into something -- congressman steve king from iowa, leading republican, said that benghazi was watergate and iran-contra times ten. everyone needs to take a deep breath and resolve the problem, not score political points. >> should the president have known sooner about the irs? >> no. we do not do anything to give the appearance of interfering
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with an investigation. it would be a scandal if we were somehow involved with this or other things. we handled this the right way. >> you're a communications professional as well. you never want a president of the united states coming out and saying i just learned about this from news reports. it doesn't look like someone is large and in charge -- >> in this situation that's exactly what you want. you don't want the president involved in an independent investigation with an agency with an independent stature like the irs. that would be inappropriate. >> quasi independent. the treasury department does oversee this. this is not like interfering in a criminal investigation in justice, for example. >> it's treated that way because a president once in a white house got involved in the irs and led to the great et ceteest political scandal in our history. the head of the irs was a bush appointee. and the acting commissioner was a career civil servant.
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>> the other question is should congress have known more? were they repeatedly misinformed? look at this exchange questioning going on in march of 2012. watch. >> we've seen some recent press allegations that the irs is targeting certain tea party groups across the country, requesting what have been described as onerous document requests, delaying approval for tax exempt status. can you give us assurances that the irs is not targeting particular groups based on political leanings? >> let me start by saying, yes, i can give you assurances. as you know, we pride ourselves on being a nonpolitical, nonpartisan organization. there's absolutely no targeting. >> now that's not true. there's not evidence that mr. schulman did know at that point. why was congress repeatedly
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misinformed? >> we learned congress was informed. congressman issa, who requested the original probe on this. >> last fall? >> last fall. and the congressman did an interview on monday where he said he was pretty much aware of what the report was going to say before it came out. so he was aware. now, i can't speak to what former director schulman knew. i think the acting commissioner former commissioner schulman. the acting commissioneri eriner about that. >> and here was her argument, she said the media and congress are sleuthing for some hint that mr. obama picked up the phone and publicly suggest that conservative political groups were engaged in nefarious action. is that valid? >> no.
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some republicans here are desperately looking to make political hay. don't take my word for it. take the word of the independent inspector general who said there was no evidence of influence outside of the irs led to this. >> were the democrats pressuring the irs to look into some of these groups on either side, conservative or democrat? >> there are people who have raised question about how these 501 c 4 organizations work. >> i remember abu ghraib and people said abu ghraib happened in an atmosphere that was countenance by the administration. you have a president who is campaigning against these groups in many ways, campaigning against supreme court decisions that allowed these groups on the left and the right. is there anything valid about that? >> i don't think so. i don't think that's what the inspector general found and this president finds this conduct
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deplorable. this should never happen again. this is a breach of the public trust. we have to work together to rebuild the trust. >> let me ask you about benghazi, the attack on our consulate, four americans killed. the president is making it clear he thinks this is a political hit job by republicans. do you acknowledge any mistakes made in the course of communicating to the public by benghazi or respond together benghazi attack? >> we acknowledge what happened in benghazi was a tragedy. the independent board led by it would have our leading nonpartisan figures, ambassador pickering and admiral mullen and they said there are a lot of steps to make sure this never happens again. here's the evidence that proves the republicans, playing politics with this. they received these e-mails months ago, didn't say a word about it, didn't complain, confirmed with the cia director right after that. and then last week a republican source provided to john carl of
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abc news a doctored version of an e-mail. y you know they're getting desperate here. >> you have the president who claimed it was called an actor terror and the administration in terms of publicly of an interview he gave to cbs, in addition to what is going behind the scenes is doing his level best to take out reference to a particular terror group involved, to evidence of prior warnings of our security. there was an effort to either downplay this, critics would say, or to be very cautious at a time when a lot of information seemed to be known. >> if you look at the e-mails, they tell you three things that are very important that undermine all the republicans allegations. first that the caallegations we
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not included. two references to were removed by intelligence community, not the cia and what we were trying to do was get it right based in a very challenging environment with shifting information, at the same time to protect the integrity of the investigation that was going to happen to ensure we brought justice to the people who committed this heinous act. >> the phone record for the a.p. is an issue. the attorney general will stand by the white house fully? >> the president has faith in attorney general holder. our cardinal rule is we don't get involved in independent investigations and this one of those. as a johnson principles, there are two things important we want to balance. one, national security leaks are dangerous. people that put the lives of our intelligence officers, our military at risk. but, two, we have to do it in a way in a balances freedom of press, which is why the president called on congress to pass the media shield law.
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>> i wonder if the message to congress is put up or shut up. if you're going to criticize me for not being involved, why don't you put up a law that better protects journalists. >> the president has wand this law for years, there's been republican opposition to it it. they've fierce advocacy of the press. this is an opportunity to do that. >> i want to turn to senator mitch mcconnell of kentucky. welcome back. >> good morning. >> why don't you accept the word from not only white house officials but from former acting commercialer said there is not evidence of a political agenda? >> actually, there is a culture of intimidation throughout the administration. the irs is just the most recent example. let me recount a few for your audience. over at hhs in the obama care
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debate, the secretary sent out a directive saying they couldn't say what the policy would be. now they're trying to convince the public they should love obama care. at the fcc efforts by obama appointees to shut down or make difficult people who are seeking to buy advertising to criticize the administration. over at the sec the obama appointees have been engaged in an effort to make it difficult for corporations to exercise their first amendment political rights. the irs coming back to the irs, the head of the union at the irs gives 99% of her campaign money to democrats. she openly criticizes the republican house for trying to reduce government spending and has specifically targeted tea party groups in her public comments.
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it's no wonder that the agents in the irs sort of get the message the president demonizes his opponent, the head of their union -- >> senator, that's a leap can you make as argument but you don't have fact to back it up. you can create -- i asked dan pfeiffer about it. can you talk about a culture. do you have any evidence that the president of the united states directed what you call a culture of intimidation at the irs to target political opponents? >> i don't think we know what the facts are. >> that hasn't stopped you from accusing. >> we're talking about an attitude the government knows best, the nanny state is here to tell us what to do and if you start criticizing, you get targeted. >> let me stop you for a minute. >> david, let me finish. david, let me finish. the investigation has just begun. i'm not going to reach a conclusion about what we may find, but what we do know happened is they were targeting
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tea party groups. we know that. >> we do know that. the question is how it initiated, who initiated it and how high that goes. >> sure. that's why you have investigations. >> right. it interesting. the larger issue here, as some have point issed out, is the ex of the 501 c 4 groups. they are involved in politics but they're also involved in some kind of social good. i guess that's in the eye of the beholder. you were asked about this issue way back in 1987. i want to play for you what you said then and ask you if it's resonant today. >> there are restrictions now on the kinds of activities that, for example, a 501-c3 and 4 organizations can engage in. they're being abused not just by people on the right but most of the so-called charitable organizations who are involved
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in political activity in this country who are, in my judgment, involved in arguable violations of their tax-free status and violations of the campaign laws happen to be groups on the left. so that is a problem. >> so that was a problem then and some are arguing it a problem now as well. out of all of this do you see more tax reform that addresses whether any of these groups should be tax exempt? >> it's not whether you have to go back 25 years to find a quote. what we have seen here is an effort on the part of the government to make it difficult for citizens to get organized and to express themselves. there's an effort here also to make sure that you can get their donor list or their membership list. it's reminiscent of naacp versus alabama back in 1958 where the state of alabama tried to get the membership and donor list of the naacp. the supreme court said under the
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first amendment freedom of association you can't have it. there's an of the here in congress called a disclose act to try to get at the donors of these groups. i was wrong 25 years ago, i've been right for the last two decades. the government should not be trying to intimidate citizens who criticize the government from exercising their first amendment rights. and that's what is at the heart of this and that's what the irs apparently was doing by making it difficult for citizens to get a legitimate tax exempt status. >> i'm saying should these groups if they're that politically involved, and that's what you identified 25 years ago, if they're that politically involved, they shouldn't have tax exempt status. should the tax code be simpler in this arena to eliminate these questions? >> no. i think the citizens groups have a right to organize, express themselves and not have their
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donor list subject to supervision. it clear now that the reason these donor lists and donors are trying to be revealed is so the federal government can target them and shut them up. >> let me ask you about these a.p. phone records. this is probably one area where i imagine you would actually be supportive of what the administration has done, despite some of the criticism because you've expressed your outrage in the past and you've pushed for an investigation of national security leaks. >> actually, i do think these national security leaks are very important and it looks to me like this is an investigation that needs to happen because national security leaks, of course, can get our agents overseas killed. >> so you don't think that this is a scandal plaguing the administration and are you supportive of eric holder as attorney general in light of all of this? >> what i am supportive of is investigating national security leaks that endanger americans around the world. >> so would this qualify, this seizure of a.p. phone records?
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>> what i -- we don't know yet what has happened here. what i do think is that national security leaks that endanger americans around the world are a serious matter. >> i'm just asking, you have no reason then to doubt or do you what the attorney general did actually did endanger lives in this case in. >> what i'm saying is national security leaks that endanger americans around the world are a serious matter. >> including this one? >> any time you're leaking national security information, if it endangers americans around the world, eight serious matter. >> i think it's clear what you're saying. i want to move on to benghazi and questions republicans have been asking about this. if you look at this as objectively as you can, it appears to be an episode on the failure of the administration to adequately secure an overseas outpost, diplomatic compound at a time of war when we have been involved in getting rid of gadhafi in libya and perhaps at the very worst some effort by
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the administration to spin what the actual cause was of the attack. why does it go anywhere beyond that? >> well, that's not insignificant. i mean, the fact that the personnel there were not adequately secured is not insignificant. >> right. >> clearly we didn't have enough security there to protect our ambassador and the people on the ground there. >> but republicans are talking about a massive coverup. the president has said that's very significant but republicans are talking about a massive coverup, they're talking about impeachment. i mean, all of these things that seem sort of over the top with regard to what's happening here. >> i don't think i've said any of those things. i think you're talking about others may have said various things about this. let me tell you what i think about it. it's clear that there was inadequate security there and it's very clear that it was inconvenient within six weeks of the election for the
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administration to, in effect, announce that it was a terrorist attack. i think that's worth examining. it is going to be examined. and it's important, you know, this is the first time we've had an ambassador killed in the line of duty since the late 70s. >> you are the one of the leading republicans in america. would you call on republicans who talk about impeaching the president or who talk about this as an nixonian style coverup with regard to benghazi, would you like them to stop it? >> what i think we ought to do is complete the investigation and find out what exactly happened. and i think we have a sense of what happened. . we know there was inadequate security, we know an american ambassador and three other brave americans got killed, and we know the administration kind of made up a tale here in order to make it seem like it wasn't a terrorist attack. i think that's worthy of investigation and the
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investigations ought to go forward. >> but do you have specific evidence that they made up a tale or was it based on information they had at the time? >> well, t talking points clearly were not accurate. and i think getting to the bottom of that is an important investigation. >> i just want to come back to this because i think it important, you made a point of saying what you have not said about all of this. there are republicans in an organized fashion, of accusing the president of being nixonian, comparing it to water. isn't that overblown? >> i think it's important there is an investigation under way. >> rand paul says benghazi should disqualify hillary clinton from being president. is that your view?
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>> the 2016 elections are way too far away. >> my question stands. >> we're in the process of investigating a number of different investigations, all of these things are important to take a look at and we're going to do that. >> do you think that hillary clinton was culpable for what happened in benghazi? >> i think we'll find out when the investigation is completed who did what and who knew what and when. >> will this -- these issues, all of them, two of them that you are concerned about, will they be fodder for your campaign next year? do you think it important for republicans to campaign on these issues to target president obama and democrats? >> you know, i don't know what the issue will be next year. if i were predicting what's likely to be the biggest issue in the 2014 election, i think it would be obama care. i think it's coming back big time. and by the way, the irs has a role to play in the implementation of obama care,
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which is another reason why if we have the opportunity to do it, we ought to pull it out root and branch, the single worst piece of legislation that's been passed in modern times ins country and the aicaneople are beginning to learn as the premiums go up, as jobs are lost, the full effect of this on our slow growth economy has been enormous. i think that's likely, frankly, david, to be the biggest issue in 2014. there may be others. and some of these issues may arise as well. >> leader mcconnell, i always appreciate you coming back to answer the questions you like and the ones you don't like as well. i appreciate it. we'll see you soon. >> thanks. >> coming up, the man leading the investigation into the irs on capitol hill said the recent revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. so what more is there? dave camp, chairman of the ways and means committee will be here. and congressman xavier becerra,
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peggy noonan and a man that's no stranger to scandal in washington, bob woodward. later, my conversation with donald rumsfeld. he joins me live. it's all coming up here on "meet the press." are you still sleeping? just wanted to check and make sure that we were on schedule.
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♪ ♪ there'll be the usual presentations on research. and development. some new members of the team will be introduced. the chairman emeritus will distribute his usual wisdom. and you? well, you're the chief life officer. you just need the right professional to help you take charge. ♪ we're back. i'm with the roundtable. i want to begin with congressman dave camp, republican from mish gap and chairman of the ways and means and is leading the investigation of the irs. you heard dan pfeiffer, who
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reacted and talk about a culture of cover up. your thoughts. >> it is tough stuff. americans are targeted for their beliefs and it went on for years. officials at the treasury knew about this a year ago, officials at the irs knew about this two years ago, congress has been trying to get answers for two years and we were stonewalled. >> stonewalled by the irs it appears? >> yes. frankly, this is an audit. we still need to have the investigation. >> but congress requested the i.g. investigation, which you got. you were aware of that, you initiated it and even got some preliminary results about it that darrell issa referred to. >> no, this is an audit, not an investigation. but the question is why after repeated hearings and letters to the agency when high-ranking officials in the agency knew
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about it, why did they not come forward? because americans were targeted for their political views, what books they read, what the contents of their prayers were, did they know anyone running for political office? i don't care what your political strife, but they only targeted conservative political beliefs. >> which people have stipulated is simply outrageous on both sides, including the president. as people try to figure out what people can and should down, what would you have had the president do and the secretary of treasury do? there are hundreds of audits. imagine the scandal if the president tried to intervene or even fire someone before the results of an audit were completed. you agree you'd be pretty mad about that? >> there's one thing to meddle, but there's another thing to know about it. what should they have known. >> if the president knew more earlier, what would have come of that? >> hopefully it would have been
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stopped sooner. it went on for 18 months. >> but it was being investigated. i guess you're saying before even an audit was happening, you would have wanted to know what happened. >> two years ago the director of the exempt organization division knew of this. did anyone up the chain know about it? we don't know that yet. that's why we have a lot of questions to still answer. we don't know who started this, we don't know why it was allowed to continue for so long. as one of the newspapers reported, a person from in a cincinnati office said we don't do anything without direction here. >> you have a credible reason to accuse of president of knowing about this targeting? >> we don't have anything to say that the president knew about this. in fact, he says he learned about it on television. that may be the case. but we need to know who started this and why it was allowed to continue. >> before i widen this out, both using the irs unfortunately for political reasons goes back many administrations, republican and democrat, and we came across something when it came to resolving some of the ambiguity in the tax code from the "new york times," look at this
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headline. this goes back from october of 1927. "seek to simply income tax law as joint committee of congress hopes to makes phraseology of the act clearer." does this mess, does this political targeting give some new impetus to resolving ambiguity in our tax code to the issue of who should be tax exempt? >> i think a lot of people feel the tax code is broken, it's not fair, it's inefficient, it's so complex. the average family should be able to fill out their own tax fofrms and file them. it takes the average american 13 hours to comply with the code, 6 billion hours in terms of compliance. i think we need a fairer, platteplat flatter, more efficient tax code. we're working together, we've
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had the first hearings together in more than 70 years. i think a more efficient and flatter and fairer tabs code would help the economy and help people get the work they need and also maybe get higher wages if they're already working. >> let me go around the horn now with xavier becerra, bob woodward and peggy noonan. bob woodward, you're no stranger to these controversies in washington. how has the administration handled this this past week? >> first of all, people are making comparisons to watergate. this is not watergate but there are some people in the administration who have acted as if they want to be nixonian, and that's a very big problem. >> who and how? >> pardon? well, i think on the whole benghazi thing. you look at those talking points and, i mean, the initial draft by the cia very explicitly said we know that activists who have ties to al qaeda were involved in the attack.
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and then you see what comes out a couple of days later and there is no reference to this. this is a business where you have to tell the truth and that did not happen here. >> peggy noonan, you wrote something that struck me in your column on friday. i want to ask you about it. we are in the midst of the worst washington scandal since water game the reputation of the obama white house has gone from sketchy to sinister. they don't look jerky now, they look dirty. the patina of high-mindedness the president enjoyed is gone. i have to say, peggy, what you don't talk about here is an administration for a man that you work for who led the iran-contra scandal with iran, the secret war and lied to congress and all the rest. overstatement here? >> i don't think so. i think this is -- what is going on now is all three of these
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scandals makes a cluster that implies some very bad things about the forthcomingness of the administration and about its ability to at certain dramatic points do the right thing. and i got to tell you, everyone can argue about which of these things is most upsetting, but this irs thing is something i've never seen in my lifetime. it is the revenue gathering arm of the u.s. government -- >> peggy, wait a second. >> -- going after political -- >> richard nixon specifically directed people to investigate and audit people. of course we've seen if t in our lifetime. >> but this is so broad and extremely abusive to normal u.s. citizens just looking for their rights. >> no questions about the egregiousness of it. >> if it doesn't stop now, it will never stop. and the only way it can stop is
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if, frankly, a price is paid, if people come forward and they have to tell who did it, why they did it. >> i'm struck that peggy seems to be more critical than senator mcconnell, who didn't want to use comparisons to watergate and nixon and the like. >> the president said it was inexcusable what happened at the irs serious miss makes were made, it was wrong and should never happen again. the president already said i'm cleaning up shop. this cannot happen again in one of the agencies that we must have trust in. but as we investigate are we in search of answers or are we in search of scandals? it's a different thing to say what happened in cincinnati with the irs goes all the way to the white house. there is no evidence. in fact, the inspector general who looked into this at the irs said there was no political
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motivation involved. and quite honestly, i agree with the young senator mcconnell. the reason we have this problem is because we have a tax code that allows groups to use their political operations within the tax code under the guise of a charity to use undisclosed millions of dollars to do political campaigns. >> i think he would resent that remark, the young mcconnell, even if he agreed with you. there's some news this morning, a new cnn poll that has the president's approval ratings in pretty good territory but also a view there is not an overreaction on the gop, whether on the irs or benghazi and a view whether it's the irs, benghazi or the a.p., a majority saying these are very important issues for the country. so as a matter of how much, congressman, this infects the rest of the president's agenda, what do you see? >> well, i think that obviously this may increase the need for tax reform because the complexity of the code is such that it's a problem.
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but let me just in answer to what xavier said, there's nothing in the code or nothing in any supreme court decision that says the irs should target americans for their beliefs. >> agreed. >> we still don't know who directed this and we're trying to move forward in a bipartisan way to get answers. for two years we've been seeking answers and didn't get them. >> it's interesting how bureaucracies operate. do they take cues from the president? i use the abu ghraib example. do you think that's a fair criticism here? >> i think you have to step back and say what's the theory of governing here? and the theory is, it seems, oh, there are investigations of the irs so we can't interfere. there is this leak investigation of the a.p., so we can't get involved. oh, there is an investigation of benghazi so we're not responsible. the president and the executive branch need to govern on a daily
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basis and you can't purchase immunity from governing. >> but you can't equate all those things, bob. >> yeah, you can. >> you can't say it's okay to tell the president to tell the attorney general in a criminal matter what are you doing? >> but there is a policy issue here, do you issue this broad-based subpoena on reporters? >>utt president can't interfere with that. >> but you need to have a policy set down and there is proper communication between the attorney general and the white house counsel on matters like this. >> is he president or not? ultimately these are executive agencies which are proving so deeply problematic. >> you cannot mean the justice department. you cannot mean the sqjustice department. >> i'm not sure what you mean. >> isn't that what watergate was in part about, we can't have that kind of political interference, right? >> i'm not even sure what you mean up. >> can't tell the attorney general not to investigate something or to investigate something. that's the law.
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>> fine. and if you find out the attorney general went too far and you are the president, can you say i think he went to far? i think there are real problems here, we've got to look into it? that's not the thing. the irs thing is really the thing. that involves -- >> the president said it went too far. so those two -- the top officials, the irs acting commissioner is gone. the president -- >> but how are we going to get to the bottom of what happened? >> absolutely, let's get to the bottom of it. let investigate the facts to prevent it from happening again, you need to know how it happened. i think a lot of people are asking who's watching the store? and is the level of managerial oversight that it rises to the level of wrong doing? i think that's the issue. >> and how at this point do you try to get to the bottom of who directed what happened at the irs? because it is a very important question. >> well, we do need an investigation. there is going to be a continued investigation by the inspector general, as well as congress, who will continue to look at this and bring people forward
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and get testimony. >> you agree to a special commissioner, like a former aide, robert gibbs, has suggested. >> why not an independent council? i watched the other day. i saw mr. miller, the soon to be former head of the irs, look at congress and be essentially unresponsive, be essentially, gee, somebody was responsible, i don't know the name, yes, maybe i can get the name for you. that gives you a sense that maybe congress can't get to the bottom of this. maybe an independent council would be a better route. >> some institutions have a no-surprise rule, which is you need to make sure the person at the top, who is the president in this case, he is constitutionally responsible for the whole executive branch, to be told about things that are going on that are bad. and you can't kind of say, oh, that happened last year and they're investigating. you need to stop the bad things right away. >> and the difficulty is this
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criticism of passivity, as you all are suggesting and i'm challenging you with the other side of that argument but the idea that he is still in charge of the government, has accountability and has to project accountability as we ask all presidents to do. >> in the irs case it doesn't seem passive. wonderful king strauss of the wall street journal was correct. the president wasn't passive on that. he was giving final word to people who could launch this thing. >> in this scenario he's in a no-win situation. if he had gone into this faster, people would say he's intruding into a separate investigation. >> i have to take a break. i have a special visitor, donald rumsfeld, talking about "rumsfeld's rules." i'll go one-on-one with him about some of his views, ♪
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and we're back. for our remaining moments, joining me,author of the new book "rumsfeld's rules: leadership lessons in business, politics, war and life," former defense secretary donald rumsfeld. mr. secretary, welcome back. you have such an interesting distinction here. i remember president bush called you a matinee idol and now you're soon to be a great grandfather. that's quite a combination. >> it's exciting. >> i want to ask you about a very disturbing subject within the military that you've worked over for so long and that is sexual assaults in the military. some of the reported accounts when you were secretary and reported and estimates, a much larger number and the alarming rise between 2010 and 2012. what should the military do about it? does it have to change the way these crimes are reported at the chain of command and go outside of that to a special prosecutor? what would do you? >> i don't know that a special
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prosecutor is the answer, but there is an argument that can be made for handling them in a way different than they're being handled because they're serious. and i would suspect that an awful lot of them doesnn't event reported. that's probably true in the public sector, private citizens as well as in the military. but it's a terrible thing. there has to be zero tolerance. and it appears that something different is going to have to be done and i wish i knew what the answer was. i don't. people simply have to not tolerate. >> what about the culture in the military? is that major part of contributing to it? >> people talk about that and talk about athletic teams and male environments. i don't know the answer to that. there's certainly nothing about the military that would contribute to it in terms of the purpose of the armed forces.
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but i don't know the answer and i think they better really land all over people that are engaged in any kind of abuse of that nature. >> there's so much happening in washington and you are a veteran of so many controversy. you write this from the book, "if you foul up, tell the boss and correct it fast, mistakes can usually be corrected if the organization's leaders are made aware of them and they are caught up early enough and faced honestly. bad news doesn't get better with time. if you have fouled something up, it's best to tell the boss first." >> that's true. >> accountability, whether it's irs or questions about benghazi, who is accountable? how do you assess that in these cases? >> in these cases i don't think they know yet. clearly the president and in the case of benghazi, the secretary of state. that's the way life works. but what bothers me about it is that two things really concern me, one, you think of a manager, a leader. when something like that
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happens, you call people in, you sit them down and you let them know that you intend to find ground truth fast. and he seems not to have done that. the other thing that's worrisome is, as they say, truth leaves on horseback and returns on foot. what's happening to the president is incrementally trust is being eroded because of the different messages coming out. you know, it important that you avoid the early reports because they're often wrong, and you have to get people in, find ground truth and then communicate that as fast as you can. to the extent information goes out that proves not to be accurate, presidents and leaders lead by persuasion. they doesn't lead by command. you have to be trusted. and to the extent trust is eroded, as it is when stories get changed and something more is learned and it kind of incrementally destroys your credibility, i think that
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clearly is a problem. i was worried, for example, i came back from being ambassador of nato when president nixon had resigned and president ford was in office. the reservoir of trust had just been drained during that experience that we went through. >> you saw that first hand. >> i did. >> with president bush, a reservoir of trust in your leadership and that of the vice president and that of the president and of course with the iraq war in a trust eroded. do you see parallels here or more sympathetic or less inclined to the critical? >> anyone looking at those jobs have to know they're tough jobs. when you've got one big problem, it's a big problem. when you've got two, it's like ten. when you have three, it's a problem. it's a perfect storm in there right now and those jobs are very difficult and there are a lot of things that make them even more difficult. >> but former vice president
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cheney said that they're lying in the administration. do you think that's overly harsh? do you think we know that that's true? >> he may know something i don't know. all i know is that the story has changed repeatedly on benghazi. i don't know anything about the a.p. story. it seems to me until we have some sense of that, we can't even begin to make a judgment. but i think people looking at the changed stories on benghazi and the way the talking points were altered are of a view that they were trying to support a narrative that in fact did not exist. >> we're going to take a break [ male announcer ] ok, here's the way the system works.
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