'This Week' Transcript: David Axelrod and Rick Santorum

AXELROD: Well, that's certainly going to be where the debate is. But it's also important, since Governor Romney has offered as only his credential really his business work, he doesn't talk about Massachusetts. But his main argument is, I know -- I have the secret sauce, I know how to get the economy moving.

So it's important to look at some of that history, because his future, his view of how we build a better future is very much rooted in how he -- in the lessons that he has learned in the past. And those are not lessons that are going to translate into progress for the American people.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to ask you about another issue that came up at the president's press conference on Friday, those national security leaks. We have two investigations now being ordered by the attorney general.

And the president said that he was offended by any suggestion that these leaks were for political purposes by his White House aides. Michele Bachmann responded to that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course the White House leaked it and of course they did it, to make Obama look like he was tough on terror. I am offended that he lied to the American people this afternoon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I see you smiling in response to Michele Bachmann. And I take the president's point that this was not for political…

AXELROD: As I often do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That this was not for political purposes. But if you look at these articles that were in The New York Times, on both the Stuxnet worm that went after the Iranian nuclear program, and the president's going over this so-called "kill list" for drones, in both cases they quote members of the president's national security team who were in the room.

So somebody who was in the room with the president was giving out some of this information or at least discussing classified information.

AXELROD: George, I think the authors of all of this work have said that the White House was not the source of this information. I can't say that there weren't leaks. There were obvious leaks, but they weren't from the White House.

Let me tell you something, I sat with the president for two years when I was in the White House. And you know, I don't think there was anything that weighed on him more heavily than these life or death decisions. He understands that when he commits people to missions that their lives are at stake, and the safety of Americans are at stake.

And the last thing that he would countenance or anybody around him would countenance are leaks that would jeopardize the security of Americans on these secret missions, and the success of those missions. So, you know, I think when he said on Friday that he said offended about it, he was speaking from that place.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're confident that this investigation is not going to show White House involvement?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes. The White House is opposed to -- and I think you know this, George, we have come under attack because we have been tougher on leaks than any administration in recent history. And we have been criticized for that.

But it's the right thing to do because of the very issue that has been raised. We want to make sure that the people we assign to these very difficult tasks are safe, or as safe as they can be. And we want to make sure that these missions are successful.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. David Axelrod, thanks very much.

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