Roundtable I: This Week in Politics

Arianna Huffington, Gwen Ifill, Karl Rove, David Plouffe, Paul Gigot.
21:12 | 06/02/13

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Transcript for Roundtable I: This Week in Politics
Sunday showdown. We moved more than halfway, which is a fair definition of compromise. It was a use of their power and their offices to target David plouffe, karl rove. Each guided two winng campaigns for president. Both tough strategists at the white house. Now, theface off for the first time at our powerhouse roundtable, taking on all of the week's politics. The irs and d.O.J. Controversies. This is an arrogant abuse of power. I don't see the conflicts. A bold prediction for immigration. And that farewell from washington from a tea party star. I am confident that this is the right decision. What it all means for the obama agenda, the gop and you. Rove and plouffe, only on "this week." Hello, again. Let's get right to it with two of the most successful political strategists of our time. Democrat david plouffe, republican karl rove. Here in our powerhouse roundtable, along with arianna huffington. "The wall street journal" editorial pager, paul gigot, and gwen ifill, the moderator of "news hour" on pbs. We're getting a sense of where the public is on all of this. The quinnipiac poll, americans believe the questions of the irs targeting conservative groups are the most serious. Followed by benghazi and the seizing of the a.P. Phone records by the justice department. More than three-quarters believe a special prosecutor should be able to look into the matter. And it's taking a toll on president obama's approval rating. Almost half of the country disapproves of the job he's doing. David, how much damage has this done? And how does the president get a handle on it? I think the president's approval rating is higher than that. People should be concerned about the irs. It touches everyone in america. As we move forward here, the key thing the american people want to know is what is going to happen, in terms of accountability? What changes are going to be put in place? And all these things, deserve thorough investigation. I think the real challenge, george, is -- a special prosecutor? No. I think if people knew the department of justice was involved in an investigation, you had any number of congressional committees spending time on this, this is going to be looked in thoroughly, as it should be. Is question is, is that all congress is going to do? Are we going to be obsessed with scandal and political points? Or the american people could not be screaming any more loudly. Worry about us. Work on the economy. You're sent by us to do the job, to help us, to help the economy. The economy continues to strengthen and grow. So, we have to look at all of the issues. In the coming months, george, this is very important. My suspicion is the republicans in congress will take too obsessed, surfing scandals, trying to repeal obama care for the 40th time. And less on the economy and the job they were sent to do. Do you worry about that? I think david makes a reasonable point. This has to be a concern for the administration, too. If you dig deeper into the quinnipiac poll, people don't think the economy's good. And they don't approve of the president's handling of the economy. In the abc news/"washington post" poll, it was 48/48 disapproval/approval on the economy. That will happen. We're going to pass a budget. We're going to have a battle over the debt ceiling. We'll have a question whether we should continue the president's policy of spending our way to prosperity. Or whether we should put our fiscal house in order. There's plenty of time to do that. But republicans have to pay attention. I agree. There's a broader question. This is where the administration's going to have a problem. This irs thing cuts to the heart of a lot of people's concerns about intrusive government. As we find out more facts, i think the facts are not going to be attractive. We are going to find that the irs targeted conservative political groups, not liberal groups. And they targeted specific individuals. And they had outrageous requirements. Iowa right to life had to submit their prayers. People had to sign agreements not to protest in front of certain -- this is egregious. You're saying over the weekend, targeting of some republicans on the gift tax for their contributions to the nonprofits. That's the big vulnerability for the administration. How widespread was it? It was the tax-exempt groups. Democratic senators said you should look into because they're not social welfare programs. Instead, they're acting politically. Now, we're seeing it's wider than this. We have a group, z street, which is a pro-israeli group, which says it was targeted explicitly because it opposed settlements on the west bank, which was different than the obama administration policy. If it becomes that wide, and you get a lot of individuals, there's trouble. But, arianna, nothing here touching the white house. Not touching the white house. There's no question. That even a lot of democrats are very upset the way eric holder has not just been pursuing what he's been pursuing, in terms of leak investigations. But last year, bragging to the senate judiciary committee that he has investigated more cases than any previous administration. So, the irs is a big problem because beyond the two parties it's really about the ESTABLISHMENT OF 501-C4s AND What are they about? They're there to promote the social welfare exclusively, in one paragraph. And not do much politics. And not doing much politics. If we look crossroads gps, it's all about politics. No, no, please. Crossroads gps, I'm not on the board. I'm not an officer. The leadership knew they were going to be looked at closely. So, the laws and rules that the irs has promulgated for decades were followed closely by gps, for exactly that. They knew they would get extra scrutiny. I love this -- no concern about -- you know what? You're the first person on the left I've heard say this. These groups have been active for years on the democratic side. On the liberal side. And there's been no criticism. There's no criticism from the left in 2000 when the naacp voter fund ran an ad accusing george bush of being a bigot. No challenging republican senators up for re-election over the iraq surge. I want to bring in david. Back in the prior administration, I believe the naacp was investigated after members of congress asked for it. There's been no suggestion the independent -- the prosecutor looked at this. The inspector general. Said there was no politics involved in it. No one has indicated at all, that the white house is involved. The irs director was appointed under president bush, served under both presidents, attested. This was not a political pursuit. Baloney. Baloney. Karl? If it's not political, why only conservative groups being targeted? Liberal groups were targeted. Name one. One liberal group had tea party or patriot in its name was targeted. Not a single liberal group -- you're taking license here, karl. I'm not at all. This is not an effort driven by the white house. It would be the dumbest political effort of all-time. I didn't suggest it was being driven by the white house. But I do think -- people in the cincinnati office -- I think people sitting in cincinnati, laguna negal, baltimore, and washington, d.C., listened to senator max baucus, senator chuck schumer. When president obama goes out in 2010 and called the groups a threat to democracy, he's blowing a dog whistle. People claimed the administrator overseeing this narrowed the guidelines. They were trying to get them to change and wouldn't do it. That's my point. We have a culture at the irs that has been going after conservative groups. And this administration has done an ineffective job of managing it. When this issue came up in 2010, if the administration was serious about it, president obama should have picked up the phone and called geithner at treasury and say you better get your assistant of treasury to check into this because this is corrosive of our democracy having the irs targeting conservative groups. I want to bring in gwen ifill. Oh, that's okay you were tweeting yesterday. It was hard to get a word in edge-wise. I sit out today. You have covered a lot of these scandals and so-called scandals. Where do you see this one going? I think everybody is guilty of a little overreach in these kinds of arguments. What the polls show is americans have been saying, why aren't you talking about me? They're interested that the irs might be targeting people unfairly. But they're not so interested that they want to know the details back and forth. They say, well, the economy's coming back. Does that mean my teenage son is going to get a job this summer? Maybe not. And no one's talking about that. There's not going to be a kumbaya moment here. The politics is too rife for all that. Thno question. But when you talk about the attorney general. The attorney general's job is to investigate leaks. If the leaks are damaging the national security, there's an argument to be made, that's what he's supposed to do. The question is whether he should be investigating journalists. And no journalist has been targeted for leaking. I want to get to that right now. I want to just hold for one second. I want to go back to one final question on the irs with david. Given where it is right now, do you think president obama has to be more aggressive and actually order a house-cleaning at the irs? Well, there's a review being undertaken by the acting commissioner that secretary lew ordered. You have the department of justice looking into it. Any number of congressional committees will spend months looking at this. When that review is done, if action needs to be taken, action will be taken. That's what the american people want to know. How do we make sure this doesn't happen again? There has to be trust in this agency. Obviously, I think that -- i want to mention, you know, the crossroads, the koch brothers, the adelsons, they drowned us in money in the last election. So, the notion that somehow this was a premeditated scheme to silence people could not be further from the truth. There was some irs employees who did a dumb thing here, in terms of managing a remarkable influx of applications, on the right and the left. They should have looked at everybody equally. Also, this is a great OPPORTUNITY TO LOOK AT 501-C4s. Karl, you have to admit, that neither crossroads or any of the groups have anything to do with social welfare. There's political groups hiding under 501-c4, they complicated and are confusing an irs rule. I agree with gwen. If you look at 70% of people want to focus on the economy, rather than on the scandals, benghazi, irs, and the leak investigations. And you know, the president mentioned the middle class and the economy in his weekly address. He's doing the cincinnati jobs and economy tour on thursday but you know, david, given the focus of this in the election, both the '08 and the '12 election, it seems always to be a preoccupation. Every now and then, the white house thinks of the middle class and the economy. You have to be able to do both of those at the same time. You have to focus on legislation. I agree. Immigration has its own political logic. You can do that separately. But we cannot say we're going to grow the government as large as we have in the last four or five years and not hold it accountable. You must look at how they are actually implementing these programs. And the irs is the point of the spear for most americans on -- that's where it hits home. And we're expanding its role for health care, a great deal. You have to hold it accountable. And the woman presiding over the tax-exempt division is now in charge of implementing obama care. Is that a tentacle situation? There's a review going on. That will be looked at. Let's talk about the d.O.J. Investigation of journalists. We had the seizing of the a.P. Records by prosecutors. And you had a fox news reporter, rosen, was being targeted, based on a leak he was getting from the state department. Very classified information regarding korea. The first eric holder said he knew, did not contemplate prosecuting a journalist. Mr. Rosen comes up as a coconspirator in documents. They're going after records. That's caused members on capitol hill to call for holder to go. Either holder did sign off on an allegation that rosen violated the espionage act or didn't know that was in the affidavit that was filed in the court and doesn't know what's going on in his own department. Either case, he ought to resign because he's lost the trust of congress. And he's lost the trust of the american people. Gwen ifill, the attorney general tried to get on top of that this week, friends describing a creeping sense of remorse over the targeting of james rosen. He met with several organizations over the week, on a kind of background basis, which caused consternation with some. Is he going to have to go? You know, how when it gets about journalism, we get -- the public doesn't seem to care. Well, we care terribly, so, it has to be important. There's not going to be a kumbaya moment here. One of the interesting things coming out of the meetings with newspaper bureau chiefs and broadcast bureau chiefs in washington, it turns out, nobody knows how anybody does anybody's job. I guess I believe this. It didn't occur to the people at the justice department that this is what reporters do all the time. They go. They urge. They try to get information. That they flatter. The question to me becomes, to what end? Are we -- with this that we're talking about, we're talking about getting secret information for secret information's sake. So, journalists have to look at our motives and our accountability in these matters, as well as the administration. They never contemplated prosecuting. That's what they say. If you read the affidavit, it's pretty scary. It says aider and abettor of a conspiracy to leak. No reporter has ever been prosecuted for leaking. For not revealing a source. Would you feel better if you were mentioned in the affidavit? It wouldn't make me feel better. You had thomas drake and jeff staling, put in the bush years. This is a problem that precedes holder. We called on holder to resign. There's no way that holder can continue to do his job. And about what his department has been doing when it comes to the president. And I disagree with gwen. This is not neighbor-gazing. This is about the first amendment. It's about freedom of the press. The president himself has said you cannot have journalists being afraid that they're going to be in the crosshairs of the law while doing their job. He cannot try to play on both sides of this issue. The press shouldn't publish things. We have to be responsible. But the guidelines were there in the justice department, explicitly that eric holder ignored to narrow the focus. On the a.P. On the a.P. Even on rosen. You're supposed to inform the media in advance. They didn't do that. You're supposed to narrowly tailor it. Explicitly right there already. There's some question whether fox news, got the subpoena or not. The justice department says they sent it. Fox news says it doesn't have a record of being received. Paul is preferring to 9-13-400. The guidelines from the department of justice itself. The department attorney should take all reasonable steps to attempt to obtain the information through alternative sources or means. They must first attempt negotiations with the media in the accommodating interest of the trial or grand jury. They made no such attempt. May must precede any attempt to subpoena the toll records by having negotiations with the affected media. These are the guidelines which the attorney general himself is responsible to implement. Yes. I do think so. He has two problems. One problem is, when he signed the rosen affidavit, he did not abide by his own guidelines. Second, the defense they're offering for it, offered by jay carney, there were conflicting a subpoena with the prosecution, means that what they said, this is a member of a criminal conspiracy. When they sought the subpoena from the third judge and finally got it, they didn't ever intend to prosecute. And they were lying to the judge. And the third problem you have, on the 15th of may, he says before the house of front of the judicia committee, this is something i never contemplated. ON THE 17th, WE LEARNED HE DID The rosen -- david plouffe? I don't think he should go over this. If anything, he's guilty of overzealously trying to uphold the law. There's going to be a process. How do we balance, in 2013 -- some of the guidelines go back to 1980, before internet and e-mail. How do we balance the need to protect national security and secrets and out interests with the public's right to know and investigative journalism? I find it curious that the loudest republican voice calling for the attorney general to go, are the ones that said, we want a special prosecutor because u.S. Attorneys would not be tough enough. Their objections lay less in the principle and substance to this in a pavlovian response. If they have an opportunity to take political shots at the administration and president, they'll take it. There's an irony in having michael jordan politicizing the executive branch. Let's go back to the firing of nine attorneys general in the bush years. U.S. Attorneys, sorry. You know, I agree with you that holder has to go. But there's a certain irony in republicans who are doing very similar things. With all due respect, even the holder justice departmen which did an investigation of the u.S. Attorneys, issued a report saying, no such evidence of political activity in removing those u.S. Attorneys. That was partisan political -- no, they didn't. The facts -- they didn't. Here's the deal. They made a statement saying they found no evidence there was anything wrong. There was politicization, which is the holder justice department has never released the entire report because it would show the depth of how outrageous these charges were and how unsupported they were. They never released the report. Inappropriate political interference by the justice department -- that's not -- I'm really waiting for the moment when any senior cabinet official leaves his job because the sunday talk shows have called for him to step down. Until he loses the confidence of the president, and maybe david knows this more than I do, i can't imagine him leaving. I do want to move on now. Can I make real quick about -- look, last year, there's a difference between investigating leaks by going after the leaker, and investigating the leaks by going after the journalist. And last year, you're right. A lot of republicans said this administration was not doing a good job in looking after leakers. So, what do they do? They go after the reporter who gets the innocuous leak about u.S. Policy in response to a north korean missile launch. Where was holder going after "the new york times" journalist who -- deep inside the north korea regime. And would tip them off -- you're right. My point is, it's not the world's greatest, which is what holder said. This is the most outrageous leak in history. There's a difference. Do not conflate people who say the obama administration should be going after the sources of a leak, with going after the journalists who report them. And don't confuse that with the associated press, which is a broad reach of hundreds of phone records and what happened at the case at the state department. I have to tell you, gwen. I think paul made a great point. Do you really want the justice department to be subpoenaing the records of journalists by claiming they're members of a criminal conspiracy? That's beyond the fail. Unless they're in the payroll of the north koreans or the russians, it strikes me that is -- the common scene here between the irs scandals and the holder problems is the coercive power of the state.E here between the irs scandals and the holder problems is the coercive power of the sta here between the irs scandals and the holder problems is the coercive power of the stae here between the irs scandals and the holder problems is the coercive power of the stae here between the irs scandals and the holder problems is the coercive power of the state here between the irs scandals and the holder problems is the coercive power of the stahe here between the irs scandals and the holder prhoercve pr tg to rede gonmen in the nsa surveillance. And you have people going to ashcroft's bedside in hospital to try to get it certified as being legal. They were surveying terrorists overseas, not domestic. Terrorists? How do you know they're terrorists? That's the whole point that we're ignoring that this has been pervasive and happening in the bush years and in the obama years. And this is the major problem with obama. He is -- wait. We need to take a quick break. When we come back, michele bachmann says good-bye. Hillary's poll numbers take a dip. And obama and christie are back

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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