|'This Week' Transcript: WikiLeaks' Julian Assange|
|Jun 28, 2013, 12:23 PM|
A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday morning, June 30, 2013 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. Welcome to "This Week." Traitor or hero? High stakes standoff with America's most wanted fugitive.
DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: Where is he hiding tonight?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our ABC News exclusive with the other fugitive stoking Edward Snowden's defiance, the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
Making history: the Supreme Court's landmark decision on same-sex marriage. But with the fight is far from over, leaders from both sides are here. Is this the start of a new culture war? Our powerhouse roundtable weighs in.
And a lone star in Texas shoots straight into the national spotlight. Right here this Sunday morning.
ANNOUNCER: This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Reporting from ABC News headquarters, George Stephanopoulos.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So much to get to in one of the newsiest weeks of the year. And we begin with what has become an emotional mission to South Africa for President Obama. Honoring at every stop his personal hero Nelson Mandela. ABC's Byron Pitts is there in Johannesburg. Good morning, Byron.
BYRON PITTS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George.
Moving is right. We're outside Mr. Mandela's home where the steady stream of the concerned and the curious continues today. The former South African president is still listed in critical but stable condition. As for President Obama, today he visited Robben Island and an infamous prison where Mandela spent much of his 27 years behind bars.
Later in Cape Town, he meets with Bishop Desmond Tutu to shine a light on AIDS awareness here.
Yesterday, the president met privately with members of Mr. Mandela's family to offer words of comfort.
At every public event here in South Africa, the president made the point that as a young man he was inspired by Nelson Mandela to live his dreams.
George, this evening, the president will overnight in Cape Town. Tomorrow, he continues his tour of Africa when he makes the stop in the capital of Tanzania -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks, Byron.
Now to our exclusive interview with Julian Assange. He's standing by from his safe room at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. First, our chief justice correspondent Pierre Thomas has more on Assange and the assistance WikiLeaks is providing to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.
Good morning, Pierre.
PIERRE THOMAS, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, George.
WikiLeaks officials were with Snowden when he fled from Hong Kong to Russia, and they have provided him with legal guidance. Assange is said to be pressing Ecuadorian officials to grant Snowden's request for asylum. Some say it's the latest provocation of the U.S.
JULIAN ASSANGE, WIKILEAKS FOUNDER: He has long been a prickly thorn in the side of the U.S. government. But who is Julian Assange? Hacker? Activist? A journalist? Or a fugitive criminal?
We've exposed the world's secret.
THOMAS: He is the mastermind behind WikiLeaks which has published the secrets of nations, and is now at the heart of a global debate over the public's right to know.
SAWYER: The WikiLeaks organization published hundreds more internal government documents.
THOMAS: Assange has embarrassed the powerful, and revealed top secret information about U.S. and other government activities.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a bunch of bodies laying there.
THOMAS: But at what cost?
HILLARY CLINTON, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security.
THOMAS: Now the man who has on a crusade to expose what he believes is wrongdoing faces accusations of his own.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no right to arrest Julian Assange.
THOMAS: For more than a year, he's been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he sought refuge to avoid possible criminal charges.
And today, WikiLeaks and Assange are standing shoulder to shoulder with the perhaps the most damaging leaker of them all, Edward Snowden, the fugitive former government contractor who went public with top secret information about some of the crown jewels of the intelligence community.
THOMAS: Some U.S. officials say make no mistake, these are -- these leaks have serious consequences that the terrorists are changing the way they communicate, because of these disclosures -- George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Pierre. Thanks. Let's talk now to Julian Assange from the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Joined here in New York by Jesselyn Radack, a former whistle- blower from the Justice Department who disclosed details of post-9/11 interrogation practices, now with the government accountability project. Welcome to you both.
And Mr. Assange, let me begin with you. Thank you for joining us.
What can you tell us about where Edward Snowden is right now and where he's expected to go?
ASSANGE: Thank you, George.
I wish I could answer these questions of yours in more detail.
The situation now with Edward Snowden is very sensitive one. It's a matter of international diplomatic negotiations. So, there's little that I can productively say about what is happening directly.
But look, let's pull back a bit. Why is it that Mr. Snowden is not in the United States? He should feel that he should be afforded justice in the United States. But his situation is very similar to a situation that I face and that my staff face where we have been sucked into a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia, that's where the charges for Mr. Snowden came from, Alexandria, Virginia.
What do we know about that district? It's six kilometers from the center of Washington, D.C., the jury pool is made up of the CIA, Pentagon, et cetera. In the legal community in the United States, it's known as the rocket docket because of the lack of scrutiny procedures have there. There's a 99 percent chance that -- a 99.97 percent chance that if you're a target of the grand jury you'll be indicted. And a 99 percent that if you're indicted by a grand jury you will be convicted.
So this is not a situation -- ignoring all the political rhetoric which has been terrible over the past two weeks, where Mr. Snowden can feel that he would be afforded justice in the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is there any country right now that would Mr. Snowden asylum?
ASSANGE: Well, under U.N. conventions, Mr. Snowden has the right to appeal to nearly every country for asylum. Of course, asylum decision is always a mixture of the political and the legal. And I think there are several countries where it is politically possible for Mr. Snowden to receive asylum, and many countries, of course, where he's legally entitled to that kind of protection.
It's -- no one is alleging that any of his acts are anything other than political, that he has acted in a manner to draw attention to a very serious problem in the United States where without the will of congress, without the will of the American population, we now have a state within a state, we have the transnational surveillance apparatus. Glenn Greenwald just last night spoke about the new technology to evolve out of the National Security Agency is going to attempt to intercept 1 billion mobile phone calls a day.
No one signed up for this, Obama does not have a mandate for that. No one has a mandate for that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: With respect, Mr. Assange, many people have said that this...
ASSANGE: ...taken for a ride.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ...far more than political, including Secretary of State John Kerry. He spoke out on this earlier this week saying that Snowden's revelations are putting people at risk. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: People may die as a consequence of what this man did. It is possible the United States will be attacked because terrorists may now know how to protect themselves in some way or another that they didn't know before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does that concern you at all?
ASSANGE: Well, look, we have heard this rhetoric. I myself was subject to precisely this rhetoric two, three years ago. And it all proved to be false. We had this terrible discussion about -- which even exists in some of the tabloid press today -- about WikiLeaks causing harm, but not a single U.S. government official, no one from the Pentagon, no one from any government says that any of our revelations in the past six years has caused anyone to come to physical harm.
And the revelations by Snowden, I mean, these are even more abstract than the nature of the war crimes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you spoken to Mr. Snowden -- are you confident he is safe right now.
ASSANGE: ...we have been publishing.
Our legal people have been in contact with Mr. Snowden. I can't say anything about the present situation. But, you know, the United States canceled his passport. Joseph Biden, the day before yesterday, personally called the President Correa trying to pressure him. That's not acceptable.
Asylum is a right that we all have. It's an international right. The United States has been founded largely on accepting political refugees from other countries and has prospered by it.
Mr. Snowden has that right. Ideally he should be able to return to the United States. Unfortunately, that's not the world that we live in and hopefully another country will give him the justice that he deserves.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Edward Snowden's father has spoken out. He fears that you and WikiLeaks are manipulating his son. He said that, quote, "I think WikiLeaks, their focus isn't necessarily the constitution of the United States, that's a concern for me." How do you respond to Edward Snowden's father?
ASSANGE: Well, he didn't say that. He said might be. Mr. Snowden's father as a parent, of course he is worried in this situation, every father would be worried in this situation. We have established contact with Mr. Snowden's father's lawyer to put some of his concerns to rest.
But, I mean, this isn't a situation that, you know, WikiLeaks is in charge of, if you like. This is a matter for states at a very serious level to understand and sort out and behave responsibly. Because I've had some experience in the past, with publishing, with attacks and political rhetoric from the United States with asylum and so on.
And I have personal sympathy for Mr. Snowden. We did what we could and we'll continue to do what we can to try and--
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have put yourself in the middle of it.
ASSANGE: -- and help him through.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And I want to ask a further question on that. Glenn Greenwald has said that no matter what happens to Snowden, his secrets, the secrets that he's taken, will get out. How? And does Wikileaks have possession of those secrets right now?
ASSANGE: Look, there is no stopping the publishing process at this stage. Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can't be pressured by any state to stop the publication process. I mean, the United States, by canceling his passport, has left him for the moment marooned in Russia. Is that really a great outcome by the State Department? Is that really what it wanted to do? I think that every citizen has the right to their citizenship. To take someone's principal component of citizenship, their passport, away from them is a disgrace. Mr. Snowden has not been convicted of anything. There are no international warrants out for his arrest. To take a passport from a young man in a difficult situation like that is a disgrace.
He is a hero. He has told the people of the world and the United States that there is mass unlawful interception of their communications, far beyond anything that happened under Nixon. Obama can't just turn around like Nixon did and said, it's OK, if the president does it, if the president authorizes it--
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's not what he's saying, sir. He has also broken the law. Let me bring that now to Jesselyn Radack, who is also here with me right now. Julian Assange mentioned Edward Snowden's father, who has also written -- his attorney has written a letter to Eric Holder, the attorney general, saying that he believes that his son would be willing to come back to the United States if he would not be detained or imprisoned prior to trial, if he would not be subject to a gag order, if he would be tried in the venue of his choosing. Do you think it would make sense for Snowden to return under those circumstances?
RADACK: I actually don't. I have represented people like Thomas Drake, who was an NSA whistle-blower, who actually did go through every conceivable internal channel possible, including his boss, the inspector general of his agency, the Defense Department inspector general and two congressional committees, and the U.S. turned around and prosecuted him. And did so for espionage and threatened to tie him up for the rest of his life in jail. I think Snowden's outlook is bleak here, and instead of focusing on Snowden and shooting the messenger, we should really focus on the crimes of the NSA. Because whatever laws Snowden may or may not have broken, they are infinitesimally small compared to the two major surveillance laws and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that the NSA's violated.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But these surveillance programs, as the president has pointed out, were passed by the Congress, are overseen by a court.
RADACK: Well, both of those are incorrect. Congress has not been fully informed. Only the--
STEPHANOPOULOS: They passed the laws, there is oversight, or there is (inaudible).
RADACK: OK, but there is a secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which nobody knows, except for the Intel Committee of Congress, and even they say that they think most Americans would be appalled by that. And to say that it's been approved by the courts is a misnomer, because it gives the impression that federal courts have approved this, when in reality, it's the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has rubber-stamped every single--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Which is a federal court.
RADACK: No, it is a secret court set up at the Justice Department that has federal judges on it. But last year, it approved 2,000 out of 2,000 applications. They hear only the government's side, and they have never -- they have rejected an application one time since 1978.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me bring this back to Julian Assange. Back in 2010, an email that was revealed from you by Bart Gellman in "Time" magazine, said that you hoped the revelations from Wikileaks would bring about, quote, "the total annihilation of the current U.S. regime." Is that still your goal, and what did you mean by that?
ASSANGE: I did not say that and there is no such email. That is simply false.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's quoted in "Time" magazine in December 2010.
ASSANGE: Yes. Well, I mean, "Time" magazine. But this is -- it's very interesting that you raised such a thing like that. We are in a situation where we have these extraordinary revelations that are causing great embarrassment to a new national security state that is arising in the U.S. It's not just the U.S. Similar national security states are rising in other countries, but it is trying to evade democratic will. It's treating Congress like a bunch of fools. And we saw Clapper up there lying, bald-face lying to Congress. We have secret interpretations of the law. What does the law mean if there are secret interpretations in secret courts?
We have Bradley Manning's trial starting -- continuing tomorrow. A young man, a good man, as far as anyone can tell, motivations are entirely political as far as anyone argues. The same with Snowden. Being put through this meat grinder, where a new precedent is trying to be set, which is communicating with the press is committing espionage. And it's not just a precedent that is trying to be set on these whistle-blowers. It's a precedent that's trying to be set on journalists and politicians as well. We saw that in the case of--
STEPHANOPOULOS: Meantime, Mr. Assange, meantime, you're being--
ASSANGE: -- James Rosen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: -- safe harbored (ph) by the Ecuadorian government. That -- the Correa administration has been admonished by human rights organizations for restricting press freedoms, prosecuting journalists. The Inter American Press Association calls its new media law, quote, "the most serious setback for freedom of the press in the recent history of Latin America." So does it make you uncomfortable to be harbored by a government that goes after journalists, and do you see a double standard there?
ASSANGE: Well, these accusations are largely blown up. There are of course all sorts of problems in any particular country. But why are they even spoken about? What has happened here is a mass revelation of illegal transnational spying by the National Security Agency, the collection of the communications records of every single person in the United States, laying out the entire community structure of the United States. And these sort of attempts are merely a mechanism to try and shift ground. But you know, going to CPJ, the Committee to Protect Journalists in New York, they list the number of journalists in Ecuadorian prisons -- zero. And it has been zero for a very long time. It's 48 in Turkey. So we've got to keep things in some kind of perspective (ph). There is no allegation that Ecuador--
ASSANGE: -- no allegation that Ecuador is involved in a mass transnational surveillance or assassination programs and so on.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julian Assange, Jesselyn Radack, thanks very much for joining me this morning.
RADACK: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our powerhouse roundtable is coming right up, with historic decisions from the Supreme Court this week and more. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERRY MORAN, ABC NEWS: The Defense of Marriage Act, which -- a federal law defining marriage as the union of one man, one woman, only denied all federal benefits to gay couples, that has been ruled unconstitutional.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: History at the Supreme Court this week on gay marriage, and now the fight to define marriage moves back to the states and the courts again. Leading the campaign is our next guest, Brian Brown from the National Organization of Marriage, and Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also led the organization that sparked the court challenge to Proposition 8 in California. And Chad, let me begin with you. Congratulations on your victory at the Supreme Court. So what is next for you?
STEPHANOPOULOS: History at the Supreme Court this week on gay marriage, and now the fight to define marriage moves back to the states and the courts again. Leading the campaign is our next guest, Brian Brown from the National Organization of Marriage, and Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign, also led the organization that sparked the court challenge to Proposition 8 in California. And Chad, let me begin with you. Congratulations on your victory at the Supreme Court. So what is next for you? Will your organizations try to bring lawsuits challenging the gay marriage bans in more than 30 states? And given what we heard from the court this week, do you expect to succeed?
GRIFFIN: Look, there is no question this was a historic week for equality in this country, and American values really did win. With the erasing of the Proposition 8, same-sex couples in the state of California started getting married on Friday. And now that DOMA has been erased from the books thanks to that historic decision, those couples across the country who are legally married, their relationships and their families will be recognized as such.
At the same time while we celebrate, we have to acknowledge that there are 37 states in this country that still don't have equality. And our job is to work harder than we have fought before to bring equality, full equality to every single state in this country. And that's exactly what we start doing now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But is that by repealing the bans or challenging them in court?
GRIFFIN: We'll fight this battle on all fronts, George. We'll fight at the ballot box where there are opportunities, we'll fight at the state legislature, and ultimately this will come back to our federal courts.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And do you think you'll win there?
GRIFFIN: I have all expectation that we will. Look, 30 percent of American, thanks to these decision, now live in states with marriage equality. It's going to be very difficult to deny equal rights to those who live in other states when the next case ultimately reaches the court.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In the meantime, you have got this decision where everyone legally married in a state now will get federal benefits if they continue to live in that state. Kind of a gray area if someone legally married, say, in the state of Massachusetts move to the state of Alabama. There seems to be particular problems with Social Security and veterans benefits.
So what is it going to take to make sure that as I know you would like it to see every legally married couple in the United States, same sex, gets the federal benefits?
GRIFFIN: Yeah, absolutely. There is no reason to deny those benefits, those rights and privileges and protections that come with marriage to any family, George, to any family in this country whether they live in Hope, Arkansas, or in New York City.
And so we have got to work, and this administration has been doing a lot already, to ensure implementation of this decision. The president said in his view a marriage is a marriage. And I hope and expect that very soon legally married couples, regardless of where they reside, will receive all benefits.
Now there are some issues that congress might to address. And there's currently a piece of legislation called the Respect for Marriage Act that fully rescinds the parts that are remaining of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. And I expect the congress will move on that and put into place real permanence so that families across this country can have the protections that they deserve under the law.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, Brian Brown is coming up. And I want to get your response to some thing he said to the New York Times on Saturday. He says they're going to move to roll back legal gay marriage wherever it exists. And went on to give this quote to the New York Times, "ultimately, as Lincoln said, we can't have a country half slave and half free."
GRIFFIN: George, look, there is no question. This country has always moved historically, whether it was women's rights, or the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s to today. We have always moved to greater inclusion and treating all of our citizens equally under the law. So that a young person today living in Fresno, California or Hope, Arkansas, can grow up with those same dreams, hopes and aspirations as anyone else.
At the end of the day, you have ask yourself two questions, who is harmed by receiving marriage equality coming to this country? I have asked my friends in those marriage states, my straight friends, and I can't find a single couple whose straight marriage has been harmed when the gay couple down the street got married.
The other question you have to ask yourself is who benefits? Who benefits? It's what's Justice Kennedy wrote about. Those kids, thousands upon thousands of kids today who are raised by same-sex parents, all this does is give them the same rights, protections and privileges as a straight child being raised by straight parents.
So, we have to move with great speed and great urgency to ensure that families across this country have equal protection under the law. And we're well on our way. We're not there yet, but we're well on our way.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Chad Griffin, thanks very much.
Let's bring in Brian Brown right now.
You just heard those questions asked by Chad Griffin. Let's take the first one, who is harmed by legalizing same-sex marriage?
BROWN: Well, we just saw who was harmed, the rule of law is harmed and all those millions of voters in the state of California who stood up and said we know the truth about the marriage. We know that marriage is the union of a man and woman. They are harmed when the courts are used to say they don't have a right to be represented. And that's what the court did.
Chad talks about American values. Is it an American value to deprive those people in California who stood up and voted to protect marriage as a union of a man and woman from their right to be heard? And the court did not do what Ted Olson and David Boies and Chad Griffin wanted it to do. It did not create a right out of thin air to redefine marriage throughout this country.
What it did do was rob the proponents of proposition 8 after they have seen utter lawlessness with Governor Brown and the attorney general refusing to defend the law, not giving them a defense. The court said, well, the proponents don't have standing. It did not say that there was a constitutional right to redefine marriage.
And I will caution you that this could be used -- this precedent is horrific for our republic, it could be used in states, say, that were moving forward with a law to make sure that voting rights are respected. If the governor and attorney general don't to want defend that law, you've just gutted the initiative and referendum process. This is not an American value.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Justice Scalia seemed more concerned by what the decision is going to do to those state laws and constitutions banning same-sex marriage. Here's what he said in his dissent. He said the majority arms well -- every challenger to a state law restricting marriage to its traditional definition.
He seems almost certain that if these bans are challenged, they're going to go down.
BROWN: Well, I don't think that that is inevitable. What Justice Scalia is pointing to is the absolute travesty of Kennedy's decision in the DOMA case, which really is incoherent. He doesn't even lay out the basis of what his legal reasoning is. And what Scalia is saying is that, because Kennedy says something that is patently untrue, that your former boss and all of Congress were somehow motivated by animus when they -- when President Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act and Congress passed it, saying that this -- that this truth, that marriage is the union of a man and a woman is motivated by animus and discrimination, leads to discrimination against those of us who know that there's something unique and special about husbands and wives, mothers and fathers coming together in marriage.
And that's why he's pointing to the future. There's no doubt there will be an attempt to use the decision that strikes down only section three of DOMA. Section two still stands. States have the right to define marriage as they see fit. But that that will be used in the future.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, quickly, where's your next victory?
BROWN: Well, I think there's a hard fight in Illinois going on where we've seen the African American legislators and pastors, Democrats standing up and saying we don't want marriage redefined.
In Indiana, there will be a second vote on a state constitutional amendment to protect marriage. And there will be a lot of attempts to use this decision to redefine marriage in other states. And we will stand for the truth wherever it is, and again, in California, although the ninth circuit has lawlessly not waited the 25 days to allow the proponents to have a hearing, there now is an emergency application to the Supreme Court to, again, respect the rule of law. And that is not what is happening right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And we will see how the fight plays out. Brian Brown, thanks very much.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in our roundtable right now. I'm joined by my colleague ABC anchor Terry Moran our Supreme Court expert, Peggy Noonan of the Wall Street Journal; ABC News special correspondent political analyst, newly mustached Matthew Dowd.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And Congresswoman Donna Edwards, Democrat of Maryland.
And Terry, let me begin with you. You heard some discussion there of the decision, particularly on the DOMA case. And I was struck, most of all, by the sweep of Justice Kennedy's opinion. And I want to show one part of it. He said "the federal statute is invalid for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the state, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity."
No legitimate purpose. How does a ban survive that?
MORAN: Those are the three most important words in this ruling. The court said congress could have absolutely no reason, there's no reason the congress could possibly have to could treat gay married couples differently from straight married couples. The court could have just said congress overstepped its bounds, shouldn't tell every state what marriage is, let the states decide. But Justice Kennedy opinion goes further. He picked up the most powerful, the irresistible force in the constitution, that principle of equality, and in the broadest and most ringing terms, he framed the claims of gay Americans in that. That's going to be hard to stop for those who don't approve of this decision.
PEGGY NOONAN, WALL STREET JOURNAL: I think it was a pretty emotionally written and almost emotionally charged decision.
Here's the problem, while the Kennedy decision seems to make a lot of -- of suggestions about federalism and that the states can decide, the fact is because Kennedy posits as the logic of his decision that one can be against same-sex marriage only for reasons essentially of bigotry and wanting to cause injury, if that is so, as this thing now gets played out in 37 states, Chad Griffins of the Human Rights Campaign said, you asked him, are we going to go referendum, legislative, the courts, he said whatever it takes.
It is very hard to believe that any court in any state won't look at the Kennedy decision and say the court has spoken. To be against same-sex marriage, for traditional marriage is unkind by definition and not constitutionally supported.
To me, there are many people among conservatives who think, you know what, this seemed OK in some respects, but in fact we're back to Roe versus Wade. It is the nationalization of this decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's what seemed to set off Justice Scalia. I want to bring this to you, Congresswoman Edwards, because he said basically the court would do whatever it could get away with.
And I have to say, I personally look at Justice Kennedy's opinion, sort of agree with the sentiment behind it, agree with the morality behind it. If I were to vote on DOMA, I would probably vote -- I would vote against is as well.
But it seemed that Justice Scalia's logic was kind of unassailable when he said Edith Windsor brought this case, the government said we're not going to fight it. What are we doing here?
EDWARDS: Well, I mean, There were plenty of people, both through the amicus process and others who put the argument forward. I mean, and the court could have come to a different conclusion had it wanted to. I mean, I think it's almost three strikes and you're out. DOMA, Prop 8, and the next to go are the state bans. And I think that's appropriate.
Look, we have a debate in our state, I mean, I'm from a state that passed marriage equality on the ballot, but still within some communities, within some of our African-American communities and churches, it's a really difficult issue.
But this is about what states do, what the federal government does with respect to its citizens, doesn't impact at all what churches and faith communities do within the confines of their church.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How does this play out, Matthew?
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, to me, this is the court actually trying to catch up to where America is in the 21st century.
And if you look at the series of court decisions over the last week and a half, conservatives are mad at this one and this series of ones; liberals were mad at the other series of ones related to the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action, could be -- could be angry about it.
But the country has already decided this issue. The country has already decided about gay marriage. Whether the states will catch up and how long --
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though there's 37 states where it is banned?
DOWD: No, so let me give you an example of this.
In the 1960s, the court made a decision that bans on interracial marriage would no longer exist. Twenty percent of the country was only for that at that time.
Today more than a majority of the country is for gay marriage. So the court is actually trying to catch up to where the country is in the midst of this. I think what the court is dealing with is the ghosts of our past, trying to hold themselves in some tradition, and they're trying to make a balancing act but trying to catch up to the 21st century America.
MORAN: But they are letting the country's conversations continue. They didn't nationalize all of gay marriage. And the reason that it didn't happen, Justice Kennedy clearly wanted to take the Prop 8 case.
MORAN: Exactly, he would have had to have done a dizzying about-face to run away from the language that he used in the DOMA case. It was only the judicial restraint of three liberals, Ginsburg, Kagan and Breyer, who said no, let's not decide this. Let's let the conversation continue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is on -- I wonder how the conversation is going to continue from here. Let me bring this to you, Peggy, because I'm kind of torn here. You know, you can see the heat behind it with Brian Brown and Chad Griffin.
On the other hand, you also get the sense that a whole lot of people would just as soon have this conversation go away, not be part of politics.
NOONAN: That's true, but I feel like the process now in 37 states -- that's a whole lot of states -- will in effect be a little shorter, more truncated, more strangled than it otherwise would have been on issues like this.
We forget as a culture a certain amount of patience, a certain amount of ease, talk about it, think about it, vote, leave it up to the people. It's always better when the people vote.
When you get something like a jump ahead on Roe, whatever you think of Roe versus Wade, that'll cause trouble and tension forever. So I'm a little disappointed we're not going the other route.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How does it play in 2016 --
DOWD: Well, that's (inaudible) point. So, again, the court is actually way further behind of where the country is. This isn't Roe versus Wade; this isn't interracial marriage. The majority of the country supports gay marriage in a definition of marriage between a -- it's broader than it has been, between a man and a woman.
I think this makes 2016 unbelievably important, because who that -- there's a number of justices, as Terry knows, that are at that age that they are going to probably retire or something -- you know, something awful could happen if -- whoever is elected president in 2016 is probably going to have at least two, if not three court justices.
And as we saw in these decisions, these 5-4 decisions on a series of things, one change or two changes in that, to me, 2016 becomes extremely important.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No question about it. But if a ban comes to this court, the ban, I think goes down.
DOWD: It goes down. Goes down.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Agreed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's move to race and the big questions this week about affirmative action and the Voting Rights Act. It seems like affirmative action lives to fight another day, maybe hanging on by a thread. The Voting Rights Act apparently gutted by the Supreme Court.
EDWARDS: It was gutted, in my opinion. I mean, I think that what the court did was basically said that there's no way to enforce these strong provisions in Section 5 that apply to these pre-clearance states.
And I think that that's a problem. I think the Congress is really going to have to come back, set up a formula.
What's amazing to me is that the court didn't even give notice to the fact that 15,000 pages of legislative history underpin the last authorization of the Voting Rights Act. And so I think, you know, it's problematic.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it was based on very old data, Peggy Noonan.
NOONAN: It was. It was based on a law firm, '64, '65. I think the court's decision suggests that it is not fair -- roughly every -- it is not unfair to roughly every half-century; look at the realities around you, compare them to the realities when the law was made, see where you are.
If there seems to be justification, an argument for lifting a part of the act, then they can legitimately do it.
It seems to me, however, this is -- the Voting Rights Act is actually voting rights legislation always. And it's not the Supreme Court's job, it is the Congress' job to work this out.
EDWARDS: In 2006, the Congress did its job by, you know, two years of legislative hearings, 21 legislative hearings on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization, 15,000 pages of documents, testimony from experts. And just because a law has been in place for a long time doesn't mean it's not a good one.
NOONAN: Understood, but I think you can fairly argue that some progress has been made since the 1960s.
EDWARDS: Look at last elections, and we have seen time after time where state after state, jurisdiction after jurisdiction, tries to put in place barriers. Are they the overt barriers that went in place in 1964? Not necessarily, but they are still barriers to voting for African-Americans.
DOWD: To me, it's trapped. We're still trapped. We're still trapped in a time that in the states it didn't exist.
Virginia is a perfect example. Virginia was one of those states, nine states that was selected out for special scrutiny. Virginia today is not Virginia when it was in 1965. And Virginia was carried by the president twice, an African-American candidate.
To me, the restrictions on voting rights are much different today than they were then. And I think Congress and the president should deal with it. This is not a 13-state, a 15-state problem. This is a 51-state problem and (inaudible).
STEPHANOPOULOS: Terry, you get the last word. Hard to see it happening in this Congress.
MORAN: It is. The Voting Rights Act is probably the most successful law every passed in this country. It was an American democracy--
MORAN: It changed American democracy. We have a different country because of the Voting Rights Act. The Congress did decide that even though the formula was old, they found that in those states, voting rights violations are -- run at a higher rate than in other states. And they made a political decision to do this.
This was a very activist decision. But there's no question that the Supreme Court has declared what the law is. And we will find out. The court said, no George Wallace, no need for this. We'll find that out, because the states are going to very rapidly test that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have to take a quick break. When we come back, we turn to the immigration bill passed by the Senate this week. But will it hit a brick wall in the House? Analysis of the policy and the politics when we come back.