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MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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Congressman Lungren, I am one of those individuals who was surprised
to hear this news. What is the law in this regard?

REP. DAN LUNGREN, R-CALIFORNIA: Well, you don`t have a right to
declassify information. There are strict rules set up for classified
information, particularly of the level that we`re talking about, revealed,
if true, in these articles, particularly the one dealing with the effort on
cyberattack with Iran. So there are criminal laws that can apply.

We don`t know all the facts involved here. But the thing that is most
disturbing is that if that program went forward as was described, if that
is true, that was good for this country, but no good comes of revealing it
and revealing facts with respect to it, no moreso than when you`re talking
about something that could reveal a double agent.

These are serious issues. These are deadly issues. These are issues
that go to the national security interests of the United States, and no one
should take it lightly. And frankly, I`m pleased that we have two
prosecutors that have been named.

I`m not a big fan of special prosecutors because I`ve seen that abuse
in the past, but I applaud the attorney general for appointing these two.
And frankly, it`s their reputation at stake, not the attorney general`s, as
to how they follow the leads in these particular cases.

SMERCONISH: And Congressman Lungren, is the suspicion -- do you share
the suspicion that there`s a political, perhaps, motivation here to make
the president look strong with regard to the war on to terror?

LUNGREN: Well, as someone who`s investigated criminal cases in the
past, you have to look at what the evidence is. And thus far, that which
appears, at least in public, can lead to no other conclusion than this
helped in a political way the president of the United States.

That doesn`t mean the president was involved, but there is no...

SMERCONISH: Right.

LUNGREN: There`s no reason for someone to reveal it. It doesn`t help
our interest. It hurts our interest. It harms people involved. It makes
us less secure, rather than most secure.

And one of the things that`s most troubling is, if you read these
reports, they suggest they had multiple sources. And if you read the level
of detail that`s involved, these facts, if they are, in fact, facts, would
suggest that you had to have some people at the highest level to either
initiate that information or to confirm it. That`s what`s very troubling,
as far as I`m concerned.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Welch, I guess if I`m reading the tea leaves
from a distance, I say the president doesn`t need help in this regard. In
other words, his record relative to the war on terror, the successful
mission to kill Osama bin Laden, the increase of the drone attacks, the
willingness to go into Pakistan despite the sovereign status of that
country -- it`s illogical to me that someone acting on his behalf would
think that they need to trump up his muscles in that regard.

What are your thoughts?

REP. PETER WELCH, D-VERMONT: Well, that`s exactly right.

I half agree with Dan, and, in fact, the president agrees with Dan.

And the point is that you cannot be leaking classified information. That`s
number one.

Number two, this president has been extremely aggressive -- actually
to chagrin of many Democrats -- because he has initiated six prosecutions
for leaks. And all the presidents who preceded him only did three. And
then the third thing -- this really goes to the point you just made.

Senator McCain is calling for a censure or I guess a resolution in the
Senate. Basically, that`s to divert attention from the fact that the
foreign policy has been very aggressive in the Obama administration. Iraq,
we have brought our troops home. Afghanistan, they are coming home. Osama
bin Laden has been taken out.

And, of course, the president has an aggressive policy on the use of
drones. So if you can`t criticize the policy, make something up that`s a
diversion.

SMERCONISH: Senator -- or Congressman Lungren, Senator John McCain
commented on the possible source of the national security leaks. Here`s
what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: It`s obvious on its face that this
information came from individuals who are in the administration. The
president may not have done it himself, but the president is certainly
responsible, as commander in chief.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: And then, this morning, Obama campaign senior adviser
David Axelrod pushed back. He said the following.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID AXELROD, SENIOR OBAMA CAMPAIGN STRATEGIST: Well, I don`t know
where they came from, Charlie.

QUESTION: Was it in the White House?

(CROSSTALK)

AXELROD: Absolutely not. The last thing that he would want, the last
thing anyone in the White House wants is to do anything that would
jeopardize those missions or jeopardize those Americans. So, he is as
outraged about it as any...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: So, Congressman Lungren, what are the politics of this?
Might the investigation that`s about to take place cool this situation,
politically speaking, or can you see it inflaming it?

LUNGREN: Well, look, this is probably not the answer you want, but I
frankly don`t care about the politics.

I care about the actual facts, the substance of what`s happened. This
has hurt the national security interests of the United States. Now, either
"The New York Times" was lying when they say that the kinds of things that
they put in there were -- they received from people within government and
had it confirmed by people in government, or, in fact, they are telling the
truth.

If you look at the level of detail, if you look at the decision-making
that is articulated in here, described in here, it has to come not just
from mid-level officials, but from higher-up officials. That`s what`s so
concerning to me.

Politically, you look at it and you say, why would someone do this?
It is not -- it doesn`t advance the interest of the United States. It does
make a more personal political positive for the president. And so I`m not
saying the president did it, but somebody did it for some reason.

They didn`t just seek out "The New York Times" or someone else to let
them know for no reason whatsoever. I presume there was some motivation
involved. I happen to think that is the grossest kind of political nonsense that harms this nation and we ought to get to the bottom of it. I don`t care how high it is.

We ought to find out who it is and they ought to be punished because
this does, in my judgment, risk lives of Americans and particularly risks
lives of those who assist Americans around the world. It is going to put a
negative impact on those who wish to help United States or would wish to
help United States if they don`t think that we can keep our mouths shut.
It is that simple.

SMERCONISH: Congressman Welch, please take 30 seconds for a quick
response, and then we are out of time.

WELCH: Well, the president agrees.

I mean, he is absolutely adamantly opposed to any leaking of classified information. And he said very explicitly that that can jeopardize operations and jeopardize national security and jeopardize safety. So, he is on the job there.

And the attorney general has two crack assistant U.S. attorneys to do this -- or U.S. attorneys to do this. So there`s agreement there. Where it goes off the rails is when you get into this motivational speculation that is obviously self-serving, and where you`re saying that the president or somebody on his behalf did it to bolster a reputation that actually doesn`t, on foreign policy, need bolstering.

SMERCONISH: Thank you. Thank you both.

Thank you, Congressman Dan Lungren and Congressman Peter Welch. We
appreciate your time.

LUNGREN: Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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