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NBC "Meet The Press" - Transcript


Location: Washington, DC


MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, a bomb in New York's Times Square forces the evacuation of thousands. What more is known this morning? And the latest on what damage the administration expects along the Gulf Coast from that massive oil spill. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, and the head of the U.S. Coast Guard, Admiral Thad Allen all will be here.

Then the implications of the oil rig spill, a global immigration debate, and Iran's anti-American leader coming to America stirring controversy over nuclear weapons. Our exclusive guest, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

And is the future of the GOP playing out in Florida? Republican Governor Charlie Crist joins
me to explain why he's running as an independent for the Senate.
Plus, our political roundtable weighs in, leaders from Congress and the states talking about the
president's agenda.

Finally, MEET THE PRESS gets a new look.

Announcer: From NBC News in Washington, MEET THE PRESS with David Gregory.
MR. GREGORY: Good morning. Breaking news this morning as police find and diffuse a car
bomb inside of an SUV in New York's Times Square last night.


MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: We avoided what could have been a very deadly event...Certainly could have exploded and had a pretty big fire and a decent amount of explosive impact.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: Plus, the president flies to the Gulf Coast region this morning to assess the
response to that massive oil spill threatening the Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines. Here
with us to discuss these developing stories, the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet
Napolitano; the secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar; and with us from New Orleans, the man
spearheading the governmentwide operation, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant, Admiral Thad

Welcome to all of you.

Secretary Napolitano, let me start with you and this developing story out of New York. Mayor
Bloomberg described this as an "amateurish device." What does it say at this point about who's
behind it, in your judgment?

SEC'Y JANET NAPOLITANO: Well, we're taking it very seriously. It was obviously parked in an area, a lot of pedestrian traffic, other traffic. It's too soon to tell who was responsible, who or what groups were responsible, so every possible examination is being done of the device, but
also of the forensics.

MR. GREGORY: An act of terrorism?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: You know, it certainly looks that way. It certainly looks as if it was
intended to be that way.

MR. GREGORY: Was it an indication at all of something wider, some kind of wider plot?
Can you determine that at this point?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: You know, at this point I have no information that it's anything other
than a one-off. But again, the situation is, is it happened. The forensics are being done. The
FBI and, and the Department of Homeland Security, along with the New York City Police,
working together to identify whether there are any other acts going on. We don't have any
information that there are right now.

MR. GREGORY: This was a big device, though.

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: It was, it was a big device. I can't give you the--what would have been
the actually explosion had it actually detonated. That's all being worked up right now.

MR. GREGORY: What about leads? Where is the investigation going at the moment?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: Well, every possible lead--you know, you look at the license plate on the vehicle, you look at the vehicle itself, you look at any sources on the, the propane tanks or anything else, you look for fingerprints. You look for all of kind of the traditional things...


SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: ...people read, hear about, see on television. And then we also begin looking at, for example, videotape. There are a lot of cameras in that area of New York City.

MR. GREGORY: Can you see anybody on the tape, or eyewitness accounts?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: Again, it's too soon to say. If there were already identification of a subject or subjects, obviously that would be getting out. But right now the investigation is just

MR. GREGORY: All right. Let me turn to the other developing story, and that is, of course,
the oil spill. Let me go down to New Orleans and Admiral Allen. You're on the ground there, you're assessing the situation. I think the most obvious first question is how are they doing actually shutting off the leak itself?

ADM. THAD ALLEN: Well, David, that's the most challenging part of this operation. We're dealing with a wellhead that's 5,000 feet down on the sea floor, and a well that extends 18,000 feet below it. We've got a 5,000-foot riser pipe that came from the wellhead up to the drilling vessel that's crumpled on the ocean, and we have three different areas where there is product leaking from that pipe. All the work has to be done with remotely operated vehicles. There are a number of, of different scenarios that are being planned out by BP right now. All of it has to be done with remotely operated vehicles. But everything is, is being done because it looks like we had a failure of the blowout preventer, which is a device that's above the well, that is supposed to close it down in, in times of emergency that appeared not to work this time.

MR. GREGORY: And that is a big question, right? How, how does that not happen? How
does a fail-safe procedure fail?

ADM. ALLEN: Well, I would defer to Secretary Salazar for follow on comment, but basically
it's a multistage device that sits above the wellhead that can either cut the pipe, crimp the pipe, or put a rubber seal around it. So there are fair--various levels that can be actuated, but it appeared that it only partially actuated or did not actuate.

MR. GREGORY: Secretary...

ADM. ALLEN: But I would defer to Secretary Salazar.

MR. GREGORY: All right. Well, Secretary Salazar, before you address that, I think another important issue here is how bad is it going to be? When is this going to reach shore and how
bad will it be when it gets here, this oil spill?

SEC'Y KEN SALAZAR: You know, from day one we've been preparing for the worst-case
scenario. There's a spill plan that essentially would cover hundreds of thousands of barrels of
oil, and that spill--response plan is what is being activated. You know, I have flown over this
area many times, and we have some of the most wonderful wildlife refuges and national parks.
The Gulf Coast is a place that needs to be protected. The president has directed from day one
that we spare nothing at all in terms of the effort to prevent damage onshore as well as taking
whatever other actions taking place.

MR. GREGORY: But paint the scenario. I mean, you've got commercial fishery down there,
you've got small towns whose livelihood depend on commercial fishing. If that's interrupted or
lost for a period of time, those are jobs that could never come back, those are industries that
could never come back. What's a scenario of what you think you could actually be looking at in
terms of environmental impact?

SEC'Y SALAZAR: The, the scenario is a very grave scenario. You're looking at potentially 90
days before you ultimately get to what is the ultimate solution here, and that's a relief well that's going to have to be drilled down three and a half miles below the ocean floor. And by the time you drill that well down, a lot of oil could spread. Now, as that oil spreads, what the president has directed us to do is to make sure that we're taking care of protecting all of the assets down there, and that includes the communities, the people who are going to be affected by it. And so, at the end of the day, this is the beginning of a campaign for, for what's going to be a massive restoration of the Gulf Coast.

MR. GREGORY: In terms of environmental impact, bigger in scale than the results of the
Exxon Valdez spill?

SEC'Y SALAZAR: It is unknown at this point. We're in a dynamic situation. Everything is being tried to stop the source. And that's where the global resources are, are, are focused, on that particular challenge, but they're also focused on all the other aspects that the, the commandant was talking about.

MR. GREGORY: Secretary Napolitano, there are questions about when the government acted,
whether it did everything it could at the right moment. Is the government playing catch-up
here? You yourself didn't even request, until late in the week, for additional DOD resources to
be brought to bear. Is this a, a situation of playing catch-up?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: No, not at all. We had DOD resources there from day one. This was a
situation that was treated as a possible catastrophic failure from, from day one. So we had
prepositioned in place hundreds of thousands of feet of boom. There were 73 vessels, now over a hundred ships there to work on preventing the oil from actually reaching the shore, to, to stage that fight offshore, as it were. Every possible resource was being lined up onshore. There were set up joint command centers that included not only the Department of Interior, but other federal agencies and the states who are important participants in this. And so the physical response on the ground has been, from, from day one, as if this could be a catastrophic failure.

As the situation has evolved...

MR. GREGORY: But did the government...

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: ...different administrative actions then get taken.

MR. GREGORY: Was the, was the government misled by BP? Could the government have done more to make an assessment that things were spiraling out of control more quickly?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: No. We had independent projections being done at the beginning. And realize, this incident evolved over time. First it was an explosion; and, of course, the Coast
Guard was first on scene with the search and rescue. Then two days later the, the, the rig
actually sank. And then you had some oil coming to the surface, but it was being burned off.
And then you had some oil starting to spread. All the while, BP is down there trying to deploy
its remote operating vessels, its robots, basically, down as deep as Ken just said, to try to shut off this oil to fix the riser. So all, all the time we are saying--getting independent verification of what was actually bubbling to the surface. And now, of course, we see a large slick and, of course, that evolved over the end of the week.

MR. GREGORY: You're disappointed in BP's actions so far this week?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: Well, I think we're all disappointed that BP hasn't been able to shut off
this well. And I would add to what Secretary Salazar said, all of these actions are being taken, but BP is going to pay for them.

MR. GREGORY: Before I let you all go, question about Arizona. You're a former U.S.
attorney from the northern part of the state, former governor, of course. Will this very tough
law against illegal immigrants stand as a legal matter?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: Well, I'll, I'll tell you what. The Justice Department is looking at the
constitutionality of the provision. But I will tell you as the former U.S. attorney, attorney
general, and, and governor, I vetoed similar laws in part because they were bad for law
enforcement. I think what Arizonans are saying is that "we need comprehensive immigration
reform, and our, our state simply can't afford to keep waiting."

MR. GREGORY: As a law enforcement officer, do you think this invites racial profiling that
will hurt the state?

SEC'Y NAPOLITANO: I think it certainly could invite profiling. And, and, again, you know,
as an Arizonan I think this law is the wrong way to go.

MR. GREGORY: All right. We will leave it there. Thanks to all of you for being here this
busy morning. Earlier this weekend, we discussed some of the broader implications of this Gulf Coast oil spill, plus the immigration debate, and other global hotspots in an exclusive conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.


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