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MSNBC "Meet The Press" - Transcript


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GREGORY: I want to turn now to the Republican side, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York. Congressman, hope you had a good holiday. Good to see you this morning.

REP. PETER KING (R-NY, House Intelligence Committee): I had a great holiday, especially because Notre Dame beat Southern California. And, so, I'm on top of the world.

GREGORY: I know. My poor stepdad. He was an SC guy. He's not so happy this morning.

REP. KING: I don't care about him.

GREGORY: Let-- let-- let me continue on the issue of taxes because this is important as I say, it's going to be the defining issue. You hear Republican Saxby Chambliss say, look, the pledge is not going to govern what I do. Grover Norquist responding to him saying Senator Chambliss promised the people of Georgia he would go to Washington, reform the government rather than raise taxes. Where do you stand on the pledge? Can this be overcome? Can revenues be raised?

REP. KING: First of all, I agree entirely with Saxby Chambliss. A pledge you signed 20 years ago, 18 years ago, is for that Congress. For instance, if I were in Congress in 1941, I would have signed a-- (Unintelligible) declaration of war against Japan. I'm not going to attack Japan today. The world has changed. And the economic situation is different. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill rez-- realized that in the 1980s. I think everything should be on the table. I myself am opposed to tax increases. The fact is that speaker and the majority in leader and the president are going to be in a room, trying to find the best package. I'm not going to prejudge it. And I'm just saying we should not be taking ironclad positions. I have faith in John Boehner. They can put together a good package. I think so far…


REP. KING: …he's been pretty conservatory in his language.

GREGORY: But congressman, we have seen this movie before. The bottom line question is, what can Speaker Boehner sell? If he goes to them and says, look, we-- we-- we cut a deal here, but tax rates have to go up. Actual tax rates have to go up on the wealthy, like Senator Levin just said. Can he sell it?
REP. KING: I think John is going to do all he can to avoid an increase in tax rates. But, you know, as-- as Senator Levin said, you can get the same results by changing deductions, changing exemptions, and that would put more of a tax burden on the rich but it would not affect marginal tax rates. But I don't want to prejudge any of this. I just-- listen, bottom line is we cannot have sequestration. We can't go off-- off a fiscal cliff. We have to show the world we're adults. The election is over. We have a speaker. The Democrats have a-- oh, we all have a president. But the president is speaking with the Democratic Party. Democrats have Harry Reid. We have Mitch McConnell. Get them in the room. And that's what representative governments should be about. No one gets all-- all they want. If Reagan and O'Neill could do it, Boehner and Obama should be able to do it.

GREGORY: Help people understand what-- what gets done first. You know, the last time we visited this, it was an attempt at a grand bargain. It was the politics of brinksmanship and it all went nowhere until a final deal that brought us to this-- this breaking point.

REP. KING: Right.

GREGORY: Do you think that the tax issue has to be solved first before you can get to any of the spending issues, any of the entitlement issues?
REP. KING: I think it all has to be on-- on the table. Again, I don't want to be sitting in a place where it has to be done first or second. That's for them in the room. But I think we should all realize the election is over. President Obama won. He won fair and square. We won the House. We won it fair and square. Democrats still control the Senate. Slight edge to the Democrats. Bottom line, it's over-- it's over with. Let's find a way to get this resolved as much as possible between now and the end of the year. So both the new Congress and the president in his second term can start over with a clean slate. We have so many issues around the world. Let's resolve what we can here and stop-- stop (Unintelligible) for position. I have a lot of faith in John Boehner. I leave it at that.

GREGORY: So you-- you mentioned the volatility in the world. Let's talk about the volatility in Libya that has lead to a lot of political questions at home…

REP. KING: Right.

GREGORY: …over the fate of Susan Rice, the U.N. ambassador who was on this program and others, talking about the fact that it seemed to be more spontaneous, the-- the attack on the consulate in Benghazi. And this has been thoroughly litigated. She responded to those who said that she willfully misled the public by saying it was a spontaneous incident rather than what we know it was now, and that was an attack on our consulate. These were her comments on Wednesday. I'll play them and get your reaction.


MS. RICE: As a senior U.S. diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which at that time were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities.
When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary. And that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.
(End videotape)

GREGORY: Do you accept that, congressman?

REP. KING: No, I don't. First, let me just say, I think Susan Rice has done an effective job as U.N. ambassador, especially on issues such as North Korea. But on this she was wrong. The reason I say that is if she is sent out there to speak to the American people on what happened in Benghazi, she is obligated to do more than look at three sentences of unclassified or five sentences of unclassified talking point, because that was basically a cover story. She had access to all of the sensitive top secret classified information. And she knew that the story she was giving out was not entirely true. She knew the parts had been taken out, for whatever reason, which we still haven't found out. So I think that she should have been much more modulated in what she said. She gave the clear impression that we thought it came from the demonstration, and the video, and that is not the case. She certainly toned down almost minimized the issue of the terrorist threat. If there were any security reasons for doing that, she should not have emphasized as much as she did about the video and the demonstration because that gave a totally wrong message…

GREGORY: But do you have any question…

REP. KING: the country.

GREGORY: But do you have any question not to believe that she was relying upon an assessment given to her by the intelligence community?

REP. KING: Yeah, because that assessment was incomplete and she knew it was incomplete. She-- she has access to most top secret classified information. As U.N. ambassador and as someone in the chain of command of the State Department, she has an obligation not just to be a puppet and take what's handed to her in an unclassified way. She should have sat down-- now, did she sit down with the National Security Council? Did she sit down with David Petraeus or General Clapper? Who did she sit down with to find out the full story? As a U.N. ambassador, she has to know that a very condensed set of unclassified talking points tell you almost nothing. She had an obligation to get the whole picture, if she didn't do that, then she failed in her responsibility.

GREGORY: All right. Congressman, we're going to leave it there. Thank you for your time…

REP. KING: Sure.


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