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CNN "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" - Transcript: Immigration and the NSA


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CROWLEY: That was Congressman Steve King who doubled down on that statement, saying that, yes, some immigrants without papers indeed are valedictorians, but others, as you heard, he talked about smuggling dope across the border.

Joining me now is New York Republican congressman, Pete King, no relation. Congressman King, let me start, because I think that that bite from -- congressman -- the other Congressman King, says -- speaks to one of the problems that the Republican Party may have in perception, and that is the harshness of its rhetoric. Where do you stand on that particular statement?

P. KING: I strongly disagree with what Steve King said. I agree with Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor who both denounced the statement. We have to address the immigration issue in an intelligent way and a humane way. I have some strong concerns about 11 million people who violated the law to come into the country. The reality is many of them are very good people.

Most of them are good people. We have to find a way to address it. My concern is, if we can ensure that we have very strong security at the border, then we have to find a way to accommodate those 11 million under the assurance that it's not going to be another 11 million in five years, but these are -- you know, we are a nation of immigrants.

We have to find a way to accommodate security with realizing that there are people living here. I think that's what John Boehner wants to do. That's what the Senate tried to do. We have to find a way to bring that together. We can't be talking at any type of inflammatory language. It doesn't help anybody.

CROWLEY: Congressman, am I wrong -- and I'm going to name a couple of subjects here. Am I wrong at looking at what's going on in a variety of subjects? And we are seeing a party struggling for its soul and what it stands for. You've got a part of your party that doesn't want immigration reform in any way shape, or form of what the Senate passed.

You have a party that was split on whether to bring down some of the money given to the NSA, given the kind of surveillance that it's doing. You have a party that's split on how to approach the debt ceiling, which is coming up, should you demand more cuts before you raise the debt ceiling, and you have a party that's split on whether, in fact, government spending should continue into the new fiscal year with Obamacare.

You have folks in your party saying, unless Obamacare is defunded, we won't keep the government in business. Aren't those all signs of a party that's really split?

P. KING: Well, a healthy debate can be good, but one of the issues you mentioned there about the NSA, I thought it was absolutely disgraceful that so many Republicans voted to defund the NSA program, which has done so much to protect our country. This is an isolation streak that's in our party.

It goes totally against the party of Eisenhower, and Reagan, Bush. I mean, we are a party of national defense. We're a party who did so much to protect the country over the last 12 years.

CROWLEY: But where's the real Republican Party? Which one of those -- where's the real Republican Party?

P. KING: I think we're going to find that out over the next three years. I want the Republican Party to be a party of strong national defense and a party, for instance, which can reach out to labor unions such as construction unions, police officers, firefighters. These are people who are socially conservative and want to agree with us, and so many people in our party drive them away.

But to me, the overriding concern here has to be national defense, national security, and not be apologizing for America. When you have Rand Paul actually comparing Snowden to Martin Luther King or Henry David Thoreau, this is madness. This is the anti-war, left-wing Democrats of the 1960s that nominated George McGovern and destroyed their party for almost 20 years. I don't want that happening to our party.

CROWLEY: Congressman, there have been two statements made by various republicans. One is that, if Congress does not pass some kind of major immigration reform, it cannot re-win the White House. And the other is, if Republicans in the House shut down the government in order -- because they want to defund Obamacare, it will ruin the Republican Party. Do you agree with both those statements?

P. KING: I don't know if it will ruin the Republican Party. First of all, on the second one, we should not be closing down the government under any circumstances. That doesn't work. It's wrong. And you know, Obamacare passed. We have to try to defund it. We have to try to find ways to repeal it. The fact is we shouldn't be using it as a threat to shut down the government.

As far as immigration, I think we have to show good faith in trying to find a legislation that works, and I think right now we are going in that direction. Listen, the president had four years on immigration and did absolutely nothing. I would say you've seen a lot of movement over the last six months in the Senate with largely -- or with strong Republican help, a bill did pass. I don't fully agree with that bill. I think we can find ways to make that bill work. You do find people in the House who want it to work. But I would put the debt ceiling in a different category. There's no reason to be threatening to bring down the government. Let's make this work. Let's get spending cuts we need. The American people get turned off with the threat of terror politics.

CROWLEY: Congressman, finally, what do you think it says about New York City that former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who you served with in Congress from different parties, is still running second in the polls for the Democratic primary in New York City?

P. KING: It's a terrible aberration. We have a city in New York, the greatest city in the world. Over the last 30-something years, we had Ed Koch was mayor for 12 years, Rudy Giuliani for 8, Mike Bloomberg for 12, outstanding giants of men who really did so much to bring New York City back, and to have Anthony Weiner who really -- again, I have nothing personal against Anthony. We know he's getting along. I have nothing personal with this. This is a real pathological problem here with him. I mean how he could be out there knowing all this information was going to come out. I just think it was sort of a perverse celebrity factor for a while to have his numbers up there. I just can't see any way, even if this latest scandal would not have come out, that Anthony Weiner could have won. After this, I think he should do himself and everybody a favor and just step to the sidelines. He is not qualified -- not psychologically qualified to be mayor of the city of New York.

CROWLEY: Congressman, I hope you'll stand by for a moment.

CROWLEY: I want to bring in our panel, which includes nationally syndicated radio host Chris Plante, CNN political commentator Paul Begala, and Ana Navarro, and Cornell Belcher. I want to first talk because he's giving us a lot of fodder here. But I want to first talk about this split within the Republican Party and I think the congressman said it very well. We'll find out in the next three years what's the real Republican Party. Where's it going to land?

CHRIS PLANTE, FORMER CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, that remains to be seen. But honestly, it's a perfectly healthy debate. The things that they're debating, the things that they are split on, the rest of the Congress should be split on too. The American people are split on these issues. Should we be spied on for our own good, for our own safety by the NSA, or should we find another way around that doesn't violate the Fourth Amendment and contribute to creating a surveillance state and a police state that we're building right now in the name of our personal security, our national security and our personal safety.

CROWLEY: The truth is there were Democrats -

P. KING: Can I say something on that? Can I say something on that?


P. KING: There was absolutely - there's no spying going on. This has been held by the courts through total compliance with the Fourth Amendment. And that type of irrational rhetoric gets us nowhere. The fact is, this works. It has protected us, and it's not violating the rights of one American. Not one American's right has been violated. It's irresponsible to be coming out with those ridiculous statements.

CROWLEY: I'll let you - I'll let you respond to irrational, and then we'll go to Cornell.


PLANTE: Listen, when we're scanning every piece of mail that goes through the post office, we're keeping the phone logs on every phone call made, we're collecting e-mails, we're collecting Google searches. We've got cameras everywhere.


P. KING: We are not collecting e-mails.

PLANTE: What we are --

P. KING: We're not collecting e-mails.

CROWLEY: That is true. OK. Let me --


CORNELL BELCHER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think you see the sort of Republican Party in-fighting here on your show right now. It is really understandable that America is changing, and I think a lot of this has to do with the Republicans, how they're reacting to the changing of America. Unfortunately for us in Congress right now, you have this civil war unfolding in Congress, and it's making Congress completely dysfunctional. America, your Congress does not work because of this civil war that's going on.

CROWLEY: Although there will be Republicans, Paul, who say that is work. We're stopping things we think are bad for America.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. But it's not working for them certainly politically. I checked. Party identification. The percentage of Americans who call themselves Republicans, all time low, lower than Watergate, only 21 percent, say that they're Republicans today. That's a catastrophe, and here's why. There's two things going on at once, and it's really unusual to have them happen simultaneously. Republicans have become more ideologically conservative, they move farther from the mainstream, and they're more fractured. Usually when you become more extreme, either more left in my party or more right in the Republicans, you at least get some cohesion. Here you have a much more conservative party than 20 years ago and a much more fractured party. The Neanderthals are fighting with the Cro-Magnons, the neoliths (ph) fight the paleoliths (ph). It's great. I love it as a Democrat.

CROWLEY: Are you the Cro-Magnon? Or are you?


ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I'm very happy to be a modern Hispanic woman Republican from Miami. Now, let me just tell you, I think that this in-fighting goes on in both parties. The great difference is that the Democrats have a president who is the leading voice. Because if you think the NSA debate is not going on in the Democratic Party, you're fooling yourself. It is. And a lot of other debates are going also in the Democratic Party.

I think Congressman King is absolutely right that Republicans are going to decide in the next 2 1/2 years as we go and have a nominee who is going to carry them and be the standard bearer, and I want to commend Congressman King, the king from New York who is actually the king I like, and I want to commend Speaker Boehner and Representative Cantor for having come out this week and done what they've had to do, show leadership and speak and denounce against the hateful, ignorant rhetoric of Steve King. It is enough. We have had enough of this man. He does not define the Republican Party. I think there's many more Peter Kings. There's many more John Boehners in Congress than there are Steve Kings. This is a man who's a mediocre congressman who makes news only when he says something this inflammatory.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you really feel, Ana? How do you really feel?


CROWLEY: Congressman, I want to just let you just close up this section anyway and ask you, if you should be the standard bearer for the party in 2016, what do you do to assuage a considerable portion of the party that does have conservative views that is represented by the other Congressman King?

P. KING: I don't think it's a question of being conservative. I think it's following a path of Ronald Reagan, I think it's showing we're an inclusive party. We have very strong conservative values, very strong national defense. But on the other hand we don't have to do it with a scowl and we don't have to be demonizing other people. The only other person I would demonize, I would keep Paul Begala out of the White House if I were president. Other than that -



NAVARRO: He's making a lot of money outside the White House. He doesn't want to go back there.


P. KING: Candy, I think we do have a good national debate, whoever the standard bearer is. I would certainly like to be. We'll see how that goes. I think the party will go in the right direction, the country go in the right direction, and we can have a healthy debate with two legitimate candidates, not fringes like Rand Paul in 2016.

CROWLEY: Got you. Congressman Peter King out of New York, thank you for joining us. Next time come down to...

P. KING: Thank you.

CROWLEY: ... Washington, and we'll seat you around the table. Appreciate it. Everyone else, we need you to stand by.

P. KING: Thank you.


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