In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Sens. Graham, Durbin talk DOJ, IRS scandals; rare interview with ‘America’s veteran,’ former Sen. Bob Dole
WALLACE: And hello again from “Fox News Sunday” in Washington on this Memorial Day weekend.
We’ll talk with our guests in a moment, but we begin with the latest from Moore, Oklahoma, devastated by a deadly tornado and President Obama visits the town today.
Casey Stegall is on the ground for us — Casey.
CASEY STEGALL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Chris, it is a Memorial Day weekend filled with funerals here in Moore, Oklahoma. Twenty-four people died here last week when that monster twister hit, and 10 of those victims were children.
Today, President Obama is meeting with storm survivors and possibly family members of those who did lose their lives here last week. Mr. Obama will be getting an up close and personal look at the destruction, homes that were wiped off the map when the EF-5 tornado tore through this Oklahoma City suburb just after 3:00 p.m. last Monday. The president touches down this afternoon and plans to spend about four hours total on the ground.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was here meeting with state and local leaders like the Oklahoma governor. She was offering FEMA’s assistance to the victims.
Meantime, the arduous task of cleaning up continues, a process that will likely take months, considering Oklahoma City mayor estimates up to 13,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Homes like the one that belonged to James Trumbly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES TRUMBLY, TORNADO SURVIVOR: This was about the area of the living room closet and we were sitting there and the car was in the garage and the pickup was in the driveway.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEGALL: And tonight, a memorial service will be held at 7:00 Eastern Time for this community, at the First Baptist Church of Moore, the president will not be in attendance for that — Chris.
WALLACE: Casey Stegall, reporting from Moore, Oklahoma. Casey, thanks for that.
Well, it’s been a busy week in Washington with new developments and several scandals and the president announcing a major shift in a war on terror.
Joining us to talk about it all is the number two Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, who is in Springfield, Illinois, and Republican Senator Lindsey Graham from Columbia, South Carolina.
Senators, I want to start with a Justice Department targeting reporters and national security leaks.
Here is what Attorney General Holder told a congressional committee a few days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The focus should be on those that break their oath and put the American people at risk, not reporters who gather this information. That should not be the focus of these — of these investigations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: But, it turns out that Holder signed off on an affidavit for a search warrant in one lead case. And I want to bring that up with you.
Here’s what one affidavit said. “There is probable cause to believe the reporter,” in this case Fox News’ James Rosen, “has committed a violation of the Espionage Act, as an aider, abettor and/or conspirator.”
And yet, Senator Graham, despite that clear contradiction between what Holder said what he actually did, President Obama is asking the attorney to investigative his own actions.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, R-S.C.: Well, it’s a bigger time to have a special counsel to come forward or some independent group to look at it.
James Rosen is a lot of things, but a criminal conspirator here is not. We’re beginning to criminalize journalism and I think that should worry us all. But having said that, when classified information is leaked into the public that can put operations or American operatives in harm’s way, we’ve got to find a way to pursue that, too. But this is clearly an overreach.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, how can we expect Attorney General Holder to honestly review what in effect are his own actions? Isn’t that, by definition, a conflict of interest by definition?
SEN. DICK DURBIN, D-ILL.: Well, it’s interesting that the attorney general recused himself in the development with The Associated Press, because he believed there was some conflict inherent, and it may raise the same question in this case.
But let’s not forget, Chris, on Memorial Day weekend, what this is really all about. It is a question of classified information. Someone working for our government on our side violated their oath and disclosed that information to the press. And it happens with some frequency, I might add.
But having done that, what is the government to do, if, in fact, that disclosure could endanger our military forces, or those who are cooperating with us to fight terrorism? It is a constant tension between the government and our freedoms under the Bill of Rights that we see playing out both The Associated Press case and this Fox case.
WALLACE: But, you talk about Memorial Day weekend. It’s also about the First Amendment and the role —
DURBIN: Yes, it is.
WALLACE: — the very important role that the media play. Honestly, are you comfortable with the idea that the president asked the attorney general to review the attorney general’s own actions?
DURBIN: Well, you’ve raised an important point. And I heard Senator Graham call for special counsel. I’m not ready to do this at this point. I’d like to know if Holder has any conflict in here beyond what we’ve heard when it comes to the Fox case.
But here is the bottom line: the media shield law, which I am prepared to support, and I know Senator Graham supports, still leaves an unanswered question which I have raised many times, what is a journalist today, 2013?
We know it’s someone who works for Fox or A.P., but does it include a blogger? Does it include someone who’s tweeting? Are these people journalists and entitled to constitutional protection?
We need to ask 21st century questions about a provision in our Constitution that was written over 200 years ago.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, let’s turn to the IRS scandal. As I said, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
Senator Graham, you say that President Obama may not have directly ordered the IRS to target conservative groups, but that there was a culture of political manipulation that filtered down from the White House. Explain what you mean.
GRAHAM: Well, I think the president has basically told some of his supporters, you know, the best way to get back at somebody is to win, sort of talking about revenge. This, you know, take no prisoners attitude. There’s clearly an organized effort within the IRS to target political opponents of the president. That’s not deniable. How did such a culture come about? How vast was it? Who was involved?
This really does call for a special counsel. The DOJ guidelines about dealing with a journalist leaks or leaks of classified information goes back to the ’70s. We need to review that. But my belief about the IRS scandal is that this culture of going after Tea Party groups that were, you know, on the president’s case about Obamacare did just not accidentally happen. I think it comes from the top in terms of tone.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, I want to pick up on this culture. Starting in 2010, a number of Democratic senators — Democrat senators — sent letters to the IRS asking them to investigate various groups that they said were seeking tax-exempt status, but were improperly involved in politics. Now, in October 2010, you sent a letter to the IRS in which you talked about going after groups.
But you only mentioned one specifically by name and I want to put this up from the October 2010 letter that you wrote to the IRS, “One organization whose activities appear to be inconsistent with the tax status is Crossroads GPS.” That, of course, a group co-founded by Karl Rove.
Question, Senator — why single out Crossroads when you did not mention one single liberal group, and there were a bunch that were applying for that exempt-status exactly that point, with the name “progress” in their names?
DURBIN: I can just tell you flat out why I did it, because that Crossroads organization was boasting about the money they were raising as a 501(c)(4).
Let’s get back to the basics. Citizens United really unleashed hundreds, if not thousands, of organizations seeking tax-exempt statuses to play in political campaigns. The law we wrote as Congress said that they had to exclusively be engaged in social welfare and not politics and campaigning.
And so, here is the IRS trying to decide whether or not these organizations really comply with the law. Crossroads was exhibit A. They were boastful about how much the money they were going to raise and beat Democrats.
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, just briefly, why not, because we’re now in the mess that we are in because of political targeting, why not send a letter that says, go after any group of any political persuasion? Why not refrain from mentioning a conservative group and never mentioned any liberal groups?
DURBIN: Well, I explained that once, Chris. But, you know, Karl Rove was making — he’s boasting, saying he’s going to raise so much money, millions of dollars. And I knew that if they went into investigate this group, every other group would be put on notice.
I’ve also said from the beginning, Chris, there’s no basis for targeting within the IRS, what we basically need to say is all groups need to have the law applied to them equally. And in this situation, Karl Rove was front and center and proud of it. And that’s why I mentioned his organization.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s talk about the president’s big speech this week, in which he said that we are entering a new phase in the war on terror. Take a look at the president’s comments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless global war on terror, but rather as a series of persistent targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Senator Durbin, the president said that the wars must end. But the fact is, the Cold War lasted for 40 years. Isn’t there a danger of declaring an end to this war too soon?
DURBIN: You know, James Madison was quoted by the president and he said, if you want to preserve freedom, it’s difficult to do if you have if you have a continuous war. What the president is saying to us —
WALLACE: — would you have said that during the Cold War, sir?
DURBIN: Well, I can tell you that we had to stop and think many times during the Cold War — can I go back to the McCarthy era and talk about the witch hunts for those how were thought to be communist?
You just find in a war-like atmosphere, does she end up compromising basic some values and basic freedoms and liberties. That’s what the president reminded us.
Now, I’m not going to take lightly the terrorism threat against the United States. But if we constantly thinking of this in the context of war, we stand at risk of doing things which compromise our values and freedoms.
Senator what is your practical worry, about the president saying that we are in a new phase and in some sense laying out an exit strategy for the global war on terror?
GRAHAM: At a time we need resolved the most, we are sounding retreat. Our enemies are emboldened all over the planet. Al Qaeda in Iraq is coming back with vengeance, in Libya together. Our friends are uncertain. Syria is falling apart. We are talking about helping the rebels but doing nothing about it. Iran is marching toward a nuclear weapon.
The challenge of our time is to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of radical Islamists and we are failing in my view. Syria is about to fall apart. The chemical weapons there are enough to kill thousands if not millions of Americans can be compromised. Israel is very threatened about what’s happening in Syria. Iran is marching toward a nuclear weapon. And we show this lack of resolve, talking about that war being over. What do you think Iranians are thinking?
At the end of the day, this is the most tone deaf president I’ve ever — could imagine and making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be — attacked literally every day. Changing the standards of when you can go after somebody with a drone, it has to be a continuing imminent threat to the American people with no chance of civilian casualties and virtually no chance of civilian casualties.
I think we’re diminishing our national security infrastructure. Sequestration is dismantling the military at a time we need it most. I’ve never seen — I’ve never been more worried about our national security than I am right now. And the speech did not help.
WALLACE: Gentlemen, we’ve got about a minute left. I’m going to ask you to play well with others as they say in kindergarten and share the time equally. The president and Defense Secretary Hagel both this week went to service academies, Annapolis and West Point, and spoke talked about the really serious problem of sexual assault inside the military. And a Pentagon study that just out estimates that 26,000 members of the armed forces faced sexual assault last year — 26,000 members, specifically.
Each of you 30 seconds. Start with you, Senator Durbin, what can and should Congress do to try to get a handle on it and stop this problem? DURBIN: Well, there are several things we need to do. But I want to salute the women of the Senate, both Democrats and Republicans, who are stepping up in this issue in a determined effort to stop what is truly a scourge on the military.
We need to make certain that those who are victims step forward, knowing they will be protected and have a chance to have their day in court, a court that they can trust.
We need to make a new culture when it comes to the command structure within the military, so that this is unacceptable, intolerable, and those who were engaged in it will pay a price.
I think we understand, the future of the military is a military with both men and women in leadership.
WALLACE: Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: I want to salute the women who served and are putting with way too much crap. This needs to end.
When a victim comes forward, they should have an advocate, (INAUDIBLE) the military justice system, and commanders who allow this to continue to flourish, quite frankly, should be fired. And the president spoke well of this problem. It’s a disgrace to the United States military and the women in our military are needed now more than ever and they are putting up with way too much and it needs to end.
WALLACE: Senator Graham, Senator Durbin, we want to thank you both for coming in and joining us on this Memorial Day weekend. Thank you, gentlemen.
DURBIN: Thank you.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
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