Return to Transcripts main page

State of the Union

Interview With Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; Secret Service Scandal; Jeb Bush in New Hampshire

Aired March 15, 2015 - 09:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: Nuclear war of words. The Senate majority leader defends the Republican letter to Iran.

And who's guarding the president? More scandal with the agency in charge of protecting him.


The senate majority leader on a letter he signed to Iran's leaders. What's going on with the president's protectors? Blowback on Hillary Clinton's e-mail scandal. And Jeb Bush's debut in the Granite State.

Good morning from Washington. I'm Dana Bash.

The U.S. is preparing to begin a new round of negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. But those talks are being over shadowed by an open letter to Iran's leaders by 47 Republican senators, who warn that that deal could be scrapped by Congress.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview is the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Thank you very much for coming in.


BASH: Let's just talk first about the timing of this.

There's a lot of discussion about the fact that this was done in a rushed way, signed quickly, before senators wanted to get out of town for the snowstorm.

When did Senator Cotton come to you with this letter? Explain the process.

MCCONNELL: Well, Dana, first, let me just say, I think this is a good case of selective outrage.

I remember reading about Senator Robert Byrd when he was the majority leader flying to Moscow during the negotiations over the SALT II treaty explaining to the Russians the Senate's role in treaty ratification. And John Kerry, when he was a senator, flew to Managua and met with a communist dictator there, Daniel Ortega, and accused the Reagan administration of engaging in terrorism.

So, look, members of Congress expressing themselves about important matters, not only at home, but around the world, is not unprecedented.

So, the main point here I think everybody needs to understand is the president is about to make what we believe will be a very bad deal. He clearly doesn't want Congress involved it at all. And we're worried about it. We don't think he ought to make a bad deal with one of the worst regimes in the world.

BASH: Can you tell me, though, having said all that, the process, because...

MCCONNELL: Well, sure.

I signed the letter. I don't think it was a mistake. It's no more unusual than Robert Byrd going to Moscow or John Kerry going to Managua.

BASH: Did you go -- did you go over it? Did you look at it, suggest...

MCCONNELL: Yes, I read it. I read it.

BASH: Make suggestions?

MCCONNELL: I thought it was entirely appropriate to explain that the process is going to include Congress at some point.

BASH: Well......

MCCONNELL: Now, the president would like to keep us out of it. We know that. But we're going to be involved in it.

If the deal is made, we will bring up the Corker-Menendez proposal, which would require the deal to come to Congress. A number of Democrats have indicated that they think that's a good idea. If a deal is not made, then I think the Kirk-Menendez proposal ratcheting up sanctions on the Iranians would be an appropriate next step.

BASH: Let me just read part of the letter, so our viewers have a sense of what we're talking about.

It said: "It has come to our attention, while observing your nuclear negotiations with our government, that you might not fully understand our constitutional system. We will consider any agreement regarding your nuclear weapons programs that is not approved by the Congress as nothing more than an executive agreement between President Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei."

So, the criticism that we're hearing is, it comes across as patronizing and even juvenile. And there's some questioning whether it was appropriate for a young senator to take the lead on this, somebody who has only a couple months' experience in the Senate.

MCCONNELL: Look, all of this is a distraction away from the point here.

The president has said, we're going to either reach a deal or not reach a deal with one of the worst regimes in the world by March the 24th that will probably allow them to keep their nuclear infrastructure in place. This is a big, important issue, not to be sort of trivialized by the discussion that goes on back and forth by members of Congress about this hugely important issue.

BASH: But isn't this a distraction of your making, that this is -- that this whole conversation is about what was appropriate and not because this is a letter that you all wrote that has raised those questions?

MCCONNELL: Well, the administration would like to have a distraction.

But the point is the substance of the matter. Are they or are they not about to make a very bad deal that will allow the Iranians, one of the worst regimes in the world, to continue to have their nuclear infrastructure, the same country that is fomenting problems in Syria, in Lebanon, in Gaza, in Yemen?

That's the point, the substance of the matter. This is a very, very important issue.

BASH: And many Republicans agree with you, and Democrats agree with you as well.

I just want to put up another quote, explaining the backlash that is also coming from people in your party. A speechwriter for George W. Bush, Michael Gerson, wrote this. "This was a foreign policy maneuver in the middle of a high-stakes negotiation with all the gravity and deliberation of a blog posting. In timing, tone and substance, it raises question about the Republican majority's capacity to govern."

He's questioning your capacity to govern, a fellow Republican.

MCCONNELL: I think what we need to talk about here is the substance of the issue.

Apparently, the administration is on the cusp of entering into a very bad deal with one of the worst regimes in the world that would allow them to continue to have their nuclear infrastructure. We're alarmed about it. A number of Democrats are alarmed about it. We will be acting. We will either be voting on a bill that would require the deal to come to Congress. The president says he would veto that.

Or, if there is no deal, we will be voting on a bill that says the sanctions need to be ratcheted up. You know, a number of the supporters of the president have said that the choice here is between this deal and war. That's not the choice. The choice is between this deal and tougher sanctions.

Let's focus on what's about to be done here. That's what's important to the American people. BASH: I know you want to focus on the substance. And I actually

have a couple of questions about what you're talking about in a second.

But, before that, I do want to get at this, because this is a very real explosion, basically, in the feeling that this was just over the line. And it's not just coming from Democrats. It's not just partisan.

And some of your most vulnerable senators are really getting hit back home. For example, Mark Kirk, who's up for reelection next year, in his conservative hometown paper, "The P.J. Star": "Republicans have made that better deal impossible. Kirk has not been among the crazies in Congress, particularly on foreign policy matters, but he joined them here."

Kelly Ayotte, also up for reelection, in her hometown paper: "Among the signers is New Hampshire's own Kelly Ayotte, who, despite emphatic and persuasive criticism of the letter, has yet to explain her reasoning of endorsing such a dopey idea."

Just pure politics. I know you get pure politics. Are you worried that this is -- that this is going to be hurtful to the people who help make up your majority, who make you majority leader?


What I'm worried about is the administration entering into a very bad deal with one of the worst regimes in the world. Members are very concerned about it on both sides of the aisle. And the Senate will be heard from. This won't be the last time there are senators speaking out on this issue. They will be heard from again.

BASH: And on your point about the fact that this is a bipartisan process, it absolutely is.

There are Democrats and Republicans who want Congress to weigh in with the legislation you were talking about. But I have heard from Democrats that, by sending this letter, you have made it a partisan process, and it's harder to get Democrats on board, and maybe even there was a possibility of getting a veto-proof margin. Harder to get the Democrats on board because you have politicized the process.

MCCONNELL: I can't believe a Democrat concerned about Iran getting a nuclear weapon would use some excuse like this as a reason not to support legislation that they think on the merits makes good sense.

There are at least 10 Democrats who have said they felt like it was important for the Congress to be able to approve this agreement. Why would they use some dispute like this, some controversy like this, which I think is a bit of a manufactured controversy, frankly, to get in the way of their judgment about whether or not Iran should be allowed to get nuclear weapons? I don't think, in the end, they are going to do that.

BASH: OK. Let's move on to human trafficking.

It's a bill that has -- talk about bipartisan support -- broad bipartisan support to stop human trafficking.


BASH: It stalled in the Senate this past week. Democrats say that they are holding it up now because they discovered what they call an anti-abortion provision in there. And they are demanding that you take it out.

Just sort of big picture, this is the kind of thing that you said you wanted to stop. It was sort of the gridlock of the old Senate happening again.

MCCONNELL: Yes. I'm glad you brought this up.

The Democrats are acting the same way in the minority they did in the majority. They don't seem to like to vote. Here are the facts. This is -- was a noncontroversial bill. It came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. The language that they now profess to find offensive was in there from the beginning.

They all voted for the very same language in a bill in December. This is boilerplate language that's been in the law for almost 40 years that they all voted for three months ago in another bill. We are not going to be able to finish the trafficking bill until this gets resolved.

And this will have an impact on the timing of considering the new attorney general. Now, I had hoped to turn to her next week, but, if we can't finish the trafficking bill, she will be put off again. They need to come to grips with this. I offered them a simple up-or-down vote if they wanted to take out language that they all voted -- that they all voted for three months ago.

BASH: They can't win that. They can't win that up-or-down vote.


MCCONNELL: I know, but they're -- you know, sometimes, the majority makes a difference.

They all voted for the very same language three months ago, Dana, the very same language, three months ago.

BASH: You have -- you have a very good point, that Democrats admit they didn't do something really basic, which is read the bill and understand what's in it.


BASH: But now that they have and we are where we are, why not just take it out and continue this bipartisan process?

MCCONNELL: Because a majority of the Senate does not want to take the language out.

And all of the Democrats voted for the very same language three months ago. Now, if they want to have time to turn to the attorney general next week, we need to finish up this human trafficking bill. It's extremely important to the country.

BASH: So, it sounds like you are threatening to hold up Loretta Lynch, who has been in limbo for months and months...

MCCONNELL: It's not a threat. We need to finish this human trafficking bill that came out of the Judiciary Committee unanimously. That's the next item.

BASH: Right.

MCCONNELL: It's on -- it's on the Senate floor right now.

BASH: Right.

MCCONNELL: We need to finish that, so we have time to turn to the attorney general, because, the next week, we will be doing the budget, and two weeks -- and the next two weeks after that, Congress is not in session.

BASH: So, unless Democrats give in, Loretta Lynch's nomination will not be on the Senate floor next week?

MCCONNELL: We have to finish the human trafficking bill. The Loretta Lynch nomination comes next. And as soon as we finish the human trafficking bill, we will turn to the attorney general.

BASH: Let's ask -- I want to ask you about the attorney general, because she initially really had bipartisan praise, support.

And as the weeks and weeks and weeks have gone on since she's not gotten a vote -- I believe maybe it was the longest in history for her post -- she has lost support from many Republicans, who say they don't like the idea that she agrees with the president's immigration plan.

But what else would they expect? The president of course will nominate somebody who agrees with his plan. I mean, that's his prerogative.

MCCONNELL: Well, the nomination hasn't taken that long if you consider when it was actually taken up, which was this year.

The Democrat majority back in December had a chance to work on the nomination earlier, decided to delay it until this year. The nomination is scheduled to be considered as soon as we finish the human trafficking bill. I think the attorney general nominee is suffering from the president's actions. There's no question about it.

The actions he took unilaterally on immigration after the election enraged a number of members. Lots of members have voted -- have talked to the nominee. She had bipartisan support in committee. We will take her up just as soon as we get through with this important human trafficking bill.

BASH: Will you vote for her?

MCCONNELL: I haven't made a decision yet.

BASH: What's holding you back? Is it that issue?

MCCONNELL: Well, I'm bringing her up. So, I'm not denying the administration an opportunity to have the nominee...


BASH: No, I mean you personally.

MCCONNELL: I'm going to announce what I'm going to do at a later time.

But the first thing we need to do is finish this important human trafficking bill. And then we can turn to the nomination of the attorney general.

BASH: Just a couple of quick 2016 questions.

You have said that you support your fellow Kentucky senator, Rand Paul, for his probable presidential bid. And you're obviously in touch with the many, many, many members of your caucus who are running for president, but what about people outside?

I was up with Jeb Bush in New Hampshire a couple of days ago. Have you been in touch with him?

MCCONNELL: I have talked to most all of the nominees at one point or another. They're obviously interested in what we're doing and have opinions about what we're doing here in Congress.

And I try to keep an open line of communication with all of them. And, of course, three of them are in the Senate.

BASH: Yes.

MCCONNELL: So, it's pretty easy to talk to them.

BASH: Do they call for advice or for questions about...

MCCONNELL: Oh, we talk about the business of the Congress and the Senate.

BASH: One thing that struck me is the way Jeb Bush -- I was, again, with him on the campaign trail -- every chance he got, he would speak to a voter. If they spoke Spanish, he would speak fluently to them in Spanish.

And I was just reminded of the lessons that Republicans thought that they had to take after 2012. Mitt Romney only got 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. How important, as a leading Republican, do you think it is for

the next Republican presidential nominee to be able to connect with Hispanic voters?

MCCONNELL: I think it is very important. And a lot of our nominees can. We have two likely candidates for president who are fluent in Spanish. We have others who have been reaching out to groups that we haven't done very well in recent days with.

And some of our candidates did a lot better with Hispanic voters in 2014 than our nominee for president did in 2012. I think it is important. It's a growing, important part of our country. And we haven't done as well as we should have.

BASH: Thank you very much. Appreciate you coming in, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

MCCONNELL: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you so much.

And next up: a man who is critical of his fellow Republicans' letter to Iran. I will talk to that person next.


BASH: With me now, Michael Gerson, a former aide and speechwriter to President George W. Bush, and now a nationally syndicated columnist.

Thank you very much for joining me.

I want to start with part of what you wrote this week that was really striking on this issue of Iran and the Senate Republicans' letter.

You wrote: "The true scandal of the Tom Cotton letter to Iranian leaders is the manner in which the Senate -- Senate" -- excuse me -- "manner in which the Republican Senate apparently conducts its affairs," clearly saying that this is a question of leadership.

Now, after listening to Mitch McConnell and the way he defended it...


BASH: ... what do you think?

GERSON: Well, he defended it, but wanted to put it behind him...

BASH: You think?


GERSON: ... which I think is appropriate, since this was really a stunt, rather than a strategy. I think this is going to be remembered in the same category as

like the 2013 government shutdown. You have a very bright freshman senator tapping into a genuine tendency on the -- in the caucus, but being very counterproductive, and being, you know, tactically unserious, and that made his party look unserious.

So I think that, you know, the majority leader is trying to get beyond it now.

BASH: And you also -- the way that you described it was like a blog post.

You're a writer. What do you mean by that? What struck you about the way that the letter was crafted?

GERSON: Well, I mean, there are a couple of elements here.

One of them is just the process by which this happened, which we don't know a lot about. You asked about...

BASH: No, and he didn't -- and he didn't answer.

GERSON: And we don't know.

BASH: Yes.

GERSON: But we do know that a lot of these signatures were hurried off the floor, not a particularly serious process by which you would convene the caucus.

And a lot of senators resented this in the aftermath, where you would convene the caucus and have a real strategy session. It also undermined the Corker-Menendez kind of attempt to secure a veto-proof majority for the legislation to involve them in this Iran process. They were two votes away from that 67.

Now they're reassessing this coming week, where are they in this process? But, also, you have got a situation where any Republican who imagines himself in that seat should view this as a terrible precedent, to have the Congress communicating with a foreign power in the middle of sophisticated, sensitive negotiations. That's simply not the way you can do foreign policy.

BASH: Now, you are a Republican, have relationships with Republican senators. Have you heard from any since you have written this column?

GERSON: Yes, I think -- I have. I have talked to some Republicans that there are some buyer's remorse out there. They signed this in some cases because Senator McConnell signed it.

And so I think that they really do want to get beyond it. It shows, by the way, first of all, how difficult it is to be -- to conduct the opposition from Congress. You can't speak with one voice. You have everyone from Corker to Cotton in this. It's hard to speak with one voice. And you can't -- and the U.S. needs to speak with one voice in foreign policy matters. You can't have 535...


BASH: But what about McConnell's -- McConnell's argument that this has happened before? He talked about Robert Byrd going to the Soviet Union to explain to them about how the Constitution works.

Jeb Bush, I was with him in New Hampshire. I asked him this question. He said, well, remember, Nancy Pelosi went to Syria during my brother's time in office. So, maybe...


GERSON: Of course, that's true.

I mean, I remember general Pelosi, essentially, trying to undercut funding for U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq. We were -- didn't find that attractive. There was also rogue oper -- rogue outreach, maybe is the right, word in Nicaragua, and Cuba, and Syria.

BASH: So, they have a point that it's not unprecedented?

GERSON: They have a point.

But this is the sad, endless logic of polarization: They did it.

Everyone has an argument in this case, and all the arguments are bad. The president needs to be able to conduct sensitive negotiations without the Congress intervening in this case. Now, the Congress -- I think the emerging deal has -- is problematic. And I have written that in many settings. But there's a proper way for Congress to do this, and it is not to do direct outreach to foreign leaders.

BASH: Michael Gerson, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

GERSON: Thank you.

BASH: Thank you.

GERSON: And next up: new concerns about the agency in charge of keeping the president safe. Is it time to overhaul the Secret Service?

We will talk about that next.


BASH: Two Secret Service agents are in the hot seat after allegedly driving into an area with a suspicious package at the White House.

It's just the latest scandal involving the agency responsible for protecting the president, prostitutes, drunk agents on foreign trips, knife-wielding fence jumpers. It is the Secret Service that is incompetent or mismanaged? We're going to ask those questions to Carol Leonnig, who is a

"Washington Post" reporter who broke a series of stories about the Secret Service and its misconduct, and Dan Bongino, a former Secret Service agent who also ran for Congress as a Republican.

Now, Carol, I want to start with you.

You have done groundbreaking reporting. You really brought all of this to light from the beginning. You have been doing reporting also on the latest question about the two agents who drove into the White House area. What is the latest that you're hearing about that?

CAROL LEONNIG, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So, the -- as you know from the incident that's under investigation, are allegations that these officers -- forgive me -- these very senior agents, who Dan knows well, drove onto the White House complex and U.D. officers, who are also sort of the palace guard, believed that they were intoxicated and were told to let them go.

That's the -- those -- that's the sum total of it, of allegations that are being investigated. What we're hearing now is that Congress, members of the Oversight Committee, are very concerned about when the director of the Secret Service learned this information.

It's a violation of the more strict policies now at the Secret Service in the wake of all of these flaps and security gaffes. It's a violation not to notify the Inspection Division, basically the investigative team, if you suspect alleged misconduct.

Why is it, something that happened on Wednesday, the director of the Secret Service is learning about, according to him, on Monday?

BASH: And we should be clear, as you said, there's an investigation going on internally, the I.G. Congress is now looking into it. So, all of the facts about whether there was alcohol involved, what exactly happened, whether or not there was a breach of protocol, that's all up in the air. It's being investigated.

LEONNIG: It is. It's all being investigated. And, luckily, there's lots of tape and lots of video and lots of witnesses. So, hopefully, they will get to the bottom of it.

BASH: As Carol just said, you know these agents.


BASH: And you have known -- you served in the Secret Service.

What I have heard from people who I know who are there is that this is cultural; it's endemic to the institution. Do you agree with that?

BONGINO: No. That's absurd. It's just not true.

The Secret Service I remember -- and, remember, there's two Secret Services, essentially, the Uniformed Division and the agent side. The agent side, where I served, I remember 3:00 in the morning in South Korea walking in a workroom and seeing one of my supervisors sitting there and fixing up a site diagram for a rookie agent on no sleep.

That was the Secret Service I remember. Listen, I'm not their paid spokesperson. I left three years ago. But I really find it grotesquely offensive that people have characterized or mischaracterized an entire agency whose success record, under enormous threats to this president and the prior president, in the world's worst hot zones, have managed to get him home without a hangnail, and, all of a sudden, we have become some kind of pariah.

Now, listen, some of these incidents were very serious. And I'm not trying -- I'm not here to diminish any of them, but I think this has kind of become a feeding frenzy on the Secret Service that may have repercussions on morale that aren't fixable at this point.

BASH: You know, and, obviously, you know Secret Service personally well, as do I. I traveled with the White House. They are all -- everybody was incredibly upstanding in their jobs.

Having said that, we do have a series of incidents that have come to light, in large part thanks to your reporting. The fact that, as you said, the new director didn't know about this, apparently, for five days, does that speak to the fact that maybe there aren't lessons learned just in terms of the protocol to make sure these things don't happen?

LEONNIG: So I think two things are going on that have to do with the director's knowledge or lack thereof. One is, Dan is right. There is a -- there are fantastic people and there is a lot of sensitivity -- political sensitivity at the secret service now, like, what, we have another problem? This is like almost untenable.

The second thing that's going on, as we have reported over and over again is, there is a huge morale problem because agents and officers both rank and file believe that there is a senior group of sort of officialdom at the Secret Service that doesn't listen to them, that doesn't care about what they think and is above sort of reproach and can't be punished.

BASH: Did you find that? Did (ph) you hear it from --

BONGINO: Carol is right.

And Carol and I have been on this network talking about a lot of problems. The fence jumper was a problem and she just nailed it. There was a management problem at the Secret Service.

There was a cabal of a very small group but of insulated managers that grew up in the service together that I think learned to make the same mistakes together. Now having said that, the new director, Joe Clancy, who is a man in my opinion of impeccable character, universally respected in the Secret Service really cleaned house up there. And here's a point that hasn't been stated often. I don't think

anywhere. He was personal friends with a lot of these people that he had to let go at the management level. That was not an easy decision. And it was -- it really was a principled decision to make. I think they chartered a better path forward. And a lot of those management problems which Carol correctly references (ph), I think, thankfully being cleaned up.

BASH: And, you know, the one thing that everybody wants to know, certainly I want to know is as you talked about earlier, the president. This is all about the president's safety.

At any point in your reporting or in your experience in all of these incidents was the president's safety at risk?

LEONNIG: I think the two incidents where we should be worried were the shooting in 2011 when the Secret Service did not diagnose it properly, the officers and ultimately the agents. And a man who said he wanted to take out the president was on the loose for several days and had shot at the house. Shot at a house when his child and mother- in-law were inside.

The other would be this elevator incident where someone wasn't screened. I don't think that person had any mal intention towards the president but it signals the people on advance (ph) were skipping a key step. Where else did they skip a key step about screening who is close to the president.

BONGINO: Those were unquestionably very serious security lapses and I know the new director is all over it and trying to reform (ph) how we go forward in the process. But when you think about it, the Secret Service, the big six, right? Tactical, medical, chem-bio, IED, airborne and fire threats, they have to have an A to Z plan for all that. At some point you're going to have something that goes wrong. Hopefully they fix it and we chart a better path forward. But I don't -- the president is fine. There is no danger whatsoever to the president's life. I am absolutely comfortable in telling you that.

BASH: OK. Carol Leonnig, Dan Bongino, I should say that you are the author of "Life Inside the Bubble" a book that's out. I know you're out pushing it right now. So thank you very much for coming here.

Next up, what we're going to talk about, Hillary Clinton, a juggernaut heading towards the 2016 nomination or will controversy derail her? A veteran with firsthand experience in the Clinton drama is next.



HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I know there have been questions about my email.

I opted for convenience to use my personal email account. At the end I chose not to keep my private personal emails.

I fully complied with every rule that I was governed by. I have no doubt that we've done exactly what we should have done. We have more than met the requests from the State Department.


BASH: Hillary Clinton stepped in front of reporters this week to answer questions about her private email use at the State Department. Republicans said they're not buying a word of it.

Here now Jack Quinn who was in the trenches with the Clintons in the '90s as White House counsel for Bill Clinton. Thank you very much for coming in, Jack.


BASH: Let's start with what Hillary Clinton said about her deleting about 30,000 emails that she deemed private. Was that a mistake?

QUINN: No, it wasn't a mistake.

Look, they went through -- to hear what she said about the process they used, it certainly sounded very thorough. You know, this whole story involves two different kinds of double standards. On the one hand, one thing that I think has really been obscured is that every day every single federal employee is empowered to use his or her judgment to decide what emails and other records are personal and what are official records to be maintained. We trust them to do that.

Here we're saying, well, can we trust Hillary Clinton to have done that? Why not? Why should she be subject to a different standard? Moreover, as this story goes on and on, we learn that not only did she use private email, but her predecessor Colin Powell did the same thing. Were his records preserved? Apparently not. Apparently not a single one of them is left so we'll never recover those.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, maintained the records, preserved them, and turned them over after a determination as to which were official and which were personal.

BASH: Well, you say that it's a double standard, and fair or not, you know, you lived through it, you helped repair the Clintons with -- during the Ken Starr investigation, you worked with her even before she went before the grand jury. You know what it's like to be in the Clinton trenches.

So given that, and maybe the knowledge that there is a perception, fair or not, that they think that they play by their own rules, should they have taken extra precautions especially since she knew that she was very likely going to run for president needed to answer these questions?

QUINN: You know -- look, I'm not going to second guess. And she herself acknowledged she could have done this better.

You know, she was implicitly confessing error here. She wished she had apparently done it a different way. She didn't, but that doesn't mean that the way she did it was wrong let along worse than that.

You know, we can all get -- look. With the Clintons, you hear these stories all the time. I picked up the "Washington Post" this morning and I started reading this story. You know, Hillary Clinton used her private email account as Florida governor to discuss security and military -- woops, it doesn't say Hillary Clinton, it says Jeb Bush.

You know? I mean -- and here's a guy who said he was baffled that she would have used private email to discuss matters of national security. What was he talking about? Troop deployments in the Middle East and the lack of protection he was providing to nuclear plants in Florida.

BASH: He argues that it's a different standard, a different responsibility when you are -- when you are governor and when you are in a federal role like the secretary of state. But let me ask you that (ph) --

QUINN: I'm sorry. Let me respond to that.

BASH: Yes. Please.

QUINN: It doesn't matter that he was the governor of Florida. He was talking about the protection of nuclear facilities in the state of Florida and his determination not to provide additional protection in the face of threats from al Qaeda. That's pretty remarkable.

BASH: Do you think though given what you said but just knowing the political reality right now that just to try to put answers -- questions to rest here there should be an independent review, an independent counsel for lack of a better way to say it?

QUINN: Well, again, you know, we apparently trusted Governor Bush. We trust federal employees every day of the year to make these determinations. Why would we think it's important to bring in a third party to make a determination when she has outlined -- I didn't go through these records. I haven't discussed this with anyone there, but they outlined with great clarity the methods by which they sorted these emails (INAUDIBLE) personal on the one hand then (ph) official on the other. On the surface it appears to be thorough.

And let me say this, Dana, you know what emails are. They go to other people. Once they leave your device we don't know where else they go. People forward them. People preserve them. If there was any kind of systematic wrongdoing in the sorting of these things into personal and official, it will come out. So I very, very seriously doubt any of the lawyers involved in this could have screwed around with that determination.

BASH: One last quick question. Take me inside the Clinton camp right now. You know what it's like to be in the bunker.

QUINN: But I'm not there.

BASH: You're not there. You're not there but just sort of culturally. Culturally.

I mean, is it let's just get this all out there or let's just wait, you know, and finish it now? Or let's wait and see how this goes?

QUINN: Well again, I honestly don't know what it's like today.

I do know having gone through the things you alluded to in the '90s with them, you know, the incredibly disproportionate reaction of Republican congressional leadership to things like this. We had investigation after investigation, untold millions, hundreds of millions of dollars in all of those investigations. Was anybody ever determined to have engaged in wrongdoing let alone criminality? No. Was it all political theater? I think so.

And you know, apropos of this whole discussion about whether things are personal or official, I remember having to go up to the hill and telling one of these Republican congressional committees, no, your request for the guest list at Chelsea Clinton's sweet 16 party, we're not responding to that. I mean, it got that silly.

And, you know, I'm not saying this will get silly, but I will tell you this, the election of a president in 2016 will not turn on this issue. I believe that with all my heart.

BASH: Thank you, Jack Quinn. Appreciate your time and your insight.

QUINN: Any time. Thank you.

BASH: Thank you so much.

And from the streets of Ferguson to college campuses, America's racial divide seems as wide as ever. Next up, four college students and leaders in their campuses talk about the new generation and how they can fix a very old problem.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's an officer down. Officer down. Shots fired.

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The heinous and cowardly attacks that occurred against two brave law enforcement officers in Ferguson, Missouri.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can hang them from a tree, but they'll never sign with me. There will never be an (INAUDIBLE) at SAE.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shots fired. Shots fired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was unarmed.

TURIN CARTER, UNCLE OF TEEN SHOT BY POLICE: The systematic targeting of young black males.






BASH: Those are just a few scenes from across the country this week. Videos like this, they remind us how far we still have to go with race relations in America, so what can the next generation do to make things better?

Well, joining me are four of the country's best and brightest young minds. Elliott Spillers, student government president-elect at the University of Alabama. Rusty Mau who is the student body president at NC State. Julia Watson, undergrad student body president at Northwestern and Jalen Ross, president of the UVA (ph) student council.

Thanks all of you for coming here. I appreciate it.

And I want to start with you, Elliott. You were just elected the SGA president at University of Alabama. The first African-American in 40 years. Just happened around the time of the Selma anniversary, which is kind of cool.

You got votes from across the social and -- socioeconomic, I should say, and racial spectrum. What does that tell you about where your generation is with regard to --

ELLIOT SPILLERS, STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT-ELECT, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA: I think it tells that we're moving forward and that our generation is willing and wanting to kind of make the steps to progression and Alabama does it so well. I think that with me getting elected that I got -- you know, bring people together from all types of backgrounds and diverse cultures.

In Alabama we are very fortunate that we have a history that we are able to look at and critique critically but as well as, you know, willing and wanting to move forward from that and know that we don't want to reinvent the past anyway (ph).

BASH: And Rusty, I just want to go right to the frat video from university of -- from Oklahoma, I should say. Were you surprised by that given your experience on your college campus?

RUSTY MAU, STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT, NC STATE UNIVERSITY: Well, the incident on Oklahoma's campus is absolutely disgraceful and it's just -- it's probably not surprising for us across the country that these issues of racism exist.

BASH: Because do you hear the same thing among your friends and frat brothers?

MAU: Well, on campus we have a great culture at NC State and we always need to take steps to go further. I think the -- a critical challenge to overcoming the issue of racism in America is we have to acknowledge that it's a problem. We have to come to a table with all groups. We have to recognize our implicit biases. Recognize preexisting privileges and all sides of the issue have to be involved in this conversation. But the first step is that we all have to admit that this is a real problem.

BASH: And I think that's what took -- one of the many reasons that the video in Oklahoma took people by surprise that are older, because older people think of you all as post racial. And there was an article by Sean McElwee, this week. He's a researcher and he talks about specific data points. And he said that, the millennials are more racist than they think.

What do you think of that?

JALEN ROSS, STUDENT COUNCIL PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Nobody wants to read that headline. I remember reading it (INAUDIBLE).

BASH: Yes.

ROSS: But this idea of post racialism in our generation is good news and bad news.

But it's good news because it's possible to think that. If the Oklahoma bus incident were happening everywhere on every bus all the time it would be impossible to overlook it. So it's good that we don't always have to see it so it's possible to think that. The bad news because color-blindness is still blindness. We're missing the sort of more -- the subtler bias.

I think really the bigger problem that happens right now. But every day black name resume is 50 percent less likely to get responded to than a white name resume. Right, that's everyday racism that is actually the problem. They were a little distracted actually by the big things you can see, you can point to that bus in Oklahoma. The everyday things we actually got to work on, we can do that.

BASH: You work at Northwestern with students about awareness...


BASH: ...and trying to stop this or at least make changes step by step.

WATSON: Yes. Actually, one of the things that we were looking at is actually

how do we change the structural institution elements of these racial biases. And so for us, we've actually worked a lot on incorporating talking about social inequality within our academic system. So this will be something that students within -- across the six different schools, our diversity council had actually asked that we do social inequalities distribution requirement that's focused on U.S. inequalities, which is really important.

We're also supplementing that with co-curricular social justice training. So that by the time you graduate from Northwestern, you're having these conversations that are so important. We really want to make sure within higher education that you're graduating, becoming, you know, a better citizen and being able to talk about these really difficult issues.

BASH: Now talk about social media. I know you guys don't know even know a time when there was not such a thing as social media. But I just know in my own world, you know, people have an ability to reach other people in an anonymous way and they can be really, really ugly.

How do you see the social media effects on your campuses, and do you see it being ugly?

MAU: Absolutely.

The veil of anonymity allows those with opinions to voice those and it shows there's a lot of work we still need to do. You can look at Twitter right now. You can look at Yik Yak right now and you can see countless examples of explicit racism. And that's something that we as student leaders have to educate our peers to not do.

BASH: OK. You can also educate me about Yik Yak.


SPILLERS: Well, Yik Yak is an anonymous social media site. I don't typically use it but I know it's a way for students to kind of talk about the issues across the campuses in an anonymous way.

ROSS: It's anonymous Twitter.


ROSS: You can upload and download -


BASH: Popular.

ROSS: But it's huge. It's growing. I think probably in the last year it's gotten monstrous.

We have the same thing, right? I'm sort of thankful that we have that because you get to -- you can show to people, look, this is what happens. People actually still think this. It helps you fight the idea of being post racial when you can point, as we (ph) did yesterday, to 10 examples of this post racism (ph).

BASH: And by the way, it's not just race that's an issue. I mean, look, there was an article about what happened at UCLA with a Jewish student who was running for office and she got put off explicitly because of her religion. There's reports of swastikas on college campuses around the country. So -- no. Again, this is not something that we, as Americans, as older Americans would expect to be happening on college campuses in 2015. This is the area where it's supposed to be the most progressive in the country.

WATSON: I definitely think the key is, first of all, we have to acknowledge these different privileges and biases that, you know, the students are having. You talked about kind of the different biases projects that you can actually take exams and kind of see where your biases are. And it's really important to be able to acknowledge those and then to actually be able to have a dialogue about these.

And definitely we've been doing a lot of things that are like teach ins. So it's really important to actually bring people to the table. And you know, if it's a conversation you've had before or never even had it's really important.

BASH: OK. Lightning round, real fast. President Obama really excited young people back when you guys were back in diapers -- no, back in 2008, which potential president excites you now. Which candidate? Go.

SPILLERS: Hillary Clinton.

WATSON: Yes, Hillary or Elizabeth Warren.

ROSS: Elliot.

BASH: Oh, wow. I don't think he's old enough.

MAU: I'm excited to see somebody that who reaches out to the youngest generation and takes these important issues and engages our population. Because I think that's what we're lacking in politics right now, is someone willing to reach out to the future leaders, to students like us all across the country that are ready to face these issues head on.

SPILLERS: The thing is the torch is passed down to us. When listening to Obama in Selma a few weeks back it truly reminded me that honestly the work is still yet to be done. Like there's still a lot that we have to do as leaders and that's to empower our generation and our people to kind of rise up in complacency and address these issues head on and to educate them -


BASH: All I have (ph) to say is that if you are our future leaders, I can take a breath. You're amazing, all of you. Thank you so much for this wonderful discussion.

And up next, Jeb Bush. He cranks up the 2016 campaign machine. My look from the campaign trail at his debut in the nation's first primary state.


BASH: This was a big weekend for two Republicans testing the presidential waters.

Scott Walker and Jeb Bush both men made debut 2016 appearances in the first of the nation's primary state, New Hampshire. I spent the day on Friday with Jeb Bush who made his first political trip to the granite state in 15 years.


JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: How are you? Hello, everybody.

BASH (voice over): When your name is Bush, this is what a maiden visit to New Hampshire looks like.

BUSH (ph): Glad to be here.

BASH: There were probably more reporters than employees at this small business.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up, back up, back up. Taking a turn here.

BASH: He tried to stay focused speaking Spanish, which he does fluently, more than once.


BASH: On substance he signaled how he planned controversial positions with conservatives like supporting common core.

BUSH: I think you need to be genuine. I think you need to have a backbone. I think you need to be able to persuade people.

I'm doing well. How is everybody?

BASH: The good news for us reporters, so far he's accessible. Two press conferences in one day. The second close to 9:00 in the evening. There were glimpses of what even his friends call a lack of patience sometimes.

BUSH: Look, the book I wrote is a path to legal status.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So why -- but you were (INAUDIBLE) -

BUSH: That was a comma not a period.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you so much.

BASH: At this intimate house party many told us they were surprised how long he stayed and worked the room.

BUSH: Been on the school board? For how long? You're on it right now.

BASH: And engaged in Q and A the way voters here demand.

BUSH: I'm honored to be here. Thank you all for coming.


BASH: I should say someone offered cheesecake to Jeb Bush at that party but he turned it down saying he's on the Paleo Diet. And let's see if he can have that same restraint with grits and biscuits when he head to South Carolina later this week.

Thanks for watching STATE OF THE UNION.

Fareed Zakaria starts right now.