This is a rush transcript from "Your World," June 7, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Now former GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, no doubt watching all of this very, very closely.
He joins me from Park City, Utah, where he's been hosting a rather unusual summit -- among the participants at this event, Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Meg Whitman, of course of Hewlett-Packard fame, ran for California governor, David Axelrod, the man who masterminded the campaign that, well, I guess kept Mr. Romney a former governor and not a president.
Governor, good to have you. Thanks for coming.
MITT ROMNEY, R-FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks, Neil. Good to be with you today.
CAVUTO: By the way, that cast of characters reads like the barroom scene at "Star Wars." How did you get them all...
CAVUTO: How did you get them all at one place at one time?
ROMNEY: Well, I wanted to bring together people actually from both sides of the aisle and people within each party that had different views about the priorities that they think the nation ought to be pursuing, hear from them, so that we can, as a group, listen to them and say, what are the highest priorities, and then ask ourselves, are we actually addressing the highest priorities or not?
And the answer turned out to be, not a surprise, the priorities Republicans were concerned about, the priorities Democrats were concerned about are not being addressed. And, instead, Washington is being pulled in a lot of different directions, but not doing what has to be done to get Americans to work in good jobs with better pay and to secure a brighter future for our kids.
CAVUTO: How did you get David Axelrod to appear?
ROMNEY: Well, I asked David Axelrod, the governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, a Democrat as well, the mayor of Los Angeles, Democrat, mayor of Stockton, California, Democrat, asked them to come.
And they were gracious and willing to come and express their views, and they were warmly received, even though we disagreed pretty vehemently on policy.
ROMNEY: The funny thing is, we're all Americans. We all care about the country. We get along on a personal basis. I think it's helpful to have the kind of dialogue that looks for common ground and looks for common vision for the future.
CAVUTO: Did David Axelrod or you or any of the others there mention all of these percolating scandals, Governor? Because now it appears out of control.
ROMNEY: Well, we didn't spend a lot of time talking about what Washington is feeling right now, all of these scandals.
And there are some that are very, very disconcerting and where we know there's been wrongdoing. The IRS scandal is certainly one of those. There are other issues that have been brought to the fore, such as the NSA monitoring of various data exchanges and so forth, e-mails, phone calls and so forth, but -- that raise questions, but are not necessarily wrongdoing.
And we have to separate those and look into them. But, clearly, the president's ability to manage the government of the United States and the trust that Americans have for our government has been very seriously eroded by the kinds of revelations that have come forward about the IRS.
CAVUTO: Now, the president, you might have heard today, sir, had said that these privacy tradeoffs are relatively modest -- those are his words - - this is not Big Brother.
What do you think of that?
ROMNEY: Well, Congress will take a look. The investigating committees will see what's been done. The president is saying, look, no one is reading e-mails, no one is listening in on phone calls. If that's the case, why, then -- then he's going to be pretty much given a pass.
On the other hand, if that's not the case, people will say, look, that's a violation of constitutional principles. But we don't know exactly where that is.
But, look, I have to tell you this. I'm not going to jump on the bandwagon -- bandwagon of attacking the president on everything that is going on in Washington. He has a responsibility to care for the safety and security of this country and our people.
And the practice of gathering information, looking for trends, finding things that might suggest someone is going attack this country, is an important part of that presidential role. At the same time, he has the responsibility to abide by the Constitution. And I hope he has been doing that.
This is an area that will be looked into, like many others. But areas we do know that there have been major problems of bad decisions being made relate to the IRS and, of course, to Benghazi. And, frankly, I think the subpoena of media and reporter records and phone calls, I think that is an area that is deserving of some real concern.
CAVUTO: All right, a lot of these tapping data from a lot of Internet companies and those like Google and Facebook and Apple, to say nothing of asking Verizon -- actually ordering Verizon -- to hand over phone records, came after mid-April, April 16, I believe, Governor. And that was soon after the Boston terror attacks.
If you were president at the time of those Boston attacks, would you have advocated trying to get your hands on this type of information?
ROMNEY: Well, I really can't respond to that without having all the information about what precisely was sought and what the purpose of it was and how it could be used, and also looking at what the Constitution requirements are.
But, in a modern age, where people are planning attacks using the communications vehicles that we have, including the Internet, to look for communication that suggests impending attacks or that is taking credit for things that have happened in the past, so we can find the bad guys before they attack us again, that is certainly a responsibility which a president and a government -- and a governor -- or a government, rather -- has to assume.
So, I'm not going just attack the president on this. I know a lot of people in my party and other parties are going to be unhappy that I'm not willing to attack him on this, but I'm going say, look, the safety of this country comes first. The Constitution has to be followed. I don't know that it wasn't followed in this case. And before I get real hot under the collar about it, I'm going to want to learn more about what was done and how it was used.
CAVUTO: All right, whether this does represent invasions of privacy, Governor, Dianne Feinstein had said it doesn't really bother her one bit, using her words. Harry Reid has said, calm down, when the media were jumping about whether this was overreach.
Do you think their response is justified, that this wasn't a big deal; everyone just take a chill pill?
ROMNEY: Well, I think, when people hear that their personal communications are potentially being watched by government, they're concerned, and particularly when they have just come on the heels of the revelations that the IRS has been using people's most private information and used it for political purposes.
And there's a loss of trust in our government. There's been a breach of a really significant magnitude. And people have a right to be very, very concerned. And so I don't think you just dismiss this. At the same time, you don't claim that someone is guilty or that there's been a breach of the constitutional principles until you have actually seen what has been done and how it's been done.
And that's something which that investigation will occur. Let's not get the -- if you will, the prosecution ahead of the facts. Let's get the facts and see if, in fact, there's been some kind of inappropriate gathering of information.
CAVUTO: All right, because I mentioned Harry Reid, sir, and I'm just reminded of the time when he stepped on the floor of the Senate to say that he was very well aware from a well-placed source that you had not paid taxes in 10 years.
Now, it was later proven that wasn't true at all, but it did raise the possibility that your tax return information or part of it was leaked to him. What do you think of that?
ROMNEY: Well, if he got it leaked from the IRS, he obviously got the wrong information, because, as was pointed out when we released our returns and actually laid out also what I had paid in taxes over a decade, I had paid millions and millions of dollars in taxes.