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Transcript: Sen. Charles Schumer on 'FNS'

The following is a transcript from "FOX News Sunday" that aired on Nov. 6, 2005.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST: And now for the Democrats' perspective, Senator Charles Schumer, who's at FOX News headquarters in New York.

And, Senator, welcome back to "FOX News Sunday."

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, D-N.Y.: Good morning, Chris.

C. WALLACE: As we noted, the Democrats forced the Senate into a closed session this week to try to force or get the Senate Intelligence Committee to investigate the manipulation, the exaggeration of pre-war intelligence by the White House.

I want to play a clip from your statement back in October of 2002 when you voted to authorize the use of force. Here it is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: It is Hussein's vigorous pursuit of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and his present and future potential support for terrorist acts and organizations that make him a danger to the people of the united states.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. WALLACE: Senator, you read the intelligence and you came to the same conclusion the president did.

SCHUMER: Yes. The bottom line is I wasn't as sure of it as the president was, but I believe in a post-9/11 world, Chris, that the president does need latitude to keep our national security strong. And you know, that is true.

But we also have to make sure, once you give the president that latitude, that you keep him accountable, and that's what we tried to do in the Senate the other day. Just because you give the president latitude, that's not at all a blank check.

And it seems that subsequent to that time, the president made many, many, many mistakes in the use of intelligence, and all we got from the committee — and there was a lot of talk that the White House was directing Pat Roberts (search) to do so. He's the chairman of the Intelligence Committee — was stonewalling on the use of intelligence.

And I think it's really important not to point fingers of blame, not to gain any political advantage, but so we don't make the same mistakes again. After all, we have an Iran. We have a North Korea. We have other problems that are going to come down the road for this president or future presidents. And we ought to see where things went wrong and correct them.

C. WALLACE: Senator, you say you don't want to gain any political advantage out of this. I want to ask you, though, about your motives in forcing the Senate into closed session. And let's put this up on the screen, if we can.

In an article in The Washington Post this week, they reported, "My phones have been ringing off the hook at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee," Schumer said. "It has played far better than we had thought." Senator, I've got to tell you, that sure sounds like you were looking for political advantage.

SCHUMER: Not at all, Chris. We did this out of sincere concern for the future and national security of this country to do our job as Congress is supposed to do in the Constitution of oversight. And the fact that we were being stonewalled led us to do this.

Now, after that — and that was our motivation — there was a very positive reaction. People did call up and say, yes, I support what you're doing — not just Democrats, Republicans, independents. The reaction has been very good. That's democracy.

You take an action based on the merits of the situation, and you hope that the public is supportive. In this case, they were. I don't see anything wrong with that at all.

C. WALLACE: You have also weighed in this week on the vice president's decision to promote two members of his staff, David Addington (search) and John Hannah (search), to replace Scooter Libby (search) after he was indicted and resigned. And let's listen to what you had to say about that decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCHUMER: To promote these people who, according to press accounts, were very much involved in all the discussions — that's not saying they broke the law, but it's sure saying they did something wrong — shows a bunker mentality. It's sort of a poke in the eye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

C. WALLACE: You say they did something wrong. Do you have any evidence that either of these men leaked the name of Valerie Plame (search) to the media?

SCHUMER: No. The standard, though, should be a lot higher than whether they broke the criminal law. There were reports about Mr. Hannah, not...

C. WALLACE: Well, there's no question that — it's not even clear from the indictment that leaking her name would have broken the law, but my...

SCHUMER: That's correct.

C. WALLACE: ... but my question is, do you have any evidence that they leaked her name?

SCHUMER: There were many reports that they were involved in discussions with the vice president, with Scooter Libby, about Ms. Plame, about her classified position, and about what to do with it.

And here's what I think ought to be done to clear the air. Mr. Addington, Mr. Hannah ought to simply issue a statement about their involvement. I think what's happened here, Chris — and John McCain alluded to it. There's sort of a hunker down, bunker mentality.

Now, this is a serious problem, what happened. The leaking of the name of a CIA agent is a serious, serious thing. And I am not saying that they even came close to violating the law, but there are reports they were involved in these discussions.

If they're going to be promoted to an extremely important position, they ought to come clean with the American people and issue a statement about their involvement. Right now the attitude seems to be in the White House let's ignore it, let's forget about it, let's push it aside. We have heard no comments about mistakes being made or, more importantly, what would be done in the White House to correct those mistakes.

C. WALLACE: But specifically, Senator, when you held that news conference this week, you called — and also in a letter that you sent to the vice president, you called for a thorough housecleaning.

Now, I have a copy here of the actual indictment that Patrick Fitzgerald (search) issued against Libby, and in this indictment, the only mention, for instance, of David Addington is that he had a conversation with Libby about whether or not there would be any paperwork if the spouse of a CIA agent took an overseas trip. I mean, is that worth a housecleaning?

SCHUMER: Well, what's worth a housecleaning — and again, I mean, is the pattern of problems in this administration. It's not just this issue.

There's a general pattern that when there's contrary information, when there's an argument that the White House doesn't like, that they don't meet the argument and say well, how do we deal with these facts which may be contrary to our views, but rather they sort of attack the person who gives those arguments, and that's wrong.

And so when I call for a housecleaning in the White House, I'm sort of looking for the president to show a mentality more like Ronald Reagan (search) than Richard Nixon (search). Each of them was under fire in their second terms. Nixon hunkered down in the bunker, admitted no mistakes, and look what happened.

Ronald Reagan did do a housecleaning. He brought in Howard Baker. He brought in Colin Powell. He admitted that there were mistakes done in the past, and he had some of his greatest successes — Mr. Gorbachev, tear down the wall, for instance — after that.

Until the White House has a view that well, we're not doing everything perfectly — look, Chris, the American people say overwhelmingly America's moving in the wrong direction. The White House doesn't change their direction at all. The president doesn't talk to the people, eye level to eye level, about what's going on wrong and what he's going to do to correct it.

This is serious, serious stuff. At a time when we're competing with China and India, at a time when the world is a dangerous place, we can't afford a bunker mentality. Everyone makes mistakes. But the question is do you correct them. That's what's happening in this White House. And you know, we can do a lot better.

C. WALLACE: Senator Schumer, we want to thank you so much. We're going to have to leave it there. Thanks again for talking with us.

SCHUMER: Thank you, Chris.

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