CBS’s Rodriguez Urges Assault Weapons Ban to DHS Chief

Maggie Rodriguez and Janet Napolitano, CBS While discussing the ongoing drug war in Mexico with Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez wondered: "President Obama will meet with the Mexican president today, who has said that the money, the guns, and the appetite for drugs that fuel this war come from our country. My question is, how much blame do we accept?...Is one of the other things we can do reinstate the assault weapons ban in this country? Because President Calderon has said that ever since it expired, violence there has escalated."

In an earlier report on the issue, correspondent Bill Plante explained: "Mexican authorities are often out-gunned by the gangs. Military-grade arms, including grenades and machine guns, are easily purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Just as the drugs are easily moved north in response to heavy demand in the U.S...President Obama will promise today to step up efforts to stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. down into Mexico." Earlier media reports claimed 90% of guns involved in the Mexican drug war came from the U.S., a statistic which was later proven false by Fox News’s William La Jeunesse and Maxim Lott.

To her credit, Rodriguez did provide a stiff challenge to Napolitano on the issue of a newly released DHS report that warns of a rise in "right-wing extremism": "I want to also ask you about the report that you put out warning of right-wing extremism in our country. Some Republicans, as I'm sure you're aware, have criticized it as irresponsible. My question is, why put out a report like this that could breed this sort of divisiveness when you admit there's no evidence these right-wing groups are planning anything?" Napolitano replied: "They're not intended to infringe on anyone's constitutional rights by any stretch. They're not accusations, they are assessments based on what's happened in the past, so that people are aware of the possibilities out there."

Rodriguez followed up: "If you had it to do over, given the criticism, would you still put that out report? And if so, would you word it any differently?" Napolitano admitted: "You know, there's a few words in there, given the criticism. I've got to tell you, any time you have the word smiths going after something that's been produced after the fact there's a lot of armchair quarterbacking. So, of course, in light of the criticism, perhaps a few words would be changed."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

JULIE CHEN: America under threat. President Obama heads to Mexico today, amid growing drug violence that is spilling over the U.S. border. We'll tell you the incredible plan to ensure his safety. Plus we'll talk to the Homeland Security secretary about brand-new threats right here at home.

7:04AM SEGMENT:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: President Obama arrives in Mexico this afternoon. His visit comes just a day after he appointed a drug czar to monitor the U.S./Mexican border. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante is in Mexico City this morning. Good morning, Bill.

BILL PLANTE: Good morning to you, Maggie. This visit comes at a time of all-out war between the Mexican authorities and the drug cartels. It's a war that has claimed more than 10,000 people, 10,000 lives, and violence that has spilled across the border. So that will be topic 'A' when President Obama meets today with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Violence like this gun battle between Mexican federal police and drug runners along the U.S./Mexico border is so pervasive that American officials are calling it a 'growing security threat.'

ANTHONY PLACIDO: Mexican drug trafficking organizations now control virtually all of the retail distribution networks in the United States. You can find them in large and small cities across the country.

PLANTE: Mexican authorities are often out-gunned by the gangs. Military-grade arms, including grenades and machine guns, are easily purchased in the U.S. and smuggled into Mexico. Just as the drugs are easily moved north in response to heavy demand in the U.S.

JANET NAPOLITANO: The drugs that come across an unsecure border infiltrate our neighborhoods and communities across this country. There's no state of this country that does not have a stake in this border.

PLANTE: President Obama will promise today to step up efforts to stop the flow of weapons from the U.S. down into Mexico. But he also wants to talk to President Calderon about trade and the environment. Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Bill Plante. Thank you, Bill. Also in Mexico City this morning, Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano. Good morning, Secretary Napolitano.

JANET NAPOLITANO: Good morning.

RODRIGUEZ: President Obama will meet with the Mexican president today, who has said that the money, the guns, and the appetite for drugs that fuel this war come from our country. My question is, how much blame do we accept?

NAPOLITANO: Well, I think it's -- it's mutual, to be quite fair. But, it's also not about pointing fingers, it's about solving a problem. And there are a number of things that we're working on together that President Obama will be meeting with President Calderon about. What can we do to prevent the flow of guns and cash south that fuel these cartels? What can we do to assist the president of Mexico and his administration and they're own law enforcement efforts within the country of Mexico. Those are all topics of conversation today.

RODRIGUEZ: Is one of the other things we can do reinstate the assault weapons ban in this country? Because President Calderon has said that ever since it expired, violence there has escalated.

NAPOLITANO: Well, that simply is not part of the plan that we're talking about here. What we're talking about is increasing southbound checks, both from the United States going to Mexico on the actual U.S. side of our ports, but also on the Mexican side of the ports. And that's with technology, manpower, and quite frankly we have cross-trained dogs now, canines, to be able to sniff guns illegally going into Mexico.

RODRIGUEZ: I want to also ask you about the report that you put out warning of right-wing extremism in our country. Some Republicans, as I'm sure you're aware, have criticized it as irresponsible. My question is, why put out a report like this that could breed this sort of divisiveness when you admit there's no evidence these right-wing groups are planning anything?

[HEADLINE ON SCREEN: RIGHT WING EXTREMISM? NAPOLITANO RESPONDS TO CONTROVERSIAL REPORT]

NAPOLITANO: Well, it's -- these reports are issued periodically through the Intelligence and Analysis Division of the Department of Homeland Security. And what they are intended to do is to give state, local, tribal law enforcement, what we call situational awareness. What's out there. What do they need to be sensitive to? They're not intended to infringe on anyone's constitutional rights by any stretch. They're not accusations, they are assessments based on what's happened in the past, so that people are aware of the possibilities out there. And quite frankly, you have to understand that when I was a United States attorney for Arizona, low these many years ago, I had a fairly significant part in the Timothy McVeigh investigation in Oklahoma City. And so, the contents of that report are not anything that's inconsistent with what we have seen in the past.

RODRIGUEZ: If you had it to do over, given the criticism, would you still put that out report? And if so, would you word it any differently?

NAPOLITANO: You know, there's a few words in there, given the criticism. I've got to tell you, any time you have the word smiths going after something that's been produced after the fact there's a lot of armchair quarterbacking. So, of course, in light of the criticism, perhaps a few words would be changed. But the overall -- the overall impact of the report, and the purpose of the report, which was for state and local law enforcement purposes, that remains the same.

RODRIGUEZ: Secretary Napolitano, thank you for your time this morning.

NAPOLITANO: You're very welcome.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC