Special: Boston Marathon Trial Jury Selection, Potential Charges for Petraeus and Romney...Again?

Jan. 09, 2015 AT 9:24 p.m. EST

On the Webcast Extra, jury selection began in the trial of accused Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Over 1200 potential jurors have been summoned in a process that could take three weeks in the death penalty case. Plus, former CIA Director David Petraeus could face felony charges for giving classified information to his mistress. And in the U.S. fight against ISIS, over 3200 targets have been hit by American forces, but what is the impact? California Sen. Barbara Boxer announced this week she will not seek reelection in 2016, setting up an expensive battle to fill the seat of the long-serving Democrat. In presidential politics, could Mitt Romney be looking at a third run for the White House?

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.


GWEN IFILL, “WASHINGTON WEEK” MODERATOR: Hello. I’m Gwen Ifill. And welcome.

I’m joined around the table by Michael Crowley, I think of Candy, of “Politico”, Sue Davis of “USA Today”, Nancy Youssef of “The Daily Beast”, and Pete Williams of NBC News.

In a week where we’ve caught in the story of a terrorist attack in Paris, we were reminded that one played out right here at home, as the Boston marathon trial began.

So, one of the questions which hovers this whole jury selection process, Pete, is how do you go about picking a jury in Boston, where presumably every living sentient human being knew about this attack?

PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Well, the defense has made this case repeatedly. They’ve twice asked the judge to move the trial somewhere else and he has twice said no. And they asked the federal appeals court to step in and the appeals court said, no, we’ll leave it up to the judge.

That’s one of the reasons why jury selection has taken three weeks. It started this week. It’s going to go on for three weeks. They brought all these jurors in, well over 1,200 of them. Each had to answer a 100-question questionnaire about their views of all kinds of things. Partly, it’s to find a jury that is, you know, says it can decide the case based on the evidence, and not what they heard their neighbors say or what they saw in the newspaper.

But secondly, because it’s a death penalty case, you have to find a jury that is so-called death qualified. Meaning, the jurors are open to the death penalty. They’re not so in favor of it that they would impose it no matter. They’re not so opposed to it that they would never impose it. So, you got those two things together, and that’s why jury selection is going to take so long.

But that’s exactly the point. The defense has said basically, the entire city was the victim. The judge said, look, you know, look what happened in the Enron case, when Enron collapsed, it affected so many people there and yet the Supreme Court said there was nothing wrong with no change of venue. So, the fact is it’s every hard to get a change of venue now in federal court.

IFILL: I have to ask you a second story that happened late on Friday, which is that the Justice Department is investigating a story we thought was long over and that involves General David Petraeus.

WILLIAMS: Well, this investigation has been going on for a very long time. It basically sends Petraeus to step down as the CIA director in 2012. You may recall that he admitted when he stepped down that he was having an affair with a woman who wrote a book about him, and the question has been, while he was CIA director, did he give her access to classified documents? That’s what the FBI has been investigating.

Apparently, there are some people in the Justice Department who are upset that this case hasn’t come to prosecution. That the government hasn’t gone to court. Now, it’s up to the attorney general, Eric Holder. There is a recommendation before him. That’s how it works in the Justice Department, that he’d go ahead and approve the charges.

And apparently, the people who leaked this to “The New York Times” believe that, you know, it’s a double standard, that the Justice Department has been doing an unprecedented number of prosecution for leaks. But here, they won’t in Petraeus’ case.

So, it’s an attempt to kind of push the process --

IFILL: To boost it a little bit.


IFILL: Nancy, we spent a lot of time in the regular program tonight talking about al Qaeda. But one of the things that we’ve been most focused and that you’ve been writing a lot about is the U.S. plan to defeat to ISIL or ISIS.

First of all, at the Pentagon, how is that going along? And that do they know what their target is? And are they making any success?

NANCY YOUSSEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, this week, they announced that they’ve done three they’ve hit 3,222 things as of July, excuse me, January 7th --

IFILL: Things?

YOUSSEF: Like checkpoints, hundred of check -- I don’t know. I can’t give you the breakdown. Checkpoints, staging areas, tanks, buildings, cars.

IFILL: Targets.

YOUSSEF: Targets. But -- and so, a lot of people will say, well, that says progress. Look at all these things that they’ve hit.

The problem is, one doesn’t know what the impact of those strikes are. For example, hitting a lot of tanks seems like a big deal, but the reality, ISIS doesn’t depend on tanks. They’re sort of vanity pieces, if you will. They hit a lot of checkpoints. Do we know if there are civilians at those checkpoints? They hit a lot of guard checks. Do we now if there are people inside those guard checks.

And so, in the absence of any numbers that give a sense of impact, it’s hard to measure. And the reality is, as long as fighters are continuing to come in and flow into Syria, that the core problems remains, if you will.

Now, that said, the Pentagon argument is, well, look, ISIS hasn’t gained anymore ground in Iraq or Syria, since the strike campaign began. So, is it about defeating and -- or degrading and ultimately defeating ISIS?

IFILL: Or containing.

YOUSSEF: Or containment?


That has always been the complicated part with this new kind of war.

I want to talk to you guys about politics. Go a little politics.

Start with you, Sue.


IFILL: Barbara Boxer, liberal lion of the Senate, announced this week to her grandson, who happens to be Hillary Clinton’s nephew. I love that detail.


IFILL: That she’s not running again. What’s going to happen there?

DAVIS: You know, it’s interesting that she decided to announce so soon and to the new Congress, and then you realize --

IFILL: She’s up in 2016.

DAVIS: She’s up in 2016, but it’s -- you know, she announced within 72 hours with the new Congress coming in and it makes you realize that part of the reason why she did it is just how expensive it is to run a statewide race in California. And she said, in part, the reason why she did it was, you know, she won as a long shot candidate in 1992, which was famously known as the “year of the woman”, and nobody really gave her a chance.

And she said part of her calculation was, she wants to be able to give enough people a fair shot to run. And if you wait late, then people that are well-funded and better known have a better chance. And if you have two years to know that you might want to run for Senate, it gives people time to raise the money.

IFILL: Yes, in California, we’re talking about a Democrat primary, that’s what the real fight is.

DAVIS: It will be essentially be --

IFILL: Nobody think there’s a Republican out there --

DAVIS: It’s a very thin Republican bench on the state. It’s not impossible, but names like Carly Fiorina come up, although she’s also thinking about running for president, in the context of politics.

The rough ball park that I’ve heard people say is you need $20 million just to be considered in the orbit of being a contender to run statewide in California.

WILLIAMS: Can I just ask briefly?


WILLIAMS: Would she have stayed if the Democrats have kept control of the Senate?

DAVIS: That’s a good question. I don’t know if I can answer that. I don’t know what her thought process was. But she seemed, you know, I think I believe she’s 72 years old. Maybe 70, she’s in her early 70s and she said she’s got she wants to go back to California.

And I’ve been in California. It’s lovely. I can’t believe that.

IFILL: Well, let me just ask you, one more thing about her, which is I wonder whether she is setting the table for either of the names who are most frequently mentioned as her successor, that’s Kamala Harris, the attorney general, or Gavin Newsom, the former mayor of San Francisco?

DAVIS: She has -- at least early, very -- her statements very clearly said she didn’t want to get involved. That she wanted to stay out of that. She wasn’t going to pick a favorite.

I think it’s going to be -- it will be a fascinating primary. California is a state that changed their election laws. They have what we call a jungle primary, which means the top two vote-getters go to the November ballot. So, it will probably be similar to Louisiana, and that their election will really be an election day, and it will be two Democrats battling it out for California.

Also, this is a state that has had no change over in the Senate for at least 20 years. So, there’s a lot of pent-up, down ballot Democratic energy. So, it could be an absolute free-for-all.

IFILL: There is not a statewide official -- I mean, well, Kamala Harris, but Jerry Brown, the mayor --

DAVIS: The governor.

IFILL: The governor -- boy, he was a mayor of Oakland. The governor and Dianne Feinstein’s 81, he’s in his 70s. She’s on her 70s. Finally, the generation shift happens.

I want to wrap this up by talking a little bit about presidential politics, Michael. Today, we heard Mitt Romney say that he was considering running again for president, coincidentally in a week that Jeb Bush decided to set up to his PAC. Now, before we talk about these two interesting gentlemen, we want to hear a little bit about last we asked Mitt Romney what he was going to do about this, this is what he said.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I’m not running. I’m not planning on running. And that’s all I got in that story.

REPORTER: So that's a no?

ROMNEY: That’s just what I said.


IFILL: October 2014. We are now in January 2015. What’s changing?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: Well, you know, part of it I think is just the reality of seeing, you know, it’s a piece of cake. You didn’t want it and somebody else is coming forward. Therefore, (INAUDIBLE) --


CROWLEY: No, actually, maybe I do. I was thinking, I like to keep the option open. And, you know, I mean, running for president is an ego -- is about ego, right? And I think that it’s easier to say you’re not into it when it’s more abstract. And then, it’s like, well, here comes Jeb Bush and why is Jeb Bush anymore qualified than I am, and I have a better chance of beating Hillary than Jeb Bush?

Now, it’s actually Ann Romney who also had -- Mitt Romney’s wife -- who had some real doubts about him running again. And it sounds like she has probably gotten over that. So, it’s hard to know --

IFILL: Really ? Wow.

CROWLEY: Well, at least the line coming from Romney-land is that she’s more open to it. You know, who knows how much he’s still trying to talk her into it. But it’s going to be great fun to see those guys run against each other if it does happen.

IFILL: One thing I want to know. You wrote a piece about the burden of Jeb Bush this week.


IFILL: And I wonder if that is -- Jeb Bush is not the lock (ph) that so many people think.

CROWLEY: No, I think he’s -- look, the shadow of his brother is going to loom long and large. Now, it is true that George W. Bush’s public approval numbers have come up since he left office and people look a little more favorable. But that’s because we’re not really thinking about the particulars of his presidency.

IFILL: Leaving office really helps your approval --

CROWLEY: Really, it does. And, you know, in particular, I’m very interested. I cover in foreign policy and I’m interested in the question of, because W.’s foreign policy was so divisive and sort of notorious, that war was so unpopular.

By the way, his numbers are up, but public opinion saying that the Iraq was a mistake has not moved and that’s about two-thirds of Americans saying it was a mistake. To what degree is that going to be a big challenge for him?

I did some reporting on this, that people can read. There’s -- I think it’s speculative, but to me, one of the most interesting questions if he does.

IFILL: Oh, boy, 2016.


IFILL: I’m very happy it’s so far, so close. So close.


IFILL: Thanks, everybody.

CROWLEY: Thank you.

IFILL: Stay online to read my take on the inevitability of ping pong politics.

And we’ll see you here again on the next WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.


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