Special: Presidential Hopefuls in New Hampshire, Sen. Menendez Corruption Investigation & President Obama on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Mar. 13, 2015 AT 9:06 p.m. EDT

Several potential Republican presidential candidates travelled to New Hampshire this week. Jeff Zeleny of CNN explains the impact of campaigning in early primary states for these hopefuls. The Washington Post’s Carol Leonnig breaks down the corruption investigation of New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and what is, or isn’t, allowed when people in power want to "help a friend." As Leonnig says, the prosecution has a "tough case." Plus, The New York Times' Peter Baker comments on the president’s emotional speech in Selma, Alabama and his late-night entertainment appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

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

ANNOUNCER: This is the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.
Candidates are in New Hampshire, everyone in Washington seems to be under investigation, and the president is testing his late night chops.
I’m joined around the table by Carol Leonnig of "The Washington Post", Peter Baker of "The New York Times", and Jeff Zeleny of CNN.
Let’s start with the early primary states, which would become the favorite hunting grounds for potential presidential candidates.
Just this weekend, Granite State Republicans will get a taste of former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and current Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
What are you watching for, Jeff?
JEFF ZELENY, CNN: Well, Jeb Bush’s kind of debut. He’s done this Ohio one. Now, he’s doing New Hampshire. So, he is the one to watch in general. Are people going to view Jeb Bush through a fresh lens, a lens of his own, or are they going to view him to the prism of his brother or his father?
IFILL: Jeb Bush hasn’t been in New Hampshire in 15 years?
ZELENY: In a long time.
ZELENY: And the Bush family has kind of mixed history with New Hampshire. It was kinder to his father. Not as kind to his brother. But I think what we’re watching for is, you know, are conservatives going to give him a shot?
A striking number in a "Wall Street Journal"/NBC poll this week showed that, you know, almost half of Republicans say that they wouldn’t vote for him. So, that is -- of course, that will change.
IFILL: But either he’s peaked or it’s just a blip. Yes.
ZELENY: Like if he’d win the nomination.
But he has a lot of resistance to his candidacy. So, at this point in this moment, it’s interesting to see if he’ll be able to sort of win off or win over those conservatives. But Scott Walker, the Wisconsin governor, he probably right now is the one who’s chasing him, and the Bush campaign is kind of lobbing some criticism at them, and where’s Chris Christie in all this?
IFILL: But wait a second, Bush was asked about Scott Walker today, when he was travelling in Friday, when he was traveling in New Hampshire, and he was like, oh, I don’t have to talk about that, about who’s the frontrunner, because I’m not actually running, what?
ZELENY: Yes. Well, he’s not running yet, but I mean, at some point soon, hopefully, all that silliness will go away. Everyone is running. And we learned today that everyone who says is running is running, and Hillary Clinton is going to open her campaign we think in April and have her headquarters in Brooklyn.
IFILL: In Brooklyn.
ZELENY: So, we’ll see -- I’m not sure if there’s any presidential campaign headquartered in Brooklyn before. I guess --
IFILL: The Brooklynites are going, more.
IFILL: Unless you’ll be able to get some sort of, you know, vegan juice there or something, because that’s --
IFILL: What do they do in Brooklyn? I’m sorry. Did I just insult Brooklyn? I’m from Queens, I’m sorry.
OK, well, that’s interesting. We’ll be watching all of that.
Carol, I want to talk to you about some other stories you’ve been working on, which is, Bob Menendez, senator from New Jersey, Democratic senator from New Jersey, has had this cloud over his head for a long time. And, finally, as you reported, he’s under investigation.
What for?
CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST: For two years, probably a little bit more, as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been under investigation, because of an extremely active role he’s played in helping a long time friend, a Florida eye doctor and businessman who’s given a lot of money to both Menendez’s campaigns but also to the Democratic senator’s campaigns.
I think about $700,000 the last cycle around.
The efforts that Senator Menendez has engaged in to try to help this doctor, Sal Melgen, were quite vast and varied. One of them was intervening with the top leaders of the health and human services agency, to try to make sure that a ruling that would cause this doctor be cited for $8.9 million in overbilling would go away.
Another was to try to help this doctor with the enforcement of strange contract involving port screening in the Dominican Republic. Senator Menendez reached into the bowels of the Commerce Department and the State Department, and was encouraging these officials to put pressure on the Dominican government to try to help his friend.
Sometimes, he mentioned his friend by name. Many times, he did not. And the question before prosecutors is, did he do this as a quid pro quo? There is not evidence of a quid pro quo. And it will be a tough case.
It’s not slam dunk, because if you’re receiving things of value from a long time friend, that’s not unusual. If you reach out to help any constituent, that’s not unusual. It’s when as we all learned from the --
IFILL: Bob McDonnell case.
LEONNIG: Governor McDonnell case where I spent a lot of time in those fields, it’s when you are pretending someone’s a friend and you just met them when they offered you their plane, when you became governor.
IFILL: That will be the question.
I want to ask you one other thing. The Secret Service point, wrapping that up, there was a plea deal involving the guy who ran, got over the fence and ran through the front door with a knife of a White House.
IFILL: And he pled guilty.
LEONNIG: Yes, a new superseding indictment actually added new charges that involved Oscar Gonzalez, fulsome role that he had as he jumped over the fence that night in September last year, ran through the White House with a small knife, tackled an officer or two on the way, buffaloed through the guard at the front gate. So, now, he’s charged with two more felonies and he faced another count of having a lot of ammunition, a frightening amount of ammunition.
So, two more counts of assaulting officers.
IFILL: OK. And now, I want to turn to a little fun. It’s not longer novel to see the first couple on entertainment television. On Monday, Michelle Obama dances with Ellen DeGeneres. On Thursday night, the president showed off his lighter side with ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.
JIMMY KIMMEL, ABC: Can you run down to the kitchen in your underpants in the middle of the night if you’re hungry?
KIMMEL: You don’t?
KIMMEL: Is there someone in the kitchen at all times? Like if you wanted a sandwich, would you have to wake someone up or --
OBAMA: Yes, I wouldn’t wake somebody up to have a sandwich.
KIMMEL: You’re allowed to go on in the refrigerator on your own?
OBAMA: I am, I am. There’s a refrigerator and there’s silverware.
KIMMEL: What was the last time you actually cook?
OBAMA: Now, it’s been a while since I cook.
KIMMEL: It’s been a while.
OBAMA: It has been a while. I won’t lie about that.
KIMMEL: You ever drive?
OBAMA: I cannot drive. I mean, I --
OBAMA: I’m able to drive.
KIMMEL: Is that because you didn't have a birth certificate?
OBAMA: In Kenya, we drive on the other side.
IFILL: OK. So, that was funny, that was funny. But does this stuff work? Why did he do it?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, it’s funny because he’s got a reputation, right, for being reserved, detached, aloof maybe and this showed a different side of him. This showed a funny side, a relax side. He did seem to be having fun.
IFILL: He did.
BAKER: I don’t know how much it penetrates but I think it does kind of play against the image of him that hasn’t helped him in politics and he looked like he was having fun. I’m not sure it had necessarily a bigger purpose.
IFILL: You know, it’s interesting, this was a week that began with the president delivering a very emotional and very impactful speech in Selma, Alabama, the 50th anniversary of the march across Edmund Pettus Bridge. You were there, I was there, it was quite something, and it ends up also showing emotion in a different way with Jimmy Kimmel.
But let’s go back to Selma speech for a moment. I was -- I guess -- I was take -- I was struck by how far he went it.
IFILL: He’s often criticized for not talking more bluntly about race or not being more emotional when he talks about it. But he seemed prepare to do that this time.
BAKER: That is a real moment. He’s standing here at this bridge, named for a Ku Klux Klan grand dragon, with John Lewis, who had his head sculptured, who had his head beaten basically 50 years earlier.
BAKER: How would you not feel some power of that moment and understanding that led directly to his presidency, right? It’s because of the national revulsion of what happened in Selma that we had the Voting Rights Act five months later that year. Without the Voting Rights Act, we would never have had the kind of careers that would ultimately lead to the next generation of Joshua, the generation figure as he used to put it, like Barack Obama.
So, yes, he did I think -- and he brought his two daughters with him, and I think that was important. The next day, by the way, he came back to Washington and then, suddenly, we get this little pool part, he’s in the motorcade, we didn’t know he was going anywhere, and he goes take them to see the original copy of Lincoln’s second inaugural address. So, last weekend was clearly an education weekend for the Obama daughters. He was clearly in a moment where he was thinking a lot about that.
IFILL: It was definitely a moment. I’ll tell you, there were 40,000 people according to the police on the streets of Selma, little tiny town, only 19,000 people. Forty thousand people there. And when the president was speaking, that when almost anyone, John Lewis was speaking, you could hear a pin drop. It was very, very quiet.
BAKER: I thought especially when Lewis was speaking. I was very struck by that. It was almost eerie, because it was lively, happy, you know, energetic crowd. And they did kind of talk at various time, especially when John Lewis turns around and it looks the bridge, and he says, essentially described that day and we were matching across two by two, we weren’t blocking traffic, we were going right there and then they came. And it was just extraordinary power of that movement.
IFILL: And would magnify by the fact a lot of people who had known about Selma, who got to see it on the big screen this year. And so, they kind of visually was talking about. It was really quite remarkable.
For more on what I saw on Selma last weekend, you could actually go online and read the essay I posted to our Web site at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek.
And we will see you again next week on the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra.


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