The Sunday political talk shows covered a lot of ground, from foreign policy with Russia to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s ongoing effort to repair his damaged reputation amid the George Washington Bridge traffic jam scandal. Politicos threw in some debate about Obamacare and the 2016 presidential race for good measure.
If you missed any of the Sunday political chatter, we've got you covered:
Missing airliner: As the search for the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 continues alongside the anguish of the loved ones of the 239 passengers and crew, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, said there doesn’t appear to be any connection to terrorism.
“There is speculation, but there is nothing,” she said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
Feinstein also said Malaysia, which is leading the investigation, does not have the most sophisticated equipment to aid the search, but the United States can’t force the country to use its more advanced technology.
She insisted that the blurred satellite images of the search area are the best pictures available.
“You have to understand that American intelligence doesn’t gear itself to be ready for plane crashes,” she told host Candy Crowley. “That is not our job. Our job is terrorism.”
Washington state landslide: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee discussed the ongoing efforts to find the 30 people who are still unaccounted for in the March 22 landslide that killed at least 18 people.
“We are hoping for a miracle,” he said on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.”
Mass surveillance: Feinstein applauded some of the reforms to the National Security Agency bulk collection program that President Barack Obama proposed, including limiting the storage of data for 18 months instead of five years and collecting the telephone call of fewer circles of people. She also supported the idea that the courts would approve every “query.”
But Feinstein said she is concerned with his proposal to allow the telecommunications companies store people’s personal information instead of the government.
People at the NSA are “supervised and watched,” she said, but she is unsure of whether telecommunications companies would have the same type of oversight.
But Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, who sits on the Intelligence Committee, indicated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he is more open to the telecommunications companies holding the data because they have “a long history of dealing with court orders.” He added that he’s going to be watching closely.
Wyden, who has been extremely critical of widespread government surveillance said, “I think the President should make the transition right away to ending bulk phone records” collection.
But that’s not enough. He wants to “ban all dragnet surveillance” of e-mails, medical records, purchases and more.
Feinstein said that while the NSA surveillance program deserves oversight, she said it is just one of “thousands” of intelligence programs, so her committee is going to start a large investigation of the others that have not received the same scrutiny.
No defense of Edward Snowden: While Wyden took a hard line on the government’s surveillance of Americans, he refused to back Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who provided journalists with information about the government surveillance program.
Whether he is a criminal or a whistle-blower, “I think that’s something for lawyers” to decide, he said.
‘We need an upgrade’: Wyden was not shy, however, when criticizing those who run U.S. intelligence programs, including James Clapper, the director of national intelligence. Clapper told the senator during a hearing last year that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect “any type of data” on large numbers of Americans, a claim that turned out not to be true.
“I think we need an upgrade in the intelligence leadership,” he said.
Wyden praised the nominee to head the NSA, Adm. Michael Rogers, whom he said understands the big job before him.
Feinstein is also unhappy with an intelligence community leader. She said she’s asked CIA Director John Brennan to apologize over her allegations that the CIA hacked into computers her staff were using for an investigation.
“I have asked for an apology and statement that it would never happen again. I have not received this to this day,” she said.
Russia: Feinstein also weighed in on Russia, Crimea and Ukraine, saying that Crimea is now a part of Russia.
"The Crimea is dominantly Russian; a referendum was passed. That, I think, has been done," Feinstein said on CNN's "State of the Union."
Feinstein's acknowledgment clashes sharply with multiple declarations from Obama and the United Nations that Russia's annexation of Crimea constitutes a violation of international law.
The United States and the European Union have already imposed two rounds of sanctions on Russia, including travel bans and asset freezes for some in Putin's inner circle.
Feinstein, labeling herself a "student ... of Russian history," said, “I get the Crimea thing” because the region is primarily Russian and has always been central to Russia’s interests.
On ABC's "This Week," Russia's ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, agreed with Feinstein, saying his country would not withdraw from the peninsula.
"We are now in the territory of the Russian Federation," he said, referring to Russian troops in Crimea, adding that people have to be “realist about it.”
While Feinstein said that intelligence officials estimate that 40,000 Russian troops are on the Russian border of Ukraine, Kislyak said Russia has “no intent, no interest” in entering into Ukraine – a statement that closed no doors and keeps anticipation high.
Feinstein was optimistic about a resolution to the standoff through with Russia because Russian President Vladimir Putin reached out to Obama, offering ways to move forward that included a natural gas line to China.
President Obama and Secretary Kerry, beware of the Bear. Don't throw over Ukraine and democracy in the name of diplomacy.—
Lindsey Graham (@GrahamBlog) March 30, 2014
Obamacare: As the deadline to sign up for health care draws near, politics are still dictating the terms of the debate.
Obama’s former adviser, David Plouffe, said the “law’s working” on ABC’s “This Week,” noting that 10 million more people, including those on Medicaid, have health care because of Obamacare. It’s unclear, however, how many people were previously uninsured.
As Republicans’ dominant strategy in the upcoming midterm elections is to continue to hammer negative stories about the law, Plouffe admitted that the political climate around the law is “tough.”
That was apparent on “Fox News Sunday” when Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso said the Obama administration is “cooking the books” on the number of enrollees.
“What kind of insurance will those people actually have?” he rhetorically asked.
Bridgegate: Now that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appears to have his confidence back - based on his news conference Friday when he sparred with reporters after a law firm with Christie ties cleared him of any knowledge of the lane closures - the man who’s leading the investigation in the New Jersey General Assembly said not so fast.
“It’s hard to believe, understanding how this governor’s office works, that (former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly) woke up and decided it would be a great idea to find traffic,” Assemblyman John Wisniewski said.
“It is far too early to draw any conclusive decisions about how who knew what in this investigation,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
While former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said the report was the most information released to date on the bridge debacle, he acknowledged that the investigation isn’t over.
“I would not accept it as a complete investigation, but I would accept it for what it's worth,” Giuliani said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
But New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg criticized the report for its tone and characterizations of Kelly.
“That gratuitous sexist language in that report is infuriating, and anybody who put their name on that report should be ashamed of themselves,” Weinberg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
The report called Kelly “emotional” and “erratic” and detailed that she became “personally involved” with chief of staff Bill Stepien, until Stepien broke up with her.
Christie fired Kelly in January when purported e-mails about the traffic jams from Kelly surfaced. Since then, he has repeatedly called her “stupid.”**
Kicker: Another potential Republican for president.
Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who announced his retirement last week to host a syndicated talk show, didn’t rule out a 2016 run, invoking former President Ronald Reagan.
“Ronald Reagan used his platform on radio to run for president of the United States? I had no idea,” Rogers wryly said before adding, “I'm going to take it where it goes.”
CNN's Jason Seher and Greg Clary contributed to this report.