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SMERCONISH

Will Trump Follow Through on Third-Party Threat?; Will Cosby Finally be Deposed?; A New Look at Video of Sandra Bland Arrest; Who Runs FOX News?; Trump on His Relationship to God. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 25, 2015 - 18:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:15]

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Whether Donald Trump follows through on his threat to run as a third-party candidate, might we finally see a third person on the presidential debate stage?

And we'll hear from the lawyer who may finally get to depose comedian Bill Cosby on one of the sexual allegations against him.

Also, a fresh look at Sandra Bland's troubling arrest video through the eyes of judge who used to be a cop and a trial attorney.

I'm Michael Smerconish. Welcome to the program. Those stories in just a moment.

But first, today's New York Times headline: "Hillary Clinton Emails Said to Contain Classified Data." The story says that government investigators "discovered classified information" on the private email account that Clinton used while Secretary of State, and stating unequivocally that "those secrets never should have been stored outside of secure government computer systems."

The Times also cites Clinton's long-held defense that she kept no classified information on the private server that she'd set up in her house and her campaign added that any government secrets found on the server had been classified after the fact.

Joining me now, two people I suspect with strong differing opinions. The first is former federal prosecutor Joseph DiGenova who's worked on everything from the Jonathan Pollard spy case to prosecution of would- be assassin John Hinckley to the Clintons' 1992 passport controversy. He joins me from the DC bureau. And Lanny Davis, a lawyer and crisis manager who served as special counsel to President Bill Clinton and whose most recent book is "Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Handling Scandal in Business, Politics, and Life."

Lanny, it's easy to get lost in the weeds here. But here is what I think the fundamental question - did Secretary Clinton compromise national security by storing classified material outside a secure system?

LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL, CLINTON ADMINISTRATION: No. I wish I could address the headline that you read and we'll get to that but the answer to your question is "No." The server that she stored her emails on protected by both Secret Service because it also resided in the home of a former president was absolutely secure and those who think that the federal government has the more secure system ought to read the newspapers about the breach of security by Chinese and other hackers into the most sensitive federal government national security information. So to suggest that because she had it protected on a home server, that it was less secure than the federal government open apparently data system to the Chinese is not proven as far as I'm concerned.

SMERCONISH: Joseph DiGenova, Kurt Eichenwald for "Newsweek", formerly of the New York Times himself, says, "This is no Clinton scandal. This is a big snoozefest and in fact this is all about FOIA officials not the Secretary of State." Does he have it right?

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: No, he doesn't. First of all, there was a compromise of national security information. When Mrs. Clinton made the decision to store all of her official government property on a private server in her private residence, that proved conclusively that she had violated her nondisclosure agreement which she signed when she became Secretary of State and agreed to receive classified information pursuant to certain government rules. Those emails were compromised because she never gave anybody a chance in the classification system to review them before they were sent. That is what is wrong with her having a personal server. The problem was from the beginning, Mrs. Clinton decided she was not going to use government servers, she was going to use her personal server for one reason - to prevent disclosure to Congress, the courts, the press, and the public. It was designed to prevent disclosure. But in so doing, she insured that classified information would be compromised and in fact, it was.

SMERCONISH: Joe, what - to Lanny's point - that these materials were never marked as classified until after the fact?

DIGENOVA: And you know what? It - that's the reason she should have never had a personal server because if it had been a government server, she would not have been able to click "Send" without that information having been previously reviewed by a government person who is responsible for classification. The Secretary made a decision that she was going to be able to do whatever she wanted and she chose a server that was not secure. By the way, it doesn't matter that the Secret Service is standing outside of a door to protect the physical server. Anyone can get into a server and Lanny's point that the Chinese got into the most sophisticated servers in the federal government almost ensures categorically that they got into her server at her residence.

SMERCONISH: Lanny Davis, respond.

DAVIS: Well, first of all, I don't attack motives. Joe's doing that and it's up to him. I respect Joe. I've often written nice things about...

[18:05:00] DIGENOVA: Whose motive?

DAVIS: Let me finish my point, Joe. I want to mention four facts that are not included in the New York Times story or in your opening presentation. Fact number one, you've already mentioned that the Inspector General said not deliberate, "inadvertent" is the word he used about Hillary Clinton's treatment of the emails if there happened to be classified information. Secondly, this is a post facto judgment. At the time, they were not labeled by the individuals and you'd made that point - it was also omitted from the New York Times in its first story and then cleverly tried to be corrected even though it was in the Inspector General's report. "Not labeled", the first story didn't say that. Number three - most importantly, the state department and many other people disagree with the judgment on classification. These are four emails about a FOIA argument and this disagreement whether they were classified - that too was omitted in the entire Times' story, never mentioned that the state department is on record saying, "No, these were not classified", disagreeing with my friend, Joe DiGenova. And finally, the notion of a criminal referral that went all over the internet yesterday, published by the New York Times, now retreating by the New York Times saying, "Well, a justice department official told us that", without naming the justice department official who got it wrong when they referred to a criminal referral about Hillary Clinton. So how can the New York Times get that expression - criminal referral - wrong?

SMERCONISH: Joe, but, Joe, wait, wait, Joe. I want to ask a follow- up of Lanny before you get back into this.

Lanny, the Times says this was an unforeseen consequence of her unusual computer set-up. Wasn't it an entirely foreseeable consequence of the way in which she decided to handle her email?

DAVIS: Well, I'm not sure if it was foreseeable that non-labeled email would two years after she left office and maybe six years since she became Secretary would be in some sector of the government, two IGs determining it to be classified four emails. How could she foresee when her own state department in a FOIA argument about the freedom of information act also omitted from the Times story. This is a FOIA argument about the state department versus these two IGs' judgment and both of them may have respectful opinions. How do you foresee that? But one other thing, Michael, Hillary Clinton did say in retrospect, she should have done it differently, she should have had two devices rather one. Colin Powell - who I respect greatly - had one device just like she. He's omitted from the discussion. It's always good to have wisdom by hindsight. My friend, Joe DiGenova is great at that.

SMERCONISH: Joe, go ahead.

DIGENOVA: By the way - by the way, Colin Powell did not have a private server in his home from which he conducted all government business. I mean, this is a ludicrous comparison. Number one, Hillary Clinton chose to have a private server thus making it impossible for people with the responsibility to that classified information to review her material before it was sent. She clearly knew that was going to be the case, that's why she did it. She knew that went - and by the way, Lanny said in March of this year that he thought that her server should be turned over to a third party for analysis...

DAVIS: Actually, that's not accurate.

DIGENOVA: --so that all the emails could be looked in...

DAVIS: I did not say that, Joe.

DIGENOVA: --Lanny, let me finish. Please.

DAVIS: You just quoted me.

DIGENOVA: Lanny, I direct you to the March 8, 2015 transcript of Fox Sunday News where you said you thought it would be a good idea for some third party to review the emails.

DAVIS: No, I did not.

DIGENOVA: Well, sorry, Lanny. I just read it.

DAVIS: Go to the (inaudible) I said, "If there was a subpoena", so don't omit the "if there was a subpoena" then the rest of the sentence.

DIGENOVA: Apparently, there were several subpoenas.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, I have another question. I've got a question for Lanny. Lanny...

DAVIS: I said, "If there was a subpoena" and that is what I said so don't (inaudible) and stick to your own talking points (inaudible) misquote me.

DIGENOVA: I don't have any talking points. I just have the facts.

SMERCONISH: Hang on. Lanny Davis, what should - what should the - what should the Attorney General - Lanny - what should Loretta Lynch do with this hot potato now?

DIGENOVA: Run for cover.

DAVIS: Well, the justice department is saying and everyone is saying including the Inspector General that this is a civil dispute between two agencies - the intelligence agencies and the IGs versus the state department over the Freedom of Information Act and that is not a criminal referral. The Times has misled and still won't withdraw its mistake and explain why it relied on an anonymous source (inaudible).

SMERCONISH: Lanny, Lanny, I have to note - it's not - it's not Fox News, it's not National Review, it's the New York Times - not exactly a conservative bastion that's raising this issue.

DAVIS: Look, I consider the New York Times one of the great newspapers in the history of our country. And when the New York Times gets something wrong and it's possible it's an inadvertent error, they omit deliberately in today's story - that's an intentional omission that number one, they got wrong that there was no labeling on these emails. They said it in today's paper, yesterday, they did said it wasn't clear. There's a direct statement by the IG these emails weren't labeled. That goes to Mrs. Clinton's intent. She sees an email, she forwards it to somebody. It goes to a state department person that's part of the state department system. To suggest that that's a deliberate, intentional mishandling of classified information, which the Times did.

[18:10:06] They can get things wrong but they've got to make the correction and (inaudible) they got it wrong and they did that.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, I wish - I wish we had more time.

Joseph DiGenova, Lanny Davis, thank you so much for being here.

DAVIS: Thank you.

DIGENOVA: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: When we come back, who's the most powerful person at Fox News? Is it Roger Ailes or Rupert Murdoch? Will they control who gets the Republican nod for president?

President Obama goes back to Kenya. We'll take his news conference live this hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: This week, Donald Trump struck fear in the Republican Party when he threatened to run as a third-party candidate. Trump's contemplation of such a move comes at a time when there's already talk of expanding the general election debate stage to include a third candidate.

Bearing no connection to Trump, there's a very well-organized, well- funded movement afoot called ChangeTheRule.org which seeks to expand the debate state to a third-candidate with the goal of making a left- leaning Democrat and a right-leaning Republican defend their views against the center. A request has been made of the Commission on Presidential Debates to change its requirement that debate participants attain 15 percent in the national polls just before the debates are held.

You'll remember that in 1992, Ross Perot was the last third-party candidate to join a Republican and Democrat on the debate stage but Perot was accepted by acquiescence of the parties not because he met the 15 percent threshold. How this issue was resolved could determine the outcome of the presidential election.

Now, full disclosure, as a registered independent, I like the idea of giving voice to a growing group of Americans especially where polling suggests the I's - the Independents - now outnumber the Rs and the Ds.

Joining me from Washington, former chair of the RNC and former co- chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, Frank Fahrenkopf.

Mr. Fahrenkopf, thank you so much for being here. If Gallup is correct that 43 percent of Americans now regard themselves as Independent, don't those folks deserve representation in the general election debates?

[18:15:03] FRANK FAHRENKOPF, CO-CHAIR, COMMISSION ON PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Everyone deserves representation. The argument, Michael, is over what are the - what's the criteria for people to qualify to be in the debates? As you and I have discussed previously, you must meet constitutional requirements, be 35-years-of-age and native-born. You must be on enough ballots and enough states to achieve possibly 270 electoral votes. And it's the third criteria - the one that we've been using since 2000, saying that you have to be at 15 percent in an average of the five biggest polls before the debates begin. That's where the argument is. The third - the 15 percent rule that we use was also used by the League of Women Voters when they ran the debates.

Now, the argument has been put forth by this group that you mentioned, ChangeTheRule, was originally that there was going to be a contest to see who could gather the most petition signatures to get on those ballots in enough states to get 270. They apparently have moved away from that. They now have a new plan which we just got from them and (inaudible) to be candid and fair to them, that hasn't really been flushed out yet. They've apparently going to hire the producer of the show, "Survivor" on television and they will run a separate set of debates and another primary and the winner of that will be determined by votes of - by people voting online. Now, that hasn't been all (inaudible) up but it's a new position for that group.

SMERCONISH: Well...

FAHRENKOPF: What we also have, Michael, it's important. The Libertarians and the Greens who believe that whoever gets on enough ballots to conceivably get 270 electoral votes, all of those people should be on the stage. And then we have a proposal that came from the Annenberg study. I know of some of the people that you've interviewed before from ChangeTheRule have talked about the Annenberg study. They left out, however - they weren't candid - the Annenberg study says that whoever gets 10 percent - you have to be at 10 percent to get in the first debate, 15 percent to get in the second debate, and 25 to get in the final debate. So these are all plans that have been proposed. We asked for them. We're looking at them and the Commission will - in due time - at least a year before the election - will come out with what we believe the proper criteria to be.

SMERCONISH: Doesn't the fact that there hasn't been a third candidate on the debate stage since Ross Perot in '92 and so much disgruntlement in the country as reflected by Gallup among many other pollsters and I know you folks at the CPD rely on Gallup. Doesn't that in and of itself suggest that there do need to be changes because there are people whose voices aren't being heard when all of a sudden, the country is paying attention post-Labor Day in the general election?

FAHRENKOPF: But I'm not sure that that (inaudible) which I agree with and I think most people agree with - the American people are upset not only at Washington, the two political parties, politics in general. They've lost a lot of confidence in some religions. They've lost confidence in the corporate world. I mean, there's a very, very bad situation out there with the attitude of the American people toward institutions. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the Commission should change any rules. We're going to look at it and apply our best judgment in dealing with that. But if there is in fact a 43 percent and I tend to agree with that number that you've quoted, Michael, then that would be reflected in the polls (inaudible) people will take a look.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Fahrenkopf, you know that the folks who want to change this say it's a catch-22 because to get to 15 percent, one really needs to be a participant in the debates. Nothing so shapes the candidacies of individuals as when the nation is paying attention to the debates themselves.

FAHRENKOPF: But, Michael, we're starting a year-long campaign. Now, we've already seen what's going on in the Republican and Democrat primaries right now. If an independent or a third-party person wants to get involved and their plan to have this show - television show by the Survivor producer which would - in effect - result in someone being on television, debating, I mean, I don't know whether it's 10 percent, 15 percent. We haven't made that decision. But we're also living in a world of social media and it's a heck of a lot easier today - I would submit - to get your name out there and to get coverage.

So these are factors that we are going to consider. We have not made a decision yet. We're going to make a decision prior to one year before the election but we welcome - we ask for these suggestions. We want them. We do this every four years to make sure. We also are now dealing with where the debates are going to be and when the debates are going to be. We're also dealing with questions of what we do with format and moderators. So there's a lot of things on our plate. We always do it every four years and we're doing it again.

SMERCONISH: Final question for Frank Fahrenkopf and again, thank you for being here. If there were an Independent primary process in which your commission had confidence, is it conceivable that you could leave a podium available for that Independent candidate?

FAHRENKOPF: Well, we have to have a rule - we're governed by the rules of the Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service and in order to invite anyone, they must meet a standard, an objective standard that has to be out there.

[18:20:03] We put that out a year before. Now, that's going to include the constitutional requirements, the 270 electoral vote ballot access and some other objective standards. And so we don't automatically reserve a seat for a Republican. We don't automatically reserve a seat for the Democrat. This is now a request that make an automatic seat for someone else. We're going to consider it but, Michael, no decisions have been made yet.

SMERCONISH: All right. I'm putting you down as "Undecided". Frank Fahrenkopf, thank you, sir.

FAHRENKOPF: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, President Obama in Kenya. We'll go live to his father's homeland.

And the Sandra Bland arrest video - was it legal? I'll ask Judge Alex Ferrer, who's also a former police officer, what he thinks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Now, for a fresh look at a troubling video that many of us have seen - the dash-cam footage of the traffic stop arrest of Sandra Bland, the Texas woman who ended up dying in police custody three days later, according to the coroner, by suicide.

[18:25:09] This footage has been scrutinized this week as closely as the Zapruder film of the Kennedy Assassination.

But I want to look at the footage one more time relying on the trained eye of Alex Ferrer. Alex is the triple threat. He's a former cop, trial lawyer, and criminal court judge and he joins me from Miami, Florida.

Judge, nice to have you back. It all begins with the traffic stop. Let me show you the footage and then I want to ask you a question or two.

You see that she's in the left lane and then without a turn signal, she moves to the right lane and this is what begins the whole process. Was that a proper traffic stop for the police officer to make?

JUDGE ALEX FERRER, FMR. FLORAL GABLES POLICE OFFICER: It depends on the state. In Texas, it is. In other states, they require that it interfered with traffic in some way. But in Texas, if you fail to signal a lane change and it's proper for a police officer to pull you over and either write you a citation or give you a warning.

SMERCONISH: If there had been no further incident, would the stop itself have been grounds for her arrest?

FERRER: No. No. There wouldn't have been any grounds for her arrest at that point.

SMERCONISH: OK. Step number two is when there's a request made by the officer for Sandra Bland to put out her cigarette. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLICE OFFICER: You mind putting out your cigarette, please, if you don't mind?

SANDRA BLAND: I'm in my car. Why do I have to put out my cigarette?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Judge, what of the propriety of him saying to her, "Put out the cigarette"?

FERRER: If she had been outside the vehicle, it would certainly be appropriate because the cigarette has been used often and can be used as a weapon to burn the police officer in some way, shape, or form. So they have a lot of discretion to tell you to put your cellphone down, put your - put a cigarette out or anything like that. Inside the vehicle, it's a lot harder to say that it was in any way a problem to him. So I think it was just a polite request that she refused.

SMERCONISH: When you were a cop, did you ever ask someone to put out a cigarette in similar circumstances?

FERRER: I don't remember ever asking anyone to put out a cigarette when they were sitting in their car.

SMERCONISH: OK. Step number three - he orders her out of the car. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLICE OFFICER: I'm going to yank you out of here.

BLAND: OK. You want to yank me out of my car?

POLICE OFFICER: Get out.

BLAND: OK. All right.

POLICE OFFICER: Get out of the car. Get out of the car now!

BLAND: Why am I being apprehended? You're trying to give me a ticket for your failure?

POLICE OFFICER: I said get out of the car.

BLAND: Why am I being apprehended? You (inaudible) open my car door. You just open my car door...

POLICE OFFICER: I'm doing (inaudible). I'm going to drag you out of here.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Two-fold question. Does he have grounds to order her out of the car? Can he physically remove her from the car based on what has already transpired?

FERRER: The answer to both of those is "Yes." The Supreme Court has decided the police officers have the authority to ask anybody to - that they pulled over - passenger included - to step out of the vehicle for officer' safety. Now, the motivation for why he did it - only the officer knows that. It could be that he was just offended that she wouldn't put out the cigarette when he asked her to and maybe it was an ego thing or something. Maybe he decided he was not going to give her the warning that apparently he was going to give her and he was going to go back and write her a ticket and because now, they've had a bit of an argument, he didn't want her sitting in the vehicle when he's writing the ticket. For officer's safety, sometimes, officers do that. So he was justified if he wanted her out of the car to ask her to get out of the car. Now, once she refuses to get out of the car, he's going through the continuum of force that officers have to follow and part of that is give a verbal command and raise your voice in order to encourage the person to comply. I've done that on occasions, not some situations like this but I've done it when I've had somebody at gunpoint to make sure that I don't end up having to shoot them.

SMERCONISH: I'm glad that you referenced safety because I'm wondering if this had been a man, would he have awaited backup to arrive before doing anything?

FERRER: Perhaps. And that's certainly one of the options. I'm not saying that what the officer did is what I would have done. I probably would've handled this situation differently. I'm saying that under the broad authority that police officers have, this falls within that broad authority.

SMERCONISH: Judge Alex Ferrer, thank you for being here.

FERRER: Always a pleasure, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, Rupert Murdoch has a whole news network to broadcast his views. So when he wanted to criticize Donald Trump, why did he resort to Twitter?

[18:29:18]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Why did Rupert Murdoch, who has a whole media empire at his beck and call, resort to tweeting his unhappiness about Donald Trump last week? Here's what he said. "When is Donald Trump going to stop embarrassing his friends let alone the whole country?"

Why did this happen? According to the piece in "New York Magazine", quote, "Murdoch has tried and failed to rein in FOX chair and CEO Roger Ailes, who, insiders say, is pushing FOX to defend Trump's most outlandish comments."

Wait, doesn't Ailes work for Murdoch not the other way around?

Joining me now is the author of "The Man Who Owns the News: Inside the Secret World of Rupert Murdoch", as well as the new book, "Television is the New Television".

Michael Wolff, welcome.

You said previously that Roger Ailes' vision is to give the audience what they want. Here that would appear at odds with what his boss wants. How will this resolve?

MICHAEL WOLFF, INSIDE THE SECRET WORLD OF RUPERT MURDOCH: It will resolve the way Roger wants it to resolve.

SMERCONISH: Roger, not Rupert?

WOLFF: Rupert has not -- since the beginning of FOX television, Rupert has not interfered, will not interfere, doesn't want to interfere. And matter of fact, I can go further.

Rupert is a very happy man when it comes to FOX News and let's even push on, believes Roger Ailes has magical powers when it comes to knowing what should be on FOX News, and I think, actually, probably, Roger Ailes does have magical powers. He knows what works. He knows how to make FOX a center of attention, not only in the political conversation but the center of its audience.

[18:35:00] SMERCONISH: Fair to say, you really are the person that's the biographer of Rupert Murdoch? You know the man, you've had the access?

WOLFF: I am the biographer of Rupert Murdoch. Not only have I had access, but much of that access took place when Rupert lived in a Trump building?

SMERCONISH: At Trump Tower?

WOLFF: It was 59th and Park Trump building, where many of the members of the Trump family lived, who Rupert was very friendly with.

SMERCONISH: What is the history between the two of them? These two media moguls?

WOLFF: I don't think they have much of a history at all. I think, temperamentally, they are probably at odds. Trump is obviously more enormously flamboyant, and enormously inconsistent and Rupert is very, very buttoned down.

But, I have been -- I have seen him with Ivanka Trump. He's -- he's actually quite close to the Trump family. And I suspect he -- you know, he's probably been, as I say, Donald Trump would not be his favorite person, but to say that there's great enmity there is not true.

SMERCONISH: You saw the embarrassment tweet, as I call it. When Rupert Murdoch sends out a tweet of that kind, who is the intended audience?

WOLFF: I'm not sure he has an intended audience. Rupert is a promiscuous tweeter. So, it depends on his mood. It depends how many glasses of wine he's had.

SMERCONISH: There's a lot of that going around.

WOLFF: Yes. So, I don't -- clearly, Trump, from a political standpoint, Rupert is very orthodox. And I think Trump probably offends his straight and narrow sensibilities, and certainly "The Wall Street Journal" has not been kind to Trump, nor has "The New York Post".

SMERCONISH: Well, that's why I'm fascinated about your comments pertaining to FOX News. The headline from "The Post" that stands out was "Don Voyage", I think is what it said.

Is it that "The Post" and "The Journal", they try to give Rupert what he wants, but at FOX, they feel no such obligation?

WOLFF: I think, at "The Post," they certainly give Rupert what he wants. At "The Wall Street Journal," sometimes they give him what he wants. At FOX News, it is just Roger's business.

SMERCONISH: Is there someone on the air at FOX who you think is transparent of what Roger Ailes -- who is it that most reflects Ailes' particular perspective?

[09:40:00] WOLFF: I think everyone. I think if you work at FOX New, you reflect the FOX News vision. It is a very, very consistent piece of programming, which is one reason why it makes people so mad, but another reason why it works so well.

SMERCONISH: Of course, FOX is the sponsor of the very first presidential debate, which will take place on the 6th of August in Cleveland. Some regard this as the FOX primary season because of the strangle hold that have of the GOP base. If Trump is getting this kind of attention from Ailes, is it fair to say that he is the choice of FOX, or is it too early to tell?

WOLFF: No. The choice of the FOX is to win in every time slot. That's what it wants to do.

SMERCONISH: Give the public what they want and move on to the next --

WOLFF: And it's to tell a story in the most compelling way, and I think you can probably -- you might be able to make the argument that this is a very difficult political field for FOX. And nobody has a national reputation, other than Jeb Bush. It's too fractured. Many of these people are fighting very, very parochial campaigns, I mean, still fighting the same-sex marriage battle in a world that has largely resolved that issue.

So, suddenly, you have Donald Trump who is a national name, who can transcend all of these, dare I say, smaller fish.

SMERCONISH: "Television is the New Television", an intriguing title. Look forward to chatting with you about that on a separate occasion.

WOLFF: Thanks.

SMERCONISH: Best of luck.

Coming up: will Donald Trump's renegade candidacy survive scrutiny from evangelical voters?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:43:53] SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Donald Trump said something wild in Iowa last week, that should have made national news, but it was overshadowed by the other thing he said about John McCain's military record.

Here's the statement that many people missed and it reflects Trump's views on the topic that is traditionally a huge factor in primary elections.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you ever asked God for forgiveness.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not sure I have, I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so. I think did I do something wrong, I think I just try to make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't.

Now, when I take -- when we go and church and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker, I guess that's a form of asking for forgiveness. And I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Trump said this in Iowa, where people take religious outlook a little less flippantly.

Does Trump need the support of the Christian right? And will they support him despite lots of things?

My next guest co-sponsored the Iowa event and still thinks many evangelicals are so tired of politics as usual, that they might find Trump a refreshing alternative.

[18:45:05] Tony Perkins is the president of the Christian conservative group, the Family Research Council, and he joins me from Baton Rouge.

Tony, Erick Erickson said with regard to your event last week that he thought Donald Trump had potentially made fatal errors with regard to his campaign. How did you determine the comments he made about religion, not about John McCain?

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, it was interesting. I was standing offside the stage, because I spoke after Donald Trump. And I think you're right, the comments about forgiveness were overshadowed by his comments about John McCain, I predicted those comments when John McCain would be headlines before we left the auditorium. And in fact, they were.

I think what's happening is what you just described. The conservatives in this country are so fed up with politics as usual, among Republicans. I'm not talking about Democrats. I'm talking about Republicans. That they're looking for someone who will talk straight to them, even if they don't agree to them. Given all of his bluster, he's still a breath of fresh air to many conservatives across the country.

SMERCONISH: But when he talks about eating the little cracker, isn't he mocking religion?

PERKINS: Well, I mean, it shows a lack of sensitivity and understanding. And we're still early in this process, and I do think that as people begin to look a little deeper into who Donald Trump is, and what he truly stands for, that he's going to have a hard time in the end convincing social conservatives to back him.

Now, there's an opening, this shows there is an opening for someone who is -- that shares a faith connection with many social conservatives, but also has the conservative will or just plain will to challenge the status quo.

SMERCONISH: In 1999, he appeared with Tim Russert, I want you to watch the exchange and I'll ask you a question about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well, look, I'm very pro-choice. I hate the idea of abortion. I hate it. I hate everything it stands for. I cringe when I listen to people debating the subject.

But, you still, I just believe in choice. And again, it may be a little bit of a New York background because there is some different attitude in different parts of the country. I was raised in New York, grew up and worked and everything else in New York City. But I am strongly pro-choice, and yet I hate the concept of abortion.

TIM RUSSERT, NBC: But you would not ban it?

TRUMP: No.

RUSSERT: Or ban partial birth abortions?

TRUMP: No. I would -- I am -- I am pro-choice in every respect, and as far as it goes. But I just hate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Tony, he was pretty clear he was pro-choice. Now, he says he's pro-life. Do you believe him?

PERKINS: Well, he would not be the first to change his position. George Bush, the first President George Bush said he changed his position on it, Mitt Romney, as you know, when he ran in the last cycle, he had changed his position on it. I think, you know, social conservative voters are willing to allow people to change, because most of them change, so they understand the dynamics of change. And so, that's not the biggest problem.

I think connecting with social conservative religious voters through this process establishing the fact that he does have a deep -- have a faith, because polls show 7 out of 10 Americans would prefer on average for their presidential -- their candidates and their president who have a faith relationship with God, because I think it gives them a sense that they understand they're accountable to someone even higher than the voter.

SMERCONISH: Russell Moore and Samuel Rodriguez, two evangelical leaders, just published an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal". I want to put it up on the screen. It was headline, immigrant bashers will lose the evangelical vote. And in it, they wrote, "The two of us don't know a single evangelical voter of any ethnicity who is supporting Donald Trump."

Does Tony Perkins know of a single evangelical who is supporting Donald Trump?

PERKINS: You know, I've actually asked that question, even on my own radio program. I've not found people who are saying I'm going to vote for Donald Trump. But what they're saying, I like the fact that he's mixing it up, and he's challenging the status quo. So, again, I think that the same thing that is drawing attention to Donald Trump at this time, is probably going to be his undoing as well.

When people begin to look at those policies, because I would agree that evangelicals are not taking a hard anti-immigration approach, they want a reasonable immigration approach that protects America, and what America is, secures our borders, but is also welcoming to those who want to become a part of the American family. So, I do think that his -- he's got a sharp edge on his comments. But again, it goes to the fact that right now people are just hungry for somebody who will challenge the status quo.

SMERCONISH: Final question for you, isn't he taking all the oxygen out of the room for a guy like Rick Santorum? People may agree or disagree with him. Everyone would acknowledge he walks the walk and he talks the talk. Santorum won 11 states four years ago. He won the Iowa caucus.

[18:50:00] The guy probably won't appear on the debate stage in Cleveland.

PERKINS: There's no question that Donald Trump has really kind of shaken things up. It was the unexpected -- I don't think anyone would have predicted that this -- anybody did predict that this would lap.

So, yes, I think it has bushed some of the more legitimate candidates to the side of the stage. But I think it's going to have -- overall, I'm actually -- I'm hopeful, I think it's going to have a positive impact in the end on the GOP lineup of presidential candidates.

SMERCONISH: Tony Perkins, thank you so much for being here.

PERKINS: Good to be with you. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, the person who will get to depose Bill Cosby on one of the sexual allegations against him this one, at the Playboy Mansion with a woman who is 15 at the time. I'll speak to famed lawyer Gloria Allred.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Welcome back.

Comedian Bill Cosby may finally be deposed about some of the sexual assault charges leveled at him this past several months. The California Supreme Court has denied Cosby's petition, seeking review of a lawsuit, accusing him of acts of sexual misconduct with a woman at the infamous Playboy Mansion when she was just 15 years old.

[18:55:11] Joining me now from Los Angeles is the woman's attorney, who's going to get directly question -- Cosby Gloria Allred.

Welcome. Thanks for being here.

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY: Thanks for inviting me, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Will you settle this case, pre-deposition, for any sum of money?

ALLRED: Well, all I can tell you is I don't think this is in settlement mode and if it were, I would not be able to disclose that since I never discuss settle discussions with any other attorney. But all I can tell you is we are headed for a deposition and I think that that is what is going to happen next that is of significance in this case.

We have noticed it and we have given a specific date and time and place to his attorneys, and we have not yet received a response to our notification of that date, which will be in august.

SMERCONISH: What is it that he did to your client?

ALLRED: All I can say is that we are alleging that he committed acts of sexual misconduct against her when she was 15 years old at the Playboy Mansion.

And this is very serious because it's a allegation of child sexual abuse, and that is why we are able to proceed with our lawsuit because in California, we have an extended period of time, an extended statute of limitations during which persons who allege that they are adult survivors of child sexual abuse can proceed to file a lawsuit even decades later.

SMERCONISH: Did she ever try to sell her story to the tabloids?

ALLRED: Well, all I am able to comment on that is there are a lot of false statements about her, a lot of rumors in the press but everything is going to come out through litigation, and any attacks on her are going to be dealt with in litigation, and we have confidence in her that we can proceed.

Mr. Cosby is doing everything he can and has been doing everything he can to block her case from going forward, including going all the way from the trial court to the California court of appeals to the California Supreme Court -- but he was unsuccessful in his effort to have the California Supreme Court review this matter, and the petition was denied, and that's why we are able to proceed. And we are going to go full speed ahead because this case was filed roughly about seven months ago, and it's long overdue for her to have her day in court and for Cosby to be held accountable.

SMERCONISH: When you get him under oath and after you dispense with the preliminary questions, what's the first matter of substance that you will ask Bill Cosby?

ALLRED: Well, I don't think it's appropriate for me to reveal the specific questions that I am going to be asking, and I think that Mr. Cosby may find that he is surprised by some of them and I am sure he will anticipate many of them, and we will conduct it in a professional manner in the deposition, and we are not going to disclose a head of time to Mr. Cosby or to his attorneys which questions we intend to ask.

SMERCONISH: Gloria, what's your --

ALLRED: My guess is, there is going to be a battle royal in asking the questions because there was a battle royal in the 2005 lawsuit when Andrea Constand's lawyer started to ask provocative type of questions but questions she felt were relevant to her case, and she had to battle with his attorneys to get answers. So, I anticipate that kind of battle again. SMERCONISH: Have you been in contact with Andrea Constand's lawyer?

ALLRED: Well, I never say to whom I speak to any lawyers.

SMERCONISH: I'm striking out with you today. I am asking you, are you going to settle the case? What's the first question? You have been in touch with the lawyer? You are not giving me anything.

ALLRED: I will say in general, my policy in reference to settlement, I am going to do what my client wishes, because I'm there to serve my client, to assist her, to support her, to guide her, to tell her the benefits and risks of settlements or going to trial, and then it's for them to make that decision.

But as I say, right now, we are in a litigation mode, and we are not in settlement track, and that's why we are proceeding to notice this deposition that we would like to take as soon as possible. And, of course, my client is ready, willing and able to provide her deposition. So, likewise, we are looking forward to Mr. Cosby's as well.

SMERCONISH: Thank you very much for being here.

ALLRED: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Thank you so much for joining me.

Don't forget. You can follow me on Twitter if can you spell SMERCONISH. See you next week.