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Saudis Threaten to Sell U.S. Assets if Blamed for 9/11; Cruz Campaign Scrambles for Delegates; Will GOP Change Delegate Rules?; Anger and the Economy: Who's to Blame?; The Battle for New York. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired April 16, 2016 - 09:00   ET


MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish. A really big story has just broken. The Saudis are threatening to dump billions in U.S. investments if we allow American courts to hold them responsible for 9/11. Is the Saudi action driven by their concern that the 28 crucial pages from the 9/11 Congressional Commission report may finally be released. The co-chair of that committee Bob Graham is here.

Plus Donald Trump is angry saying that the delegate system is rigged to ignore actual voters. Does he have a point? Plus, behind the scenes in the GOP delegate fight, I'm going to talk to Sean Spicer, Ted Cruz' delegate wrangler and two members of the RNC rules committee.

But first, stunning news today on the front page of the "New York Times," Pulitzer Prize winner Mark Mazzetti reports that Saudi Arabia has told the U.S. government that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars worth of American asset held by the kingdom if our Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible for the attacks on September 11.

The article states that the Obama administration has been lobbying members of Congress on the side of the Saudis and this news comes just four days before President Obama travels to Saudi Arabia. It raises a concern that I have often spoken about. An inexcusable lack of transparency.

Here is what you need to know. The 2004 report of the 9/11 Commission concluded that there was "no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization of the 9/11 plot." But two 9/11 commission members, former senator Bob Carry and former Navy secretary John Layman have both told me on my radio program that the commission did not exonerate Saudi Arabia and before the work of the 9/11 Commission, there was a 2002 joint congressional inquiry into the attacks which were perpetrated by 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudis as was the mastermind Osama Bin Laden. 28 pages from that report have never been publicly released and some who have read them say they cite evidence that Saudi officials living in the United States played a key role in the plot.

The allegation is that a Saudi government agent named Omar Al Bayumi provided assistance to 9/11 hijackers (INAUDIBLE) and Khalid Al Mikhar (ph). President Obama has long promised to unseal these documents but he hasn't and that's a disgrace. Never forget that's the refrain we often repeat with regard to the events of September 11 but until there is full disclosure and total transparency about what occurred, the words are an empty promise that are made to the victims and their families.

I'm joined now by a key player in this dispute, Bob Graham, the former governor of Florida. He was chair of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee he co-chaired the congressional inquiry. Would you please react, senator, to the news that the Saudis have made this threat?

BOB GRAHAM (D), FORMER US SENATOR AND GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: Michael, I'm outraged but not surprised. The Saudis have known what they did in 9/11, and they knew that we knew what they did, at least at the highest levels of the U.S. government. And they have been acting because we have taken no response to their complicity in the murder of 3,000 Americans with a sense of impunity they could do anything they wanted to with no sanction and now, that impunity has expanded to their trying to lobby the highest levels of the White House and the Congress to preclude their being in a court of law determination as to whether Saudi Arabia was a co-conspirator. It is outrageous.

SMERCONISH: Complicity is an awfully strong word for you to use. Why in the world would the Obama administration be lobbying Congress on the side of the Saudis in this dispute?

GRAHAM: I can't answer that question and I think that's a question that should be asked. I hope that this disclosure, as well as the statement that was made earlier in the week that they were - are in the final stages of reviewing the 28 pages to make a determination as to whether that should be disclosed will motivate administration to change its policies and say our primary responsibility is to protect the citizens of the United States of America and in this case, the citizens who suffered the grievance loss of 9/11 for which they have received no justice.

SMERCONISH: Senator, you know that the Saudis have said "we, too, want the 28 pages released." I've always thought that was a smoke scene. Doesn't this story today where they are threatening to sell their assets in the United States, doesn't that show that they are doing so because they don't want the 28 pages released?


GRAHAM: Well, I think what the Saudis had was an understanding with the United States that whatever the Saudis indicated they wanted was a sham, that what they really wanted was to keep this matter away from the American people and that they would use the commitment of the United States government to do so as their cover to say we want to have the full information disclosed and let me say one other thing, Michael -

SMERCONISH: Please, go ahead.

GRAHAM: We talk about the 28 pages. They are important but there are thousands of other documents, which relate to the role of the Saudis in 9/11, which have also been withheld. I think the president ought to make a commitment to release all the information to be totally transparent with the American people as to what the Saudis did so as we go through a rocky period, at least all sides will be dealing with the level of truth as to what actually happened.

SMERCONISH: I expect that if I, as an American citizen should be afforded the opportunity to read the 28 pages, that I won't see a smoking gun but it's a principle of transparency that's driven my advocacy for this. You've read the 28 pages, why have you been such an advocate on this issue for disclosure.

GRAHAM: Well, I agree with your first point, transparency but also, I believe that there is material in the 28 pages and the volume of other documents that would indicate there was a connection at the highest levels between the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and 19 hijackers. I believe that the plot would not have occurred but for the support and protection that they - that the hijackers were receiving -


GRAHAM: -- primarily from Saudi Arabia.

SMERCONISH: That is quite a statement.

Final question for Senator Graham, isn't this all about the Saudis wanting to have it both ways, that they've cut a deal with the Wahabis (ph) sect to try to keep terror outside their border?

GRAHAM: Yes and part of that deal with the Wahabis (ph) was to spread that extreme form of Islam through mosques and through schools called Madrasis (ph) and the result of this is that they have been supplying to terrorists' organizations now for three decades a constant flow of particularly young male Saudis and others from places like Pakistan who have been trained in jihad, who have been - have seen concepts like tolerance and compromise besmerched and therefore the terrorist organizations have had the dual benefit of Saudi money and Saudi trained recruits.

SMERCONISH: Senator Graham, thank you for being here. Thank you for your courage on this issue. I really appreciate it.

GRAHAM: Thank you very much, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Terry Strada's husband worked in the World Trade Center and died on September 11. She is now the co-chair of 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terror. They have been pushing to punish the Saudis. This did not come as a surprise to you because you were questioned for this story, is that fair to say?


SMERCONISH: React to it.

STRADA: I'm shocked at what's going on here. I mean, do the Saudis really have that much influence on our government. Are they really calling the shots in Washington D.C.? Are we really not able to pass legislation in our Congress because of the Saudis. It's unbelievable.

SMERCONISH: I said at the outset, in my monologues, that President Obama has on a few occasions said that he would release these documents. Back me up on that.

STRADA: Yes, that's absolutely true. Shortly after he took office he made a promise to the 9/11 victims family member and then again when Osama Bin Laden was taken out, he made another promise to a second family member that yes, he would release the 28 pages.

SMERCONISH: It makes you wonder, Terry, not only if they are going to play hardball with us on this issue, how loyal a supporter are they in our fight against ISIS?

STRADA: That's a good question. You know, that's a second threat that they are making beyond taking these billions of dollars out of our economy. They are also threatening now to not assist us in the fight with ISIS. That's ludicrous. I mean they need us pretty much more than we need them.

SMERCONISH: It's the morning of September 11. Tom is on the 104th floor of the North Tower. He's working for Canner Fitzgerald. He actually called you.

STRADA: Yes, he did.

SMERCONISH: And said -

STRADA: The building is on fire. We've been hit by an airplane and we're going to go to the stairwells and we're going to try to get out and there is a lot of smoke and he said a few other things that are very personal and it was horrifying.


SMERCONISH: And ever thereafter, so many of us even those, like myself who weren't personally impacted with the loss of a life, you know the refrain, never forget. But I said, it's an empty promise if there are documents out there that we still haven't seen and aspects of this story that we haven't been told, what's the pitch you want to make to the White House?

STRADA: Absolutely. First of all, stand by your promise and release the 28 pages. The 9/11 families have a right to know this and so do the American people. We can't get a full understanding of what is going on in our country right now with terrorism unless we know exactly what happened prior to 9/11 and how it came about and how the network existed, how the money was being transferred. So really, please, stand by your promise and let's get the truth out there like Senator Graham said and then we can deal with it on a truthful level.

Right now, we're dealing with a lot of secrets and a lot of things being hidden and they are actually trying to block our legislation, which all our legislation does is give the courts jurisdiction to hear our case. That's all it does and look what they are doing, they are freaking out. SMERCONISH: Final question. I'm about to pivot to the 2016 election

which you know is the dominant story all around us.

STRADA: Right.

SMERCONISH: Do you have a champion among this field on this issue? Have any of the five remaining picked up your cause and said "Terry Strada, I'm releasing those 28 pages if Obama doesn't."

STRADA: I've heard that Trump has said that. Yes, I've seen him say that publicly that he will release the 29 pages. Senator Cruz is a sponsor of our bill, the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, so I'm sure he is supporting our legislation - I have not -

SMERCONISH: Let's get them all on the record. All five of them on the record so we can bring this to some conclusion once and for all.

STRADA: Yes, I'd like to hear what Hillary Clinton has to say about it -

SMERCONISH: I want it from all five of them.

STRADA: She signed a letter in 2003 asking George Bush to declassify the 28 pages.

SMERCONISH: Has she been supportive thereafter?

STRADA: We've heard nothing from her.

SMERCONISH: Hold their are feet to the fire. Thank you, Terry Strada.

STRADA: I will. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Tweet me @smerconish on this issue and everything else that's about to unfold and I'll read some of the best later in the program. Coming up, as I mentioned to Terry, Donald Trump says the GOP nomination process is rigged against him. Does he have a point? True GOP insiders are here with me next.



SMERCONISH: Is the election process rigged against the will of the voters? That's the accusation that's being made about the complicated state by state rules of delegate selection, on the democratic side by the guy in second place, Bernie Sanders and on the GOP side by the front runner Donald Trump.

In fact, Trump wrote an op ed in the "Wall Street Journal" on Friday complaining about result manipulation in Colorado. He said this "Responsible leaders should be shocked by the idea that party officials can simply cancel elections in America if they don't like what the voters may decide."

Seemingly in response, the Republican National Committee then released a memo that sounded pretty defensive, listing the tortured rules that are remaining in each state and saying "Each process is easy to understand for those willing to learn it. It ultimately falls on the campaigns to be up to speed on these delegate rules."

To address questions that I have, joining me now, the author of that memo RNC chief strategist and communications director Sean Spicer.

Hey, Sean, it seems like you have a mutiny on your hands by the Republican front runner.

SEAN SPICER, RNC CHIEF STRATEGIST: It's a process we've used for more than a decade and we've provided all the campaigns and the public the rules that each of these states and territories would follow last October and there is a little bit of catchup sometimes the campaigns have to do if they're new to the process.

SMERCONISH: But he said it's rigged. I mean, the front runner wrote an op-ed for the Friday "Wall Street Journal," typically a Republican oracle and he said your "process is rigged." That's not a good thing.

SPICER: There's no question it's complicated system but it is completely fair and it is completely transparent. It's a process that we've use d for decades, going on the century, it's a process that elected Abraham Lincoln. It's a process that worked for Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan.

But the thing that's really interesting, Michael, is that look, Donald Trump has gotten 37 percent of the vote. He's got 45 percent of the delegates. He's actually doing pretty well. He went into a state like Florida that has 99 delegates. He won them all because he was the highest vote getter and the state was winner take all. So if you talk about fairness, a lot of these candidates don't complain about the states until they lose him?

SMERCONISH: What he sees is the party supplanting the will and the role of electorate. In that regard, doesn't he make a legitimate point?

SPICER: No, he doesn't. Frankly, the Republican Party is more democratic than the democratic party. The democrats have superdelegates, a fifth of their delegates are unelected party bosses. All of our delegates, are frankly, elected by Republican voters.

SMERCONISH: Shouldn't a candidate who arrives in Cleveland with the most wins, the most votes, the most delegates leave as your nominee?

SPICER: Well, I think traditionally that's been the case but again, that's like shouldn't the person who gets five out of the six numbers win powerball? No. The answer is that the rules say you need a majority, you need 1,237 delegates to win our nomination. A majority wins, not a plurality. This isn't horse shoes, Michael. This is a nominating the president of the United States.


SPICER: Yes. SMERCONISH: It's just us talking here, right? If you come out of Cleveland and you don't have this guy's constituency, you lose in the fall.

SPICER: Well, first of all, we don't do anything. This is the will of delegates. There is 2400 plus delegates that are elected at the grass roots level. It's them. All this talk about party bosses in the establishment. People have to understand that the people who are getting elected from coast-to-coast are people that were elected at the congressional level, at the statewide level to go and represent the people of their state and their congressional district, their county.

Our job is purely as a facilitator to make sure that we have processes open and transparent. It's up to the delegates and frankly, it's up to a majority of the delegates at every single vote to decide what we want as a platform, what rules we want as a committee and yes, what nominee we want as a party. Those delegates and their will is what carries the day in every circumstance.


SMERCONISH: OK. But to my point, you need the Trump constituency to win the White House.

SPICER: Sure. We need the Cruz constituency, we need the Rubio - we need the Kasich. We need the Paul. We need all of it. There is not a constituency. We lost the last two elections, in politics you win by addition, not subtraction. We need all of that plus to win.

There is no question we need to be unified. I get it. This isn't a game of horseshoes. If the delegates select an individual with the majority of their vote, that's who that nominee will be, plain and simple, no ifs, ands, and buts. It's up to them. It's not up to us, it's up to no one in Washignton. It's up to the elected delegates from around this country that come together and make their voice heard.

SMERCONISH: Sean Spicer, thank you, as always.

SPICER: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: So, I just heard Sean Spicer tell me the nomination is up to the delegates. That's why as we barrel towards this summer's convention, delegate math has become the overriding issue for all the campaigns and behind the scenes maneuvering could make all the difference.

Joining me now, the man working the case for Ted Cruz. He is Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, now Cruz' delegate operations director.

You would concede, I hope, that Ted Cruz can't get there on ballot number one. He can't get to 1237 on the first ballot.

KEN CUCCINELLI, TED CRUZ CAMPAIGN DELEGATE OPERATIONS DIRECTOR: No, you're thinking of bound delegates. There is an awful lot of unbound delegates that are going to be in that convention. Look at Pennsylvania, West Virginia for instance and from other states, as well. There are going to be a batch of unbound delegates and we're going to go after those immediately. We're not going to wait until later ballots.

SMERCONISH: Right. That's my point. I do understand the rules because I'm a Pennsylvanian. So let me ask the question differently. Do you believe that Ted Cruz on ballot number one can receive the requisite 1237 delegate votes?

CUCCINELLI: Yes, that is possible.

SMERCONISH: Do you believe that delegates have an obligation even in a state like Pennsylvania where technically it's a beauty contest and they are unbound, do you believe that a delegate should nevertheless have an obligation to vote the will of their congressional district?

CUCCINELLI: Well, I think they should vote they campaign. I mean there are people running and saying "I'm a Cruz delegate. If you vote for me, I'm voting for Cruz." There are lot of other people running in Pennsylvania who are saying "if you vote for me, I'm going to vote the way my district votes." So of that's what you want, there are people out there saying that.

The most important thing to me just as an American citizen is that they tell the truth, that they do what they say they are going to do. I mean, that's what I want to see.

SMERCONISH: But Mr. Cuccinelli, you know that in a state like mine when you go in on the Republican side, there is no designation.


SMERCONISH: Maybe the guy outside who is leafleting says "hey, I'm for Ted Cruz" but when you go in and you close that curtain, there is no indication of how those delegates will cast the ballot.


SMERCONISH: I think you're saying that you have to necessarily follow who wins the congressional district in your eyes. You want to pick up that support nonetheless.

CUCCINELLI: Well, don't put words in my mouth. I'm saying what I'm saying and you all, I will be candid with you. I think Pennsylvania's system is a lousy -

SMERCONISH: Me, too. We agree.

CUCCINELLI: I really do because it's awfully hard for a voter to implement, you know, to make a decision and know it's what they want. They have to do an awful lot of research and they have to do an awful lot of preparation and frankly, we expect them to do that because that's the system you all have and it's the one we all have to work with. So we're going to, you know, support those delegates running who say they are supportive of Ted Cruz just like Donald Trump will do the same for those who say they are supportive of Donald Trump. I think that's perfectly legitimate. It's perfectly fair. Is it a bit chaotic in Pennsylvania? Yes, it is. But we're working with that system as best we can.

SMERCONISH: OK. Broader based, not just Pennsylvania and of course, New York is this coming Tuesday. You would agree that the nomination if you win it is worthless unless it's perceived as having been a legitimate process.

Do you have a concern that Donald Trump's comments in the past couple of days are undermining your ability to be perceived as winning it legitimately if you can get there?

CUCCINELLI: Well, there is no question that Donald Trump since he has no grass roots campaign has turned his media campaign, which he does have a good version of to essentially an intimidation effort and part of what he's doing is trying to delegitimize the process and do that with comments that he has said riots in the street. His team has said we're going to the delegates' hotel rooms, very intimidating. Death threats to the Colorado Republican chairman because Donald Trump got swept because they did not participate effectively even though it was open to them to participate.


Those are the tactics the Trump team is turning to. Intimidation, it's really third world banana republic, to use their paraphrase "it's Gestapo tactics" and they are relying on the appearance of delegitimatization to scare people into voting for him and we're not going to fall for that. And frankly, when we talk to delegates, what we find is they are offended by that. They are offended by that. And it is affecting delegates but not in the way Donald Trump wants to.

SMERCONISH: Today, of course, Wyoming, casting ballots. Donald Trump, I don't think even in the state of Wyoming. Looks like you're going to have a big day.

CUCCINELLI: You know, this has been a pattern. Last weekend, Ted Cruz went to Colorado. Donald Trump pulled out. The weekend before, Ted Cruz went to North Dakota, Donald Trump was nowhere to be seen. This weekend Ted Cruz is in Wyoming and where is Donald Trump? And yet after we win, you can bet just like Colorado, he'll complain about it. So if you're not even going to show up to contest it, quit the whining. I mean, we win, we whines. That seems to be a pattern.

SMERCONISH: No whining Tuesday though if Donald Trump scores a big victory in New York, right? Fair is fair.

CUCCINELLI: Hey, nowhere have you seen the Cruz campaign win, lose or draw whine about the outcome. We're playing by the rules and we're doing it well because voters get to express themselves that way and that's how we're winning, we are convincing American voters to support Ted Cruz.

SMERCONISH: Ken Cuccinelli, thank you for your time.

CUCCINELLI: Good to be with you.

SMERCONISH: No whining. So that's one campaign's point of view and now for the rule makers, you may not have heard of the two men that you're about to meet but they're on the team that could decide the GOP nominee and so possibly even the next president. They are members of the all important RNC rules committee which meets this week in Florida and has the ultimate say about those super complicated delegate rules.

RNC chair Reince Priebus has now gone on the record saying, he doesn't want any rule changes that is designed to subvert Donald Trump. As for my guests, Randy Evans from Georgia says "he wants the rules to stay they are but Solomon Yue from Oregon is pushing to rewrite the rules to give more power to individual delegates.

Glad to you both. Mr. Evans, did you ever think when you accepted the assignment that the rules committee would have as much importance as apparently it will have before Clevaland?



EVANS: Yes, because the rules really can't dictate the outcome. Just think of what we learned from 2012 where the Romney campaign came in and put a rule in that said you have to have eight states in order to be nominated and the net effect was we only have one person in nomination. So yes, I would say that we always knew the rules would be important. The most important part now is I think there is such sensitivity, especially with Donald Trump's comments about whether or not things are getting rigged, about whether we should change any rules and I think there is a sense of the committee that we really shouldn't change any rules so late in the process.

SMERCONISH: You just referenced eight states, I don't know if you were making reference to rule 40B -

EVANS: I was.

SMERCONISH: Rule 40 b, you correct me if I'm wrong because you're the guy on the committee.

EVANS: Right.

SMERCONISH: says you got to win majority of the delegates in eight states or you can't be considered for the nomination. That would mean John Kasich, unless things really change in the next couple of weeks won't be due any consideration. Should rule 40 b be changed?

EVANS: Well, first of all, you're technically not right. Really what the rule says is you must demonstrate support of a majority of the delegates of eight states, not that you have won them. I know -

SMERCONISH: How else do you demonstrate it?

EVANS: Well, you can demonstrate it with an oath or verification. You don't have to actually have won the state is my point. But it really doesn't matter because the affirmative threshold is 1237. So if someone votes for any one other than the front runner and they don't get to 1237, that's the equivalent of a no vote and so at the end of the day, the 1237 is what is going to control that outcome.

SOLOMON YUE, REPUBLICAN RULES COMMITTEE MEMBER, OREGON: Actually, I agree with Randy, that the rule should not be changed, known as 40 b. But at the same time, if we're going to do that, we must have transparency because we're operating in a super charged political environment. We could bring up the convention and republican party, that's my concern.

EVANS: The single greatest threat to us is we can't get this done in days. You just think about the process that every delegate is permitted the opportunity to make a motion formitted and filibuster, do whatever, you literally then have the opportunity for a group of people who say "I will never support Donald Trump or I will never support Ted Cruz to hijack the process by a simple filibuster."

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, you heard me speak perhaps to Sean Spicer. I said to him it seems like you got a mutiny on your hands. Mr. Evans, I'll start with you. Is Donald Trump a runaway train as a front runner?

EVANS: No, I don't think so at all. I think we still got a long ways to go to see. I do believe that if he gets past 1,100 the momentum will push him over the top. I think it will be pretty easy to cobble together another 137 people who want to be on the winner's team.

[09:30:03] On the other hand, I believe that if he gets below 1,000, we're going to have a wide open convention and we'll probably, at the end of the day, end up suspending the rules in order to get to a nominee.

SMERCONISH: So that I'm clear, you are not saying, if Trump gets to 1,100, then it's over. You're saying at 1,100 the momentum would be such I believe he gets to 1,237.

EVANS: That's right. I call it the bandwagon effect. If you ever notice, the closer the winner gets to the finish line, the more people there are helping push them along and you'll be surprised at how many people who have been insiders forever suddenly see this is the only ticket to being the train with this outsider and they will jump on the train.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Yue, are you considered --

YUE: Michael --

SMERCONISH: I'm questioning you as a member of the rules committee. But you're a Republican National Committee man. You want to win surely you're concerned that Donald Trump wrote this op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal" and is now at odds, calling this a process that's rigged.

YUE: That means we need a transparency again. As a matter of fact, I disagree with what Randy said. The threat is delay, delay, delay. The real threat is lack of transparency and chair make decision on his own without consulting the majority of the delegates, and then you brought up the convention and brought up the Republican and you lose in November. I want to win, as well.

So that's why my disagreement with Randy is really winning in November by respecting the majority.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Evans, respond to that.

EVANS: No, I totally agree with Solomon, and I have been on the rules committee together and we are on the same page. I believe in transparency as well. I just don't think you can change the rules of the game in the middle of the game. And so, we played seven --


YUE: Randy, Randy, no, we are not changing the rules of the game. We bring more transparency to the process and that's more important. And you and I agree we're not going to change the rules and stay majority is going to say. But however, OK, whatever we do, we don't chairman or presiding officer empowered. We want grassroots and delegates, majority of them to make the decision to be empowered.

EVANS: All right. And at the end of the day, the delegates will have the opportunity. If they want that increased level of transparency, that will be an option available to them when the rules package come to the floor --


EVANS: We on the rules committee should dictate in advance.

YUE: I disagree. I disagree, Randy. Here is the reason, Michael, the --

SMERCONISH: Mr. Evans, I'll give you the final word.

EVANS: Actually, I'll say the same thing I say to Delta when they say, do you want to get there safely or on time, I go both, which is we need to plan for both possibilities.

SMERCONISH: I have to say, gentlemen, from the outside looking in I think we've just seen in a snapshot, in a window that you have given to us here on CNN the difficulty that is faced by Republican National Committee members in resolving this frame work before Cleveland.

EVANS: Thank you for having us and thanks, Solomon, for bringing the point.

YUE: Yes, thank you, Michael. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for being here.

It's going to be an interesting summer, right? That's the takeaway from those two gentlemen. Remember, tweet me your thoughts @Smerconish.

Coming up, voters are angry about the economy and candidates trying to appeal to them by attacking the rich or President Obama or the GOP. Who is really to blame?

Here's a tweet, "Voters of each state should decide and not have their decision changed later by these delegates." Yes, a more direct election. That's the issue.



[09:38:16] SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: A rigged economy where the rich get richer and everybody else get poorer.

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We lose at every single facet.

SANDERS: Longer hours for lower wages.

TRUMP: We're going to bring jobs back to our country.

SANDERS: Disastrous trade policy.

TRUMP: Jobs are going down the drain.

SANDERS: Shut down plants in Flint and move to China and Mexico.

TRUMP: They go to Mexico. They are going to China.



SANDERS: Corrupt campaign finance.

TRUMP: Bought and sold by their special interest.

SANDERS: The American people have a right to be angry.

TRUMP: We've had it. We've now had it.


SMERCONISH: As those clips show, one thing that the outside candidates, Trump and Sanders, agree about is anger about the economy and the rich getting richer, but who's to blame? Is it President Obama or the fact that during his term, the Republican controlled Congress has been stymieing any legislation that would help the working class.

Joining me now, the former chair of President Obama's counsel of economic advisors, Austan Goolsbee, who is now a professor at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Professor, are they strange bedfellows? Are there commonalities between that which Trump and Sanders are offering in terms of economic proposals?

AUSTAN GOOLSBEE, ECONOMIST You know, it's kind of an interesting point. I think there are certain parallels but they are definitely strange bedfellow.

SMERCONISH: In what regard?

GOOLSBEE: Well, in the regard that I don't think they like each other at all. I think if you ask the two candidates, if you ask Sanders, what do you think about Trump or Trump, what do you think about Sanders? They would say, I can't stand him, I'm totally supposed to him. Yet, on several diagnosis, it does seem like they are pointing to some of the same things.

SMERCONISH: You know, there's been a lot said in this cycle about the voter anger that exists and who's to blame for the plight of middle age white guys who are working class and having seen job opportunities grown or wages grow.

[09:40:10] I know you read the Rattner piece, Steven Rattner, in "The New York Times" earlier this week, where he said, look, you can blame the GOP because they thwarted efforts that the administration was trying to put forth to boost the flight of those individuals.

GOOLSBEE: You know, I know Steve Rattner and I worked with him in the administration, I think that's way over simplistic. As much as I wish the Republicans had passed the policies that Obama proposed, but it's worth remembering that the rise in inequality has been going non-stop in the U.S. since the late '70s.

So I think there are some bigger forces at work and I don't actually think that's what led to the rise of Trump. I think maybe you could give that explanation to the supporters of Sanders, though, I would emphasize it's mostly young people who's got a lot of young supporters, not really middle-aged white guys who are upset.

In Trump's case, I think it's got this whole social dimension that is not -- it's not primarily about economic wages that, as I say, have been trending this way for decades. I think it's about what happened to a world in which guys like us, you know, female talk show hosts don't ask questions and challenge us in public and protesters don't come to our meetings. What happened to a world where we kind of run things and people do as we say? And that world is not coming back. I mean, the demographics have changed in this country. And so, I think there is a permanent anger of the Trump people that's not going away.

SMERCONISH: Is the short version that a common denominator of the technical revolution and globalization have really driven the loss of jobs in that part of the economy?

GOOLSBEE: I think so. And I think the technology part has been much bigger component than -- if you asked essentially Sanders is making the argument that banks have caused the problem and Trump is making the argument that it's foreigners of every stripe, it's immigrants and trade and -- I don't think either of those is really the big driver.

SMERCONISH: Let me ask you about another presidential candidate. Ted Cruz, my understanding is that when he was at Princeton and you were at Yale, you debated him. How do you get his goat if at all possible on a debate stage?

GOOLSBEE: Well, you know, I used to beat up on the debate circuit, I told everyone, I said, my goodness, if Ted becomes president every year, we're getting audited every year, you know, at the very least, to pay for all of the times that I used to tease him. I mean, the thing was at that time, I can't say for now, I don't know him that well, but he does not have that great of a sense of humor. So, I usually found if I made fun of him that, that would be (INAUDIBLE)

SMERCONISH: You know, I have to say, and I know Austin Goolsbee is far removed from Donald Trump economic proposals, which is your wheelhouse. You've got to give Trump credit, right, for hanging in and doing well on the debate stage against Cruz given that it's Cruz who was the champion debater, with the exception of your team at Yale.

GOOLSBEE: Yes. You know, there is something to that. I think there is something definitely to that, though, from the second Donald Trump showed up on the scene, I described it and I don't think I'm wrong. I said look, the thing is the reason Trump is succeeding is that he scratches a certain itch in the Republican electorate and some itches should not be scratched in public and that has remained true.

But, you know, Ted Cruz, when Ted -- Ted would have been voted most likely to succeeded at plotting a coup and if anybody is going to figure out a way to take Donald Trump's delegates, it is Ted Cruz.

SMERCONISH: All right. Professor, thank you. Appreciate your time.

That's Austan Goolsbee.



Hey, the New York primary, of course, is Tuesday. The candidates have been riding the subway. They've been wearing Yamakas. They've been eating in diners. "The New York Post" has endorsed Donald Trump and I'll talk to "The Post's" veteran political reporter Fred Dicker and we've got more tweets.

"Does my individual vote mean anything as a Pennsylvanian? Some delegates can vote against what the public wants." Yes, we have an outrageous system in Pennsylvania. The delegates aren't tethered to the vote results and that's wrong.


[09:48:43] SMERCONISH: New York's primary Tuesday is huge for both parties. Three to five candidates have local ties and the number of delegates in play. They're going to prove crucial.

Joining me now, veteran reporter Fredric Dicker of "The New York Post", who's paper, by the way, just endorsed Donald Trump.

Hey, Fred, who among them is the real New Yorker? Who's got the most street credit?

FREDRIC DICKER, THE NEW YORK POST: Well, there is no one certified New Yorker, that's for sure, but if there is one, it's Donald Trump I would think. Everybody would agree. He has the brashness, the pedigree. He comes out of the Queens and Manhattan and certainly identified nationally with certain New York characteristics, which I think Ted Cruz had unpleasant things to say about.

SMERCONISH: I was surprised by the tone of "The Post" editorial. I wasn't sure if it was really embracing him or not because your paper seemed to endorse what Donald Trump could be theoretically, not who he is today.

DICKER: Yes, I mean, they say Donald Trump is a work in progress, that it was certainly equivocal and in terms of Trump's still having to prove certain things and I would point out the endorsement was for the primary, it wasn't for the general election.

SMERCONISH: Right, they said he needs to be better informed, more disciplined, less thin skinned, and I'm thinking, like, OK, Mrs. Lincoln, the play was pretty good, though, right?

DICKER: Michael, people are walking around New York I think all saying that all the candidates are flawed.

[09:50:02] I mean, you don't find very much enthusiasm for Hillary Clinton amongst Hillary Clinton supporters, and to the extent that Bernie Sanders supporter are excited, I think the more well informed ones know many of Bernie Sanders positions would be a disaster for New York, including the attacks on Wall Street which produces about 20 percent of New York state's personal income tax revenues.

SMERCONISH: Quick final thought, I'm sympathetic to the Trump kids who can't vote. I think those rules are outrageous and archaic. I know others have criticized them, but you don't -- you shouldn't have to decide nine months in advance that you want to reregister as a Republican.

DICKER: Well, look, the rules in New York which a lot of people consider overly restrictive were designed to strengthen the party system. Why should people for instance who don't belong to the Republican and Democratic Party be able to cross over and vote in the primary. Should you be able to register sooner in a party? Sure, you can make that case. But the tradition in New York has been the strength in the political parties. Of course, the downside is, the political parties are dying now, so it doesn't make all that much difference.

SMERCONISH: It's true. Fred Dicker, a real New Yorker -- thank you, sir, for being here.

Still to come, your best tweets, like this one.

Yes, we all agree, the president's got to release the 28 pages, right? I totally, totally am on board.


[09:55:34] SMERCONISH: As I like to say, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell Smerconish.

Check this out from Adrienne Wright. "Typical war mongering Republican Smerconish pushing conspiracy theories and innuendo about the Saudi's connection to 9/11."

Yo, Adrienne, did you miss Bob Graham? Bob Graham was the chair of the Senate Intel Committee. He was the co-chair of a congressional look at September 11th and, wait for it, a Democrat. He's the one who made the case here today. We need to see the 28 pages.

I'll see you next week.