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SMERCONISH

President Holding Rally Four Weeks Into Term; Insider Leaks Versus Russian Ties; Mother Forced to Take Refuge in Denver Church; Roommate Ads Include "No Trump" Clause. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 18, 2017 - 09:00   ET

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


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VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: All right. For more information on One Spirit at the Pine Ridge Reservation, go to CNN.com/impact.

And that's it for us. We'll see you back here at 10:00 for an hour of NEWSROOM.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Don't go anywhere. "SMERCONISH" is with you next.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in New York. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

So we are four weeks into the Trump administration but he's still campaigning for the job. He's left the heat of Washington, D.C. for the warmth of Florida where instead of being surrounded by an aggressive media, he's about to enjoy the company of thousands of his supporters. That should provide him a welcome distraction from declining approval ratings and turmoil in the White House that inspired this magazine cover from "TIME."

National Security adviser Michael Flynn has been ousted, but I still have three critical questions about contact that he had with Russian officials and we need answers.

And a mother here illegally is hold up in a church to avoid deportation. So what should the government do?

Plus, people are placing roommate ads saying no Trump supporters allowed. Is that good chemistry or intolerance?

And the president calls the press the enemy of the American people and wants to prosecute anyone leaking to reporters. He actually makes me proud to be a newspaper columnist and I'll tell you why.

But first, after a turbulent week that included the resignation of the president's National Security adviser, the withdrawal of Labor secretary nominee, and a press conference for the ages, President Trump is back in warm weather, and will stage a campaign rally at 5:00 p.m. Eastern today in an airplane hangar in Melbourne, Florida. Yes, I said campaign rally. Suffering low approval ratings and

perhaps feeling isolated in the White House, the president seems eager to relive the embrace of those huge crowds that greeted him during the 2016 campaign. In fact, he's actually already filed for re-election two years earlier than the norm for incumbents and he has started fund-raising.

Joining me now, a friend of the president, the CEO and president of conservative news organization Newsmax, Christopher Ruddy, and the pride of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Salena Zito who writes for the "Washington Examiner" and "The New York Post."

Chris Ruddy, does the 2020 race begin this afternoon?

CHRISTOPHER RUDDY, CEO AND PRESIDENT, NEWSMAX MEDIA INC.: I think it began even before Trump was inaugurated, and the reason why is the media has been at total war with him. So I think he feels he should be out there talking directly to the American people.

You know, Obama was in full time campaign mode for eight years, he was giving speeches, did very little legislative hard work behind the scenes. I think already we're seeing President Trump, he's reaching out to global leaders, he's really been trying to reach out to the Democrats. If you notice, he doesn't attack the Democrats too much. The press have very low approval ratings.

And Michael, your statement about the press conference, I think a lot of people thought yes, it was a little different, but was also refreshing. And there's a disconnect. The elites hate this type of thing. But people in the heartland, I think they're a little more open to it than you believe.

SMERCONISH: Well, no, I recognize that. I mean, Salena, how did that presser play at Cracker Barrel?

SALENA ZITO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I mean, those -- first of all, Cracker Barrels are usually off interstates. If you, you know, really want to understand where people -- you know, how they feel about things, just go to coffee shops and diners, and, you know, into community centers. And you know, the people I heard from that, you know, that I have talked to throughout the election, people that were skeptical of him, people who did or didn't vote for him, they understand this is who they voted for, or they understood that this is who this guy is going to be. And it's always going to be this sort of force of nature. And so while the ones that did or did not, you know, vote for him may or may not like it. They're not surprised by it. And --

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: His numbers -- Chris, let me just say this, his numbers certainly are not on the rise.

Katherine, put that Gallup survey back up. I mean, look at that approval rating, at 38 percent, 46 percent voted for him.

RUDDY: Michael, I --

SMERCONISH: Go ahead, Chris.

RUDDY: I get "The Washington Post" e-mail every morning, and I devour it, like some of the reporters there. Costa, Parker, Rutger, good (INAUDIBLE).

SMERCONISH: Sure.

RUDDY: Every headline running down this thing, the lead, Trump's administration screwing up, the German Defense minister hates Trump, Trump calls the American media the enemy, Trump's making more money on his golf club. Everybody hates Kellyanne --

[09:05:01] SMERCONISH: Which of those are untrue?

RUDDY: One headline is Trump is a cancer, this is from one of the lead writers. How to manage the White House cancer? Come on, if I saw this, if the -- this is war mode against the president. This is a guy that never held political office. He is the first president in the history of the country never to have held political office or have been a general. He doesn't have a cadre of staff and people. He's coming in and he's decided he was going to bring in some new people.

I think, you know, they said in the media nobody is going to join the Trump administration. Look at the heavyweights that have come into this Cabinet, A plus people like Wilbur Ross, Mnuchin, they left billion-dollar businesses. Mike Pompeo, one of the smartest guys in Congress.

SMERCONISH: Can I respond to that?

RUDDY: Sure.

SMERCONISH: Let me just say that I recognize that the credentials of some of those that he's attracted to the Cabinet are impressive. Rex Tillerson, how can you -- how can you say that someone who's played the role as CEO of Exxon is not an impressive individual.

But, Chris, here is what's lacking. There's no steady hand in the White House. There is not a David Gergen. There's not someone who's been there, done that, who can say, Mr. President, that's imprudent. And that's where I think he's coming up short in addition to other areas. But I want to ask you something because you are a friend of the president and I know that you had a drink with him at Mar-a-Lago. You, I think was McCallum, my kind of guy, him was a soda.

I want to ask you this. Is he enjoying himself? Does he like this job? He is a month into it.

RUDDY: I think he loves the job. I think he's really excited about it. And I've never seen him more focused in his life, more energetic. I mean, he's always been a high energy guy so to speak. But I think he really -- I think he is perplexed by the -- just the open outrageous hostility by the media. Now I agree with you. The White House has made some stumbles but I do

think that they are trying to fix them. And when you said there's no steady hand, I think Trump is actually the steady -- everybody says there's some global chaos. Look at what he's done around the world, reaffirm the relationship with Japan, reaffirm support to South Korea. Declared a "One China" policy, reaffirm support of NATO, encouraging NATO countries to increase their budget, caution Israel not to go too aggressively with the Palestinians, warned Iran.

I mean, this is not -- and he's extended a hand of friendship to Putin without giving up any chips. I think the guy has acted pretty smartly so far in foreign policy, so it's just this perception where he led the press conference saying you guys are describing this place in chaos and it's not true.

SMERCONISH: But, Chris --

RUDDY: And I think there's --

SMERCONISH: I can't let those pass. To me there has been -- I could drill down on any one of them where there has been an unpredictability and a volatility. I mean, take Israel. You just referenced Israel. I don't know, is he for a two-state solution or one-state solution? Is he reigning in Bibi with regard to expansion in the West Bank or is he not? It's very hard to see coherence. And that's what I think is causing a lot of concern.

RUDDY: Look, I think he said to the Israelis, don't do settlements right now. We don't want to upset the apple cart. He hasn't moved the embassy quickly, although everybody thought that was going to happen on day one. And I think he's reaffirmed support for other Arab leaders and he's reached out to a number of people in the region, the president of Egypt who I think is a good guy, Sisi.

So I think, you know, you're overstating, and I don't think the Israelis perceive there's chaos. I don't think people in the Middle East perceive as chaos. So why does everyone in Washington keep --

SMERCONISH: I'm not -- I don't think I'm over -- look, I brought the two of you here today by my choice because neither of you is antagonistic toward President Trump.

Salena, he tweeted this morning -- can we put that up on the screen? I want to show Salena Zito what he said just this morning. "Don't believe the mainstream fake news media, the White House is running very well. I inherited a mess and I'm in the process of fixing it."

Salena, do you think the White House is running very well?

ZITO: Well, I mean, we don't know that specifically.

SMERCONISH: What? Come on.

ZITO: Because we're not -- well, you know, let me finish. We don't know that specifically because we're not inside the White House. The appearance on the outside is chaos, disruption and people that, you know, look, had we elected Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush, you would have had a -- as a point you made before, we would have seasoned people that have worked in the White House that understand how things go on and understand how to run things up the chain.

You do not have this -- that in this White House yet because he did not bring those types of people in. But remember, that's what people elected. That's what they wanted. To -- you know, I think that as journalists we need to be more agnostic about how he feels about us and we should focus more on what he is doing.

SMERCONISH: Christopher, comment from you.

(CROSSTALK)

RUDDY: Donald Trump is the only guy in America who's friends with both Billy Graham and Howard Stern. He has a unique ability to bring people together. I think everybody is in this war mode, the press at him, and him back at the press.

[09:10:03] I think we need to get beyond that. I think he has the ability to be a great popular president, he needs to get his economic program through, and I think people will judge him by results. And don't worry about what goes on Twitter. Sometimes he likes to overstate his position. That's one of his negotiating tactics. Look at results and look at what he is doing domestically and foreign policy.

SMERCONISH: All right.

RUDDY: And I think it's fine.

SMERCONISH: All right.

RUDDY: So far. Give him a chance. Give him a chance.

SMERCONISH: Baba Booey to your last point. Chris Ruddy, Salena Zito, thank you both for being here.

RUDDY: Right.

ZITO: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What do you think? Tweet me at smerconish, I will read some of the responses throughout the course of the program. Already they're flowing in. What do we got? Let's see.

"Smerconish, remember, he is your president as you so clearly stated at the start. Having fun yet? He may be yours but he's not my president." Hey, Multi-Specialist, I said it and I meant it. I can sit here and have disagreement about the direction of this thing, but I am not denigrating the office and I have respect for the commander- in-chief. So I'll be critical, but I'm also going to keep in mind that yes, he is the president of the United States. I think I've honored that.

Hit me with another. "Smerconish, Michael, do not be part of the problem of fake news." Enough of this, this fake news garbage. There's nothing fake about what you just heard. It is all fact based. And instead of telling me about fake news, I would rather you call me out and say you said this. And it was incorrect. Well, I will be waiting for that tweet during the course of this program, but it will never come.

Still to come, Michael Flynn has been ousted as the head of the NSC after his dealings with Russia and is not coming clean about them. I've got three questions that require answers.

And with the Trump administration crackdown on illegal immigrants, a married mother of six has taken refuge in a Colorado church to avoid deportation. I will talk to Jorge Ramos about the state of things.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:16:00] SMERCONISH: So which troubles you more, that the intel community -- the intelligence community apparently caught associates of candidate Trump communicating with members of Russian intelligence before the election or that this information was made public because of leaks to the news media?

How you answer that question seems as with most things to be completely partisan.

While the Democrats are lobbying for an investigation into the Russian ties, House Speaker Paul Ryan and most of the GOP establishment are calling for investigation into who leaked the information.

Joining me now, Eli Lake whose tweet expressing concern about national security got re-tweeted by the president. And Juliette Kayyem, the former assistant secretary of Homeland Security and author of a great book, "Security Mom: An Unclassified Guide to Protecting Our Homeland and Your Home."

Eli, Juliette, three questions I'm hoping we can nail in this segment. Here they are. Number one. Is there any benign explanation for Trump campaign officers having ongoing dialogue with Russian intel during the campaign? Number two, would General Flynn have spoken to the Russian ambassador on the subject of sanctions without the knowledge of the president? And number three, if the intel community thought that Flynn was at risk of blackmail, was the leaking justified?

So let's deal with number one first. Juliette, is there any benign explanation for the Trump campaign having ongoing dialogue with Russian intel?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Certainly. There might be. But there are also --

SMERCONISH: What? What could it be?

KAYYEM: No, no, but listen. Listen, there's a range of possibilities, benign and not benign. Benign to collusion, and so from the -- you know, from innocent to the really scary stuff. We don't know yet, right, and so the idea that it's only just benign is ignoring a whole lot of evidence suggesting Flynn is having conversations that he didn't disclose, discussing -- you know, regarding the Department of Justice being worried that the Russians could use it against Flynn, and of course the reports by "New York Times" this week that there was over a year of consistent conversation between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence.

SMERCONISH: But that's -- that's what I'm talking about.

Eli, Eli, there's no benign explanation for that. There's nothing that is safe about or explainable about having ongoing conversation with Russian intel.

ELI LAKE, COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: Sure there is.

SMERCONISH: What?

LAKE: Lots of time Russian intelligence officers do not present themselves as Russian intelligence officers. They have another -- they have a cover of some kind and you may not be knowing that you are talking to a Russian intelligence officer when you are.

I want to say that I have many open questions about all of this but there's a very benign explanation right there.

SMERCONISH: OK. Number two. Put my list back up to remind everybody. Would General Flynn have spoken to the Russian ambassador without the president's knowledge?

Juliette, I find it very hard to believe. I mean, Flynn would have had to have gone rogue to have that conversation just when Obama imposed those sanctions.

KAYYEM: Right.

SMERCONISH: I'm sorry, I just can't buy into the idea that he was out there as a lone wolf without the president's knowledge, the president- elect's.

KAYYEM: I don't buy that one either. I would find it very hard to believe that a series of conversations are going on while the Obama administration is putting sanctions on that aren't known to Trump and his closest political advisers.

The proof of that seems to also be in how Trump handled information from Department of Justice that they were worried about what Flynn was disclosing to Vice President Pence and that he could be, you know, sort of blackmailed by the Russians.

The fact that Trump sat on that information for three weeks and only responded to it when "The Washington Post" and other news organizations disclosed it suggest that Trump really didn't really. And so if you want to just -- you know, look, none of it -- there's no moment in which I can say yes, it's proof, but there is enough evidence to suggest that the benign explanation is receding into the sunset and the less benign explanations are coming to the forefront. SMERCONISH: Eli, I say the president surely was in the loop that

Flynn was having that conversation with the Russian ambassador. Your view?

[09:20:08] LAKE: I think it's the wrong question. I think right now you have to ask yourself -- first of all, I would say Flynn in -- Flynn did not say that he lied and his explanation is he did not remember one detail of one of many -- several conversations, and it wasn't the main topic. I think that the White House should release the transcripts of these calls so the American people can just for themselves.

SMERCONISH: I'm all for that.

LAKE: Including the media. But all of that said, I am very suspicious of an outgoing Obama appointed acting attorney general making a decision about something like this. Blackmail is usually when you're cheating on your wife or you're concealing something like this. Since in my view we still haven't established yet whether or not there was a lie to Vice President Pence, I find it highly unusual. Also, was this an investigation over a Logan Act violation, a law that's never been enforced or prosecuted against something?

SMERCONISH: Well, let me --

LAKE: It's quite normal for transition officials to talk to foreign diplomats. So what are we exactly talking about here?

SMERCONISH: Let me get to question three.

LAKE: OK.

SMERCONISH: Eli, this is for you.

LAKE: All right.

SMERCONISH: If the intel community thought that Flynn was at risk of blackmail, was the leaking justified? Your answer?

LAKE: I have a very hard time justifying leaking like this. By the way, I am very pro-leaks, and I'm against leak investigations as a journalist, but I have a hard time saying that you can leak selectively monitored communications like this. It is a violation of the public trust. Perhaps they believe there was a blackmail situation, but I don't think that case has been made yet so I think again that's the wrong question. To me it looks more politically motivated, and I think something smells very bad.

SMERCONISH: But, Eli, if I'm in the intel community.

LAKE: Yes.

SMERCONISH: And I know because I've seen the transcript that he did talk sanctions with the Russian ambassador but that publicly he is saying not and that he's telling the vice president not, don't I have some kind of an obligation to drop the dime because the Russians know he is not being truthful?

LAKE: No. No.

SMERCONISH: And that set -- and that sets him up for blackmail.

LAKE: No, it does not, because you have an obligation to inform the White House which is what they did. But more importantly, it is unclear exactly what happened here, if it was mentioned briefly in a conversation and Flynn said we're coming into office in a couple of weeks, we're going to review everything, let's talk about this phone call I'm setting up, then it's perfectly understandable if you -- you couldn't blackmail the guy on that.

Also, this is somebody who became a three-star general and is considered a very fine officer, one of the great intelligence minds of this generation. You don't get to that position by being someone who lies casually and deliberately as he is being implied to do.

SMERCONISH: Well at a minimum --

LAKE: And we still haven't heard from him on this. That's the part of this that looks very tough to estimate.

SMERCONISH: OK.

LAKE: I'm sorry.

SMERCONISH: I wish I had more time. Eli, Juliette, I'm sorry, gang, I can't. But thank you.

KAYYEM: That's OK.

SMERCONISH: To be continued.

What are your thoughts? Keep them coming @smerconish. Hit me with a tweet.

"Smerconish, left coast, Eat Coast, hate Trump. Everyone in between still waiting for results and are probably happy so far."

Well, Kris, OK. I agree with that. I think he's playing well at Cracker Barrel. But where are the results so far? You know. And at some point there's going to have to be an accounting where he's achieved X, Y and Z. And I know, we're only a month into this. And if it happens, I'll give him the credit he deserves.

Up head, Trump administration's new crackdown on illegal immigration has forced one mother in Denver to take refuge in a church to avoid deportation. Is she and many like her the kind of bad hombre the government should be targeting? I'll talk to Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.

And there's a new category of ads seeking roommates, ones that include a no Trump clause. I will talk to one such woman who placed an ad.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:28:13] SMERCONISH: A mother of six has been taking refuge in a Unitarian Church in Denver since Tuesday to avoid deportation under the new Trump administration policy.

Jeanette Vizguerra came to the United States illegally from Mexico in 1997 with her husband and daughter, like thousands of immigrants in search of a better life. In fact they say that her husband, a bus driver in Mexico City, had been kidnapped three times. They now live in Denver with their three youngest children ages 12, 10 and 6, all born in the United States, hence all citizens of the United States. Her jobs have included housekeeper, janitor, and house painter, and for the last several years, immigrants rights activist.

The Obama administration prioritized expulsion of undocumented immigrants who threaten public safety or national security or had criminal records. But President Trump's order goes beyond that. And experts say it can apply to virtually every person in the country illegally and gives latitude to individual immigration officers to decide who should be detained for deportation. Thus Miss Vizguerra's situation and any others like her.

Is this the best way for us to expend our resources to deal with this issue? In his latest column, "Optimism in the Age of Trump," Univision anchor Jorge Ramos writes, quote, "As many as 8 million undocumented immigrants could now be at risk of being deported, not just those whom Trump has called bad hombres, unless he believes that all 8 million of these people qualify for that term."

Joining me now is the anchor of Univision, Jorge Ramos, the winner of eight -- count them -- eight Emmys.

Jorge, this is a terribly sympathetic set of circumstances. Mother of three, they're American citizens. Some are watching, and they're saying yes, but she did break the law and she also pled guilty to using a fake Social Security number so as to gain employment.

[09:30:08] What do we do now?

JORGE RAMOS, UNIVISION: Well, I mean, the rules are changing. The way you presented is precisely right. Let's put it in context. Barack Obama was the deporter-in-chief. He deported more than 2.5 million undocumented immigrants in this country. But now it seems that Donald Trump wants to be the deportation czar. And what he has done is just to change the definition of criminal.

Now according the "L.A. Times," they estimated that about 8 million out of 11 million people living in this country could be deported. Among them, of course, Miss Vizguerra, among them Guadalupe Garcia, who was living in Phoenix, Arizona, for 22 years in this country. She's just a mom. Miss Vizguerra is just a mom. And let's not be naive, yes. They have been using fake IDs, they've been using fake Social Security numbers, fake driver's licenses, but we are complicit in this. They are doing it because of us. They come here -- they don't come here to go to Disneyland, they don't come here to kill American citizens, they come simply to make our life better. They are harvesting the food that we eat. They're building the homes

where we live. They're babysitting our kids. That's why they are here, Michael.

SMERCONISH: I find myself sympathetic to her plight frankly as a father of four because of those kids. But then I say, Jorge, if the policy is going to be we're going to protect the mother of children who are born here, aren't we then setting a precedent where individuals who come to the United States without playing by the rules quickly have children so as to protect themselves?

RAMOS: Well, these are the numbers and this is the reality. Right now there are about 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country, and by the way, there's no invasion. For the last five years the number has been stable. And more Mexicans, by the way, are leaving the United States than coming here. But also there are 4.5 million U.S. children born in this country who have at least one parent who is undocumented. And that's the real tragedy.

The AP story that Donald Trump wanted to use the National Guard to deport immigrants is not true. The White House says it is not true, but it feels -- it feeds to the narrative that Donald Trump is getting ready for mass deportation. I think the solution is not to punish these kids or their parents. Again they're moms and pops.

SMERCONISH: But maybe --

RAMOS: The solution is to find a legal way for them to stay in this country. They're not criminals or terrorists, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Maybe President Trump is crazy like a fox because if he's watching, he is hearing Jorge Ramos talk about increases in self- deportation. People laughed when Mitt Romney said that, but all of a sudden maybe if he rattles the cage and a couple of high profile cases, to use that expression, then all of a sudden you will have people leaving the country without the U.S. government having to do anything.

RAMOS: Well, but the fact is that it isn't happening. I mean, I've talked to many immigrants in the last week and what they are feeling is fear, but they're not going back to their countries of origin. I mean, I'm not seeing buses and airplanes filled with immigrants getting ready to leave. As a matter of fact, what I'm seeing is, which is very sad, I'm seeing children going publicly on TV and with attorneys trying to save their parents.

Look, we are living in a country in which children have to defend their parents. I thought it was the other way around. I thought it was -- it was not the children of Miss Vizguerra defending her, or Jersey Vargas, I talked with her yesterday. She's a 13-year-old who's trying to defend her father. She even went to Rome to defend her father. So that's the country where we're living.

SMERCONISH: Jorge --

RAMOS: Children are being forced to defend their parents. That's not supposed to be that way.

SMERCONISH: One last aspect, very important of this case. Miss Vizguerra right now is in a church and there are across the country a growing number, as many as 800 right now. They are saying we will give you sanctuary. You know that the law doesn't protect them, it's really the optics and the public relations that protect them if they're in a church or a hospital or maybe on university property. What do you see happening for those that seek refuge in a church like this woman?

RAMOS: I don't expect ICE agents getting to the church. It's a tradition. I know exactly what you're saying. It's not the law. They can come into the church and arrest Miss Vizguerra and deport her back to Mexico. But I don't think that that's going to happen. But then the problem here is that people who are not terrorists, they're not gang members, who are not criminals or rapists, as unfortunately Donald Trump said when he was a candidate, they want to deport all these people, and why?

They really are needed for the economy. They really are paying taxes. They really are doing the jobs that nobody else wants to do.

[09:35:02] Donald Trump has the historic opportunity to be like Ronald Reagan, not with the electoral college, but he has the opportunity, he controls the White House. He controls both Chambers of Commerce. If he really wants to make a change and show his big heart as he says, OK, show it, Mr. Trump.

SMERCONISH: You and I --

RAMOS: He can legalize -- he can legalize the majority of 11 million people in this country tomorrow if he wants, but he doesn't want to do that.

SMERCONISH: Final point. You and I can agree that were she not a mom, and if she were a bad hombre, we'd want her out of here. Right?

RAMOS: Sure. Yes. Yes. I have no problem with criminals.

SMERCONISH: OK.

RAMOS: But the way Donald Trump is presenting this, he is criminalizing the immigrant population. I can't believe that a president who is son of an immigrant, the son of a Scottish mother, the grandson of a German immigrant, married to a Slovenian, suddenly wants to close the door behind -- after those who came after him. That's exactly what he is trying to do.

I'm not defending criminals, but it is not the way Mr. Trump is presenting. The last number that I saw according to American Immigration Council, less than 2 percent, less than 2 percent of young immigrants end up behind bars. Less than those born here in the United States.

SMERCONISH: Jorge Ramos, thank you for being here.

RAMOS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: So keep the tweets coming @smerconish. Hit me with another. Remember, I don't see them until you do.

"Smerconish, CNN, how is deporting that mom and breaking up her American family making us safer? In one word, it is not." Lisa, it's an awfully sympathetic case, I grant that to you. But you don't want to set a precedent where you say well, come here, and give birth and then you're home free. There's no easy answer.

Up ahead. Looking for a roommate? You can't discriminate based on race, religion, national origin or disability. But politics is fair game. And several ads are popping up that include some version of Trump voters not wanted. I'm going to talk to somebody in a moment who placed such an ad.

"My online dating profile says no Trump supporters unless you're willing to admit your mistake." That's a compromise, right? Listen, Jackson, I don't know. There are a lot of handsome Trump supporters out there you could be passing up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:41:22] SMERCONISH: So how deep is America's partisan divide? It's so deep that it's even embedded in ads seeking roommates. The Fair Housing Act prevents you from discriminating against anybody because of race or religion, national origin or disability, but not somebody's politics. And the Internet is now rife with roommate ads that include some version of a no Trump clause.

Is this OK? For instance, no cigarette smokers or Trump supporters, please, or gay friendly is a must, Trump unfriendly is preferred or about you, you have a steady job, you're not a drug addict or a party animal, no Trump supporters.

Check this ad out. It's for a house near Georgetown University which says, "Alcohol, pets, and meat products are not allowed in the house. Neither are Trump supporters."

And joining me now, the ads' writer Sahar Kian, who works at a nonprofit in education.

Sahar, I am not coming to live with you. Because you knock me out on booze, pets and meat. On the Trump issue, aren't you being a bit intolerant?

SAHAR KIAN, PLACED ROOMMATE AD ON CRAIGSLIST: Well, I think it's fair to say look at me, I'm brown, I'm a woman, I am somebody who is heavily reliant on Obama's pre-existing condition clause, and I don't think that it's fair to judge me for not wanting somebody who criticizes me for the things that I identify with.

So no, I would feel like I'm in a hostile environment if me and my roommates who are immigrants felt unwelcomed by Trump, his supporters and the policies that are discriminatory.

SMERCONISH: But you're being judgmental against what they believe in.

KIAN: Well, I mean, my house is not a political battlefield. I would be more than happy to settle issues with you at protests or in a Congress setting. I speak with my representatives about the changes that I want, but I am not obligated to turn my house into a political battlefield when I come home from work in the evening.

SMERCONISH: But would you spur the friendship of someone who is politically on a different page than you are but is a good person?

KIAN: This is -- this is not about political differences. I don't have -- it doesn't say no conservatives in my ad, it doesn't say no Republicans, it doesn't say no Christians, it says no Trump supporters. There is a distinction between Republican, conservative, and a Trump supporter.

A Trump supporter by all means is a bigot, and so instead of saying no bigots in my apartment, I specifically say no Trump supporters because I am calling Trump and his supporters out on their bigotry.

SMERCONISH: You know what, I can't buy into that. I can't buy the notion that says 46 percent of those who voted in the recent election are by definition bigots. I mean, to the blue-collar worker who's been a reliable Democratic voter but feels disenfranchised in this economy and has a set of grievances about their inability to get ahead and earn an income, et cetera, et cetera, and voted for Donald Trump, I'm just not putting them in a basket of deplorables.

Some of them perhaps, but not all of them. And I guess that's what troubles me is that you're painting with a broad brush. But you can have the final word.

KIAN: I'm not going to have an extreme vetting system of any kind for my roommate. So if somebody comes up and responds to my ad and says I want to live here, let's work this out, I am not going to drill you on your political beliefs. However, if you are an avid Trump supporter, that goes to Trump rallies, and tries to punch black people in the face and deport Muslims and if you are passionate about those things, you're probably not going to want to knock on my door in the first place.

[09:45:12] But if you come knocking to my door, if you send me an e- mail, and even if you voted for Trump, I'm not going to quiz you on what's your policy on Planned Parenthood or what do you suppose we should do with Obamacare. Those aren't questions I'm concerned about. I'm concerned with you not identifying with the bigotry that is associated with Donald Trump.

SMERCONISH: All right. I want to introduce you to my miniature Dachshund, Mr. Lucy. Maybe at least I can turn you around on the pet clause.

Sahar Kian, thank you so much for being here.

KIAN: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: I got a smile out of her -- there you go. I got a big smile out of her, Katherine, at the end, didn't I, on the dog comment?

Hit me with a tweet. "Smerconish, inappropriate. To discriminate against roommates with differing politics only widens the divide between us, bridges not walls."

Hey, Paula, you know, if I had that kind of a clause in my extended family, I wouldn't be able to entertain some of my relatives under my roof.

Up next, President Trump has responded to investigative journalism about his administration by labeling the media the enemy of the people. He's got it backwards, and I'm about to explain why.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:50:30] SMERCONISH: So that's what President Trump tweeted yesterday about the media, sparking the trending hash tag on Twitter #nottheenemy. He uses every opportunity to bash the media including now at press conferences.

The investigative reporting on the Russian situation has kicked his attacks into even higher gear. On Thursday he bearded the beast. This is just some of what he said to a room full of reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice.

How does the press get this information? That's classified. How did they do it? You know why? Because it's an illegal process and the press should be ashamed of themselves. But more importantly the people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves. Really ashamed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: On his media criticism, I vehemently disagree and not just because I'm here at CNN. The president is attacking one of our best checks on government. Especially where Congress shows no interest in playing that role.

One of my most re-tweeted comments last week was this one. "The next time you read about a newsroom making cuts in your local newspaper, think about the extraordinary reporting that we are seeing right now."

We all know that in the Internet age print advertising is plummeting nationally and newspaper staffs have been eviscerated across the country. Look at these headlines. In recent months even revered institutions like the "Wall Street Journal" and the "New York Times" have been offering employees buy-outs and laying folks off.

This is a damaging trend especially on the local level because where there's no investigative journalism, government at a local state and national level goes unchecked. Sure. There's been an explosion of self-described journalists,

bloggers, but people with laptops sitting in their PJs are no substitute for old-fashioned, gumshoe investigative reporters.

The president's anger at the press takes is about revelatory journalism that takes time and takes money. And I'm thinking of David Ignatius report in "The Washington Post" on January 12 about Flynn's call to the Russian ambassador. I'm thinking about "The New York Times" piece on Trump aides having contact with Russian intel in the year before the election. And let's not forget, CNN breaking the story that President Obama and President-elect Trump were both briefed on the possible existence of a Russian dossier.

This is actually a golden age of journalism. One that makes me proud to be a Sunday newspaper columnist for the "Philadelphia Enquirer." Even though I'm not an investigative one.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't condone the leaking. The proprietary of the Russian leaks is an open question for me but without investigative journalism we would never have learned about Michael Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador and he'd still be in office posing a potential blackmail risk.

There are times when national security takes precedence and the leakers clearly knowing what they were risking decided this was one of those instances. Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter. But I should mean that every man should receive those papers and be capable of reading them."

Think about that the next time that you read about newsroom layoffs.

Still to come, more of your tweets. As a matter of fact, something I said about Cracker Barrel I think has been misinterpreted in a number of tweets. And I need to address that in just a sec.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:58:25] SMERCONISH: So I don't see the tweets until you do, but I am told that there are a lot of folks who are beefing about something I said about Cracker Barrel in the show. Let me tell you upfront. I love the country fried steak there. I mean, I like Cracker Barrel. But here's Jason, "Trying to marginalize the Americans that support POTUS by saying he plays well at Cracker Barrel is the exact reason you lose."

Hey, Jason, I did a primetime special here at CNN last night at 9:00 p.m., I guess you missed it, that's OK, in which I offered data about the divide in the country expressed empirically between Whole Foods counties and Cracker Barrel counties. What had been a 19-point gap between the two in 1992. And I'm doing this from memory so maybe I'm screwing it up slightly. But the 19-point gap has now grown to 54 points.

So if I'm besmirching Cracker Barrel people I'm besmirching my own family because I love Cracker Barrel and I live near one. I'm going to now tweet out my commentary from last night's primetime special about the partisan divide. And dare I say you've just made my point which is to say people hear what they want to hear.

"Smerconish, what part of this is different don't you understand? I agree with the young lady. I would never rent to a Trump supporter."

Joann, I think you're being intolerant.

Give me one more. Here we go. "Smerconish, I told my boyfriend of five years if he was looking for an out, vote for Trump. He knew I was serious. And we're still together."

MRT, there are a lot of marriages out there where people don't agree on politics.

To be continued next week. Follow me on Twitter.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Well, good morning. So glad to have you on board with us. I'm Christi Paul.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm victor Blackwell. CNN NEWSROOM begins right now.