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Interview with Senator Ben Cardin; Interview with Nicholas Burns; Interview with Thomas Friedman; What Was Russia's Involvement in U.S. Election?; Farewell, Coach Pettine. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired March 4, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[09:00:02] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you killed the mountain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my god. It's so hot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Yes, it's hot. It's a flame thrower.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: He is such a sport. Go, Richard. Hey, we're going to be back here at 10:00 Eastern. "SMERCONISH" starts for you right now.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.
A softened President Trump gave a well-received speech to Congress but the afterglow was short lived. After a rough week of Russian accusations, this morning President Trump went on a Twitter rant accusing his predecessor of wiretapping Trump Tower and comparing Presidents Obama and Nixon.
Now Attorney General Jeff Sessions who met with the Russian ambassador despite denying it at his hearing has recused himself from investigating Russian election meddling. Monday he'll supplement his Senate testimony.
The man he met who also cost Michael Flynn his job, "The New York Times" called the most prominent yet politically radioactive ambassador in Washington. So who is Sergey Kislyak?
And against the backdrop of dramatically accelerated change, the nation's explainer-in-chief, the "New York Times'" Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman is here with a new book to put our news cycle in context.
Plus, farewell to a legendary high school coach, Mike Pettine, Senior.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PETTINE SR., CENTRAL BUCKS WEST COACH: Nobody looks down on us. All right. We'll respect them all the way until we kick their ass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Allow me to give you some lessons learned from the bench.
But, first, you know my track record when it comes to the president. I was wrong about him ever running, wrong about him filling out even the most basic financial disclosures, wrong about the impact of the comments concerning John McCain as a POW, wrong about the result of the "Access Hollywood" tape and wrong about the outcome of the election.
The best I can say is that I've been consistent. But then came this week. Trump hampered by poll numbers that show him to be the least popular new president told FOX News that he gave himself only a C or a C plus for messaging. I sensed he would try a new approach and said so on Sirius XM Radio and via Twitter. I predicted he'd soften his tone and I said that there were five things he would not say Tuesday night -- fake news, dishonest media, electoral college, inaugural crowd, rigged. Later I added Hillary Clinton to the list.
Well, I was six for six. He said none of those things. It was a different Donald Trump and it worked. For one day, Wednesday, the president basked in positive coverage. In fact, the release of a new immigration order was postponed to extend the glow. But then on Thursday came two blockbuster stories. "The Washington Post" reported that Jeff Sessions had met with the Russian ambassador twice last year after having claimed he hadn't, and "The New York Times" reported that the Obama administration officials had acted to preserve evidence of the Russian effort to undermine our election, worried that the Trump staff would try to erase it.
The first of those stories led Attorney General Sessions to recuse himself from further investigation of the Russians. Still there are calls for independent investigation into contact between Trump associates and Russians. And on Monday Senator Sessions will supplement his Senate testimony. And now the question becomes whether we'll again see the softer President Trump who spoke to Congress and the nation Tuesday night or if he'll resort to attack mode against the media that again exposed this burgeoning story.
Recently he's been aiming his fodder at Democratic critics instead of the press. First Senator Schumer and Congresswoman Pelosi, then this morning, a Twitter rant where he went after President Obama. "Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found is McCarthyism." And, "Is it legal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to an election, turned down by a court earlier, a new low."
The president's allegations are apparently based on previous reports by radio provocateur Mark Levin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK LEVIN, RADIO HOST: How many phone calls by Donald Trump, if any, have been intercepted by the Obama administration and recorded by the Obama administration, and all the other transition officials involved in foreign policy and national security and defense policy? This, ladies and gentlemen, is the real scandal. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: By following that lead, I suspect President Trump's return to bombast in contradiction of his demeanor Tuesday night will overshadow whatever gain came from his conciliatory side.
[09:05:10] Now in that "New York Times" story regarding the actions of Obama officials to preserve evidence of Russian activity, it was reported that Senator Ben Cardin, the Democrats' ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was provided a classified cache of State Department documents regarding Russian efforts to intervene in elections worldwide.
In this exclusive TV interview Senator Cardin joins me now.
Senator, first, please react to the Twitter rant of the president this morning including blaming President Obama for bugging Trump Tower.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: Michael, first, it's good to be with you. A couple of points here, we need to first find out why Attorney General sessions was meeting with the Russian ambassador, what took place during that meeting that was right during the time that Russia was very active in interfering with our campaign.
Senator Sessions at that point was a surrogate for the Trump campaign. It's important that we understand exactly what Russia was up to in meeting with Senator Sessions and what took place at that -- at that meeting. It's also important to have an independent investigation. Obviously the president is going to interpret things one way. I might interpret things a second way. It's important for the American people to have an independent investigation of what Russia did in attacking us in our free elections, the contacts they had with many Americans, how that came about. What was the relationship, if any, with the Trump campaign.
All that really needs to be done by an independent commission. I've filed legislation to create it. I think there's now more and more momentum to get that done sooner rather than later so the American people can get an independent evaluation here.
SMERCONISH: Let me show you one of those tweets from this morning, Senator. "Terrible, just found out Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism."
Do you know if a FISA court has played any role whatsoever in the information that has been gleaned thus far? As a civilian, it occurs to me that I've been reading and hearing about transcripts of the conversation between Kislyak and Michael Flynn by way of illustration. Well, in order for there to be a transcript, somebody was listening. And if there were an American on that line, wouldn't FISA have had to be involved?
CARDIN: There are certainly legal protections in all these areas. But rather than getting the president's interpretation of what he thinks happened, why not an independent investigation? I'm for including all this. Let the independent commission look at the entire aspect of what Russia is doing here in the United States including how we responded.
But you're absolutely correct. If there is anything like what he's tweeting about, it would be under supervision of the courts.
SMERCONISH: Well, which would mean that someone had met a probable cause standard before the FISA court to be able to get permission to listen to a discussion like that, isn't that true?
CARDIN: Absolutely. That's why we have the FISA courts. That's why we have -- the executive branch cannot act on its own. It must have the -- it must get the consent of a court before they can do those types of activities.
SMERCONISH: So I learned in the Thursday "Times" that you made a request to the State Department, you wanted to have information about this Russian issue, for lack of a better description, and that information was provided to you close in time to January 20. What, if anything, Senator, did you read into the timing of when you received that information? Did you think that the Obama administration was trying to make sure you had all the bread crumbs?
CARDIN: I'm the ranking Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I have responsibility of oversight as to what is happening. We were very concerned about Russia's engagement in the United States. We knew about that during that period of time. I made a normal request to the State Department to supply information to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in regards to Russia's contact to the United States.
They supplied documents to me that was made available to both the Democratic and Republican staff members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They marked that information classified, so I cannot tell you what was in that information. I can tell you, though, that I -- in my response it was not changed by the information that was made available. We already had a lot of public information out there.
SMERCONISH: OK. Respecting the fact that it's classified information, can you nevertheless tell me whether you're concerned that there was a worldwide effort, not just in the United States, but by virtue of the information you've been provided, are you worried that there was a worldwide effort by Russia to intervene, not only in our election, but in the elections of several nations?
CARDIN: I think that's beyond question. They clearly were interfering in the U.S. election. That's been verified by numerous sources. They tried to use fake news and influence our election. They tried to undermine the integrity of our elections, they explored ways to understand how we record and count votes. There's no indication that they -- that they tried to change any votes mechanically, but they did invade the cyber activities of how we conduct elections.
[09:10:11] And yes, they were active in Montenegro. We know that for sure, causing violence during their parliamentary election. They're very active right now in western Europe. Russia is trying to use our democratic system of government to undermine our democratic system of government. They're anxious to discredit free and fair elections.
SMERCONISH: Does it strain credulity for you to think that Ambassador Kislyak came to the Senate office of Senator Sessions in September in the midst, right. of the fall election and that they didn't talk about the campaign for president?
CARDIN: I am -- my own view is that the visit by the Russian ambassador, he was going to use that as an opportunity to get as much information as he could to the Russian government about our elections. I can't tell you what Senator Sessions' motivation was. It can't tell you what the purpose of that meeting was. We need to know that. I can tell you how the Russians operate. And they use every opportunity to get intelligence information for their purposes. At that time they were trying to attack the integrity of the U.S. elections.
SMERCONISH: Senator Cardin, thanks so much for being here.
CARDIN: My pleasure. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. I'll read some throughout the course of the program. Here's an early one. Katherine, hit me with it.
"Smerconish, you are spot on this morning. He's gone back to being himself. His speech writing isn't proofing his tweets. What a waste.'
JSMarried, I thought he was very effective Tuesday night. But it seems that in the span of just 72 hours we've got the prior Donald Trump.
Up next, when we found out that he met with Michael Flynn, Flynn had to resign. When we found out that he met with Jeff Sessions, Sessions had to recuse himself.
Who is this guy? Who is Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak?
[09:15:48] SMERCONISH: So who is Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, the man at the center of the Flynn and Sessions scandals?
As I tweeted, the only public servant who seems to be effective in his job these days is Comrade Kislyak. How do we get him on our team? I mean, the man is ubiquitous. We can only hope that our own diplomats are networking as effectively as this guy.
Vladimir Putin's man in Washington, the 66-year-old Kislyak, is usually sequestered in the white marble embassy on a hill above Washington, D.C. But he's been thrust into the spotlight because of his role in several meetings that have renewed concerns about President Trump's ties with Russia. He was in attendance at the president's speech this week as he was at Trump's first foreign policy campaign speech last April.
It was Kislyak's conversations with National Security adviser Michael Flynn that led to Flynn being forced to quit, and his two meetings with then Senator Jeff Sessions caused the attorney general to recuse himself from investigations into whether Russia meddled in U.S. elections.
This week it also came out that he met in December at Trump Tower with Flynn and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Some say he's actually a spy. Whatever he is, who is Sergey Kislyak?
Joining me now a man who knows, Nicholas Burns, former U.S. ambassador to NATO, former undersecretary of State for political affairs. He worked for both Presidents Bush and Clinton and now is a professor at Harvard's Kennedy School.
Ambassador Burns, thank you so much for being here. Give us some insight because you've actually negotiated with the man.
NICHOLAS BURNS, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: Thank you. Well, Sergey Kislyak is a long-time Russian diplomat. He's a physicist, he's nuclear arms expert. I worked with him when he was -- I was ambassador to NATO and he was the Russian ambassador to the NATO alliance. They actually had a mission there. And I also worked with him when he was deputy foreign minister and I was undersecretary of State.
I found him to be -- he's highly intelligent and experienced, he was always very well prepared for meetings. He is no friend of the United States. He's cynical about the United States, aggressive towards the United States, he does not wish us well. And I always considered him to be an adversary of our country.
So I think, Michael, as you look at this wider story, the real story here is that President Trump has been excusing the behavior of Vladimir Putin. President Trump has not criticized Putin's annexation of Crimea or his division of eastern Ukraine. President Trump has mused that we should just lift the sanctions that were imposed on Putin for his grand larceny in Crimea.
This soft position of President Trump contradicts the policy of every American president since Truman. I think that's the core of the substantive problem here, the weak policies of President Trump towards Russia.
SMERCONISH: Is it fair to say that this would be the most important posting for a Russian foreign diplomat, and that for him to be in this position absolutely means he speaks and he acts for Vladimir Putin?
BURNS: I think there's no question about that. For the Russians and for most countries around the world to be appointed ambassador to Washington is the senior job in that country's diplomatic service. And Kislyak has had a very long career, approaching I think 40 years. And obviously he's a senior diplomat. He speaks for Sergey Lavrov, the Russian Foreign minister. He speaks for Vladimir Putin.
SMERCONISH: Is he a diplomat or is he a spy?
BURNS: Well, it's always hard to know with some countries, especially the Russians, because president put is a former spy. And once a spy, probably always a spy. I think, you know, Kislyak has been a diplomat for a long time. But we have to have our eyes open when we deal with the Russians. They are adversaries of ours. The Russians are trying to defeat the United States and limit the United States and they have been for well over a decade since President Putin turned against President George W. Bush back in 2006 and '07, and throughout the Obama presidency. So when you meet with a Russian diplomat, you have to understand they don't wish us well. We have to defend our own country.
And again, Michael, I take you back to all these contacts that the Trump campaign apparently had with the Russian government. I think the major point here is we have a president who is very weak toward Russia at a time when Russia is trying to re-divide eastern Europe. And so we've got to have a strong policy.
[09:20:04] We're deploying NATO troops -- President Obama did -- into eastern Europe. We have sanctions on. Those are the critical things to look at. Will President Trump try to weaken our policy?
SMERCONISH: He would say -- President Trump would say, and to be fair to the man, he would say, look, I'm looking for a strong partner to eradicate ISIS from the face of the globe. Take just 15 seconds and respond to that.
BURNS: The Russian government is not fighting ISIS. The Russian government has been bombing innocent Syrian civilians in Aleppo. They're not going to be our friend on ISIS or a good partner. We don't them to do that.
SMERCONISH: OK. Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for being here.
BURNS: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, "The New York Times'" Thomas Friedman, the man who gave us "The World is Flat" has a new book about the age of acceleration in which we live. It's an important explanation as to the rise of populist politicians around the globe, and he is here.
[09:25:10] SMERCONISH: So how might the 2007 arrival of the iPhone, the Android, the Kindle have set the stage for the rise of populist politicians around the globe and the 2016 election of Donald Trump?
The nation's explainer-in-chief, Thomas L. Friedman, the three-time Pulitzer Prize winner, "New York Times" foreign affairs columnist, the man who gave us "The World is Flat," has a new bestseller, "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations."
Hey, Tom. It's great to have you here. And now I know from reading the book that we have a coffee house in common. What's the significance to you listening to Brandy Carlisle and then talking about hurricanes? THOMAS FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, my book is about the world being
reshaped by three giant accelerations in what I call the market, Mother Nature and Moore's Law. So the market for me is digital globalization. If you put it on a graph, it looks like a hockey stick soaring up. Mother Nature is climate change, biodiversity loss, and population. And Moore's law is technology.
They're all accelerating at a vast pace that we've never really experienced before, Michael, at the same time. And Brandy Carlisle wrote a song which I think is really the song of our time, it's called "The Eye," E-Y-E. And its main refrain is, "I wrapped your love around me like a chain but I never was afraid that it would die. You can dance in a hurricane, but only if you're standing in the eye."
And I think my three accelerations, they're like a hurricane. I think President Trump is selling a wall against the hurricane as are leaders elsewhere around the world. I'm actually selling an eye, the eye is the healthy community where people can move with the storm, draw energy from it, but create a platform of dynamic stability within it, the healthy community where people can feel connected, protected and respected.
And I think the great struggle in our politics going forward is going to be between the wall people and the eye people. And my book is really a manifesto for the eye people.
SMERCONISH: I mean, I don't think you set out. As I read the book, I was thinking to myself, Tom Friedman didn't set out to explain the rise of populism necessarily, but what I took away from it is this, that, you know, we all love the technological advances that make our lives easier, but it also brings about a great feeling of uncertainty. I mean, it's a hell of a fast ride for all of us, and some are unsettled, and politically speaking, Donald Trump and others, Marine Le Pen, and I could give -- Geert Wilders, others, have been able to tap into the uncertainty that some are feeling about the world in which we live. How did I do with the thesis?
FRIEDMAN: Well, you did really well. That's a perfect condensation of what I'm saying. You know, one of my favorite quotes in the book, Michael, is from a congressman from Minnesota who talked about growing up in Minnesota where I grew up in the '50s, '60s, and '70s. He said back then if you were -- if you were basically a white male growing up in Minnesota then, you needed a plan to fail. You needed a plan to fail. Because there were so much updraft of blue-collar and white- collar work.
My uncle worked as a loan officer in a bank in Minneapolis back then and he only had a high school degree. And what happened, though, as a result of these accelerations is that the demands for every middle class job got pulled up. So the thing that sustained the American middle class in the '60s, '70s, and '80s, which we called the high wage middle skill job, you could get high wages for middle skills, that got completely wiped out.
And there's a lot of people today who are feeling the effects of that because now you need a plan to succeed. And as I explained in the book, you have to update it every four years.
SMERCONISH: Is it possible to harness, to channel that angst that comes from the pace of change for a positive purpose? And if so, what do we do with it?
FRIEDMAN: Really good question. I think it's a challenge for the Democratic Party, to acknowledge that angst, and to affirm why people are feeling that way, but try to take it in a positive direction. And I have a chapter in the book called "How We Turn AI Into IA." How we turn artificial intelligence into intelligence assistance. So more people can live at this higher pace of change. And the core idea there is really is built around AT&T's Human Resources Department is how everyone has to become a lifelong learner.
So the days when you could sort of go to college for four years or two years and then dine out on that for 30 years, that body of knowledge, that's all over now. So if you want to be a lifelong employee at CNN, or "The New York Times" or General Motors, you now have to be a lifelong learner.
SMERCONISH: I'd be derelict in my duty if I didn't get Tom Friedman to react to the news of the day which is a Twitter rant initiated by President Trump.
Put up on the screen, Katherine, some of what the president has been up to this morning.
"Terrible, just found out that Obama had my wires tapped in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism." "Just out, the same Russian ambassador that met Jeff Sessions visited the Obama White House 22 times, four times last year alone." Next, "Is it legal for a sitting president to be wiretapping a race for president prior to election? Turned down by court earlier. A new low." And finally, "I'll bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact the President Obama was tapping my phones in October just prior to election."
The audience that you're talking about in the book who are unsettled by the pace of change, does this somehow play into the concerns and the anxiety feelings that they have?
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. What's so disturbing about it, Michael -- I can't speak to whether the Obama administration tapped president Trump during the campaign. I don't know what the facts are.
But one reason I don't know the facts is because he hasn't presented them. He's made an allegation. He could as easily woken up in Mar-a- Lago this morning and said, I just saw a UFO go over.
And so, what disturbs me about that is two things. One is that, it's not only not presidential to make such a dramatic allegation, that your predecessor tapped your phones during the campaign, that's not even adult behavior. If you're going to make that allegation, you come out with the head of the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, you say, here's the facts. As some people suspect, he took it from a Breitbart story which is harrowing.
But the larger point for you as a citizen and me as a citizen, in this age of acceleration, small errors in navigation can have huge consequences. It's like we're flying in a 747. And you as the pilot, you enter one digit of data wrong in your navigation, you can end up wildly off course really quickly and the pain of getting back on course can be enormously challenging. And that's what worries me right now.
SMERCONISH: But if my head is filled with cynicism because I've lost my job and I'm blaming NAFTA and I think Mexico now is manufacturing the goods that I should be, and along comes this simplistic explanation that says, well, Obama was tapping the Trump Tower, it makes it more palatable. It gives me something where I can say, yes, damn it, that's the sort of thing going on today, right?
FRIEDMAN: There's no question. But what people hunger for most, I think, Michael, and the reason actually I think they took a chance on Trump is something -- my friend Don Baer pointed this out to me. He was a communications director for the Clinton administration.
He said, "People didn't really want change, they want help." And this is what I find in going out and talking to communities about my book. People are desperate for navigation.
Yes, you can give them a sugar high by directing them here or there or feeding their anger, but the end of the day, the solutions to this challenge of the American worker today, we've got to get a million things right, and most of those things that we have to get right, and this is really the core of the book, actually are based in communities.
If you ask me who is doing what -- you want to be an optimist about America today? Stand own your head. Our country looks so much better from the bottom up than from the top down. We actually have a lot of communities getting it right. But it takes a really adaptive coalition, business, philanthropies, public schools, public leaders to build these adaptive organisms.
And this kind of quick fix, I'm going to build a wall, I'm going to go to Carrier and pressure them to keep the jobs, that's not going to do it, not when you're up against the forces of acceleration that we're up against.
SMERCONISH: If they ever bottle water from St. Louis Park, Minnesota, I'm buying it. I'm not going to tell people why. They'll have to buy the book to read it. But it's a pretty impressive list. Thank you so much for being here.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Mike. Really a treat to be with you.
SMERCONISH: The book is titled, "Thank You For Being Late". Thomas L. Friedman is the author.
So, what are you thinking via Twitter? Hit me with one. What do we got? "Smerconish, pardon me, but bull" -- yes, I get it. "The real story
is the Obama conspiracy to destroy President Trump."
Hey, Starfish Rising, let me say this as a lawyer, if there are transcripts of a conversation between Senator Sessions and Ambassador Kislyak, somebody was listening, somebody on our side was listening.
Well, Jeff Sessions is an American. And for an American to be wiretapped and listened to and not have that end -- the communication just immediately ended tells me perhaps somebody obtained a warrant by making a showing of probable, cause meaning there could be smoke. How about if I put it in that language?
Still to come, why exactly did Russia seek to involve itself in our election? We're going to run through the possibilities from the benign to the most malignant.
And although I spent most of my time on the bench, he was my football coach, one of the most successful in the nation, and although I didn't realize it at the time, a life coach as well. I want to tell you about Mike Pettine, Sr.
[09:39:08] SMERCONISH: As a result of some solid investigatory journalism by CNN, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post," we know individuals associated with Donald Trump had ongoing contact with Russian representatives during the course of the campaign. Michael Flynn is no longer national security adviser as a result.
And now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has agreed to recuse himself from any investigation related to the Trump campaign's relationship with Russia. Some are still demanding that Sessions resign his post altogether. But the president is backing him. This issue won't be so quickly dismissed.
And here is the big question: why did Russia seek to aggressively involve itself in our election?
For the latest, joining me now two who have written on that specific issue, Perry Bacon, Jr., senior political writer of the FiveThirtyEight.com blog, and Juliette Kayyem, former assistant secretary of homeland security in the Obama administration and host of the SCIF podcast and national security analyst for CNN.
[09:40:04] Hey, Perry, I thought you did a real nice job of laying out the three possible scenarios. Briefly, what are they?
PERRY BACON, JR., FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM: Thanks for having me, Michael.
What I was trying to describe is a question about why were the Russians talking to the Trump campaign during the campaign? And the three ideas I laid out were, one, the most serious one would be that there's some kind of -- somehow the Trump campaign and the Russians were colluding, the hacking was authorized by the Trump campaign. That's the most serious one. The other idea what Jeff Sessions said, basically essentially that
these contacts were incidental, there was no real meaning to them. Sessions said, "I meet with ambassadors all the time."
And the third answer would be: this was about policy, namely that Donald Trump wanted to change our policy and sort of realign with the Russians in some way. And these meetings were about that policy shift.
SMERCONISH: Juliette, you say, don't expect a smoking gun in figuring out which of Perry's three alternatives is the real one.
JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Right. And what Perry describes is excellent. But remember, what we learned this week is only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
So, we tend to think of investigations as, oh, they'll be a smoking gun. And I -- they really are more like a spectrum. And evidence keeps falling across the spectrum from the benign. It's not really benign, but that Russia acted alone in terms of our campaign and the election. Two, there was collusion between Trump or Trump people and the Russians to get him to be president.
And the evidence this week is I would say somewhat damning. There might be a benign explanation for it. Put it in the context of all the other stuff. Flynn, Carter Page, Roger Stone sort of signaling there's going to be WikiLeaks, the lying about these meetings, all of those things fall across the spectrum, which is leading a lot of us who worked there three months ago, towards -- collusion is a little strong. But it's hard to explain all this activity in a way that makes the Trump administration or his odd assortment of affiliates as innocent.
SMERCONISH: Juliette, will you react to President Trump's twitter rant this morning, where he's talking about President Obama -- by the way, President Obama doesn't have the lethal authority to do what President Trump says he did -- but this whole notion that Trump Tower was bugged?
KAYYEM: Yes. So, first of all, thank you for pointing that out. One of the reasons why Obama could not put a wiretap on Trump is because of Watergate and the FISA court now would be the determining factor in whether the wiretap was allowed, and there would have to have been probable cause. So, I can't answer to you whether there was some surveillance going on in Trump Tower related to a real investigation.
I will say, as relates to the tweets, is, if there is any evidence you want that we need an independent investigation at this stage, it is that the president of the United States may be leaking information he knows from his intelligence briefing.
Leaking is the wrong word. He may be tweeting them out. So, I mean, I woke up this morning thinking, I can't even imagine anyone has a straight face argument at this stage to not have an independent investigation.
Trump is leaking or he's whining of conspiracy theories. In either case, it's about -- it's time.
SMERCONISH: Perry, I gave the president credit for a well executed speech on Tuesday night. It was a more conciliatory, a softer version of President Trump. Doesn't seem like that's going to last given the Twitter feed this morning.
BACON: Right. I think it couldn't last because this news on Thursday was so damning. These stories were so strong and so well sourced and so potentially could change the presidency.
The other thing I would say about the tweets today is Donald Trump is not answering the central question. The central question is, why were your associates talking to the Russians during the election cycle, particularly while the Russians were hacking our election.
If Donald Trump could give an answer to that broad question, it would reduce some of these stories. Right now, he's saying -- his staff and his aides keep saying, these contacts didn't happen at all and it turns out they're lying. So, Trump has to figure out how does he address the broader narrative or these stories are going to keep dogging his presidency.
SMERCONISH: Right. Where's the evidence that we were similar communications, the Trump campaign was, with the French or the Brits, or the Israelis or --
BACON: -- even if we did, right.
SMERCONISH: Or the Montenegrins.
Perry Bacon, FiveThirtyEight blog, great job. Juliette Kayyem, the SCIF podcast. Thank you both.
BACON: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: So, here is what some of you are thinking at my Twitter page, which is @Smerconish. Hit me with it.
"Your bias against Trump is blatant. Instead of dealing with wiretap allegations, you attack Trump."
Hey, Local Man, I am not biased. I am fair.
[09:45:00] In fact, I just said to my guests, let's be fair to the president and look at it from his perspective.
But I think it's diversionary, right? I mean, his focus has been all on the way in which we learn information instead of focusing on the sum and substance of that information. For example, Mike Flynn would still be the national security adviser if that information about his meeting with Sergey Kislyak, his conversation, was bogus. The president follows and focuses on how we learned the information, instead of dealing with the reality, although he did give him his walking papers. Hey. Up next, I was a third string quarterback in high school, but my
coach was a four-time state champion who taught me and thousands of others about a lot more than football.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PETTINE, SR., HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL COACH: Maybe you'll have to shake you a little bit to realize, look what you've got in front of you, look what you've got in front of you. Three years would be unbelievable, 45-0 versus 44-1. That's the decision you've got to make today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you are looking in at Mike Pettine, one of the legendary coaches.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, you talked about Mike's career at Central Bucks West. He's in his 32nd year at head coach.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're talking about a guy that's won 310 ball games in his career and lost only 42 and is looking for his third championship here in the '90s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Those scenes are from a fabulous documentary called "The Last Game" about legendary Pennsylvania high school football coach Mike Pettine, Sr. Pettine died last week at the age of 76.
His record at my alma mater, Central Bucks West was astounding: 326 wins, just 42 losses and four ties. Four state champions across 33 seasons, producing many collegiate and even pro-players before he retired in 1999.
At one point in the 1980s, his teams had won 55 games in a row.
Pettine's ability to mentor was underscored when his son Mike Jr. was hired at age 47 to be head coach of the Cleveland Browns.
Pettine Sr.'s true legacy is the effect that he had on the many young men that he coached including yours truly.
Let me give you the view from the bench. My name never rose higher than third string in the two years that I played for Coach Pettine. If I had any doubt as to my standing, I was always able to consult the depth chart that hung in the locker room.
Long before the age where everybody got a trophy, there was no ambiguity where you stood on the squad. Although I previously quarterbacked a championship in junior high school, by the time that I got to high school, my better days were behind me. I don't if a coach starting today could succeed in coach Pettine's
mold. He was not for the faint of heart. He was a drill sergeant. Intense. Vocal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETTINE: This is it, baby.
That's it. Coach, it's my turn. I want to see your heads up. Why is anybody looking at the floor?
We're not going to be a good football team with this type of crap.
Nobody looks down on us, all right? We'll respect them all the way until we kick their ass.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: But the examples that he set for his players turnout to have affected me for the rest of my life. He valued the sort of things that you see on those posters they sell in airline magazines :Hard work. commitment. Organization. Preparation. Discipline.
See, there was never any secret sauce in the CB West football dynasty. Pettine was an old school practitioner of the fundamentals. He won by executing the basics.
He was the Warren Buffett of high school football. And to the extent that I've had any modicum of success in my life, it has been by following the Pettine playbook.
But don't take the word of this bench warmer. Consider the perspective of a superstar. There was no shame in my standing as the number three given who the number one was. Kevin Ward.
Nationally in the high school graduating class of 1979, there were three quarterbacks coveted by major colleges -- Dan Marino, John Elway, and Kevin Ward.
After being recruited by Notre Dame and Penn State, Ward chose the University of Arizona because he was able to play both football and baseball. He ended up concentrating on baseball. He led the Pac 10 in hitting in his junior year, then spent eight and a half years in the minor leagues. Had to overcome two serious injuries before finally full filing his dream of playing Major League Baseball.
And when he made it as a San Diego Padre, you know who was there to watch him, Coach Pettine, who stood outside of a players' locker room underneath Veteran Stadium in Philadelphia just to tell Kevin Ward how proud he was.
Ward told me, "The coach knew I'd never give up. And that was the part of him that was out there with me on that major league field."
And Ward having played sports from the sand lot to professional level regards Mike Pettine as his greatest coach. Today, more than three decades later, I can picture him standing on
the practice field behind CB West in his trademark baseball cap with wide frameless lenses, whistle around his neck, clipboard in his hand yelling things like "Get him out of here" or "Who can't go, who can't go?"
That he notched 326 wins is astounding. But his life shouldn't be reduced to even those impressive numbers. Instead, it will be perpetuated by the many young men that he coached.
[09:55:04] Still to come, your best and worst tweets. Like this. "Smerconish, is there any chance of seeing you on the field again?" Hey, Andre, I earned my letter in my junior year. You would think I would be embarrassed to tell you this -- by holding for extra points. Mark Amoroso was the kicker. Jeff Truger (ph) was the snapper and we all had a great unit. Thanks.
SMERCONISH: Keep tweeting @Smerconish, what do we have? "I think someone has to explain Smerconish the issue that Donald Trump won and the Democrats lost."
Lucho, I think as Americans, we need to know exactly how he won. That's all I'm advocating.
One more, quickly. It says, "As a Doylestown resident, thank you for revealing to the world about our local legendary coach. RIP Mike Pettine."
Hey, Steve, it was the most pleasant, pleasurable commentary I've ever delivered at CNN. So, thank you for watching.
See you next week.