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Eight Frat Brothers Charged with Manslaughter; France's Centrist Candidate Claims He was Hacked; GOP Could Lose 20 House Seats in Midterms; Did Comey Letter Lose Election for Clinton?; Will Trump Allow Release of JFK Files?. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 6, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:00] PAUL: Thanks, Coy. And "SMERCONISH" is going to be with you now.

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

Campus tragedy. 18 Penn State students indicted in a case of alleged fraternity hazing. Eight of them have been charged with manslaughter in connection with the death of a pledge after a night of excessive drinking. Much of the evening captured on video and via social media. I'll talk exclusively to the lawyer for the young man's family.

And another presidential election, another hack. CNN estimating 70,000 internal campaign documents of French favorite Emmanuel Macron published online.

Plus, you remember the progressive slogan, when they go low, we go high? Well, that era crashed to earth this week when Stephen Colbert hit the president below the belt. The FCC now investigating obscenity charges. Has the left now joined the age of intolerance?

Plus the House GOP pushes through its unpopular replacement for Obamacare, but analysts say this could lead to big losses in the midterm elections. Was it worth the political cost?

Also the decision as to whether we get to see 3,600 secret files about the Kennedy assassination, now rests with the conspirator-in-chief. And I'll explain.

But first 18 Penn State students and the fraternity itself were charged Friday in connection with the hazing death. Eight fraternity brothers charged with involuntary manslaughter in what is sure to become the highest profile hazing case ever.

Timothy Piazza, 19, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died on February 4 two days after he was injured while pledging the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. The cause of death traumatic brain injury resulting from several falls including one down a set of basement stairs. A forensic pathologist calculated that Piazza had a life-threatening blood alcohol content. Surveillance video provided evidence that contradicted fraternity brothers' versions and pointed to their cover-up. The Beta Theta Pi fraternity has been banned from ever returning to

Penn State University where university president Eric J. Barron released a statement calling the grand jury findings, quote, "heart wrenching and incomprehensible."

Joining me now to discuss is Thomas Kline, an attorney for the late student Timmy Piazza. In the interest of full disclosure, I'm of counsel to his law firm, Kline & Specter, but I have no personal involvement nor financial interest in this case.

Tom, does the family want these young men punished?

THOMAS KLINE, ATTORNEY FOR THE PIAZZA FAMILY: Michael, these young men deserve to be punished. This was in a fraternity house but don't mistake the fact of it being a fraternity house for the chilling, numbing facts which are in this investigative report by the grand jury. And the family is interested mainly in promoting a future for fraternities and a safe and careful evaluation by everyone.

SMERCONISH: This is no ordinary fraternity house. It had what the indictment says was a complex system for video surveillance and that's why there's such detail in the indictment.

Tom, I'm going to race through some of the paragraphs in the indictment. 173 explains that one of the brothers, Greg Rizzo, hears somebody fall and then he sees Timmy lying on his stomach face down at the bottom of the steps. 174, they're now group texting one another. Quote, "Tim Piazza might actually be a problem. He fell 15 feet down a flight of stairs, hair first, going to need help. 179, now the brothers are, quote-unquote, "backpacking" him so he won't aspirate on his own vomit. 183, he now comes back into the camera frame because four of his brothers are carrying him.

184, his body appears limp. His eyes are closed. His demeanor is unconscious based on his lack of movement and he's got a bruise. 188, one of the guys dumps liquid on his face. He doesn't respond. 189, another guy lifts up his arm and it drops, meaning its limp. It falls right to his chest. 190, somebody else pours liquid on his face. He doesn't respond. Now, 197, presumably a Good Samaritan, Cornell Davis, he says that he appears in the great hall, sees him on the couch. He looks terrible. He sees the bruise on his chest.

When the brothers say that he fell down a flight of stairs, he's even more concerned. He stresses to them that he needs to go to the hospital. He screams to get him help, and then one of the guys gets off the couch, shoves him and instructs him to leave because they've got it under control.

[09:05:04] 198, one of the brothers now says, hey, we've got this handled because we are majors in kinesiology and biology. And then 233, by forensic analysis the following morning of the phones, we see that there are searches being done. These guys are Googling falling asleep after head injury, or true or false, a person with a serious head injury or concussion should be kept awake. Finally, number 234, the following morning at about 11:00 a.m., finally a call gets made. They don't even tell the dispatcher that he fell downstairs and that it occurred the night before.

Here's my question for Tom Kline. That video seems like both a blessing and a curse. A blessing insofar as prosecutors know what they know in great detail, but a curse for your clients to know that it's all captured and it's all there to see.

KLINE: It is more a blessing, Michael, than a curse. The fact of the matter is that the video was the great equalizer in this particular situation. That video is shocking. It is numbing, described by the president of the university as inhumane and sickening, not my words but the president of Penn State.

The things that were captured on that video should not take place anywhere. The forced drinking -- this wasn't a young man who went and just consumed alcohol. He was in a forced hazing ritual. This fraternity and the culture on the Penn State campus which allowed this to take place should not take place in any university in any campus anywhere in America.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Tom, as a father of three sons, four kids but three of them being boys and one of whom just pledged a fraternity within the last 30 days, it's hard for me to read this indictment. I was the product of a good fraternity experience as an undergrad and I'm frankly -- I'm worried. I want them held accountable but I'm worried of the ramifications on fraternity life for this across the country. Where's it going in the big picture?

KLINE: Well, there's a concern, Michael, that it will force fraternities underground. The fact of the matter is that all of these conduct was going on right underneath the Penn State officials' nose. They knew about it. It is known on other campuses in America. This is widespread. It is a scourge. It needs to be stopped. And the mission of the Piazza family is not just punish these young men, and they deserve to be punished, but rather to deter.

We need to change the culture. We need to change the atmosphere. We need to change the rules of the game. If we're going to have our children, our young men and women in development actually have a real college experience, they should not be within the reaches of debauchery.

This was depravity at its worst level. Just because it happened in a fraternity house, just because it happened on a college campus, don't think to yourself, oh, it couldn't be that bad. Read this report and you will be shocked.

SMERCONISH: I have, and I was. Tom Kline, thank you.

KLINE: My pleasure, thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or as many are already doing go to my Facebook page. I'll read some throughout the course of the program.

Katherine, what do you got from Facebook?

"This should be an indictment on this chapter of this fraternity, not the fraternity system or even other chapters of Beta," says Seth.

Seth, he says as a Theta Chi, I'm proud of my history in my fraternity and its service to my campus and to our nation in general. And finally Seth says, just like a story about a school that pays its college players, we don't say let's shut down college football.

Hey, Seth -- Seth, I just said exactly that to the attorney Tom Kline. I said exactly that, that for three years a lived in a fraternity as an undergrad at Lehigh University and I had a wonderful fraternity experience and I don't view this as an indictment of the entire system, but holy smokes, was this god awful, according to the indictment.

Up ahead, on the eve of France's election, the leading candidate's campaign has been hacked right after former President Obama made a campaign ad for him. Are we reliving last fall?

And is all this resistance to President Trump on the left hurting the Democrats and actually helping Trump? My commentary is coming up.


[09:13:56] SMERCONISH: A last-minute hack of a presidential frontrunner's private election materials, does this sound familiar? This time it's in France. Just a day and a half before the election, leading candidate Emmanuel Macron's campaign said Friday it had been the target of a massive computer hack that dumped its campaign e-mails online. CNN estimating that 70,000 documents were in the dump.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the posting of the data, nor how much of it is genuine. This comes on the heels of former president Barack Obama releasing an ad supporting Macron, the centrist candidate whose opponent is a far right leader, Marine Le Pen, for whom President Trump has expressed enthusiasm. Take a listen.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I want all of my friends to know how much I am rooting for your success. Because of how important this election is, I also want you to know that I am supporting Emmanuel Macron to lead you forward. Viva la France.


SMERCONISH: So are we seeing America's election being relived across the Atlantic?

Joining me now from CNN's Paris bureau to discuss the implications here in the U.S. and abroad is CNN international correspondent Jim Bittermann.

[09:15:08] Jim, I find the timing so curious because if someone really wanted to influence the outcome of the election, wouldn't you expect that the document dump would have come before, long before, the media blackout period? JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

There are a lot of parallels in these two elections, the United States and France, but that's one that doesn't hold because the fact is that unlike with the DNC and Hillary Clinton's e-mails that were dripped out over a long period of time, here the dump came just hours before the election reporting deadline. Basically at midnight on the Friday before elections here. There's a cone of silence that's lowered over the campaigns and they can no longer say anything.

This came just four hours before that, and the campaign of Emmanuel Macron was able to get out a last-minute communique basically saying they had been hacked, that there were millions of e-mails out there. And they also warned that there were false documents in the midst of other documents that were real from the campaign.

But we don't know what the content is, and none of the news outlets here are reporting this today. In fact, the news channels have not touched this story at all -- Michael.

SMERCONISH: I was going to say, Jim, it puts them in an awkward position, members of the media, right, because I'm sure they'd love to tell the story, but they need to honor the protocol of the law which is to say this is a blackout period.

BITTERMANN: Absolutely a blackout period. And so tomorrow night at 8:00 when results come in, and also I must say that with the volume of documents that had been released, it must take -- it will take people some time to get through these documents. There's just an awful lot of material there. Apparently one of the news magazines here reported they had been through some of it and it was pretty mundane stuff. So it is kind of curious.

What kind of damage it will have. It's probably minimal, I would say, at this point because it's so late and the voters really don't have anything to base their vote on, at least as far as these e-mails are concerned.

SMERCONISH: And Jim, finally, Macron is the prohibitive favorite but of course we learned from Brexit, we learned from the election of Donald Trump particularly where there's a populist candidate involved, those polls aren't always accurate.

BITTERMANN: Well, there are -- there is at least one way that Marine Le Pen could, in fact, sort of upset the polling here and that's if people don't turn up at the polls tomorrow, if they don't vote, if they abstain. But basically all the polls agree Macron is the favorite going into tomorrow's election.

SMERCONISH: Jim Bittermann, thank you. We really appreciate your reporting.

Keep tweeting me @smerconish and commenting on my Facebook page. Back to Facebook we go. What do we have, Katherine?

"Do you think we should black out right before an election?" Laura, I don't think we'd be able to sustain it. There's just

something, I'm sure, about the French and the French society and their media that allows them to honor that agreement. I think it would be very, very difficult in the United States to get similar cooperation. It's an interesting concept, though, and I don't rule it out.

Up ahead, is the left overplaying its hand in opposing President Trump? Whatever happened to when they go low, we go high?

And the GOP celebrated after the House squeaked through a new health care plan this week, but in doing so, have they just handed the Democrats a huge gift for the midterms?


[09:22:52] SMERCONISH: So guess who wants their country back now? Not the Tea Party activists who have made that a rallying cry since 2009. This time it's progressives with increasingly harsh rhetoric that sparks comparisons to some of the vitriol that was directed toward President Obama for his entire eight years. And if it isn't toned down it could overshadow any message Trump's opponents wish to convey.

Consider Stephen Colbert's monologue last Monday. The late-night comedian whose new show initially struggled, has sharpened his attacks against the newly elected president and he's been rewarded with ratings. But Monday he went too far with his Trump-Putin oral sex reference which crossed a line. Take a listen.


STEPHEN COLBERT, HOST, " THE LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT": Sir, you attract more skin heads than Free Rogaine. You have more people marching against you than cancer. You talk like a sign language gorilla who got hit in the head. In fact, the only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin's (EXPLETIVE DELETED) holster.


SMERCONISH: That might be suitable for, say, "Real Time with Bill Maher" but not network television, the so-called Tiffany network which used to be the programming gold standard. First it was crass and it was in bad taste, quite a departure for the Sunday school teaching Colbert and a far cry from the Democratic campaign mantra, when they go low, we go high. But second, it's foolish politics. On President Obama's watch, the right lost credibility with all but themselves. When they allowed their discomfort with President Obama's background to devolve into charges of birtherism, or they cried socialism about Obamacare.

Intolerance has a way of catching up with you politically and Colbert is not the only recent example. Student marauders stopped Charles Murray at Middlebury. Ann Coulter had to cancel at Berkeley, elevating the bombastic nuance in to martyr. And some want the "New York Times" to fire Brett Stephens, a conservative who wrote formally for the "Wall Street Journal." He just published his first "Times" column under the headline, climate of complete certainty. Stephens cautioned used the example of Hillary Clinton's failed campaign so show that such certainty can lead to hubris.

[09:25:03] While not denying climate change nor human role in it, he nevertheless said that while climate science is scrupulous, that's not always the case with its boosters.

Well, the column sparked a human cry, some subscription cancellations, which I find to be ridiculous. Or consider the Democratic taunts of GOP members who voted to repeal Obamacare on Thursday.

My CNN colleague Chris Cillizza was right to say that this kind of jeering and mocking is exactly why people hate politics.

Look, the left is understandably fired up but there's only one beneficiary in a climate of liberal intolerance and that's Donald Trump. He's helped when he is no longer the bad behaving outlier but the norm in a political atmosphere run amok. Not only will his base stick with him, 96 percent say they're ready to vote for him again, but such behavior will also alienate independents who might be swayed by the perception of a political pylon.

The best way to fight him is on substance, not his own style. In the primary process, if it taught us anything, it's that you can't beat him by climbing into his sandbox. You can just ask Marco Rubio.

So what are the political ramifications of these bitter fights on the Republican side after the House repeal of Obamacare? The independent nonpartisan Cook Political Report changed its midterm predictions in 20 congressional districts, swinging them Democratic. In the piece David Wasserman writes, quote, "House Republicans' willingness to spend political capital on a proposal that garnered the support of just 17 percent of the public in a March Quinnipiac poll is consistent with past scenarios that have generated a midterm wave."

The Cook Report's David Wasserman joins me now.

Hey, David, there are 23 Republicans sitting in districts won by Hillary, and 14 of them voted for this. They're the most vulnerable, right?

DAVID WASSERMAN, HOUSE EDITOR AND POLITICAL ANALYST, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: That's correct. Including seven in California alone. And these are the types of districts that Democrats need to win back if they have any chance of winning the House, and they're not sufficient on their own, they'll need to go into Trump territory to actually flip control of the House. But if you have a Democratic base that's really fired up and a Republican base that is less fired up, the reverse of what we saw in 2010, then it could happen.

SMERCONISH: You also noted in your piece that Democrats run a risk. I thought this was fascinating. They run a risk in some parts of the country if they start calling it Trumpcare because that could actually make it more popular?

WASSERMAN: That's right. Because some of the least popular provisions of the Republican health care bill are less popular than Trump. Trump is at about 40 percent approval right now. That's in the zone of where past presidents have lost their House majority in their first midterm. But look, you can't blame Republicans for spending their political capital. It's what Democrats did in 2009 and '10.

SMERCONISH: Another interesting observation you make is that 20 Republicans voted against this bill, and yet, they still might get blamed because that's exactly what happened with a significant number of House Democrats relative to the affordable care act. Explain.

WASSERMAN: Well, in 2010, there were a number of Democrats who took a pass on voting for the ACA, but it didn't guarantee them reelection, because out of the 30 who voted against Obamacare and ran for re- election, 17 of them still lost. And so the Republican members like Mike Kaufman in Colorado or Barbara Comstock in the northern Virginia suburbs who essentially got a leadership pass to vote against this, or, you know, they had objections that were true to their conscience, we'll never know for sure. But they are at severe risk as a result of the Republican drive to advance an unpopular piece of legislation.

SMERCONISH: We've already got our first campaign commercial. Tom Perriello, who is running for governor in Virginia in a Democratic primary. Roll the film and we'll make an observation.


TOM PERRIELLO (D), VIRGINIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Republican leaders are trying to do this to affordable health care.

I'm Tom Perriello and in Congress I voted for Obamacare because it was wrong that a million Virginians weren't covered while insurance companies held all the power. Now I'm running for governor because it's wrong that most Virginia incomes haven't gone up in 20 years. Together we can stop Donald Trump, raise wages and build an economy that works for everyone. And we'll make sure this never happens in Virginia.


SMERCONISH: Hey, David, the question I have about the ad, was that a green screen? And if not, did he nail it in one take? And how many ambulances did they have lined up if he stumbled over his lines? But more seriously, is that a sign of what's to come?

WASSERMAN: Yes, I think you can expect that. And look, that's not the kind of ad that you do in multiple takes.

[19:30:01] But I think you can expect Democrats to be creative in firing up their base, and they don't really need to draw out everyone who voted for Hillary Clinton because mid-term turnout drops off so dramatically.

We're going to get our first couple hints of how this is playing out in districts in Georgia six, in Montana special election, and we'll even see the margin in the South Carolina five special election. So, there are some indicators here.

Of course, 18 months is an eternity in politics, but Republicans are at risk right now in several dozen districts.

SMERCONISH: David Wasserman, as always, thanks so much for your analysis.

WASSERMAN: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Keep tweeting me @Smerconish and hitting the Facebook page.

Here's something that came in via Twitter.

Smerconish, unfortunately, Trump's campaign antics made it easy for some on the left to take the bait and sink to the same level. Bad for all.

Brian, that's part of my point, and I know there's going to be huge blowback from the commentary I just delivered. That's fine. But I'm also saying I don't think it's effective as a political strategy to fight him at his level. That's what I'm arguing.

Still to come, we still don't know what's in 3,600 classified documents about the Kennedy assassination, but a 1992 law required they be released by this October. Will it happen? Well, get this -- the power rests with a certain president who once accused Ted Cruz's father of being involved.

And Hillary Clinton says FBI Director James Comey's letter to Congress just before the election suggesting more trouble with her e-mail may have tipped the scale for her loss.

I want to talk to Harry Enten from the blog who has analyzed the numbers and says she's probably right.

Rush Limbaugh, he's not so sure.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Comey today testifies, I was so nauseated! I had to reopen the investigation. I felt so bad!

Just now Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight, the Comey letter probably cost Clinton the election. We've got a new narrative. Comey cost Hillary the election and the god -- the god of the left, and their polling data, Nate Silver, has confirmed it now.



[09:36:36] SMERCONISH: Hillary Clinton would probably be president today if FBI Director James Comey hadn't sent a letter to Congress October 28 about, quote, the existence of e-mails that appear to be pertinent to the investigation into her private e-mail server. That's at least the most quantifiable factor, according to a piece on Nate Silver's website, titled, "The Comey Letter Probably Cost Clinton the Election". So, why won't the media admit as much.

The letter, you'll recall, upended the news cycle and cut Clinton's lead in the polls in half.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour this time, Clinton herself gave some credence to this theory.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: As Nate Silver, who, you know, doesn't work for me, he's an independent analyst but one considered to be very reliable, has concluded if the election has been on October 27th, I'd be your president.


SMERCONISH: Comey himself when asked about the idea that he might have had this impact had this response.


JAMES COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: Look, this was terrible. It makes me mildly nauseous to think that we might have had some impact on the election, but honestly, it wouldn't change the decision.


SMERCONISH: Joining me now, Harry Enten, the senior political writer and analyst of "FiveThirtyEight" who did research for the site's ten- part series on how Trump won and a week before the election, when he gave him his props, he was one of the few when he warned this, Donald Trump still has a chance. He's just a normal polling error behind.

Hey, Harry, I should point out that in Nate's piece he says, look, this is not the only reason and it's not necessarily the most important factor, but it's a significant issue nonetheless. Explain.

HARRY ENTEN, SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER & ANALYST, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Sure. I mean look, Hillary Clinton should never have been in a position to lose this election to Donald Trump who was the least liked presidential candidate of all time. Anyone who wasn't the second least liked presidential candidates of all time as Hillary Clinton was would have won this election regardless of the Comey letter.

That being said, when you have a five or six-point lead two weeks before the election and then magically it becomes two to four points right on the election eve, something happened, and it lines up perfectly with when Comey released his letter. In the days following, we saw a tremendous dip in Hillary Clinton's polling results and it just -- I mean, it's simple logic.

Comey comes out, it was negative news for Clinton and her poll numbers dropped. I'm not quite sure what's so controversial about that.

SMERCONISH: OK, so to the point that it can be quantified, let me put on the screen what you made reference to.

The morning of the 28th -- the morning of the 28th, she's up six nationally. She's up six to seven in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania. Her leads in Florida and North Carolina are more narrow. She was tied with Trump in Ohio and Iowa. There were a lot of undecideds.

But one week later, and this is what this is showing, her national lead declined to 2.9 points, meaning she had lost 3 points. And I think what you're saying is the most likely explanation is this issue.

ENTEN: Exactly. Look, Hillary Clinton's numbers were dropping a little bit before even Comey came out. But the fact is that that decline increased dramatically after Comey came out and we know from July when Comey initially came out and said we're not going to indict Hillary Clinton, that was still bad news for her because he ripped her and her polling numbers dropped then.

The fact that her numbers dropped then and then in October again, seems consistent with the idea that James Comey's letter, in fact, did contribute to Hillary Clinton's defeat in November.

[09:40:03] SMERCONISH: There are a lot of things going on in the waning days of the campaign, and put up "The New York Times" as an illustration of the day after how this played. And then we have a montage that shows how other major media outlets played the release of the October 28th letter. A calculus of what were the dominant stories, Harry, the so-called memorandum in those final days shows this was the issue, this was the biggest of the campaign ongoing stories.

ENTEN: This was the big issue. I mean, the fact is the media played this up. If you were a swing voter in Ohio or Wisconsin or Michigan, you couldn't turn on a television or read a newspaper without reading this.

And so, if you're a swing voter who's making up your mind at the last minute this is the last thing on your mind. And we know from the exit polling, in fact, that people who made up their minds in the final days and weeks of the campaign chose Donald Trump dramatically as compared to earlier on when they were far more likely to choose Hillary Clinton.

SMERCONISH: Harry, when my father was a guidance counselor, there was a sign in his office that said, kick the person responsible for your problems and you won't sit down for a week.

To that end, if she hadn't gone the private server route, there would have been no letter from Jim Comey on October 28.

ENTEN: A hundred percent correct. Look, Hillary Clinton is responsible for the fact that she lost this election, she should never have been in this position that she was, that the Comey letter could have affected it. But that's not to say that James Comey's letter didn't affect this election. If you look at the polling data, in my opinion and the opinion of a lot of people I respect, it did.

SMERCONISH: You know, ironically, the "New York Times," I think, turned in a great piece of work. There was an 8,000-word story, four- person byline about ten days ago where they went inside Justice and tried to explain Comey's decision maker, and if you buy into their reporting, it suggests that he thought she was going to win like much of the rest of the country, and he did not want the perception that they cut her some slack, and then all of a sudden, it would be revealed that there was this investigation.

So, he allowed his own prognostication to play a role in how much he was saying publicly.

ENTEN: I think that's 100 percent correct and also the way the media played it. I think the media played it because they looked at the polls and they thought, oh wow, there's no way Donald Trump can win, we don't want the incoming president to think that she can get a pass so they played up this issue while perhaps downplaying issues with regards to Donald Trump. So, yes, I think if they had thought this election were tighter, we might have in fact seen a different narrative from both James Comey and the media.

SMERCONISH: Harry Enten, thank you so much for your analysis.

ENTEN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Appreciate it. Let's check in on Twitter and Facebook and see what's going on and what's so many of you are thinking. I understand we got a huge Twitter reaction.

You need to stop your flip-flop. One week you're all in for Trump, the next week you call him out. Trump is an embarrassment. Period.

Hey, Stephanie, I'm not a flip-flopper. I'm consistent in my independence. I call them as a see them. If I see something that's wrong, errant, bad, I say so. Man, I said it for a year and a half during the course of a campaign, and if I have a critique of the way the left is reacting to him as I did today like Stephen Colbert, I'm going to offer you that as well. And week in and week out I seem to alienate just about everybody.

Do we have time for one more? Hit me with another twitter if you've got it.

Smerconish, God bless Comey.

I'm not sure what to make of that, James Owen, but I'll tell you this. I don't think he had his thumb on the scale trying to impact the election outcome. I do not believe that. I have done a great deal of reading on this subject and I think he was trying to act in a best way that preserved integrity for the FBI. Those are my thoughts.

Up next, the intrigue about the Kennedy assassination. Man, it never goes away, right? Thirty-six hundred files are still classified, but a 1992 law requires them to be released by October, and guess who's the only one who can stop it. President Donald J. Trump.


[09:48:14] SMERCONISH: It's been 53-plus years since the assassination of John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza. If you're like me you're as curious as ever about the classified details that have yet to become public. Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone?

Oliver Stone reignited this topic in his 1981 film, "JFK". You remember this scene?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are hundreds of documents that can help prove this conspiracy. Why are they being withheld or burned by the government? All these documents are yours, because you might possibly lynch those involved, you cannot see these documents for another 75 years.


SMERCONISH: Stone's film actually led to the 1992 law, the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act, which requires that this trove of 3,600 documents, mostly from the CIA and FBI must be made public by the law's 25th anniversary which is this October 25th.

And now, it's all up to our president. As Philip Shenon points out in his recent "Politico" article, will Trump release the missing JFK files? The president is the only one who can override the law. Will he let them see the light of day?

You'll recall that during the presidential campaign, one of then candidate Donald Trump's claims drawn from the "National Enquirer" pertained to somehow Ted Cruz's father being involved in the plot.

Philip Shenon joins me now. He's a Washington and foreign correspondent for the "New York Times" and author of "A Cruel and Shocking Act, the Secret History of the Kennedy Assassination".

Hey, Philip, we should underscore, if the president does nothing, then those documents get dropped, right? In other words, the only thing he can do is affirmatively stop them.

PHILIP SHENON, AUTHOR, "A CRUEL AND SHOCKINGACT: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION": That's right, it's all automatic. Under the law on October 26th, the 25th anniversary of the law, everything has to be public.

[09:50:00] And the National Archives which has these files says it hopes to begin releasing them this summer in batches.

SMERCONISH: I know from your reporting that they are thought to pertain to a trip that Oswald made to Mexico City soon before the assassination. What might we learn?

SHENON: Well, there is this whole mostly untold chapter of the drama of the Kennedy assassination which involves a trip, a mysterious trip that Oswald pays to Mexico City just six weeks before the assassination where he's meeting with Cuban spies and Russian spies and Mexicans who are supporters of Castro's revolution. And these people are interacting with Oswald.

And we've never really understood even people at the CIA and FBI never really understood what happened down there. And apparently, a lot of these files are taken out of the personal documents of the CIA officers who followed Oswald, who had surveillance of him in Mexico City.

SMERCONISH: Am I right in saying that the reason they've not yet seen the light of day in part is because the FBI and CIA did not want to harm relationships with Mexico, they thought there could be some potentially embarrassing things there for the Mexican government?

SHENON: Exactly. You know, as a result of Stone's movie and this law, you had literally millions of pages of documents that were released to the public. But there were these 3,600 documents held back.

And as I am told, apparently, a lot of these involved what happened in Mexico. And they were not released back in the '90s because of the concern they would damage our relationship with Mexico. And, of course, President Trump may have a different view of Mexico than did some of his predecessors in the White House.

SMERCONISH: I was going to make that exact observation. That would not seem to be a big consideration for the current commander in chief. What of this Ted Cruz father Oswald business is there any reason to believe that gets regurgitated based on something in these documents.

SHENON: Well, I'm sure news organizations will try to regurgitate it and look for any possible evidence that shows Ted Cruz's father was somehow in cahoots with Oswald back in 1963. But as I understand it the only evidence linking Ted Cruz's father to Oswald is this one photograph that the "National Enquirer" focused on and that President Donald Trump as a candidate focused on.

SMERCONISH: And which we should underscore is denied by both Ted Cruz and his father.

You know, final observation. I'm sure whatever's contained in the 3,600 files and the many other documents that in the past have been partially released but may also be released is it will never satisfy the conspiracy theorists who are out there. Nothing will bring to a close some of the thought processes they possess.

SHENON: I think that's true. I think we're never going to be rid of the conspiracy theories though I think there may be some documents we'll see later this year that may indeed rebut in an important way some of the big popular conspiracy theories.

SMERCONISH: And fair to say the White House hasn't said anything, right? We don't know what President Trump is thinking in this regard. SHENON: No, what we got this month -- rather last month is an

acknowledgment on the record that the White House is reviewing this and is working with the National Archives to have a smooth rollout of these documents. But we have no hint as to what President Trump will do.

SMERCONISH: Philip Shenon, thank you so much for the reporting.

SHENON: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets. We've got more I think from Facebook. Let's see.

He'll do what he thinks is the most controversial thing on the Kennedy information. He is an attention seeker.

Marjorie, I want to see all the documents. I just -- you know, the irony is delicious, right? That we haven't seen the documents because there was concern that this could be harmful to our relationship with Mexico. You'd think that would be the least consideration of the current commander in chief.

Back with more social media in a sec.


SMERCONISH: Hey, thank you so much for watching. Thank you for following me on Twitter and hitting the Facebook page.

Here's some of what you're thinking.

Arrogant, mean frat boys and arrogant mean politicians are all product of our failing culture. Without change, we are doomed.

Tom, I'll go this far, it's a shame how the acts of a handful of individuals be they bad seeds in a fraternity who let a young man die, allegedly, reportedly, or bad seeds who are politicians and then cause other people not to want to pursue careers in public service, they both poison the well.

Hit me with another one. I'm agreeing with you on that.

Do you think fraternities should continue to exist?

Myra, I do. I was the product of a positive three-year fraternity experience. I'm not throwing out the baby with the bath water. A subject for a different day -- and it doesn't apply necessarily to this Penn State case -- but a subject for a different day is whether we've driven drinking underground. Whether in a crackdown on alcohol -- I know this is going to be controversial, but I'm going to say it any way -- whether it a crackdown on alcohol on campuses across the country, we have driven students into their dorm rooms where they binge drink, tie one on in a hurry and then act inappropriately. That's deserving of some additional thought in terms of what the drinking age should be.

One more if I've got time for it. I think that I do.

You're wrong about Comey just like you're wrong about the second presidential debate results, he helped elect Trump.

I -- Terry, my point about Comey is that I don't believe that FBI Director Comey acted with an intention of putting his thumb on the scale and causing the election or defeat of Donald Trump. I've invested the time going through his public handling of this case and I think that first and foremost, he made mistakes, but I think first and foremost, he was worried about the integrity of the bureau, frankly on the watch of a President Clinton that didn't come to pass.

See you next week.