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My Legal Advice for Trump; NYT Reporter on Latest Comey Firing Revelations; How Presidents Prepare and What can go Wrong; The Navy SEAL Who Shot Bin Laden; What Cosby Revealed to Me. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 20, 2017 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I am Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Escaping turmoil at home, President Trump heads to international waters, landing this morning in Saudi Arabia. He got the royal red carpet welcome from 81-year-old King Salman, with military brass band and fighter jet fly over. Can his foreign policy push help down play his domestic disturbances? To list just a few, the naming of a special counsel into possible campaign collusion with Russia. The hiring of Michael Flynn, despite knowing he was under investigation. Telling the Russians James Comey was a nut job that he fired to reduce pressure, to discuss with "The New York Times" Matthew Rosenberg.
And on top of this, reports that the White House lawyers are researching impeachment. It makes me think that the president is in need of some serious legal counsel. I'm about to give it to him pro bono.
Plus, he shot and killed Osama bin Laden, just one of Navy SEAL Robert O'Neill's 400 combat missions. He was decorated 52 times and he's here to tell the tale.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: I just hope I'm not in trouble now, man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: This week, Bill Cosby broke his silence for the first time in more than two years. He spoke to me. The interview made national news, but did many miss what he revealed about his upcoming assault trial? I'll explain.
But first, Mr. President, either you're not getting good counsel or you're not following the good counsel that you're being provided. In case it is the former, let me give you some legal advice. Robert Mueller's appointment is the official statement of official Washington that if you've broken the law, you're out. One way or another, impeachment, indictment or cabinet removal under the 25th amendment, I don't know if you've broken the law, whether you've impeded official investigations, but this isn't a witch hunt. There is enough evidence relating to Michael Flynn and the Russians to cause the extraordinary act of the appointment of an independent counsel.
You fired the person who is investigating Flynn and maybe investigating you after you allegedly first asked that investigator over a one on one dinner at the White House for a loyalty pledge. And then, allegedly, two weeks later in the Oval Office after asking Vice President Pence and attorney general Sessions to leave the room, you told Director Comey to stop investigating your former national security adviser by saying, quote, "I hope you can let this go." At that moment, because of your termination letter of Comey, we know you had Russia on your mind. And now comes news that you told the Russians that the firing of Comey would relieve great pressure.
Understand this. You can't make what has happened go away, not by tweeting, not by rallying the base, not by having your allies in Congress or the conservative media complain. We're beyond that now. You need to hire a criminal defense attorney and follow that lawyer's advice which will no doubt include restraint. And the road ahead is pretty clear. It is nearly certain that the truth will come out. If you committed crimes, you'll be removed.
I'm not prejudging you. I think it premature and inappropriate for those who talk impeachment. You also need to hire a political adviser who will stand up to you and tell you when you're wrong and you need to follow that advice. You need to relentlessly get to work and stay at work on the problems you were elected to fix. But even if you get past your legal issues, the way, the only way to save this presidency is to stop talking about this issue, stop being controlled by impulse and instead be governed by discretion and the law.
Assuming nothing that has already occurred will cause you to be removed, this presidency can be rescued. President Reagan faced many dark days in his second term in relation to Iran-Contra, but he got through it focusing on his work, by not complaining and by maintaining discipline. Pretty much the same thing happened with President Clinton, though that scandal was different. You can pull out of this downward spiral, but only if you have it in you to stay focused, stay on message, follow the rules, follow the law and follow good advice.
Now, some thought the president's departure would give us a respite. But the crazy news cycle kept going even after Air Force One had wheels up last night. "The New York Times" broke a story that President Trump had told visiting Russian diplomats that the FBI director James Comey was a "nut job" who he fired to take the pressure off.
[09:05:02] Everyday, sometimes every hour there's more groundbreaking journalism. And without such efforts we would never have learned of Michael Flynn's ties to Russia. He would likely still be the national security adviser. Nor might we know the president's true reason for firing FBI director Comey. And one of the star reporters with several by lines each week has been "The New York Times" national security correspondent Matthew Rosenberg who joins me now. Matthew, I've got the page one above the fold story in my hand. Nut job is the sort of thing people like to discuss at the water cooler, but I think this is the more significant quote. "I faced great pressure because of Russia, that's taken off." It sure seems to fit one of the elements that there was obstruction of justice, no?
MATTHEW ROSENBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR AND NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT "NEW YORK TIMES": I mean, I'm not a lawyer so I want to be careful on this one. I think you can read it two ways. You know, Trump, kind of could have - he's also talked about how Jim Comey is grand standing and he was a show boat, and that it created pressure in the public sphere and the press and from Democrats on him. And so, he may be also referring to that.
But that's the thing that's hard to tell with Trump. He is not particularly exact in his words. And you know, we'll just say, well that's Trump being Trump. But you know these are the moments where that kind of thing does get you in a tremendous amount of trouble.
You know, there's a reason why in these meetings the American president and diplomats have with foreign leaders and diplomats, they're really scripted, there are intense scripts. We can make fun of official Washington as being very boring and on message. But the reason they do it is because if you don't, things can go wildly off the rails.
And I think, if you're President Trump who really likes to speak off the cuff and says things that people do often find outrageous, things get - I mean, off the rails is a polite term on how things go.
SMERCONISH: Well, listen, I want to be fair. I'm searching for the benign explanation as to why he would say to the Russians the pressure has been taken off. Is the benign explanation perhaps that he wanted to convey strength to them by saying hey I got rid of that guy. I'm in control here and I'm ready now to deal with you.
ROSENBERG: I mean, let's - if that is the benign explanation, it still doesn't look great, I think. You know, you're telling the Russians, you're conveying strength by saying I got rid of our chief law enforcement official and you know the big kind of issue we often have with Russia is we say - you got the rule of law is important. Human rights are important. Following leaders, following the rules are important. And you've got the president in the Oval Office bragging, saying you know, this guy was a problem, now he is gone. -- That just doesn't play well with a lot of people in Washington and then there will be trial with a lot of Americans as well.
SMERCONISH: Should we be reading anything into the timing of this. I'm sure that from the right there will be criticism that you drop this bomb at "The New York Times" the minute that he had wheels up.
ROSENBERG: No, no. I mean, we dropped this when we got it ready. In fact, we were kind of scrambling to try and -- get the thing ready for publication and I think about 10, 20, 30 minutes before it went out, one of our editors was like wait, one of our colleagues was on the plane on Air Force One. We got to call and let him know this might happen while he is in the air. And we got him as the plane was taxiing on the runway. I mean, there was no great plan here. This was -- we finally got the story together. We have the sourcing. We were comfortable with it and we put it out.
SMERCONISH: Presumably from Air Force One then came this response from Sean Spicer. Put it up on the screen. "The president has always emphasized the importance of making deals with Russia as it relates to Syria, Ukraine, defeating ISIS and other key issues for the benefit and safety of the American people. By grandstanding and politicizing the investigation into Russia's actions, James Comey created unnecessary pressure on our ability to engage and negotiate with Russia. The investigation would have always continued, and obviously, the termination of Comey would not have ended it. Once again, the real story is that our national security has been undermined by leaking of private and highly classified conversations."
Matthew Rosenberg, that's not a denial. In other words, what's first struck me about this statement is that the White House didn't say that's a lie. He never said those words.
ROSENBERG: Yes. It's hard to claim something a lie when dozens of people have seen the summary of the conversation typed up by somebody who is in the room taking notes. You know, every one of these meetings has a note taker and those summaries are circulated throughout the White House and other parts of the executive branch. So, you're going to have trouble denying that.
We actually got that before the plane took off. And I just want to address the highly classified briefing. First of all, the contents of that conversation that he fired Comey and thought he is a nut job, that's not classified. You know, the documents itself, parts of it may be.
The other issue, this is the same meeting where the president shared intelligence that we had gotten from Israel with Russian officials. And that intelligence from Israel was incredibly sensitive. It was code word classified is what they call it. And the Israelis had shared it with the United States with the express instruction that it not be shared with anyone, even American allies.
[09:10:05] So, you know, if we're going to talk about leaks, it seems little odd to talk about people discussing something. The president is sort of made clear in his feelings rather than the leaking of highly, highly, highly classified information to Russian officials. We can then pass this straight to Iran, by the way.
SMERCONISH: There seems to have been a tremendous amount of leaking in the first three or four months of this presidency. In fact, Drudge noted in a post how there was never this kind of leaking on Obama's watch. Put that up on the screen. "We never got one damaging leak out of Obama White House staff in 8 years. Under Trump, they appear hourly. Big danger: Small leaks sink ships!!"
I would never waste time asking Matthew Rosenberg so who is leaking, but I will ask this. Is it coming from the Deep State? Are they coming from people put in office by President Obama, President Clinton or others or are you getting leaks from political appointees of this White House in giving you information?
ROSENBERG: Can I just say all of the above because that would be accurate. I mean, the leaks are coming pretty fast and furious. There's no Deep State. This kind of - let's not got there, but they're not raw. There are a lot of people, career and political appointees, who are not particularly partisan, especially in the national security world.
And what they're seeing in this first few months are things that truly upset them, horrify them or worry them and their feeling is that the internal mechanism for fixing this are not working. So, they are going to the safety valve, which is the media. Yes, we are getting a tremendous amount of leaks. That's undeniable. But instead of saying why are these people leaking, the media is really bad, the leakers are bad. It might be worth looking at what prompting the leaks. What is causing the leak? What is worrying them so much?
SMERCONISH: A final point. I live in a bubble. I'm on the Accelaquarter. I live and work in Philly. I am in New York. I am in D.C. It is a big country. Listen to one caller to my radio program from this week on all of your coverage which I was praising. Play it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS, GEORGIA: I'm a hell of a lot smarter than most of these nit wits you got working at "The New York Times" and "Washington Post." I actually believe people that are in the room that hear what was said. And don't take false stories lightly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I think we're in a golden age of journalism. This really to me is Woodward, Bernstein kind of stuff that you're doing, the "Post" is doing, CNN is doing. But what do you say to that caller who is just not buying any of it?
ROSENBERG: I mean, I wish I could sit down with him. Look, this story is a great example. That was a person in the room who wrote up those notes. They were circulated. We were read out parts of it. And it is not just one person read us out something and we're like, well, they must be telling us the truth. We then went to other people and they also read us out parts and they all matched, you know.
And these are people who are independent of each other. We're careful with these things. And we're not just taking the word of some third hand person who happened to hear from his friend that works in the government. That's not how this works. And you know, -- I understand what people are hearing -- it must be overwhelming. I can't keep track half of this half the time because it is going so quickly and I'm in this business.
So, I do think that it is imperative on us to make it as clear as possible to readers that yes, we're using anonymous sources, it's people are discussing things that could land them in jail. But they're doing it not out of some partisan dislike for Donald Trump. They're doing it mostly because they think there's something terribly wrong here. --
SMERCONISH: Matthew, I say keep up the good work. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it very much.
ROSENBERG: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: With Robert Mueller named this week as special counsel of the campaign ties to Russia, important now to welcome the man who wrote two books about special prosecutors and American presidents. Ken Gormley is the author of "The Death of American Virtue: Clinton vs. Starr" and "Archibald Cox: Conscience of a Nation." He's also the president Duquesne University and a professor of law. Why do we have special prosecutors, special counsel?
KEN GORMLEY, PRESIDENT DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY: Well, Michael, going all the way back to Teapot Dome and then the Watergate special prosecution investigation. The whole idea is when there is evidence of potential criminal wrongdoing at the top of the executive pyramid. You want the most neutral objective person to look at that so there can be no doubt in the minds of the American public. This is all about reassuring the American public that the American system of justice works properly. So, you must get the most neutral person so that you know that this investigation is not tied to politics. So that people can have confidence in the ultimate result.
SMERCONISH: Nixon and Trump both fired individuals investigating their administrations. Is the comparison really that simple?
[09:15:00] GORMLEY: Well, it is in the sense that President Nixon fired Archibald Cox whose biography I wrote, really after the whole Watergate cover up had boiled to a crescendo and Cox had subpoenaed these eight critical tape recordings from the White House and Nixon wouldn't give them to him. And the federal courts ordered him to. He defied him and fired Cox. So, we had reached the point of - you know kind of culminating event.
Here, this was early on in the presidency. The president does have power, for instance, to remove an FBI director, although it is rare. The fact that this was tied in, however, to a potential investigation of either President Trump or his own administration or campaign, that's what does make the comparison somewhat apt.
SMERCONISH: President Trump thinks this is a witch hunt that makes him far from unique among his predecessors.
GORMLEY: Well, that's true. I mean, pretty much every president who has been the subject of special prosecutor investigations has viewed them with you know, disdain, and treated them as witch hunts. Certainly, when I interviewed President Clinton, he felt as if from the moment he entered the White House, he barely turned the key on the door and there were investigations lining up of him. Certainly President Ronald Reagan was not fond of the Iran-Contra investigation.
So, that is natural. However, it is crucial that presidents understand because these have become a part of American political life and they are like a sort of -- and you have to treat the process with respect and move forward and let it work its course.
SMERCONISH: Fair to say, Dr. Gormley that the rest of us now should just let it breathe and take its own course and allow governance hopefully to take place?
GORMLEY: I think that's the key thing. You know, what was great about this decision by Rod Rosenstein, Michael, is that the selection of Robert Mueller is about as down the middle as you could get. There is - I mean, look at it. This is one of the first things that Democrats and Republicans have been able to agree on in Washington for a long time. So we have someone in place who we know has impeccable integrity, is neutral.
They have to do their job. A good special prosecutor you have to understand is you're not going to hear from them. You're not going to hear every day. This isn't a soap opera. This isn't a TV show. They're going to put their heads down and do their work. And that's now what the White House needs to do, what Congress needs to do. The attorney general and the deputy attorney general are freed from this matter. So they can all go about doing their work.
And one of the most sobering things in my work on the Clinton book was the discovery that in 1996 there was then unknown assassination attempt of President Clinton in the Philippines. And that the secret service got some information that there was a possible bomb under a bridge. -- Secret service director Louis Merletti diverted the motorcade. They found a bomb big enough to blow up the whole entourage. Later they discovered it was planted there by a then little known terrorist named Osama bin Laden.
So, one of the sobering things, Michael, is as we as a country were obsessed with Whitewater and Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, sex scandals, impeachment, people inside and outside our country were plotting our attack that led to 9/11. So it's a sobering reminder that there is important business to do, as you said in your opening remarks. And that's now that we have this part of things locked down with a special prosecutor with the utmost integrity that should be left alone. People should go about their work. He will do his job.
SMERCONISH: Very sobering message from Ken Gormley, the president of Duquesne University. We need to keep our focus on everything, not just this. Thank you for being here. Appreciate it.
GORMLEY: Always a pleasure, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page and I will read some of the responses throughout the course of the program. Hit me Catherine.
DIANE M CHARTRAND: "Maybe you should be his counsel."
SMERCONISH: Diane, I think I just gave him good advice. The question for this president is whether he is capable of following advice. I fear that no one around him is willing to share with him bad news and also that he is unaccepting of bad news when it is provided. One more, if we have time for it. TONY STARK: "Because there is no evidence only anonymous sources lol just hysteria bias media you @CNN getting crazier and crazier with these sources."
SMERCONISH: Hey Tony, hang on. Just hang on. I got to pause now. You're going to throw off my clock but I'm going to do it. That's the page one story in "The New York Times" today, right? It's the story that has the "nut job" quote. It's also the story that the president said to the Russians, "I faced great pressure because of Russia. That's been taken off," seemingly an element of obstruction of justice.
[09:20:00] Hey. I fired Comey to get beyond that pressure, to relieve the pressure. How do we know this, this unsourced material, according to you? Matthew Rosenberg was just here explaining that it came from notes provided by a person in the room. So you can be dismissive of this and say, oh it's more leaking, but sooner or later you're going to have to deal with the substance. The leaking bothers me, of course, but the substance, I'm not going to ignore that.
Still to come, President Trump landed today in Saudi Arabia with stops ahead in Israel, the Vatican and more. What preparations are involved, what could possibly go wrong? I am going to talk with Bill Clinton's director of production who has plenty of war stories. Get some advice.
[09:25:00] SMERCONISH: In the midst of domestic turmoil, President Trump left town, landing early this morning in Saudi Arabia, his first of five stops on a grueling international tour into high profile hot spots, including Jerusalem, Vatican City, Brussels for the NATO summit and Sicily for the G7. So, what preparations should President Trump have made for his journey? And what could possibly go off script?
Joining me now, someone with impeccable credentials to speak of this, Josh King was director of production for presidential events in Bill Clinton's White House. He traveled to 40 countries, including the countries where President Trump is going. He's the author of the book "Off Script: An Advance Man's Guide to White House Stagecraft, Campaign Spectacle and Political Suicide."
Josh, stuff happens. It is the 50th anniversary of Normandy. June of 1994. You tell Bill Clinton, you see that pile of rocks that I put on the beach? The secret service doesn't want you walking past that spot. What did he do and what was the ramification?
JOSH KING, DIRECTOR OF PRODUCTION FOR PRESIDENTIAL EVENTS UNDER CLINTON: Yes, Michael. So, what happened was, we had gone to Normandy two times before President Clinton and his entourage showed up June 6th, 1994. Mapped out every step of the way, thought we would take, do something that Ronald Reagan hadn't done in 1984, which is actually to walk down to Omaha Beach, surrounded by three veterans of D-Day, including Walt Ehlers, who was a Medal of Honor recipient.
Had it all choreographed perfectly, just the four of them and an army chaplain and then, I got a call from the secret service agent who I was working with and he said, you know our counter snipers can't cover the president's safety if he goes too far close to the water. So, can you put a marker or flag or something there to make sure and tell him not to go beyond that? Where on Omaha Beach do you get a flag or some marker, didn't plan on that.
So, there was a mound of rocks that demarked from the sea grass over to the beach. I said what if I create a little pile and I'll just whisper to Bill Clinton don't go beyond that, service doesn't want you going any closer to the water. And I did, he acknowledged that.
And then, he went out to that spot and we did the prayer for those who had fallen on D-Day. And then, there was going to be a photo shoot with Eddie Adams, the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who shot that picture in Vietnam, but there was a few minutes of delay between Adams getting set up and the last thing that we did.
So, Clinton who had been on this long journey, just like President Trump is now, decided well, you know, I have been seeing these thousands of crosses, in Italy, in Cambridge in England, finally in Normandy in France and just making my own expression. He knelt down to that mound of stones that I put there and formed them into the shape of a cross and then sort of sat back for a moment and looked at it.
And then, Rush Limbaugh and Maureen Dowd and those who wrote about that moment filed a pool report and rush for the next week was talking about how phony President Clinton was. But I was an eyewitness to it. I was standing right where that picture was taken, 20 feet away. -- It was legitimate.
SMERCONISH: The point is there's only so much you can control. Now, the president has landed in Saudi Arabia and there are all sorts of pitfalls. Let me put on the screen from 2015, a tweet from candidate Donald Trump where he was critical of Michelle Obama for not wearing a head scarf at the time. Do we have that? We now know that - there it is.
He said that you know, "Obama refused to wear a scarf. The Saudis were insulted." Melania didn't wear a scarf neither did Ivanka, nor I took note Josh, did the president, President Trump, hold hands with King Salman today. Saudi Arabia has its own unique set of circumstances.
KING: Well, there were all sorts of good reasons for the White House to pick Saudi Arabia for this first stop on a foreign trip. One of them was that horse escorted motorcade that he had from King Khalid International Airport to the site of the coffee ceremony. Saudi Arabia was going to play it up big. There was also, as you may recall, this power point presentation that the Saudis made, almost asking for the first visit by U.S. president, talking about the $100 billion arms deal. Arms are going to be purchased anyway. But Trump was looking for a win.
And yet, you're right, Michael, there are so many pitfalls that can come, if you bow to a king, if you hold the king's hand. If the first lady were to wear head covering and so, none have in recent memory. But the White House, this is the kind of thing that Trump would land and Riyadh and say, now this is more like it. Can we please have more ceremonies like this? This is the presidency that I thought I was getting into.
SMERCONISH: Hey Josh, Broadway plays, they open up in Philly or Cleveland and then they go to New York.
SMERCONISH: With presidents, they usually go to Mexico or Canada and then they go out on the global stage.
[09:30:02] SMERCONISH: Is his advanced team up to this? These are guys, men and women who put together campaign rallies for, you know, 30,000 people in Alabama, but this is a whole different drill. Speak to that quickly if you can.
KING: Michael, you know this. George Gigicos, because you've done advance as well, he's terrific advance guy, director of White House advance. He created all of the rallies last year in the campaign. He's probably been hard at work over the last few weeks putting a book like this together. This is hundreds of pages long with every site diagram and scenario that they're going to face.
Yes, you're right, you don't do a nine day trip first, beginning with 15-hour flight. You go to Vancouver. You go to Mexico City. But this time I think you had to get it started at some point.
And for Trump, I think, he will get comfortable with the opulence of the trips. He'll get comfortable with the presidential and royal suites like at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh, and they'll say, you know, maybe he will say this is better than hanging out in the West Wing all day.
SMERCONISH: Hey, Josh, quickly, I hope you can see it on the monitor. Look at this handsome guy with a full head of hair, that would be me, doing advance for one Vice President George Herbert Walker Bush back in the '80s. What do you think?
KING: Well, we all had a lot more hair back then, Michael. But, you know, I know that C9 aircraft. It has taken me on many of the pre- advance and the site survey around the world, very reliable aircraft. Glad you had that experience, too.
You know, from your days, this is what Trump is after. This is Reagan and Gorbachev in Geneva, 1985.
KING: That's what they want to see from the trips. It is a different ball game. They're not going to get the cover of "TIME" magazine, at least not for what they wanted.
SMERCONISH: Your book is terrific. Thank you, Josh King.
KING: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let me check in on tweets and Facebook. What have you got, Catherine (ph). Hit me with something. Do you like that picture?
Why are the Saudis treating Trump so well after the Muslim ban? Isn't that true?
Well, I tell you why. It's because of the Sunni/Shia split. You know, we have a tendency in this country to regard the Muslim world as being homogenous when, in fact, it's not. So, it's all tribal. That would be my short answer.
Still to come. On the eve of his sexual assault trial finally commencing, Bill Cosby broke two years' silence. He gave me an exclusive interview on radio. So, what did he reveal?
And Robert O'Neill is here, the Navy SEAL who shot and killed Osama bin Laden, truly an American hero. I want to hear that story all over again!
[09:37:00] SMERCONISH: How is this for an introduction? My next guest shot and killed Osama bin Laden. The May 2011 raid in Afghanistan is the most famous of Robert O'Neill's 400-plus missions as a Navy SEAL. His new book details the planning and circumstances of his face-to-face showdown with the world's most wanted man, "The Operator: Firing the Shots that Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior."
Hey, Robert O'Neill, first of all, thank you. That's what I most want to say to you.
ROBERT O'NEILL, FORMER NAVY SEAL, SHOT BIN LADEN: Oh, you're very welcome. It was an honor to serve with the best people in the world. And I appreciate being on the show today. Great to see you.
SMERCONISH: I know that you were responsible for participating in 400-plus missions, and this and perhaps the Maersk Alabama are the ones for which you're best known. But how did it compare in terms of difficulty?
O'NEILL: As far as difficulty, it wasn't even one of the most difficult targets we have been on. They selected a group of combat veteran Navy SEALs. We've all done it hundreds and hundreds of times. It was the best time I was ever part of. And we were given the most time to prepare for the mission.
So, we knew the outside of the compound very well. We knew most of the contingencies. We actually came up with worst case scenario which inevitably happened when the helicopter crashed in the front yard. I was on the other one.
But the team was so good. Just based on where I was set down on the outside, I was able to watch my guys just perform unbelievably, even though we knew it was a one way mission, we weren't going to come home, everyone did their jobs.
I remember thinking how cool they were, how professional, and just, slow as smooth, smooth as fast, nobody panicked even when the helicopter crashed. The pilots were incredible.
And we ended up hitting the house the way we did. Our tactics took over. We didn't know what the inside looked like, but that didn't matter. I was able to watch as we went up the stairs. When we got to the top, I was in position where I turned a corner and did what any SEAL, any ranger, any special operator would have done.
I saw bin Laden, he was a threat, and he was not surrendering. And I treated him as if he were a suicide bomber which I assume he was and I shot him in the face three times. And then the team did what we always did, we gathered as much intel as we could and then he left.
SMERCONISH: To your point about thinking you wouldn't come home from this mission, you had conversation with your wife and children, your father that you otherwise would not have had for another mission.
O'NEILL: Yes. When we left Virginia to go on the mission, I actually had the last meal with my kids. They didn't know what it was, they didn't know I was leaving town but I knew.
So, we were preparing to not come home. And right before I left on the mission, I called my father, he and I talked. And we would talk before a lot of missions, he would joke like, you know, I wish I could go with you and I would say I know, dad, wish you could, too.
But on this one, he didn't know where he was. He said I wish I could go with you, I said, I'm with some great guys. That was the last conversation.
SMERCONISH: You --
O'NEILL: The guys went outside, we hugged each other, and we took off to the thing.
SMERCONISH: You were a Navy E7, making about 75 grand with a wife and two kids.
[09:40:03] You splurged on some Prada sunglasses. How come?
O'NEILL: I bought those, I was at the mall buying my children going away, never coming back presents. And as depressing as that sounds, I was leaving the mall. I wasn't afraid, I was just focused.
And as I'm walking out, stopped by a sunglasses hut, they were on sale, if you will, for $240. And I'm like, you know, I can't afford these but I'm going to be dead next week and I think American Express can. So, I just bought them. It's kind of a goof.
But then I realized that, you know, nothing ever happens the way it's supposed to, what if we need to steal a car in Abbottabad and drive to Islamabad, the capital, where there's coalition embassies and U.S. embassy, the sun will be out, I'm going to need sunglasses. So, I carried those in my pocket. In bin Laden's room, I had Prada sunglasses in my cargo pocket.
SMERCONISH: You went in Pakistan with a magazine with 30 rounds in it. You came home with 27. You pumped three into bin Laden.
SMERCONISH: What did you do with your clip?
O'NEILL: There was a woman that was part of a group that found bin Laden for one of the agencies, another incredible team. She was the one they based movie on. She was just like that, so cool. She found them. It was all because of them. We were just a means to an end.
I gave the magazine to her when we got in the hangar and then we went over and saw bin Laden's body. She identified him. It was -- she was incredible. One of the coolest people I met, she deserved at least that.
SMERCONISH: Final quick question. Are you guys all cool, SEAL Team Six, are you cool with one another? I know there was a little bit of static about books and so forth and different renditions of what had occurred.
O'NEILL: You know, they're such alpha males. They're such great guys. The only way I can -- you know, some will be happy, some will be upset, and that's fine.
The way I describe that command is it is a freight train moving 150 miles an hour and if you stay on, you're in, if you get off, the train keeps moving without you. They're doing amazing things. They're going to continue. There's a new generation.
You know, we see the new threats from al Qaeda and ISIS, the new, Hamza bin Laden, there are SEALs out that are still going to do it. And I'm cool with them. I have nothing but love and respect.
SMERCONISH: I hope I get to buy you a beer. I'm sure everybody says that to you.
O'NEILL: I'll take you up on that.
SMERCONISH: Robert O'Neill, thank you.
O'NEILL: Thank you, Michael. Appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: Good. Thanks for that.
Up next, comedian Bill Cosby's assault trial about to begin. I landed the first interview anybody had done in more than two years. It made a lot of headlines, but those stories, I think they missed the scope of what he really revealed and I'll explain.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: If a man is then free within the law to do what he wants to do and he offers himself in concert, why would people threaten the hall, threaten the people who booked the show? (END AUDIO CLIP)
[09:46:56] SMERCONISH: This week, Bill Cosby granted his first interview after more than two years of silence and he gave it to me. He was my guest on Sirius XM Radio for more than 30 minutes. I was pleased to have him and a bit surprised.
I knew that to even speak with him would earn me scorn, and it did. My intention was to be fair but direct, courteous but not lackey, and mostly to let him speak. While there were no restrictions on what I could ask, I nevertheless did not expect him to be that revealing, but he was.
I knew his attorneys wouldn't let him risk saying anything being used against him, either in his upcoming criminal trial for felony, aggravated indecent assault, or in the court of public opinion, not to mention his publicist monitored the call, although he never spoke a word. Each of the headlines generated by the interview seemed to seize on a different aspect of what Cosby said to me.
Like Cosby revealing he will not testify in his own behalf, or attacking his accusers as, quote, unquote, piling on. Plus, echoing his daughter Ensa's blame on racism or advising his desire to perform again free of protest. And saying that his wife's support of him had never wavered.
And that's all true. But it is the totality of what Cosby shared that offered I think a road map of his defense against charges brought by accuser Andrea Constand at next month's trial in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.
Though his answers often meandered, his 71-year-old mind still seemed sharp. If you listen carefully, he made his points. He denied trying to influence jurors, but did complain that a sealed deposition was now being used against him. He claimed he'd been subjected to media bias. He presented himself as a victim of gang up by accusers, intent to deny his reputation, and trying to punish those still willing to pay to watch him perform. He sees the legal system manipulated by lawyers which limits his ability to defend himself in front of a jury of his peers.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
COSBY: I just don't want to sit there and have to figure out what I believe is a truthful answer as to whether or not I am opening a can of something that I, my lawyers are scrambling.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Bill Cosby was measured, not taking the bait when I asked him whether his many accusers are all lying.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) COSBY: You know better than that. I won't and I cannot answer that. It's really not fair and you know that because all I have to do is say something similar to that and the next thing I know, the postman is carrying a big bag or whoever it is, is saying, you know, defamation, defamation, defamation.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Still, he displayed no anger or bitterness. Ironically, or deliberately, the man who faces the highest profile sexual assault trial in recent memory invoked a quotation from feminist icon, Gloria Steinem.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
[09:50:04] COSBY: The truth shall set you free, but first it might piss you off.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: At the end of the interview, Bill Cosby said: I just hope I'm not in trouble now, man -- which itself generated a headline from "The New York Post".
I thought his concern was justified, where he had just invoked race and revealed trial strategy. But when he soon tweeted me: Thanks for integrity, ethics, and clarity, it was obvious, he believed he made his points.
The trial which will be watched by many begins on June 5th.
Still to come, your best and worst tweets, like this one: Smerconish, Trump will change America and all of you crooked journalists will be unemployed.
Hey, Ron, the only thing you're not chanting is -- lock me up. Lock me up. Come on, man. Pay attention to the facts.
[09:55:08] SMERCONISH: Hey, thank you so much for watching every Saturday. Keep the tweets coming and Facebook as well.
What do we got?
I will now say you are a Trump supporter. You give advice that -- are you kidding me? I'm giving advice to the president who desperately needs advice and I'm doing so with the best interest of the country, not of him personally. So, I'm now a Trump supporter.
Let's see what's next. What else do we have? Unbelievable.
I really believe you were different when Trump won, you're the embodiment of the self-righteous -- there you go, and now, I am the self-righteous liberal. Right, I am the Trump supporter and the self- righteous liberal, which means I've done my job because I managed to piss off everybody.
See you next week.