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President Trump Appoints Jon Huntsman as Ambassador to Russia; Newsmax Media CEO Chris Ruddy Examines President Trump's Approval Rating; Hedge Fund CEO Analyzes Meeting Between Donald Trump Jr. And Russian Lawyer; Arnold Schwarzenegger Discusses California's Commitment to Paris Climate Accords. Aired 10-11a ET

Aired July 22, 2017 - 10:00   ET


[10:00:00] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: He dissed his own attorney general. His staff has been brushing up on the subject of pardons. He changed lawyers, and his press secretary quit. Still, I want to give the president a pat on the back. He did make one great hire this week, and I will tell you who.

Also President Trump will speak in a couple of minutes at the ceremony commissioning the Navy's newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford." His friend, Chris Ruddy, is here.

And one of Bill Browder's hedge fund employees died in a Russian prison. So Browder took on Vladimir Putin. Now he's been asked to testify in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He, too, is here.

And Arnold Schwarzenegger is back with me to explain how California overcame party differences to tackle climate change.

But first, we're six months and two days into the Trump administration. And this week like many that preceded it, was marked by volatility. So I wanted to take note that he actually made a good decision this week. But I understand why it got lost in the shuffle.

Despite literally years of promises to the contrary, the Republicans, who control both houses and the White House, failed in their effort to repeal and replace Obamacare. Then on Wednesday, in a rambling interview with the "New York Times," the president seemed to throw his earliest supporter in the Senate under the bus, the now attorney general Jeff Sessions. The president said that he would have never appointed Sessions if he knew he would recuse himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

He had more choice words for former FBI director James Comey and said that special counsel Robert Mueller is running an office rife with conflict, then yesterday brought word that the White House is now exploring the president's pardon powers. And the "Washington Post" reports that Sessions in fact did discuss matters related to the Trump campaign with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak. And this was all before Sean Spicer resigned.

All in all, another chaotic week for Donald Trump and one that overshadowed a bright spot, in my opinion, a surprise move. Given the current events and the fragile relationship and the United States and Russia, the American ambassador to Russia is arguably the most important posting in our diplomatic corps. It would have been objectionable had the president appointed a flunkey, someone lacking credentials to this important post. But he didn't. Instead he selected Jon Huntsman, who not only distinguished himself as a two- term governor of Utah, but also as President Obama's ambassador to China and President George H.W. Bush's ambassador to Singapore. Three time Huntsman has cleared Senate confirmation without a single vote in opposition. And hopefully Democrats will not stand in his way this time either.

In appointing Governor Huntsman, the president has selected a credible, qualified public servant who is no Trump yes-man. It was Huntsman who called the 2016 GOP primary process a race to the bottom and even called for Trump's withdrawal from the race after the "Access Hollywood" tape surfaced. President Trump once dismissed Huntsman as a lightweight and weak. In 2012 he tweeted to Huntsman, "Jon Huntsman called to see me. I said no, he gave our country away to China."

It's now nice to see both men now setting aside their personal differences and putting country first. Huntsman has further distinguished himself as a co-chair with Joe Lieberman of the No Labels effort which seeks to put country over party and implement nonpartisan solutions to complex problems. He's a conservative. He's not an ideologue.

And finally, in a world of incivility I have never heard an intemperate word come from Jon Huntsman's mouth. His even disposition is in opposition to the volatility of the man who just appointed him. So good pick, Mr. President. Please give him the latitude to do the job.

As for those first six months and two days in office, here are two things we know about President Trump. First, he is much less popular at this stage than any president on record according to Gallup. His approval rating, 39 percent, is more than 20 points below the average presidential approval at this point. And second, his base, Republican voters, still very much on board, 85 percent of Republicans approve of the president compared to just eight percent of Democrats.

So how can we make sense of what the White House calls Donald J. Trump's six months of America first? Chris Ruddy is CEO of Newsmax Media. They own several conservative outlets. He's a long-time friend of President Trump. Hey, Chris this has been, I said a rough week. It's been a really rough two weeks in particular. Do you have an assessment as to how he's holding up?

CHRIS RUDDY, CEO, NEWSMAX MEDIA: Well, I think he's holding up great. And look at the polls. The approval polls are down a little bit, but considering the incredible barrage, Michael, this president has undergone of media criticism and attacks, and if you look at some of the polls that people that voted for him, they're saying like 90-plus percent are still with him, I think those are amazing numbers.

He and I just chatted by phone yesterday in fact. And we talked about a number of things. He's very enthusiastic, excited about Anthony Scaramucci joining his staff. I mentioned I was going on your show and he was excited to hear that. He told me he thinks you're one of the few, I think he said you're the only journalist on CNN that gives him a fair shake. So my hat is off to you to get that compliment from the president.

SMERCONISH: You're jeopardizing my job with your compliments.


SMERCONISH: But you're telling me that he's, he's doing well. I mean Chris, there's been an onslaught, I don't want to go through the whole list because I just did it at the top of the program. But whether it's - well, now I started to do it. You're telling me despite all of this, the problems with Sessions, the Russia probe, the pardon conversation, that his tone, his demeanor, is still one of strength?

RUDDY: This man is extremely resilient. I've always found -- I've known him for a long time, and I've always found when things are tough, he's actually more resilient, more relaxed. He can deal with numerous problems, issues, crises going on at the same time. He's a man that ran a phenomenal multibillion-dollar real estate empire around the world. At the same time he was a hit TV star in a primetime show that lasted for 15 years. At the same time he was a major media political figure.

So he's handled like three careers simultaneously. So for Donald Trump, handling a number of things, this is like easy stuff. I think what we've seen here is there's an adjustment period for him. He's never been president, there's no on-the-job training for it. He's never really been in politics officially. He doesn't have a cadre of people he trusts. I think the Scaramucci move is a sign he's bringing in people that he really trusts, that he thinks are very savvy and know how to do things and can get things done.

SMERCONISH: I want to roll some audio from Scaramucci yesterday making his maiden voyage in the White House press room. Play it and then I'm going to ask a question.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I love the president, and I'm very, very loyal to the president. The president is phenomenal with the press. He is an unbelievable politician. He's genuinely a wonderful human being. I've seen this guy throw a dead spiral through a tire. He sinks three-foot putts. I love the president.


SMERCONISH: Chris, in shaking up the communications aspect of the White House, it seems to me that the president is saying we're not selling this well. It's not that the product is bad, but we're not selling that which we're doing effectively. Many Americans would disagree with that assessment, but is that his interpretation? It's all in the way in which it's being presented?

RUDDY: Let me give you a really good example. Yesterday when I chatted with him on the phone we were talking about the August edition of "Newsmax" magazine, which is out with a cover story about how the president is overhauling the Veterans Administration. But before he even became president, Donald Trump convened the heads of Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic, and Johns Hopkins, about 10 different health organizations, and said, look, I want you to come in from the private sector, overhaul the whole agency. He picked actually an Obama appointee who had a legally good track record and he made him secretary, Secretary Shulkin. This is all in our story, and he gets no credit for this dramatic overhaul that has been under way now for six months at the Veterans Administration.

You know, it's a myth, Michael, that the president is very -- hates criticism, can't handle criticism. He's very open to constructive criticism. What I think bothers him the most are unfair attacks against him, personal attacks, but where the media never talks about anything good about him. And I think that's what the problem with CNN and MSNBC as well.

SMERCONISH: But Chris, it's like we're living in alternative universes where you're saying there's positive news and only a conservative outlet like "Newsmax" will tell it. To those who read the "Washington Post" on a day like today and learn that according to intercepts, apparently there was conversation between the attorney general now, Jeff Sessions, and Sergey Kislyak, about the Trump campaign, that is, that is, couldn't be more foreboding. How are we to look past that to talk about the V.A. on a day like today?

RUDDY: All I can tell you is I think your saving grace is you're a Philadelphia guy because you're not a beltway guy and you're not a Hollywood guy. And all of those people that read "The Washington Post" religiously every day, they still cannot get over the fact that Donald Trump won the election last November. It's they who are living in an alternative universe. And they wake up and -- look at the House Intelligence Committee report of July 7th. Have you seen that, Michael? The Senate report?

SMERCONISH: I have seen it. I'm totally --

[10:10:00] RUDDY: This got zero coverage on CNN. This reported that internal security agencies to the United States are leaking on average once a day top-secret classified information against the president and his administration. There were 144 leaks up until that report on July 7th, almost every single day since he's been inaugurated. And the "Washington Post" comes out with a story today with another embarrassing leak, classified leak, it's a criminal act to leak that type of information, to hurt Attorney General Sessions and the Trump administration. And nobody wants -- isn't that an issue that we should be discussing? Why are there so many internal government leaks that are illegal being made against the president? Don't you think that you as a press organization -- look, we all benefit from leaks, because we talk about them in the press. But the truth is they're very harmful to the country.

SMERCONISH: But Chris, respectfully what about the substance.

RUDDY: I am talking about the substance. SMERCONISH: We should be having the conversation about the leak.

RUDDY: Let's talk about the substance of the crime. The underlying crime is that somebody leaked classified information. The president's private conversations with world leaders have been leaked I think three or four times now. These are probably the most guarded secrets a nation can have. The press doesn't think there's anything wrong with this. So when Donald Trump has a 15-minute private conversation with Putin and there's no note-taker, they're surprised and shocked that he did this?

SMERCONISH: You have to let me respond to this. You have to let me respond to this. This is serious stuff. OK, If the story is true in "The Post" today, and I grant you it's possible that it's bogus and Kislyak was lying. But if it's true, it means there was collusion, because why else would Jeff Sessions have a campaign-related conversation with Sergey Kislyak?

RUDDY: The Obama administration set up the meeting and asked the diplomats, including the Russian diplomat, to go to Cleveland to meet Republicans, including Jeff Sessions who was then a U.S. senator. At an event there, they bumped into each other and talked at an Obama- created event, at the Republican National Convention. They talked for a few minutes.

Kislyak reports back to Russia, he told me things about the campaign. For all we know there was a conversation with Sessions saying we look forward to working with you guys and building a new relationship after we get into the White House. That would be considered a campaign- related discussion, wouldn't it be? It seems very innocuous, very benign. We don't even know what the substance of the discussions were, and yet we're already suggesting that somehow -- I think somebody on CNN accused Attorney General Sessions of treason. That's a very serious crime to accuse somebody of treason, and very unfair I think.

SMERCONISH: I want to show you a tweet from the president today. He's been very, very active via Twitter. One in particular that I find interesting, a new, on this subject, "A new intelligence leak from the Amazon/"Washington Post," this time against A.G. Jeff Sessions. These illegal leaks like Comey's must stop." You've just underscored these points. Why the Amazon reference? I get the ownership. I get Jeff Bezos's role. But is that a play to the base? In other words, we're Wal-Mart people and it's the Amazon folks, the liberal beltway that are trying to take us down?

RUDDY: Fortunately I'm not a White House spokesman or somebody that speaks on behalf of the president.

SMERCONISH: But you know him. You know his psyche.

RUDDY: Yes, but he and I have not talked about what we think about Amazon, for instance. I think there's a sense that most of the press is against them. The Shorenstein study out of Harvard, not a conservative organization, OK, a liberal organization, issued a report said that press coverage of this president had been so overwhelmingly negative that it had broke all historical precedent. I think there's a duty, Michael, that you have, and I have, and Newsmax, if you go up there right now, you'll see we cover the "Washington Post" story. But we have also stories that defend the president and give a fair balance that you're not getting from the rest of the media. I think we have a duty as journalists, as media people to give the public both sides.

SMERCONISH: I have just done that. I've just done that. You've just been here for 10 minutes at the six-month point of this administration and I've allowed you to make all of these points. I have a time constraint. I hope you'll come back, maybe at the end of the president's remarks this hour.

RUDDY: Sure, I'll be happy to. I'll be around.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Chris Ruddy.

What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have Katherine? "Smerconish, isn't it concerning that the Russian ambassador spoke out against Sessions just after Trump raised issues with Sessions' recusal?"

[10:15:05] Thomas Duncan, I think the president may have boxed himself in insofar as he has regarded this all as a witch hunt and a hoax. If he now gets rid of Sessions, forces him to resign or fires him, it's an acknowledgement that it wasn't a witch hunt or a hoax.

One more if we have time. "Smerconish, Trump good decision, I was ready to rip whatever nonsense you came up with. But I have to agree with you on the Huntsman pick." Terry, if the president picked a knucklehead, a flunkey, a yes person to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia in this climate, we'd be fit to be tied and rightfully so. But you know what? He didn't. Jon Huntsman is a good man and I think a straight shooter.

Coming up, we go live to Norfolk, Virginia, where President Trump is dedicating the Navy's new $13 billion super carrier. And later this hour, Bill Browder went from running Russia's biggest hedge fund to being a thorn in the side of Putin. I will talk to him and plus more of my exclusive conversation with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. That's all ahead.


ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: And 13 million people die a year, that is not kind of a theory or this is something that is going to happen in the future. Right now, today another 19,000 people are dying because of pollution. And that we have to stop. Everyone has to agree to that.


SMERCONISH: On Wednesday the Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on foreign influence in the election with particular focus on that controversial Trump Tower meeting June of 2016. Some key witnesses will not be there. Last night the committee agreed to postpone appearances by Donald Trump Junior and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort as they continue to negotiate the terms of their testimony. Another witness, Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS, the research firm behind that notorious dossier on Trump's dealings in Moscow, declined to attend. He was issued a Senate subpoena on Friday.

My next guest is still scheduled to appear before the judicial committee on Friday. William Browder founded Hermitage Capital Management, once the largest foreign investor in Russia. It was Browder who lobbied Congress to pass the sanctions that infuriated Putin, the Magnitsky Act, named after an employee of his reportedly killed in a Russian prison. Donald Trump Jr. said those sanctions were at the heart of that June, 2016, Trump tower meeting, although the email chain that preceded the meeting made no such reference.

This is Bill Browder. Mr. Browder, thanks for being here. What is it you most want to convey, if in fact Wednesday is the day of your testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee?

BILL BROWDER, INVESTIGATES RUSSIAN CORRUPTION: Well, basically for the last few years since the Magnitsky Act was passed, Vladimir Putin has been enraged, and he's gone on a campaign in many different formats, and many different places, including Washington, in order to try to get the Magnitsky Act repealed. And the campaign that went on in Washington to repeal the Magnitsky Act was a campaign which was managed by the Natalia Veselnitskaya, the lady who showed up in Trump Tower along with Rinat Akhmetshin, a former Soviet spy who showed up in Trump Tower. And they went around Washington spending a huge amount of money on lobbyists and lawyers, on investigators and PR firms to try to change U.S. policy.

And so I made a criminal complaint to the Department of Justice and said that none of these people had registered as foreign agents as they're required to do under the U.S. law. And to the hearing and my testimony in this hearing is about Russian influence on U.S. policy and how they have tried to skirt the rules to get away with it.

SMERCONISH: Like the rest of us, you've no doubt looked at the email trail that preceded the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. So what do you think that meeting was all about?

BROWDER: It's obvious to me what the Russians were doing. So just take one step back. Vladimir Putin doesn't like the Magnitsky Act because he's afraid his personal assets, of which is huge, may be frozen in the future under the Magnitsky Act. And so he has tried to get that act repealed. And the Russians that showed up there, showed up to the office of the son of the future president of the United States and asked him if they will, if he will do something to repeal the Magnitsky Act. That I know for sure. What I do not know is what they were offering in return. And I do not believe anything the Russians say about this meeting because they're liars.

SMERCONISH: You know that the email that preceded the meeting, the one that went to Trump Junior spoke of sensitive information coming with the blessing of the Russian government that would incriminate Hillary. It made no reference whatsoever to adoption or Magnitsky. Why do you think that was the case? BROWDER: There's two things going on. One is what are the Russians

asking for? And they're not stupid, they can't ask for something big unless they're offering something. And so what was in the email was some type of enticement for an offer, first of all to get the meeting. I don't know whether it was the same thing that they were offering in the meeting. But that was the enticement to get the meeting. But again we don't know what was offered and what was discussed and what was agreed in this meeting.

SMERCONISH: I put the cart before the horse. Who was Sergei Magnitsky and why were you the initiator of an act in his name?

BROWDER: Yes, good question. Sergei Magnitsky was my lawyer in Moscow. Sergei uncovered a $230 million corruption scheme in which Putin participated. He exposed that corruption scheme, and he was subsequently arrested, tortured for 358 days, and killed at the age of 37 in a Moscow prison.

[10:25:03] And from the day -- the day of his death I've made it my life's work to go after the people who killed him and make sure that they face justice. And one of the things which I've been able to get done is the Magnitsky Act, named after Sergei Magnitsky, which imposes visa essentials and asset freezes on the people who killed him and the people who do similar types of things in other -- in Russia. The Magnitsky Act is something that I've done not just -- go on. I'm sorry.

SMERCONISH: I'm sorry, sir. I was simply going to say, to put these pieces together, you believe Vladimir Putin to be one of the if not the wealthiest individuals on the planet and perhaps personally affected or may be in the future impacted by the result of your labor?

BROWDER: Indeed. So I estimate that Vladimir Putin has a personal net worth of $200 billion. He's gotten this money by doing terrible things inside his own country, by arresting people, kidnapping people, torturing people, killing people and taking their property. He keeps that money in the west. And in the case of the Magnitsky crime, the $230 million that Sergei Magnitsky exposed of the Russian government, we've been able to trace some of that money going to an account of a nominee for Putin, a person exposed in the Panama papers.

And so therefore under the Magnitsky Act Putin potentially would have that money he keeps offshore, the money he keeps in U.S. banks frozen and seized, which is why he's so upset about this.

SMERCONISH: A final question because I don't know if we still use the term Kremlinologist, but you're obviously well-versed and knowledgeable about the ongoing activities going on in Moscow. The collusion subject, have you formed an opinion as to whether that meets with his pattern of practice?

BROWDER: Well, what we know is that Putin is a KGB operative. He understands that there are only two ways to deal with people in his worldview. One is by bribing people, and the other is by blackmailing or extorting people. And so they would have approached this meeting with Donald Trump with either an offer or a threat. We don't know what that offer was or what that threat was and whether it was in any way successful. But we do know how Putin operates.

SMERCONISH: Bill Browder, thank you so much. Stay safe.

BROWDER: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Coming up, live comments from President Trump speaking at a dedication ceremony for the country's newest aircraft carrier. And Arnold Schwarzenegger talks climate change with me in Washington. We'll be back with more of my conversation with the govern-ator.


[10:32:02] SMERCONISH: And welcome back. We're waiting on President Trump's remarks at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R Ford in Norfolk, Virginia. We'll get to the president just as soon as he's ready to speak.

But first, this week California governor Jerry Brown struck a climate change deal that a few years ago would have been unthinkable. The Democratic governor was successful in attracting the support of seven Republican members of the assembly. Was the road paved by Brown's predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger? Yesterday on Capitol Hill I sat down with the govern-ator.


SMERCONISH: Hey Governor, we've been talking about the problem of gridlock, and yet something complex with regard to climate change just got down in your native state. Speak to that.

ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, FORMER CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR: Well, we were very fortunate in our state it doesn't matter you're a Republican governor, a Democratic governor, the policies continue on. There is consistency in California. This is why so many people like to invest in California, especially when it comes to green technology and renewables and all the stuff. The green economy in California is booming because people see consistency.

So all the environmental laws that I have, for instance, pushed, and if it is AB-32 to reduce greenhouse gases by 25 percent by the year 2020, or if it is the cap and trade, Jerry Brown is a Democrat. He continues on with my policies. But he says I can even do better. Schwarzenegger did it to 2020. I'm going to extend it to 2030. What happened was he needed Republican votes.

I didn't have any Republican votes when I did my environmental stuff in California. He got eight Republican votes. Because the way the redistricting works now, it brought the two extremes together closer and closer so they can now can work together on some of those issues. Not on all issues, it hasn't been fixed everything is standing in time, but on a lot of issues so that now Democrats vote 90 percent with the Chamber of Commerce, Republicans now are voting for an environmental bill, eight of them have voted. Otherwise, Jerry Brown couldn't have gotten it done.

SMERCONISH: I think you anticipated my next question. So is one of the reasons why he was able to get it done and to get those seven Republican votes on cap and trade because of the groundwork that you laid specifically on getting rid of gerrymandering and also the system of open primaries. Is this the net effect?

SCHWARZENEGGER: This has everything to do with that, because, as I said, I knew when we created the reforms when I was governor that it would have no effect on my administration because it takes time to do that. In 2008, one won, 2010, the other one won, so then I knew it would take effect in 2012 which is when Jerry Brown was already in.

[10:35:00] But that didn't matter. I am so happy that it works for him. I'm so happy that it works for future governors, that it works for future legislators, and in the end it works for the people of California. You got to serve the people. You've got to fine-tune our system. I cannot believe that for 200 years we have had a fixed political system here in America, and finally we are doing something about it and people are paying attention because they see the lack of action.

And so it is great for the environment that I'm really, that's one of my passions is to protect the environment and to make sure that the world is going in a greener direction, get off fossil fuels and coming up in the technology, and we all work together in this stuff to get rid of the death that we are creating because when you say 13 million people a year die because of pollution, there's no reason why we should do that.

SMERCONISH: I pay close attention to you not only in the headlines but also via social media, and I followed your trip to France. And it seems like you're meeting with President Macron, you really bonded. You must have spoken on this specific issue and the climate accord, the Paris Accord that we withdrew from. Where's that issue?

SCHWARZENEGGER: One of the main reasons why I went over there, they had an event at University of Paris where they reiterated their commitment to COP 21 and the foreign minister, Fabius of France, he's the one who was really responsible for the whole kind of laying out the whole strategy on how to make it win over there. He was very determined right from the beginning of it. He said to me, I didn't want to have another COP 21, COP 22, COP 23. I want COP 21 to be a memorable one. We have to get it done. Everyone has to sign on.

And so I helped him with that. And the previous French president, Hollande, asked me to help with that. And so it was great to meet with the new president, because he's going to continue with that, and to just to reassure them in my speech in France it was a wonderful afternoon. We all gave the speeches and it was an enthusiastic crowd there, and the audience and all that stuff. And I wanted to let them know, say, look, America did not leave the Paris accords. CCOP 21. We as a country are united. We want to go and be part of the COP 21, the Paris agreement. It is just that the president dropped out. Washington maybe dropped out, but it is not the United States.

SMERCONISH: What is it that you get, Governor Schwarzenegger, that President Trump doesn't get relative to the accord? SCHWARZENEGGER: I don't think that it has so much to do with what you

get. It has something to do with we have different beliefs, you know. And so people have different beliefs. I cannot expect everything to think like me. He thinks differently. Other people think differently, this is the way it is. So it is up to us now to convince the president, it is up to the rest of the world to convince him that, OK, that's the way you feel. But here's another way of looking at it. And rather than, you know, attacking it, I just think we have to bring him back and bring him in and maybe it will work eventually.

But in the meantime what's important is I always said don't have the whole thing rely on the capital. It has to rely on the various different states and the cities, neighborhoods, individuals, companies, the private sector, academic sector, everyone has to work together to make this happen. And all of those sectors didn't drop out. The president dropped out, but they didn't. So this is the important thing.

We got to move forward. This is such an important issue. If you believe in global climate change or not, you can think your own thing about that, but that 13 million people die a year, that is not kind of a theory or this is something that's going to happen in the future. Right now today another 19,000 people are dying because of pollution. And that we have to stop. Everyone has to agree to that. Then from the rest, we can go and have debates, ideological debates and scientific debates and all that stuff, but let's stop the pollution now.

SMERCONISH: Thank you for being so gracious with your time.

SCHWARZENEGGER: Absolutely. Any time for you, Mike.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.



SMERCONISH: Arnold's army gathering at

Let's check in with my Facebook and Twitter pages and see what you are thinking in real time. "Schwarzenegger is a modern example of someone in the entertainment biz that is capable of running government." Real Donald Trump may take note." You know, Noelle, I want to give him props, I'm enamored with the guy, I really am. Successful as a body building, successful as an entertainer, successful as a politician, and successful as a businessman, he is really, now having spent a lot of time with him, he is really a bright guy. Do not underestimate the intelligence of the govern-ator.

[10:40:08] Hit me with another one if we've got it. "Let's make an exception for --" yes, yes, yes. I was wondering if somebody was going to raise the whole natural-born issue and who gets to run for president. It's a good observation and you're not the only one thinking it, I am sure. The president's numbers are in the tank, but does he run any risk of

the conservative press abandoning him? I will ask one of their most important leaders, Chris Ruddy still with me in just a minute.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back. We're still waiting on President Trump's remarks at the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford in Norfolk, Virginia. In the meantime, I welcome back the "Newsmax" CEO and friend of President Trump, Chris Ruddy. Chris, I mentioned before the break, the poll numbers for the president overall are poor, the 39 percent number, the standing within the Republican Party remains strong.

[10:45:06] It's often occurred to me that when he'll have a real problem of his base is if and when he loses support of individuals like you and "Newsmax" and "Breitbart" and "Drudge." I see some signs of cracks in the armor. Whether it's Charles Krauthammer, whether it's Shepherd Smith at FOX, or whether it's this headline from "Drudge." But my question is, do you see any risk that the GOP media base abandons him?

RUDDY: I want to go back to the premise of the question that his approval numbers are poor. You said 39 percent. He's been hovering around 40 percent. Barack Obama spent almost his entire eight years between 38 percent and 42 percent. One reelection left with very high approval numbers. I never heard anyone say on CNN and MSNBC that he had poor approval numbers even though he was at basically where Trump is.

Michael, consider how incredible it is that this president has suffered the incredible attacks from your network and others, and he's still pulling 40 percent. I think getting to your question on the base he has like --

SMERCONISH: Chris, before you get to the question, let me just push back on that. Your numbers relative to Barack Obama, accurate, however, were at the six-month post. And if you look at every modern president at this juncture he is way the heck below where any of them were.

RUDDY: You forgot the first part of that logic, which is that the first six months we've never had a president that's never suffered the attacks he's suffered. I think President Trump is not a perfect guy. He's figuring out, when he goes into it he usually figures out pretty quickly. I think we're seeing change.

He's got a rock-solid Republican conservative base. I would encourage him, and I've written about this, to go more to the center, to grab -- I think his success comes from his popularity. His popularity will come from legislative reforms, tax cuts, infrastructure. I think he can do big bills in education.

We have a student loan crisis, $1.4 trillion. Nobody is talking about it, except the 20 million kids that can't pay their loans every month and the families struggling. This is the guy that can do it. He's a unifier. My experience with him over many years, he's not an ideologue.

One of the things I like about Scaramucci joining the team, Anthony is a very savvy business guy. He doesn't have ideological handcuffs. He's not going to put them on the president. The president can reach to the center. He should do it. And I think the Democrats, I hope the Democrats, you talk to a lot more of them than I do, but I hear that they're willing to work with him if they stop getting so many attacks from Rachel Maddow and Don Lemon and others every night.

SMERCONISH: Nothing would shut up the critics perhaps more than getting something done. He's got control of both houses and no legislative achievement of significance that he can point to. You get 30 seconds to respond to that before I think I'm going to lose you to the president.

RUDDY: Look, I totally agree. And I think he will. I think you'll see this happening. I predicted there will be a six-month period, I think he's going to really go out and reach to the center. And he's going to amaze people. Jon Huntsman, Ric Grenell he's picking for Germany, these are incredible choices that he's done in his cabinet.

SMERCONISH: Chris Ruddy, appreciate you being here, thank you so much for sticking around.

RUDDY: And if you get fired by CNN, I will hire you on "Newsmax TV."

SMERCONISH: I'm going to file that away. Thank you, sir.


SMERCONISH: Hopefully that doesn't happen for a while.

Still to come, we're waiting on President Trump's remarks on the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford in Norfolk, Virginia. And your best and worst tweets, like this one.

"Will the president try to pardon himself while on board the USS Gerald Ford?" Steven Calderbank, you have missed your calling my friend. We're back in just a second.


SMERCONISH: You're looking at a live shot from Norfolk, Virginia. President Trump will soon speak, and you will hear it live right here on CNN. This is the commissioning of the USS Gerald R. Ford. It looks like Governor McAuliffe is about to speak. There are a number of speakers who will precede President Trump, and we promise we will be there when the commander-in-chief is ready to address that crowd.

In the meantime, plenty of Twitter activity, plenty of Facebook activity during the course of the program. Thank you for that. If you ever miss any of the program you can catch us at any time at CNN Go online, and through your connected devices and apps. And thanks for the Twitter and Facebook reaction. What do we have, Katherine? So many different things we've gotten into here today. "Smerconish, fast-forward six more months, any predictions?" Stephen Nessel, I have surrendered my card for prognostication. They don't let me make predictions anymore because I was so often wrong during the build-up to Election Day in 2016. If I say bet on black, you want to bet on red. You follow?

Give me another one. "Stop pretending you're not a crazy lib. Wow, we're not dumb." Oh, I get it, Angelo. So today is one of those days when I'm a crazy lib. Let's see, during the course of my broadcast here today, I came on the air and I said I was with Sean Spicer at the White House yesterday. You know, he's a pretty decent guy and has always been a gentleman in my dealings with him. So I'm a crazy lib for that.

[10:55:00] Then I hosted Chris Ruddy, who is a friend of President Donald J. Trump, and I said it's been a horrific two weeks for the Trump administration and gave him the opportunity to respond. I'm a crazy lib for that. I could go on. I hosted Arnold Schwarzenegger. I'm a crazy lib. It doesn't make sense. None of it makes sense. Watch the entire program.

Do I have time for one more? I think that I do. "Smerconish, you are --" OK, come on. That's it. Now I give up. I want this -- I want this Twitter person to hook up with the last Twitter person. Look at that. "You are a Trump friend, it's like listening to FOX noise." Katherine, can you go back to the last one? If we put the last tweet back up on the screen, that's the marriage that will be made in heaven. Yes, that's it. Angelo, would you please tweet at the other person. To the extent the two of you are single, you should hook up.

Thank you for watching, see you next week.