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Russian-Sponsored Political Facebook Exposed Ads Analyzed; Trump Contends the Facebook Political Ads Are a Hoax; Scott Shane Investigates Fake Facebook Profiles and Their Pre-Election Posts; John Villasenor UCLA Professor and Senior Fellow at Brookings Institute Discusses College Students Perceptions of Freedom of Speech; Oxaca, Mexico is Hit b a 6.2 Magnatude Earthquake. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 23, 2017 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Last night President Trump repeated his claim that the Russian meddling story is a hoax.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, Russia did not help me. I call it the Russian hoax. One of the great hoaxes.


SMERCONISH: The actual hoax involved Russian-sponsored political Facebook ads and fake accounts that promoted Trump and attacked Hilary Clinton. What did the campaign know? Plus, James Comey shouted down at Howard University, part of the ongoing campus battle over free speech and protests at Berkley have thwarted a right-wing free speech event amidst new data which says that many college students don't understand or don't appreciate the First Amendment. With the failure of the latest GOP attempt to rewrite health care, what can we learn from how it's done in other countries? And meet the young speech writer who supervised comedic Obama moments like this one.


BARAK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: After the midterm elections my advisors asked me, Mr. President, do you have a bucket list? And I said, well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list.


SMERCONISH: But first, the President began his day yesterday with a tweet. It said this, "The Russia hoax continues, now its ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest media coverage in favor of crooked Hillary?" And then he ended his day with a similar assertion at last night's rally for Alabama Senate Candidate Luther Strange. The hoax assertion is remarkable for two reasons. The obvious that the President is still at odds with his own intelligence community; it is disbelief of Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential campaign.

As my colleague Chris Cillizza was quick to point out yesterday, here was the conclusion of the intelligence community assessment released in January. "We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered and influenced campaign in 2016 aimed at the U. S. Presidential Election. Russia's goals were to undermine faith in the U.S. Democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton and harm here electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-ElectTrump. We have high confidence in these judgments."

But there's something else here worthy of analysis. Until recently, discussion of Russian meddling has meant the hack of the DNC server and the question of collusion has been one of whether the Trump campaign could have aided and abetted that hack. So far no direct evidence of such collusion has come to light. There have been troublesome signs like Don Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, entertaining Russian operatives in Trump Tower in June of 2016, who promised to deliver dirt on Hilary Clinton, but no smoking gun showing knowledge or involvement by the Trump campaign in the DNC hack, but maybe the hack isn't the area where the President is most vulnerable in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.

Maybe it is in social media, specifically Russian manipulation of twitter and Facebook to influence the election. This week bowing to pressure Facebook handed over to Mueller 3,000 ads bought by a Russian agency during the American campaign. And Facebook found $100,000 worth of those ads linked to nearly 500 fake Facebook pages, where fictional people posed as American activists, many of whom attacked Hilary Clinton and praised Donald Trump.

Facebook has since removed 470 profiles and pages linked to a Russian company with ties to the Kremlin. Scott Shane of "The New York Times" investigated several of the pages and here's an example of what he found. This is the Facebook page of someone who identified as Melvin Redick of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. On June 8, 2016, Redick started sharing links on Facebook to a new anti-Hilary website. He posted, "These guys show hidden truth about Hilary Clinton, Goerge Soares, and other leaders of the U.S. Visit DC Leaks website. It's really interesting." Here's the problem found by Scott Shane of the "The Times." Melvin Redick does not seem to exist. His Facebook photos appear to be taken from a Brazilian stranger.

[00:09:05] One photo on the Facebook page shows him at a restaurant in Brazil, another photo of his daughter's bedroom shows a Brazilian-style electrical outlet. "The New York Times" also notes Redick's post never included any of the personal missives that you typically find on Facebook, but rather anit-Hiliary and Pro-Russian news articles. So here's the big question for Robert Mueller. Were these social media efforts as rudimentary as the Facebook page of Melvin Redick, or were they part of a sophisticated targeting operation guided by American political intelligence supplied by the Trump campaign?

Were they targeting specific swing geographical areas and certain demographics within those areas? If so, the President can only hope that it was all a hoax. Joining me now, former Federal Prosecutor, Renato Mariotti. Renato, you said in a Politico a couple days ago that until recently there was little that indicated Mueller was far along, and then that changed. What changed in your mind?

RENATO MARIOTTI, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, that was the first time that I saw a very real path to Robert Mueller, you know, producing an indictment that had a Russian's name on it and an American's name on the same indictment. You know, up until then he was far along on certain things like, for example, Paul Manafort. But Paul Manafort, you know, he was being looked at for false disclosures, tax issues, things like that. And I will tell you the Russians were not there helping him fill out his tax returns, they weren't there helping him fill out his disclosure forms. Those are serious crimes and I don't mean to suggest they are not, but they are not the sort of crimes that involve a Russian person and him being indicted working together.

Now what we have with Facebook is Robert Mueller assembled evidence, got an affidavit written by a federal agent, presented it to a federal judge and that federal judge determined there is good reason to believe a crime occurred and that crime, by the way, would be illegal foreign contributions in connection with an election here in the United States. And then he also presented evidence and the judge found that evidence of that crime existed on Facebook. And so, you know, you were just talking a moment ago about how the President said yesterday this was all a hoax and what I would say in response to that is that it is not a hoax when a federal judge, a neutral third party, determines that there is good evidence of a crime.

SMERCONISH: In lay terms, what would it mean if there were evidence of aiding and abetting by representatives of the Trump campaign in this real hoax via Facebook?

MARIOTTI: So what aiding and abetting means is that you have knowledge that a crime is under way, that a crime is being committed, and you take tangible, active steps to further it. So it would not mean, for example, that the Trump campaign was cheering on the sidelines. So if you watch somebody commit a bank robbery and you're clapping and cheering as he does it, that is not aiding and abetting the bank robbery. It's aiding and abetting the bank robbery when you go in and help them hide the money or burn the dye pack soiled clothes or do something like that. So here in this context what it would mean is somebody in the Trump orbit helping these individuals, these Russian individuals target advertising.

Helping them conceal what they were doing. Helping them, you know, know where they-were they wanted their efforts to be focused, helping them with their messaging. Things like that. Things that actually carried it forward. If Robert Mueller asked, you know, asked those questions and ultimately finds those answers, and I think Robert Mueller and his team will be asking the questions you just asked a moment ago, Michael, you know, then you could potentially see that indictment with the American and Russians name on it.

SMERCONISH: Okay, pure hypothetical, because there's no evidence in the public domain of that which I'm about to pose having occurred, but what if there were this Russian effort to target individuals via Facebook posts and if the campaign had said focus on women who are in Wisconsin, focus on white guys lacking a college degree who are in Michigan and direct advertising there. Would that be aiding and abetting?

MARIOTTI: If whatever individual gave those instructions to the Russians would be frankly, what I think the more likely charge would be they would have joined a conspiracy, criminal conspiracy by the way. That's just a fancy legal word for an agreement to commit a crime. They would have joined a conspiracy to have foreign contributions to the election, and just so your viewers know, and I've explained this many times on twitter, that in a conspiracy you don't need to know every piece of the conspiracy. You don't need to know every number of the conspiracy.


MARIOTTI: So somebody here in the United States and I obviously this is as hypothetical as you said, this hypothetical person, they wouldn't have even needed to know the Russians were. They needed to know it was Russians, that it was a Russian operation, but they didn't need to meet these people, they didn't need to be involved with everything. If they agreed and said we want you to target working class women in Wisconsin and that's the aid that we want, that would certainly be joining a conspiracy.

SMERCONISH: Final subject area, step back, big picture, these are several different areas that we know Mueller is probing in which the President shows the most vulnerability? And by your count, I'll go by your headings, there's the Manafort and Flynn aspect of this, there's the obstruction of justice potential. There's the Trump Tower meeting that I made reference to in my commentary. And there's this Facebook/Social Media slice. Where is the vulnerability?

MARIOTTI: Well certainly from a legal perspective it would have to be obstruction. There's no question that Mueller is looking at obstruction. You can see that from the document request issued this week, as well as statements from the President's attorneys, and that would necessarily involve the President of the United States. It wouldn't like there was some aide that decided to fire James Comey. That said, from a political perspective, I think that the charges involving Russians could have a political implication for the President that could potentially to beyond obstruction or anything else in this case, because I think if I, as a lawyer, if I was defending someone who involved in aiding Russians, I would be very worried about bringing that case to the jury.

SMERCONISH: Renato Mariotti, thanks for your analysis. We really appreciate it.

MARIOTTI: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What do you think? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some during the course of the program. Go ahead Katherine, what do we have? This comes from it looks like Facebook, For once, for once Smerconish makes sense. I'm surprised to see that for once he's not kissing 45's ass. Well, Brandi, you know they say, right? A broken clock is right at least twice a day. Hit me with a twitter comment if we have time for that as well. Sounds to me like you are in on it, Michael. By in on it, I mean that you are colluding to bring down the elected POTUS. Traitor.

Really Avard? I'm the traitor? I'm simply as an attorney, as well as a broadcaster, analyzing that which is in the public domain and I'm responding to one specific assertion from the President both yesterday in his tweet and last night in his remarks. And that's the assertion that this all a hoax. Which puts him at direct odds with his own intelligence community. I have to say one more thing, gang, I know I'm over. I have to say this. What's most troublesome is if he treats it as a hoax, I'm worried we're letting your guard down and it could happen again. Think about that. Then ask yourself who's the traitor.

Up ahead Steve Bannon and Ann Coulter had been scheduled to speak at U.C. Berkley this week, but they pulled out just as a new survey says 1 in 5 college students think violence is acceptable to shut down a controversial speaker. Really? What don't they get about the First Amendment?



MICHEAL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCOR: Former FBI Chief James Comey received a rude welcome at Howard University yesterday. Students shouted him down for 15 minutes with chants like "Comey's is not my homey," and continued to disrupt his entire speech. Comey then responded.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI CHIEF: I love the enthusiasm of the young folks. I just wish they would understand what a conversation is.

SMERCONISH: College campuses have traditionally been safe havens for free speech, but that's no longer the case. At UC Berkley this week Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannoploulos, and Steve Bannon were supposed to speak at a free speech event, but coulter has withdrawn, Bannon is rumored to also be out, and the event seems to have fallen apart.

This after more than 170 Berkley professors and students called for a boycott of classes and campus activities during the event. How far are protesters willing to go to prevent people they don't like from speaking? A new survey from the Brookings Institution suggests that students do not understand the meaning of free speech.

Joining me now, the author of the study, John Villasenor is a senior fellow at Brookings and a UCLA professor. Thanks so much for being here. I want to put up some of the data from your survey. Let's begin with this does the First Amendment protect hate speech? Holy smokes, professor, 44 percent say no. you react.

JOHN VILLASENOR, SENOR FELLOW BROOKINGS INSTITUTE AND UCLA PROFESSOR: Yeah, this is a survey of 1,500 people who identified themselves as

students in from 49 states, and among that responded group the responses were really, frankly, quite disturbing. There's a lack of understanding among respondents about some basic attributes of the First Amendment.

SMERSONISH: The internals of this interest me. Look at the gender divide. I'm sure you took note of that. In other words, more women than men by 11 points, 49-38 are in that no category.

VILLASENOR: Right there was -- again, among the 1,500 respondents to the survey, there was a significant gender difference there, as well as in some of the other, for example, men expressed much more tolerance for using violence to shut down speech they don't like than did women.

SMERSONISH: Let's go on to another data set. So what's the appropriate response when there's a speaker with whom you don't agree? In this case 51% say that it's okay to shout them down, 62% of democrats, 39% of republicans, as I'm showing on the screen hold those views. Your reaction?

VILLASENOR: Yeah, again, in the caveat it's within this particular group of respondents, but I think the reaction is, nobody's looking good here, right? 62 percent is not a good number, but 39 percent is not a number to be proud of either. And I think, frankly, this is the new normal.


VILLASENOR: Within this particular group of respondents, but I think the reaction is, nobody's looking good here, right? Sixty-two percent is not a good number, but 39 percent is not a number to be proud of either. And I think, frankly, this is the new normal, and we've seen this just yesterday with the James Comey speech and we're going to see it, unfortunately, I'm sure throughout the coming academic year.

SMERCONISH: I promise I'll get to the why question in a moment, but another, if I may put this on the screen, is it appropriate to use violence to prevent a speaker from speaking? 19 percent, let's call it 1 out of 5 of college students in America say, yeah, that's fine.

VILLASENOR: Yes again, just to make sure it's accurately characterized, it was among my respondent group. And you know, to the extent that's representative, then that's the case. I also, it's important to emphasize that that question was referring to, you know, extremely offensive speaker, and I'm in no way advocating or supporting the answer of supporting violence.

But it was phrased intentionally to gauge students' reactions to the most obnoxious and offensive of speakers, and a stunningly high percentage of the respondents did, in fact, say they were in agreement with the use of violence to prevent that speech, I find that a disturbing answer.

SMERCONISH: Perhaps most disturbing of all is that the students are looking to the institution to protect them from harmful words. You gave two scenarios. Put the fourth slide up on the screen. And you asked them, you know, which option is the appropriate option, and I'll explain. Option one was that the university creates a positive learning

environment for all students by prohibiting certain speech. Option two was that they create a learning environment where students are exposed to all types. 53 percent, slightly more than half said, please, prohibit the offensive speech, your reaction?

VILLASENOR: Yeah, my reaction is that anyone who spends time on college campuses in the last year or two probably wouldn't find it very surprising, those numbers. There's really a burgeoning move towards expectations of censorship in that environment, and I personally find those numbers disappointing, but not particularly surprising in light of my own --what I've observed on college campuses recently.

SMERCONISH: Okay, now the why question. Why is this the state of affairs?

VILLASENOR: I think there's complicated question, certainly, we can't answer in just a few minutes and I don't know if I have all the answers. But I think there's this growing expectation, especially recently, that the bounds of permissible speech should be determined in large part by the potential reaction of a listener. And if something might be deemed offensive, then it perhaps ought to be deemed unlawful or blocked.

And, of course, that is directly in contradiction with the broad scope that the First Amendment gives us with respect to freedom of expression and, of course, other things, as well. But I think that -- that's the underlying cause or one of the root causes here.

Another briefly, if I may, there's increasingly this view that words are violence, or certain words are violence, and, therefore, if you believe that words are violence, you might then believe the appropriate reaction to words is violence. Of course, I strongly disagree, but that mode of thinking has also become more common than in the past.

SMERCONISH: How about as a potential explanation the lack of a civics curriculum in high school the way that it was, well, in my era?

VILLASENOR: Yeah, I'm a very strong believer in the fact we ought to do a better job of emphasizing teaching these incredibly important Constitutional principles early, in pre-college education. The challenge is a lot of these folks arrive in college having already perhaps not had enough exposure to this. And So I think most high school kids, for example, could tell you there's a bill of rights, but few of them could probably tell you more -- a lot of the details about the first amendment.

We don't need to turn these people into experts on constitutional law, but I think we can do a better job of giving them some explanation of the contours of these fundamental rights like we have thanks to the first amendment and the incredibly important role it plays in our democracy.

SMERCONISH: John Villasenor, thanks for the work. It was very interesting. We appreciate it.

VILLASENOR: Appreciate the opportunity to be on with you.

SMERCONISH: Here's more now of what you're saying on my twitter and face book pages. What do we have, Katherine? Young people don't respect the first amendment.

Of course not, Smerconish, the internet's unregulated and abusive free speech turned public opinion. Patrick, that's scary. I don't know, though, if they don't respect it or they are not aware of it, because as I pointed out to the professor, there were multiple civics requirements that I had to fulfill in my k-12 public education. I don't think that's the case and maybe all this standardized testing in math and science, just a thought of mine, doesn't leave time for that in the curriculum.


SMERCONISH: We keep hearing if only the U.S. had a health care system like they do in, say, Canada or in England or many other countries, but a new study compared them. So, who's the best and what can we learn from them?


SMERCONISH: A 6.2 earthquake has shaken Mexico. The quake was located in the southern Oaxaca for the latest; we go to Rosa Flores in Mexico City.

Rosa what's the latest?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well Michael, I can tell you that when the alert went off for that -- yes, Michael, can you hear me?


FLORES: Michael, as I was saying, when the alert went off for this earthquake, we saw that rescue workers rushed off the rubble and you can see that they just started going back to their rescue operations just now, but as you mentioned, this is a 6.2-magnitude earthquake that hit the state of Mexico, southern Mexico, and we are just northwest of that area. But very tense moments here as police and other authorities asked everybody to get to the center of the street. From talking to locals here, they told me they heard the same alert that we heard here on Tuesday before the 7.1 deadly earthquakes.

Now, we didn't feel much here where i am standing, but I've got colleagues all over Mexico city here, and some of them did feel the earthquake. They felt the earth shake a bit. Some of our colleagues at the hotel where we're staying felt the earth shake, so, Michael, we're going to continue monitoring this.

The good news is, it really appears like the rescue operations here have resumed because they would not allow these rescue workers back on that mountain of rubble if they didn't believe that this structure was secure enough for them to return, but again the breaking news here out of Mexico city is that there has been a 6.2- magnitude earthquake in southern Mexico. Michael?

SMERCONISH: Rosa thanks for that report. For more now we go to CNN's Allison Chinchar in CNN's weather center in Atlanta. I don't know if I should regard this as an aftershock, but to the extent it's an aftershock, this sort of thing would be expected, would be anticipated, right?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, CNN METEROLOGIST: Right. We do believe it's an aftershock, but the question is, which earthquake, because we've had multiple earthquakes in Mexico over the past couple of weeks.

Here's a look. Again, this is the most current earthquake you can see right here from today, there was a 7.1 not too far from Mexico City, but there was one south of the one today was located, so the problem with this is, there's been two major earthquakes, it's hard to tell exactly which earthquake this is likely an aftershock from.

We do know it was a 6.2-magnitude quake with a depth of 32 kilometers, 20 miles. This is a shallow earthquake, so even though the magnitude is not as strong as recent ones we've seen, because it is shallow and shallower than the two previous ones, this is still likely to cause some damage, because you also have to keep in mind a lot of the buildings there are now structurally compromised.

Things aren't to the same standard they would have been prior to the earthquake, so you can then still have other things happen, including damage toto some of those buildings because of an aftershock of this size. Here's a look at the population. Right now we know about 71 million people felt some type of weak shaking. About 350,000 give or take, felt some type of moderate shaking with this particular quake.

We talk about shallow versus deep quakes. Anything that is under 70 kilometers, which this was well under that, that's considered a shallow quake, and anything within that limit is what we would consider enough to trigger damage.

Obviously, in addition to the depth you have to take into account the magnitude of the quake and 6.2 is certainly strong enough, tied in with the fact it was very shallow to cause some damage.

SMERCONISH: Allison, at what point can we anticipate that the aftershocks end, if, in fact, this is related to the 7.1 and it would seem that it probably was. You know, when are they finally out of the woods, so to speak?

CHINCHAR: They go down in frequency. Most frequent in the coming days or weeks after the quake, but there are times you can still have them a month after the original quake, that you can still have some aftershocks. They, obviously, go down in magnitude.

They are not usually as strong when you're talking weeks later, but they can still happen. In fact, usually when you get an original quake, say about a 7 or higher, you'll get one that's a 6.1 or higher, at least ten that are magnitude 5 or higher, and you could even get as many as 100 that would be magnitude 4 or higher. So you'll get less and less of them over time, but in theory they could go a month from now.

SMERCONISH: Allison, nice work, thanks for the briefing, we appreciate it. Program continues in just a moment.



SMERCONISH: Is there any way out of the deadlock of how we pay for health care in the United States? We keep hearing about how they do things over there in the rest of the world. Is this true? No two countries handle it the same way. What can we learn from other nations?

This week "the New York times" impaneled health care experts and tasked them with the different nation's approaches. Which one would you pick? Canada, Britain, Singapore, Germany, France, Australia, and the U.S all offer universal coverage, but some rely heavily on the government, others on private insurers, others in between.

We often hear about Britain and Canada. Between those two the experts preferred Britain, but in the end, it came down to Switzerland edging out France for the best. Two countries that we hardly hear about in our debate. Joining me now, one of the experts that "the times" consulted in its report, Craig Garthwait, a health economist at northwestern university's kellogg school of management.

Professor, let's begin with Canada and Britain. We hear so much about the two of them. You preferred the British system. We'll put points up about Britain, you tell me why.

CRAIG GARTHWAIT, HEALTH ECONOMIST, NORTH WESTERN UNIVERSTIY: I think there are a lot of similarities between the two systems in the sense they have universal coverage. We often talk about them together. A primary difference between England and Canada, though, is England is able to purchase private insurance that allows

You to avoid wait times if you'd like, go to different facilities, get access to more care. And that provides both a great degree of completion in the system, but also just a greater access to care in a timely manner. Canada, while for many services you can get routine access to care, for elective procedures you have 20% of the population waits longer than four months to get access to

SMERCONISH: Is it fair to say Switzerland represents what opponents of the affordable care act, Obama care, would have hoped that what they were initiating would become?

GARTHWAIT: Yeah, if you think about Switzerland, you can think about on the insurance side as a well functioning version of the affordable care act, or the ideal system we thought we might get if all the implementation had gone well with the aca.

I would note, though, that's just on the insurance side. On the sort of provider, doctor and hospital side, there are strict price controls in the Swiss system and that's one way in which they keep costs down, by limiting what you can charge in the various cantons of the country.

SMERCONISH: You're doing a great job running through the data. I appreciate it. Let's conclude with the United States. We'll put up some of the particulars of the U.S Am I right, professor that we stand alone in so far as we have an expectation that our employers will provide our health insurance?

GARTHWAIT: Certainly, the reliance on employer-provided health care in the United States is fairly unique in the system. I think we often think of our insurer providing our health care. We should note it's another layer of our employers pay us, that we get our pay from our employers often in the form of cash compensation and fringe benefits like health insurance. The United States is unique -- go ahead.

SMERCONISH: Why don't we hear more comparison to Switzerland? Why is it always a Canadian and British? Is it because of our relationship, our proximity to Canada? I just am wondering in the co context of the debate right now playing itself out in Washington, i don't hear anybody, republican or democrat, say, you know, they have a pretty good idea and plan in Switzerland.

GARTHWAIT: Yeah, that could be a testament to the low level of the sort of intellectual nature of the debate about health care in Washington first. There is a general familiarity with England and Canada among the American population.

England also represents sort of the far extreme if you think about it in the sense that the government owns all of the hospitals, they own the facilities there, and they provide the insurance.

If you start thinking about a true, quote, single payer system where you're getting insurance from your government, England is sort of the pontifical example of that, and, therefore, it enters into a debate because if you want to sort of scare people maybe you say the government is going to provide your government or if you want to say, look, the government is going to take care of everyone and England provides an example for both depending upon your political motives.

SMERCONISH: Professor Garthwait, I like the way it was done, little march madness analysis of who's got the best health care system in the world. Thank you for being here.

GARTHWAIT: Thank you. Have a good one.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on face book and twitter and see what you are thinking. Hit me with it. "Smerconish, the best health care system in the world got to be the U.S Congress'." What happened to the conversation of they are going to get what we all get through the affordable care act? A good point.

Still to come, meet one of the youngest white house speech writers in history. He helped bring the funny to some of president Obama's memorable public appearances, like when he wished betty white a happy birthday.

BARRACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Dear Betty, you look so fantastic and full of energy, I can't believe you're 90 years old. In fact, I don't believe it. That's why I'm writing to ask if you will be willing to produce a copy of your long form birth certificate.



OBAMA: After the midterm elections, my advisers asked me, Mr. President, do you have a bucket list? And I said, well, I have something that rhymes with bucket list. Take executive action on immigration, bucket.

SMERCONISH: That risque routine by president Barrack Obama, supervised by my next guest, david litt. He worked for the Obama campaign out of college, became one of the youngest white house speech writers in history.

Besides the usual topics like health care and climate change, comedy was his forte. He chronicles the behind the scenes in his new book, "thanks Obama, my hopy changy white house years." David Litt joins me now; he's currently the head writer how hard to get the potus to deliver the bucket routine?

DAVID LITT, FORMER SPEECHWRITER FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA: What I write about in the book is the way these jokes often reflected bigger trends in the administration, in the white house at the time.

So bucket might have been hard a few years earlier, but this was after the midterm elections, president Obama said, you know what, I'm going to bring every little bit of progress I can and I'm not worrying about progress anymore.

And part of that attitude was reflected in the fact, yeah, this is a great joke, I want to do it. The thing I write about changed, the only change he made was started out by him saying bucket, he said, bucket, it's the right thing to do. And I think that was his attitude going forward.

SMERCONISH: It sounds to me like he said to you, bucket, I may as well do it. Not always -- thank you. I got a laugh out of David Litt. That's big. Not always so funny though there was a Tim pawlenty line, I think one of the first lines you wrote for him, let me roll the tape and you'll tell the back story.



LITT: It sounds to me like he said to you, bucket, I may as well do it. Not always -- thank you. I got a laugh out of David Litt. That's big. Not always so funny though there was a Tim pawlenty line, I think one of the first lines you wrote for him, let me roll the tape and you'll tell the back story.

SMERCONISH: What was it supposed to be? LITT: Well, that joke I had pitched to the speechwriter running the

process at the time, john lovett, and my pitch was Tim bin lade laden plaupt laden pawlenty and i thought it was much funnier.

They met with president Obama in the oval and i got a draft back and it said hosny. I thought my punch line was funnier and the next night after the bin laden raid, realized, okay, I am very, very happy I did not hit send on the e-mail the night before.

SMERCONISH: If there's one moment that stands out from president Obama's appearances at the white house correspondent association dinner, at least for me I was there that night, it was Luther the anger manager. Roll the tape and we'll talk about this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold onto your lily white butts.

OBAMA: In our fast changing world, traditions like the white house correspondents dinner are important.

UNITENTIFIED MALE: I mean, really, what is this segment? And why am i required to do it?


SMERCONISH: How close did he come to breaking in the rehearsals?

LITT: Well, in the rehearsals he didn't just come close to breaking, to cracking up in the middle of the rehearsal, he couldn't hold it together. I mean, every time keegan Michael key as Luther said a line, the president just lost it.

To be fair we all did in the room. And I remember right before the speech president Obama said this is pretty good, but I just can't break. And i will say I didn't know if he could do it. I was watching it and just hoping that he was not going to laugh. And to his credit, he kept a straight face.

SMERCONISH: Hey, I'm going to help you sell books, David. You ready?

LITT: Sure. I'm always ready for that.

SMERCONISH: If people buy "thanks Obama" they will learn the story of why you were driving buck naked with a date after the Obama primary victory in Rhode Island. And that's all I'm going to say, all right? The book's great.

LITT: That's all you need to know. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: "Thanks obama" by Daivid Litt. What do we have in terms of social media? I'd be good of 60 minutes of @smerconish respondsing to twitter on @cnn. If something happens and we can't get to a guest or something, just get to the tweets. 60 minutes might be too much, but I'd be game. Back in a sec.


Hey, if you ever miss any of the program, you can catch us at any time on CNN go, online and through your connected devices and apps. Please follow me on twitter, hit my facebook page. Here is some of what you thought this week. What do we got? Smerconish, we're in big trouble when students want to be protected from ideas on which they disagree.

Education requires -- hey, this is my torts professor from penn law, gary francione noted for animal rights activism and I get why he would say that because he introduces elements of controversy.

But if you can't have those conversations, whatever the controversial conversation on politics might be, on a college campus, then where can you? I mean, I think the idea -- I'll just underscore this that 19% of college students in that survey say that violence is appropriate to confront a controversial speaker is abhorrent and needs to be fixed. I know Gary agrees with me. Hit me with another one. I don't see these before we put them up. You guys realize that, right?

Brandon, Smerconish, who hacked the Clinton schedule to avoid going to Wisconsin? Give me a break, this is over. Brandon, I'm not here asserting that Hillary would have won but for the Russian meddling. That misses the point. The point is we have a national security problem here. And if the president believes to have been a hoax, it tells me he's not fixing it. It's not about Hillary.

I don't care about Hillary's election. I'm worried about 2020. I'm worried about the midterm election in 2018. That's the issue. One more if i have time. Did I eat up my time? No time. All right. There you go. I get all worked up.