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Russian Meddling In 2016 Presidential Election; Bob Costas Talk About NFL And Other Sports. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 30, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:08] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in New York City. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The President up early and attacking Puerto Rico's mayor for her complaints about storm response saying she's shown, "Poor leadership ability."

Meanwhile, it turns out the Russian meddle wasn't just about Trump versus Clinton. It pitted Americans against each other.

The Wall Street Journal now reporting that Google is conducting a broad investigation of Russian influence in its ads before the election, this, after CNN reported fake social media accounts funded by Russia were used to stoke racial tensions during the campaign. CNN's Dylan Byers who broke the story is here.

Plus, POTUS is now tackling NFL safety rules.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're ruining the game, right? They're ruing the game.

Hey, look, that's what they want to do, they want to hit, OK? They want to hit but it is hurting the game.


SMERCONISH: What about hits like this one? He's also still attacking player protests during the national anthem. I'll discuss both with broadcast legend Bob Costas who's here.

And the Supreme Court will hear a landmark case this week about whether redistricting along political lines is legal. But are Americans self-sorting themselves?

But first, it's long bothered me that discussion of Russian meddling in the 2016 Presidential Election always devolves in the partisan bickering. The level of most people's interest seems dependent on whether it helped or hurt their candidate. That's a sad departure from the days when our partisan bickering was expected to stop at the water's edge.

You remember when Bush 41 made an issue of Bill Clinton's Vietnam protests while he was a student at Oxford? Or when Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks were criticized for having protested George W. Bush from a London stage?

I'm wondering, hoping actually, whether the Russian meddling will now be a uniter, not a divider, based on new reporting that shows the goal was not only to affect the election outcome, but also to foment racial unrest and harm the U.S. standing in the world.

This new CNN reporting by Dylan Byers and Donie O'Sullivan exposed a troubling development in the Russian meddle namely social media manipulation.

The article under this headline, "Fake black activist accounts linked to Russian government," reveals that a social media campaign calling itself Blacktivist and linked to the Russian government used both Facebook and Twitter in an apparent attempt to amplify racial tensions during the presidential election. The bogus Facebook account had 360,000 likes. That's more than the verified Black Lives Matter Facebook page.

As an example, Blacktivist posted a video on Facebook in August of this incident from San Diego in which a police dog was seen biting an African-American man in handcuffs. And the caption read as follows, "Watch another savage video of police brutality. We live under a system of racism and police are directly letting us know how they feel and where we stand."

With this revelation, the story is no longer about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. It's about an effort to unravel the fabric that keeps the country together. And that should alarm all of us regardless of who we voted for.

Joining me now is CNN's Dylan Byers. Dylan, how did it work?

DYLAN BYERS, CNN SENIOR REPORTER FOR MEDIA AND POLITICS: Well, look, there were -- there was the internet research agency which is a shadowy Russian troll farm, bought a number -- used a number of fake accounts to effectively impersonate and promote issues that would basically push our buttons as Americans. And that range across the board.

It was -- it exploited our racial tension. It exploited differing opinions over immigration, over refugees, over gun rights, over the LGBTQ community.

If they, the Russians who bought these ads, promoted these ads, took on these accounts, impersonated other people, clearly understood what our flash points were as a society. They understood where they could drive wedges, where they could amplify the political divisions that already exist and push those further.

And Michael, you're absolutely right. So often when we think about this, we think about this as did it hurt Hillary Clinton? Did it help Donald Trump?

It is so much bigger. It has been going on for so much longer. It is so much more pervasive than anyone at Facebook or Twitter or Google or on Capitol Hill, or here, you and me, understands at this point.

[09:05:00] And it really is not a story so much about the 2016 election. It is a story about a foreign government backing foreign nationals who are interfering in our politics and in our society and trying to sell chaos to weaken American democracy, to make American democracy weaker for us here in the United States. Also, to make it appear weaker to pro-democracy activists back home in Russia.

SMERCONISH: It transcends the outcome of the 2016 election. And in so far as your reporting describes how they really wanted to pit us against one another and potentially bring us to a violent state, I think it begs the question of what now will be the President's posture.

He's been dismissive. He's referred to it repeatedly as a hoax. What when it's not about Hillary and Donald, but it's about Americans in Ferguson or Americans in Baltimore, Maryland because, as you reported, they were targeting specific communities wanting to incite people to go after one another.

BYERS: That's right. Earlier this week, we reported that there was at least one, and you have to imagine more Black Lives Matter ad that was targeted by Russians at those communities, at Baltimore, at Ferguson. So again, it goes to that level of strategy, that level of sophistication and understanding our landscape.

As for the President's response, look, the problem here is the President wants to deny there was any meddling in the election, whatsoever, whether that was through, you know, media, social media, what have you. He's denied that outright. The Russians, too, have denied it outright so it's really hard to see how he's going to take action.

And then the other thing we should point out, there is speculation, well-informed speculation, I should say, that over the course of the 2016 campaign, the Russians understood that one of the best ways to sell chaos would be to promote Donald Trump's candidacy. And it's also true that Vladimir Putin has no good feelings towards Hillary Clinton.

So, when you look at the sampling of the ads that we have so far, and again, it's a very smart -- small sampling, you do see a small percentage that did try to go after Hillary Clinton, that did try to boost Donald Trump. So that was a piece of it.

But, again, we can't think of it that way. We have to think about it at a much bigger picture. It's an information war being waged through social media and through media to try and influence the American political system.

SMERCONISH: Dylan, final comment about this and them I must quickly ask you about the President tweeting this morning.

We were thinking this was all about the Russian meddling. It was all about the DNC hack. It was all about whether Debbie Wasserman Schultz had her finger on the scale in support of Hillary and not Bernie or what was the risotto recipe for John Podesta.

It's now clear. It was much more sophisticated, much more multifaceted than what transpired at the DNC.

As I reported at the outset, the Journal is now saying Google is taking a hard look. We know about Facebook, we know about Twitter, and it's a big picture presentation that I think we're about to move to. Quick reaction from you on that.

BYERS: Yes, it is, you know, a big picture presentation. There's going to be a public hearing on November 1st with all three of the companies you mentioned. And it's significant because Congress doesn't feel like they have enough answers from any of these three companies on what's going on here.

You know, just the big picture here really, if you feel as an American, like you've -- like things have been really chaotic in this country and things are just crazy and I think a lot of us, no matter who you support and no matter what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it's felt pretty chaotic in this country for a few years. I'm not saying that's because of the Russians, but it certainly encouraged and exacerbated by this Russian social media effort.

SMERCONISH: The President up early today. You know, he never retreats, he never gives an inch, and now setting his sights on the Puerto Rican mayor react to these tweets. The mayor of San Juan who was very complimentary only a few days ago has not been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. React to that, Dylan.

BYERS: I mean -- and it's -- look, it's -- President Trump is so defensive. He's so caught up in his own ego. How, at the time like this, when there's so much suffering in Puerto Rico? And there's so much criticism, too, over your response. This is a tragedy what's going on in Puerto Rico.

You want to pick a fight with the mayor? You want to turn this into a political battle? You want to give your core supporters an excuse for why you're being criticized by the mayor?

And then meanwhile, you're going on stage and giving speeches where you're saying the response to Puerto Rico is as -- is very strong and never seen a stronger response to a natural disaster like this? No, don't do that. Now is an opportunity to lead.

[09:10:01] Someone in the White House told the President, "Get on a plane with Melania. Go down to sites in Florida, in the United States that have been hurt." He should be thinking the same way about Puerto Rico. Back off the Twitter account. Put some effort into opening up the port, getting these people what they need and solving this --


BYERS: -- problem because it's Puerto Rico. It is a problem of the United States.

SMERCONISH: It raises interesting questions as to what the optics will be come Tuesday when he makes that trip. Dylan, great job on that reporting, stay with it.

BYERS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some during the course of this program.

Kathryn, what do we have?

Bill says, "Why is there only the sound of crickets coming from the White House on this outrageous attack in our country?"

OK, Bill, let me go one step further. You're right, of course, but why are there crickets from across the country?

Gang, do you get Dylan's report? They were trying to foment racial unrest in the United States.

Forget Hillary. Forget Donald. They wanted us at each other's throats and they were manipulating social media to bring that about.

I think it's abhorrent. I think it's worst than anything we've been told about the election meddling thus far.

Time for one more, is it from Facebook?

"Did the Russians crack the voting booths? If not, there's no story. The people I know that voted for Trump would never have voted for Hillary."

Joe, they didn't need Facebook or Twitter to -- you're missing the point, my friend. What you're essentially saying now is go ahead and meddle. Go ahead and screw with our election.

Unless you're successful in determining the outcome, it's inconsequential in my analysis whether ultimately they affected the outcome of the election. It's the fact that they were doing so. No, sorry, you're wrong.

Up ahead, this brutal hit, roll it. In Thursday night's NFL game came just after the President said the NFL was hurting the game by trying to protect players' safety. I'll talk to Bob Costas about the ongoing battle between the President and the NFL.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This might be a screener jaw.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rodgers is -- yeah, that's a screen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the middle, middle screen to Adams. Oh, he got slapped in the face.



SMERCONISH: That was receiver, Davante Adams, with the Green Bay Packers being hit Thursday night by the Chicago Bears, Danny Trevathan. Trevathan was charged with a personal foul but not ejected. The crushing blow came just days after President Trump said NFL rules intended to keep the players safe are "Ruining the game."


TRUMP: Today, if you hit too hard, right? If they hit too hard, 15 yards, throw him out of the game.

They had that last week. I watched for a couple minutes. And two guys just really, beautiful tackle.

Boom, 15 yards. The referee gets on television, his wife is sitting at home, she's so proud of him. They're ruining the game.


SMERCONISH: Joining me now, veteran NBC Sports commentator, Bob Costas. Privilege, really to have you here.


SMERCONISH: Analyze that hit.

COSTAS: It's a dirty hit even if it wasn't Trevathan's intention, even if he got carried away. It's a classic helmet to helmet hit. And it's completely unnecessary because Adams was already wrapped up and stopped.

It is the very thing that the new NFL rules are designed to, if not eliminate, reduce as much as possible. The officials missed it. He should have been ejected, and the league is reviewing it. There's a possible suspension.

The irony, although was a footnote, is since they were inside the 10, it was only half the distance to the goal line. That play cost them four yards.

SMERCONISH: Is the President, right? He's --

COSTAS: No. No, he could --

SMERCONISH: That the game will be ruined?

COSTAS: He could not be more wrong. Look, I remember, just to make this clear for anybody that needs to have it made clear, my dad took me to the 1962 NFL title game at Yankee Stadium between Y.A. Tittle Giants, whom I adored, and the Green Bay Packers. And I still haven't gotten over the Giants' loss. Some of the best people I have met, players, coaches, people around the game, best people I've met in sports are football people. I understand the drama, the excitement, the strategy, the generational connections, all of that is good, but evidence is evidence.

This knuckle-headed idea that there's some kind of crazy left wing conspiracy that undermine America's game, evidence is evidence. I wish it were not so. I wish I could push a button and the game could be rough and exciting but not scramble people's brains, but it does.

And when the NFL says, "Well, there's more to learn, there's more evidence," guarantee you, the more evidence, the worse it's going to look for the game of football. And you wonder, whether it's the president of the United States or somebody in the upper deck who says they're ruining the game by not letting them just bash each other to pieces. You wonder how many times they've been hit in the head.

SMERCONISH: Can the game be both exhilarating and attract the fan base that it has heretofore while, at the same time, you protect player safety?

COSTAS: You know, there are millions and millions of people who do not watch football out of some sense of bloodlust. They're not watching it primarily because of the violence and the viciousness.

If you stand on the sideline, as opposed to watching on television or even from the press box, you stand on the sideline, you realize what a brutal game this is. And that may attract some people.

Many of us prefer the athleticism, the strategy, and would prefer a classic tackle rather than vicious hits that just take guys down and people don't get hurt except incidentally. Is it possible for the game to be played anywhere near the way we know it at the top level of college and in the NFL and for that to happen?

I don't see how but I'm open-minded about it. I'd like to see it happen because I don't want the game to disappear.

SMERCONISH: Surely, this crop of players sees what has happened to their elders --


SMERCONISH: -- those who were in their 60's and you spend lots of time in the locker room. How worried are they?

[09:19:58] COSTAS: They are worried. Just this week, the Boston University and McKee (ph) company who have been studying this very closely say they may have discovered a biomarker which will allow you to detect CTE in living humans. At present, you can only detect it through an autopsy, and many of those autopsies reveal that there is an alarming extent of CTE among former player. Yes, they're very concerned about it.

SMERCONISH: As an attorney, I look at the Aaron Hernandez case. We know because of the post-mortem analysis that he was stage three, three out of four.

COSTAS: And he was only 27.

SMERCONISH: And only 27. And bob, had we known that, had the legal system known that at the time when he was going through the process it could have impacted the outcome of that case?

COSTAS: I guess. I mean, you're a lawyer, and each individual case has to be looked at individually, we can't generalize, but at least what we're moving towards now is some kind of informed consent. And if somebody says, yes --


COSTAS: -- I understand the risks but it's worth the rewards whether the exhilaration of competition or the money that can help me and my family, you respect that. If somebody step aside and says, you know what, it isn't worth it to me, you have to respect that, too.

SMERCONISH: Final question on this issue, because I want you to stick around and talk about more. I loved you to stay the whole hour as matter of fact.

COSTAS: We'd switch seats?

SMERCONISH: Yes, I got higher ratings if we switch seats. Moms, have moms now been empowered, do they control football's fate?

COSTAS: I don't know if they control it, but they impact it. And it's not coincidental. That a few years ago, the NFL began running these little spots, these CTE tone spots to try to put a Norman Rockwell patina (ph) around football.

Football is family. Yeah, that's to reassure primarily mom that it's OK to let little Johnny (ph) play football. And all the wonderful -- let's pack a picnic lunch and go out and tailgate, all of which is true, except for the fact that some people who play it an alarming percentage of those who play it, especially if you play it long enough, that they start early enough and play it long enough through college and though NFL, an alarming percentage of them will windup at some point not knowing what day it is.

SMERCONISH: If moms say no, it will dramatically change who plays football in the future. It will be an escape path, perhaps, for those who play, but not much broad appeal amongst players. We all watch?

COSTAS: You know with exceptions. And it's going to take a long time and if that ever happens and if football can't figure out a way to make itself safer and yet still exciting and who knows what that path is, it'll take a while, because there are places where football is such an engrained part of the culture.

We're not just talking about the NFL. High school football, Friday Night Lights, college football.

SMERCONISH: Right. COSTAS: Huge swaths of the country it's not going to happen tomorrow or the next decade where people turn their back on footballs.

SMERCONISH: Stick around. Here's what's coming in via my social media thus far during the -- and may be you can take a piece of some of these. Let see. Bill says, "Football less harmful now, kids don't practice like they did five or ten years ago. No hitting during the week." Just game days, not your dad's football?

COSTAS: That's true. That's true. But it may not be enough, but it's true.

SMERCONISH: Right. And I know the data says what most of the injuries happen during practice. But then again, you're practicing five days and you're playing only one.

COSTAS: Yes, in the NFL they cut down substantially on the amount of practice hitting in the last collective bargaining agreement.

SMERCONISH: Another tweet for Mr. Costas, I love that he's here, football also causes bad niece and types of orthopedic issues, so what, there's risk in everything.

COSTAS: Yes, that's fine. And you'll have to decide whether you want your son to play football and whether that risk is acceptable. A generation or two ago, people knew that when they were 45 or 50 years old they might have arthritic knees, or to have to have like hip arthritis (ph).


COSTAS: Or have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. They didn't think they wouldn't recognize their children.

SMERCONISH: Right. Today everybody has got notice I think is what you're saying. We're all unnoticed of where this is headed.

[09:24:00] Hey, Bob Costas, stick around. I want to talk about the NFL's controversy about kneeling during the national anthem. And whether the President in getting those Thursday night to stand has just had a win.


SMERCONISH: Last weekend, President Trump called NFLers who took a knee SOBs. And then many more did exactly that. Then come Thursday night, the Bears and Packers joined arms instead. Last night, the NBA center a memo to all 30 basketball teams reminding players of its rule to stand for the anthem.

And so, what comes next? Joing me again America's premier sportscaster, Bob Costas of NBC Sports. You pointed out in a conversation we had here previously that the NBA has this rule and yet you also told me they're the more progressive of the different leagues. COSTAS: Yes, generally speaking, the NFL and its owners are more conservative of the four leagues. And the NBA would be, this is generalization, the most progressive. But they had a rule that said you must stand respectfully. They allowed Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf some 20 years ago to stand in a prayerful position like this. You can also stay in the locker room but they eliminated that controversy.

SMERCONISH: Are you surprised by the reinforcement, the memo that went out last night?

COSTAS: No, because the atmosphere calls for a reminder. You know, here's a thought first offered by Hines Ward and Anderson Cooper's Town Hall the other night here on CNN. Every league now has its own network, MLB network, NBA network, and NFL network, they could make and I think it would be a wise move. They go 24/7 365.


COSTAS: Lots of highlights, lots of shows but they could make a weekly show, each network could an hour long have a responsible moderator and bring thoughtful people on to express whatever viewpoint concern is that. Because eventually it only stands to reason that they're going to be people with different viewpoint --


[09:30:03] COSTAS: -- conservative viewpoints, somebody who's upset about this or that policy, they too deserved a voice. Allow players a platform not just to protest but to articulate the reasons for their protest. On Anderson's show, Doug Baldwin of the Seattle Seahawks struck me as so thoughtful and so well-informed and so nuanced. And that's the next step beyond Colin Kaepernick.

As we've talked before, Colin Kaepernick's intentions were good, but when you say I do not vote because the oppressor will never allow you to vote your way out of your repression. I guess it doesn't matter to him that people, mostly black but some white, died for his predecessor's right to vote or were beaten or mistreated in their efforts. And maybe it doesn't matter to him that when he first took a knee, Barack Obama was President and now Donald Trump is President. He later shows up at practice wearing socks that depict cops as pigs. He praises Fidel Castro when in Miami. Maybe that's why he's not the quarterback of the Dolphins now and Jay Cutler is. Although, there may be other reasons.

So, you need to move beyond Colin Kaepernick whose intentions were good and who has donated and raised millions of dollars, so his heart is in the right place but who sounds very politically naive. And to people like Doug Baldwin, and you need to give them a voice.

SMERCONISH: The President when running as a candidate, Donald Trump said we're going to get tired of winning. Did he just win Thursday night in so far as they didn't protest during the anthem at that game, they linked arms? And now, here comes the NBA saying, we don't want our guys taking a knee during the anthem.

COSTAS: President Trump seems able to spin almost any circumstance. It's a win for him.

SMERCONISH: But is he right in this case?

COSTAS: I don't -- I don't think so. I think this is evolving players, and people around all the leagues are evolving in their understanding. This is a humble suggestion on my part because who am I? A very fortunate white man to tell primarily African-American citizens what they should do. But this is my suggestion, the idea of linking protests, no matter how legitimate the issue you are protesting, directly to the national anthem is not just offensive to the love-it or leave-it crowd, it actually causes ambivalent feelings at best, among many people who are sympathetic to the issue, but see the anthem as representing a lot of different things including the country's ideals and aspirations.

So, to me, perhaps the most effective thing to do would be to stand for the national anthem, but the second the last note is struck, take a knee. Because now, we're in a time, I don't know how long it will last, where the networks are going to cover the national anthem. They're going to show it. Most of the time, unless it's the Super Bowl or the World Series and you want to see the singer, they're in commercial during the anthem. Now, you're going to see it. So, you'll have the same audience, you'll have the same set of eyeballs. It would be a powerful statement.

If these players most of whom have emphasized when they've been interviewed that they love their country, they respect the military, it isn't anything against America, it's about this issue. OK, stand for the anthem then take a knee. Then what is Mr. love-it or leave-it going to say? To me, humble suggestion, that's the best to do.

SMERCONISH: Were the coaches and owners who linked arms with their players last weekend being hypocritical, because as I looked at them without your trained eye, I said, wait, they're the same individuals, say what you will about Kaepernick, politically, but he deserves a shot, aren't they the same people not giving him that opportunity?

COSTAS: Yes. Some of them have legitimate reasons not to give him the opportunity. They're set with their back up or whatever. Or, they might say, look, it's almost the same thing as if Tim Tebow were able to be a backup quarterback at the stage in the NFL. Is it worth it because the focus is so much on Tim Tebow? And we know that football people don't like distractions so that could be the excuse. But is that a valid excuse 32 out of 32 times. And we'll see what happens as the season goes along, and people get injured. And backups step up, and some of them will fail, and Kaepernick is in shape and ready to go. Yes, I think it would be great if he found himself on some team. And he has already said that he plans to stand for the anthem if he's able to make an NFL team.

Look, these owners almost had no choice when Trump or anybody else may have said something that offended the sensibilities of some Americans, those owners didn't say anything. And I'm not saying they should have. But when their own players were directly attacked, when they were called SOBs, they had no choice but to stand with their players, not just because they are their bread and butter to a certain extent, but because they know them and they know that most of them are decent people.

SMERCONISH: Quick final comment, kneeling versus sitting. I think I've got an image of Marshawn Lynch that I want to put up on a Gatorade cooler. React to that what you're seeing.

[09:35:00] COSTAS: This is again, just me, what Marshawn Lynch who is an unusual character is doing there, seems to me to be completely counterproductive, it's contemptuous, is it has no redeeming aspect to it. It has a screw you aspect to it. Those who took a knee -- sometimes taking a knee in various contexts is actually an act of grace. Whether one agrees that it should be directly connected to the national anthem or not, taking a knee is entirely different than sitting like that, almost smirking at the NFL and of the national anthem, sitting on the Gatorade bucket.

SMERCONISH: Here's some of the social media reaction to my discussion with Bob Costa, "Smerconish, the players have a right to kneel, also as a veteran, I have the right to take it as a sign of disrespect."

COSTAS: Correct.


COSTAS: Correct.

SMERCONISH: Right? Another one, quickly if we can. "I believe the kneeling going on now is more a protest of Trump than --" you know, I agree with that. It's no longer about racial injustice or the shooting of unarmed African-American men the way Kaepernick envisioned it. It's become a referendum on the President.

COSTAS: Yes, he changed that narrative but understand, he called these players, blanket statement, almost all of whom are African- American, sons of bitches. He also comes off entering politics with a completely ridiculous, already disproven, easily interpreted as racists dog whistle thing about the President's American citizenship. You contrast the fervor with which he criticizes Meryl Streep with how long it took him to sort out the Charlottesville situation. He thinks Frederick Douglass or at one time thought Frederick Douglass was still alive, OK? So, this is not disconnected from race.


COSTAS: You want to give the President of the United States the benefit of the doubt, but there's a whole lot of doubt to give the benefit of.

SMERCONISH: You said, please don't introduce me like that. But I'm going to embarrass you before you leave me. 12 Olympics, seven Super Bowls, seven World Series, 10 NBA finals, and 28 Emmys. Awesome, and deservedly so.

COSTAS: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: I really appreciate it.

COSTAS: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: One more tweet -- one more tweet while Mr. Costas is in the house. "Smerconish, I always and still believe Bob Costas should moderate Presidential debates." Hey, that is a hell of a suggestion. Have you ever been asked?

COSTAS: No. And I -- and I do not expect it.

SMERCONISH: Would you -- if asked, would you serve?

COSTAS: No. No, no, no, no.


COSTAS: Despite what some people who don't want to make valid distinctions think, I talk about certain political issues when they have obviously intersected with sports. And I think, in that respect, I stay in my lane.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Bob. I really appreciate it.

COSTAS: You're welcome, Michael. Good to see you.

SMERCONISH: A privilege to have you here. Hey, still to come, the Supreme Court is going to hear a crucial case this week about whether it's legal to redraw voting maps along party lines, but in a moment, why the court might only solve part of the problem.


[09:42:14] SMERCONISH: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says it might be the most important case of the upcoming term. This Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about partisan gerrymandering. It's called Gill versus Whitford, a challenge to the redistricting plan passed by Wisconsin's Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. But can they really affect anything if Americans have begun to self-gerrymander by preferring to live in areas where the neighbors are like-minded.

A bit of an explanation, you've heard me speak here about gerrymandering with people like Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and referring to the process of redrawing legislative districts to advantage one party or the other. It's made Congressional districts less and less competitive in the past two decades. This is what a gerrymander district looks like that's right outside of Philadelphia.

In 1982, a quarter of Congressional districts were considered competitive. Now, it's just 37 seats out of 435. Look at the decline as you go from 1992 in yellow to 2016. In the last election, 98 percent of elections, 98 percent were won by incumbents and most were won by more than 10 percentage points. But guess what, redrawing maps is not the sole explanation for what's going on because it's also true in counties whose boundaries don't change. From 1992 to 2016, more and more counties became blowout. The color on these maps signifies counties where the Presidential vote was won by more than 20 points. That's not a result of politicians manipulating districts. It's suggests that people are choosing to live with the like-minded.

But that's good news for my next guest, Paul Chabot, he's actually started a business called, Conservative Move. And he specializes in relocating families from liberal enclaves like Southern California to conservative areas like Texas. His slogan, "Helping families move right." How did you know there was a market for this, Paul?

PAUL CHABOT, FOUNDER, CONSERVATIVE MOVE: You know, we kind of fell into this by accident. My wife and I have four young children, we moved from California in January to Texas. And when we moved here, we realized that so many families had made the move long before we did but for the same reasons that we left California. And so, we simply thought it'd be a great idea to create a business that markets exactly to what you just described. And the business model has blown up across this country. We simply can't keep up with demand. But I think it goes to the point that you said that, you know, voters, human beings, really are looking to live in areas where they feel represented.

SMERCONISH: OK. But, if you're moving folks from Orange County, California, because it's become now blue where it used to be red, and they moved to Texas, I am mindful of the fact that the Texas demographics are changing. Texas, ultimately, may itself be blue. What are you going to do, move them all back?

[09:45:11] CHABOT: No. And that's a really good point. I think what Conservative Move really wants to do not just help families sell their home in blue states and buy in red states, but we want to have a greater conversation about conservative values. So, we talk about the three things that research shows families really want, they want good- paying jobs, good schools, and safe streets. And so, by the very nature of our business, we help families leave areas that are lacking those areas and move into areas that consist of those. So, we hope that this actually strengthens the conversation and builds more resilient communities in America based on those principles.

SMERCONISH: OK. But, you're in the end, a businessman. So, maybe I want to live --

CHABOT: Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: -- among the like-minded of liberals. Do you move folks from certain areas to other areas because they say, hey, I want to live among my own on the left side of the spectrum?

CHABOT: Sure. So, we'll help anybody, anytime, anywhere, regardless of anyone's political affiliation. However, we're not really seeing the concern from the left. We're seeing the concern from the right, from conservatives. And they are mostly parents with young children. They are, for example, from California, where we used to have the best schools, now, some of the worst. Some safe streets, now it's gone the opposite. And many corporations leaving California to Texas or other red states for good paying jobs. So, these are ordinary, average, middle-class Americans who are leaving these liberal coastal elite or working poor inland areas of many states to red states, just to simply live a better life and have a better life for their children. SMERCONISH: I don't begrudge your business model but it depresses me, it really does that people would go to the length of actually wanting to leave an area lest they can rub shoulders with the like-minded. That's not going to bridge our partisan divide. Thank you, Paul, I appreciate it very much --

CHABOT: Well, Michael, let me -- OK, thank you. Thank you for your time.

SMERCONISH: We'll do it again. Coming up, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And what happened the other day when yours truly was on the treadmill watching CNN, and the emergency broadcast system signal came on? I'll tell you.


SMERCONISH: As anybody who watches this program knows, I'm active on Twitter. On Wednesday, I was on a treadmill in the afternoon when came a test of the emergency broadcast system on CNN. Surely, you've seen them before, I have. Only in this instance, as I tweeted, for the first time in my life, I wondered if it was real. After all, two days prior, North Korea threatened to shoot down American warplanes even if they were not in the country's airspace. North Korea's Foreign Minister said that President Trump's comments suggesting he would eradicate North Korea and its leaders, was a declaration of war.

That followed President Trump's tweets last weekend, in which he said the North Korean leadership may not be around much longer if it continues its threats. President Trump has taken to calling North Korean leader Kim Jong-un "Rocket Man," or "little Rocket Man." Even in his first address to the United Nations.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.


SMERCONISH: In so doing, the President is treating Kim like he's a campaign opponent, and that seems ill-advised for a Commander-in- Chief. As a candidate, Mr. Trump often was branding his opponents, Low Energy Jeb, and Little Marco, Lyin' Ted, ultimately, Crooked Hillary. The high school-like ranking worked for candidate Trump, but now he's using a similar approach with a foreign leader, and one with nukes. There's a big difference between using this approach in a campaign, versus as the leader of the free world.

In the campaign, the strategy was intended to reach an audience of voters. It may also have pushed the buttons of his opponents, but the goal was to brand them in the eyes of the voting public, those who would pass judgment on Trump and the other candidates. In the case of North Korea, President Trump is now playing to an audience of one, Kim.

Perhaps his motivation is in thinking that years of sanctions and the international equivalent of double secret probation have been unsuccessful, but the emasculation approach is potentially risky as a proposition. If Trump miscalculates, he might goad Kim into launching a missile strike that could lead to war.

Here's my question, is the President operating based on intelligence that includes psychologic profiling of Kim, or is he just spit balling it here? There's reason to suspect the latter. North Korean government officials, they've been quietly trying to arrange talks with Republican-linked analysts in Washington in an apparent attempt to make sense of President Trump and his confusing messages to Kim Jong-un's regime. I'm not the only one concerned. A Washington Post survey says 42 percent of Americans don't trust the President at all to handle North Korea, versus 37 percent who trust him a great deal or good amount. You have to wonder what the three generals around the President, Mattis at defense, McMaster as National Security Adviser, Kelly as Chief of Staff, what are they thinking?

Again, if this is part of some well-thought out plan relying on the advice of those most read in on North Korea, well, that's one thing. I just worry that instead, it's Trump treating Kim like this is the Iowa Caucus, or that they're a pair of 14-year-olds on a Queens playground.

[09:54:57] Hey, if you ever miss any of the program, you can catch us any time at CNNgo Online and through your connected devices. Remember to follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Here's some more of what came in during the course of this program. "Smerconish, we had decided to move to the villages in Florida, then we saw that was 80 percent for Trump. We'll stay in Jersey with snow and taxes." No, the point is, if you want to change minds at the villages in Florida, then you ought to go move there. I don't like the trend of liberals wanting to live with liberals or conservatives wanting to live with conservatives.

Hit me with another one, "Smerconish, I watch politics all week on T.V., game day is my escape from politics. The politics of the players is irrelevant to me, just play. I say the same thing about rock musicians. How many times I've gone to a concert and I'm there to hear the music, and instead, I get a political message." I feel the same way as you do. Hey, gang, we're out of time. I'll see you next week.