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Interview with Ken Starr; Interview with Senator Chris Coons; Interview with Oscar Goodman; America's Electoral College Problem; Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 7, 2017 - 09:00   ET


[09:00:21] MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

The president up early and tweeting again. This time about his desire for equal time on TV.

Come on, Mr. President, you have your own channel. And you're welcome here on any Saturday of your choosing. And I will treat you with dignity and respect.

Today marks one year from the day that we learned that Russia was interfering with the U.S. election. And pursuing the Russian meddle and possible collusion will prosecutor Robert Mueller make President Trump testify under oath?

That's the belief of Ken Starr who investigated the Whitewater and White House intern scandals. He's here to discuss.

Plus, with U.S. embassy personnel in Havana suffering from a mysterious illness, this week, President Trump expelled 15 Cuban diplomats. Are we headed for Cold War Two?

A week after the massacre in Las Vegas, investigators still trying to learn what drove the shooter. I was in Vegas this week and asked its colorful ex-mayor, Oscar Goodwin, a former mob lawyer who played himself in "Casino" about how his psyched city is coping.

And Megyn Kelly trying so hard to cross over from FOX to NBC, but struggling with both viewers and critics. In this political divide, is it just impossible for anyone to switch sides?

But first, they told us so. One year ago today, October 7th, 2016 brought the news that the Russian government was meddling in the U.S. presidential election. At 3:00 p.m., the news came in the form of an unprecedented statement from the director of National Intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr. and the Department of Homeland Security.

The statement pointed a finger at Vladimir Putin without naming him, quote, "We believe based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior most officials could have authorized these activities," the statement said.

To be sure, the statement received coverage, but as detailed in Michael Isokoff's new Yahoo! documentary, "64 Hours in October," the Russian meddle was not the blockbuster you might have expected. Because it quickly became buried under two other stories that broke immediately thereafter, the "Washington Post" revelation of the "Access Hollywood" tape, in which the Republican presidential nominee used crude and offensive language. Followed by a WikiLeaks dump of Clinton campaign chair John Podesta's e-mails.

It was a stunning news cycle in a campaign that had many. In retrospect it seems difficult to believe that the release of the DNC e-mails immediately after "The Post" broke the "Access Hollywood" tape was a coincidence. And both obscured the more serious matter, the effort by a hostile foreign government to determine the outcome of our election.

One story involved a verified attack on our national security but both of the others appealed to our purulent instincts. The "Access Hollywood" tape had all the elements -- sex, lies, videotape. And captured our attention to the detriment of more serious matters.

Many Americans spent the entire campaign rubber necking, instead of focused on substance. And many waited until they saw the results of the election to decide whether to be concerned about Russia based entirely on the outcome. But it doesn't matter who won or whether the outcome was altered that our partisan domestic differences didn't stop at the water's edge was itself proof of the efforts' success.

It's been a full year. We didn't listen then. And some of us aren't listening now.

Joining me now is Ken Starr, former U.S. solicitor general and federal judge. He, of course, was independent counsel in the Whitewater and Clinton intern investigations.

Judge, nice to have you here. Many forget that while President Clinton remained in office after your independent inquiry, you nonetheless obtained 14 criminal convictions.

Here's my question. How likely, with regard to Russia, that regardless of what happens to the commander-in-chief, there will be multiple indictments of underlings?

KEN STARR, INDEPENDENT COUNSEL, WHITEWATER AND LEWINSKY INVESTIGATIONS: It depends on the facts, but I'll tell you this, given what we do know, especially given what happened this summer with respect to the FBI's intrusion and to Paul Manafort's condominium, in light of the revelations that we've seen about General Flynn, I have a sense that there will in fact be indictments. There may be guilty pleas and so forth. But we shall see.

What I find very interesting, very briefly is, in line of the information that is now coming out with respect to Russian attempts to influence both the national election and 21 different states, what I expect to see is serious consideration of indicting one or more foreign nationals.

[09:05:21] SMERCONISH: Judge, you've said that the president himself will ultimately be under oath in connection with the Mueller probe. In what scenario?

STARR: It will probably be by invitation. There will be every effort, I'm confident of Bob Mueller's, a complete professional with total integrity, to respect the dignity of the office of the president, which you said at the top of the hour.

The presidency deserves respect. And so the way it will likely work out in the fullness of time is for the president's private lawyers led by Ty Cobb who is very abled and Bob Mueller personally to sit down and discuss the situation.

The president of the United States, during the Whitewater investigation, was under oath on several occasions in the White House. There was one occasion, of course, the civil litigation brought by Paula Corbin Jones when he was under oath in a private law office here in Washington, D.C. So it will depend on the negotiations, but I think that is a logical step in Bob Mueller's eventually completing his investigation.

SMERCONISH: Do you believe that Bob Mueller has or will see the president's tax returns?

STARR: That I don't know. It would be a logical step, but it really depends always on the evidence that you have and then your assessment of the evidence with your able team, not only of lawyers, but of analysts. And my experience in Whitewater, we really depended on superb financial analysts from both the FBI and the IRS. These are professional people. They're not motivated by partisan politics. They're simply trying -- whatever their politics are, they leave that -- I mean, the way it's to work, and I have every confidence that Bob Mueller will see to it, that politics are left at the door.

Bob happens to be a Republican. But he is a fact and law person. And I think that's what we're going to get. We're going to get an honest assessment of the facts.

SMERCONISH: A legal hypothetical but one that you had to deal with. Can a sitting U.S. president be indicted?

STARR: The Justice Department has an informal policy that the president, the sitting president, cannot. And that is not embodied in any regulation of the like. It is an understanding. There have been policy statements to that effect.

My own view is that a president of the United States can be indicted. Everyone is under the law.

SMERCONISH: And I bring this up because this summer we learned from a Freedom of Information Act request that "The New York Times" initiated that there was a memo written at your request, on your watch, that looked at the issue and came to the solution that you've just offered.

STARR: Yes. Our basic system, going back to Magna Carta, you know, 800 years ago in England, was that ever person is subject to the law. Now that also means the criminal law. Now what I think our separation of powers system means is that, as I said earlier, the president must be treated with every possible respect. So that can affect scheduling and the like. But the Supreme Court of the United States held in a civil setting in "Clinton versus Jones," the Paula Corbin Jones, unanimously that the president of the United States had to respond to lawful process, including a civil lawsuit.

That strikes me all the more so if the criminal laws have been violated which is obviously a big if.

SMERCONISH: In the Clinton case, you made a determination, correct me if I'm wrong, that a congressional impeachment process was more suitable than the indictment scenario that I've just asked you hypothetically. In the current case, and I want to make crystal clear, Judge, there's been no showing that would suggest the potential at this stage of such an indictment. So I'm asking it hypothetically. But in the Russian probe scenario, which would be better suited, a congressional impeachment scenario like we had with Clinton or an indictment scenario?

STARR: Well, I certainly would prefer, and it is a hypothetical and may it never happen for the sake of the country, we want to stability and to have our policy disagreements and sort them all out. But I think when it comes to the president of the United States, it is in fact preferable for the matter, depending on the nature of the alleged offense, for the matter to come before the House of Representatives.

It's the ultimate political act by the people, to determine whether the president is fit to continue to serve in office. And that determination was made in President Clinton's situation.

[09:10:04] I should just add very briefly that there was a statute under which I was serving that actually directed us to refer information to the House of Representatives. That is -- that statute is no longer in effect and the Department of Justice regulations under which Bob Mueller was appointed does not contemplate that at all.

SMERCONISH: And the final point, your inquiry began with a land transaction and ended with an intern scandal, underscoring the point that once there's an investigation underway, you really don't know where it's headed. Apply that lesson to this case.

STARR: Yes, that's a stay tuned. Because information comes in, and as long as it arises out, if the information that's coming to you arises out of the investigation, then it's appropriate for the special counsel to conduct the investigation. In my situation, in our situation in the Whitewater case, we returned to the attorney general of the United States and said here's the information we have with respect to the Monica Lewinsky situation. And she, Janet Reno, specifically and expressly authorized it. There's a very different mechanism in place now.

SMERCONISH: Judge Starr, thanks so much for your expertise. We appreciate it.

STARR: You're very welcome, thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts at home? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. I think we've got two ready to go right now.

"Wrong you are, Smerconish." Well, I'm often wrong. "It absolutely does matter who won, with Russia's hands in the pot, look who we got."

No, Debra, you're misunderstanding. What I'm saying is that to many with regard to this Russia probe, to them they want to know was it outcome determinative, as if the only way we should care about this is if they played a role in the direct election of Donald Trump to which I say absolutely not. What matters is that they attempted and we should all be concerned about that, not suit up in our partisan armor.

One more if I've got time. Here it is. "Smerconish invites @realDonaldTrump on air. Come on. President. Think of the ratings."

Look, I have an open door for him. I have invited him previously. And I would treat him with dignity and respect. I would like to think that he would enjoy the opportunity to participate with my very direct but fair questioning, and we'll see.

Still to come, it sounds like a spy novel after U.S. embassy workers in Havana were stricken by a mysterious illness. President Trump has now expelled 15 Cuban diplomats. Is the Cold War reheating? Senator Chris Coons of the Foreign Relations Committee is here.

And the real reason for Megyn Kelly's lucky start on NBC.


[09:16:39] SMERCONISH: Is the Cold War roaring back to life? This week, President Trump expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, escalating his response to the mysterious affliction that has stricken American embassy personnel in Havana.

It's yet another area in which Trump is undoing the legacy of President Obama, in this case detente between the United States and Cuba. The Cuban government condemned the act as, quote, "Hasty, inappropriate and unthinking, and motivated by politics. So where is this leading?

Joining me now, United States Senator Chris Coons from the great state of Delaware, a member of the Senate's Committees for Foreign Relations, Judiciary and Ethics among other things.

Senator Coons, if we don't have proof that the Cuban government itself was responsible for this mysterious attack, should we have expelled their diplomats from the United States?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, that's a great question, Michael. This whole incident is somewhat of a mystery. Over a number of months, 22 diplomats from the United States stationed in Havana and Cuba reported mysterious illnesses. Problems with balance, with memory, with their general health. And finally, I think, the Trump administration acted out of a concern that Cuba is responsible for the safety of our diplomats in their country.

And Cuba exercises very close control of everything within their country. Their intelligence services, famously intrusive. And so I think the sort of tit-for-tat retaliation of expelling 15 Cuban diplomats was intended to simply ramp up the pressure on Cuba to help us resolve this issue and figure out what is the source, the origin, of these mysterious illnesses and likely attacks on American diplomats.

SMERCONISH: But where the Cubans allowed the FBI to come on their soil and conduct an investigation seems to mitigate against the idea that it was the Cuban government itself that was responsible.

And I guess what I'm wondering, Senator, is whether there are forces at play here who don't wish for there to be a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. I mean, frankly, it takes a line out of a new work of fiction by Nelson DeMille. But there are those forces out there, you know, that have been lying in wait for this kind of a moment. And we don't want our foreign policy dictated by interlopers. That's what I'm trying to say.

COONS: Well, Michael, it is an unfortunate alignment of those who have opposed the rapprochement of the fact that Trump seems generally to be enthusiastic about anything he can do to roll back diplomatic accomplishments of the Obama administration. And that this is getting very little attention.

I appreciate you're focusing on it this morning because it's a story that in the midst of all the swirl about North Korea and about Syria and about Iran, and Crimea and Ukraine, and other international issues, the situation in Cuba has not gotten a great deal of attention, allowing potentially folks who simply oppose our re- establishing strong relations with Cuba to insert themselves into this discussion.

SMERCONISH: So let me continue to work through some of your other -- some of your other responsibilities with regard to foreign relations. The president's declining to certify the Iranian nuclear deal throws this hot potato your direction on Pennsylvania Avenue. What do you expect the Senate to do?

[09:20:02] COONS: Well, I think this is a terrible idea, Michael. I have vigorously engaged with folks from the Trump administration at the most senior levels to try and persuade them that giving Congress this 60-day expedited procedures period, in which we could very well snap back sanctions against Iran and blow up the entire JCPOA, the so- called nuclear deal with Iran, that this is likely to end badly.

The decertification that we expect from President Trump this coming week based on news reports will probably be misunderstood by our allies and our adversaries. It may widen the gap between us and our European allies. It will certainly complicate efforts of putting together a diplomatic initiative to restrain North Korea.

So my concern is that just as we were discussing in the case of Cuba, there are forces within the Senate and the house who have opposed the JCPOA from the outset, and who will likely take advantage of this opening to try and blow up that deal. SMERCONISH: And finally, Senator, on Thursday night, the president

was surrounded in the White House by military brass. He said something to the media that has set off lots of speculation. Roll the tape and I'll ask you to comment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You guys know what this represents? Maybe it's the calm before the storm.


TRUMP: Could be the calm before the storm.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What storm, Mr. President?

TRUMP: You'll find out.


SMERCONISH: Lots of storms brewing. Which one do you think he's referring to, if any?

COONS: You know, frankly, I think he was just continuing a tradition of being a reality TV star who tried to hold the world's attention. Tries to make sure that folks don't change the channel. That was a very ominous warning. But given his blustery against North Korea and Kim Jong-un, I'm not sure that that is predicting any imminent attack or any imminent military effort by the United States.

This is a moment, Michael, when I'm very concerned that our top diplomat, Rex Tillerson, has been undermined or sidelined by this president and that there are significant challenges within the State Department in terms of functionality and morale.

North Korea has got to be our top national security concern at the moment, and there isn't even a nominee to be the assistant secretary of state for East Asia. There isn't even a nominee to be the ambassador to South Korea. I think it is important that folks in the State Department be given the resources and the opportunity and the backing of the president to do their job. And this sort of mysterious TV headline grabbing move by the president, it doesn't necessarily advance our national security.

SMERCONISH: Did Senator Corker get it right when he said that the generals and Secretary Tillerson are keeping us from chaos? I'm paraphrasing, but that's pretty close.

COONS: Well, I'll say this, the national security team around President Trump is very strong. And I hope that he takes their advice and gives them the opportunity to help manage our national security and foreign policy challenges.

SMERCONISH: Senator, thanks for being back. We appreciate it.

COONS: Thank you, Michael. SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Twitter and Facebook

pages. What do you have, Catherine?

"Smerconish, Canadians in Cuba, we're targeted, too, but embassy and staff remain. U.S. making big deal."

Eric, my point is not to understate what's transpired there. Whatever this attack was, was is real and now people bear serious afflictions. I'm concerned that those forces that never wanted us to have rapprochement with Cuba are using this to their advantage, absent any showing that it was the Cuban government that was responsible for the attack. But thanks for your comment, I appreciate it.

Up next, I was in Las Vegas the last two days and I sat down with the city's former colorful mayor Oscar Goodman to find out how his city is recovering. While there, I kept thinking about 9/11, and how New York City's then-mayor handled his city's bounce back with this appearance on "Saturday Night Live."


RUDY GIULIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: "Saturday Night Live" is one of our great New York City institutions. And that's why it's important for you to do your show tonight.



GIULIANI: Why start now?



[09:28:43] SMERCONISH: Last week's horrific Las Vegas massacre left 58 dead and more than 500 wounded. At least 88 victims remain in the hospital, 37 in critical condition. Investigators still piecing together the actions and motives of the perpetrator. But say there's still no sign of any connection to terror or ISIS in particular. Already, one victim's family has filed a court petition over the shooter's estate. Investigators believe the attacker may have fired at jet fuel tanks near Mandalay Bay before firing on the concert crowd. Vice President Pence flying to Las Vegas to pay his respects.

So how does a city known for fun and entertainment regain its psyche?

There's nobody better to ask than the usually fun-loving Oscar Goodman, a mob lawyer turned politician who was mayor from 1999 through 2011 during the period that Vegas adopted the slogan of "What Happens Here Stays Here." His wife Caroline is the current mayor, who's been the local face of the tragedy.

But I was curious about Oscar's outside look. He's a Philly guy. Central High. A character, which is a compliment in my book. You may recall that he appeared in the movie "Casino" playing himself as mobster Robert De Niro's lawyer.

We saw down at his restaurant, Oscar's, where Goodman sat in front of one of his trademark martinis.


[09:30:04] SMERCONISH: Mayor, long before this tragedy, you and I agreed we were going to get together tonight.

OSCAR GOODMAN, FORMER LAS VEGAS MAYOR: You were going to come out here. You have a speaking engagement and I said let's get together for a drink.


GOODMAN: Because that's what I do with my friends.

SMERCONISH: OK. You're still having a drink?

GOODMAN: I'm having a drink. You bet I am because this guy isn't going to change the way I spend my life. That's what all of these miscreants want to do. They want to have an affect where they change people's lives. I'm not going to let this guy do it. I'm smiling about this guy right now because I know he's rotting in hell and the eternal damnation and I hope that (INAUDIBLE) is his roommate. How do you like that?

SMERCONISH: I like it. So your mantra is, I'm still having the drink --

GOODMAN: Well, we have to screw him. Screw him because they're not going to make us change the way we enjoy life. When I leave the house every morning, my wife says to me carpe diem, seize the day, and I say #YOLO. You know, you only live once. And we have to keep on doing what we did before. We are mourning, we're heartsick, but unfortunately, we can't bring these souls back. What we do is celebrate the kind of lives that they had by remembering them. But as far as this guy is concerned who is eternally damned he ain't going to change my way of doing business.

SMERCONISH: If it weren't CNN, you'd be saying --

GOODMAN: You know what I would say.

SMERCONISH: In even different terms.

GOODMAN: I -- see, I don't curse in front of the women, just in front of guys and I know you must have one or two -- because you're so handsome, you must have one or two women watch you.


SMERCONISH: So much -- I'm going to slide this out of the way.

GOODMAN: Not too far.

SMERCONISH: Not too far. No. So the question I want to ask you is what has been the impact on the psyche of this town?

GOODMAN: Interesting. You know, Las Vegas is -- the veneer of the Las Vegans is either the tough person who's able to respond to adversity. That's sort of our history here. We've always been looked at differently because of the gambling factor in Las Vegas. But I learned something and I learned it. It's a new lesson, every time some tragedy does take place and life does have tragedies, and that is that the folks who live here are so generous, they're so empathetic, that's the only problem that the community really has had. That people have given too much, they want to give too much blood in order to help. They want to give too many blankets in order to help. They want to bring too much food.

SMERCONISH: Do you think that this will bring about fundamental change with regard to security at casinos?


SMERCONISH: Might we have to start walking through metal detectors?

GOODMAN: No, no, you're just talking about things like that, but I would hate to see that happen, to be honest with you, because Las Vegas and America is a place where freedoms are enjoyed. And the 19 people who caused 9/11, they changed the way we did business in such a dramatic way and it's really affected our freedoms. I hope that this event doesn't change our freedom.

SMERCONISH: You just referenced September 11. And you reminded me of something else I wanted to ask you, 18 days after 9/11, "Saturday Night Live" came back on the air. Lorne Michaels, the genius behind "SNL," had Rudy Giuliani and a lot of first responders and Lorne Michaels said to Rudy Giuliani, Mayor Giuliani, can we be funny? And Rudy had a good quip as a response. He said, why start now?

But it begs the question, when is it time to be funny again? You're the guy associated with "What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas." Is it OK?


SMERCONISH: Yes. You know what I mean.

GOODMAN: As long as we do it respectfully. As long as we -- when we're having our good time, don't forget, we're not trying to have a lobotomy here, trying to wipe out the event itself because we'll never forget that in this community and America will never forget that's happening in our country. But at the same time, we can't give anybody the benefit of having changed the way we do business and if I get up in the morning and I want to be happy, I'm going to continue to be happy, even though I'm bleeding inside for what happened to these people.

SMERCONISH: I know you are. And I know you're grieving for them and I guess the message from both Mayors Goodman is, we respect those that we lost, he was a son of a bitch, but don't let the town suffer as a result, because then he wins? GOODMAN: That's part of the message. The town will continue to be

resilient. We'll face the adversity. That's the kind of people that we have here because they're good people. And they're not going to be punished as a result of this. But we have to remember, every single second that there are innocent victims, their families, their friends, whose entire life has been changed as a result of this guy and don't let it happen to us who weren't directly victimized.

SMERCONISH: Thanks, Mayor. It's perfect. Well said.

GOODMAN: I hope so.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

GOODMAN: We'll see. Good seeing you, Michael.


SMERCONISH: Good guy, Oscar Goodman. Good wife, good mayors.

Let's check in on social media, Facebook first. What's going on on my Facebook page? "It changes the way I live. Every mass shooting or terrorist attack does. It makes me think to be more watchful and aware of my surroundings and it should you, too."

[09:35:06] Hey, Kevin, I have that instinct to walk into a room and to be aware of my environment. I've tried to -- my wife and I have tried to instill it to our four kids as well. But to Mayor Goodman's point we cannot let that SOB significantly change the way in which we lead our lives or then he wins.

And I would recommend you, John Mueller from Ohio State University who wrote a book called "Overblown," which talks about the need not to overreact to terrorism because the odds are and I'm not in any way demeaning that which transpired in Las Vegas, just a week ago, but sometimes we tend to walk around thinking that the likelihood of these things happening is much greater than it actually is.

There, I think I said it clearly.

One more. A tweet, I think. Thank you for following me on Twitter. "Hot damn, Smerconish. I love this Las Vegas mayor. You really should have had that drink."

Jeremy, what makes you think I didn't have that drink?

Coming up in moving from FOX News to NBC, Megyn Kelly may be the prime example of how impossible it is for anybody in today's political climate to try to switch sides.


[09:40:45] SMERCONISH: Megyn Kelly is off to a rough start at NBC. Her Sunday night program struggled against "60 Minutes" despite big bookings like Vladimir Putin. And now her 9:00 a.m. hour of the "Today" show is being savaged by some critics. "The Washington Post" called it a morning show bride of Frankenstein."

The ratings for her first full week are down 12 percent from last year for the 9:00 a.m. time slot and down 24 percent among those aged 25 to 54. Sure, there have been faux pas, a stilted launch day in particular garnered terrible reviews. She's made news over conflicts with guests Debra Messing, Jane Fonda, Tom Brokaw, the last by the way clearly not her fault.

Her show was preempted due to the Las Vegas massacre and then she was not part of the NBC team coverage that day. But none of that is the reason why she's struggling. We all make mistakes in this business. I screwed up some things in my opening commentary here today. Hers happened to be under a microscope.

And lost in all the Zaprudering of her work is the real reason that she's struggling. It's not because of professional deficiencies. She's the total package. She's smart, she's compelling, she's attractive. No. Megyn Kelly is struggling because of the political cannibalization of the television market. Another symptom of our partisan divide.

We don't watch the same shows as a nation anymore. Gone are the days when literally one-third of the TV sets in America were tuned in to "All in the Family" every week, or 76 million people saw the "Seinfeld" finale. Now that kind of thing only happens on Super Bowl Sunday. And the rest of the year we are residents of our ideological bunkers. And this impacts where we turn for news and entertainment.

Kelly had a solid base at FOX, but those fans won't necessarily transfer especially where she promises to be apolitical. To them she committed an act of ideological heresy by going to NBC which for them conjures up visions of MSNBC. FOX's prime time audience skewed older, male and white. But to succeed in mornings means reaching women, many of whom are of color. And so despite her successful track record, for Kelly, it means starting from scratch.

It's sad that today talent alone isn't enough. To succeed a broadcaster often needs to conform to the partisan expectations of audiences in search of affirmation. And not accustomed to changing the channel. For alternative views.

Well, that's what I think. Let's see what some of you are saying on my Twitter and Facebook pages.

"Smerconish, Megyn Kelly, is it impossible for anyone to switch sides? Trump did it."


SMERCONISH: You're right. Hey, Gina, maybe she'd be better served if she ran for office rather than became a TV presenter on a different network.

One more if we have time for it. That's a good point.

"Smerconish, Megyn Kelly's problem nothing to do with what network. It's anchor versus host, she's the former and not likable enough for host."

Who was the person -- in what context in the campaign? Oh, it was Obama who said to Hillary, you're plenty likable. No, I think she's plenty likable as well. I just think it's too dramatic a shift to go from FOX News to doing a morning program on NBC. If she were fresh out of the gate on NBC, perhaps she'd have had a better shot.

By the way, in the end, I'm not betting against her. You know in this country we love a comeback story and ultimately she rises.

Still to come, Donald Trump became president while losing the popular vote by millions. And my next guest has studied the electoral college and warns that we are in for some more of the same. As often as one out of every three close elections in the future.

Of course, Sam Wang's been wrong at least once before and had to eat, well, not crow, but a boat?


SAM WANG, PROFESSOR OF NEUROSCIENCE, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: I was wrong. A lot of people are wrong. But nobody else made the promise I did. And I'm hoping that we can get back to data and thinking thoughtfully about policy and issues. And having said that and saying good morning to everyone out there on both sides. See this? Here it goes. OK.



[09:49:35] SMERCONISH: New research just released today says America's electoral college mess is only going to get worse. Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won the presidency. Same thing happened with Bush and Gore in 2000. Yet only three other times since the republic was founded. But according to a new study by a group calling itself Making Every Vote Count, in the future, one out of every three times that there's a close presidential election, the candidate that wins the popular vote will not become president.

[09:50:05] This situation puts both parties at risk. The study found that, quote, "results of elections in only five states outweigh results in all the other 45 states, leading to the land of the ignored."

There's a growing movement to abolish the electoral college, which was originally founded to try to keep balance. One of the leaders of the National Popular Vote Compact joins me now. Princeton neuroscientist and professor, Dr. Sam Wong.

Dr. Wang, why is the trend on the uptick?

WANG: Well, the obvious driver of this is the fact that in our lifetimes there have been several times that the popular vote has failed. Over 100,000 offices in the United States, from Alderman on up, are determined by the -- by the popular vote, and yet the presidency is not. So seeing it happen twice in our lifetime creates a natural feeling that maybe we should revisit exactly how this old, old institution works, and to acknowledge that it's a little creaky and could, you know, use a little repair.

SMERCONISH: I know that when I've discussed this on my Sirius XM Radio program, the response from callers is determined by whether they think their party is advantaged or disadvantaged. You correct me if I'm wrong. You say no party will benefit from this.

WANG: Right.

SMERCONISH: It will be to the detriment of each. Explain.

WANG: Yes, so it's natural to see this through a partisan lens, because, of course, Donald Trump is a Republican, there's this feeling that, well, Republicans benefit from a mismatch between the popular vote and the electoral vote, but it can go both ways. We've done computer modeling that looks at close elections, at making every vote count, and at Princeton University the computer modeling suggests that if the popular vote is within three percentage points or less, there's a one in three chance it can go wrong and it can go either way.

If you think back to 2004, even though George W. Bush won re-election by millions of votes, John Kerry by flipping 100,000 votes in Ohio could have turned that differently. And that creates both a risk to both parties and it also creates a security risk nationally for us as a nation.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Wang, I'm glad you said security risks for us nationally because I've been thinking about something since reading your report. Does the Russian meddle mitigate against the change that you propose on the theory that with an electoral college system, in the event of a recount, at least there's a way that you can segregate the vote?

WANG: No, I think it's the opposite. I think if you look at that popular vote margin last November was over three million votes, or around three million votes, and for them to meddle in the election under a national popular vote, they'd have to meddle in all 50 states, they'd have to find a way to flip a lot of votes. They have to find a way to persuade a lot of people, but as it stands, I think as you well know it would have taken just flipping the vote, flipping about 70,000 votes.

They could concentrate their hacking power in as few as five states and get a satisfactory effect, and so having a national popular vote would add a measure of security by making everyone's vote count across the United States, and so I think that actually a national popular vote is in our national security interests.

SMERCONISH: And finally, aren't you setting up a scenario where instead of concentrating on a handful of states because of their electoral votes, instead candidates will focus only on highly populated areas to the detriment of a whole host of others? WANG: Well, that's a good point. So certainly small population

states might feel that they are less represented, but I think that any kind of truly national campaign in our modern media age is going to have to address people all over the country, and furthermore if you look at communities, not just geographic, but communities of interest, Mormons don't get represented very well. But, you know, our calculations, they have very little influence because they're concentrated in states that aren't very close.

In terms of Puerto Ricans, who live in states like New Jersey and New York, also have relatively little influence. So I think it's not just small states, but small communities who get hurt by the electoral college, and so we have to worry about communities across America, not just the communities who live in swing states. So I think it's good for all Americans and it's good for this melting pot that didn't exist 200 years ago.

SMERCONISH: I always appreciate when you're here, Dr. Wang. Thank you so much.

WANG: Thanks for having me on, Mike.

SMERCONISH: If you ever miss any of the program, you can catch us at any time on CNNGo, online, and through your connected devices and apps, and remember I'm always paying attention to Twitter and Facebook.

What do you got, Catherine? "Electoral college does not need repaired, it needs to be abolished." Well, that's what he's, I guess, taking the first toward doing. I'm worried about upsetting the balance that the founding fathers have in mind. Complicated subject.

Next? "Equal time sounds like someone's laying down the groundwork for his own TV network. We are doomed @smerconish."

Angel is responding to -- this is a good way to end the program, as a matter of fact.

[09:55:04] Angel is responding to the fact that the president is tweeting and began his day today saying that he needs, you know, better representation on the media, and I quipped that he's got his own network going for him, but I was making a sincere invitation.

If he thinks that he's underrepresented, you can come right here, Mr. President, on a Saturday, and my commitment is to treat you with dignity and respect the way that I always try to treat my guests. So I'll see you next Saturday. Both of you, the president and the audience. Thanks.