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Tump Blames Democrats for Shutdown; First Year with Trump. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired January 20, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Washington. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. It's the first anniversary of President Trump's inauguration that is a lot of tweets. Year two starting the same way. He is labeling the current government shutdown a present from the Democrats. About that shutdown, cue the sound bites, the finger pointing and the fundraising. I'll explain why it is all of their faults. And President Trump's first year is finally in the books. Three historians are here to answer whether America has ever seen anything like it. Plus the Dow up 31%, highest first year boost since FDR. Unemployment at record lows, businesses moving back to the United States, and yet the President's not winning over the naysayers. No wonder he is trying to revive James Carville's mantra.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's the economy, stupid. Did you ever hear that one?
From the use of executive power to Neil Gorsuch to the Russia probe, the Trump presidency has wrestled with an unusual number of issues. So what lies ahead? We'll find out. But first, looking back at his first year as President, I keep thinking about how I predicted all of this years ago. Without realizing it and nobody believed me. In the midst of the outlandish birtherism allegations against President Barak Obama, I decided to write a book about the negative impact that talk radio and cable TV fire brands have on our national discourse and public officials. I've long held the belief that we have ceded our public debate to men with microphones whose motive is profit without regard for good governance.
And it occurred to me that I should try to make a point in an entertaining fashion, although I'd never presume to compare my work to his, Joe Klien's Romana Clay (ph) "Primary Colors, an Insider's Look at the 1992 Bill Clinton Campaign" became my inspiration. The result was talk. My novel published in 2014 by a small Maine-based publisher. My protagonist, Stan Pawlowsky in Southwest Florida. This stoner and slacker, parlayed his affinity for classic rock into a successful career as a deejay, rising to afternoon drive in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Then, offered the chance to host a morning drive program in his native state, Powers returns to Florida only to see his station change format from rock to talk. He's nevertheless convinced to try his hand as talk radio hosts by an
industry consultant who tells him he need only follow the conservative talking points. "Morning Power" is then a huge success and Republican politicians soon covet support that the voice who reaches Florida voters can provide. Stan Powers is it a king maker, but trouble looms because he privately disagrees with everything that comes out of his mouth. Invited to speak at the GOP Convention in his hometown, he must finally decide whether he will help elect a flawed candidate favored by his radio persona or be true to his own instincts. The book was no best seller. But I, nevertheless had immediate overtures from Hollywood, Warner Brother optioned the rights for a possible TV series and hired veterans Mike Robin and Jim Leonard to develop a pilot script and pitch it to possible outlets.
After it didn't take and following the 2015 backlash about the lack of African-Americans who were Oscar nominated, "Talk" was retooled. My southern, white, protagonist with an ear for classic rock was changed to a Detroit hip-hop DJ and Cedric the Entertainer was attached. In the end, the series didn't find a home. Here's the point. One reason I was given for the rejection was that my storyline of a know-nothing DJ who becomes a talk radio host with the power to elect a president was just too fantastical. "Far-fetched." "Unrealistic." "Could never happen in America," and then came Donald J. Trump, whose inauguration was one year ago today.
I can only imagine the reaction had I written a novel about his improbable rise and presidency before they occurred. Imagine the reaction to this pitch: Picture a businessman with an outsized personality but no elective experience, a reality TV star on his third marriage, who nevertheless attracts support among evangelical Christians. This Bulworth-like candidate opens his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants "rapists." He proceeds to pursue a more opposite path than even George Costanza in that legendary episode of "Seinfeld". He demeans a former POW who is now a U.S. Senator and former standard bearer of his own party. Then he mocks a disabled reporter, again with no decline in his political fortune.
He says, "I could stand in the [09:05:00] middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose voters." In route to vanquishing a a crowded field of more experienced candidates. In the general election, he squares off against a Yale Law School educated former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State - to whose political campaigns he previously contributed money. As America contemplates electing its first female president, a videotape surfaces where the former reality star brags of grabbing women "by the p____". Multiple women come forward and say he sexually assaulted them in the past. And still, on Election Day, he loses the popular vote but by corralling support among high school-educated white men in rust states, he wins the Electoral College.
Wide angle: Oval Office. On day one, the new president jousts with the press over the size of his inaugural crowd size, then shuns protocol and converses with his supporters via Twitter, all the while churning through staff and even firing the FBI director amid investigation as to whether his campaign was in cahoots with the Russians. He derides a nuclear adversary with a playground moniker, observes that some white supremacists are "very fine" people, and refers to portions of the Third World as "S-hole."
A tell-all book enrages him and yet he promotes it. Opponents question his mental fitness just as a porn star emerges with a tale of a torrid affair. As his first year winds down, and amidst a 24/7 torrent of criticism, the tabloid-hardened former Manhattanite lets no slight go without response and establishes himself as the most consequential president of the modern era. After rolling back regulations and cutting taxes to the delight of Wall Street, he presides over the highest close of the Dow Jones Industrial average while unemployment falls.
He re-populates the federal bench in his image, withdraws from the Paris Climate agreement, and pulls out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. ISIS loses what it regarded as its caliphate in Mosul and Raqqa, and "Little Rocket Man" opens discussion with his neighbors for the first time in years. At the end of his first year in office, a dispute over immigration causes a government shutdown. America holds its collective breath as midterm elections loom. Fade to black. No way I could have sold that story to Hollywood and yet here we are. And the ongoing drama continue this morning in Washington. The House is in session at this hour. Senators will convene at noon. CNN's Ryan Nobles live on Capitol Hill following all the action. What's the latest Ryan?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN REPORTER: Yes Michael so we are downstairs in the Capitol and this is where a lot of the negotiation is going to take place today to find some way forward in this Government shutdown that we now find ourselves in. In fact, in this room behind me in about an hour, members of the House GOP caucus will meet behind closed doors to discuss what their options are going forward. But the real conversations are going to happen on the other side of the Capitol and that is in the Senate. The Senate is set to convene at noon and that's whether or not there 60 votes to possibly pass the House bill that already made it through continue spending for the Government for at least another month, or if they are going to take another path, and that is a distinct possibility. Last night Lindsey Graham, the Senator from South Carolina, attempting to be somewhat of a power broker in this conversation, he floated the idea of a three-week extension on the continuing resolution where they can continue to hammer out some of these bigger issues. That's something that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell seems inclined to support, but we don't know if there will be at least ten Democratic votes to get them over the finish line. So last night on the Senate floor, we saw a furious amount of negotiating in the last hour leading up to that midnight vote with the hope that they could find some needle to thread in order to get them over the finish line and keep the Government open. It didn't happen. The vote failed and now the Government has been shut down. So, Michael, it's important to keep in mind that even if those Senate negotiators are able to come up with another short-term extension that may only last through February 8, all of these big issues like what will happen with the 3700,000 Dreamers, what's going to happen with the children's health insurance program, all these big issues are still going to be left on the table. Those divisions still exist, and even if they solve some problem to keep the Government open, it is only going to be short term and there are still a lot of negotiations that need to take place before things really truly get back in order here in Washington, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Ryan, thank you so much for that update. And now the economy on President Trump's watch is booming. Right after the election, the
Dow Jones was at 18,500, it's never been that low again. It closed Friday up 31% at 26,071. The unemployment rate, 4.1%, a 17 year low. Apple unveiled plans for a new U.S. plant and 20,000 new jobs. It used to be the thriving economy would reflect well on a President. You remember James Carville's mantra that helped get Clinton elected, "it is the economy, stupid." And yet, President Trump's approval rating isn't where you would expect. So why is he not getting credit?
Joining me now, James Carville's former colleague, Paul Begala, Counselor to President Clinton and author of the appropriately named book for this conversation, "It is Still the Economy, Stupid." Brian Brenberg is a Professor and Chair of Business and Finance at Kings College. Is your book title still accurate?
PAUL BEGALA, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT CLINTON AND AUTHOR: Absolutely.
SMERCONISH: What's wrong here then for him?
BEGALA: Nothing. He's at 40 despite the fact that 63% of Americans think he is dishonest, 59% the Quinnipiac Poll last week, 59% said he prefers white people over people of color. That is the majority of Americans, a huge majority, think our President is a racist, and yet he is at 40. He'd be at 20, he'd be at 10, so it actually it is lifting him up. What's most heartbreaking for the President and gratifying for Democrats is that most Americans credit President Obama for the strong economy, not President Trump. Actually, I think that's sensible. The first year you are kind of inheriting your predecessor's economy. Until he got his tax cut through, he hadn't passed any important economic legislation (inaudible).
SMERCONISH: You're saying he is pretty damn lucky to be at 40?
BEGALA: Absolutely, he's very lucky. And I don't think that he's going to remain at 40. When we have a correction, God forbid we have a recession, do you think he's going to stay at 40?
SMERCONISH: So you think he's maxed out?
BEGALA: I think the economy has held him up to the dizzying heights of 40%. Those are his water wings, you know like we used to give the kids in the swimming pool. So it is working for him, the problem is he is working against himself so colossally that he can't do better than 40 even with a booming economy.
SMERCONISH: Brian, do we make a mistake if we conflate approval rating with electability? In other words does this conversation about his approval rating in light of a positive economy have any bearing on 2020 or not necessarily? BRIAN BRENBERG, PROFESSOR AND CHAIR OF BUSINESS AND FINANCE AT KINGS
COLLEGE: Yes I think so. I want to go back to what Paul said about staying at 40%. I don't think that he will stay at 40% either, but for a different reason, I think he's going to move up. If you look at the tax plan here, about 20% of Americans thinks they're going to get a tax cut under this plan, but the truth is even if you look at the Tax Policy Center analysis, about 80% are going to get a tax benefit here. So people don't even know what they are going to get yet. When they start to see their paychecks rise in the next three weeks, you will see those approval ratings change. I agree if there is a correction that would be a problem, but the fact is his signature legislative accomplishment is not baked in to people's expectations for 2018. That's going to change things.
SMERCONISH: Do you want to respond to that?
BEGALA: It may well, but it is really, really hard to change people's perceptions about Donald Trump. We've done all these stories ad nauseam if you ask me, going to the Trump base. I grew up in a small town. I have family and friends who voted for Donald Trump. We keep going back to them, oh, he could shoot a man on 5th Avenue and not lose any votes. That's actually true, right? We all remember Dick Cheney did shoot a guy and didn't lose any votes.
SMERCONISH: I just ran through that litany in Hollywood style in my opening commentary. But, can you imagine all that has transpired, and he's at 40.
BEGALA: It's spectacular, its spectacular, but he's got a low ceiling and a very high, not a very high, he's got a floor too. We're not going to change very much. The problem isn't simply the economy. It is boosting him up to 40 as I say, but when the majority of Americans think their President is a racist. When they think he's unfit for office, when they think he's dishonest, he's not going to change that. That is his fundamental character and he has revealed it in the presidency as we know. The presidency doesn't change a person, it reveals a person. And Americans have judged this guy's character and found it lacking.
SMERCONISH: Brian, I had Ron Insana, whose opinion I respect on my radio program this week on Sirius XM and we ran through some of the headlines. I may or may not have these that I can put on the screen. The -- the Apple headline about the repatriating of all those funds, the Dow passing 26,000. I also pointed out that on January 1, above the fold and maybe ignored because it was a holiday, the "Times" lead story said this, "A wave of optimism has swept over American business leaders and it is beginning to translate into the sort of investment in new plants, equipment, and factory upgrades that bolsters economic growth, spurs job creation and may finally raise wages significantly. That was the "New York Times" assessment page one on New Year's Day. And I said to Insana, where would any other President be with that kind of data at his disposal? He said probably in the 80s. Your reaction.
BRENBERG: Well, it is good data, and it should be higher and the problem for him is that it is coming now, it's not coming not eight months ago. The issue here though is the data is starting to roll out, it is starting to look good. People are starting to believe that their paychecks are going to go up.
You see all these company, I mean, it is shocking hundreds of companies coming out and talking about boosting pay, but the problem for the President now is just as that news is crescendo-ing, you have got a government shutdown, and this is why I think Republicans ultimately lose in this situation because they aremissing the chance to capitalize on so much good news. This is the kind of news that hits people's paychecks and starts to actually boost the President's overall approval rating higher, but he is missing that now because the narrative has changed.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, ANCHOR, CNN: Paul, you've been inside, you've been outside. As you assess, what is going on in the Capitol, very close to where we're seated today, is this a tough one to solve?
PAUL O'BRIEN, ANALYST: You're right, Michael. This is such an easy deal and I do remember when Gingrich was running the Congress, when American people put him in charge and he wanted to cut Medicare by a quarter of a trillion dollars, $270 billion...
SMERCONISH: That's big...
O'BRIEN: That's huge and that is deep philosophy. Most Democrats believe in Medicare as a social insurance program for seniors. Many Republicans do not. We had a huge fight about that and the government shutdown actuallytwice. This is nothing.
My friend, (Jeff Garrett) who is one of the bestpollster in the business polled in the 12 Senate states that are most in play, 10 of which Trump carried, this is not all of America, this is red America, he found that 68 percent of Trump voters want to regularize the status of these Dreamers, no good person wants to say, "Kick these young people out of our country." They are serving in our military, they are serving as first responder, they are going to college. They are living the American dream.
So, even Trump voters who I know the left wants to denigrate these races, they're not. They want to keep the folks here. And so, it is an easy deal. By the way, it's easy for the Democratsto say, "Well, yes, of course, we'll give you some more money for border security." We are not going to have a wall for 2,000 miles, but yes, maybe some more personnel, maybe some drones. This is a no-brainer.
SMERCONISH: So, will they solve it today?
SMERCONISH: You don't think so.
O'BRIEN: They had the deal. This is what is upsetting. The President showed Presidential leadership in a wayhe rarely does. He got everybody together, let the tv cameras in in real-time, he said, "You guys cut a deal, andI'll..."
SMERCONISH: I'll sign anything.
O'BRIEN: ... and they did cut a deal. Lindsey Graham, a good republican, Dick Durbin, a good democrat, they cut a bipartisan deal, which was basically what I said, more border security, regularizethe Dreamers, and then they brought to him andfrom the time they called him at10:00 a.m. to the time they met with at noon, right when the ideologs in the White House had influenced him to change his own position and to flip-flop against it.
So, the President is the one who is actually - he set the parameters right, "You guys cut a deal and I'll sign it,"and then he crawfished back on it.
Paul O'Brien, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate your expertise and analysis.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, man. What are you thinking? Tweet me @smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program, what do we have?
"Smerconish, the folks who spurned your storyas too unbelievable are among those still in shock from the 2016 election, living in a comfortable bubble. It burst." Hey, Mary, there is truth in that. I no longer live in such a bubble because nothing big would surprise me about what we've been through and what might be coming in the future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to know the next book. What are you working on now, Michael?
SMERCONISH: Well, nothing would be too fantastical. I'll tell you that. Up next, first year of the TrumpAdministration ends with a government shutdown.I'll tell you who I'm blaming and whether it is a big deal.
A word about the shutdown of our Federal government and the blame game? Pardon me for this, but I think we look like the shithole nation.
In a recent CNN poll, 21 percent blame the President, 26 percent blame Republicans in Congress, 31 percent blame the Democratsand 10 percent blame them all. Well, let me speak for the 10 percent. I'm mindful of the fact that theGOP controls the White House andboth houses, but because this measure needed 60 votes in the Senate, the GOP couldn't do it alone.
Last night, 50 senators supportedthat which passed the House on Thursday. They were 10 votes shy. Even if the dispute is quickly fixed and the government opens by Monday, it is an embarrassment, and the latest example of why our political system is broken, cue the sound bites, the finger pointing, the fund raising.
When I began this show in March of 2014, I warned against this unprecedented polarization in our government and in our mediaand I compared politicians to professional wrestlers. I said, "There are good guys, there are bad guys, and every battle is good versus evil. The sides, they are predetermined and everyfight is choreographed."
Well, nearly four years later, things have only gotten worse. We've dis-incentivized bipartisanagreement. Instead of elected officials are now benefiting from castigating and demonizing oneanother in a way that they have been encouraged to do by a partisan media and then they fill campaign coffers with this kind of behavior in time for the next election.
Dysfunction has many causes, notonly the fire brands to whom we exceeded our national debate, but also gerrymandering and self- sorting, a lack of campaign finance reform, closed primaries, even the instability of social media.
There is no silver bullet to fixwhat ails us, but more citizen participation would surely help. One potential positive effect of how things have been going, a record number of new candidates have been signing up to run for office. Many of them women. Fresh faces would be a good start.
Let's see what you're saying viamy Twitter and Facebook pages right now. "Ironic that on his one-year anniversary, the deal maker couldn't get it done." Yes, Jacqueline,it's not what we anticipated. What we were told we were getting the art of the deal. That is for sure.
One more. "Smerconish, you and the folks atCNN live in a fantasy world. I dare you to post that live on TV." I think, I just did, Tony. "The Dems are the ones holding this country hostage and should be ashamed for doing so." Hey, Tony, come on. I'll respond to your point directlybecause I'm castigating all of them.
The President controls not only the White House, but both Houses of Congress. You've seen that sound bite, it'sbeen run a thousand times in the last few days, where he said in a similar circumstance a couple of years ago on Fox that it would be the President's fault for this kind of an impasse. There is plenty of blame to go around.
Up next, how will history judge PresidentTrump's first year from the Russia probe to his tweets to the booming economy? A group of esteemed historians join me next.
So, how will history view Trump's first year? Joining me now, three esteemed Presidential historians. CNN's Douglas Brinkley, who is a Professor at Rice University and author of "Rightful Heritage: Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Land of America. Craig Shirley,the author of four best-selling biographies about President Ronald Reagan and also Laura Brown, Director and Associate Professor at George Washington University's School of Political Management, author of "Jockeying for the American Presidency." Thank you all for being here.
Douglas, let me begin with you and address the shutdown on. I know it has never happened whenone party has controlled the White House and both Houses,nevertheless, is there anything that comes to mind in terms of a historical precedent for what we're seeing today? DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PROFESSOR, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, we had the
shutdown in the last 25 years, there is one in 1995, one in 1996 and then 2013. So, we've had them, but this is very odd that when you have the Republicansas you say, controlling the Senate and Congress and you havea Republican President, to have a shutdown like this, it is nonsensical.
You would think that they would be able to hammer out a deal on this very quickly. What it tells you is that for the Democrats they are showing, "We've got a spine. That we pick DACA, the Dreamer issue, and we're going to hold firm." And Donald Trump is very worried about the alt-right.
He came in on reforming immigration, and he's afraid to capitulate and so I don't think, Trump goes one way one day, one way the next. So, in the end, it might have to be solved in the Senate by MitchMcConnell and Chuck Schumer comeup with an agreement and then bring it to Donald Trump. I'm not sure who is going will be able to be the mediator of this.
SMERCONISH: Laura, on anybody else's watch, thiswould be I think a major milestone. I am hesitant to think that it will be for PresidentTrump because so much happens so quickly that 30 days from now, who knows where we'll be and whether we even remember this. Is that ridiculous?
LAURA BROWN, DIRECTOR AND ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: No, I don't think that's ridiculous at all. I mean, I think what really marks PresidentTrump's presidency is a sense of chaos and constant emergency. There is a sense that whatever is happening today is even more serious than what happened yesterdayand every day sort of goes into this memory forgetting machine.
So, it is, I think an unusual period of timeand I think Trump will say, "No, in myfirst year I did tax reform and I put forward Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and I rolled back all these regulations." So, that is what he will say. He won't certainly talk about the shutdown, whether historiansreally mark this as an importantpoint in his presidency will depend upon how long it lastsand really what happens next.
SMERCONISH: Craig, you are my Gipper aficionado and historian, he too was upside down in his approval numbers. I think he was at about 47 percent at this moment when Trump is at 40, but given the economic indicators, you would think thatany other President would be much higher than where he stands today.
CRAIG SHIRLEY, AUTHOR: Well, he should beand Reagan only began to really rise after he got out of the Carter recession of 1981 and 1982. He was confronted with a lot in 1981 as were many, many Presidents. Washington had the seeds of the whiskey rebellion. He had to keep Jeffersonand Hamilton at odds.Lincoln was facing a war.FDR was trying to feed one third of the American people.John Kennedy was faced with the Bay of Pigsand the Berlin crisis.
So, this, in the context of history is not very big, but I will say is that Republicans need to solve this because they lose this every timeand it is for one simple reason.
Since 1932, the Democratic Party has been the party of government. Since the rise of Reagan, the Republican Party has been the party of anti-government. So, it is always who broke the potteryand it is always the Republicans who have broken pottery because it's not their pottery.
SMERCONISH: I want to get a reaction if possible from all three of you. I will start Douglas with you, to thispremise. We are witnessing - this is me making the argument. Love it or hate it, we are witnessing the most consequential presidency of the modern era. There is a tendency to look at what is going on and to see onlyachievement via the Congress with tax policy, tax reform or tax cuts, which overlooks a whole host of things maybe out of the spotlight - I am thinking of the repopulating of the Federal bench as an example, where people's lives are absolutely being impacted bythis presidency.
BRINKLEY: There is no question, I mean we do Presidential history for a livingand there are all the other Presidents and then there is Donald Trump. The problem is though, he seems like an asterisks President after his first year, meaning he has been under FBI investigation, Justice Department investigation. Every day, you wake up, "Oh no, is he going to survive?"
So, although the economic numbersare good and we haven't gotten into a major war - that what you're talking about, the chaotic presidency, there is a feeling that this guy is about to implode at any minute and theTwitter lends to that. And then when he makes comments about Africa and Haiti and intervenes in Great Britain. You've got terror attacks in London and he makes a nasty tweet, people think, "This guy is not a real President. He is going to fall soon."
SMERCONISH: Okay, but Craig, that is really kind of mypoint. We're caught up in the next episode of the show, right? Like it's a drama that we're watching on TV, sometimes overlooking that we'vewithdrawn from Paris or TPP, that the embassy is moving, the tax credits or tax cuts did come, that the Federal bench is being - all these things are taking place, but oureye is not on them.
SHIRLEY: Well, history is being made, you're right because we're always looking for the next thing and I think that's the hyperspeed world ofcommunications we live in now. We're always looking for the newfix instead of dwelling on what we're doing.
I will say is that Winston Churchill once said is that history is going to be kind to me for I intend to ride it, is that Trump needs to find some people to write this down, write this history down because there is history being made. Some of it good, some of it bad, but it is historic nonetheless, but he needs to find people who are going to work with him so that he gets a fair shake from history.
SMERCONISH: What's your thought? I'd argue it's the most consequential presidency of the modern era. By the way, I'm using the "Time" magazine kind of standard for better or worse.
BROWN: Sure, I mean, I think where I would come down is a sort of a two-piece thing. One, yes, it is true that even failures and losers leave legaciesand what I mean by that is thereare impacts and unintended consequences from not doing things as much as from doing things. That is a story of the Presidency when you only have one President at one time.
That being said, I also think itis important to realize that Trump is more the culmination ofthis modern era, and I would consider Jimmy Carter to be the alpha and Donald Trump to be the omega on this period of trusting outsiders to do the work that really should be done by politicians.
And outsiders don't understand the game as well as insidersand part of this is part of the chaos that we've actually seen since the 1970s.
SMERCONISH: You both want a piece of this. Also tell me, will he get a fairshake from historians?
BRINKLEY: No. He's not going to get a fair shake because, you know, the history profession is now so much about American history with gender and race relations and opening up the net and the fact that Donald Trump makes racist comments and is having a gender war all the time, Stormy Daniels now entering the fray.
He has a big burden in history to climb out of.
SHIRLEY: You know, Jackson didn't get his fair share - Andrew Jackson didn't geta fair shake in history until Schlesinger wrote a bio of him 150 years later and it might take that long. There is a dialectic to American presidential history where the populist rise up against the elites, from Jackson -- from first, Jefferson, and Jackson, then Lincoln, then Teddy Roosevelt, and then Franklin Roosevelt, Reagan and then Trump falls in that generation or two uprising.
But sometimes it takes a long time for people to appreciate the arc of history and how long it takes to look at like, Andrew Jackson to write a proper history of his, at least his election if not his Presidency.
SMERCONISH: Quickly, Laura, does he get a fair shake from folks with your credentials?
BROWN: Oh no. I mean, I don't think so. I think, one of the things that is most upsetting to people in the political science word is really the sense that he didn't care about rule of law, democratic process procedurethat he calls things hoaxes, that he looks at all of politics as illegitimate.
SMERCONISH: I appreciate you all of you being here.
BRINKLEY: Conspiracy theories. He sells conspiracy theories he dislikes history and actively says, "I don't read history."
SMERCONISH: Let's see the social media reaction. I might need the historians to bail me out. What do we have, Katherine? "Smerconish, Trump will go down as one of theworst Presidents in history. He is divisive, narcissistic andincapable of governing our country." Show me the next one and then we can respond to both of them. What does the next one say, "Smerconish, to me it's been a great year with Trump at the helm. I am not thin-skinned, so his words have not bothered me.I look at the things that he hasdone such as the economy, the tax bill, et cetera."
See, I love both of those tweetsbecause therein lies the way those living today will regard his presidency, divided. There will not be consensus.
BRINKLY: Can I just say one thing though.
SMERCONISH: Real quick.
SHIRLEY: We've always been divided as a nation, only two...
SMERCONISH: Behind this...
SHIRLEY: Yes, we have. The Civil War was about our very divisions. It's that, we've always - the only time we are ever unified was December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2011. That's only the total times this country has been united. We've always been divided.
SMERCONISH: Okay, we'll come back and we'll debate that. I should have said in the modern era, we've never seen anything like it. I cut my teeth on your guy's watch, meaning Reagan and since then, I have never seen anything like it. Thank you. I really appreciate your being here. Still to come, in his first year, Trump's Presidency has raised many Constitutional issues with more on the horizon and if Democrats were to take the House next year, those issues might include talk of impeachment. Is that a possibility? Constitutional expert Jeffrey Rosen is here with analysis.
Whether it was the appointment of Neil Gorsuch, the ongoing Russia probe, the use of executive power, the TrumpPresidency is enmeshed with Constitutional issues like none in recent history. Should Democrats take the House next year, those issues could only grow with talk of impeachment. Joining me now is Jeffrey Rosen,he is a Professor of Law at George Washington University, President and CEO of the National ConstitutionCenter. Graduate of Harvard, Oxford and Yale. The LA Times has called him the nation's most widely read and influential legal commentator. Man, I just set a high bar for you.
JEFFREY ROSEN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: As my mom would say, the LA Times.
SMERCONISH: Hey, let me first address an issue that I get sick and tired of people saying, "Oh, they won't talk about that on CNN.Devin Nunes has inspired this four-page memo that speaks to the way the FBI handled issues pertaining to the 2016 Presidential election. You know the issue, should that memo see the light of day and what is the significance in the bigger picture?
ROSEN: Well, the Democrats say it shouldnot because it is unvetted, it is classified information from foreign intelligence surveillance act, but the bigger picture is that it calls - it's an effort to call into question the whole legitimacy of the FBI and the integrity of the Justice Department, and if that happens, it is a dagger at the heart of the Mueller probe and really raises the question of what is a constitutional crisis when neither side can agree on what the facts are?
SMERCONISH: And next year, here we are commemorating Year 1 of the TrumpPresidency, but isn't that really the looming issue for Year 2?
ROSEN: Looming issue for Year 2 is what - could we have a Constitutional crisis? Would it require blood in the streets like in the Civil War, which is what some Constitutional historians say, or if both sides just can't agree on how to resolve basic questions on the rule of the law, might that constitute...
SMERCONISH: So, your concern if that's a proper word choice is that this is really laying the seeds, so thatthere can be a complaint at a later point should Mueller make a finding of collusion or obstruction of justice, well, you know, the dye had already been cast?
ROSEN: There are so much attacks on the Mueller investigation, ranging from Presidential pardons to self-pardons, but an attack on the facts themselves and on the integrity of the FBI and the Justice Department and of the Judiciary System which we have seen from the President and seen from some Republicans could really be a kind of existential crisis of our legal system.
SMERCONISH: You've previously said to me here on CNN that that as between collusion and obstruction of justice, you think the latter is more perilous to this President, that is a tough charge to prove in a courtroom.
ROSEN: It really is. It goes to what's in your mind. You have to have intent corruptly to obstruct justice. If there is a good reason, then it's not corruption. Ultimately it comes down to whata jury thinks the President was thinkingand you can have lots of circumstantial evidence from thetweets to the adviser who resigned because he thought the President obstructed, when talked about why he fired Comey, but in theend, it would come to impeachmentbecause the President is not going to be prosecuted criminallyand even if the Dems take the House and impeach, you'd need two-thirds of the Senate to convict and that is a high bar.
SMERCONISH: Jeffrey, when our attention is focusedon little rocket man or the pornstar or whatever the issue of the day might be, there is a lottaking place beyond the front page.and nothing more significant than the re-population of the Federal bench. What is going on out there? Tell my viewers a big picture how this President is really having an impact in that regard.
ROSEN: It is so importantand you've been so good in calling attention to this. Yes, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch was very significant. One in five voters voted for Trump because they thought the court was the most important issue and they favored Trump broadly. But even more significant is the appointment of 22 Federal, Appellate and District judges. President Trump appointed 12 Appellate judges in his first year, that is more than any other President in history. He appointed more quickly because he had a Republican Congress. Hewas able to confirm these judgeswho are deciding 60,000 cases a year as opposed to only 80 that the Supreme Court hears, and we've seen this week, one Federal district judge can hold up the immigration law for the entire nation, a district judge can have huge impact over the Constitution of the country and Trump's most lasting legacy may well be his effect on the Federal judiciary system.
SMERCONISH: What is the one constitutional issue that Jeffrey Rosen most has his eye on for the second year of the TrumpPresidency?
ROSEN: The scope of the pardon power. This is a President who breaks norms and the question of whether the President can pardonhimself is mooted. Most think no, but, some think yes. And the question of whether the President using the pardon power can use it corruptly is also questioned for those viewers who said no, others say, President Clinton was pardoned with prosecutions, the Supreme Court hasn't spoken that clearly to the question since the 19th Century and there are more recent cases saying the pardon power can't be ways and - used in ways that obstruct the Constitution, so these are open and fascinating questions that we're going to be seeing...
SMERCONISH: Pardon who?
ROSEN: Well, it could be anyone ranging from...
SMERCONISH: How about...
ROSEN: ... Jarred Kushner to Paul Manafort to Flynn to the President himself.
SMERCONISH: Does he have the authority - and you could write a dissertation on this, does have the authority to pardon himself?
ROSEN: We'll have some great initial consultations on your panels, I want you to moderate, but most people think no. The Nixon Justice Department held no. The Office of the Legal Counsel, but there's a minority view that says yes and no President is tried, if this President does, we'll find out.
SMERCONISH: We can only imagine what Year 2 will consist of if it, if it's anything at all like Year 1.
ROSEN: It will be a constitutional seminar and it will be an incredible opportunity for citizens to educate themselves about the Constitution and Michael, you and I both believe whatever divisions we have in this country, the Constitution is the one document that holds citizens together, and we have to hold fervently tothis document of freedom that unites us as a people.
SMERCONISH: Jeffrey Rosen, the CEO and President of the National Constitution Center. Thank you, Jeffrey. I really appreciate it. Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments.
Please follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Let's see what has come in during the course of the program. Katherine, what have you got? "Smerconish, no chance Trump ever gets a fair shake because the media controls the narrative and they can't stand him on actual accomplishments. He's been great, much better than the last President." Todd, if the media controlled the entire narrative, I would not just have read your tweet on international television. What's next? "Give me a break, Smerconish, that Trump will go down as an awful Presidentdoesn't mean that he's not getting a fair shake. It means he's being appraised honestly." Well, I asked the historians that very question. I think that's pretty much what they were saying. They were saying that the record is negative in and of itself, not that there is a bias per se among the historians.
One more if we've got time. "Smerconish, instead of blame them all, wouldn't it be blame us all? We get what we tolerate and encourage." Deborah, you are so right and that is in response to my commentary where I said that this blank show regarding the government shutdown is a mess and it is all they're fault and you are right. We put up with itand we shouldn't.
Stick around for more of CNN's special coverage of PresidentTrump's first year.