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SMERCONISH

President's Foreign Policies; Trump Appoints a Record Number of Appellate Court Judges; Michael Hayden Discusses the Current Russia Investigations; DNC Chair Perez Discusses Momentum Building for November Election; Racial Incident at Yale University. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 12, 2018 - 09:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[09:00:00]

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers I the United States and around the world. In a rare interview, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly calls the Russian probe an embarrassment for the President and then has to walk it back. But it's clearly affecting the U.S. stature on the world stage. I'll ask General Michael Hayden about that subject and the Democrats' big lead in the midterm polls is fast disappearing.

Are the drumbeats about impeachment hurting their messaging? I'll ask the DNC Chair Tom Perez that question. And while everybody is obsessing over North Korea, Iran, and Stormy Daniels, the President's long-term legacy is already being cemented on something else as he names young conservative judges in courts around the country at a record pace.

Plus, a black graduate student at Yale falls asleep on a dorm couch and the next thing she knows, the police are questioning her. Why are white Americans so quick to call the cops on their black neighbors? And when my car hit yet another pothole and had to go to the shop this week, I had to wonder, where is that trillion-dollar infrastructure bill we were promised? To get our roads fixed, are we all going to have to emulate the British activist calling himself Wanksy? I'll explain.

But first, President Trump's Chief of Staff John Kelly gave a rare interview this week which aired yesterday on NPR. Unlike his predecessors, the former general is rarely seen on the Sunday morning roundtable circuit. When he speaks, his words receive particular scrutiny and these made headlines. Kelly's assessment of those who move illegally into the United States, for example, noted they are, quote, not bad people but they don't have skills. When asked about whether pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal harms relations with U.S. allies, Kelly said he didn't think so given that it was a horrible deal. And then this, when asked if he thought the Russian probe was hanging over the White House, kelly said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO)

JOHN KELLY, U.S. CHIEF OF STAFF: There may not be a cloud but certainly the President is somewhat embarrassed, frankly when world leaders come in, the first minutes of every conversation might revolve around that kind of thing.

(END VIDEO)

SMERCONISH: You have to think that quote didn't play so well with the boss. Andy Carney at Politico correctly characterized it as quote, "A surprising comment to make about a President who rarely admits any personal weakness or error with a bonus oddity of bringing up completely unrelated investigation into one of Trump's closest allies on the world stage," a reference to Bibi Netanyahu. Indeed later in the day when questioned by CNN's Jeff Zeleny at a White House Rose Garden ceremony, Kelly said distracted was a better word choice than embarrassed and he then repeated the President's mantra that the probe is all a witch hunt.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

KELLY: At the NPR interviews, I said the President somewhat embarrassed --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's enjoy the nice day.

KELLY: I actually corrected it and said distracted. It's untrue. It's a witch hunt, right, and it's a distraction.

(END VIDEO)

SMERCONISH: The Marine Band playing in the background. Whether the proper word choice is embarrassment or distraction, my hunch is a little of both. Kelly's appraisal raises an interesting question as to how is this is all playing in the eyes of our allies at a time of volatility. We have a shadow war between Israel and Iran now percolating to the surface, an important negotiation with North Korea about to unfold, and a continued instability with Russia itself.

U.S. Stealth bombers intercepted Russian bombers off the coast of Alaska yesterday which leads me to pose today's survey question at smerconish.com. Which more accurately summarizes the impact of the Russian probe for the Trump Administration? Embarrassment or distraction? Go and vote this hour. I have the perfect person to ask. Joining me is General Michael Hayden, former Director of the NSA and CIA and author of the brand new book, "The Assault of Intelligence, American National Security in an Age of Lies." General, what's the global impact of the Mueller probe?

MICHAEL HAYDEN, AUTHOR AND FORMER DIRECTOR OF THE NSA AND CIA: Well number one, Michael, it really is a distraction for the people in the White House. I've worked in the White House. It's full-time day work and now you've got a President who seemingly wants to stir things up on his own whether it's personnel or policy. And then you've got this overhang, is the word I would have used, instead of John Kelly's embarrassment; this overhang of the Russian investigation that just has to eat into the workday so we're just a far less efficient government than we would otherwise be.

[09:05:00]

Now, shift the gaze to overseas and what our allies are thinking. I think they have to shape their policy that this is the President. They need to deal with this President, with this administration, but, Michael, I can just imagine the briefing paper that prime ministers get, chancellors get before they go meet with the President and in big, bold letters is do not mention, and then they'll give the status of the investigation and what the President is currently saying about it. So it eats up the energies of our allies as well when we should be fully focused on our dialogue.

SMERCONISH: In the new book, you say that Donald Trump is as much the effect as the cause of a post-truth world. What is a post-truth world?

HAYDEN: Well what I describe is kind of a three-layer cake. Michael in the first layer isn't the administration, it's us, and it's our society moving into this post-truth culture, a culture where we don't as often use evidence and data to base our decisions but now rely on a motion, preference, feeling, grievance, loyalty, and tribe.

The President saw that as a candidate. I think he exploited it as a candidate. I think he worsens it by some of the things he does and a lot of things he says as President and then just to make it even more complicated, Michael, you have the Russians coming in over the top exploiting a & b and I just described.

SMERCONISH: You say in the book that you yourself were not a fan of the Iranian nuclear agreement. Not a fan of the JCPOA.

HAYDEN: Right.

SMERCONISH: is the President acting on the same type of concerns held by General Michael Hayden or do you think he's acting on an emotion fueled by his distaste for all things Obama?

HAYDEN: You know, sadly, I have concluded its b and not a. Let me give you three sentences that Mike Hayden doesn't just believe but the American intelligence community has been telling the President. Number one, Iran is not breaking the deal. There have been no significant breaches. No material breaches of the agreement. Number two, Iran is further away from a weapon with this deal than they would be without it, and number three, we know more about the Iranian program with this deal than without it.

Other than perhaps the National Security Adviser, Ambassador Bolton, I don't think there was any agency or department of government waving their arms to the President saying, Mr. President, we've got to walk. This was the President, and I do think it was based on his campaign language, his instincts and, frankly, his not being his predecessor.

SMERCONISH: Relative to North Korea, Rocket Man, calm before the storm, you'll find out. That type of word choice caused you to be concerned that we were being driven to war. Now the book went to press before some good news has occurred. Did you not give President Trump enough credit when you wrote the book? HAYES: No, I gave him credit for some things. I actually thought

that he actually increased our tolerance for risk in northeast Asia, and I get that because we were heading to a bad place. I give him great credit for economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, nudging the Chinese in a more forward-leaning position. Military demonstrations, aircraft carriers, b-1 bombers, b-2 bombers, I think all of that helped push this in the right direction. But the rhetoric was unnecessary and my great fear was that it reduced the margin for error last summer and fall during a critical period. We got through it, thank God, but that's like saying we drove through the last nine stop signs; it's still not a good idea to drive through the tenth.

SMERCONISH: Final question -- give me one thing that you learned in your iron city-fueled listening sessions?

HAYES: These are really good people. They are the people who fight America's wars. The people who go to work, they pay their taxes, they go to the PTA, they make their sure their kids study and they feel as if no one is paying attention to them and these are my people. You refer to me going back to my hometown and asking a whole bunch of Trump voters. It began with, what are you guys thinking and they told me; it was a learning experience.

SMERCONISH: Unfair, therefore, for them to be castigated as a whole lot of deplorables.

HAYES: Oh no, my goodness, they rally to the colors when the nation needs them.

SMERCONISH: General, good to have you here. I enjoyed the book. I appreciated the shoutout in the book.

HAYES: Thanks, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the program. Katherine, what you got?

[09:10:00]

Smerconish, embarrassing for Mueller, FBI Hillary, the Democrats, the media and everyone pushing the false collusion narrative. Well, Filbert (ph) we really don't know yet. Listen, like everybody, I want it to be wrapped up as expeditiously as possible because I have to believe as General Hayden acknowledged, it's part of the briefing when world leaders sit down with our President and at a minimum it has to be a distraction.

One more, if I have time. Embarrassment. Trump is always distracted by everything but his job. VP (ph)? I don't think that's Mike Pence, by the way, who just sent that in. Please go to smerconish.com and cast a ballot at my website, answer the poll question and we'll give you the result. Which more accurately summarizes the impact for the Russian probe for the Trump administration? Embarrassment or distraction, two words both used by John Kelly, the results at the end of this hour. Up ahead, just a few months ago the Democrats held a 16 point lead over the GOP in the midterms. Now it's down to 3 percent which is a statistical tie. What happened and what might change as we head toward the midterms?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:15:00] SMERCONISH: Earlier this year, the Democrats looked poised to trounce Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. But in the latest CNN poll, the Democrats' advantage in the generic ballot dipped from 16 points in February to 6 points in March to just 3 points now; 57% said the country is moving in the right direction and there's a debate afoot whether the drumbeat for impeachment is helping or hurting the Democratic cause. Beto O'Rourke, the Democratic challenger for Ted Cruz's Senate seat is saying he'd vote for impeachment and has been raising massive amounts of cash, more than any other Democratic candidate in the country.

Look at this pro-Trump billboard posted in Maryland. Hey liberals, you better get your guns if you try to impeach President Trump. In a recent oped piece, House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff warned, don't take the bait on impeachment. He advises the Democrats focus on the economy, family and return to basic decency. The question is that enough of a plan to prevail?

Joining me now, the perfect person to ask, the chair of the DNC, Tom Perez. You know, Mr. Secretary, I always appreciated when you were Labor Secretary, you graciously came on my Sirius XM radio program virtually every month to announce the new unemployment figures. I have to mention, you would have loved a 3.9% unemployment figure as the labor secretary.

TOM PEREZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF LABOR AND CURRENT CHAIRMAN OF THE DNC: -- I was there when Barack Obama made those courageous investments in the future. I'm glad to see they continue to pay off but there's so much more unfinished business here, Michael. And the reason that I saw your polls and polls ebb and flow but what hasn't ebbed and flowed since the beginning of 2017 has been Democratic enthusiasm and Democratic victories.

We've been winning everywhere. We flipped over 40 seats in various races across the country and we're winning because we're fielding great candidates. We are organizing everywhere and most importantly we're focusing on the issues that people care about. The unemployment rate is coming down but wages continue to remain flat. People need a raise, that what we're focused on. We're focused on health care because healthcare is a right for all, not a privilege for a few and we're winning elections because Democrats believe that and Republicans don't.

We're focused on making sure people have access to quality education whether it's in Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arizona or across this country, and we're winning because we have been able to show that the Democrats are fighting for public education in our future and the Republicans are not. And so that's what we're going to continue to do, focus like a laser,

continue this momentum. In 2010, Michael, we got our butts kicked because the Republican enthusiasm was far more than the Democratic enthusiasm; the tables have turned. The last time we won the New Jersey and the Virginia gubernatorial elections in the same year was 2005 and you know what happened in 2006. Past is never prologue, but we continue to make progress.

SMERCONISH: I'm glad you bring up passion. I'm glad you bring up enthusiasm because I want to make reference to that crazy billboard I showed from Maryland. If, in fact, your Democratic House and Senate candidates say the "i" word, will they not drive passion on the Republican side of the ballot? In other words, do you want them talking about that issue or not?

PEREZ: Well, listen, the reason that there are some talking about that issue is because we have the most dangerous President in American history. And we've seen so many things happen that should never happen in the United States of America. What we've been focusing on and why we've been winning is we're focusing on like Conor Lamb did in Pennsylvania. He focused on healthcare, he focused on pensions, he focused on the right to form a union and that's why he won.

We won in Virginia. We won in New Jersey because we focused on health care, the economy. We've been flipping seats in Oklahoma; four legislative victories in Oklahoma because we focus there on public education and we've been organizing everywhere. I'm so excited about the partnerships we've been able to build with the DNC and others in the ecosystem and people are so energized and that is how we are winning. We're going to continue. My job is to help elect Democrats. We've been winning and we'll continue to win by focusing on these issues people care about most.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, just yesterday I saw the Cook Political Report now saying the anti-Trump wave may turn out to be just a ripple. Do you deny that something has changed in the data in the last several weeks where the Democratic prospects seem to have dimmed? Are you looking at the same information we are?

PEREZ: Well again, polls will ebb and flow between now and the election. What hasn't has been the Democratic enthusiasm and our victories. You look just last month in Wisconsin, there was a supreme court race. We are proud to have invested early in that race in organizing.

[09:20:00]

Who would have thought that the candidate for that race, Rebecca Dallet, would have won and she not only won, she won by 11.5 points Michael. She won Green Bay, she won in Western Wisconsin. She did fantastically in Milwaukee and Dane County and she held her own across the state. It was a referendum on Scott Walker. Scott Walker should be quaking in his boots. And so, again, the polls will ebb and flow between now and the election. What hasn't ebbed and flowed has been the Democratic success. You look at Arizona in Congressional Eight (ph). We should have lost that seat by 20 points or 25 points in a normal year. And because Dr. Tipirneni was such a spectacular candidate and we were proud to have invested in the organizing there. She lost by a little bit under five points and she's running again.

And I think Kyrsten Sinema has a real shot of winning that Senate seat. And that's what we're doing in the new DNC. We're playing a long game. We're investing and organizing. We're investing early and we've got candidates like Doug Jones last year, he didn't want to fight the culture wars, he wanted to improve the quality of life for average Alabamans. And that's what Democrats are doing.

SMERCONISH: I think you're good. I think you've gotten in 20 names of your candidates so far but I have a final question for you. I heard the point you made about wages. I understand it. It's a legitimate point. Simplistically, is it fair to say that you need to hope that James Carville is wrong in 2018, that this is not a year it's about the economy, stupid. You need it to be more about all the distraction and noise and other issues and not the financial picture.

PEREZ: Oh, there are so many people I meet across this country, Michael, that are still suffering. People who want access to healthcare and they know who is fighting for them and they know who is not fighting for them. People in Pennsylvania, the coal miners who are concerned about their pension security, the Republicans weren't helping them and the Democrats are. People who want to make sure that their kids are well educated.

In Oklahoma, kid goes to school four days a week in many jurisdictions, same thing in Kansas. That is why we are running competitive races in Kansas, Oklahoma, places you never would have imagined in the past and we're organizing everywhere. We've returned to the 50-state party that we should have always been and that's why when we focus on these bread and butter issues, that's why we're winning. When we elect more Democrats, we can help Dreamers finally.

SMERCONISH: All right.

PEREZ: We can finally enact common sense gun safety measures. That's why I'm excited about moving forward. We've got a lot more work to do, no doubt about it. I'd rather be the Democrats right now.

SMERCONISH: Mr. Secretary, thanks for coming back. I appreciate it.

PEREZ: Always a pleasure.

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

Smerconish, I told my Republican hubby the Democrats have no message and I believe the dems won't win back both houses. They need something other than impeach and resist. and Hava Salita (ph), the point I just made to the head of the DNC, Tom Perez is that talk of impeachment causes many people to say -- many people in those red states to say it's nothing but an effort to overturn the result of a legitimate election; and given 3.9% unemployment and given some of the attributes the President can point to -- North Korea coming to the table, they'll be driven in their passion. That's why it's a touchy thing. Mentioning the "i" word may drive the Democratic base and may drive the Republican base more.

Up ahead, the real Trump revolution is taking place far from the headlines about nukes and porn stars. He's quickly steering the judiciary to the right. Plus, a black Yale graduate student falls asleep on her dorm couch and somebody calls the cops. Why we are hearing so many of these stories so often? Plus, my car is one of the millions trashed. That's my rim, my right front rim trashed in recent months and there's no infrastructure deal in sight. I've got a solution to prod local governments into action. Wait until you hear it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: So what will likely be the most lasting legacy of the Trump Administration? The answer might surprise you when the new cycle moves and changes at break-neck speed, it's hard to stay on top of everything that's going on. Look at the last week: jobs numbers, the release of three prisoners held by North Korea, an upcoming sit-down between President Trump and Kim Jung-un, many Michael Cohen revelations, reneging on the Iran nuclear deal, the slights directed at ailing Senator John McCain. And yet, less sexy and out of the spotlight, the Administration is putting its thumb print on the federal judiciary by appointing young conservatives to lifetime appointments.

The senate has confirmed 17 Trump nominees for federal district courts, most of whom replace Democratic appointees. The President has also filled 16 vacancies on the federal appellate court, the last stop before the supreme court. Six of those replaced judges nominated by Democratic Presidents. Joining me now, Ron Klain, a senior White House aide to Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Senior Adviser to Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign. He's also a contributing columnist at "the Washington Post." Ron, is it, do you think, that the President really wants conservative judges or that he wishes to placate the right by contracting out the selection to the federalist society?

RON KLAIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE AIDE TO BARACK OBAMA AND BILL CLINTON: I don't think, Michael, that the President cares much or knows much about the difference between an interpretive and originalist and a texturalist judge. I do think there is a Faustian bargain here made between the right, particularly the religious right, and Donald Trump that they would tolerate his behavior, his conduct, all these things that would normally be unacceptable to them in exchange for him giving them more younger, more conservative federal judges than any President in history.

[09:30:00]

He's doing this at a breakneck speed as you mentioned by the end of this week he will have 21 appellate court judges confirmed. By comparison by this stage in his presidency, President Obama had only gotten seven judges on the appellant court. These judges are very conservative, very young and they're coming in record numbers.

SMERCONISH: So in other words, people who look at the polling data and don't understand why the Republican approval rating of the President is between 80% and 85% or Rasmussen has at close to 50% over all and they say, but my God, Stormy Daniels and Michael Cohen and all that's going wrong. the evangelicals are getting what matters most to them. The GOP base is getting what they most wanted, which is a conservative outlook from the court.

KLAIN: That's right Michael. Again, you alluded to this before. It's also worth remembering what they are getting is for decades to come. Some of these things that Trump has done if you don't like them, hopefully Democrats will take back the White House, take back the Congress. They'll be able to undo this. But the judges, they are there forever. He is appointing very young judges on average they're eight years younger than the people President Obama put on the appellate courts. That means some of the judges Donald Trump is naming today will be sitting on the bench in 2030, 2040, 2050 deciding cases, adjudicating our rights for decades to come. That's what makes this a powerful long-term issue.

SMERCONISH: In other words, when they are making these selections, not only do they need to be vetted ideologically, but if you're 50- plus, you're probably too old for the Trump Administration to be seriously considered for a district court judgeship.

KLAIN: Yes, particularly the court of appeals. We talk about the supreme court, everyone knows about the supreme court but 95% of all courses in the federal courts get solved at the courts of appeals and the average age of a Trump pick for that court is 46 years old. Those people will be around for a long time. They've gotten rid of this system of having home state senators approve nominees. That tends to lead to merit selection panels, people more from the middle. By getting rid of that they're really picking far right judges who will be there for decades to come.

SMERCONISH: Does this issue, Ron, stay beneath the radar screen if there should be a supreme court vacancy between now and the midterm?

KLAIN: I think a Supreme Court vacancy will certainly escalate this issue. That's something again I think people identify with. You know and the last time we had, if Justice Kennedy will retire and the balance of the supreme court on issues like abortion and marriage equality and Obamacare was really back in play, I think you'd have a major national issue around that and a lot of discussion, a lot of politics around that. But as you noted, it's these lower court nominations that don't get much attention but have tremendous long- term implications.

SMERCONISH: Ron Klain, thank you for being here.

KLAIN: Thanks for having me Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. What do we got? Obvious that Trump agenda is to undo Obama's legacy. Festus (ph), this is a huge issue. For better or worse, I leave that debate to all of you, but I wanted to shine a spotlight on it because as Ron well knows, this is something off the front page of the newspapers across the country. We're caught up in the whole Stormy, Michael Cohen business. I'm not underplaying the significance of that.

I'm just saying this will be with us for the next 40 years because methodically, they are filling those slots with young conservatives and as much attention, if not more, is being put on the appellate level as is the district courts or the trial court level and that's where real decisions and law get made. The Supreme Court, they don't work hard enough; they don't hear that many cases in a year.

I want to remind you to answer the survey question @smerconish.com. Which more accurately summarizes the impact of the Russian probe for the Trump Administration? Distraction or Embarrassment? Those are General Kelly's words from yesterday.

Still to come, when this black Yale graduate student fell asleep on a dorm couch, she was reported to the police. Why are we hearing so many stories about African-Americans being arrested for every day existence? A former head of the NAACP is here next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:35:00]

SMERCONISH: It's finals time on college campuses and it's pretty typical to fall asleep in a dorm common room. When a black Yale University graduate student snoozed on a couch in her dorm, a white student called campus police who showed up and interrogated her. The black student whose name I may be mispronouncing, Lolade Siyonbola posted two videos of the encounter to Facebook where they went viral and drew thousands of comments. This is part of an ongoing national problem we keep seeing more and more examples of -- police being called by white people who are reporting black people for mundane activities.

There were the two black men at the Starbucks right here in Philadelphia arrest forward not buying a drink while they waited for a business meeting, a black former White House employee who moved into a building in Harlem and a neighbor called cops about him being in his own building; three Missouri teens shopping for prom clothes in a Nordstrom who were wrongly charged with shoplifting. "The New York Times" just this morning summarizing these cases and more with a headline, "When White People Call the Police on Black People."

[09:40:00] It cites a NPR survey from last year in which half of African-Americans said they personally experienced racial discrimination in police interactions. As the Yale student said in her video, I deserve to be here. So what's to be done? Joining me is Cornell Brooks, the former President of the NAACP, currently a visiting professor at Boston University. Cornell, how do you apportion blame for this Yale incident, your alma mater, by the way?

CORNELL BROOKS, VISITING PROFESSOR AND THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE NAACP: Yes, we have to be very clear. The blame falls squarely on the white graduate student, Miss Brioche, I believe. Because when you use blue uniforms to police presumably white spaces to maintain white privilege, this is not only a moral offense, it's potentially a crime. In other words, when you knowingly call the police to use them to harass a fellow student, it appears that she has called the police previously on African-American students.

It appears from her interaction with Ms. Siyonbola that she knew that sleeping in a common area of a dorm was not a crime. What we have here is essentially discrimination by cop. It is white graduate student's responsibility for this whole entire mess and Yale has responded, I think, in a very sensitive way. They called that student into account, and so, yes, the blame falls on the white graduate student.

SMERCONISH: So that's actually my next question. I want to put on the screen the statement issued by the Yale police chief which says this: they informed the caller the student had been in the common room, was an authorized resident and had every right to be there. They also explained this was not a police matter and were reporting the incident to the Dean of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Should the white student be reprimanded?

BROOKS: Yes. Think about this. We should not be using our police officers to engage in discrimination in public accommodations or accommodations on university campuses where we have a student calling the police for something she knows is not a crime. She's essentially trying to use the police to effectuate her personal preferences in terms of segregated white space. That's unconscionable. She should be reprimanded, and in fact we need to think about whether or not she should be charged for filing a false report.

That is just simply unconscionable. Where we have an African-American student during finals, during a stressful period on the college camp campus, being subjected to what I would call an exorbitantly high race tax if you will; an emotional toll being imposed on her simply because of the color of her skin. She's a young African-American scholar trying to do what students do everywhere which is to study as hard as you can and make the best grades you can.

SMERCONISH: I can't argue with anything you've said. Just a limited time left but I do want to raise this subject. This case appears inexcusable. I'd love to interview the white woman to find out what was going on in her head. But I do worry in a climate of see something, say something, that a person really does see something that is noteworthy and now says, uh-oh, I better not call the police because I may be perceived as racist. You get the final word.

BROOKS: Yes, I understand when you see something you should say something, but if you see racial stereotypes, and you believe a person's skin tone makes them a suspect, then rather than say anything to the police, you need a serious conversation with your own conscience. That is not being vigilant in terms of terrorism or vigilant against crime; it's effectuating one's personal preferences in terms of segregated space and discrimination.

SMERCONISH: Cornell commencement speaker at the Kline School of Law. Thank you for being here.

BROOKS: Yes, I'm looking forward to it. Take care, Michael. Thank you. SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. I wish I had more time for social media. I love this. This is outrageous. Napping while black? I've fallen asleep during lectures. If the bitch who called 911 , hey, tell me what you really think, was concerned, she should call an RA or campus security or just wake her up. Woman should be fined for wasting essential police services. Yeah, Shauna (ph), I have to say I think there's a legitimate question here of, what do you now do with the woman who made that phone call because she did waste police resources and put those cops in a bad spot. She's deserving of some level of reprimand, I would say, for this.

Last chance to vote on today's survey question on smerconish.com. Go to the website now. Which more accurately summarizes the impact of the Russian probe for the Trump Administration?

[09:45:00]

These are both John Kelly's words. Embarrassment or distraction? Still to come -- the President's plan to fix our infrastructure seems to have hit a major pot hole. Here's my question -- should we emulate this activist -- oh, my -- in England who has figured out how to get the authorities to respond?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: Where is our Al Demado (ph)? Who is our era's Senator Pothole? President Trump made good on several campaign promises this week making progress with North Korea, ending the Iran nuclear deal, moving the embassy to Jerusalem and capturing more ISIS leaders.

[09:50:00]

But in another area, infrastructure, our country has hit a real road block; several, in fact. I know this from recent personal experience with my own car. That's my rim but I might have found a possible solution. Let me back up. One of the things that Donald Trump campaigned about was infrastructure. He complained, for instance, that LaGuardia Airport was a dump. In his first State of the Union he got a standing ovation after pledging $1 trillion for infrastructure spending.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

TRUMP: To launch our national rebuilding I will be asking Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure of the United States, financed through both public and private capital, creating millions of new jobs.

(END VIDE0)

SMERCONISH: Of course, what was required was more like $4.5 trillion but okay, it at least sounded like a start. Yet nearly 15 months later, this week, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made clear there is no bill coming any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will there be an infrastructure bill, yes or no?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Ever or are you talking about by the -- I don't know that there will be one by the end of this year.

(END VIDEO)

SMERCONSIH: All of us are feeling this where we live and have for some time. Back in march of 2015, I told a story on this program about how a pothole ate my car coming off the Verrazano Bridge and how for a while, waiting for a tow truck I researched how poorly America was doing on infrastructure. I said then if only we could have a Presidential candidate who could talk about how little it costs to help pay for repairs versus the huge cost of not fixing it.

Well it's three years later and despite the occasional press release about infrastructure, things have only gotten worse. I personally hit three massive potholes that did severe damage to my car and my equilibrium. A recent study from the local AAA here in Philadelphia showed that potholes in 2018 AAA flat tire cars were soaring 34%. In D.C. they've got an annual event, called Potholepalooza that since 2010 has filled in 381,000 potholes. AAA estimates pothole damage costs U.S. drivers about $3 billion a year; on average, American drivers report paying $300 annually.

In the American society of civil engineers, 2017 report card our roads got a D; I think that's generous. Surely, those responsible for maintaining America's roads also drive on them, so why aren't they moving more quickly to fix them? We need a Steve Jobs of asphalt, somebody who can disrupt the endless cycle of patch, seal and repave. Maybe you need this guy, Norwegian material scientist, Erik Schlangen, who has developed self-healing asphalt, infused with small steel fibers. He claims his invention can double the lifespan of our roads. But in the meantime, maybe there's a way to speed up the process.

I want you to meet Wanksy. Wanksy a Brit, a self-described road artist, whose name is a play on an anonymous graffiti artist Banksy, and he's adopted the mantra making the world a better place one pothole at a time. You can see how he does it, with creative graffiti using a nonpermanent chalk-based line marker he draws what he calls big yellow willies around the potholes in his home community of Manchester. Now it may not be your taste but Wanksy has been successfully shaming local councils into fixing them expeditiously. He may be the type of hero we need right now.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one. Infrastructure more important than stupid wall. Amen, Deb Kimball (ph), I agree with that. We'll give you the final results of the survey question, which more accurately summarizes the impact of the Russian probe for the Trump administration, embarrassment or distraction? Go vote.

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[09:55:00]

SMERCONISH: So how did you answer that survey question at smerconish.com? Which more accurately summarizes the impact of the Russian probe for the Trump Administration, embarrassment or distraction? Survey says 9,471 votes cast. Thank you for that; 57% say embarrassment. Distraction, 43%. Hey, not the blowout that some might have expected. Here is some of what you thought during the course of the program. What do we have Katherine? Not much time I know.

Smerconish loved hearing the Marine playing "Just the Two of Us" while John Kelly spoke about real Donald Trump. That could be their theme song. Drew (ph), I actually thought it was the theme song for Jeff Zeleny and for General John Kelly, not for the President and John Kelly, but we're on the same wavelength.

You can catch up with us anytime at CNN.go and on demand. Next Saturday CNN will be covering the Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry and I will be delivering a commencement address at Delaware Valley University. So I'll see you back here in two weeks. Happy Mother's Day.