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Discussion of IG Report of Comey Actions; Reviewing the Trump- Kim Summit; Race and College Admissions Examined; John Gotti Movie Discussed. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired June 16, 2018 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST, CNN: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. The real news in this week's inspector general report is that it confirmed the justification that Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein once gave President Trump to fire James Comey.
So what does it mean if Mueller tries to tell Rosenstein there was obstruction of justice? And much fun was made of the over the top Hollywood style movie the president showed Kim Jong-un at the Singapore summit.
But as a propaganda exercise, did it actually deserve five stars? Plus, a law suit accuses Harvard of limiting Asian-American admissions by downgrading applicants regarding personal traits like likability, kindness and being widely respected.
Do the Ivy's discriminate against Asians? And John Travolta with me to talk about his new movie about convicted gangster John Gotti, based on a book by his son Gotti Jr. I'll ask the two of them if the film glamorizes the gangster life.
But first, we finally got the inspector general's 500 plus page report this week about the FBI's handling of Hillary Clinton's e-mail, and predictably both sides claimed victories of a sort.
Much has been said but not that which I think is most important. For me, the I.G. report crystallized the looming conflict that will have to be faced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
So let's game this out. The report says that FBI Director James Comey was right to not charge Hillary Clinton regarding her extremely careless handling of e-mail, but it criticizes Comey for being insubordinate to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
He should not have spoken publicly about an investigation that did not result in an indictment. In doing so, he ignored both practice and protocol. But the report concluded that he did not act with political bias against Hillary, hence there was something for everyone to point to in the report, plenty of blame to go around, including for the FBI agent and lawyer who had an affair and exchanged totally inappropriate texts regarding Donald Trump, including Agent Strzok saying he'd stop Trump's election. Terrible judgment, even if his bias didn't impact his work. The I.G. report will soon fade, but the issue that will remain is Special Council Robert Mueller's probe which is investigating whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian meddling, and whether President Trump obstructed justice with regard to the probe.
Presumably the latter focuses on President Trump's firing of Comey, did the president act with the intention of thwarting a lawful investigation? That's the issue for Mueller. And critics will say well the president fired Comey to stop the Russian probe, including the investigation of Michael Flynn and the president himself. And that he admitted as much to Lester Holt and the Russian ambassador.
The president will say he's got an unfettered right to fire Comey and that he did so based on the written recommendation of the Justice Department. And who made that written recommendation? Rod Rosenstein.
Remember, it was Rosenstein as deputy A.G. who sent this memo to A.G. Jeff Sessions on May 9, 2017 that provided the justification for President Trump to fire Comey. In the memo, Rosenstein is sharply critical of Comey's handling of the Hillary investigation.
Quote, the director ignored another long standing principle. We do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation.
And there was this, the way the director handled the conclusion of the e-mail investigation was wrong, as a result, the FBI is unlikely to regain public and Congressional trust until it has a director who understands the gravity of the mistakes and pledges never to repeat them.
Having refused to admit his errors, the director cannot be expected to implement the necessary corrective actions, unquote. That language sounds just like the scolding of Comey in the I.G. report.
So here's my question, how can Rosenstein remain the arbiter of what happens to Mueller's report on obstruction, given that he himself provided the basis for the president to fire Comey.
Even if it was a pretext used by Trump, Rosenstein wrote it. Mueller will soon hand to Rosenstein his assessment of whether the president obstructed justice when he fired Comey.
The president will say he was following Rosenstein's memo. The logic of which was just reaffirmed by the Justice Department Inspector General. That's going to put Rosenstein in an untenable position as a fact witness for the president's assertion. It's hard to see how he can carry out his role.
But it's easy to surmise that any obstruction case was just made that much harder. That's my view. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com, answer this question -- will the Rosenstein memo regarding Comey's firing ultimately protect President Trump against a charge of obstruction of justice. I'll give you the results at the end of the hour.
Joining me to discuss is Nelson Cunningham. He served as federal prosecutor in New York's Southern District under Rudy Giuliani. He also served as general council of the Senate Judiciary Committee under Joe Biden and he was White House general counsel of the Office of Administration under Bill Clinton. Nelson, thanks for coming back. React to my opinion with your own.
NELSON CUNNINGHAM, PRESIDENT, MCLARTY ASSOCIATES: Well it's a pleasure to be with you. I think if we were talking about criminal charges of obstruction of justice, you might be right. But I think the likelihood that the recommendation by Robert Mueller will be to indict the President is close to zero. It's a constitutional rabbit hole that would take years to litigate through the courts whether or not a sitting president could be subject to criminal indictment for actions that he took either before or during his presidency.
I think it's highly unlikely that Mueller will go there. So what will Mueller do? He might recommend impeachment. If he concludes that the pattern that the president exhibited starting with Comey -- well, not even starting with Comey. The famous -- the firing of Comey, the work on the memo on Air Force One, the -- the president's reaction to the news of the Trump Tower meeting.
There's a whole pattern and practice of things that could be construed as obstruction. If Mueller concludes and recommends that -- that the president should be taken to task for that, it will be impeachment and that will then fall to the House of Representatives and then Rod Rosenstein is not conflicted. He becomes a fact witness and not a decision-maker.
SMERCONISH: Right. But -- but Nelson -- but nelson, it doesn't -- you correct me if I'm wrong, but the Mueller report, when it's produced on obstruction, whatever the findings might be, does not go directly to the Congress. There's a very important weigh station (ph). And that is Rod Rosenstein. How can Rosenstein take possession of that report where a critical issue was the decision to fire Comey, where the president's view was drafted by Rosenstein himself?
Do you not see a conflict in that?
CUNNINGHAM: Rosenstein's decision when he gets the -- first of all, I think you make a very good point. Let me -- let me start there. You put your finger on something that we all need to give some thought to. But the decision that Rosenstein makes when he gets the report is what do I do with this. Do I sit on this and keep it confidential or do I make all of it or part of it public, do I make all of it or part of it available to the House of Representatives and to the Senate?
That is a fairly simple binary decision. Any small role that he might have played in one part of the charges that Mueller might be -- might be recommending -- you put your finger on something important but I'm not certain it's going to be, at the end of the day , dispositive. It's certainly something for all of us to keep an eye on and to -- and to view as we see Mueller move forward to conclusion.
SMERCONISH: So let me now play contrarian with my own opinion, something that you made reference to. I mean, there's the view of the president, which is I have the unfettered right to fire Comey and I was relying on an opinion by Rod Rosenstein. I fired Comey because of the way in which he handled Hillary's e-mail, as crazy as that would sound to many.
Of course, contrary to that is the interview that he gave to Lester holt. Let's just remind people of some of what he had to say. Roll the tape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself -- I said you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It's an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Nelson, react to that tape and its significance.
CUNNINGHAM: As a prosecutor, there is nothing better than the witness' own words, especially when captured on tape or video tape.
I think the president could not have been clearer in his comments to Lester Holt about why he fired Jim Comey. He said -- whatever the reason, let's not forget at the beginning of that week, he called Rosenstein into his office and he said hey, I want to fire Comey, please write me a memo justifying it.
And Rosenstein went off and wrote a memo after the president had already decided to fire him. We know from Lester Holt, from his own words to Lester Holt, exactly what was going through the president's mind.
Whatever the recommendation, I was going to fire him because of this Russia thing. As a prosecutor, there's nothing more satisfying than playing a tape like that to the fact finder.
SMERCONISH: Nelson Cunningham, as always, thanks for your expertise.
CUNNINGHAM: It's a pleasure to be with you.
SMERCONISH: Remember, I want to know what you at home think. Go to my website at smerconish.com, answer the poll question of the day. Will the Rosenstein memo regarding Comey's firing ultimately protect the president against a charge of obstruction of justice?
I know it's a little bit in the weeds, but you can handle it. What's going on via Twitter and Facebook, I'll read some during the course of the program. Katherine (ph), what do you have?
Smerconish, your analysis of the I.G. report is off base and biased. It revealed a double standard, the FBI announced news of investigations about Clinton but not Trump. Secondly, Trump has publicly stated he fired Comey because Comey would not stop the Russia investigation.
I don't think that my view is biased, April, I'm trying to call them as a see them based on the evidence, and I'm just drawing attention to the fact that the president's view in terms of the paper trail, why he fired Comey, the Rosenstein memo was bolstered by the I.G. report.
The president can now point to the I.G. report and see -- and say, see, I told you so. That's why I did it. Is that conflicted in the record? Is there other evidence? There certainly is, but it's a strong point for him I think. One more if I've got time for it, quickly.
Damn you, Smerconish, for making me think. This obstruction thing is going nowhere. I mean, I -- that's my view, Aynex, I -- I'm simply trying to say that I think that the claim -- we don't know what Mueller, let's begin with that, but based on that which is in the public domain, it seems to me that the case for obstruction against the president was, this week, made more difficult.
Up ahead, that seemingly sophomore video that the president delivered to Kim Jong-un on an iPad, was it more sophisticated that first believed? And the Asian-American students' lawsuit against Harvard for discrimination got a new twist.
They're accusing the university of rejecting them because of their personalities. Plus, I talk with John Travolta about his new portrayal of notorious mob boss John Gotti. Why did many in the general public love this gangster?
SMERCONISH: For me, the lingering question about the Singapore summit had nothing to do with did Trump give up too much or what are the details or what's the timeline. No, no, no. I'm interested in that four-minute video that the president showed Kim on an iPad, showing what North Korea can be if it will allow itself to be integrated into the world community.
In some quarters, the White House is being derided for use of that video as if it's an elevator pitch. You know, Trump trying to sell Kim a timeshare in Phoenix or some such thing. And that was my first reaction, too. But when I looked at it a second time, what stood out to me was the basketball dunk. In the midst of all of this footage showing progress in North Korea, trains and buildings and medical advance comes the dunk of a basketball.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A story about a special moment in time when a man is presented with one chance that may never be repeated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: That's when I said to myself, is this the equivalent of when we went to the drive-in in the '70s and the image of a hot dog would go sailing by and suddenly you felt hungry? In other words, is it possible that this was not some slap dash production, but rather was the result of thought and deliberation as to how do we reach -- based on some psychological profile, how do we reach Chairman Kim?
Is it more sophisticated than we might have thought at first blush? Joining me now is Dr. Ken Dekleva. He's a former U.S. diplomat and psychiatrist who used to work with the State Department. He's profiled various world leaders, including Kim. Dr. Dekleva, on a propaganda scale, how many stars out of five?
KENNETH DEKLEVA, PSYCHIATRIST: Good morning, Michael. I give it 4.5.
SMERCONISH: And why 4.5?
DEKLEVA: I agree with -- with what you were saying in your introduction, that the video is remarkably sophisticated, and I think it was carefully and thoughtfully designed to appeal not only to Chairman Kim but also to other members of the North -- North Korean elite. And also in an indirect way, to the people of South Korea and President Moon. I thought it rich with --
SMERCONISH: So --
DEKLEVA: -- symbolism, powerful emotions and marvelously put together.
SMERCONISH: Let me run through some of the images because I -- I think we're showing, as you're speaking, a portion of the propaganda video. The basketball dunk. I'll show a still shot of that. He's a basketball fan. We know that from Dennis Rodman. That was intended to appeal to his emotions?
DEKLEVA: Yes and -- and in -- in a nice way. But I think the important thing about the video overall is Kim Jong-un likely grew up with videos. As you know, his father, the previous leader, Kim Jong- il, was a media, film and video buff who had a collection of over 30,000 films and saw himself as a film director and was actually, in his earlier part of his career, the director of propaganda and even went so far as to kidnap two South Korean filmmakers who he kept in North Korea, I believe for nearly a decade to help him direct video productions.
So a young Kim Jong-un as a child and adolescent grew up with this exposure.
So I think that way of trying to reach out to Chairman Kim and influence him, again, shows a great deal of sophistication and -- and I believe real thoughtfulness. I think the people who made the video -- (CROSS TALK)
SMERCONISH: -- in that propaganda -- in that propaganda video, why the symphony shot? I want to quickly run through, Doctor Dekleva, some of these and have you tell me briefly why are they there, why the symphony?
DEKLEVA: Absolutely. I think the symphony was wonderful and it echoed the visit of the New York Filharmonic to Pyongyang in 2008, and at the end of that performance, which was for about I think 1,000 people from the North Korean elite, the symphony played a beautiful Korean song that all Koreans know called (FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
And the entire audience wept, and -- and writers Christian Amanpour talked about the emotion in the -- in the room when she did her piece on CNN, and writers such as Ana Fifield of the Washington Post have talked about how much emotion that stirred at the time and really raised a lot of hope.
And I think the video sort of touches on that message of hope, and that's very beautiful.
SMERCONISH: Sylvester -- Sylvester Stallone in the Oval Office with President Trump, why the Stallone image?
DEKLEVA: I think, again, to -- similar to the basketball dunk and -- and sort of hinting at -- at Chairman Kim's friendship with Dennis Rodman, I think it was designed to appeal in different ways.
SMERCONISH: Final question, how will we know if it worked?
DEKLEVA: I think we won't know yet, but I think the real way to know if it works is -- is how it plays into the ability of President Trump to develop a personal relationship with Chairman Kim that can lead to a more lasting diplomacy and -- and the beginning as we've seen already, President Trump said this is part of a -- a long process.
But I think the ability to deepen those relationships and hopefully lead to lasting diplomacy. I might add that a personal relationship may not be enough, the work of diplomacy is very difficult, but without that type of personal relationship and ability to reach Chairman Kim's psyche if you will, then diplomacy would be very, very difficult.
So I -- I think there's -- the video was a very unique and singular way to try and reach him and the media reports I've seen is that Kim Jong-un, Chairman Kim, liked the video. The -- the other thing we'll look for is whether the official North Korean news agency, KCNA, posts the video or fragments of the video on their website.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Dekleva, thanks for your expertise, we appreciate it.
DEKLEVA: Thank you very much, I appreciate being on your show.
SMERCONISH: What are you saying via Twitter and Facebook? Katherine (ph) what do we have? Smerconish, the movie Trump showed Kim was more suited to pitching a Trump resort than achieving denuclearization.
PCC_Texas (ph), that's exactly what I thought. And then I watched it again and I recognized this, I was not the intended audience. One more, quickly. Why can't you just give the man credit for what he has done regarding North Korea? If it was Obama who did this, praise would be coming in in droves, I don't like Trump either but I do give credit where it's due.
Hey Lauren, were you not paying attention? That's exactly what I just did. I said when I saw the video the first time, I didn't get it, and then I gave him the benefit of the doubt and just brought on an expert who's a psychiatrist who worked for the State Department who pointed out we were not the intended audience, and he thinks it was pretty effective. Come on.
Up ahead, Asian-Americans are now on the vanguard of the latest debate over affirmative action, students are suing Harvard saying that even when they ace standardized tests, they're being discriminated against in the admissions process.
And it's being blamed on their personalities. Plus, John Travolta plays mobster John Gotti in a new movie based on Gotti Jr.'s memoir. Does it glamorize the bad guys? I'll ask Travolta and Junior.
SMERCONISH: The lawsuit against Harvard University for discriminating against Asian American applicants just took a new twist with claims the bias against them is a quote, personal thing, including such traits as positive personality, likability and attractive to be with. This according to federal court filings in Boston on Friday by the group called Students for Fair Admissions based on an analysis of more than 160,000 student records.
Their argument is that Asian Americans scored higher than other racial or ethnic groups on quantifiable measures like test scores, grades and extracurricular activities only to be rejected via the more subjective personal ratings. Here's the question. Is there an unspoken quota on the number of Asians at the Ivies?
Joining me to discuss is Indian American, Vijay Chokal-Ingam, head of admissions consultant SOS Admissions and author of the book "Almost Black: The True Story of How I Got Into Medical School by Pretending to be Black". His sister, by the way, the actress Mindy Kaling. Vijay, quickly remind people your own story.
VIJAY CHOKAL-INGAM, AUTHOR, ALMOST BLACK: So, many years ago I posed as an African American in order to gain admission to medical school and take advantage of the school's racially discriminatory affirmative action policies. I managed to get in despite the fact I had a very low 3.1 GPA. Although I don't recommend that anyone do the same thing today. SMERCONISH: Do you believe that there is an unspoken quota at Harvard
and elsewhere on the number of Asians?
CHOKAL-INGAM: Well actually, if you look at their statistical data, it shows that. What happens is Harvard is basically arguing in court that Asian Americans don't do as well in a category that they call personality traits, which is essentially a subjective category based upon things like letters of recommendation. But if you look at their own admissions data, it shows that Asian Americans actually do as well on personality in interviews as other racial categories.
However, in -- the admissions office rates personality on a trait they call demographics. In other words, when Harvard says that Asian Americans have weaker personalities than other categories to get into admissions, what they really mean is that Asian Americans don't help us fill our racial quotas. That is what the demographic trait means.
SMERCONISH: OK (ph). So what's really -- what's really -- what's really going on here in your view? Is it your view that Asians do so well on those quantifiable measures that they would frankly be dominant at Harvard and elsewhere unless there were these other factors at play?
CHOKAL-INGAM: So according to Harvard's own admissions data, based on objective things, traits and (ph) test scores, Asian Americans would be 43 percent of the class. They are in fact 19 percent of the class. Because Harvard uses criteria such as quote-unquote demographics, which is a fancy way of saying racism to discriminate against Asian Americans.
So they're very -- in their internal data, they're very clear they consider race as a factor in admissions and that they use these quote- unquote subjective criteria to discriminate against Asian Americans even though Asian Americans perform as well in things like interviews as other applicants.
SMERCONISH: Right. But the -- but the purpose, I guess ultimately -- and maybe Harvard wouldn't say it this way, but -- but I will as a father whose children have gone through the admissions process and so I'm therefore familiar, generally, with the way this all works. I think what Harvard would say is we're trying to -- we're trying to have balance on our campus. Not for only Asians but also for students of color, for whites, et cetera, et cetera.
They all benefit when we've got a good mix in our student body. Is that not a worthy goal?
CHOKAL-INGAM: This is what we call a justification for racism. If you look at other campuses like UCLA where I went to or the University of Michigan or U.C. Berkeley, you'll find that they have diverse student bodies and great educational experiences for their students without practicing racial discrimination in the form of affirmative action. So I reject your argument that affirmative action racism is essential to improve the quality of education for students.
SMERCONISH: I think you're reading a bit too much into what I said but I'll -- I'll -- I'll verbalize it this way. As the father of, you know, four white students, only two of whom are now in -- in -- in school, I think they benefit from being surrounded by being surrounded by a very diverse population.
And so the goal of diversity is not just for the student who otherwise might not be admitted , but also to the benefit of white kids like my own because I think that it's healthy for them to have interactions with people of all perspectives. A very quick final word from you.
CHOKAL-INGAM: I think it is in many ways the ultimate form of racism to assume that blacks, Hispanics and white people are not going to be able to compete based upon race. And by the way, I have a recommendation --
SMERCONISH: Not what I said.
CHOKAL-INGAM: -- to all of your listeners today.
SMERCONISH: Yes. Not what I said.
CHOKAL-INGAM: If you happen to be Asian American, don't disclose your race on your application to college or graduate school --
SMERCONISH: OK. How about this --
CHOKAL-INGAM: -- because it will reduce your chances of admissions.
SMERCONISH: -- to be continued. To be continued. I don't -- I don't know if that was deliberate, but you misunderstood what I said. My kids benefit by going to school with your kids. That's my point. Thank you.
CHOKAL-INGAM: Yes, absolutely.
SMERCONISH: I appreciate you being here. OK. I want to remind you to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com. Will the Rosenstein memo regarding Comey's firing ultimately protect President Trump against a charge of obstruction of justice? Up next, do the movies glamorize the mobsters? My interview with John Travolta about playing the late notorious mob boss John Gotti in a new film for which he got help from John Gotti Jr.
SMERCONISH: John Travolta playing John Gotti, now that's a movie I had to see. The dapper don was one of the modern era's most notorious mobsters, he rose from poverty to run New York's notorious Gambino crime family until being sent to prison in 1992, where he died from throat cancer a decade later.
The new movie, simply called "Gotti", is based on "Shadow of My Father", the book written by Gotti's son John A. Gotti Jr. It took seven years to come to fruition. I spoke to John Travolta and Junior, where else but at Dante & Luigi's, that's a South Philly restraint that itself has been a part of mob lore ever since a hit on a mobster there in the late '80s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
John Gotti Jr, I know from reading your book, I know from interviewing you before just how much you revere your father and revere his memory. Are you happy with John Travolta's depiction of dad?
JOHN A. GOTTI JR, AUTHOR: Over the moon with joy.
GOTTI: John did an amazing job.
SMERCONISH: If he's giving you five stars, does that mean it was too sympathetic a portrayal of his father?
JOHN TRAVOLTA, ACTOR: Well, sympathy is a different word that empathy, or duplication. My job as an actor is to -- to live up to an authenticity. So that's what I was doing.
I have to become John Sr. That's my job. So how I feel about John Sr. has nothing to do with my portrayal of that. I am viewing through his eyes, so, you know, I have to do all of the -- the due diligence to earn that viewpoint.
And John Jr. here helped me tremendously understand his father, because, you know, imagine I'm growing up in New York as well and I'm seeing the more glamorous side, you know, I'm seeing the Teflon don and the suits and the glamour and the charm and the -- you know, all that kind of high end appeal.
But I don't understand the -- let's say the structure of the -- of the mafias as we know it, or the Cosa Nostra, any of the details, I don't know the family elements. And so that's my due diligence, that's my research.
But my job is to be authentic about being John Gotti Sr. So I don't know if empathy or sympathy has anything to do with -- with this.
SMERCONISH: How did you approach the due diligence? I -- I know from John Jr. that you went into the house, you wanted to see the clothes, you wanted to get the -- the whole vibe, but I'd rather hear it from you.
TRAVOLTA: Well all of that helps you build a character, and that's my technique from day one, my mother was an acting teacher and, you know, I grew up knowing how to build a character.
So you -- you take all the elements and you only use what's necessary for the piece you're doing, but every single that I -- I would listen to everything John said because only through John's observation and John's mother's observation, Victoria, could you absorb the detail that you need to understand the characters. So how he felt, how Victoria felt, what I saw on video itself or the
family footage, all these elements added, John Jr. and Victoria were kind enough to allow me to wear the personal effects.
So he -- there's even the cologne scent from the overcoat that the -- the tweed and velour overcoat from -- from Senior, that helps. You know, the jewelry, I wore this beautiful jewelry, the scarves, the -- you know, it -- it was all these bits help besides my own personal observation of how -- you know, because I'm a physical actor, I'm able to duplicate physicalities well.
All this adds up to -- to a performance that I felt I owed the family accuracy and attention to detail, because look, I'm a famous face, you can't -- I have -- I have more of a (inaudible) to delve deep into disappearing than your average actor, because if you see me in it, you then are not lured into the story telling process.
So it was much more important, I felt, for me to do that.
SMERCONISH: Leaving Gotti off the table for this question, what's John Travolta's favorite mob movie?
TRAVOLTA: The Godfather one.
SMERCONISH: How come?
TRAVOLTA: I thought it was beautifully structured, beautifully told and visually perfect. You know, every great piece of art is interpretive, and what it did for me at a time in life was just elevated me and I got lost in that -- in that film.
And what I like about our film compared to that, let's say, is that that was a tale and this is truth, and I think this is the first really with the family supporting the truth. This is the first time it's ever been done.
SMERCONISH: Why do you think his father was so revered in certain quarters? I mean in the movie, you see that celebration, the firework display, the police show up, he wants the fireworks to go off and they go off.
At the end of the movie, those real images where people are -- are disappointed because he's been convicted at the end of the trial, I don't want to give away too much, but it's really stunning, right, that he was able to engender such support.
TRAVOLTA: Well this is my question, because I never -- I -- my memory of Capone and -- and Dillinger were they were -- were not particularly like or admired at the level John Gotti Sr. was adored as a human being.
I needed to understand why, because I only saw one side of it, I saw the -- the side that most people saw. I went to, I think it was Long Island, where I interviewed the venues that your dad did business. GOTTI: And you went through his own park (ph) as well, actually think
(ph) whatever shops are still open from my father's time.
SMERCONISH: What did you learn?
GOTTI: The old florist shop (inaudible).
TRAVOLTA: I learned something that -- that started to solve my riddle, which was why he was so loved. I didn't understand hither to that point that small businesses, which have a hard time surviving, could very easily go into the red.
Well John Gotti Sr. was able to put them back into the black and into profit so nobody ever went out of business.
SMERCONISH: Do you think that his father would have been comfortable today looking down at how he was able to disassociate himself from the mob and walk away from that life?
TRAVOLTA: I'm taking a guess but yes because of the following, I don't think it was the same game that John Sr. grew up with. I don't think because the Nostra existed anymore and he observed that what -- whatever the success was of that life was no longer as valid as it was in his day.
So my feeling is that John Jr. got out at the right time, John had a very sincere and honest care and concern about his family more than whether the mob was going to work anymore or not.
Dad would be saying (ph) you know what, that wasn't bad timing, you know you got out of dodge at the -- at the right time, because you could have gotten in some more trouble.
SMERCONISH: Do you worry that this all glamorizes the life?
TRAVOLTA: I don't actually at all, because how glamorous is it to be dying of stage four cancer in prison and your son, who you adore, is on the other side and you haven't -- you -- you can't be with him or the rest of your family.
How -- how glamour is it -- glamorous is it, all these stressful court cases and -- and this -- this is a group that lived on a cliff, do you know? I mean the glamorous part is -- they had a sexy life, but I mean, underneath that, I mean let's look at it.
You know, honestly I think this film looks at it for the first time in a very truthful way.
GOTTI: I agree, and you have to look at it from this perspective. My father did make it look glamorous, because he looked glamorous. He was handsome, he was easy to look at, he was erect, his hair was perfectly coiffed, his clothes were tailor made, custom made.
OK, nobody had the same suit my father had, nobody had the same time my father had, we made sure of that. We wanted him always to be special, OK. And he carried it in a special way. However, what most people don't know is that he spent, as my brother Peter said, so many thousands of meals alone in his cell, eating that meal by himself.
He spent 10 years, 10 years in solitary confinement, his last days handcuffed to a bed, and if I (ph) show you his death certificate, he choked on his own blood and vomit. That's when he died, he suffocated because all the muscles were corroded and -- and collapsed around his throat.
So he suffocated on his own vomit and blood, OK. I don't call that glamorous.
SMERCONISH: I enjoyed the movie. Thank you very much.
GOTTI: Thank you. Thank you for your time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one. Smerconish, you don't think you're glamorizing Gotti by featuring him on your show?
No, I think I'm delving into the personality of a very famous 20th century figure. We're giving the final results of the survey question in a moment. Will the Rosenstein memo regarding Comey's firing ultimately protect President Trump against a charge of obstruction of justice?
Vote at smerconish.com right now.
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com. It was cerebral today, wasn't it? Will the Rosenstein memo regarding Comey's firing ultimately protect the president against a charge of obstruction of justice? Survey says 7,951 votes cast, 74 percent say no, it will not. 26 percent say yes. Here's some of what else you thought during the course of this program.
What do we have? Smerconish, what specifically did Trump do to prevent the Russia investigation after the firing of Comey? If nothing, where is the obstruction? Well, there are a whole series of event. I don't want to just limit it to the firing of Comey because there were a whole series of potential aspects maybe that no one, in and of itself, constitutes a claim for obstruction of justice but to some eyes, when you put them together, the totality of the circumstances suggests that was the case.
I'm not rendering any judgment on that, I'm simply noting that the I.G. report released this week, to me, very reminiscent of what Rod Rosenstein wrote as a basis for the president to fire Jim Comey. Next, quickly. Smerconish, you normalizing a totally unacceptable president, @realdonaldtrump? No, Adrian (ph), I'm just not buying into the wrote reply that you get on Fox or MSN where either everything that he's done is perfect or everything that he's done is to be faulted.
Quickly, one more if I have time. Discrimination is discrimination. I don't like it. Sad that it still exists. Javier (ph), maybe I wasn't clear. I think we all benefit from a diverse student population at all of these institutions. Thanks for watching. You can catch up with us anytime on CNNgo and on demand and I'll see you next week.