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Does President Trump Actually Want To Be Impeached?; President Orders Intelligence Agencies To Help Barr's Probe; Teddy Roosevelt And "The Trial Of The Century"; Pet Owner Dies, Has Dog Killed To Be Buried With Her; Was The Robert Kraft Massage Case Bungled?; Will Kraft Charges End Up Protecting Others' Privacy?; More Affluent Students Get Extra Time To Take SAT; Bin Laden Raid Commander's Tales Of Inside The Special Operations Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 25, 2019 - 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, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Does President Donald Trump actually want to be impeached? That's today's survey question at Smerconish.com and I raise this at the end of a few days of insult trading between the president and the House speaker, each questioning the other's fitness for office. On the surface, it looks like the two don't like each other and that they're being petulant and both might be true, but I suspect there's more going on.
Numerous reports say that Nancy Pelosi wasn't acting impulsively, but that she planned to engage the president this week as part of a strategy to push his buttons in response to his having thwarted various investigations and when the president responded in kind, he seemed to be inviting the initiation of impeachment proceedings, kind of like Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry. You remember, "Go ahead. Make my day?"
Maybe that's exactly what he wants. Why? Because with the knowledge that the Democrats can't muster the 20 Republican votes needed in the Senate for conviction, he knows he's working with a net. The House might impeach, but the Senate won't convict. Instead, like the Mueller probe, perhaps the president thinks that his opponents will rally around an expensive and time-consuming process only to have him emerge at the end unscathed and playing the victim.
Oh, you think that sounds too strategic for Trump? OK. Instead maybe he's just annoyed by all the accusations and investigations and that's why he walked into the Rose Garden midday on Wednesday and blasted both Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Now, Aaron Blake from "The Washington Post" posed a third possibility. Quote, "Perhaps this is a bit of reverse psychology. Maybe Trump is indeed legitimately worried about how all this might turn out, but he wants Democrats to think he's goading them into impeachment. If he makes it seem as if he's really concerned about it and does all kinds of things to up the impeachment ante, it'll make them believe they're walking into a trap -- a trap, it bears noting, that they were already worried was a trap." Intriguing, right? I call it the George Costanza, the opposite, where Democratic opposition to the president is so entrenched, he figures they'll oppose whatever they think he's for. So if he wants impeachment, Democrats will do the opposite.
Now, of course there's a fourth option, namely that the president is not being strategic. He's got no concerted strategy other than to be provocative and always on offense. Every day for him is another installment of his reality show and by fighting with the House speaker, we are no longer focused on possible war with Iran, Chinese tariffs, whether Don McGahn will testify or Trump's taxes.
So what do you think? Go to Smerconish.com right now. Cast a ballot. Does President Donald Trump actually want to be impeached?
Also this week, the president ordered intelligence agencies to assist Attorney General William Barr in his review of surveillance issues surrounding Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and the launch of the Russia probe. What are the implications of that?
Joining now, the perfect guest, Dan Abrams. He's the chief legal affairs correspondent for "ABC News," he's a "Sirius XM" radio host and co-author of a brand-new
book, " Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense: The Courtroom Battle to Save His Legacy."
So Dan, we have these two competing narratives. Narrative number one is George Papadopoulos has a couple of drinks, says something to an Australian diplomat, they tip off the Americans, that leads to a FISA warrant of Carter Page and we have the investigation. The other narrative is the deep state conspiracy, Strzok and Page and e-mails, Jim Comey, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Will the Barr probe resolve the differences in those two narratives?
DAN ABRAMS, CHIEF LEGAL CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: I don't know that it's going to resolve it, but let's be clear on what we know. You can actually connect the dots on how this investigation started starting with Carter Page back in 2013, moving to Papadopoulos the day that the investigation actually starts officially on July 31st, 2016. So the problem, the fundamental question with regard to this inquiry or investigation is what is the serious credible allegation of wrongdoing up to this point?
Exactly as you lay it out, there are suspicions, there are questions. We know that Page and Strzok sent texts that they shouldn't have sent, but why do it this way? why give the attorney general this sort of sweeping power to usurp all the other intelligence agencies with regard to classification without any serious, credible allegation of wrongdoing up to this point?
[09:05:01] SMERCONISH: The concern from Democrats seems to be that Barr can't be trusted and there might be selective release of information. Does that pretty much sum up the worry about him?
ABRAMS: Yes. That's a fair concern. I mean, look, Barr now has enormous power, much more power than an attorney general would typically have vis-a-vis other intelligence agencies. Declassification is something that is really important to intelligence agencies. As you can imagine, that is -- you know, that's what their basic coin of the realm is, is protection. We can assure you that we won't disclose where we got this information. We promise you that we'll keep this confidential.
When you have someone else who's outside their organization now able to say, for whatever reason, I'm going to now -- it's declassified, but also potentially make it public, that's very scary to other intelligence agencies and it comes back to this question again of what's out there so far that would lead to this kind of very significant, almost draconian measure.
SMERCONISH: But Dan, are Democrats inconsistent? Because on one hand, they want to see everything from the Mueller report, give it to us unredacted, and yet in this instance, they don't seem to want to know everything about the origin of the Russia probe.
ABRAMS: But no -- but you can want to know everything. It's just how do you do it, right? Typically the way you do it is the inspector general of the -- you know, of the FBI will go about investigating how did this happen? There was an investigation into the Hillary Clinton matter. We learned a lot about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page in the context of that investigation. There's an ongoing investigation into the FISA warrants that the inspector general is reviewing.
That's the way this is typically done, not by giving the attorney general this sort of sweeping power. So I don't think that you can say on the one hand they're asking for transparency and then on the other hand, they're saying no transparency. I think that in one case, you have Robert Mueller who has written a report and investigated it and now the question is we want to know what it is that he said.
The equivalent to that would be the inspector general doing a report and saying, we want to know what the inspector general said with regard to how this went about happening. What they're doing here is they're offering Barr a really unprecedented power over these other intelligence agencies and that's what makes it different.
SMERCONISH: Dan, when many of us got our first look at Dan Abrams, you were 28 years old and covering what we thought was the trial of the century, O.J.. Now you've written a book. I guess you're saying, hey, I got it wrong. This was the trial of the century.
SMERCONISH: Just give us one line on what's the new book about.
ABRAMS: It's Theodore Roosevelt being sued in 1915 for libel, testifying for eight days in his own defense. We have a 3,000 plus page transcript that we had to go up to Syracuse, New York to get because it's become a footnote to history. This was front-page news everywhere in 1915 and somehow people have forgotten about this trial where Roosevelt had to defend himself, his legacy. Franklin Roosevelt testified in his defense. It's a -- it's a legal thriller that is a libel case and that's the book, "Theodore Roosevelt for the Defense." SMERCONISH: I've read it and enjoyed it and it does read like a novel. Congrats and thank you.
ABRAMS: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer the survey question. Does President Trump actually want to be impeached? Give you the results at the end of the hour. What's come in, Catherine, from social media thus far?
From Facebook, "I don't believe he's smart enough to play games with Pelosi. You're overthinking it by trying to analyze his behavior. He's a reactor and that was his reaction." Well, Kathryn, that's one of the four possibilities, that there's no -- I'll use W's word -- that there's no "strategery" involved here and that he's just a pugilist at heart. I'll be interested to see what the results might be.
So coming up, ladies and gentlemen, as the prostitution case against New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has unraveled, some might look derisively at his wealth and privilege. Now brace yourselves for a different reaction. Should we instead be appreciative that someone with his resources was able to fight off a case of police overreach?
And the question what percentage of public high school students have special needs that require extra time to take standardized tests? Here's the answer. It depends on how wealthy the neighborhood is.
And the story of a Virginia woman who loved her dog too much. When she died, her will said that the dog should be killed so that its ashes could be buried with her.
[09:10:04] It reminds me of something that Michael Douglas told us in the movie "Wall Street."
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MICHAEL DOUGLAS, WALL STREET: That's the thing you got to remember about wasps. They love animals. They can't stand people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: We all love our pets, right? And we worry about what happens to them if they outlive us, but a woman in Virginia took things a step further. She put in her will that when she died, her pet Shih Tzu should be killed so that they could be buried together. After the owner died in March, the dog spent two weeks in a shelter where personnel tried to talk the woman's executor out of it to no avail. Emma was then transported to a local vet's office and put down. Her remains were cremated, placed in an urn and returned to the estate.
Joining me now is Gary Francione. He's a professor of law at Rutgers University and author of several animal rights books including, "Animals as Persons." Professor, I guess the title of that book of yours is a bit of wishful thinking because at the heart of this case is that we regard animals not as persons, but as property.
GARY FRANCIONE, PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: That's right, Michael.
[09:15:00] Animals are property. They're things that we own. They don't have any inherent or intrinsic value. They only have extrinsic or external value, the value that we give them as property. That's absolutely right.
SMERCONISH: So we do, though, have laws against animal cruelty. So how the hell could this have taken place?
FRANCIONE: Well, look, we have laws against animal cruelty. They don't do very much, I have to tell you. They don't do very much at all and because the dog was her property, she had the right to value the dog the way she wished to value the dog, just as any of us who own dogs or cats or rabbits or whatever can value them.
And you can value, you know -- had this woman lived, she could have taken her dog to a veterinarian and had the dog killed. She could have taken the dog to a shelter, signed over ownership and said if you can't find a home for this dog, you can kill the dog. That's happening every single day in every place in the United States and everywhere else. People are taking their animals to veterinarians and having them killed.
She just happened to do it in a situation which has gotten some attention, but there's nothing unusual about it. I mean, really, people are killing their animals every single day because they are according a low value to their animal property. The animals are things -- animals are things that we own. We can value them high and treat them as members of our family. We can value -- accord a low value to them and use them as guard dogs or, you know, to catch mice in our stores or whatever.
I mean, they're just property, Michael. That's the problem. That is the problem and what I've been arguing for is that we ought to treat them as persons, but that requires that we think differently about them.
SMERCONISH: It's the pet personalty status that also gives us control over -- I think the wording you would use, over food animals and so if we should upend this thinking, it will have ramifications about those animal -- it would literally upset the food chart.
FRANCIONE: Well, I mean, look, people are always horrified about how we treat food animals even though they continue to eat animals and the thing there is that animals have interests. It cost money to protect their interests and so, as a result, people who are producing animals for meat or dairy or eggs or whatever are recording the level of protection to those animals that they have to accord and no more, the level of care that they have to accord in order to efficiently exploit those animals and they don't give them any more protection.
And, you know, what's sort of interesting about this reaction to what this woman did to Emma is is first of all, it indicates people don't understand that animals are property and that, you know, they can take their dog or their cat to a vet and have the dog killed or the cat killed, but they also -- what's also curious about it, Michael, is there's really no moral distinction between the dogs and cats that we love and the chickens and cows and pigs that we eat.
And, you know, I really think we need to try to think more clearly about the animal issue. Most of us think it's wrong to inflict unnecessary suffering on animals, but whatever necessity means, it means we can't impose suffering or death for reasons of pleasure or amusement or convenience and I would suggest that 99.999 percent of our animal use and the suffering and death that we impose on animals is only for pleasure, amusement or convenience.
SMERCONISH: You don't regard this as a case of euthanasia?
FRANCIONE: No, I don't. Euthanasia is when death is for the interest of -- in the interest of the animal. So if a dog had cancer that you couldn't do anything about and the animal was suffering, then you -- then killing the animal would be correctly described as euthanasia. Euthanasia is never in the interest of a healthy being, human or not. So when you kill a healthy being, you're just killing that being. We use euthanasia to make us feel better about it, but it's not euthanasia at all. It's killing and it's wrong.
SMERCONISH: Professor Gary Francione, thank you so much for being here.
FRANCIONE: Thank you for having me, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What are you saying via social media, Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages? What do we have? From Twitter, I think, "She would be prosecuted if she killed him while she was alive if the dog was healthy. What gives her authority when she is dead?"
Yes, John, there certainly seems to be a disconnect in this case. We have animal cruelty standards, as I was discussing with Professor Francione. It's almost like you can't have that dog emaciated while you're caring for the dog, but, hey, if according to your will you want it put down, we're going to allow that to take place. That's wrong.
There's also another issue here and that is the legality or lack of legality of that urn having been buried with her under Virginia law, but the whole thing is just distasteful and terrible, right?
Still to come, you remember the NFL owner who looked like he was going to jail for soliciting sex in a massage parlor? Did the complete -- did the police completely mishandle the case against Robert Kraft and did he actually save privacy rights for the rest of us?
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: You remember when the front pages blared headlines about a police sting in a Florida massage parlor and one of the people ensnared in the raid was Robert Kraft, the wealthy owner of the New England Patriots, but was the case bungled from the get-go and is Kraft actually going to end up being a champion for our privacy rights?
Joining me now is Joseph Tacopina. He's a former New York City prosecutor turned criminal defense attorney. He has filed a federal class-action civil lawsuit on behalf of 31 as yet uncharged John and Jane Does allegedly caught on tape. Counsel, who do you represent and why? What's going on in your civil suit?
JOSEPH TACOPINA, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, we represent at least 31 people, a class (ph) of individuals who went into this massage parlor, licensed massage parlor I might add, to get legitimate massages and somehow wound up -- and by the way committed no wrongdoing, no allegations of wrongdoing, no criminality and somehow wound up being surreptitiously, illegally recorded by police in a state of undress or partial undress.
And so it's a nightmare. It's as if they put a camera in a bathroom and recorded people going to the bathroom. I mean, these people ranging from 40 year old males to 75 year old females in a state of undress, Michael, getting massages. Nothing more. Legitimate massages and wound up on a videotape that is perilously close to being put out into the public domain.
SMERCONISH: In other words, there was no -- I think the word we would use is minimization. There was no minimization strategy here by law enforcement. They just recorded everybody.
TACOPINA: Which is illegal. It's a basic tenant of any surveillance, be it wiretap or videotape surveillance, that when a court authorized the highest invasion of privacy intrusion, that the court has to be sure that what the police are capturing is criminality, OK?
[09:25:10] And what they have to do is what you just said called minimize. It's a basic tenant of any surveillance. So minimization is when the police have to watch the videos or listen to the recordings, but in this case the videos and make sure that criminality is occurring. If criminality, is not occurring, they must shut off the videotape and that's not what happened here.
They let it rip 24/7 for five days. I guess they went off and got lunch or something, but no one was monitoring it to the point where they were shutting off activities that were not illegal and they were recording innocent individuals in a state of undress. That's why that tape ...
SMERCONISH: All right. Let's ...
[09:05:07] TACOPINA: ... was ultimately deemed illegal and suppressed.
SMERCONISH: Let's see if we can upend conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is to look at Kraft and say, oh, the wealthy guy, he beat the rap. You know, shame on him.
SMERCONISH: Counsel, should we all be thanking him because he had the resources to fight and, no pun intended, expose this? Because if it had been a person of lesser means, maybe they would have taken their lumps and all the people you now represent who weren't doing anything that they shouldn't have been doing, would never have had their rights protected.
TACOPINA: Yes. We should be thanking him. I mean, bill Burke and Alex Spiro, his lawyers, have done a great job sort of pushing this envelope to the -- to the limit to show that what was done here was illegal and they've done really exposed -- I mean, don't forget, the state attorney, Aronberg, went out when this arrest occurred and pronounced that even in Jupiter, Florida there's slavery. They went on this whole ruse of a human sex trafficking organization which wasn't taking place. As a matter of fact, they subsequently admitted there was no human sex trafficking.
So this was just all about some people going into a massage parlor and getting additional services, a misdemeanor offense at best if it happened and so, you know, if this was not pushed and exposed and if it was Robert Smith, not Robert Kraft, we would have never known what happened here and there were some serious invasions of privacy rights for the citizens of Jupiter, Florida and serious violations of the law by law enforcement.
SMERCONISH: One other aspect of this that I think bears on the privacy rights -- correct me if I'm wrong. When cars were then pulling out of the strip center, again no pun intended ...
SMERCONISH: ... where this spa was located, they were just being pulled over without any probable cause so that law enforcement could learn the identity of who had just left the premise. Am I right in that?
TACOPINA: You're right in that also. I mean, they made up some pretextual reason for a stop. I think that was even admitted to in testimony at the hearing, but again, it's what we call fruits of the poisonous tree. The poisonous tree is the illegal videotaping of these individuals.
Don't forget there were Fourth Amendment violations also. They should never have had the videotape in there in the first place because there was no human sex trafficking, but taken a step further, once they get evidence from something that was subsequently deemed illegal, the rest of the evidence that flows from that is also illegal or suppressed. The stops never should have happened. The information derived from these illegal stops would also be suppressed.
So this case should have been dismissed about one minute after the tapes were suppressed, but for some reason the prosecutor is hanging on, the state attorney, Aronberg, is hanging on to this case, trying to appeal something that's non-appealable. So I really don't know ...
SMERCONISH: By the way ...
TACOPINA: ... why we can't just move on.
SMERCONISH: Yes. By the way, I've invited him on to discuss this lest anybody think that that side wouldn't be represented. And this is the reason I wanted you, Joe. This was literally page one everywhere when ...
SMERCONISH: ... it was first announced that Kraft was caught up in this and it was literally -- I'm thinking of "The Times" -- B14 when the case unraveled ...
SMERCONISH: And it's just a shame like sometimes we don't go back and say, hey, what happened in that case? Well, this is what happened in that case.
TACOPINA: Michael, you said it perfectly because when it first happened, there were press conferences and everyone was there from the sheriff to the state attorney, Aronberg. He was on every television show and it was -- you know, it caused public concern because they kept saying human sex trafficking and it was -- obviously that never happened. They admitted that never happened, but now when they've done something wrong and everything that they promised in the early days of the press conferences fell apart it sort of is a, you know, like you said, a back-page story and it's not right and it's not fair.
SMERCONISH: Joseph Tacopina ...
TACOPINA: And Robert Kraft, by the way, who I don't represent, has done some very good things for this community and film product (ph) individual and the way he has been treated in this case I don't think is right.
SMERCONISH: Joseph Tacopina, thanks for being here.
TACOPINA: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: People can send all their e-mail to Joe, not to me, on this segment because I know what the reaction will be like, but that's OK. What do we have, Catherine? From Twitter, "At the end of the day, Robert Kraft committed a crime. He solicited prostitution not once, but twice and all his fighting is just to take away from what he truly did. He broke the law and he should pay the price."
Really, Jim? And what about -- let's take Counsel Tacopina at face value. What about his 70-year-old female client who was getting a legitimate massage in that spa -- in that spa, disrobed for the purpose of that massage and she's caught on tape, too? No, sorry. I'm happy Kraft fought it for all of our privacy rights.
I want to remind to you answer the survey question of the day at Smerconish.com. Does President Trump actually want to be impeached?
Up ahead, why are as many as one-third of the students in affluent public high schools being given extra time for SATs? Are they gaining the system?
And he led special ops for years including the raid that captured and killed Osama bin Laden, Navy Admiral William McRaven is here with this and other amazing war stories. And by the way, find out why this song has meaning to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LITTLE RIVER BAND, ROCK BAND (singing): Happy anniversary baby got you on my mind. Happy anniversary baby got you my mind.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: When it's time to take the SAT or the ACT, how likely is it for a high school student to qualify as having special needs when it comes to getting extra time or other accommodations?
Well, turns out it depends where they live. In public schools in poor areas, it's 1.6 percent. In wealthier neighborhoods, how about Scarsdale, New York, it's 1-5 or 20 percent. Weston, Connecticut, 25 percent. Newton North High School outside of Boston, 33 percent.
Those are the findings of the "Wall Street Journal." In this story, many more students especially the affluent get extra time to take the SAT. Well, my next guest experienced this first hand when he took a standardized test at a high school in New Trier High School in suburban Chicago. Ezra Wallach joins me now, and then he wrote about it for his high school newspaper including this story, "Testing accommodations four times the national average."
So, Ezra, you're taking the SAT or the ACT, what did you see?
EZRA WALLACH, HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: Yes. So basically what I saw is on -- I was seeing a lot of my friends and classmates going in different classrooms based on what they would have gone or and based on their last name.
So, I looked at my school Web site. They had all of the room numbers listed based on alphabetical order. And basically what I saw is one in four kids were outlined based on their last name.
So I went to the administration I found out that that number was correct. And then also what happened as I started talking to my friends and a lot of them are frustrated that they had kids in A.P. classes or accelerated classes -- they were getting extra time in the SAT when they weren't because they were competing with them against some of the same high schools.
And I also heard from a lot of kids that the new friends or siblings that had gone to doctors and got a fake ADHD or (INAUDIBLE) diagnose and kind of went with that diagnosis and used it to get extra time or accommodations on the SAT and ACT.
SMERCONISH: So bottom line, a quarter, a quarter of your classmates received an accommodation. I think you just used the word "fake." So that answers my next question which was, do you think all needed it?
WALLACH: Basically, ADHD in general is very over diagnosed in the United States as a whole. So, I mean, there's definitely a percentage of kids in my school who did need the individualized education plan or the 504 plan. But there are also a good percentage of kids who are misdiagnosed who use that to get extra time.
And then I'd say there are about 5 percent or higher of kids who would go into doctors, go in with the idea faking ADHD which is the idea that they got from their parents and then use that to get extra time or accommodations on the standardized test which by the way is very easy to do --
SMERCONISH: Ezra --
SMERCONISH: I'm worried and I think you're probably worried, too, about a student who has ADHD. A student who suffers from significant anxiety. The thing we want to do here is protect them but make sure nobody is taking advantage of the system, right? That's the goal.
WALLACH: Yes, I mean, the whole system for accommodation is trying to make the test more equitable. And that's what it does when you give kids who really have ADHD, who really have learning disability extra time. But what happens when these kids who don't actually need the accommodation is getting extra time too it can skew the results and kind of delegitimatize the kids who actually need the extra time. And it kind of makes the whole system unequitable because these kids who are actually getting it -- an advantage because of the extra time that they have versus the kids who are at a disadvantage because of the accommodations that they actually need.
SMERCONISH: Where are you headed? Where are you going to school?
WALLACH: Colorado College. Colorado Springs.
SMERCONISH: Good for you. And hopefully, an investigative journalist when you come out of there.
WALLACH: Yes, I'll try my best. We'll see what happen.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Ezra. Congrats.
WALLACH: Thank you. Thank you. SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and your Facebook comments. What do we got?
If I had to take the SATs or ACTs in this testing area, I would definitely develop anxiety.
Well, you know my feelings. I've talked about this for a long, long time. I think we put far too much attention on how you perform on one Saturday morning.
By the way, I'll just say this, the reaction we have is we hear that these wealthy communities have a quarter of students getting extra time. And you say, oh, that's outrageous. They're gaming the system.
You know, there's a different interpretation which is to say that they have the resources in those areas for a proper diagnosis. And it's a shame that in the poor areas, the kids who suffer from ADHD and have anxiety issues, they go unrecognized before they lack that type of analysis.
So, you know, there are two ways of looking at this. And I suspect that the truth as it usually does, lies somewhere in between.
All right. Still to come, it is Memorial Day weekend. Our next guest commanded SEAL Team 6 when they killed Osama bin Laden. Now Admiral William McRaven has written the story of that day and others leading special ops. And you may remember his previous book which was a number one best-seller about the importance of making your bed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADMIRAL WILLIAM MCRAVEN (RET), FORMER COMMANDER OF U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS FORCES: If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: This weekend, we think about those who gave their lives for our nation. We salute those who have worn the uniform of their country.
My next guest was a Navy SEAL for 37 years. He commanded at every level. Retiring as a four star admiral, his final assignment was as commander of all U.S. special operations forces which of course included SEAL Team 6 and the raid on Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden.
[09:45:06] You remember he wrote a number one "New York Time's" bestseller called "Make Your Bed" which arose out of a commencement address that he delivered which went viral.
The new book is called "Sea Stories, My Life In Special Operations." A privilege to honor and welcome Admiral William McRaven. By the way, Admiral, I woke up and I made my bed and not just because I knew you were going to be on the show today/
MCRAVEN: Good on you, Michael. It's great to be here.
SMERCONISH: I've wondered how these missions get their name. It was you who decided that what became the raid on Abbottabad would be Neptune's Spear, apostrophe and all. How come?
MCRAVEN: Right. You're right. Normally you have some computer that generates an innocuous name so that frankly you can't tie the mission to the name. But in this case, I took a little bit of commander's liberty, if you will, I had a small figurine that we had purchased in Venice many years before and I thought it was very symbolic.
It had Poseidon, the sea god riding on a -- this kind of mythical seahorse. He had his spear in hand. And I didn't want to name the mission after Poseidon frankly for fear that if it went wrong people would remember the Poseidon adventure. But I thought Poseidon appropriately captured the Navy SEALs and of course the seahorses were the helicopters we were riding on from those great army aviators from the 160th Special Operations Squadron Regiment.
So I thought Neptune's spear was the right thing to call this mission. With an apostrophe.
SMERCONISH: Much like an NFL coach -- with an apostrophe, right -- which the computer couldn't handle.
SMERCONISH: Much like an NFL coach on Super Bowl Sunday who is addressing guys who were Pop Warner players, high school, college and now in the pros for the big game. It fell to you to speak to the operators who were about to go on this mission to get bin Laden. What were the last words that you spoke to them?
MCRAVEN: Yes, so, to your point, and obviously, the seriousness of a mission like this far eclipses anything you're going to see in the Super Bowl. But it's interesting because the guys approach it like game day to some degree.
So they were standing around the fire pit. They had -- were finished putting on their kit. And I came to talk to them and I hadn't really thought about what I was going to say until as I approached the guys kind of standing around the fire pit, getting ready to go on a mission.
And I realized that every one of them since 9/11 had thought about this day and would they be the guy to go on the mission. So my message to them was simple.
Every one of you had wanted to be the man going on the mission to get bin Laden. Well, this is the mission and you are the men. So let's go get bin Laden.
SMERCONISH: You know, Admiral, as I read the book and you referenced the movie, so I know we're both fans of "It's A Wonderful Life."
SMERCONISH: And it strikes me that you've got a little George Bailey in you. The Stray 59, Philippines 1981
SMERCONISH: You were too -- have been on a plane where 23 of 24 lost their lives. If we lost Admiral McRaven, a lot of subsequent missions would have been impacted.
MCRAVEN: Well, that may or may not be true, Michael. What I would offer is, you know, anytime you lose men in combat or in training, you realize hundreds or thousands of lives are affected. And obviously losing the great Air Force pilots and crew on Stray 59 was something I never forgot.
And I always ask myself, you know, why were they lost when their families would have wanted them around and yet, somehow, myself and others were saved? And I wasn't the only one that might have been on that plane that night.
But it does, you know, help you reflect on the importance of destiny. And the fact that life is fragile, sometimes. And you have to be very, very careful.
It also helped me take a harder look at the missions we did with our AC-130s and our C-130s in the future. And if that lost meant anything and to those families -- the lost crew (ph) men (ph) there (ph), you know, my heart to this day goes to them. But I hope that that lost was able to be reflected in me to make better decisions about the air crews that would follow in the footsteps of Stray 59.
SMERCONISH: We've all heard the song. I want to just play five seconds of it and then ask why it has significance to Admiral McRaven. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LITTLE RIVER BAND (singing): Happy anniversary baby got you on my mind
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: What does that have to do with a four star admiral?
(LAUGHTER) MCRAVEN: Well, as simple as it sounds, you know, I think everybody getting ready to jump out of an airplane generally has a little tradition that they bring with it.
Something that they hope will keep them safe. And as strange as it sounds every time I stood in line, getting ready to jump out of the back of a helicopter, a C-130, I always played that in my mind and I sung it quietly to myself. At least I hope quietly to myself. I hope nobody else was listening and somehow felt that those words would protect me as I jumped from the plane. It worked most of the time, but not always.
SMERCONISH: I want to read a paragraph before I let you go. It's my favorite part of the book and it says this, "As the casualties mounted and my daily routine involved visits to the combat hospital, I never forgot the kindness of those who helped me through the tough times after my accident. Not a week went by without some wounded soldier pleading with me to keep them in special operations. They didn't need that second leg. They could see fine out of just one eye. They shot better with a prosthetic hand. But as the commander, I had a job to do. There were rules to be followed, people to be notified, forms to be filled out. I had to follow the regulations. But somehow my damn staff kept losing the paperwork. One of these days I need to check into that."
Hey, Admiral, you still haven't gotten around to checking into that, have you?
MCRAVEN: No, I still haven't. You know, Michael just yesterday in fact, a young sailor was asking me, you know, how I made it through the challenging times. And I told her, I said, it was simple, you know, you spend time around the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, these great civilians that work for us and you can't help but be inspired by their courage, by their commitment, by their sense of duty, and then you go to the combat hospitals and you see these young kids who have been horrifically wounded and all they want to do is to get back to their unit. Man, if you can't be inspired by that, you don't have a soul.
SMERCONISH: The book is great. Thank you so much for being here.
MCRAVEN: My pleasure, Michael. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and best worst tweets and Facebook comments and the results of the survey question, last chance to vote.
Does President Trump actually want to be impeached?
Go to Smerconish.com.
[09:55:37] SMERCONISH: Survey results from Smerconish.com.
Does President Trump actually want to be impeached?
Survey says 9,789 votes cast, the yeses, 57 percent, the nos, 43 percent.
One more social media reaction, that's all we've got time for. What came in, Katherine (ph), during the course of the program?
Smerconish, great to hear Robert Kraft's story may have a happy ending.
Well, Gary it has got a happy ending for him but what I was trying to bring out through Joe Tacopina is it perhaps has a happy ending for all of us. That didn't sound right -- because of the privacy implications of the case. That was the whole lesson today.
Make sure that you're joining me for the next stops in my American Life In Columns tour, Washington, D.C. next. Then Denver, Colorado, Sunnyvale is sold out.
You can catch up with us anytime on CNN Go and On Demand. Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. I'll see you next week.