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SMERCONISH

Can Trump lose by 5 million votes and still win?; Trump could lose popular vote, but win by one electoral vote; Are fears about American deaths in Dominican Republic overblown?; State Department: "Have not seen an uptick" in U.S. deaths in Dominican Republic; Trump approves, then cancels strike on Iran; Escalation with Iran: How did we get here? Aired 9-10a ET

Aired June 22, 2019 - 09:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Might Democrats increase their popular vote margin over Donald Trump in 2020, but still lose the White House? Let me give you some background.

Later today, 21 presidential candidates are expected to speak at the South Carolina Democratic convention and much of the attention will probably focus on the final two, former Vice President Joe Biden, New Jersey senator Cory Booker who disagreed this week as to whether Biden needed to apologize after speaking of the need for civility and citing his past ability to reach across the aisle, even to segregationists.

On the surface, it would appear that the party and its candidates are in a robust position. Democrats are coming off a strong showing in the 2018 midterm elections in which their candidates picked up 40 seats en route to taking control of the House of Representatives and despite a strong economy, the president's approval rating, according to "Gallup", is stuck at 43 percent. He's the only president in the history of "Gallup" to never crack 50 percent.

Headed into the first Democratic debates next week, Joe Biden is atop the Democratic polls, but he's not the only Democratic candidate who beats Donald Trump in head-to-head hypotheticals. A "Quinnipiac" poll released on June 11 with a margin of error of 3.5 percent showed Vice President Biden ahead of President Trump 53-40. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders over Trump 51-42. California senator Kamala Harris leads 49- 41. Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, 49-42. South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, 47-42 and New Jersey senator Cory Booker, he also wins over Trump 47-42.

In the face of these odds, the president said something very interesting to "TIME" this week. When asked about whether he should reach out to swing voters, the president said, "I think my base is so strong, I'm not sure that I have to do that." Well he's not alone in thinking that such narrowcasting is possible, but there's a very small margin for error if the Trump plan is to rely entirely on turnout and not turn about among some voter opinions.

In 2016 Donald Trump, lost the popular vote by almost 3 million, while winning the electoral college by 74. That thin margin was enabled by upsets in three usually Democratic states, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. Trump won by a combined total of 77,744. "Axios" reported this week that some Democratic strategists are already predicting that Trump will again lose the popular vote, but might still win the electoral college.

One scenario by an independent political reporter has Democrats winning the popular vote by as many as 5 million votes and taking back Michigan and Pennsylvania in the process while Trump narrowly holds Arizona, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin. In that scenario, Trump wins the White House by one electoral vote.

That is a Democratic nightmare scenario tweeted it out by David Wasserman of "The Cook Political Report" who joins me now. David, what is the swing-o-matic? It sounds like something that Ron Popeil invented in the 1970s.

DAVID WASSERMAN, HOUSE EDITOR/POLITICAL ANALYST, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Well, it's actually a tool that FiveThirtyEight.com and I developed in 2015 and what it does is it allows users to adjust the turnout and support levels among five key demographic groups to see what impact that would have on the electoral college. And what I was trying to show before the 2016 election was that it was possible that Donald Trump could win the White House while losing the popular vote.

Now, that ended up happening by 3 million votes. Donald Trump fell short to Hillary Clinton nationally, but still won the electoral college quite comfortably with 306 votes. He could lose by 5 million votes in the popular vote in 2020 and still win and the reason is that his demographic groups where he's uniquely unpopular tend to be concentrated in states that aren't decisive in the electoral college.

So for example, Asians, rich white people, a group that's trending towards Democrats, are concentrated on the coasts. Hispanics, who are growing in numbers, they are concentrated -- a majority of Hispanics live in just three states, California, Texas and New York. Mormons, with whom Trump was uniquely unpopular, in the Mountain West and states that are not remotely close to the electoral college.

Where Donald Trump really gets his mojo is from Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, the states where working class white shares are really, really high.

SMERCONISH: OK, but why -- and you tweeted on this subject.

[09:05:01] Why would Donald Trump, in 2020, be able to win even if he can't sustain victory in Pennsylvania? Why could he hold Wisconsin and not PA? Because so many of us tend to put those two states and a handful of others in the same category.

WASSERMAN: That's right, Michael. Look, I think the six decisive states in 2020 are going to be the Rust Belt trio of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania and the Sun Belt trio of North Carolina, Arizona and Florida. And if I had to pick two states that will be, I think, the most decisive or tipping point states in this election, I would think Wisconsin and Arizona. Now, the reason Wisconsin is a bit different from Michigan and Pennsylvania, if you look at the ratio of working-class white voters to African-Americans who are the most reliable part of the Democratic base, well, in Pennsylvania, it's 50 to 10, in Michigan it's 53 to 13, but in Wisconsin, it's 57 to 6. So Wisconsin has the highest share of the voters who tend to be trending away from Democrats and towards the Trump coalition over the long-term.

SMERCONISH: So it sounds like David Wasserman from "The Cook Political Report" is actually buying into some of what the president said to "TIME," that perhaps he can get it done with his base alone and there's no need for him to, quote-unquote, "expand the tent."

WASSERMAN: Well, look, he's delusional if he thinks that he can compete in Oregon or New Mexico, which, you know, he and his advisers are touting, but he does have a narrow route to re-election that involves much the same path that he won in 2016. He can afford to lose Michigan and Pennsylvania as long as he holds on to Florida, which, by the way, seems to be trending away from Democrats at the moment because of the Midwestern retirees who are migrating south along that I-75 Gulf Coast Panhandle corridor.

But his chances of winning re-election, in my opinion, are much better than his approval ratings would indicate or that Democrats would like to believe.

SMERCONISH: I was eager to have you on the program at the outset, you know, as we get into the next 17 or so months to disabuse us all of the notion that we should be focused on these head-to-head match-ups that are interesting, but they're not outcome determinative. And one other observation and I'll let you respond to this. You know that there was a hue and cry last time over the fact that we had a disconnect between a 3-million vote margin for Hillary and yet a victory for Donald Trump in the electoral college.

It gave rise to this movement now where a number of states are saying that they'll no longer be committed to the electoral college. Can you imagine where we'll end up if 5 million is the margin for someone other than Donald Trump and he, nevertheless, wins the White House?

WASSERMAN: Well, look, it's already a Democratic rallying cry that the electoral college is undemocratic, but it's not going to change anytime soon and the reason is that Republicans still control legislators in states that would be sufficient to block the national popular vote compact from taking effect.

So Democrats have to play under the rules that exist and they have to find a candidate who's broadly appealing beyond the coasts and right now that looks very challenging for the Democrats, especially considering that you have, you know, a couple of contenders Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, for example, who come from places like Massachusetts and San Francisco.

SMERCONISH: Final question, one-word answer. If I gave you a crystal ball and allowed you to see the outcome of one state in 2020, what do you most want to know? What state? WASSERMAN: Arizona.

SMERCONISH: Arizona. Interesting. I thought you'd go with Wisconsin. OK. David, thank you as always.

WASSERMAN: Toss-up between the two.

SMERCONISH: I really appreciate your expertise.

WASSERMAN: Thanks a lot, Michael.

SMERCONISH: OK. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com. This hour, here's the survey question. Can President Trump be reelected in 2020 without expanding his base? What do we have? From Facebook, "I think it would be hilarious if Trump lost the popular vote by 5 million and still won the electoral college," says Joel, "It would once again demonstrate why the founders created," -- boy, this is hard for me to read. Keep flipping. "The electoral college. So states like California and New York can't determine an election simply because," -- look, bottom line, I get Joel's point.

I think that if the margin were to be 5 million, in that hypothetical, it would give rise to this movement. It would give great heft to this movement, even beyond just blue states, to reconsider the electoral college. I think it really could strengthen that cause. Make sure you're tweeting me at Smerconish.com during the course of the hour and voting on the survey question. Can't wait to see the result.

Still to come, there's been a flurry of recent reports about a surge in the number of Americans dying at resorts in the Dominican Republic. Is this a genuine troubling trend or just a self-perpetuating news myth?

[09:10:01] And this week, Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone. President Trump ordered a retaliatory attack, then called it off at the last minute. So who's responsible for the escalation and where are we headed?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not looking for war and if there is, it'll be obliteration like you've never seen before, but I'm not looking to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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SMERCONISH: It's dominated headlines over the past few weeks. American tourists dine in the Dominican Republic, some under what their families say are suspicious circumstances. And there have been more stories of tourists saying they fell ill or were poisoned while on vacation. The constant media coverage of the deaths and illnesses has led to the belief that there's this sudden uptick in American deaths in the DR, but here's the thing. That perception doesn't match the data. So far, seven Americans have died in the DR this calendar year. Some from natural causes, some maybe not. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause for some of those deaths. But if you look at the raw numbers, these deaths, while tragic, are not out of the ordinary. According to the State Department, 13 Americans died in the DR last year.

[09:15:03] That's from non-natural causes, meaning the total number could be higher. In 2017, the State Department says 17 Americans died in the country from non-natural causes. In 2016, that number was 18. There may be suspicious circumstances around some of the recent deaths. The FBI confirmed that it is sending investigators to the DR to help local authorities their investigate the American deaths, but the State Department released a statement and said this.

"We do not publish statistics regarding natural deaths abroad. However, speaking generally, over 2.7 million U.S. citizens visit the Dominican Republic each year and we have not seen an uptick in the number of U.S. citizen deaths reported to the department."

Bottom line, American deaths in the DR are not on the rise. This reminds me of the summer of 2001 when a perfect storm of circumstances led to a shark attack hysteria. A few high-profile attacks, paired with a slow news summer led to wall-to-wall coverage of the attacks. Anybody remember the name Jessie Arbogast? "TIME" magazine dubbed it the "Summer of the Shark." People were convinced that shark attacks were drastically on the rise.

Well, turns out, again, it was more hype than fact. According to the International Shark Attack File. there were 76 unprovoked attacks in 2001, nine fewer than the year before and deaths from sharks dropped by seven from the year prior.

As Steven Pinker points out in his TED talk, "Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers," it's the nature of media to report on the tragedies, the crimes, the attacks and it's human nature to be pessimistic and fatalistic even when the numbers don't back up the fear causing us to think the world is getting worse, more violent, less safe when the numbers actually prove otherwise.

Up ahead, with hundreds of visitors, even tour buses visiting Columbine High School each year, the district is thinking of knocking down the building where so many died in 1999 and replacing it. Will that cure the problem? I'll ask the man who was the school's principal on that fateful day.

Plus, tensions are high in the Mideast after President Trump came within minutes of attacking Iran for downing our surveillance drone, but who started it?

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[09:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) SMERCONISH: This week, after Iran shot down an unmanned drone, President Trump ordered a retaliatory attack and then rescinded it with only minutes to spare saying that the projected 150 deaths would, quote, "not be proportionate." This followed the U.S. ending the nuclear treaty and imposing new sanctions. So who's to blame for the escalation and where are we headed next?

Joining me now to discuss is Laura Rozen, the diplomatic correspondent for "Al-Monitor," and Adam Turner. He's former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee and currently general counsel for the "Endowment for Middle East Truth." He wrote a recent piece for "Newsmax" titled, "Trump Must collapse Iranian Regime by Continuing Maximum Pressure."

Laura, let me begin with you. How did we get here? What began this series of events?

LAURA ROZEN, DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT, AL-MONITOR: Well, a couple months ago, the Trump administration basically removed all the waivers for the countries that were buying smaller amounts of Iranian oil and since then, we've seen Iran's aggression increase in the region to the point that we almost came to military conflict the end of this week.

So President Trump says that he wants to get to the table with Iran. He's worried about their nuclear program. He needs to ask his team how to get him to the table with Iran and that's not what they've been able to deliver him so far.

SMERCONISH: Adam, I was on the air yesterday in real-time. The president tweeted and I had to react. In fact, Catherine, put that tweet up, the tweet about the 150 casualty that really has spurred this latest conversation. "On Monday, they shot down an unmanned drone flying in international waters. We were cocked and loaded to retaliate last -- retaliate last night on three different sites when I asked how many will die? '150 people, sir,' was the answer from a general. Ten minutes before the strike, I stopped it."

Adam, it was a phone caller of mine. It was a woman from North Carolina who, as I was going through this series of events, said to me, wait a minute, isn't that the sort of information he'd have known before 10 minutes out? Wouldn't he have asked that or wouldn't that have been a part of his briefing? A great question, she asks, right?

ADAM TURNER, GENERAL COUNSEL, ENDOWMENT FOR MIDDLE EAST TRUTH: I really wouldn't know what he would know. I would assume he would, but it may also be that he's just saying that because he wants Iran to think that it's skating on thin ice.

SMERCONISH: You think that he's intentionally portraying volatility? I don't want to put words in your mouth, but tell me why that would be the deliberate approach?

TURNER: He may not want them to know exactly what he plans to do and he's very unpredictable and he seems to like to be unpredictable.

SMERCONISH: Right, but how can our allies rely on -- how can our opponents rely on him if there's this volatility to every one of his responses to such a serious situation?

TURNER: Well, I'm not sure we want our enemy in this case, Iran, to know exactly what's happening.

SMERCONISH: Laura, you want in on this? I'm confused.

ROZEN: I think Trump, you know, has made clear that he's not interested in getting involved in another big Middle Eastern war and he's worried that his base, a lot of his base doesn't want another big military commitment. So in some ways, maybe he's trying to telegraph the reason that he didn't want to go and he was trying to look compassionate like there would have been an escalation.

We saw in reports overnight that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Dunford, General Dunford, was very worried about potential Iranian retaliation if the U.S. had done a military strike. We have a lot of U.S. forces, 5,000 U.S. forces in Iraq and throughout the region, and force protection is a big issue. So this could have led to another escalation that I think Trump is eager to avoid.

SMERCONISH: As things stand now, Adam, we've done nothing. I mean, the status quo, I think everybody could agree, is unacceptable. What do you think should happen next?

TURNER: Well, I would hope that the president would continue with the maximum pressure on Iran. I think it's working. I think there are lots of protests in Iran and the people there are very much upset with the Iranian government and we should continue doing that.

SMERCONISH: Meaning economic sanctions, not military action?

[09:25:00] TURNER: That's correct, except if Iran attacks a U.S., whether it's a ship or a plane where there are Americans inside of it, I think that merits -- that merits an attack on Iranian -- excuse me -- on Iranian, whether its naval ships or Iranian forces anywhere.

SMERCONISH: In other words, the fact that -- and this apparently was significant to the president that this was an unmanned drone. That made a difference. If there were a loss of human life, he'd have had a different reaction and you think that's the appropriate standard?

TURNER: I can see why he did it. I'm not sure that it's going to matter because I have a feeling that Iran is going to continue to escalate things. So it was his call and I can understand why he did it. I'm not sure I would have made the same call because I think attacking a drone is dangerous too for the U.S. because it encourages more violence if we do nothing.

SMERCONISH: Laura, I see a lot of comparisons in the media today to President Obama and the red line in Syria. It occurs to me that if there's one way to prompt this president to take action, it is to make a comparison to Barack Obama.

ROZEN: You know, it's interesting because Trump very much on the Middle East does seem to have some of the same instincts as Obama, but very much considers himself much tougher and so -- but he continually says that he doesn't want to recommit U.S. forces to the Middle East in a big war, is looking for other countries to bear more of the burden and thinks he can get a great deal with Iran. If he'd like to do that, I think he could take a couple small steps to show the Iranians that he would like to be at the table.

You know, they've taken more than a million and a half barrels of Iranian oil off the market a day. They really are hurting Iran. The economic sanctions, as Adam says, have been very tough, maybe too tough in the latest calibration. The point of sanctions in and of themselves is to achieve some other goal. They have a long list of -- Secretary Pompeo has 12 goals they want to achieve with Iran. You don't just send Iran the list. You have to get to the table and talk to them.

I think now they to work to get at the table and that might require, you know, letting India and Japan, for instance, maybe buy a small amount of Iranian oil. That would let Iran save face to come to the table and then you can talk about all the other problems you have with Iran, including supporting Hezbollah, its support for terrorist groups, its ballistic missile activity. there are serious problems the U.S. should be talking to Iran about and I think the goal now should be to try to have some diplomatic engagement along with the maximum pressure.

SMERCONISH: Laura, Adam, thank you. Wish we had more time.

TURNER: Thank you.

ROZEN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments and see what some of the reaction is. What do we have from the social media world? "Not taking us to war will be well received. The media tries to make him appear erratic, but POTUS has been entirely consistent about not going to war with Iran."

Andrea, he has been consistent about not wanting to get us further enmeshed in the Middle East, but the volatility from a report by him that this thing was go until minutes before when he said how many are going to lose their lives and was told 150 just doesn't wash. That's the kind of information that would be provided to a commander-in- chief.

Take your pick of the front page stories today. "Washington Post," "New York Times," a variety of other outlets, they all say he was told that earlier in the day. I'm not criticizing him for not bombing Iran. I just think that the explanation and the timeline is questionable.

I want to remind everybody to answer today's survey question at my website, Smerconish.com. Can President Trump be reelected in 2020 without expanding his base?

Still to come, more than 20 years after the notorious shootings, Columbine High School has become kind of a morbid Mecca, so the school district is thinking of spending $70 million to tear it down and put up a new building nearby. Will that work? I will ask its former principal.

Plus, 72, The number is now 72 police officers who've been taken off the street here in Philadelphia, another 60 banned from testifying at trials in St. Louis all because of their inflammatory Facebook posts. I'll talk to the founder of the project that led to their exposure.

[09:33:15]

SMERCONISH: On April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were killed at Columbine High School at a massacre that shocked the nation. And now more than 20 years later, the school district is considering demolishing the school as it has become a source of infatuation for a subculture that idolizes teenage shooters. This discussion has played out at sites of outer mass shootings.

Sandy Hook Elementary School torn down, less than a year after 20 children and 6 adults were killed there. And Parkland, Florida crews are expected to break ground this summer at a project to replace building 12 of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 were killed. The new building is expected to be ready for the 2020 school year.

The Pulse nightclub in Orlando it's still stands but there has been fierce debate about whether it should be torn down or remain a as a memorial to the 49 people who were killed there. A similar debate now underway at Columbine. According to school officials, tour buses stop outside the school and tourists try to enter the building or are caught trespassing.

This year's numbers, the highest on record. In a letter to the community, the superintendent of the school system wrote, "Today school safety experts recommend tearing down buildings where school shootings take place. Since the morbid fascination with Columbine has been increasing over the years, rather than dissipating, we believe it is time for our community to consider this option for the existing Columbine building."

Joining me now is the man who served as principal of the Columbine High School on that tragic day Frank DeAngelis who recently wrote a memoir title, "They Call Me Mr. De." By the way I happen to know that the proceed from that book benefit charity. Mr. De, every day you recite the name of the 13 as you tell in the memoir, the number would have been higher but for you being able to find the magic key.

[09:35:06]

Tell that story.

FRANK DEANGELIS, FORMER PRINCIPAL, COLUMBINE HIGH SCHOOL: It truly is remarkable and thank you so much for having me on this morning. Yes, I was in my office, talking to a teacher, Kiki Leyba, I was getting ready to offer him a continuing contract when my secretary came in a state and she's -- she's in a state of panic and she said, Frank, there has been a report of gunfire. And the first thing that crossed my mind is this has to be a senior prank. You know, I've been at Columbine for 20 years prior. I taught, I did some coaching and was in my third year as principal. So when I ran out of my office, my worst nightmare became a reality because I saw gun man -- the gun man coming towards me and everything just seemed to slow down and I actually went into what I later learned was fight, flight and freeze and had this sensory stimulation. And all of a sudden I saw some girls, some of my students, some of my kids coming out of the locker room to go to a physical education class.

And I ran right towards the gunfire. And I've had police officers say, Frank, why would you do that? And as educators that's what we do, we want to protect our kids.

And so I ran down there. They were unaware of what was transpiring. And as I got towards them the gunman was coming towards us, so I got them down a hallway, because I felt if we can get in the gymnasium, we could shut the door behind us and there were exit doors to get outside once we -- I surveyed the area.

Well, the plan was going forth as we anticipated until I came upon the gym door and it was locked. And we were in a state of panic. The gunman was getting closer.

We could hear the sounds of the shots getting closer. We actually heard the boots on the ground and all of a sudden, I reached into my pocket. I had a set of keys of about 35 keys on a key ring.

I reached into my pocket and the first key I pulled out I put in the door and it opened in on the first try. And we were so fortunate, because if I would have fumbled around, if I did not find that key there's a good chance the girls and I would not have survived that day.

And it was real interesting this past April was the 20-year remembrance, I had several of those girls that were with me that day, they came back, as we had kind of a reunion with the girls. And they came up and they were crying. And I started crying.

I said what's wrong? They introduced me to their daughters and said, Mr. De, if it wasn't for you finding that key I wouldn't have that these three lovely kids. And I said, I don't know if I had a whole lot (ph) and (ph) finding that key that day. So very emotional

SMERCONISH: Wow. Mr. De, on the issue of the day, whether Columbine High School should be razed, what are your thoughts?

DEANGELIS: It's interesting, you know, if you were to ask us 20 years ago when we made that decision, and I did not make it in isolation. We contacted the parents who lost their children. The injured students and their parents, community members. And at the time, we felt strongly that if we did not go back into that building then the two killers had won.

But in our wildest dreams we didn't anticipate that 20 years later, the fascination with Columbine High School will continue or is still continuing. And one of the things that we've seen over the years that some of the other shooters that have been involved whether it be at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, they have made mention of the two shooters. They really glorified those two.

And what I saw because I stayed 15 years after the shooting is the increased numbers of people that would come to Columbine that wanted to get inside the building. Many as tourists wanted to see the building but we did have others that were fascinated with the two killers.

And as you stated earlier in the opening these numbers increased. And so when Dr. Glass approached me and others to discuss this to see if we wanted to explore the opportunity to go out there. And he shared with us that there were FBI profilers, there were psychologists, criminologists, who felt by changing the site may eliminate the numbers that are so -- continue to make this trek to Columbine High School.

SMERCONISH: You would not be opposed if the decision were to tear it down?

DEANGELIS: No. The statement I made after, and I can say this in good conscious, you know, I've been a part of Columbine for 40 years. I started in 1979 as a social studies teacher. And to me, what makes Columbine so special, and we coined a phrase when I became principal that we are Columbine. It's what makes us Columbine is not the bricks and mortar but it's really the people that have walked through those doors since they had opened back in 1973.

And we have been through three major renovations since the opening back in 1973. You know, going back to 1995 we had a major renovation so the building is different than what it was for the students from '73 to 1995. And then after the tragedy in '99 we did -- we remodeled the library, the existing library where ten of our students lost their lives and other were injured is no longer there.

[09:40:02]

We created an atrium so we have the Hope Columbine permanent memorial library. And so it has been different. But, you know, one of the things that I think is so important, one of the things that we were so adamant about in getting information from alumni as we wanted to keep the name Columbine, we wanted to keep the mascot Rebels but we also realized if this was -- if this plan was to take place, then there are many things that we would want to incorporate into the new building as a part of all of the history of Columbine High School.

SMERCONISH: Of course, no easy answer. Your memoir is terrific. And I wish you good things. "They Call Me Mr. D." Thank you, Frank DeAngelis.

DEANGELIS: Thank you so much. I appreciate your support. Have a great day.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From Twitter, we got this. Are you kidding me? Tour buses to Columbine? What is wrong with people in this country? That was a heinous crime and tour buses to see this? Disgusted. Totally disgusted. Tear it down.

I share everything you've just said, Terry. I'm not sure about the tear it down part for this reason, I don't know that those people who are -- have such a macabre fascination that would want to go as a tourist to Columbine would stop even if the school were removed. There's just no easy solution.

Up next, police officers around the country are getting in trouble for hate-filled Facebook post some are removed from active duty or banned from testifying in court. I'll speak with the lawyer who launched the Plain View Project that found these postings.

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[09:45:29]

SMERCONISH: The controversy over police officers who have made inflammatory and hateful social media posts now ramping up around the country. Here in Philadelphia, 72 officers are off the street and on administrative duty, pending an internal investigation.

St. Louis, the circuit attorney has barred 60 officers from bringing their cases to her office. That's 5 percent of the city's force. And law enforcement agencies in Dallas and Lake County, Florida, now investigating similar allegations.

This is all the fallout from the work of the Plain View Project, launched to look at whether social media eroded public trust in policing. It has identified thousands of Facebook posts and comments by more than 3,500 current and former police officers in eight jurisdictions around the country.

Here's one that they found from an officer in Philadelphia -- quote -- "Here's your Miranda rights. You have the right to shut the f up. Anything you say will cause me to f'ing throat punch you."

Another from an officer in Dallas. Just another savage that needs to exterminated.

Or this from an officer in St. Louis. F these -- well, you can read it. They also share offensive memes like this one. White privilege is myth perpetrated by those who hate white people.

In Philadelphia alone, out of a thousand officers studied 330 were found to have such posts. And in a statement, the Philadelphia Police Union President John McNesby said, "Our officers are entitled to due process just like any other citizen."

So where are we headed with this? Joining me now is the founder of the Plain View Project Attorney Emily Baker-White. Emily, what was your standard for inclusion in the database?

EMILY BAKER-WHITE, FOUNDER, PLAIN VIEW PROJECT: Thank you, Michael. It's good to be with you. So, we asked one question when we look at all of these posts to determine whether they should be in the database. And that question was, is it possible that this post, this comment, this statement, this meme could have an effect on civilian trust in policing.

SMERCONISH: So, I have some additional posts. In fact, put the next one up on the screen, Katherine (ph), and we'll use that standard and take a look at this. Looks like an Antifa-type protest. Whenever these people in masks show up they should be greeted by these people, a SWAT team. Who should then send them to see these people in mask, a surgical team. That meets your standard because why?

BAKER-WHITE: This image to me indicates that police officers think that they should do violence against protesters. And police officers are actually dispatched to protest to protect protesters. And if they're not willing to do that, and if they think that protesters should be the victims of violence by police officers that's the problem.

SMERCONISH: Is it possible that the police officer, if it were a police officer who posted this, thinks it's funny, it's off-color, it's in bad taste? It may be discriminatory in some sense, but, hey, that's their morbid sense of humor, that's not the way in which they conduct themselves on the job?

BAKER-WHITE: You know, police officers have incredibly hard jobs and we all say things that we might regret later on. But in this case, if I am a person who wants to go to a protest and I'm viewing this image. That could make me think that the police officer who responds to protect me isn't in my corner because I am a protester.

And this gets to my biggest fear about this entire group of posts, right? My fear is that someone is going to see this and think that because they are protesting on the street, or because they look different or pray differently, than an officer, that if they need help, if they need to call 911, they're worried that the person who responds will not be in their corner because they are different from that officer.

SMERCONISH: Here's another one. Go ahead and run. He likes fast food. Talk to me about this image.

BAKER-WHITE: This is the image that I saw that first encouraged me to start this project and to think is there more out there than just this meme. And this is obviously a troubling image. I found this image first when I was investigating a police brutality claim during my time as an attorney at the federal community defender office in Philadelphia.

And I was investigating whether officers in a certain jurisdiction might have indicated hostility against my client and my client's family. And if I see an image like that, it seems to encourage, endorse, glorify, police brutality or violence by police dogs against citizens and suspects.

[09:50:07] And it may be that police officers need to use a dog in a certain situation. But I would hope that if they do they are now hoping that that dog hurts the suspect. People no matter what they're accused of have the right not to be subject to excessive force by police officers, not to be subject to excessive violence by police officers, and this image seems to be encouraging that.

SMERCONISH: It's very difficult to define the standard, right? Isn't this Potter Stewart discussing pornography, you know it when you see it? Maybe. I mean, there's some very difficult legal issues to be determined as to whether firing police officers or disciplining them for some of these posts would infringe on their first amendment rights. I posit that at the end because I want people to think about it.

Emily, thank you so much for being here. Appreciate it.

BAKER-WHITE: Thank you very much.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we'll give you the final results of the survey question, Can President Trump be reelected in 2020 without expanding his base.? Go vote.

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SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com today.

Can President Trump be reelected in 2020 without expanding his base?

He suggested that to "Time" magazine. 6,865 casts, the nos, nice even divide. Look at that 60, 40. The nos have it.

The correct answer is it all comes down to passion and enthusiasm. He was able to get it done with his base alone in 2016. It remains to be seen whether he can do again in 2020.

[09:55:01]

What else do we have from social media reaction?

I can see Trump winning again because of your exact point. The Electoral College is the decider, not popularity. His base is rooted in the smaller counties controlling the electoral.

T.J., that was David Wasserman's point I think was to discuss the map and to draw attention to the fact that there's a scenario where the president could actually lose the popular vote by 5 million, 3 million last time, 5 million this time, and still pull off an Electoral College victory, maybe by as thin a margin as one vote. Don't get sucked in by the national polls that show the head to head matchups is the point for all of us on both sides of the aisle.

What else came in? I think Democrats are making it too easy for {resident Trump to be reelected with far left agenda. They are catering to states that were already going to vote Democratic regardless. Forget Trump expanding. Dems need to expand.

Chris, I think a good point of what you're discussing was what happened this week with Joe Biden. Joe Biden is being asked to apologize because of a point that he made about civility.

Was it made in an awkward manner? Yes, it was, but it's a story that he's been telling. His ability to deal with Talmage or Jesse Helms or Eastland. It's a story that Joe Biden has been telling for years but in the view of 2019 -- 2019 going into 2020 lens all of a sudden it seems out of touch.

I think there's nothing wrong with saying civility is a good thing and we need to reach across the aisle.

Make sure you join me for the American Life in Columns tour. I'll be in Denver, Parker, Colorado, actually tomorrow night.

You can catch up with us anytime on CNN Go and On Demand. We'll see you next week.

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