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SMERCONISH

Here We Go; The Whistleblower Story...It's Complicated; What Was Trump Trying To Get On Hunter Biden?; Trump: "Doesn't Matter" If I Discussed Investigating The Bidens; Was Trump Request Of Ukraine Quid Pro Quo?; Warren's Growing Crowds: Low On Working-Class Voters?; Has Colin Kaepernick Been Blackballed From Playing In The NFL?; Hollywood Producer On The Importance Of Human Connection. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 21, 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: Flo Rida, Whistle. What can I say? I was looking for a song with whistleblower in the title and this was the best I could find. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. This whistleblower story is complicated. Lots of players, competing allegations, much that remains unknown, not the least of which is the complaint itself and the identity of the person who made it.

The story is also fast-moving. The last two days have been a firehose, more than a trickle of information. The reporting has evidence that investigative journalism is alive and well, at least at major outlets. At its root, we have political opponents accusing each other of the same thing -- using the power of their office for personal political gain. And please spare me your you're drawing a moral equivalence tweets and e-mails. I'm just trying to summarize a complex story.

Think about this. Viewed hypothetically in the worst light for each, you have President Trump wanting Ukraine to investigate the business activities of Hunter Biden, the son of his potential rival former Vice President Joe Biden. Gunter Biden was a well-paid board member of an energy firm owned by an oligarch that had come under scrutiny. Asking a foreign government to address possible corruption before being the beneficiary of U.S. aid isn't itself unusual or illicit, but where the president had a personal stake in the outcome, it becomes problematic and potentially criminal.

Critics say that leveraging the presidency could rise to the level extortion and conspiracy. Trump raises similar questions of propriety about Vice President Biden. To hear Rudy Giuliani tell it, when in March of 2016 the then vice president threatened Ukraine with the loss of $1 billion in loan guarantees unless it fired a prosecutor, then looking at a company where Hunter Biden had ties, it was Joe Biden who was leveraging his office.

Ironically, it would later be the Trump administration that held up financial support for Ukraine due to concerns about corruption. Trump and Giuliani make their claims despite reports that say the investigation of Hunter Biden had already been shelved by the time Vice President Biden threatened the loss of loan guarantees. "The New York Times" notes that, quote, "Hunter Biden sat on the board of an energy company that had been in the sights of the ousted prosecutor general."

Meanwhile, despite the fact that we haven't seen the complaint, don't know the whistleblower identity, many are suiting up in their usual red or blue armor ready to serve as judge, jury and executioner. I, too, am eager for answers, but content to let the process play itself out. A complaint has been lodged. I happen to think we should see it and the transcript of the July 25 call between President Trump and Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But before that'll happen, we first need to resolve the standoff between Michael Atkinson, the IG of the intel community, and Joseph Maguire, the acting head of national intel, the latter of who is scheduled to testify in open session before a congressional committee next Thursday. In the meantime, let's continue to demand answers from everybody and then look at the evidence and think critically. Only then can we be sure whether anyone used their office for the benefit of themselves and not the nation.

I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer this survey question. What do you think the political impact of the whistleblower complaint will be on President Trump, devastating, benign, helpful?

With me now is someone who can explain it all, staff writer at "The New Yorker" Adam Entous who wrote this piece titled, "Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father's Campaign?" Adam, you have been to the Ukraine, you had access to Hunter Biden over a period of weeks, you wrote this 12,000 word piece for "The New Yorker" on the underlying facts. I want to ask a couple of questions. Did Vice President Biden know of his son's role in Burisma when he told Ukraine to fire the prosecutor?

ADAM ENTOUS, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORKER: At that point, yes, he would have known because it had been reported in the press and one of his aides had mentioned it to him just to kind of give him a heads up that he might be asked questions, The issue there is, you know, the American government was pushing that prosecutor's predecessors to investigate Burisma. It was that prosecutor's predecessor who decided to drop the case and I've seen no evidence at all that that prosecutor that we're talking about there that Giuliani is quoting had relaunched the investigation.

[09:05:06] So, you know, at this point, I don't really see where the foundation is for the Giuliani argument and for this particular prosecutor's argument that that case had been open at the time when Vice President Biden sought the firing of that prosecutor.

SMERCONISH: I asked the question of how knowledgeable would Vice President Biden have been of his son's activities in Burisma because what I took away from your 12,000 word essay, an investigative piece, was that there was, for lack of a better description, a don't ask, don't tell policy that seemed to govern their relationship. Is that fair? ENTOUS: Yes. No, from the beginning of Joe Biden's political career, since his brother's business activities, Jimmy Biden, and his son Hunter Biden, they basically wouldn't tell their father anything about their clients and their father didn't ask about that and this sort of arrangement was designed to protect both sides so that the brother, Jimmy, and Hunter can do their business deals without needing to, you know, worry about the potential implications for Joe Biden and so Joe Biden can honestly say when reporters asked that he had no knowledge of the business activities that they were involved in.

That was an arrangement that obviously came back in this case to kind of bite all of them.

SMERCONISH: So OK. Based on the published accounts then, you think that Joe Biden would have known of his son's involvement in Burisma whether calling for the dismissal of the current or past prosecutor. Did the vice president know that the prosecution was looking at Burisma at a time when he was making this demand about loan guarantees?

ENTOUS: You know, I don't know because, you know, we know that in May 2014, "The Wall Street Journal" publishes a story when Burisma makes it public that Hunter Biden is on the board. We don't know if Joe Biden at that point read the news clips. So he might have read it in the clips, right? That are obviously sent to the vice president. We known -- we know that Biden's aides did not raise it with him because they were reluctant to do so. We know that Hunter Biden, from Hunter told me this, that he never told his father about it.

So, you know, I don't know if Joe Biden had seen it in the clips and maybe heard about it by the time later when he's having the discussion with the Ukrainian president about having Shokin, the prosecutor, fired. He may have been aware of it, but the issue there is is that that prosecutor was not investigating Burisma and Hunter Biden.

SMERCONISH: Joe Biden said yesterday, and I'm paraphrasing, that no credible news outlet has found any credibility to these allegations. Is that fair?

ENTOUS: Yes. I think that's largely fair. I mean, I think there are legitimate questions about the decision that Hunter made in taking this lucrative position on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian company, at a time when his father was involved in dictating and in many ways shaping policy in Ukraine. That was a questionable decision.

The State Department at the time publicly said it wasn't a conflict because they described Hunter as a private person, but privately, you know, State Department officials and NSC officials were grumbling at the time that it made -- you know, that it raised questions about, you know, the U.S. position, which Biden was pushing, that the Ukrainians needed to address corruption issues.

SMERCONISH: I thought that the word choice in "The Times" today was interesting and they've used it before so I think it's very deliberate, "Hunter Biden sat on the board of an energy company that had been in the sights of the ousted prosecutor general." Is that a fair statement?

ENTOUS: I don't think that that's an accurate statement. He had been in the sights of the prosecutor general in 2014. That's not the prosecutor general that we're talking about here. We're talking about a prosecutor general that took the job in 2015. So the case was dismissed before that prosecutor general actually became the prosecutor general. It was his predecessors who dismissed the case in early 2015 before he took the job. So, you know, actually I'm not -- I'm not sure that that's an accurate statement.

SMERCONISH: Is it fair to sum up your look at this by saying bad optics, but no underlying fire?

ENTOUS: I would say that my takeaway was that it was a questionable decision by Hunter to do this, but when you compare it to what's happening -- what's happened by -- you know, what Giuliani and the president have done in terms of trying to twist the arm of what is a historically weak government, the Ukrainian government, to try to relaunch this investigation, you know, when you compare the nature of the activities, it would seem -- what Hunter did was questionable.

[09:10:04] But I think what Giuliani and the president have been doing is of a scale far graver on those -- on the scale of what would be a questionable activity.

[09:05:00] SMERCONISH: Adam Entous, thank you. I encourage people to read your piece.

ENTOUS: Thank you for having me.

SMERCONISH: What are you thinking? Go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer the survey question and I'll read your tweets and Facebook comments during the course of the program. Catherine, what do we have? "Smerconish, of course the Dems did it to argument. How did I know you would find a way to support Trump?"

Hey, Duckhunter, really? This was my way of supporting Trump? I've laid out for you the competing allegations and I've noted for you that each is saying about the other you leveraged the power of your office for personal gain. What in that is inaccurate? I also noted that we don't have all the facts. We haven't seen the complaint and we don't know the complainant is and I want to know everything and I would turn the table on you and I would say to you how are you so equipped to render a judgment given all that we don't know?

Time for one more? What do you got? No? Moving on. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer the survey question. What's the political impact of all of this on President Trump? Is it devastating. Is it benign? Might it be helpful?

Up ahead, so did the president try to use the influence of his office to get dirt on his opponent and was there an explicit offer of quid pro quo about American aid being withheld? I'll talk to one of the "Washington Post" reporters who broke the story.

Plus, Matt Drudge thinks it's now Elizabeth Warren's nomination to lose, but if she ends up facing off against President Trump, does she have a vulnerability with crucial high school-educated working-class voters?

And in this iGen era when everybody is looking at screens instead of each other, are we losing a valuable part of being alive, the human connection? Hollywood power producer Brian Grazer is here.

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[09:15:00]

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SMERCONISH: With the new reporting that President Trump pressured Ukraine's president to investigate Joe Biden's son, there are now calls for a transcript of that July 25 phone call between the two to be released. When the president was asked yesterday about what was discussed, he gave this cryptic answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It doesn't matter what I discuss, but I will say this. Somebody ought to look into Joe Biden's statement because it was disgraceful where he talked about billions of dollars that he's not giving to a certain country unless a certain prosecutor's taken off the case.

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SMERCONISH: So where does this go from here? With me now is one of the team of reporters at "The Washington Post" who's been at the forefront of the whistleblower story, national security correspondent, Pulitzer prize-winner Greg Miller. Greg, what do we know of that July 25 phone call?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: Well, what we know is that he was speaking with the leader of Ukraine and that he was pressuring the newly installed president of Ukraine repeatedly apparently to dig into this investigation of this company that Hunter Biden had been a board member for.

I mean, there's a lot that we don't know about this conversation and also I want to emphasize that the whistleblower who appears to have come forward to raise concerns about that conversation appears to have also assembled other information along with that as part of a broader kind of case of concern that came to the inspector general of the intelligence community.

SMERCONISH: Do we know how the whistleblower became aware of -- I understand you're saying there's more to it than just the phone call, but I'll just stay on the phone call for a moment.

MILLER: Yes.

SMERCONISH: Do we know how the whistleblower is knowledgeable about that call? MILLER: Well, this is a -- this is a person who works in the intelligence community who had been assigned to a job at the National Security Council at the White House and who is, as we understand it, no longer in that position.

So there are several ways by which this person would have access to that kind of information. When presidents speak to foreign leaders, his staff routinely listens and puts together memories, memos, summaries or even transcripts of those calls so that other people in important government positions will know what happened and know what policy implications they need to follow through on.

So that's one way and of course, you know, and the intelligence community does not spy on the U.S. president, does not listen to his calls, but tracks the conversations of other world leaders and probably pays very close attention to their reactions or their discussions after speaking with a president. So there are multiple ways a person in this area would come into knowledge of what a president said to the leader of Ukraine.

SMERCONISH: A post story (ph) on which you share the byline says this, and I'll put it up on the screen, "One source familiar with the contents of the phone call said that Trump did not raise the issue of American military and intelligence aid that the administration was at the time withholding from Ukraine, indicating that there may not have been an explicit quid pro quo expressed in that conversation." Do you have any information as to whether there was a quid pro quo expressed in any other direct communication from the president?

MILLER: We don't know whether -- you know, that's an -- that's an important question in there is much that we don't know about that. We believe that Trump was directing or encouraging the president of Ukraine to follow through with his legal and cooperate with his lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who has been handling this in a much more explicit way. So I mean, the signaling around this and the sequence of events surrounding this call I think would have been very clear to the president of Ukraine.

[09:20:05] The president of the United States is on the phone with me, he will not let go of the idea that he wants an investigation, these guys are sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars in aid that we want, they're not -- they are holding back the chance for me to meet with the president of the United States. You know, what would you make of that set of circumstances if you were listening to Trump?

SMERCONISH: I understand that implication. I just am trying to also get straight in my mind as to whether there's a smoking gun somewhere, whether there's going to be a direct communication from the president and it doesn't sound like that's the case.

MILLER: Well, I think that we have -- as we said in our story, we have one source on this call who said that Trump did not explicitly raise the aid. In other words, that there was no explicit, as we put it, quid pro quo, but I think if you read that sentence carefully, it's emphasized that that was the -- that was true in this call. So whether there is that sort of pressure being applied elsewhere or through other means is something we're trying to figure out.

SMERCONISH: Greg, thank you so much for being here.

MILLER: Absolutely. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: What are you saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages? This comes from Facebook. What do we have? "Investigating corruption by the previous administration does not constitute corruption."

Rudy, I mean, it's a really difficult legal question. I don't think that you can say clearly that there was or wasn't, based on assumed facts, criminal conduct here, but it would certainly be corrupt for someone to use the benefit of their -- corrupt regardless of whether it's illegal for someone to use the leverage of their office for personal advantage. That's as much as I think we can say.

I want to remind you to answer the survey question at my website this hour. What's the political impact? What is the political impact as we head toward 2020 of this whole whistleblower complaint as we now understand it on President Trump -- devastating, benign, helpful?

Up ahead, Elizabeth Warren's event crowds keep getting bigger, but is there a deficit among them of the high school-educated working-class voters who went for Trump in 2016?

And Antonio Brown is out as an NFL player after two accusations of domestic abuse. Why is Colin Kaepernick still not on anybody's roster after leading the movement to take a knee during the national anthem? He hasn't played since January of 2017. With so many teams needing a quarterback, you have to wonder has he been blackballed?

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[09:25:00]

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SMERCONISH: Elizabeth Warren is on the rise, but does she have a vulnerability with crucial high school-educated working-class voters who helped lead President Trump to victory? She's been drawing bigger and bigger crowds and rising steadily in the polls with a core message of championing the working-class versus the wealthy. Even Matt Drudge says it's now her nomination to lose, but what about those working- class white voters?

A recent "Fox News" poll shows that among white voters with no college degree, she trails the president 51-36. Let's look at her 2018 Senate results in her home state of Massachusetts. Overall, Warren won a healthy 60.4 percent of the vote while her Republican opponent, Geoff Diehl, took 36.2 percent, but drilling down on where each of them won, we find more of a cultural divide.

On the one hand, in the wealthy Boston suburb of Lexington, median home value $1.15 million, she wins 74 percent of the vote and in neighboring Newton where the median home value is $1.2 million, she receives similarly 75 percent of the vote. But in Rockland, a predominantly white working-class suburb on the south side of Boston where the median home value is $340,000, Warren only gets 44 percent. In Saugus on the North Shore, median home value $445,000, she gets 43 percent.

Joining me now is Paul Starobin, author and journalist who wrote this piece in "The New York Times," "Does Elizabeth Warren Have a Critical Vulnerability?" Hey, Paul, I want to mention from the get-go you have voted for her twice and you look forward, you hope, to voting for her for president lest anybody should think this is a hit job, right?

PAUL STAROBIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think ...

SMERCONISH: So lay out your analysis of this issue.

STAROBIN: Well, I call it the Warren Paradox. She is all about, you know, the rich are getting richer, the rest of us are getting shafted, you know, very much the working-class and yet, as you point out, in Massachusetts in their 2018 Senate race, we see the wealthy towns, you know, kind of liberal, highly educated people, places like Lexington, Newton and Wellesley, she's getting 70 plus percent.

Places like Rockland, the South Shore, working-class white, she's not doing nearly that well and I visited Rockland and, you know, the question is why? I mean, what gives with their lack of enthusiasm for Warren? And it should be noted that her opponent in 2018 in that Senate race was a pro-Trump Republican. Not just a Republican, but pro-Trump.

SMERCONISH: So what are you hearing anecdotally behind the numbers that I've already shown?

STAROBIN: Kind of a sense that they think she doesn't have their back and that they distrust her. They think she's a little bit of a phony, some of the people I've talked to. You know, this whole issue of, you know, she identified as a Native American. They would say that's kind of a way to game the system. You know, she has her job now at Harvard. There's really not evidence that she gamed the system, but she did have that identification, so they're suspicious.

You know, they think they're going to tax her (ph). She's just another liberal who's going to tax us even though like her wealth tax is for people, you know, households $50 million and up. It's not going to really affect them. Open borders, you know, she's for decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings and for them, that's basically open borders and I think that, you know, that issue in particular I think touches a real nerve among the white working-class in places like Massachusetts.

[09:30:00]

SMERCONISH: I paid attention to the comments that came in to your "Times" essay and there was with this from William in Minnesota. He said, "Warren has been fine-tuning her message and appeal for months, it's part of her makeup to persist in learning and adjusting. I can picture her reading this article, processing its message and using it to improve her campaign."

How could she?

STAROBIN: I agree, it's a good comment. I read that as well.

She has, you know, it's I have a plan, Elizabeth Warren. So many plans. I think she might need to focus a little bit more.

For example, she has a plan to go from 20 -- $200 million in spending on the job apprenticeship programs and multiplying that by 10-fold to get it up to $20 billion. So something like that I think would be of interest to people. I mean, in Rockland you're talking about, you know, trades people, welders, people like that -- nurses. I mean, they want to see what she can do for them.

And I think she probably just has to tailor her message a little bit more there. And I think she can do it as well. I mean, she is a fighter and she shows just in this campaign that she's able to evolve.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Paul. Appreciate your analysis.

STAROBIN: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: More of your tweets and Facebook comments now this came in from Facebook.

"Until people started pushing Warren on what her plans will cost."

Until people started pushing Warren until her plans what they will cost -- I get it. Look, here's the irony. He calls it the paradox. That's probably a better word choice.

So much of her message is directed towards the middle class. And yet when you drill down on some of the election results as Paul has done in Massachusetts, and he has also gone out anecdotally to find out what's behind those numbers, you see that the message isn't resonating with the intended target. It is resonating with a different demographic.

Will she be able to resolve that difference? We'll see.

I want to remind you, answer the survey question that we have at Smerconish.com this hour. It's on this whistleblower business."

What are the political implications as we know them now for President Trump? Devastating? Benign? Perhaps helpful?

Still to come, the NFL suffering from a severe quarterback shortage. Prompting some to point to Colin Kaepernick as a natural fill-in. But is his controversial kneeling protest the reason? The former San Francisco 49er quarterback hasn't played in the league in more than 900 days.

Here's "The Daily Show's" Trevor Noah's take on the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: Five teams have already lost their quarterbacks to injury. Yes. Which is very lucky for Colin Kaepernick and very suspicious. I'm not saying he hurt anybody -- but maybe while he was taking a knee he also asked God for favor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[09:36:20]

SMERCONISH: Right now the NFL, healthy starting quarterbacks are a hot commodity. Which has reupped question -- why hasn't a team signed former San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He hasn't played in the NFL since January of 2017. Many say it's because of his controversial sitting then kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.

He sued the NFL for collusion, which was settled for an undisclosed amount of money back in February. There at least six teams without their first-string quarterbacks. The Indianapolis Colts lost Andrew Luck after he retired. Nick Foles of the Jacksonville Jaguars is out with a broken clavicle. New York Jets playing without Sam Darnold because he has mono. Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints has a hand injury. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger injured elbow. Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers will not play Sunday due to a foot injury.

This is reportedly spurred Kaepernick's agent to reach out to multiple NFL teams inquiring about letting him play. So far, as far as we know, no takers. Even though Kaepernick posts videos showing him continuing to train with one source reportedly saying he's in the best shape of his life. Has Colin Kaepernick been blackballed?

With me now is Nate Boyer, former Green Beret and former NFL athlete who encouraged Kaepernick to kneel instead of sit during the national anthem. As a matter of fact, Nate, remind us of that sequence and your role in it.

NATE BOYER, FORMER NFL PLAYER, ENCOURAGED KAEPERNICK TO KNEEL INSTEAD OF SIT: Yes. This was back in 2016 in the preseason, you know, we're in the midst of that crazy election cycle. Very divided country as it was. And it was about two months before the election itself and Colin was -- had started sitting on the bench in protest of police brutality, social injustice, racial inequality in this country. And, you know, it caused quite an uproar. And I ended up writing an open letter just sort of explaining, you know, my experiences, my relationship to the flag, anthem, what it meant to me because of my service to country. Time as a Green Beret but also that I was willing to listen and, you know. I wanted to try to understand where he was coming from and try to find solutions to this problem.

So, he reached out to me and we ended up meeting in the lobby of the team hotel before their final preseason game in 2016. And through our conversation I suggested it and he was inspired to kneel instead of sit as to pay respects to the military and also let people know that, you know, that's not what the protest was about. It wasn't even about the flag or the anthem.

SMERCONISH: What do you think, is it because of the sitting, the kneeling, that he is not today in uniform?

BOYER: I think probably, yes, you know? I also am not one to think that it's just a sort of across-the-board blackball because of that. I think you look at even the Antonio Brown thing this week, you know, until it became such a distraction, at least that's how it appeared to me to Coach Belichick, it wasn't -- the decision wasn't made to, you know, release him. Until it was like that's all they want to talk about at practice.

And so you take Colin where he's at now, he hasn't played for three years. He -- the ability absolutely and potential to be a starter. But he's probably a back-up quarterback right now. And you get in that locker room and, you know, a back-up quarterback is typically sort of waiting in the wings, more of the quiet type, a signal caller. And he's going to be the focus of so many questions. And the media circus that comes with that.

You have to be able to understand why there's going to be hesitation from these teams. Granted I do believe that there are probably some organizations that said no matter what, I'm not signing this guy because I disagree with his beliefs.

SMERCONISH: What do you think the data says? In other words, if we could theoretically remove the distraction aspect and you and I were just a couple of Billy Bean types, looking at the numbers, would we say yes, we got to take this guy when so and so went down?

[09:40:13]

BOYER: Yes, I think so. I think 100 percent. I mean, his second year in the league, he had -- you know, Alex Smith got injured, he came in, led the team to the Super Bowl. The next year, 12-4, all the way through to the NFC championship. Missed going to the Super Bowl again by one play. And then he got hurt and his play did diminish on the field.

We're not going to say that it didn't. I mean, his total career a win/loss record, he's 28 and 30, I believe, overall. But that was also with coaching changes, a team that wasn't very good at the time. And his numbers were still pretty decent.

So you look at that. Granted, his three years removed from playing which is a challenge. But he's only, I think, he's 30 or 31 years old. So, you know, he's got his health in them. He's got three years where he wasn't getting banged up.

And, I mean the guy is a phenomenal athlete. Incredible. I mean, he dominated when he was on the field. He's unreal.

So, would he be one of the most elite quarterbacks in the game right now? I don't think so. But is he as good as some of those 32 starters out there? He's better than some of them actually, I believe. SMERCONISH: Hey, Nate, that was great. And you have a unique insight because of the role that you played in this. So, thank you very much.

BOYER: Thank you very much, sir. I appreciate you having me on.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have, Catherine (ph)? From Twitter?

The reason Colin Kaepernick hasn't played in the NFL is because he's not good enough to make a team. Has nothing to do with what he represents. He was really good his first few years, got the big contract, after that, his drive to be good left his body. It happens.

Well, it does happen. I don't know that it happened in his case.

Look, I'm with Nate. Everything he said makes sense to me. My hunch is that on a data-driven basis, you'd be saying this is a guy to bring in when your number one and in some of these instances your number two, has gone down. I have to believe it's the distraction that is causing them to say it's not worth it. And at a certain point, you know, being out of that game, three-plus years? It's a point of no return.

Still to come, we may be more digitally connected than ever, yet there is an epidemic of loneliness. My next guest is making a call to human interaction. Brian Grazer is a Hollywood producer who was a terrible student. But he said he got his dozens of Oscar and Emmy nomination by learning to look people in the eye and make a human connection.

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[09:46:34]

SMERCONISH: Why would a Hollywood titan want to write a book about human interaction? Well, in the case of Brian Grazer it's because he worries that in a world of increased connectivity, people are actually drifting further apart.

You any his work, he's an Oscar winner and Ron Howard's business partner, his films and TV shows have been nominated for 43 Academy Awards, 195 Emmys. His credits include "A Beautiful Mind," "24," "Apollo 13," "Splash," "Arrested Development," "Empire," "8 Mile," "Friday Night Lights," "American Gangster," and "Genius." He is now the author of a new book "Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection."

So, you weren't making a human connection with Eminem. He gets up to leave the office, and something happens. What?

BRIAN GRAZER, HOLLYWOOD PRODUCER, AUTHOR, "FACE TO FACE": OK so what happened with Eminem is, it actually began before that I met Ol' Dirty Bastard which led me on this path of trying to understand what East Coast hip hop was, then once I understand then I thought, I want to make a movie about. I became really interested in wanting to meet Eminem.

So, I had this opportunity to meet him. He came to my office, but he wouldn't look at me. And I did everything possible. I used all of my human connection skills and still after 20 minutes, he decided -- I'm out. He had his hand on the door to leave. And I just -- I was so desperate because I really wanted to meet with him.

I said come on, you can animate, can't you? And he looked at me -- he wasn't happy about that. But then he decided to come back and he came back. I guess he felt a bridge of trust, whatever it was. He basically told the entire story of what became the movie "8 Mile." And he ended up winning an Oscar for his performance, his song performance, which is the first time a rapper has ever won an Oscar. So, it turned into a win-win for everybody, including the audience.

SMERCONISH: Eye contact is really big with you. And I wish we were face to face in person. Because I'd love to be able to look into your eyes and let you look into mine.

Can people fake that connectivity? In other words, if I read your book and I wanted to pitch Brian Grazer I would be saying, damn, I'll just look in his eyes. But is there more to it than that?

GRAZER: I think there is more to it than that. I mean, I'm glad that you asked. It's first of all, once you start doing this a lot with people, every day you practice it like a muscle, you start to read people's energy. And when you read someone's energy, you find -- you either find their heart or reach their heart or you don't. And when you do that, you start to understand their intentionality.

So can you fake it? Yes. Many people fake it in the world of business. They start asking a lot of questions, a lot of questions is -- usually faking it. I find that when someone creates a calm set point where they're actually looking at you and you feel that they want to talk to you, it's not just a bunch of questions in a social environment. It's not a party where they're just popping off questions. They're actually giving you the gift of something that they, an insight that they had, and that starts the conversation.

So it's not a news show per se. It's a real moment. I think you can fake it. And in the book there's these techniques --

[09:50:02]

SMERCONISH: Am I --

GRAZER: -- to try to understand it.

SMERCONISH: Am I right that you wanted to write "Face to Face" now because this era of connectivity is actually one in which there's less human interaction?

GRAZER: Yes. I mean definitely the atmosphere in which we live in right now, the advancement of technology and social media, kids, we all are

looking at our phones more than we have ever done in our lives. And they are the most valuable tool, smartphones.

But if you want to connect with somebody, don't have your phone fractionalize that connection. Use your phone to get smarter, but when you meet somebody, that's when the story begins. When you -- you know, your very best date in life came because of a human connection. You closing that deal, getting promoted, whatever that thing is that really makes a difference always happens because you've looked at somebody in the eyes with sincerity.

I mean, it's really -- looking at somebody is a bridge. It's the Wi- Fi to human connection. And people are moved to do things, missions because of your heart. It's not solely because of your mind. You have to be reached by someone's heart.

SMERCONISH: Brian, thank you for your story telling and the new book.

GRAZER: Thank you. Yes, I hope people check it out, "Face to Face: The Art of Human Connection."

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best --

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: -- and worst tweets and Facebook -- sorry about that. Your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. We'll give you the final result of the survey question.

What's the political impact of the whistleblower complaint on President Trump? Is it devastating, is it benign, is it helpful?

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[09:55:34]

SMERCONISH: So, here are the survey results. How did you vote at Smerconish.com?

7,829 votes, the impact of the whistleblower complaint, 51 percent -- wow, benign, 38 percent say devastating, 11 percent say helpful.

Social media reaction, time for just one tweet. What do we have? Here it is.

"Your poll is missing an option: Depressing."

(LAUGHTER)

SMERCONISH: If I had put depressing up there regardless of people's political persuasion that might have drawn 100 percent. It's a good observation.

We'll see you next week.

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