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SMERCONISH

Clinton: Gabbard Is "The Favorite Of The Russians"; Clinton Calls Jill Stein "Totally" A "Russian Asset"; What Do Ohio Swing Voters Think Of Impeachment Push?; Boise Files For SCOTUS To Take Up Anti-Camping Case; Ex-FBI Agent Turned Congressman On Ukraine And Impeachment; California Passes Law Mandating Later School Start Times. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired October 19, 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 ANCHOR: Johnny Rivers from 1966, "Secret Agent Man." It seemed appropriate. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. A political war of words has erupted into a full-blown public feud. It's playing itself out between two Democrats, 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, current 2020 contender Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and neither are mincing words. The battle started when Clinton said this about Gabbard during a podcast.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HILLARY CLINTON, 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm not making any predictions, but I think they've got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third party candidate. She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far and that's assuming Jill Stein will give it up, which she might not because she's also a Russian asset.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. Agent. Yes.

CLINTON: Yes. She's a Russian asset. I mean totally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Gabbard didn't hold back in slamming Clinton, calling her "the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long." Clinton didn't name Gabbard, but when asked if she was in fact referring to the Hawaii congresswoman, her spokesman said, "If the nesting doll fits." Her spokesman then said the initial grooming comment referred to Republicans, not Russia. Gabbard again denied that she would launch a third-party run last night.

My next guest is the other person that Secretary Clinton mentioned in that interview calling her, quote-unquote, "totally a Russian asset," former Green Party presidential candidate Dr. Jill Stein. Dr. Stein, I went to Merriam-Webster, looked up "asset" just to be sure. Here's what it says. "Something useful in an effort to foil or defeat an enemy, such as a piece of military equipment or a spy." Are you a Russian spy?

JILL STEIN, FORMER GREEN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: No, I am not a Russian spy. I think this is a completely unhinged conspiracy theory for which there is absolutely no basis. In fact, not for myself and not for Tulsi Gabbard. I think it's really outrageous that Hillary Clinton is trying to promote this crazy idea. You know, you can't just slander people. You have to present some basis and fact. Tulsi has said that she is dedicated to running as a Green -- as a Democrat and she has been for her whole life, so that's pretty believable.

I am not running for office. Somehow Hillary Clinton didn't do her Google research or she would know that I am not running. So it's preposterous to say if I will give it up. You know, this is just a -- it's a wild and insulting theory and I think it speaks to Hillary's need to try to explain, perhaps to herself, you know, why her campaign was not successful. People really wanted change and unfortunately believed Donald Trump's lies that he was going to bring change.

We need a voting system, you know, in which people can actually vote for what they want and if people are concerned that independent candidates and campaigns are Russian plots, there's a very simple solution.

Ranked-choice voting prevents any evil, foreign asset or anyone from splitting the vote. It lets you rank your choices. You never have to worry about your vote being, quote, "thrown away" or your vote not counting or spoiling the election. That doesn't happen under ranked- choice voting. If your first choice loses, your vote is automatically reassigned to your second choice. It's a win-win.

And, you know, that's the solution here. The solution is not to silence political dissent. You know, the basis of our democracy is supposed to be political dialogue and competition. We shouldn't be in the business of, you know, throwing just terrible accusations and calling tyranny and traitor for people who are standing up for very important values that the American people badly need to hear about.

You know, 70 percent, in a recent "Wall Street Journal" poll, 70 percent of Americans said they're not just fed up, they are fighting angry with a political establishment that's thrown them under the business. So we shouldn't be in the business ...

SMERCONISH: Do you ...

STEIN: ... of silencing diverse political choices.

[09:05:00] We need ranked-choice voting to make that OK and bring our values back into our vote.

SMERCONISH: Do you think that she's trying to draw a nefarious inference from that photograph we've all seen so many times of the dinner that you attended at which President Putin was present? I think that General Flynn was somebody else who was at the table. Is that what's driving her as far as you know?

STEIN: Well, let me just say there are many pictures, many more pictures, of Hillary Clinton having intimate conversations with Putin whispering in her ear and we actually know there was some real money exchanged, for example when her husband was paying something like $0.5 million to give a single speech to a Kremlin-connected Russian Bank associated with the sale of part of the U.S. uranium supply approved under Hillary Clinton's watch.

So that might be the kind of thing you'd want to investigate, but simply attending a dinner at a conference where I went to basically tell Russia they needed to stop bombing Syria and to advocate for a ceasefire in the Middle East, that's a good thing. I think we need more of that kind of dialogue. You have to talk with your adversaries ...

SMERCONISH: Dr. Stein ...

STEIN: ... as well as with your allies. Yes.

SMERCONISH: Do you think -- do you think that her comments were designed to intimidate the emergence of any third party candidate, whether it's Dr. Jill Stein, whether it's Congresswoman Gabbard or someone else who right now might be planning on getting into the race?

STEIN: Absolutely and I think, you know, she and the Democratic Party have been in that business for a long time. As I mentioned, ranked- choice voting solves this problem of, you know, worrying about is your vote going to have unintended consequences.

The state of Maine, the entire state, has adopted ranked-choice voting. It could be adopted in a heartbeat by legislatures across the country. It eliminates the hysteria about spoiled elections and it really liberates people to be able to vote for what you want instead of against what you fear.

SMERCONISH: Right.

STEIN: We know from polls ...

SMERCONISH: Well ...

STEIN: ... most people who voted for Donald Trump were not voting for him, they were voting against what they saw as his only opponent. We need that change to our voting system ...

SMERCONISH: Let me add something to this.

STEIN: ... and we could have it now.

SMERCONISH: Let me just add something to this if I might and I want -- I have a statistic drawn from the United States Elections Project which I think is relevant. I want to put it on the screen. In the 2016 cycle, there it is, 42 percent, this is key, of eligible Americans did not vote.

I don't know why the focus from Secretary Clinton and others, instead of training their sights on you or Gary Johnson and Bill Weld, isn't to say, wow, we need to get the 42 percent who didn't participate into the game instead of concentrating on those who earnestly get into the arena. You get the final word.

STEIN: Exactly. That's why we need more choices and more voices and where ranked-choice voting has been passed, as in the state of Maine, in fact that's what's happening. More people are coming in to vote because -- you know, because they have a greater variety of candidates that can speak to them, their need for jobs, for health care as a human right, to abolish student debt, make higher education free and to cut, you know, this bloated and dangerous war budget that's actually getting us into more wars. It's not making us safer.

SMERCONISH: Thank you.

STEIN: All this needs to be debated. More people will be able to do that when we have more candidates. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Dr. Stein.

STEIN: Thank you so much.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. I know there'll be great interest in what Dr. Jill Stein just had to say or go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. This comes from Facebook. What do we have? "Hillary must know something that we are not aware of or she wouldn't say something like that."

Donna, that's a glass half full analysis. Glass half empty is to say that there's some sore loser aspect to this to single out. I listened to the entire David Plouffe podcast. I recommend that others do it as well. This was not an off-the-cuff statement. This was very deliberate. This is something that she wanted to say.

Wait until you hear the survey question this week. Go to Smerconish.com and answer this right now. Was it fair for Hillary Clinton to say that Tulsi Gabbard is the, quote, "favorite" of the Russians and that Jill Stein is a Russian asset? Results at the end of the hour.

Up next, swing voters could be the key to whoever wins the White House. So how are they feeling in the Midwest about the impeachment push?

Also, is it cruel and unusual punishment to ticket or arrest the homeless when there are no available beds? That's currently the law of the land for two-thirds of the nation's homeless.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:10:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: So how is impeachment playing with swing voters? Not so well according to data collected by my next guest. He's the co-founder and president of Engagious. That's a firm that specializes in issue advocacy messaging and together with Focus Point Global, they're in the midst of a 21-month research project focusing on swing voters in the upper Midwest. Their subjects are people who voted for Obama and then Trump or Romney and then Clinton.

They just concluded a focus group of swing voters in Youngstown, Ohio. Now, keep in mind that Trump won Ohio by 450,000 votes, but he lost Mahoning County, which is where this took place, by a small margin. So these are swing voters in a swing area.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just feel like it's a never-ending drama and it shows to me that there they're -- that these people are completely out of touch with everyday, regular Americans' lives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They need to be concentrating on the country, not what he's doing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They've had a big strike on the Mueller case. This is trying to get another base hit and try and get a punch, if you will, on the President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just drop it and beat Trump at the ballot box.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[09:15:01] SMERCONISH: Joining me now is Rich Thau. He's the director of the Swing Voter Project. I think if I'm President Trump and I'm watching that, I'm liking what I see, Rich.

RICH THAU, CO-FOUNDER, ENGAGIOUS: Absolutely. To borrow a phrase from my dad, the members of Congress are putting the wrong emphasis on the wrong syllable. They're putting their focus on the wrong thing. These are -- these are swing voters who think that Congress should be focusing on retirement security and health care and making that affordable, immigration and for them, the whole impeachment thing is a distraction.

SMERCONISH: In other words, they don't think that Congress can walk and chew gum at the same time, that if all of a sudden they're sucked in on impeachment, nothing else is going to get done? Although, by the way, that assumes things would otherwise get done and, you know, Mitch McConnell is here to say he's not letting that happen anyway.

THAU: That's exactly right. I mean, there's a long-standing concern among voters I've interviewed over years that nothing happens in Congress and I think the impeachment rising to the level of full national attention further emphasizes their preconceived notion that Congress definitely now can't get anything done.

SMERCONISH: Here's another stunner from your data. As we said, some of these folks voted for Obama and then Trump and you have a hypothetical and you say, OK, you can pick one of the two of those. What's the result?

THAU: So we ask a hypothetical in every focus group and we've now done this over the course of eight months, eight separate focus groups and we ask if you could vote between Obama and Trump in next year's election, who would you choose? And over the course of the eight months we've done so far across the Upper Midwest, roughly two-thirds, given that choice, would choose president Trump, but among the Obama- Trump voters we interviewed in Youngstown, all eight would stick with President Trump.

SMERCONISH: It's unbelievable because, you know, I would think in that area, that blue-collar area where manufacturing jobs have gone away, he promised he'd bring them back, that hasn't happened and yet you're telling me they are still with the president.

THAU: They are still with the president, they like his America first agenda, they like what he stands for, the way he pushes back on other countries. These are people who the president has won over and they are still with him.

SMERCONISH: So Rich, the takeaway thus far from every place you've gone so far seems to be, and this is a really good message for someone like me who lives and breathes on the Acela corridor, that I got to get out of my bubble, that that which has so many of us preoccupied between Washington and Boston is not what's resonating in the rest of the country, at least among swing voters.

THAU: Well, that's the whole point -- among swing voters. One reason why we're doing this project is to give life to the people in the Midwest who are just numbers in polls. We want their voices to be heard and in fact on our website, swingvoterproject.com, you can hear all of their voices across all of these focus groups.

It's all up there to watch and I think if you sit and take the time to listen to them, what you'll hear is that their concerns are real day- to-day concerns and impeachment is not one of those concerns.

SMERCONISH: Final question. How closely are they nevertheless monitoring this impeachment process?

THAU: Well, that's an interesting question. We asked about that during the focus group. We had people write on a piece of paper what they knew about the impeachment and it ranged from he lied or he upset many Americans all the way up to a full explanation as to what has been alleged by the Democrats.

So there are a number of these folks who get a lot of their news, by the way, from local news, not from CNN, not Fox, not MSNBC who don't know that much so it's easy for them not to get agitated because they're not paying a lot of close attention.

SMERCONISH: Onto Dubuque next?

THAU: Dubuque is next, yes.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Rich. You'll come back, I hope, after that.

THAU: Be honored to do it.

SMERCONISH: Up ahead, this Republican co-chair of the House Ukraine caucus was, until recently, an FBI agent and he spent time in Ukraine working anti-corruption. He's also from a swing district. So where does he stand on that notorious phone call and the push to impeachment? I will ask Brian Fitzpatrick.

And six homeless residents of Boise, Idaho sued the city over its anti-camping policy saying that it criminalized homelessness. They won. Will the Supreme Court hear the case? I will talk to the city's mayor who wants to break up these encampments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:20:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SMERCONISH: The mayor of Boise, Idaho is formally petitioning the Supreme Court to take up a controversial issue on whether cities can ticket or arrest homeless people for sleeping or camping on public property. This case all started 10 years ago when six homeless residents in that city sued over its anti-camping policy alleging it had criminalized homelessness.

It made its way through the court system finally landing in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last year which ruled, quote, "A municipality cannot criminalize such behavior consistently with the Eighth Amendment when no sleeping place is practically available in any shelter." This ruling applies to nine Western states which hold almost two-thirds of the country's homeless population, including cities that are struggling with homelessness, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco among them.

Local governments across the West, including both the city and county of Los Angeles, have filed court documents supporting Boise's bid. The Supreme Court will announce whether it will take the case in the coming weeks. The leader of the city where this entire case began, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, is joining me now. Mr. Mayor, what is it that you would like to do that you are precluded from doing because of this ruling?

MAYOR DAVE BIETER (D), BOISE, IDAHO: Well, Michael, it's really our status quo. We have to be able to cite people that are camping so that we don't have camps forming that are unsafe, unsanitary. That's really the situation we have now. We use it very rarely. In this year, we've only used it four times. We're allowed to cite while the case is pending. We simply can't have the camps that form if we're not allowed to eventually issue a citation.

[09:25:05] We issue warnings first several times. There has to be space in a shelter. Our officers will call a shelter first, is there space? And if there is, they can site. If there isn't, they can't. We have to have that tool to keep the camps from forming. We had -- this is not an academic exercise.

We had a camp form about five years ago, about 120 people. It was unsafe. We actually had a homicide in the camp. We know what happens if we aren't allowed to do this. We simply want to maintain the status quo which is working quite well while we go to work on building more housing and more services for the homeless.

SMERCONISH: Erwin Chemerinsky is the the dean at the Berkeley Law School. I'm going to put on the screen what he said. He said that, "A city can't make it a crime to be a homeless person." You would respond how to him?

BIETER: It's not a crime to be a homeless person. It's a crime to take public property for private use and that's all we're saying. We have to have the ability to keep these unsafe conditions from forming. It's really hurting the people that we want to help. It's a tool that local governments need. It's working quite well in the city of Boise. We use it very sparingly.

You know, that's not the -- we're the ground-level form of government. The federal government isn't doing near enough. States aren't doing near enough. It's a societal issue, but we simply have to have this tool to be able to move things along, to keep these conditions from forming. Once they're formed, people would say only cite after there's something else that happens, after you have a homicide, after you have these terribly unsafe conditions. It doesn't work that way. I appreciate the professor, but it's just not a practical solution to what we see.

SMERCONISH: Mayor, a month or so ago I toured Skid Row in Los Angeles. About 10 days ago, I saw the homeless conditions in San Francisco. What's interesting to me is that you're sort of the laboratory. You've got 1,000 to 2,000 homeless. L.A. I think has 36,000 and yet the fate of their efforts rests on the outcome of your case. Have I stated that correctly? Because this Ninth Circuit ruling stands unless you can get it overturned in the Supreme Court. In other words, there's a lot at stake in your case.

BIETER: Oh, there is. We understand that, but the decision (ph) is unworkable. What they've said is if anyone in your city is homeless anywhere, you can't enforce the ordinance against anyone. One of the dissenters said it's absolutely unworkable. You have to go street by street, alley by alley, doorway by doorway and see if there's anyone homeless to be able to cite at all. It's absolutely unworkable.

Even if you had all those resources, if you're wrong, if you miss by any amount, you're subject to a lawsuit under this ruling. It's absolutely unworkable for us or anyone else, but we have a good set of facts. We don't have a -- we have a problem that's manageable. In fact, that's really -- we're going to work on solutions that do work, housing first, get people in housing and bring services to them, but unless we can keep these camps from forming, we can't be successful on positive solutions that we really have some momentum on here in Boise and ...

SMERCONISH: And you should ...

BIETER: ... and in other cities.

SMERCONISH: And you should learn -- you should learn within the next few weeks whether the Supreme Court will take up the Boise case. Mayor Bieter, thank you so much for being here. BIETER: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: I want to remind people to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com today. I will be very interested at the end of the hour to see how this plays out. Was it fair for Hillary Clinton to say that Tulsi Gabbard is a, quote-unquote, "favorite" of the Russians and that my guest Jill Stein is a Russian, quote-unquote, "asset?" Go vote at the website.

Still to come, he's the only member of Congress who was once an FBI agent and he spent time in Ukraine working anti-corruption. Pennsylvania Republican Brian Fitzpatrick now co-chair of the House Ukraine caucus on what he thinks about the impeachment push.

Plus, California just passed a groundbreaking new law pushing back start times for middle schools and high schools. Will this help students focus and will the rest of America follow?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:33:28]

SMERCONISH: Among the 435 members of Congress Brian Fitzpatrick finds himself in a rather unique position. He's a Republican in his second term representing a swing district in the suburbs of Philadelphia. He's also a former FBI agent, the only one in Congress.

In 2015 the year before he was elected to Congress he was sent by the FBI to investigate corruption in Ukraine. And today he is co-chair of the House Ukraine caucus. I spoke with Congressman Fitzpatrick earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH: Congressman, what did you think of Mick Mulvaney's comments this week about a quid pro quo?

REP. BRIAN FITZPATRICK (R-PA): My position on this, Michael, from day one has been given the seriousness of this whole impeachment inquiry that it really needs to start off with a law enforcement investigation. It's historical precedent and it also makes an awful lot of sense.

The FBI, for example, I mean, just like Special Counsel Mueller's investigation was done outside of the realm of politics. There are no leaks. We got a report here in Congress and we could rely on those facts.

I think that's what got to happen here as well. These are serious allegations. They are allegations that we need to look into but they are allegation and they need to be investigated by law enforcement and not bipartisan politicians.

SMERCONISH: So let me ask you this, because it seems to me that the facts are -- the evidence is telling the same story. I'll put this in the most negative light for the president. It's a hypothetical, I guess.

If the president extorted the leader of foreign country to gin up evidence against a political opponent, does that rise to the level of an impeachable offense?

[09:35:04]

FITZPATRICK: You used the worse extortion. That's a crime and ginning up evidence is manufacturing evidence that's obstruction. So, yes, those are two crimes. And if law enforcement found evidence of those crimes occurred then, yes, then an impeachment inquiry would be warranted. Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: How long were you in Ukraine and what was your job while there?

FITZPATRICK: I was there between three and four months in the spring and summer of 2015. One of many details that I embarked upon. This one was with the International Corruption Unit based out of FBI headquarters. Mainly in a training capacity.

So we worked with SBU which was the security service of Ukraine, the prosecutor general's office and also the National Anti-Corruption Bureau. So, right after the Euromaidan revolution when Viktor Yanukovych was -- ran out of the country Petro Poroshenko came in. They desired to establish something called the National Anti- Corruption Bureau to weed out high-level corruption within Ukraine.

People like myself were over there to train investigators and prosecutors on what we did in the FBI as far as best practices, how to recruit sources, undercover operations, physical surveillance, electronic surveillance, conducting interviews and the like.

SMERCONISH: Congressman, Americans have heard a lot about someone named Victor Shokin. While you were there did you form an opinion as to the effectiveness of Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin?

FITZPATRICK: We did. I mean, granted only being there between three and four months but it was the general sense and consensus of the FBI, of our foreign partners, mainly the Brits, MI5 and MI6 were the ones that we worked with, and the U.S. State Department apparatus that the prosecutor's office in general and Mr. Shokin in particular was obstructing efforts and the efforts American and the British efforts to work in partnership with those offices.

I didn't deal with Mr. Shokin directly but I did deal with some of his underlings as part of the training process. And it was our sense, again, generally speaking that he was not helpful at all to the U.S. and our international partners efforts to weed out systemic corruption in Ukraine.

SMERCONISH: I asked that question, because in the July 25 phone call the president famously said that Shokin was treated badly and was a very fair person. It doesn't sound like that comports with your assessment while you were there? FITZPATRICK: Yes. You'd have to ask him what he's basing his assessment on. I could tell you my assessment having been there and having worked with those entities.

And, again, it wasn't just my assessment it was the general understanding and consensus view over there that he was not cooperative at all with what we were trying to accomplish in weeding out corruption.

SMERCONISH: And final question. You're in an awkward position, I imagine. You know, former FBI agent. You are a Republican. It's a Republican president. You're in a swing district.

Give me some idea as to how you're approaching your job.

FITZPATRICK: Not awkward at all Michael. Our job as FBI agents is to -- and I'm -- once an agent is always an agent, to follow the facts wherever they lead and report those facts with unimpeachable integrity.

I believe in non-partisan, independent law enforcement investigations. They are the ones that can find the facts, get to the truth. The chairman and the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee are not able to do that. They're operating in a political circus with partisan motivations, and that's not how you find the facts.

You find the facts by kicking it just like we did with Bob Mueller. That's why I supported that investigation.

Take it outside the realm of politics. Let them do their thing. They have surveillance ability, subpoena power, and investigative abilities that we don't have here. And moreover they're independent. They're not partisan.

So, if we're taking this process seriously and, Michael, second only to declaring war this is the second most significant thing we can be doing in Congress is considering impeachment of a president and overturning the results of an election. We ought to take it serious. We shouldn't approach this like we're approaching a budget vote.

It's a very, very serious thing we're engaging upon. And if you look at every single instance where this has happened in the past most recently with Bill Clinton followed a law enforcement investigation, evidence of criminal activity was generated and developed and found, and there was a vote before we even took a step down this path. A vote that had 31 Democrats vote in favor of that inquiry. The bipartisan approach based on a law enforcement investigation. That's not what we have here and that's my concern.

So, it's not awkward for me at all. I stand by law enforcement and their ability to do this work far better than we can.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Congressman.

FITZPATRICK: Anytime, Michael. Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SMERCONISH: I like it. Once an FBI agent, always an FBI agent.

Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have?

This is from Twitter. Smerconish still auditioning for a job at the White House? It's subliminally done every week. He pretends he's in the middle. Not!

Hey, Johnnie Woods, let's just review here.

[09:40:00]

So a professional does focus groups over 21 months of swing voters. Goes to Mahoning County in Ohio where you would think because of the economic despair and loss of manufacturing jobs that haven't come back that you would see cracks in the Trump armor, and yet among swing voters, when asked a hypothetical, people who voted for Obama and then Trump. Hey, you have one or the other, which one do you want? And eight out of eight say Trump because you don't like the result of the focus group, then I'm in the tank for bringing it to your attention? No. I'm data driven.

This is all about evidentiary thinking but thank you for watching.

I want to remind you to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com.

Was it fair for Hillary Clinton to stay that Tulsi Gabbard is the -- quote -- unquote -- "favorite" of the Russians and that Jill Stein is a Russian -- quote -- unquote -- "asset"?

Results at end of the hour.

Still to come, California often ahead of the nation when it comes to laws like decriminalizing pot, limiting plastic straws. Will its latest experiment mandating later school start times change the way that American students learn? I'm going to speak to a sleep expert.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[09:45:09]

SMERCONISH: California has always been the launch pad for big, cultural contributions to the nation. Think hula hoops, and Frisbees, and skate boards, and McDonald's, arcade games, the Jacuzzi just to name a few. And though America sometimes may sneer at California trends, many of its pioneering laws also have a way of migrating across the country.

Think no-fault divorce, the decriminalization of pot, the ban on affirmative action, limiting the use of plastic straws. I'm guessing it could also come true about its latest innovation giving students more sleep to improve their education.

Governor Gavin Newsom just signed a law making the state first in the nation to mandate that public middle schools can start no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30. It will be phased in over the next three years. Will it work?

Joining me now is Wendy Troxel. She's a sleep expert and senior behavioral scientist for the RAND Corporation and a licensed clinical psychologist.

Doctor Troxel, I really enjoyed your Ted Talk. Well done.

WENDY TROXEL, SLEEP EXPERT: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: And in your Ted Talk you answer a lot of questions that are on my mind. Like this one. Well, won't they just stay up later and why don't they get to bed sooner?

TROXEL: Great question and it's a common misperception that if schools start later teens will just stay up later. The good news is we have data to disprove that.

Actually, when schools start later bedtimes stay roughly the same but wake-up times get extended resulting in more sleep. And to the commonly heard argument that, well, let's just put them to bed. It's all about good parenting.

The problem is that teenagers experience a biologically driven phase delay during the teenage years which makes it exceedingly difficult for them to fall asleep early and wake up early. So asking a teenager to fall asleep at 9:00 p.m. is kind of like an unwinnable battle, because it's going against their biology.

SMERCONISH: Right. This was something else that I learned from you.

So, this has to do with the melatonin release? Because I as an adult have a tendency. By the way having raised four to look at them and say, well, I can get up early. Why can't they just get up early? But there's a scientific explanation for that.

TROXEL: There absolutely is. During, -- around the time of puberty teenagers experience this delay that's largely driven by about a two- hour release in the hormone melatonin which is the hormone of darkness.

Melatonin signals our body that it's time for sleep. So if melatonin is being released in teenagers not until around 11:00 p.m. it's simply impossible for most teenagers to fall asleep early enough to get the recommended amount of sleep if they're having to wake up at 6:00 a.m.

SMERCONISH: I do worry about some of the practical impact of this. Parents who might have their own schedule disruptive -- disrupted by how they get to school change especially where you are in California. In traffic patterns. I mean, there are some down sides, but it still seems like it's in the best interests of our kids.

TROXEL: Absolutely. There are logistical challenges and I don't try to minimize them. There are things as you mentioned like traffic, transportation, child care issues, extracurricular activities. But I will -- what I will also say that these are problems to be solved. And with the California mandate it will go into effect in 2022. So, the governor is allowing school districts across the state time to figure how to address these challenges. And what I can also say is that these are problems worth being solved, because the situation is dire among teenagers. We do have an epidemic of teenage sleep deprivation and so this is one policy to address that epidemic.

SMERCONISH: And a final point. A minimum of eight. That's what they should be getting. A minimum of eight hours --

TROXEL: Minimum.

SMERCONISH: -- in those formative years you're describing.

TROXEL: That's correct. The recommendation is between eight to 10 hours optimally would be around nine to nine and a quarter hours sleep for teenagers.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Troxel, thanks so much.

TROXEL: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments, and the final results of the survey question. Vote at Smerconish.com. I love this. Dr. Jill Stein was here at the outset of the program.

Was it fair for Hillary Clinton to say that Tulsi Gabbard is the -- quote -- unquote -- "favorite" of the Russians and that Jill Stein is a Russian -- quote -- "asset"?

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[09:53:30]

SMERCONISH: I have no idea how this one is going to turn out. These are the results of the survey question at Smerconish.com.

Was it fair for Hillary Clinton to say that Tulsi Gabbard is the "favorite" of the Russians and that Jill Stein is a Russian "asset"?

Survey says -- 58 percent say no, it was not fair, 42 percent say yes, it was. 9,519 having voted. Nearly scientific.

By the way, 58-42. Forty-two, same percentage of eligible Americans who didn't vote in the 2016 cycle. Just saying.

Catherine (ph), what do we have from social media this hour?

Smerconish, thank you. Jill Stein just proved that she is a Russian asset.

Come on, Phil. What a cheap shot. You don't have to be for Jill Stein. I didn't vote for Jill Stein. But can you not respect the fact that she's willing as T.R. (ph) said to get into the arena while the rest of us are sitting on our cans? No, I respect that. And if you're going to make that charge about her or in the case of Congresswoman Gabbard who wore the uniform of her country, you better bring the goods. That's not a bar conversation that Hillary had. Oh, my god, she's an asset. Pour me another round.

No, it was said with some deliberation and intention. I know, I listened to the podcast.

Give me another one if we have time.

HRC exactly the embodiment of all that is wrong with established politics.

[09:55:02]

She called a U.S. army officer a traitor. Where is the outrage? Hillary only proves that she can't come to grips that at best, she's a marginally better person than Trump.

Look, she won the popular vote. She's had this long and distinguished career. I have great respect for Secretary Clinton. I just thought that was a cheap shot and it kind of demeans her legacy. You should have spent more time in Wisconsin.

Give me another one if I have time.

Time will tell. I'll go a step further and call it the third party ticket will be Gabbard and Yang.

Adele, I hope there's a third party candidacy. I don't know if it's more to the left or more to the right. I want more choice. I mean, isn't one thing clear, no matter -- no matter whether you're for or against the president, for or against his opponents, we don't have enough choice.

And those of us who get shut out in the primaries and have to live with ideologues in the general, we deserve representation too. So bring on a third party candidacy.

Folks, join me for my "American Life in Columns" tour. I'll be in Norman, Oklahoma, on Sunday, November 3rd. Erie, Pennsylvania, on November 12. And then Presidents' Day, St. Louis, Missouri, cannot wait.

Thank you so much for watching. I'll see you here next week.

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