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Epitaph For The Trump Administration?; Biden Will Release Nearly All Available Vaccine Doses; Fast-Track Impeachment; Twitter And Facebook Silence President Trump; Do Social Media's Ban Of Trump Set A Good Or Bad Precedent?; Eleven Days To Go: Will Trump Finish His Term? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired January 9, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Alas, he did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, but he might not get away with it. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. It didn't have to end this way. He could have protected, even polished his legacy, but his personality wouldn't allow that. The same makeup that draws the crowd, fires up the base, gives him his populist appeal also has an underbelly of selfishness and conceit and that's what we've seen exclusively for the past two months.
Fraud, rigged, stolen. Those are the words most heard since November 3rd in tandem with his contradictory request which is, hey, come participate in the Georgia runoff and all the while, a pandemic raged. But imagine a different approach, one where President Trump accepted defeat when the race was called for Biden, reminded us that he was an underdog who got more votes than any in history other than the man who beat him, attention spent not griping and golfing, but celebrating the record pace of vaccine development.
Airport hangar photo ops not with raucous crowds fueled by misinformation of a steal, but with hundreds of sleeves rolled up awaiting vaccination and the President entertaining with stories of what a wild ride it's been a while ticking off accomplishments of the sort that would please his conservative base, you know, three justices on the Supreme Court, hundreds more appointed to the federal bench, ending the Iran deal, withdrawing from the Paris Accord, the USMCA trade deal, Space Force, moving the Jerusalem embassy, tax cuts, job growth.
He could have laid a predicate to capitalize on whatever bumps are to come in the road for the new administration and there will be bumps in the Biden road, there always are, but Trump squandered all of that. First, he cost himself a winnable election. To invoke James Carville, it was the virus, stupid. And then he cost Senators Loeffler and Perdue their elections and his party control of the Senate. It's not rocket science. You can't tell people that a system is rigged while simultaneously asking them to participate in that rigged system.
And then came Wednesday. By the way, the vulnerability of the Capitol was appalling. As I told Chris Cuomo that night, this was not 9/11 or a sneak attack against partying Hessians launched on Christmas. That protesters were coming to town was well known. The internet chatter portended violence. And remember, it happened on a day of supposing heightened alert because of reports that Iran would seek retribution for the killing one year ago Sunday of General Soleimani.
We're lucky it wasn't worse. If they carried automatic weapons instead of Gadsden flags, it could have been catastrophic. The night before, some confronted Utah Senator Mitt Romney when he flew from Salt Lake City to Washington. In flight for 20 seconds they chanted, "Traitor, traitor, traitor."
And then on Wednesday the President and his coterie, they pre-gamed on the ellipse. Don Jr. said this about congressional Republicans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP JR., PRESIDENT TRUMP'S SON: Guess what folks? If you're going to be the zero and not the hero, we're coming for you and we're going to have a good time doing it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Rudy Giuliani advocated trial by combat and then the President said this to the crowd.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You'll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength and you have to be strong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: You have to be strong, show strength. Think about that. What about walking and maybe carrying a sign requires strength? No. He had something more in mind. For a little CYA, he did reference doing so peacefully, but the die was cast, the fuse was lit. This was causation, not correlation.
And even after things at the Capitol got ugly and he released a video, after being encouraged by President-elect Joe Biden to appear on national TV and condemn the violence, he began by acknowledging the pain, the hurt of the protesters, told them that he loved them and made yet another claim about the election being stolen.
Five deaths have been tied to the subsequent events, including that of a Capitol Hill police officer named Brian Sicknick. Close to 6:00 P.M., the commencement of a curfew with the crowd largely dispersed, the Capitol under control, here was his mindset via Twitter before his account and that on Facebook were suspended.
Quote, "These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously and viciously stripped away from great patriots who've been badly and unfairly treated for so long. Go home with love and in peace. Remember this day forever."
You know, for four years, I have resisted the knee-jerk temptation here to blame everything on Trump, but this time he deserves it. Yes, the President is to blame, but there's something more. This was 30 years in the making. It was the culmination of the outsized influence of a polarized media on a small, but loyal base and its control over doctrinaire politicians.
The very same alliance whipping some into a frenzy, while pushing the myth of a stolen election. See, for them, it's been about driving revenue through radio ears, television eyes and computer mouse clicks. John McCain understood what I'm referring to. You remember when, after being diagnosed with brain cancer, he returned to the well of the Senate and famously gave a thumbs down to the repeal of Obamacare? That day was July 25th, 2017 and he said this with regard to a polarized media, "Our incapacity is their livelihood." He was right, of course.
The McCain mantle was assumed by Nebraska's Ben Sasse this week. First, in a Facebook essay, he exposed his colleagues when he wrote this. Quote, "When we talk in private, I haven't heard a single congressional Republican allege that the election results were fraudulent. Not one. Instead, I hear them talk about their worries about how they'll look to President Trump's most ardent supporters."
On Wednesday night when the Senate reconvened, Sasse summed up what brought the nation to the brink. He said, "Don't let the screamers who monetize hate have the final word." Well, those to whom he referred are trying to have the final word by not outright condemning the violence, by suggesting double standards, by speculating baselessly about participants.
Hell, on Wednesday night, Tucker Carlson concluded a meandering monologue by saying, "It's not your fault, it's their fault." Mitt Romney, who literally faced screamers the night before, rose in the Senate and he said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH: We gather due to a selfish man's injured pride. And the outrage of supporters who he had deliberately misinformed for the past two months and stirred to action this very morning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Lindsey Graham, the President's friend and golf partner, lamented the final days of Trump by saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Dropping out -- we've had a hell of a journey. I hate it to end this way. Oh my God, I hate it. From my point of view, he's been a consequential president, but today, first thing you'll see. All I can say is count me out. Enough is enough. (END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: On his way home, Senator Graham then faced screamers of his own not long after he made that speech on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lindsey Graham, you are a traitor to the country. You know it was rigged. You know it was rigged. You know it was rigged. You garbage human being. It's going to be like this forever, wherever you go for the rest of your life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Common sense suggests the American people will agree with Senator Graham that enough is enough. Then again, a "YouGov" survey released yesterday found that while a majority of Americans see Wednesday's events as a threat to democracy, 45 percent of Republicans actively support the actions of those at the Capitol.
Lindsey Graham said he hated it to end this way, but it did and that will be the epitaph of the Trump administration. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this question. After January 20, will the GOP remain the Party of Trump? What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine?
From Twitter, "When you say you blame the media, the partisans assume it's the other media, not the one they're listening to." Good observation, Brian. You know what I'm saying if you watch and listen to me on a regular basis, which is mix up your diet.
You know, you just can't be in a silo relying on one particular outlet and here's the thing -- the party leadership on the GOP side of the aisle has been completely abdicated.
Don't fool yourself into thinking that party leadership is Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy. I'm not even going to consider the President. I'm thinking 11 days forward. No. They're getting their instruction from largely men with microphones who have a stranglehold on the GOP primary voters and everybody is there for tethering their message to what they hear on air waves. That's the danger.
One more if we've got time for it, Catherine. What do we have? From the world of Twitter, "Why are you opening with a rosy picture Trump could've expressed? He needs to be removed now. He incited an uprising in our democracy." Hey, Rick McFaddin, did you listen to the whole commentary or did you listen to the first two minutes and draw a conclusion?
Because what I plainly said was there was a different path he could have taken. There was a list of accomplishment that he could've offered, not accomplishment that you might agree with or that I would agree with because half of that list, I disagree with, but things that he could have laid claim to that would have pleased his conservative base. Said I was going to do it and I did it.
And instead of talking about election theft, he could have toured the country with sleeves rolled up, but instead -- and this is the part you missed. I could not have been more crystal clear. My words were there was causation here, not correlation. He's to blame. He brought this on and he's also got a whole host of enablers. You're part of the problem, if I can just say that, because you're hearing what you want to hear instead of being open-minded to nuance.
Still to come, with just 11 days to go in President Trump's lame duck term, Democrats are poised to impeach him for a second time which will make him the only president in history to be impeached twice. What can we expect?
Not only that, his main outlet of communication, his Twitter account, has been permanently suspended, his Facebook and Instagram pages shut down. While private companies are of course allowed to do this, it is censorship. Does it set a dangerous precedent?
And instead of saving half the vaccines for the prescribed follow-up shots, President-elect Biden plans to give out nearly all the doses on hand to get the most Americans inoculated sooner. A former FDA head of vaccine says it's risky and he's here to explain.
SMERCONISH: As COVID-19 continues to wreak a heavy toll on America, the incoming Biden administration has announced a bold move. It'll stop saving available vaccines to administer the recommended second doses and instead get first shots into as many arms as possible.
The change is meant to combat our two simultaneous crises, one, that the national coronavirus numbers just keep getting worse. In the past week alone, 20,770 Americans died. That's nearly the population of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. And two, that the vaccine roll-out has been a disaster. Operation Warp Speed promised to inoculate 20 million by the end of 2020. The current figures for vaccines distributed, 22.1 million, administered, 6.7 million.
The protocols were already complicated. The Pfizer BioNTech is supposed to be two shots, three weeks apart. The Moderna two shots, four weeks apart. A transition official said the Biden team plans to use the Defense Protection Act to produce enough second doses in a timely fashion, but some health experts are afraid the decision could delay a second dose.
Several European countries have already decided to delay second doses to get more people protected faster. In the U.K., the second shots will be 12 weeks later, but the FDA warns that without trials, there's no way to know effectiveness of such delays. Dr. Anthony Fauci, for one, has cautioned against the change, telling CNN, quote, "I would not be in favor of that."
So is the move wise or too risky? Joining me now is Dr. Norman Baylor, former director of the FDA's Office of Vaccines Research and Review. Dr. Baylor, I know you have concerns. First explain to me in lay terms, what would this change entail?
NORMAN BAYLOR, FORMER DIRECTOR, FDA'S OFFICE OF VACCINES RESEARCH AND REVIEW: Well, good morning. So if we just step back a little bit and look at the primary data that was used to support the FDA's authorization of this vaccine, the efficacy was based on two doses given either 21 days apart or 28 days apart. So we don't have data on the efficacy of the vaccine after that time. So for -- or the first dose.
So if you think about the data that we do have, and for the Pfizer vaccine, we had efficacy around 89 percent between 14 and 21 days, but at the 21st day, we're giving the second dose and so we don't know what that duration of protection is and that's the risk. Giving the one dose and delaying the second dose beyond what was discovered in the clinical trials, we take a risk of those individuals not necessarily being protected sufficiently.
We also know that the neutralizing antibodies, that which the body responds to against the vaccine, was modest after the first dose and once that second dose was given at the 21 or 28 days depending on the vaccine, you saw a robust response. So we know that that second dose is important.
I also think we need to put in context what the Biden administration is proposing. So if we think about a first -- delaying the first dose, are we hedging our bets by saying, OK, we will know -- we will know -- and we should know. We should have an idea of when that second dose is coming before we take this risk of saying we're going to give all the -- the majority of the vaccine for the first dose, give that up.
But you have to have an idea of when is that second dose coming? Is that second dose coming 21, 28 days after you give that first dose? Maybe it'll come in five weeks. And there's a little room for plus and minus with days, but you have to contextualize the whole plan before you can just dismiss it completely.
SMERCONISH: It sounds to me like the Biden administration -- and I lack your qualifications, so I'm just a layperson trying to understand this. It sounds to me like the Biden administration is saying we'd be better served with a lot of people with some degree of protection than fewer people with maximum protection and I think you've just explained to me why you think that's risky.
BAYLOR: Exactly. It's risky because you don't know the duration of protection. So you have all -- you have this population with one dose. You don't know how long that's going to last. So you have to hedge your bet and you have to -- you have to know do I have vaccine coming? Do I have vaccine -- will I have vaccine available at that 21 days, at that 28 days? And again, you can go a little further, but, you know, some of these proposals of going out to 12 weeks, you don't know. We don't have the data.
SMERCONISH: So ...
BAYLOR: We don't have the data on duration.
SMERCONISH: You're not alone in being someone concerned about this. Catherine, put up on the screen just that montage and then there's one in particular that I want to read to Dr. Baylor. A response from Operation Warp Speed's spokesperson says this, "If President-elect Biden is calling for the distribution of vaccines knowing that there would not be a second dose available, that decision is without science or data and is contrary to the FDA's approved label.
If President-elect Biden is suggesting that the maximum number of doses should be made available, consistent with ensuring that a second dose of vaccine will be there when the patient shows up, then that is already happening." Does that spur any thoughts on your part?
BAYLOR: Well, I would just say -- your second scenario, I would just say I hope, if this plan is implemented, we do know. I hope we do know whether and when the availability of that second dose is coming. Again, you could -- there's a little window there, but to make that decision, I would say you need to have an idea of when that second dose was coming.
Because the other thing, you're going to have people out there who've had the first dose and think, oh, I've been -- I've been immunized, so all of the things that I had to do prior, such as social distance, such as wearing a mask, I don't have to do that anymore, but the full efficacy requires two doses.
And again, even when we have two doses, until we get to a large number of people immunized in this country and the world, we're going to still have to social distance, we're going to still have to wear a mask. We have to get up to that high level of immunization.
So it's critical that we do know what that supply is and there are nuances to this as well. I mean, one could say, well, let's make sure that the vulnerable, the healthcare, front-line healthcare workers and those in long-term healthcare facilities, let's not -- let's not take that risk. Let's give those individuals the two doses on schedule ...
SMERCONISH: The double dose.
BAYLOR: The double dose.
BAYLOR: The double dose, the required dose. And then those younger, healthier people, maybe we'll start them out with one dose. So there are -- there are -- there are options that you can work this thing, but what's critical, you have to have a plan. You cannot do this in a knee-jerk. SMERCONISH: Understood.
BAYLOR: You have to have a plan.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Baylor, thank you for your expertise. Much obliged.
BAYLOR: Sure. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Let us see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. I think from the world of Twitter, "He needs to do this. Even with the risks, as the public is starting to lose confidence they will ever get the vaccine and the government's ability and competence to just get the job done."
You know, Consummate Loner -- interesting handle -- I appreciated something that Dr. Baylor just said that I think applies whether we're changing practice or not changing practice and that is that once folks have that first of two shots, it's essential that they close the deal whether it's through the current practice or whether it's through changing this and making sure we vaccinate more. In other words, to your point, we can't allow this mindset of, well, I got one shot, that's enough, I'm not going to go back for my second. Everybody needs to get two.
I want to remind you to go to my website at Smerconish.com. I'm told -- I haven't seen any of the results, but I'm just told like the voting is extraordinary on this question today and it's a provocative one. After January 20, will the GOP remain the Party of Trump?
Up ahead, Twitter could be the least of the President's problems as calls for his removal grow louder. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats, they're prepared to move forward with another impeachment next week if the president doesn't resign. With only 11 days left in Trump's presidency, how does the saga end?
And President Trump has found himself tweetless. Twitter has permanently suspended his account for inflammatory rhetoric after his supporters violently stormed the U.S. Capitol. Facebook and Instagram have suspended him indefinitely. Is this censorship? Because it is a form of censorship. Is it necessarily a bad precedent?
Meanwhile, this account already popped up on Twitter using Trump's former alias, John Barron.
SMERCONISH: President Trump's govern by tweet approach just got a lot tougher. Social media giants cracking down on the president's online accounts after his inflammatory rhetoric encouraged supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol in protest of the election.
Twitter has announced they've permanently suspended the president from their platform due to a risk of further incitement of violence. They say his latest tweets were a violation of its glorification of violence policy. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that Facebook and Instagram will ban Trump's account from posting for at least the remainder of his term in office, perhaps indefinitely.
The sort of rhetoric from the president has been allowed to stand online for years but a deadly insurrection of the Capitol is where these companies are drawing the line. It's also worth mentioning that these restrictions coincide with the timing of another key political event and that is that Republicans just lost power in the Senate.
The social media standoff with the president has provoked a debate among legal scholars over whether the constitutional protection of free speech has itself become a threat to democracy. So are social media platforms taking the correct approach by silencing the president's post?
Joining me now to discuss is Geoffrey Stone, a leading First Amendment scholar, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Professor, some get loose with their language. Not every dispute about speech is a First Amendment issue. Can you explain that?
GEOFFREY STONE, PROFESSOR OF LAW, UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO: Well, the First Amendment, like other provisions of the constitution, applies only to government, whether federal or state or local. It does not apply to private actors.
So, "The New York Times" cannot violate anyone's First Amendment rights and -- nor can Facebook or Twitter. They are private entities. So the First Amendment itself simply does not apply to the actions of private organizations whether it be "Newsweek" or CNN or Twitter.
SMERCONISH: Thank you for clarifying. The "c" word, censorship comes with a heavy connotation. Is this censorship?
STONE: Well, that it is censorship of a sort if censorship means not allowing someone to speak in a particular context because one disapproves of the message that the individual will communicate. But on the other hand, it's important to understand that censorship of that sort is common in media.
I have no right to be on CNN. Donald Trump has no right to have his speech quoted or transposed in "The New York Times." All of those entities, whether it be newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, cable, they all have complete discretion to decide for themselves what to broadcast or what to print or what not to broadcast and to print.
Now you can call that censorship if you wish but that's part of making decisions to decide how to use limited resources. What makes social media different is that they are not limited in the same way.
CNN has only so many hours in the day. "The New York Times" has only so many pages in each issue. But in theory, Twitter or Facebook can have essentially limitless numbers of people do whatever they want on those venues. And, therefore, they're in a different position. They don't have to engage in censorship in the same way that realistically TV, radio, magazines and newspapers do.
So, in that sense, they're making decisions that they don't have to make because of limited resources. And in that sense, they're making substantive choices that are not necessarily required by the realities of the method of communication unlike radio, TV and newspapers.
SMERCONISH: Recognizing, as you said, that they are private actors, there's not a First Amendment issue per se here, they can do whatever they like. I'm unsettled by it for several reasons. One is, I think double standards are guaranteed. There's no way that the tech companies can police all of their platforms of all of their content.
So, it's inevitable, it seems to me that someone is going to get singled out. Others will not get singled out. And you know that conservatives believe that they are victims right now of bias by Silicon Valley. How do you react to that issue?
STONE: Well, I think that one of the realities of social media that was not fully anticipated when it came into existence was that individuals would use it in ways that in fact are objectively highly problematic. And that if the social media owners simply left well enough alone and let anyone say whatever they wanted, that would create a broad range of problems.
Social media is insulated from liability, right, Section 230, in the way that "The New York Times" and CNN are not. So if CNN broadcasts something that constitutes libel, they can be held liable for having done so. Under existing law, Facebook and Twitter cannot. They've been given immunity from that liability.
And the reason for that was to essentially turn social media into the equivalent of a huge public park in which anyone can simply go on to the park, say whatever they want, no one would interfere, and the park owners would not be held liable for anything anyone said. But what has happened though over time is that those who operate social media have come to realize that this can be abused in serious ways.
And the question is, to what extent should they monitor that and limit what people are allowed to say? And this has to do with obscenity, it has to do with hate speech, and now it has to do with speech that can incite violence and criminal conduct. And I think the social media outlets are wrestling with how to deal with these questions.
And we've reached a point, I think, where government has to sit down and try to figure out is there a way for the government to play a role here without becoming censors themselves because that's even more dangerous. What we have at the moment is a problem, the idea that Facebook or Twitter can decide whether Joe Biden can speak or whether Donald Trump can speak, or Senator Hawley can speak, or whatever, raises a serious problem because it gives them a power that's much greater than CNN or "The New York Times." And we have to figure that out. That's an issue.
SMERCONISH: I agree. I want to -- I want to -- I want to get a quick reaction from you to something that former first lady Michelle Obama said -- quote -- "Now is the time for Silicon Valley companies to stop enabling this monstrous behavior and go even further than they have already by permanently banning this man from their platforms and putting in place policies to prevent their technology from being used by the nation's leaders to fuel insurrection." Your reaction is what, Professor Stone?
STONE: Well, to use their social media platforms to -- quote -- "fuel insurrection" literally it makes sense for them not to permit that in the same way that "The New York Times" and CNN would not permit that.
On the other hand that's a very ambiguous concept and the problem with it is it puts enormous discretion in the hands of these social media platforms. And so, I guess, I would say that we need rules that are clearly defined. And it might be that government has to play a role here.
It's a little bit like when radio came into existence. And the government passed legislation to give the government the power to regulate, with the Federal Communications Commission, the fairness doctrine and so on. It may be that similar types of regulation and now we may have come to realize is necessary with respect to social media.
The danger, of course, is government intervention is problematic because government can abuse their power. Imagine if Donald Trump had the power to dictate what speech would be permissible or not permissible on Facebook. I'm quite sure Michelle Obama would not want that to be the state of the law.
SMERCONISH: I agree. Professor Stone, thank you. That was excellent. I really appreciate it.
STONE: My pleasure. Anytime, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Speaking of social media from the world of Twitter, I believe. What do we have?
Not being censored. This is a business simply saying we don't want your business. Think of Trump as a wedding cake for gays.
Interesting analogy, Carol. Of course, I remember the case. My own view of this is that Facebook and Twitter takes some degree of risk when they start to regulate content because the protection they were provided by Section 230 essentially said, we are going to regard you as a telephone line and not as CNN or not as a newspaper. In other words, we don't think you regulate content. We don't hold accountable Sprint or Bell or one of the phone companies for words that are said across their lines. And that's the protection that the internet has been affording.
When you now have those tech giants starting to censor some of their speech, it puts them more, I think in the realm of CNN or in the realm of "The New York Times" or some other outlet. I also worry, as I said to Professor Stone, that they're not going to be able to police the entire internet and not through artificial intelligence either. So there will be contradictions. There will be double standards and people will read bias into it.
I want to remind you to answer the survey question of mine at Smerconish.com this week. After January 20 -- after January 20, 11 days, will the GOP remain the Party of Trump?
Speaking of which, what will the next 11 remaining days of the Trump presidency look like as he faces the real possibility of, again, being impeached by the House?
SMERCONISH: So, what will the last 11 days of the Trump presidency look like? After Wednesday's insurrection at the Capitol talks of impeachment and invoking the 25th Amendment are seriously being considered. House Democrats are currently planning to introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump as soon as Monday making it possible for a House vote to take place early to mid next week.
The latest version includes one article, incitement of insurrection, with more support for impeachment this time than last, with 131 co- sponsors so far. This comes after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told her caucus on a call on Friday afternoon that she prefers Trump resign or the 25th Amendment be invoked, also making clear that if neither happens, the House will impeach. And on Friday, the president tweeted he does not plan to attend President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration not even one day after finally promising a peaceful transfer of power.
With momentum to remove Trump from office growing from both parties joining me now to game this out, the remaining days that is is Elaine Kamarck, lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Governance (ph), author of two books, "Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know about How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates" and "Why Presidents Fail And How They Can Succeed Again." Dr. Kamarck, which poses a greatest threat to the remaining days of the Trump presidency, impeachment or the 25th Amendment?
ELAINE KAMARCK, LECTURER, HARVARD KENNEDY SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT: Well, I think impeachment does, because the 25th Amendment has to be initiated by Vice President Pence and members of the cabinet. And there's no indication so far that any of them are going to go that route. So, I don't -- I think the 25th Amendment is pretty much off the table.
Impeachment poses a different threat. The House can easily get it done next week. The problem is the Senate isn't scheduled to come back into office until January 19th, the day before the inauguration. So, you know, maybe they could have a trial at 9:00 on the morning of January 20th and have a vote, but this is awfully fast to get a trial.
So, it's not clear that even if the House impeached, it's not clear that the Senate could convict. And there's also a question of what good does it do to convict somebody who, at 11:30 on January 20th who is out of office at 12:01 on January 20th. So, that's really the -- that's really the problem here. And I think --
SMERCONISH: I think --
KAMARCK: -- they're looking at other things to do.
SMERCONISH: I was going to say, I think an additional issue is whether you can impeach a president after he/she has left office. Interestingly the fact checker in "The Washington Post," Salvador Rizzo, wrote a piece two years ago in a different context on this issue, the legal community seems to be unresolved.
I wanted to ask you about something else though. I'm also thinking about President-elect Joe Biden, and that is do Democrats really want this to be the issue, precisely at the time when they're trying to turn a page and launch a new administration?
KAMARCK: That's a really good point. I mean, you know, one theory says that if the trial is sort of pending or hasn't opened yet in the Senate on January 19th, that then it will fall to Biden and the Democratic Senate, because Kamala Harris will have the swing vote there to conduct a trial.
I'm not sure that Joe Biden really wants to do that. I'm not sure he wants to start his administration when there's so many other pressing things like getting vaccines into the arms of Americans, then, you know, worry being about an impeachment trial. So, if I were -- if I were Joe Biden I wouldn't be wild about that option.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Kamarck, that tweet of the president and I should have given up long ago trying to read this mind, but the one where he buys into -- Catherine, put that up real quick again where he buys into the peaceful transference of power and says, I'm not going to go to the inauguration. I interpreted that as him saying, I'm not going to the inauguration. I'm going to be quiet now. Put my tail between knew legs for the next 11 days. I know, people are laughing. That has never been his style but it seemed to me to be an effort to just ride out his time. You get the final word.
KAMARCK: Well, that -- that's the way it seemed to me too. And as one commentator on CNN noted last night, it was like a hostage talking, you know, because he didn't seem to be -- have his heart in it. But I think there's another issue for the Congress which is getting through the next 11 days without the president doing something extremely dangerous. It's mostly in foreign policy because, you know, domestic policy, you need a lot of other actors to enact.
So I think there's another issues on the minds of the Congress which is, how can we make sure that this guy who is clearly a little unhinged, or a lot unhinged, how can we make sure that in the next 11 days he does not do something that is dangerous to the nation? And so there, I think, is another avenue which hasn't gotten a lot of attention.
What kinds of constraints can they put on his power, so that he doesn't spend these last 11 days wreaking havoc somewhere in the world. We know that Nancy Pelosi spoke to Milley, the head of the Joint Chiefs of staff, yesterday because everybody is worried about his state of mind and everybody is worried about him doing something rash and dangerous before he leaves on January 20th.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Kamarck, that was excellent. Thanks so much.
KAMARCK: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Checking in on social media, Twitter and Facebook. I think this comes from Facebook.
Pelosi's talk of impeachment at this late date is political grandstanding serving no purpose, other than, to incite the opposition.
Trump was wrong to incite the mob, but this doesn't help.
Well, I think, Sean Nichols, the real purpose is to preclude him from running in 2024. That's what I think it's about. The question that I raised with Dr. Kamarck, is it really fair to Joe Biden? You know, it's his turn, right? And he wants that page appropriately turned on the 20th.
And if the Senate comes back on the 18th or 19th and now all the sudden they're taking up an impeachment trial that would spill obviously into the first few days of the Biden administration, is that really fair to Joe Biden? My hunch is that he would want his own fresh start and enough allowing Trump to dominate the news.
Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and we'll give you the final results of the survey question. Here it is, just talking about it, on January 20, will the GOP remain the Party of Trump? Go to Smerconish.com and vote.
SMERCONISH: Will you look at that? We have never recorded so many votes, 47 -- like 48,000 people, after January 20, will the GOP -- look how excited I am -- remain the Party of Trump? 60/40 -- 60 say no, say no.
Quickly, one more, Catherine, if I've got time. Wow, what voting. Unbelievable.
People who need to hear you my parents are unfortunately watching Fox News. And by watching I mean absorbing.
Well, guess what? Tweet to them the commentary that I delivered at the outset of the program. I'll see you next week.