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CNN TONIGHT: House Progressives Move To Strip GOP's Boebert Of Committee Assignments Over Anti-Muslim Remarks; Lawmakers Grill Instagram's CEO Over App's Impact On Kids; Attorney Representing Transit Union On Lawsuit Over Port Authority's "Black Lives Matter" Mask Ban. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired December 08, 2021 - 21:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Michael Smerconish and CNN TONIGHT.

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Wolf, thank you so much.

I am Michael Smerconish. Welcome to CNN Tonight.

Is another populist right-wing member of Congress, about to face punishment, from a House controlled by Democrats? And if so, which side benefits from these efforts?

Representatives Greene, Gosar, now Boebert, have found themselves, at the center of a growing Capitol Hill storm, as Progressives put pressure, once again, on Speaker Pelosi, to strip a Republican, of their House committee assignments.

This time, it's Colorado congresswoman Lauren Boebert. Why? Well she's under fire for Islamophobic remarks, against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar. Boebert insinuated that Omar is a terrorist, called her a member of the jihad squad.

Worst of all, she's unapologetic. Anytime, I hear one of those, "To the extent I've offended anyone" apologies, I just tune out. That's not heartfelt.

Confirmation, well, there's been no public apology, to Omar herself.

So today, a group of House Progressives, led by Ayanna Pressley, of Massachusetts, introduced a resolution that would remove Boebert from her committee assignments.


REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D-MA): It is shameful that we have had to wait this long, for meaningful action, for meaningful accountability. But here we are.

For a member of Congress, to repeatedly and unapologetically, use hateful, racist and Islamophobic tropes, towards a Muslim colleague, is dangerous.

Words have consequences. We must acknowledge that, and respond with action.


SMERCONISH: But will these calls result in action? Speaker Pelosi is holding her cards close to the vest.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): When I'm ready to announce that, I'll let you know.


SMERCONISH: She argues it's the responsibility of Republicans, to discipline their own members.

But GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy seems to always leave it to Democrats, to discipline his own, a reluctance he does not seem to have, when displeased with his own Moderates.

There are very few, in the GOP, willing to call out crazy, these days. Usually, that's a task left to Adam Kinzinger, maybe Liz Cheney, and perhaps, now you can add Congressman Dan Crenshaw, of Texas.


REP. DAN CRENSHAW (R-TX): There's two types of members in Congress. There's performance artists. There's legislators.

Every single time, we were voting, on Donald Trump's agenda, who do you think was at the top of that list, voting with Trump, and who do you think was at the bottom?

You know who was at the bottom? Everybody in the Freedom Caucus. All of them.

What you hear so often is not true. It's not true. We have grifters in our midst. I mean, in the conservative movement, lie after lie after lie.


SMERCONISH: He's referring to members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group that includes Boebert, Gosar, and Greene, when saying all they want is attention.

Case in point, well, it's this. Congressman Thomas Massie, Republican from Kentucky, puts out that holiday photo, of his gun-toting family, soon after, four teenagers were murdered in a school shooting.

And then, after that caused the storm on the internet, Congresswoman Boebert decides to piggyback on it, in a show of support, with her own family firearm photo. Look, there are lots of amateurish bad actors, in Washington. But we need to stop rewarding them with the attention they crave.

To be clear, Lauren Boebert deserves punishment, like Gosar and Greene, but not censure or loss of committee assignments. These efforts may carry weight in Congress. But, for the average person, they just ensure the offender becomes more relevant, in the cable world, and a punch line on late night TV.

Censure is not as severe as expulsion, but it's a stronger punishment, than a reprimand. And censure used to mean something, and be feared by members, like when in 1983, representatives Gerry Studds and Daniel Crane were both censured, for having sex, with 17-year-old congressional pages. Yes, that happened.

Or in 2010, Representative Charlie Rangel, then the Chair of Ways and Means was censured, after having been found, to have committed multiple violations, of ethics rules. And for Rangel, that was a big deal.


Censure or committee stripping punishments, for the likes of Boebert, Gosar, Greene, are like handing car keys, to a teen, who's just misbehaved. It presumes these representatives are there to legislate, which they are not. Their mission is to do the things, to keep them there, which today means, evoke passion, and raise money.

The best punishment for that trio is to ignore them. Make them the Voldemort of the U.S. House, the names that will not be uttered.

Additionally, if Democrats continue to single out, every act of egregious conduct, get ready for Republicans, to respond in kind, should they retake the House, next year.

You remember Kevin McCarthy's speech when Gosar was censured?


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Rules for thee, but not for me.


SMERCONISH: The members he singled out, included Representative Omar, the very target of Boebert's insults.

Well, it was Omar, who once tweeted, "Israel has hypnotized the world." And in 2019, said, "It's all about the Benjamins baby," in reference to a pro-Israel lobbying group. At least Omar issued a robust public apology, then.

Nevertheless, should Republicans take the House, in 2022, how long before it's Omar, on the receiving end of calls, for censure, initiated by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy?

Sometimes, the silent treatment is the worst punishment of all. That's my take.

Reach out to me via social media, this hour, whether you agree or disagree, and I'll share some responses, during the course of the program.

Let's bring in a Democrat in Congress, Representative Conor Lamb, from Pennsylvania, now running for the U.S. Senate.

Congressman, thanks for being here. You heard what I just had to say. What's your response?

REP. CONOR LAMB (D-PA): Well, I think the first thing to point out is that we, Democrats, writ large, are in no way eager to go around, doing these resolutions, stripping people, from their committee, taking these kinds of actions.

We would prefer that things like this were not necessary. And that's why we're not rushing, in response to Representative Boebert's horrible comments, about one of my colleagues.

I think the Speaker actually had it right, when she said it's on the House Republicans, to take some responsibility, for their own members. And she's trying to give them, some time and space, to do that.

This isn't something that we want to do. This isn't why we show up in Washington. We would all much rather be talking about the results that we're delivering, for the American people. But we've tried to draw a line, somewhere around the issue of violence.

And unfortunately, this year, 2021, began with an example, none of us will ever forget, about how the right-wing megaphones, at this point, in the country, are capable of causing, actual deadly violence, in our country. And we can't forget that, you know?

I think if you were a member of Representative Omar's family, if you were her mother or father, and you saw the comments that were made, you'd be afraid about what would be facing, your child, at that point. And you have to think about it, from that perspective, too.

SMERCONISH: Right. But as twisted, as it sounds, you make these folks, fundraising superstars, when you do single them out, right? They're all the stuff of cable television.

I'm sure, somebody is going to tweet, "Hey, Michael, you're talking about them right now." I am, but to make my point that I think we need to ice them out, because all it does is - look, Congressman? They're not there, to do, what I think you're there to do, which is to accomplish things.

They're there to stay there. They're there to stay there. And the way to stay there is to get oxygen, on cable television, terrestrial talk radio, and fundraise.

LAMB: Yes, that's true. But I think part of the reason that these people get so much attention is that they are fundraising superstars, already. They are taking these aggressive actions, because they feel like they already know who their audience and their base is.

And so, the decision for us, is to consider whether, we still have faith, in the broad American public's ability, to understand our ethics, and our reason, for acting, and why we would try to draw a line, at the causation of violence, or the encouragement of violence, against any member, by the way, not just against Democrats or Republicans, but against any of us.

We had multiple colleagues, who had death threats, very realistic death threats, just for voting for the infrastructure bill. I mean, something that would never have happened historically. And that was Republicans that that happened to. And that's why we have to take this so seriously.

Like I said, no one is really going, in search of these fights. We'd much rather be talking about other things. But I think we feel some responsibility, to try to protect, our own members, and promote some reasonable standard of conduct, toward how we treat each other.

And we're hoping that the House Republicans, in this case, will step in, and take care of their own side of the street.

SMERCONISH: You heard the speech from Kevin McCarthy that I cited briefly, "Rules for thee," and "Not for me." And he rattled off, I think, five members, five of your colleagues.

What of the prospect that all of a sudden, it'll be Democratic behavior that's under a microscope, and perhaps some of your colleagues, in your caucus, will then be censured?


LAMB: Leader McCarthy deals in false equivalencies, on a full-time basis. It's almost all that he does. That speech was rambling, and incoherent, for a number of reasons.

So, I don't want to minimize the prospect, because I'm sure that he will do that. But my assessment of him is he's going to do what he wants, and whatever he feels, delivers him the most powerful power, and short-term satisfaction, to begin with.

What we have to think about is the fact that the Lauren Boeberts, and Marjorie Taylor Greenes, of the world, speak to a very well-armed, animated, angry audience, on a day-to-day basis, through their social media. And we have to try to limit the damage, to the extent possible.

So again, this isn't something that we are eager to do, most of us. But we will do, what needs to be done, to protect our members.

Whether they look like me, whether they are women of color, whether they are Muslim, or Christian or nothing, they all deserve to be able to do their job, without getting death threats. And we have to do our part, to try to - to try to make that possible.

SMERCONISH: Quick final question. You have to survive a tough Senate primary, in order to get to a general election. Should you do so, maybe you face Dr. Oz. What do you make of that prospect?

LAMB: I would certainly look forward to that debate. I mean, he doesn't seem to have any connection, with our State that I know of.

And he's sort of typical, of the modern Republican, which is that they are much more loyal to Donald Trump's brand and agenda, than they are, to the place that they seek to represent. And that's true, for a number of candidates, in this race. And I think that's going to be a lot of what the general election is about.

I'm a Democrat. But I have consistently talked about being a Pennsylvanian Democrat, putting the interests of Pennsylvania first, our jobs, our economy, the issues that, are specific to us. And I've lived there almost my entire life. So, I have a pretty strong basis for saying that.

SMERCONISH: Even before he got in, I've been telling anyone, who'll listen that all eyes will be on Pennsylvania.

And we've got the hottest Senate race, in the country, coming up, next year. And you factor into it. Thank you for being here, Congressman Lamb. I appreciate it.

LAMB: Thanks for having me, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. I'll read some responses, throughout the course of the program.

What do we have?

"Smerconish, how should they handle the far left? That's a bigger problem. But you are on CNN, so I can't expect any balance."

Hey, right-leaning independent! I just made the point, did I not, that Ilhan Omar herself, has unclean hands, with tweets that I regarded as being anti-Semitic? To be fair, I also need to point out that she did what Boebert and Gosar and Greene never do, which is to offer a forthright apology.

So, I'm not afraid to call out any of that conduct, or I wouldn't have referenced that, at the end of the commentary. Would I?

Next, what do we have?

"Smerconish, we should laugh at them, and treat them like the clowns they are. What we shouldn't do is lineup the squad to throw a collective tantrum every time they get trolled. That never works."

Yes, James, you get my point. I mean, click around and listen to alternative media sources, and see the kind of play they get. This is exactly what they want to do. All they want to do, once they get to D.C., is stay there.

And you heard my pitch, maybe on Monday night, right? Old school was, you came to Washington. You were a backbencher. You bided your time. You achieved seniority. Got a choice committee assignment, maybe a chairmanship, and then you tried to get things done.

Now, getting things done, is fundraise, so that you can come back.

One more, if we have time for it. Sure. Why not?

"The Far right in Congress is counting on the Far left in Congress being too busy putting the nut jobs in the corner for a time-out so they can't address the real problems."

Yes, well, can I just say this, BenjaminZeevFirestone? And I should have made this point, to Congressman Conor Lamb. Anytime this is gathering oxygen, what's not being discussed, are gas prices, grocery prices.

All those issues that Steve Bullock, the former Governor of Montana, was my guest, two nights ago, and he said, "Democrats, get out of the city." The issues that people are really focused on, don't get the attention. And that's not in anybody's best interest, Republican, Independent, Democrat.

Keep that social media coming, because I love, responding to it.

To America's growing crime crisis, next, what's behind the biggest spikes in murder, ever more in a dozen major cities? And why does the D.A., in my hometown of Philadelphia, deny the violent truth? He's facing harsh words, from a fellow Democrat, over it.

The reality, that's next.



SMERCONISH: At least a dozen major American cities are experiencing record murder rates. It's a story repeated, in Red states, and Blue states, East Coast, West Coast, throughout the heartland. This comes after 2020 saw one of the biggest spikes in murder ever.

At the same time, we keep seeing scenes like this.


SMERCONISH: Or these organized smash-and-grabs, and looting, where thieves seem to get away scot-free.

Pointing out that overall crime was worse, in the 90s, is of little comfort, which is why Pew shows a big jump in Americans, worried about crime.

Adding to the uncertainty are politicians like Philadelphia District Attorney, Larry Krasner, who insisted this week that his city doesn't have a crisis of crime, or a violence, even though Philly has more murders, this year than any of the other cities that I showed you, at the start, with record homicide rates.

The city's former Mayor, Michael Nutter, calls comments like that ignorant and insulting, asking in a recent Op-Ed, quote, "What kind of messed up world of white wokeness Krasner is living in to have so little regard for human lives lost, many of them Black and brown, while he advances his own national profile as a progressive district attorney."

My guest is the Director of Policing & Public Safety, for the Manhattan Institute, Hannah Meyers.

OK. Hannah, here's the question, relative to progressive prosecutors and crime. Correlation or causation?


HANNAH MEYERS, DIRECTOR, POLICING & PUBLIC SAFETY, MANHATTAN INSTITUTE: Certainly, both. You look at jurisdictions, where progressive prosecutors, have come to office, like Philadelphia, and you do see record homicide rises.

As you said, you see drops in felony conviction rates. A study found that 20 percent fewer felony convictions happen in progressive jurisdictions. And you see fewer police cases getting solved, because police have to work hand-in-glove with prosecutors.

And you see record numbers of the kind of seasoned, experienced prosecutors, whom you want in a prosecutor's office, because they have that sophistication, to handle murder, and gang violence, and rape, leaving, in record numbers.

Because it is such an inhospitable environment, in an office in which, the prosecutors have lost sight, of their primary mission, and mandate, which is to represent the people, against criminals, and keep us safe. And your former Mayor, Michael Nutter, said it so well.

SMERCONISH: OK. But these individuals were all elected. I mean, I don't know what happened here. I came of age politically, in an era, where the way to get elected, as a district attorney, was to thump your chest--

MEYERS: Right.

SMERCONISH: --and promise everybody that you would lock up the bad guys, and throw away the key. That's no longer the formula.

And talk about Larry Krasner. He was just reelected. I mean, to be fair to him, all these issues, were just litigated, in the election, and he was successful. So what explains it?

MEYERS: I think a lot of people don't realize the impact of prosecutorial policies. Very few people vote in these elections, voted in the re-election for Krasner.

And there's a lot of funding, by people, for whom they want to see the kinds of prosecutorial policies, they want to see a lot of crimes, not getting prosecuted, like gun possession, like shoplifting.

And they realize that if you put the right prosecutor, in office, you can sidestep the entire process, of having crimes pass - having laws put into place by legislatures. So, it's much more effective, to simply fund, a prosecutor into office, and effect that kind of change. And voters, so far, have not, I think, realized it enough--


MEYERS: --to come out in droves, and change it.

SMERCONISH: Quick response, if you're able?


SMERCONISH: "The pandemic, I mean, come on, we live in strange times. Doesn't the pandemic explain some of this?" That's what a critic of your perspective would say.

MEYERS: Sure. And people have been asking that.

But when you look at the types of crimes, that are going up, gang violence, the type of organized shoplifting that's in San Francisco, that has led to the 500 percent rise in shoplifting, where you see organized rings, going and cleaning out stores, fencing those goods, and using it as part of larger gang activity and violence.

SMERCONISH: Well, Chesa Boudin faces a recall. You think he'll be recalled?

MEYERS: I hope so. I mean, I think, certainly, what we've seen, the Waukesha massacre, the shooting of that Temple University student--

SMERCONISH: Oh, horrible!

MEYERS: --recently, in Philadelphia.


MEYERS: So gut-wrenching.


MEYERS: And it's a failure of those prosecutors. And they respond with this kind of whoopsie-daisy. Oh, it was a junior line prosecutor says we'll now--



SMERCONISH: It's such a damn sad story.

MEYERS: Yes. But where would--

SMERCONISH: Hannah Meyers, thank you.

MEYERS: All right, thank you.

SMERCONISH: To be continued, as they say.

By the way, the former Mayor of Philadelphia, Michael Nutter, who I just mentioned, will be here tomorrow night. Looking forward to that.

What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. You know the drill, by now. Social media, I love to respond to it. What do you got to say?

Here we go. "Why are you giving credibility to something the right- wing echo chamber just made up? How about talking more about the real link between the number of guns and shootings?"

Hey, Nostradamus, just because the crime issue, gets a lot of play, in other quarters, and I see it, doesn't mean it's not a worthy or legit issue.

Do we have the ability to put back on the screen right now? The spike in crime and the Pew data? Vaughn, can you put up any of that? Just to respond to this individual, so that he sees? It's come, OK.

It's numbers-driven. This is not ideal - look, OK, take a look at the U.S. murder rate. And now tell me I'm just falling into some right- wing echo chamber? I'd be derelict in my duty, if I didn't discuss this.

What's the next social media?

"Smerconish, the question seems like one that can be answered definitively with data. When that is the case, seeking opinions is kind of pointless, unless the goal, is to highlight political divisiveness. That's not your goal. Is it Michael?"

No. I asked, I think, the appropriate questions. What's the impact of the pandemic? Is this correlation or causation? What question would you have asked of my guest? And because she has a perspective, I'm not supposed to bring her on? Come on!


Is social media hazardous to the health of young users? Instagram's Chief got a grilling, on Capitol Hill, about that, today. What will his company do, to make its platform, safer for children? Did his answers satisfy?

I've got the expert, on kids in the web, next.


SMERCONISH: Today, the Head of Instagram faced tough questions, from a Senate subcommittee, about the site's potentially harmful impact, on younger users.

While he acknowledged the need for updated regulations, he also admitted to lawmakers, a loophole, in a default privacy setting, meant to protect teens.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ADAM MOSSERI, CEO, INSTAGRAM: I learned of that just this morning. It turns out that we - though we default those, under the age of 16, to private accounts, for the vast majority of accounts, who are created - which are created, on Android and iOS. We have missed that on the web, and we will correct that quickly.



SMERCONISH: I want to discuss with Jean Twenge, the Author of "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy--and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood." She's a psychology professor at San Diego State University.

Dr. Twenge, so that people can appreciate, your opinions, let me set this up, as follows. For 25 years, or thereabouts, you studied data pertaining to generational differences. And you noted something that alarmed you, relative to 2012.

Pick up the story.

JEAN TWENGE, AUTHOR, "IGEN," PROFESSOR OF PSYCHOLOGY, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: Right. So, I got used to seeing generational changes that were big. But they take a decade or two, to get there.

And around 2012, I started to notice changes, in teens' mental health, in particular, that were huge, and sudden. Is just one example, teen depression doubled, between 2012 and 2019. Self-harm went up. Suicide went up. Across the board, these enormous changes, in mental health, began to appear.

SMERCONISH: This is based on your data. Going out with parents. Can we put it up on the screen? I don't know if you can see this. But it's pretty alarming. I've drawn a red line, in the year 2012. And you can see an enormous drop, in progress, going out with parents.

Let's do the next one. Less dating, again, an enormous decline. The third one, more likely to feel lonely. That escalates in 2012. Losing sleep, same type of escalation.

What does this have to do, in your opinion, with 2007's introduction of the iPhone?

TWENGE: So, the end of 2012 was the first time that the majority of Americans owned a smartphone. It's also, right at the time, when social media use, among teens, moved from being optional, to virtually mandatory.

It was around the time, you got about 75 percent, 80 percent of teens, started to be on social media, every day. So, if you weren't on it, you were left out. And then if you are on it, as we know, from Facebook's own research, there are all these consequences.

SMERCONISH: Pretty convincing, then, I see causation. Do you still use the word correlation? TWENGE: I do, simply, because from a scientific point of view, it is very hard, to prove causation, when you're thinking about generations, and change, over time.

But I can ask this question. What else changed teens' lives, so fundamentally, around that time, and then kept going, through the present time? And the answer is nothing.

SMERCONISH: So today, the Head of Instagram testified. I guess, the big question to ask you is, what's to be done?

TWENGE: Right. So, you know what - what Instagram is suggesting is, is they're trying. But it's too little too late. They say they want it, Instagram, and the other platforms, to be safer for teens, but they don't verify age.

So, you're supposed to be 13, to have a social media account. And there's 10-year-olds, 8-year-olds, 12-year-olds, on these platforms, all the time. Plus, 13 is probably too young.

So, we want to have a safer platform, say, for 13-year-olds to 17- year-olds. And they say, "Well, let's have parental controls, do all these things." Not that's going to do any good, if you don't verify age, because it's like, "I don't want my parent, to control me online." Well, what do they do? They just put in a different birth year.


TWENGE: It's crazy.

SMERCONISH: I mean, my takeaway, from reading your book, "iGen," which is excellent, and alarming, is that too many young Americans, are spending time, behind closed doors, trying to create some portrayal, of a normal existence, instead of leading one.

TWENGE: It's exactly right, that there's all this time and attention put into, "I'm going to take the perfect selfie. I want to make sure that I get the likes that I get the followers," instead of actually going out, and experiencing life, actually spending time, with other people, face-to-face, and developing those social skills, and those emotional connections.

This is what we've become. And teens are on the front lines of that.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Twenge, I know you're raising children of your own. Any tip for the rest?

TWENGE: My number one suggestion is no phones in the bedroom, overnight. That at least, we can protect sleep time, from being disrupted, by notifications, by kids staying up late, or staying up all night, trying to see, if their Instagram post got enough likes. Get enough sleep. That will at least help some with mental health.

SMERCONISH: Thanks so much for being here.


TWENGE: Thank you very much.

SMERCONISH: Jean Twenge's book is called "iGen,"

It's hard enough to get many Americans to wear masks. So, why is one government-run agency, fighting, to ban employees, from wearing certain masks, on the job? Does it violate free speech, to ban face coverings that say, "Black Lives Matter?"

We'll talk to an attorney, representing the worker's union, in court, next.


SMERCONISH: If you take mass transit, in Pittsburgh, you rely on the Pittsburgh Port Authority. That agency is now fighting, to reinstate a ban, on "Black Lives Matter" masks, for its workers.


They argue, uniformed employees displaying a political or a social protest message could open a can of worms, for other causes. But that stance is now sparking confusion, because the agency has itself embraced, the BLM Movement, in the past.

We have one of the attorneys, who argued the case, on behalf of the Transit Union, in the Third Circuit, on Tuesday. His name is Joseph Pass.

Counselor, thank you so much, for being here.

From reading about the argument that you just participated in, I see that opposing counsel said, "Well, what happens when somebody wants to wear a Confederate flag?" What's the answer to that?

JOSEPH PASS, ATTORNEY FOR PITTSBURGH PORT AUTHORITY TRANSIT UNION WORKERS: Well, the answer is, which we gave to the court was, Confederate flag, symbols violence. It symbols, the trying to separate the states. It was a cause of a war, a war that killed many people.

Black Lives Matter is a peaceful demonstration that doesn't advocate any violence whatsoever. In fact, it advocates less violence. It advocates for the treatment of people of color, the way they should be treated, like all other Americans. So, there's a big distinction.

They also, I might say, in their brief, suggested that the swastika would somehow be compared to the Black Lives Matter, which is ridiculous.

SMERCONISH: Is this another--

PASS: The swastika--

SMERCONISH: Is this another of those Potter Stewart, pornography, "I know it when I see it?" Or can you articulate a standard, of what should be permissible, on a municipal employee's mask or not?

PASS: Well, the courts have said that the municipal - that a public employer can do some restrictions, on the public employees' right to speech.

The public employee has a right to speak, on matters of public concern. And once that happens, the employer has the obligation, to try and show, why that speech would be disruptive, and why that speech, would somehow harm the employer.

And that's the problem. How do you define this? As the court said, "How do you define what they can and can't do?" And I think it is something, as Potter Stewart says, "I can't define pornography, but I will know it, when I see it."

SMERCONISH: OK. I'm sure you came prepared to play the hypothetical game. How about a MAGA facial covering?

PASS: Interestingly enough, that's what was going on, for the last 50 years. They've had a policy, for 50 years, and I was involved in the policy, when it first got started that long ago, which banned political and social causes, buttons and other emblems, putting on your uniform. Yet, for 50 years, they allowed that.

There was testimony, in this hearing, we had, in front of the district court. The district court judge, doing an excellent job, and going through all of this, pointed out, there were people wearing MAGA hats. There were people--

SMERCONISH: OK, so you're cool with that? That's fine?

PASS: That's fine.

SMERCONISH: OK. How about--

PASS: That's someone's right to speak.

SMERCONISH: All right, "Blue Lives Matter."

PASS: That's some - indeed, we even had the witnesses, who were African American, and they were asked that very question. And the one gave the best answer you could give. He said, "I don't like it. But they have a right to say it."


PASS: And as long as it's peaceful and respectful, yes.

SMERCONISH: One more. "White Lives Matter."

PASS: There's no harm with that. That same question was asked, of all the African Americans, who testified at this hearing.

SMERCONISH: OK. So, I'm hearing from you, Confederate flag, no. Pretty much everything else, as long as you don't think it incites violence, is OK? PASS: I agree. That's exactly right. That's what free speech is about. Advocating something that is going to stir violence is a different story.

I can't imagine why you would say wearing a peaceful mask of "Black Lives Matter," while you're operating a bus, or a rail car, and public transit, is going to cause any kind of disturbance, whatsoever.

Will you find people that don't like it? Absolutely. But that's part of our society. Differences of opinion. And differences of opinion erupt. But it doesn't necessarily lead to violence.

SMERCONISH: Well, it was interesting, to read about the argument. I can't wait to see what the Third Circuit does.

Joseph Pass, thank you so much for being here.

PASS: You're more than welcome. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: A prominent Republican, in Congress, about to make a major career change. And it has some wondering, why Devin Nunes, would do so, when he could take on a very powerful position, if his party wins back control, of the House.

A Reality Check, on his choice, to start serving, former President Trump, instead of the people, with John Avlon, next.



SMERCONISH: After 19 years, in Congress, California Republican Devin Nunes, was essentially next in line, to become Chairman, of House Ways and Means, the oldest and arguably most powerful committee, in Congress.

But this week, he announced he's giving it all up, just so that he can go to work, for Donald Trump's new media company. What should that tell us?

John Avlon is here with our Reality Check.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: "Lemmings in suicide vests," that's what Congressman Devin Nunes, once called right-wing House Republicans, for lining up, to jump off the cliff, of a 2013 government shutdown, over ObamaCare. At the time, he decried their "If you're not with us, you're against us" mob mentality.

What a difference eight years and Donald Trump makes! Because, the same guy, who warned against the crazy, in his party, ended up enabling it.

And so, a man, whose leadership of the House Intelligence Committee, provided a portrait of hyper-partisan hackery, a man known for filing frivolous lawsuits, against critics, including a parody Twitter account, purporting to be his cow, is now going on, to his great reward.

Not the Chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, for which he'd be next in line, if Republicans won the midterms. But instead, resigning to serve, as the CEO of Trump's phantom social media business, which is already, under federal investigation, by the Securities and Exchange Commission.


But the absurd arc of Devin Nunes' career is actually instructive, because it shows how Trump's cult of personality, has perverted the spirit of public service, inside the GOP, replacing governing, with grandstanding and grift.

Nunes' decision, to bail on Congress, after nearly 20 years, reflects his bet that the real power, inside the GOP, is being in Trump's orbit, not doing pesky little things, like legislating.

But it also reveals the real electoral weakness, of being a Trump- toady. Consider this. Nunes won his Republican heavy district, in California's Central Valley, by over 70 percent, four times, before Trump was president.

But he squeaked by with 52 percent of the vote, in 2018, midterms and 54 percent, in 2020, despite raising millions. And faced with redistricting, which looks likely to bring more Democrats, into his district, Nunes' Trump suck-up act was going to be a tough-sell to swing voters.

But all right, just how big a prize is being CEO of Trump's new social media platform? Well, it brings Nunes more right-wing celebrity, and at least the promise of C-suite cash.

The fact that Nunes, who was elected to Congress, before he was 30, has never run a tech company, or a business of any kind, beyond having a hand in his family dairy, doesn't seem to be a downside, for the Donald. But hey, only the best people! Am I right?

That's one of several absurdities behind the Trump platform, which is not at all ironically called "Truth Social." The company currently has a market valuation of $1.6 billion, despite having no product, no users or revenue. And its business plan projects 81 million users, and $3.6 billion in revenue, by 2026.

Sounds legit, right? Totally. But their mission is almost as revealing. As Nunes said, in a statement, it's dedicated to "The free flow of ideas and expression without censorship."

Now, this is fundamentally at odds, with Truth Social's own Terms of Service, which states that users cannot "Disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site." This is a perfect summation of the Trumpist attitude towards free speech. Anything goes, as long as you don't disrespect the Donald!

But don't strain yourself, looking for consistency of principles. But do recognize that Trumpists' rallying cry of free speech is a self- serving fig leaf, to cover up their own inner snowflake. Hypocrisy and greed, grift and grandstanding, they all go together.

But there's a tragedy in here somewhere as well, because the dissent of Devin Nunes shows how corrupting, the current incentive structure can be, inside a political party that has become a cult of personality.

The man, who once derided "Lemmings in suicide vests" ended up becoming one himself. And that's your Reality Check.

SMERCONISH: It's flooring. You can be the next - I mean, let's be fair. He's got a real shot, had he stayed, of being Chair of Ways and Means.


SMERCONISH: It gets no better, more powerful that in a bygone era, John, right, you'd work and pray your whole career, to get that gig.

And instead, in this era, "No, I'd rather take this this media flyer." It says a lot about where real power rests.

AVLON: That's exactly right. It's about power. It's about propaganda. And it's about profit. It's not about public policy.

SMERCONISH: Wow! Nice work.

AVLON: Thanks, man.

SMERCONISH: We'll be right back, with more, of your social media reaction.



SMERCONISH: Let's see. Are you going to play nice tonight? Here's what you're saying, via social media, about this evening's program. What do we have?

"Smerconish! Here we are on Twitter, where you get bashed regularly. What is your advice to teens who get bashed online?"

IndianaAmy, I'm glad that I didn't grow up in the internet age. I mean, in my era, the most trouble, you could get on, was sitting on a Xerox machine.

This sort of stuff follows you around, and nobody ever gets beyond it. And I totally understand how so many kids, are shut-ins today, trying to create the perfect life, instead of a leading one.

We've raised four. I hope we've done a decent job. But I'm addicted to this thing too.

Next, what do we have?

"Smerconish. Maybe we let the masks do their job, which is to protect us against the virus. Who cares what it says?"

You know, Ms. Daisy? Here's my thought. Do you remember there was a controversy? It went through the federal system, I think, all the way to the Supreme Court, where in a New Jersey School district, kids started showing up with bracelets that said "I love boobies."

And it was actually a breast cancer awareness campaign. And the school took them on. And so, of course, people fought back, and they litigated, all the way to the Supreme Court, I think. Fact-check me on that. My position was they should have ignored it. It would have gone away.

And I'm not saying that "Black Lives Matter" should go away. But sometimes, you got to pick and choose your battle. Should be a fight over "Black Lives Matter?" I don't know. Shoot over - fight over something that's really hateful. Not that. But we'll see what the Third Circuit resolves.

What else? A long one.

"Yes. So the cities that have very conservative harsh punishments have lower crime rates? Nope. Would Progressive D.A.s or judges allow men convicted of serious crime, like rape, off the hook, with probation, no prison time? Nope. But we've seen conservatives do just that."

Trey, something's gone on here. I mean, the nation has a mindset that we went too far in terms of an era of mass incarceration. And I think there's probably truth in that.

But I also remember a friend of mine, the late John Timoney, who was the Police Chief, in Philly. He was also the number two, here in New York. And he was the number one, in Miami.

And he once said to me, about Philadelphia, and he had data to back this up. He said, "We've got like 5,000 bad guys, and they keep committing all the crime. And we let them out, and they commit more crime, and more crime. Now, it's become a battle over bail."

I mean, some among us have got to stay locked up. That's my view. And it's gotten completely out of control. Others have had unjust sentences. And somewhere in the middle, as is usually the case, lies the truth.

Thank you for watching. I'll be back here, tomorrow night. "DON LEMON TONIGHT" starts right now.

Hey, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, DON LEMON TONIGHT: I have a nostalgic story about John Timoney.


LEMON: I remember I was in Rittenhouse Square.