Return to Transcripts main page
Interview With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul; The Father of Index Fund Jack Bogle Dies At 89; Everyone's BS Alarm Should've Been Blinking Red; Mueller Labels Buzzfeed Reporting On Cohen "Not Accurate"; Are TSA Workers The Key To Ending The Shutdown?; Working Without Paychecks: TSA Absences Up From 3.8 Percent To 6.4 Percent; What Should Syria Bombing Mean For U.S. Troop Withdrawal?; Graham: Trump Troop Withdrawal Ignites Enemy "Enthusiasm". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired January 19, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: I think it's a gas (ph). Deep Blue is over 50 years old, 20 feet long. Divers who snapped these pictures say they highly discourage people from jumping into the waters. Good idea.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY WEEKEND: Take good care out there. "SMERCONISH" is next.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST, SMERCONISH: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. Sometimes you wish you weren't right, but I was early in calling BS on that explosive "BuzzFeed" story claiming they had evidence that President Trump told Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. And then last night, a rare and forceful statement from Robert Mueller's office calling "BuzzFeed"'s descriptions of documents and testimony regarding Cohen, "not accurate." Huge problem for journalism. What happens next?
Plus, the president due to speak today at 3:00 P.M. about the shutdown stalemate, now in its 29th day. Will the gamesmanship ever end? Pelosi blocks the State of the Union, the president takes away her planes. I'm betting that if the unpaid TSA workers start to interfere with our plane travel, that's when the shutdown will immediately end.
And the tragic deaths of four Americans in a deadly Syrian blast this week was a political Rorschach test. Some say it's proof we need to stay. Others argue it confirms we stayed too long. Senator Rand Paul is here.
Plus, "The Wall Street Journal" calls him the capitalist for the common man. He invented the index fund to protect small investors. We'll remember the late Jack Bogle.
But first, don't kid yourself. Yesterday was a bad day for journalism. Too many threw their street smarts to the wind and cast their lot with this incredible story about the president. No amount of wishful thinking should ever trump evidentiary analysis and critical thinking, but that's what happened. The key paragraph of the "BuzzFeed" story was this. Quote, "Now the two sources have told "BuzzFeed News" that Cohen also told the special counsel that after the election, the president personally instructed him to lie by claiming that negotiations ended months earlier than they actually did in order to obscure Trump's involvement."
Pretty stunning if true. An impeachable offense to be sure. Attorney general nominee Bill Barr said as much in his testimony this week, but could that ever be proven? Not if it's just Trump's word versus Cohen's word, ah, but on that score, "BuzzFeed" had an even bigger blockbuster.
Quote, "The special counsel's office learned about Trump's directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company e-mails, text messages and a cache of other documents. Cohen then acknowledged those instructions during his interviews with that office."
Well, that's when my BS meter went off. Friday morning, I questioned the legitimacy of the "BuzzFeed" blockbuster. I did it on "CNN'S NEW DAY," via Twitter, my Sirius XM radio program and my Facebook page. "Blockbuster of a story gets dropped and yours truly is the one saying: Not so fast. And because the brunt of the story is the President of the United States, I, again, become the one carrying his water."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Resist the temptation to look up the word suborning. instead, the word of the day is corroboration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Hey, don't misunderstand. I wasn't disbelieving of the idea that the president would have told Michael Cohen to lie Congress about building a tower in Moscow. What raised my eyebrow was the idea that there would be Trump Organization witnesses, company e-mails, texts and a cache of other documents saying so.
Say what you will about Trump and Cohen, but I've got to believe they're more sophisticated when it comes to skullduggery. Roy Cohn taught Donald Trump better than that. The president doesn't even send e-mail or texts. Would he really create a paper trail in telling Cohen to commit that crime?
Here in Philly there's an adage among the pawls (ph), you never write a letter and you never throw one away. It means that when it comes to your misdeeds, you don't put anything in writing, but if a political opponent does, you hold it. From the get-go , I said this was a story that needed to be presumed false until shown otherwise and it quickly went from bad to worse.
Also, on "CNN'S NEW DAY" after I raised concerns about the story, one of the "BuzzFeed" co-authors appeared. Anthony Cormier was asked if he'd seen the corroboration himself. He said no. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Have you seen any of that other corroborating evidence?
ANTHONY CORMIER, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, BUZZFEED NEWS: No, I've not seen it personally, but the folks that we've talked to, the two officials that we've spoken to, are fully 100 percent read in to that aspect of the special counsel's investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
[09:05:00] SMERCONISH: Alisyn asked the right question and that answer should have made people who were accepting the story as gospel nervous, but it didn't. And then soon thereafter, his co-author appeared on "MSNBC," Jason Leopold. Leopold is both an accomplished journalist and someone with his own credibility problems, including erroneously reporting in 2006 that Karl Rove was about to be indicted in the Valerie Plame case. And Leopold contradicted what Cormier said. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You haven't seen the documents, the texts, the e- mails, et cetera, so how confident are you that they actually exist, that this is true?
JASON LEOPOLD, NEWS REPORTER, BUZZFEED: I don't think that we've said that we haven't seen them, but I will say that I'm very confident that they exist.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, your colleague said on "CNN" this morning that you were briefed on these documents by those law enforcement sources that you referenced. Can you clarify for me sort of what the status is of that?
LEOPOLD: I'll just say that we've seen documents, we've been briefed on documents, we're very confident in our reporting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: I'll just say that we've seen documents? That's when everybody's BS alarm should have been blinking red. It didn't pass the smell test. On the critical assertion of their story, one co-author said one thing on "CNN" and his partner said another on "MSNBC."
And then as the day progressed, something else by omission. No confirmation by "CNN," "The Washington Post" or "The New York Times" regarding the story. That was telling because you know that they were working overtime.
And then finally, last night, a rare statement from the special counsel, quote, "BuzzFeed's description of specific statements to the special counsel's office and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office regarding Michael Cohen's congressional testimony are not accurate."
Whoa. And here's the big picture. This is the real damage, and it's not to Donald Trump. Oh no. He comes out ahead. As I tweeted last night, "If 'BuzzFeed' blew it, the lasting harm will not be to Donald Trump, but to the many newsrooms working so hard to get it right, but now, subject to renewed, bogus cries of fake news."
The president just got a heavy dose of inoculation. It was no surprise that last night when I went to bed, Sean Hannity was again decrying the biggest case of government corruption in American history and you know who understands what I'm saying? Robert Mueller.
No wonder the special counsel's office issued a rare rebuke last night. They did that, no doubt, because soon they will want to be believed. All their effort will soon be scrutinized in a world where truth too often seems a moving target. They want their evidence to be evaluated based on critical thinking, not hyperbole and tribalism and that just got much more difficult.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer this survey question. I'll give you the results at the end of the program. Do you believe corroboration will emerge in the form of e-mails, texts or other documents regarding the "BuzzFeed" allegations of President Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress?
Joining me now to discuss is Elie Honig. He's a former prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. Elie, before Trump gets cocky, you know, sort of despite everything I've just said, hasn't Mueller ratcheted up his own credibility and made it more difficult the next time the president wants to say "witch-hunt" because people will remember that Mueller, in this instance, threw a flag?
ELIE HONIG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Absolutely, Michael. I think -- look, Robert Mueller already had sort of the highest credibility that one can have in this profession and I think he just enhanced that yesterday by coming out and, as you say, throwing a flag. I do think there is one sort of perverse result of this that may come out of it is there may be a sort of inverse effect that we may start seeing which is this.
If Robert Mueller is going to comment on this particular story and say, it's not so, how about all the other prior stories that have come out that have been damaging to Trump? How about all the stories that will come out about Trump? What happens when Mueller does not say anything about those?
Now, I don't think it logically follows that Mueller, you know, signs off on those stories, but you will see -- I think we will see people saying, well, Mueller objected to the "BuzzFeed" story, but he doesn't object to this one so he must be confirming it.
SMERCONISH: It's such a great observation on your part and you wonder if too many will read too much into that and if Mueller took that into consideration. Really your underscoring what an extraordinary move it was last night.
HONIG: Yeah. It was -- look, Robert Mueller is a -- runs a buttoned- up shop and to see him come out and really pretty squarely refute the "BuzzFeed" story I think was an incredible thing to see. And I've been looking at this, Michael, and I'm sure you have too, from the perspective of a litigator, former prosecutor. I'm trying to be a little bit analytical about this and here's where I come out. You know, we see these dilemmas all the time when you have two different people, two different parties telling you two different stories that are simply not fully reconcilable.
[09:10:06] So what do we know for sure? What is undisputed? Michael Cohen lied to Congress about the Moscow project. Nobody disputes that. And I think it's also undisputed that Michael Cohen did not strike out on his own to tell those lies. It was part of a bigger coordinated effort. Mueller has written about Cohen's efforts to circulate and prepare his false testimony.
So we know those things. So the questions that I see are these. Who were those other people involved, was one of them Donald Trump and was the involvement direct -- hey, Michael, I need you to do this -- or indirect? Maybe Trump said it to somebody else or word got around. The one thing I think we can safely write off now, given Mueller's response yesterday, is it was not direct, not in Mueller's current information. That, I think, is a safe read. And the other questions I think remain to be seen.
SMERCONISH: Elie, you're making reference, I think, to that Mueller sentencing memo and the line in it regarding congressional inquiries that you think made this story plausible to many when they read what "BuzzFeed" reported.
HONIG: Yeah. That is corroboration of sorts, right? Look, corroboration, it comes in all breeds. There is dead-on corroboration if you had an e-mail, hypothetically, which I don't think exists, from Trump to Cohen saying, "I need you to lie," or video. And then there's corroboration that gives you some of the foundations of this story and I think Mueller's statement in that sentencing memo was good, foundational corroboration for the idea that this was, in fact, a larger, coordinated effort involving multiple people.
Does it necessarily follow from that that Donald Trump sat down with Michael Cohen and said, "Michael, I need you to lie?" Not necessarily, but it gets you part of the way there.
SMERCONISH: What did you -- what did you think of the reference to the law enforcement sources? You know, there are so many different levels of law enforcement ...
SMERCONISH: ... in some fashion looking at the president or his family or the organization. How did you interpret that reference?
HONIG: It's so important that people understand that law enforcement never operates in a silo. We talk about Mueller's team. Yes, they are under lock and key, but understand, Mueller's team has to deal all the time with other agencies, with other U.S. attorneys offices. We know there's been overlap and coordination with the Southern District of New York, with the Federal District of -- the District of Columbia.
You have all sorts of offshoots of a case and law enforcement is constantly overlapping, even in far less complex cases than this one, like the ones I've done. I wasn't just dealing with Southern District of New York people and FBI New York. I was dealing with DEA. I was dealing with other U.S. attorneys offices, sometimes with state officials.
So you have to understand that there are a lot of people who could have information. The question, though, is what is the level of directness? Firsthand information is one thing, but it sounds like, in this case, the "BuzzFeed" people perhaps were relying on sources that had second-hand, third-hand. This is why we have hearsay rules in court. The farther away you get from the original source, the less reliable your evidence becomes.
SMERCONISH: Great analysis as usual. Elie Honig, thank you so much.
HONIG: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. From Facebook, "Does the whole fiasco put pressure on Mueller to work quicker?"
Ashton, great question. I don't think he feels any pressure whatsoever to deliver this report before it's time and probably what makes his job that much more difficult is that as he investigates, new leads come up that take him in a whole variety of directions he never could have forecast. That's speculation on my part. So it makes it harder and harder to wrap it up, but I get your point. We all wish it would be wrapped up and we could move on one way or the other.
A reminder, I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com. Answer today's survey question. Do you believe corroboration will emerge in the form of e-mails, texts or other documents regarding the "BuzzFeed" allegations of President Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress?
Up ahead, Senator Rand Paul, seen here heading to the White House this week, has been one of the few senators praising President Trump's troop withdrawal from Syria. What does he think in the wake of this week's terror bombing that took four American lives?
And is there finally movement on the endless shutdown? The president speaking today at 3:00 P.M. Eastern. "The New York Times" reports the Democrats are offering up to $1 billion for border security. I have a prediction about how a solution could happen real fast. Here's a hint. It involves air travel. Not Nancy Pelosi's, but yours and mine.
SMERCONISH: At 3:00 P.M. Eastern, President Trump promising a big announcement about the shutdown which is now in day 29 pertaining to his demand for a border wall. We've all seen the D.C. tit-for-tat. Nancy Pelosi upending the State of the Union speech, the president revoking her use of government planes for a trip to visit American troops.
I have my own idea about what will hasten the end of the standoff. That will be if and when the 51,000 TSA workers who are being compelled to work without paychecks begin seriously interfering with the travel plans of everyday Americans. Last year, the TSA's unscheduled absence rate was 3.8 percent. The TSA now reports it's 6.4 percent. That's almost double. Some airports have been experiencing much longer security wait times as a result of the TSA agents calling in sick.
Joining me now is Philip Glover, the National Vice-President for the American Federation of Government Employees. That's one of the largest unions for federal workers. Phil, are we seeing the beginning of the blue flu?
PHILIP GLOVER, NATIONAL V.P., AMERICAN FEDERATION OF GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: Well, I'm not sure it's an orchestrated blue flu, Michael. Our union wouldn't advocate for that anyway because of federal law, but certainly people are going to have to choose whether they show up to work every day, put gas in their car, take the train into work, those kind of things and it's starting to put a strain on them as we come up on the second paycheck that will be missing on Friday, next Friday.
SMERCONISH: They can't -- let's be crystal clear in what it is you're saying. They cannot lawfully strike.
GLOVER: Correct. We cannot law -- no federal employee can lawfully strike.
SMERCONISH: I imagine, but you tell me otherwise, that you're hearing from membership.
[09:20:03] There's probably a desire on some of their part to be calling in with added frequency given that they are the lowest paid of the federal workforce. Is that right, Phil?
GLOVER: Anecdotally, we hear that through our membership. The big thing is is what people don't understand about our TSOs, they are under a different statute than the rest of the government when they were created. They're not under the general schedule pay schedule, they're administrator has very broad powers to set pay and bonuses and those kind of things and so they are one of the lowest paid groups of federal workers.
There is also a lot of part-timers in the TSA. They use part-timers to fill in at peak times. At small airports across like Pennsylvania, Allentown, Altoona, Johnstown, they use part-timers and so those people have other jobs as well and it's hard for them to come to work every day and not get paid while they have another part-time job available.
SMERCONISH: So recognizing that it would be unlawful for them to strike and further recognizing that you and your union capacity, your leadership capacity are not advocating blue flu, I am simply making an observation that if there were to be an increased line at American airports because of a higher rate of absenteeism, I predict that would turn this thing on a dime, that people would not stand for those type of delays and because of the disruptive influence that it would have on our economy.
GLOVER: Well, I think that's right. Obviously, it is happening in some places where there's not enough TSOs to get in and run checkpoints. We're seeing that at some airports where they have made decisions to change lines, cut lines out of screening and that is causing some backups. We're seeing that now. You're going to see that continue, I think, as we go into next week.
Like I said, they've already missed the January 11th paycheck. They've missed the January 25th. That one's coming up if they don't get this thing fixed. We also have, for instance, Bureau Prisons people who are going to work in a 114 prisons across the country that aren't getting paid. We've got ICE agents who are not being paid. You know, we've got a lot of law enforcement out there, along with the TSOs, who are not getting paid right now and, you know, it's not a joke.
SMERCONISH: It is certainly not a joke. And let's say something else and then we can part. It's a tough job, you know. I hate the process as a -- as a passenger. I can only imagine what it's like to work in those very close quarters, putting up with people who aren't happy to be screened to begin with, on your feet all day, going through people's personal effects and patting them down and so forth. I mean, it's a contentious by nature situation. It's a tough job. That's what I wanted to say and I wish your whole crew Godspeed.
GLOVER: It is a very difficult job, but I will say this. The traveling public, under this shutdown, we have seen some very compassionate people here. They've tried to drop off money to these TSOs, which they're not allowed to accept. They have dropped off food. We've had restaurants bring food out to these TSOs to feed them on shift and so we're thankful for that. And I think when this is all done, the traveling public and the American public will understand that these people are doing a good job. They are going to work without pay and they're trying to make sure you're safe when you're in the air.
SMERCONISH: Well said, Philip Glover. Appreciate your time.
GLOVER: Thank you very much, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying through my social media, Twitter and Facebook and so forth. What do we got? "True, but do not forget the air traffic controllers. They have a high-stress job and coupled with no money, it is creating worrisome situation for anybody flying."
I totally agree with that, Victoria. I'm simply saying you want one aspect of this whole situation that, in a heartbeat, would turn it on a dime, it would be a work stoppage -- I'm not advocating it -- by the TSA. So you know, Mr. President and Democratic leadership, get it together. Grow up. Let's get moving up.
Up next, they attacked each other repeatedly during the presidential debates, but these days, Rand Paul and the president, they're seeing eye-to-eye on troop withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan and he's visiting the White House a heck of a lot more. I'll ask the senator, did last week's bombing in Syria affect their outlook?
SMERCONISH: In the wake of this week's deadly terror explosion in Syria, what's going to happen with U.S. forces on the ground there? My next guest, Senator Rand Paul, seemed to be having a lot of influence on the president's policies of late. You'll remember that back on December 19, the president tweeted that America had defeated Isis in Syria and announced the controversial full and rapid withdrawal of U.S. military.
Then came Wednesday's explosion. Warning, you're about to see some graphic footage. Isis claimed responsibility for this suicide bombing and among the victims were four Americans, two, U.S. servicemembers, a defense contractor and a DoD civilian intelligence expert. So does this make the case for staying or leaving faster?
Senator Lindsey Graham spoke of his concern that the president's withdrawal announcement had led to uncertainty and emboldened our enemies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LINDSEY GRAHAM, UNITED STATES SENATOR: My concern about the statements made by President Trump is that you had set in motion enthusiasm by the enemy we're fighting.
You make people we're trying to help wonder about us. I saw this in Iraq and I'm now seeing it in Syria.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: But is the real lesson of the explosion that we shouldn't have been there in the first place? What were those deaths for?
Joining me now to discuss is Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. He's on the committees on foreign relations and homeland security. Senator, thanks so much for being here.
Will you begin by first responding to what Senator Graham had to say in the aftermath of this tragedy?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, Senator Graham is basically one of those individuals who advocated staying forever throughout the Middle East and there will never be a good time for him to say home.
And I think if you say, well, we are coming home when there is no more ideology of radical Islam suicide, there is no more suicide bombers left in the Middle East, we'll never come home.
Our objective when we went in, this is what the president said explicitly was to defeat ISIS. He has now taken 99 percent of their land. Are there remnants of ISIS? Sure.
Are there suicide bombers left in the Middle East? Yes, there always will be. But it's not an excuse for staying.
In fact right now we have about 2,000 troops situated somewhere in between the Kurds and 50,000 Turkish troops. Even the ambassador to America from Israel said that it made no sense to have 2,000 troops in the midst of tens of thousands of Iranians, tens of thousands of Turks. Basically they become a trip wire for a bigger war.
They've met success. They've met their goal. We should now change the goal. We did defeat ISIS.
SMERCONISH: You referenced the Kurds, of course, one of the arguments from opponents of your view is that we will be abandoning them?
PAUL: The problem is that you are in the midst of a war that has been going on even longer than the war in Syria. And that's a war between Turkey and elements of the Kurds.
And so is that our job? I mean, are we there to create a nation for the Kurds? Are we there to create nations for every group that has a grievance in that area? No, I don't think so.
The Kurds have been brave fighters. And they have been good allies of us. And the Turks see them completely in an opposite way. But, you know, if you want to, and American people want to be the defenders of the Kurd and set up a Kurdistan over there and go to war for the Kurds, then let's vote on it in Congress.
See the constitution was very specific on this. The president is not allowed to do this, anyway. The whole -- the whole procedure of being in Syria was never approved in a constitutional way. But if you want to be there forever, Lindsey Graham wants to be there forever put it to the Senate, put it to Congress and let's vote on whether or not we're going to be at war over there.
I think the American people are actually with me and the also with the president on this.
SMERCONISH: So let's tick through some of the other complaints that would be coming from an opponent of your view. Iran, we've now tipped the balance of power in the Middle East toward Iran by our plan to withdraw from Syria.
PAUL: Actually we've tipped the balance and favor of Iran by toppling Saddam Hussein and this is something the president gets better than almost anybody and he's been unafraid to say it. He's been bold about it.
The biggest foreign policy mistake of our lifetime bar none was opposing and getting rid of the regime of Saddam Hussein because that did actually tipped the balance. It created chaos.
And guess what? Iraq, their best ally now is Iran. Iran has a great deal of influence in Iraq. That's because we got involved with regime change.
That is the lesson of the Middle East. Every time we had a regime change, we've actually got unintended consequences.
SMERCONISH: OK. Criticism number three and then I'll be finish at least in this respect. We've now lost whatever leverage we might have with Bashar al-Assad.
PAUL: There is no leverage with Bashar al-Assad. Basically, he won the war and it's you know I'm not a fan of Assad. But at the same time I'm also not a fan of the Sunni extremists that people in our government like Lindsey Graham have been so in love with and who have supported.
The Sunni extremists that we have given weapons to have said, yes, they hate Assad. They're indifferent frankly to ISIS. And when they're done with Assad they'll go for Israel and Golan heights. So these aren't good people.
And so sometimes wars don't have good people and we -- it doesn't make sense to be involved. That's why the constitution wanted us to have a significant public debate before we went to war.
SMERCONISH: You met with the president in the White House after this tragedy in Syria this week. What, if anything, can you tell us about that meeting?
PAUL: You know, that his primary concern was for the lives lost the soldiers. He referenced his trips to Walter Reed, how profoundly it affects him to see these soldiers missing limbs, soldiers with post- traumatic stress.
You know, I think this is something that a lot of people haven't seen publicly how concerned the president is for the soldiers and how he takes it as a burden and as an ominous responsibility to decide whether we're at war or not. Now, really, we should share the responsibility, frankly. And Congress should be involved in making this decision. But I think it does affect the president profoundly and to those who say, oh, they were killed because we're leaving.
No, they're killed because we were there. And the longer we stay, the more of our soldiers will be killed. And basically, 2,000 soldiers are targets.
The Arabs on both side, they love to kill Americans, because it makes international news and it drags us further into their quagmire. Ultimately, I think the end of terror, the end of radical Islam comes when Islam steps up.
Islam has to police Islam. The Islamic countries have to police them. And I say for goodness sakes, there is one percent of ISIS left and they can't take care of them? Why is it always our job, why is it always our soldiers that have lay their lives on the line?
I think it's time for the Arabs to stand up and police their own nations.
SMERCONISH: Senator Paul, some wondered whether the tragedy this week in Syria. The death of four Americans would slow the president's withdrawal plan.
You came out of that White House meeting and you said you thought essentially, I'm paraphrasing, Afghanistan would be next. Meaning that if anything this would accelerate withdrawal from the Middle East. Speak to that issue.
PAUL: You know I can't give you a time table. I can say that if you look at the president's public statements on endless war, perpetual war, that's the language that people like myself and others who have grown very wary of these wars that go on forever. Really on the right and the left of the political spectrum have been using.
And so I've been more and more encouraged with what he is saying. He has announced publicly they are going to remove some troops from Afghanistan. What I said is when I came out of the White House is, you know, it wouldn't be as quick as some of us would like, like I would like, but it will happen.
But I can tell you you've got other Republicans, the hawks that were in that meeting saying, we can't have a precipitous leaving of Afghanistan and yet 17 years and they're calling it precipitous -- this is the problem the neo-conservatives that want to stay forever. They will tell you that in 10 years, we can't have precipitous withdrawal from the Middle East. It's a retreat.
It's not a retreat. We won the war. I challenge these state department folks, people come in I say, tell me one person. Give me the name of one person who is involved with 9/11 or help the terrorists in Afghanistan, who is alive? And I say, let's go get them.
Give me the name of one person. They don't exist. We are now fighting people who weren't born at the time of 9/11.
We have not authorized what's going on in Afghanistan. We should vote again. And I think the American people and most polling have shown somewhere between 50 to 60 percent. Some poll show above 60 percent say it's time to come home.
SMERCONISH: So I'm hearing from you that you are in lock step with President Trump. To the extent that's accurate, is John Bolton on your team, meaning the Trump-Rand Paul team? Because he seems at odds with some of that what you've said.
PAUL: You know, one of the things that John Bolton has been saying is that the conditions for withdrawing from Syria are Iran leaving.
That I've never heard the president privately or publicly say. The president said he was going to defeat ISIS and come home.
So the question is, will he take direction? And I don't have any evidence to say he won't take the president's direction. But if you change the conditions and if say we're not coming home until Iran comes home. Guess what, that's a statement for saying we're never coming home.
For example, is Iran in Iraq? Yes. Is Iran in Lebanon? They are, in various proxies, Hezbollah or throughout the Middle East and they are also in Syria.
Are they coming home any time soon? Probably not. That would mean we stay forever. And then we stay sitting ducks with 2,000 people there.
So if you really want to be at war and you want to take over the Middle East and make it a province and we'll have a provincial governor of Syria, you have to send about 100,000 people in there and they have to stay forever. And you'll have to fight a pitched battle.
We're not going to do that. So why would we send a pittance in there to make them sitting ducks for the enemy? So, no, I think the president is right, win your battle, win the war, and then come home.
SMERCONISH: The symmetry between yourself and President Trump on foreign policy is not something I would have anticipated as I reflect in my mind's eye back on those early Republican debates, some of which got rather testy and personal between the two of you.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You first of all, Rand Paul shouldn't even be on this stage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: What explains for the emergence of this odd couple relationship?
PAUL: You know, I think the interesting thing is a lot of people didn't know exactly who Donald Trump was when he came on the scene. He was fairly new to activity in the Republican Party. And those of us who challenged him and wanted to offer a different vision, of course, we wanted to accentuate what we perceive to be differences.
But, you know, I think as the campaign went on, when you got into the general election you started to find out that, you know what on issues of war Donald Trump was for less intervention than Hillary Clinton?
Hillary Clinton actually was always -- this was an ironic thing. She was liberal on an economic policy which was actually very, very hawkish on involvement throughout the Middle East. She was one of the ones involved with the Benghazi thing that I think was in arms running operation to Syria.
And I think she was also a big proponent of the Obama administration of arming people who I didn't consider really to be our friends in Syria in that war. So I think Donald Trump when you look at it, a lot of his instincts and he kept saying over and over again the Iraq war was a mistake. And he still says it to this day.
And the lesson of that, if the Iraq war was a mistake, basically regime change in the Middle East has been a mistake. And that's something, that's a value that he and I share. And it's not me influencing him at all. It's me saying, hooray, we finally have a president who's not going to keep us at war forever.
SMERCONISH: Senator, thank you for coming back to the program. I appreciate it.
PAUL: Thanks, Michael.
SMERCONISH: A lot there to parse. A lot there to parse, let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments.
"Trouble with Senator Rand Paul is that he often makes good points that get drowned out by his allegiance to Trump."
Bob, I don't think he has an allegiance to Trump. And by the way, if the president should say something that you find sensible, right? You shouldn't discount it just because it came from President Trump.
I found very interesting him making the observation that he thinks that Hillary was the bigger hawk as between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in that election and that he's never heard the president say relative to, we're not leaving until Iran does. What he's heard and we've all heard John Bolton saying. I want to go back and watch that a second time.
Still to come, you may not know his name. But Warren Buffett said that the late Jack Bogle did more for the individual investor than anyone he's ever known and I'll explain.
SMERCONISH: Now a tribute to an American legend. Jack Bogle who passed away this week at the age of 89 and who I was fortunate to interview on many occasions over the years including here on CNN in 2017. It was Bogle who in his 1951 Princeton thesis came up with the idea of index funds based on market yardsticks like the S&P 500 to protect individual investors from wide swings and individual stocks.
He founded Vanguard in 1974 and introduced the first index mutual fund in 1976. At his death, Vanguard had assets worth a reported $4.9 trillion. It's a measure of his significance that the "Wall Street Journal" not only ran an obituary but an editorial about his death calling him a capitalist for the common man.
It read in part -- quote -- "Investing used to be expensive. Fund managers and brokers charged significant fees that reduced long-term returns. That millions of Americans no longer pay such costs is due in significant part to John C. Bogle Jr."
Jack Bogle was engaging. Jack Bogle was approachable. He had a dry wit.
He was notoriously frugal. He was the opposite of flamboyant, not a Wall Street high flyer type. He also had a voice that would have made him a great radio announcer.
He was forever grateful for a heart transplant in 1996 that kept him going many extra years beyond the survival curves. He taught me a great number of things about investing, his mantra, that I try to adhere to. Put your money in a total market index fund the ignore the highs and lows. Don't look at your retirement fund until you retire.
I remember when I visited Jack for CNN in March of 2017 in his Vanguard headquarters. I wanted to get some shots of what he had framed on his office walls. I mean, after all, this was a guy who have been named one of the world's most powerful and influential people by "Time" magazine. "Fortune" called him one of the investment industries four giants of the 20th century.
Of all the framed items on his wall at Vanguard the books, the magazines covers, the accomplishment, one sticks with me. It was the "Times" of London, front page from two days after 9/11.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Good will prevail over evil from the "Times" of London.
JACK BOGLE, THE VANGUARD GROUP FOUNDER: I was over in London when that happened. And we're still working on that one.
SMERCONISH: We are. Yes, we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: He was the genuine article and he will be sorely missed.
Still to come your best and worst Facebook comments and tweets. And we'll give you final results of the survey question regarding the lead story today in my opening commentary.
"Do you believe corroboration will emerge in the form of e-mails, texts or other documents regarding BuzzFeed allegations of President Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress?"
SMERCONISH: Time now to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com. By the way, I am aware of the fact the Web site crashed many times. We're going to need a bigger boat.
"Do you believe corroboration will emerge in the form of e-mails, texts or other documents regarding BuzzFeed allegations of President Trump directing Michael Cohen to lie to Congress?"
Survey says with 8,574 cast, 63 percent say yes, it will come, 37 percent say no, it will not. Some of the rest of your thinking what do we have in terms of social media this week? Show it to me, Katherine (ph).
"Smerconish, I love your show and your take on politics" -- you know there's a but coming, right? You know, there's a but coming when it begins, "I love your show. I love your take on politics." -- and then there it is. "But I think you are wrong! There must be some form or evidence! Special Counsel didn't rule out the report completely. Just the way it was reported."
I'm not saying there is no evidence, Dean. What I'm saying is if you write a story in BuzzFeed and you say Donald Trump told Michael Cohen to lie and there are internal company e-mails and text messages and a cache of other documents that evidence that fact, then you've got to show me one. Like give me just one text, one e-mail, something from that massive cache of weaponry.
They didn't have any. The story wasn't ripe for publication. It may be today, it may be tomorrow. It may never be. And it helped the president.
You know what it did? Here. Watch.
It inoculated him. It inoculated him. How many times are we going to have to put up with fake news -- fake news because of this story?
Blame it on BuzzFeed. Give me another one.
"Smerconish, aren't you forgetting the possibility of recordings?"
There could be a recording. Again, Lizzie, there might be all this stuff. I fear you didn't listen to the opening commentary.
I'm not saying it doesn't exist, I'm saying they should have justified, they should have had something. It does defy I think credibility but there's so much that's crazy in this whole story that that alone did not dissuade me.
But they didn't say recordings, right? E-mails, text messages, where are they. One more quickly. Real quick.
"I do believe incriminating evidence will emerge eventually, it will come from Mueller."
Well, maybe that's why Mueller wanted to level the playing surface so that we evaluate what he's got in its own right.
I'll see you next week.