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Good Counterintelligence Work Or Spying?; NYT: FBI Sent Undercover Investigator To Meet With Papadopoulos; Papadopoulos Served 14 Days In Jail For Lying To Mueller Probe; High School Newspaper Runs Profile On Porn Worker; Is "Jeopardy's" New Champ Ruining The Show?; Ex-"Jeopardy" Champ On Holzhauer's Winning Strategy; Will Trump Benefit From The Strong Economy?; Biden Opens Commanding Lead Over Dem Field; Peter Frampton On His Finale Tour. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired May 04, 2019 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. It sounds like the stuff of a Jason Bourne novel. You've got the presidential campaign of an American billionaire, allegations of Russian influence, a meeting over drinks at a swank London Hotel where a young campaign advisor enjoys the company of a curvacious bottle blonde reportedly sent by the FBI, but it really happened in September of 2016, at least according to a report in yesterday's "New York Times."

The question is whether this is a case of good counterintelligence work or more nefarious spying. Here's the background. From the get-go, the president has been nothing if not consistent. He's repeatedly proclaimed all allegations of collusion a hoax, the Mueller investigation a witch-hunt and the probe to be the stuff of a deep state conspiracy.

To hear Trump and his prime time defenders tell it, the investigation was entirely based on unconfirmed allegations contained in a dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign. That's a reference to the FISA warrant first taken out on Carter Page in October of 2016, but by October, the Russian investigation was already underway, having begun three months prior.

It began after the FBI learned that a Trump campaign associate named George Papadopoulos had revealed to an Australian diplomat before the first "WikiLeaks" dump that the Russians possess dirt on Hillary Clinton. And now comes the news that the FBI dispatched a government investigator posing as a research assistant to meet with Papadopoulos in search of the answer to a single question -- was the Trump campaign working with Russia?

Now, the operation did not yield valuable information. To the president, this is spying, an abomination, the establishment of a dangerous precedent and the president may have a kindred spirit in Attorney General Bill Barr who told Congress recently, "I think spying on a political campaign is a big deal," but is the investigation worthy of condemnation or applause?

After all, candidate Donald Trump had often heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin and many in his orbit, including Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Carter Page, they all had significant contacts with Russia. Based on these facts, the FBI would arguably have been derelict in its duty not to investigate the Russian contacts with the Trump campaign.

So this hour, I want to know what you think. Go to and answer the survey question. The FBI dispatch of Azra Turk, a sexy bottle blonde in her 30s, to interact with George Papadopoulos, is that good counterintelligence work or spying?

Now, you might want to hear from my next guest before you vote because joining me now is former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos. He is the author of a brand new book. It's called, "Deep state Target: How I Got Caught in the Crosshairs of the Plot to Bring Down President Trump." So tell me about your meeting with Azra Turk?

GEORGE PAPADOPOULOS, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: Thanks for having me. Sure. So let's look at what happened exactly here. In September of 2016, I received an unsolicited e-mail in my inbox from a man named Stefan Halper. I've never heard of this person in my life. I did a simple Google search on him and I saw that he was a Cambridge professor and he had worked for four U.S. administrations.

And he wanted to pay me $3,000 to basically write a report on the energy business in Israel and Cyprus which I was a recognized expert at the time on. And he flew me to London. He paid a five-star accommodation and he told me before I meet with you, my assistant wants to meet with you first and she's going to take you out for drinks and that's when I met this individual, Azra Turk, which of course was a fake alias.

And I was a little suspicious about it because I didn't have any understanding why I was meeting a different person, especially a Turkish national. And that's why I disabuse the claim that this was some sort of FBI agent and even "The New York Times," I think yesterday, suggested that she wasn't FBI and likely working for some other intel agency.

So I was a little suspicious because she barely spoke English. She was very flirty. She expressed that she was a Turkish national and she was probing me about two different things. One, it was about my own background in the energy business, a very sensitive topic I was working on throughout my career in the Middle East, and the second thing was about Trump and Russia.

So there was a two angled approach here. One about George Papadopoulos as an individual and my background dealing with other governments, not Russia, and then Trump and Russia. So it was a very bizarre meeting and of course there was no fruit to bear from this meeting because of course there was no conspiracy and I have never even met a Russian official in my life. So ...

[09:05:02] SMERCONISH: Did she -- did she offer you sex? PAPADOPOULOS: She of course overtly didn't offer it, but she made it very clear that that was on the table if we continued to enjoy each other's company. And as you saw in the ...

SMERCONISH: Here's what you wrote ...


SMERCONISH: Here's what you wrote in your book about Azra Turk. We'll put it on the screen.


SMERCONISH: "Azra Turk is a vision right out of central casting for a spy flick. She's a sexy bottle blonde in her 30s. She isn't shy about showing her curves, as if anyone could miss them. She's a fantasy's fantasy. If this is what academic researchers look like, I've been going to the wrong school, I laughed to myself." Do you know today, George, who is she?

PAPADOPOULOS: I have no idea who this person is and I'm actually very curious to find out more and I think some of the investigations into what happened in 2016 are probably going to bear that answer for everyone. We now know that she wasn't some sort of research associate, as I explained. She just didn't fit that profile. She really matched the profile of some sort of agents.

So I was very suspicious right away about her and as I explained in my book as well, Halper didn't present himself well as a Cambridge academic. So the whole operation, I'm not sure if it was rushed. It was well crafted, but I don't think it was the best and brightest that were thrown my way.

SMERCONISH: So "The Times" -- "The Times" story from yesterday, "The Times" seems convinced that she was sent by the FBI. Are you convinced that she was sent by the FBI?

PAPADOPOULOS: Well, I don't know. I was watching Adam Goldman's, I think that's the reporter's name. He was on your show -- not your -- Anderson Cooper's show last night and Anderson Cooper I think asked him poignantly was she working for the FBI? And he said, well, I can't answer that question yet. I'll just say she was a government informant or something like that. So if she was FBI, why not just say she was FBI?

And of course as I just explained, the profile did not match an FBI operation. It was in London. As "The New York Times" suggested, the British government was notified about the operation and then, of cours,e I met the British government the same day I was meeting Stefan Halper and Azra Turk. So this was very well planned. I believe the British were involved in this. I think "The New York Times" makes it very clear that they were. So why would the FBI be operating in London? It just doesn't make sense to me, but I could be wrong.

SMERCONISH: OK. So let's get to the real controversy here as to whether this was a good or a bad thing. The president, by the way, tweeted yesterday, "Finally mainstream media is getting involved. Too hot to avoid. Pulitzer Prize, anyone? 'The New York Times,' on front page, finally details effort to spy on the Trump campaign. This is bigger than Watergate, but the reverse."

And this is the question I'm asking of my audience this hour. So is this nefarious, is this spying or is this the sort of thing that Americans ought to be applauding on the basis of it being good counterintelligence work? In other words, respond to the argument that the FBI would be derelict in its duty not to have taken a close look at you.

PAPADOPOULOS: OK. I understand your point about people like Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn and Carter Page because they actually had established ties to Russia and they made that very clear. However, I, as an advisor to both the Ben Carson and Donald Trump campaigns, after working in both the energy business and at a neoconservative think- tank in Washington D.C. for six years, did not have Russia contacts and the last thing I was doing at all was promoting Russian interests.

It just didn't fit my agenda. So why on earth would I be investigated for some sort of Russian ties when it was clear by the time I joined two presidential campaigns that every intelligence agency in the world could have known who my real contacts were and none of them were Russia?


PAPADOPOULOS: So where did this whole Russia conspiracy come from that I fit myself into? And I think that's what people like Devin Nunes and others are actually looking into now to find out if this was really an orchestrated event surrounding me.

SMERCONISH: OK. All I know is what I -- what I read in this puppy, the Mueller report.


SMERCONISH: I've got my bound version with me, as a matter of fact. And to hear the Mueller report tell it, you are acquainted with Mifsud, he comes back from Russia, tells you they've got dirt on Hillary, you go out and get hammered one night, tell the Australian diplomat, hey, Russia's sitting on all this information about Hillary, then comes the "WikiLeaks" dump and now the Australians tell it to the Americans.

In that circumstance and knowing that you've got Carter Page, you've got Paul Manafort, you've got Mike Flynn who are all out there with these contacts, why shouldn't the FBI have pursued that lead?

PAPADOPOULOS: OK. So as I -- as I stated, that was an old narrative and you're right about Manafort, Flynn and Page and their ties to Russia. Look, I testified to Congress about six months ago where we actually were discussing people like Alexander Downer and if you look through it very carefully through my transcript, you'll see that this was not some random concerned diplomat meeting with me and I -- and it's my firm conviction that he was actually an asset that was sent to make contact with me.

[09:10:04] And just look through my testimony to Congress and I'm sure that information eventually will be revealed after certain material is declassified.

Now, leading up to my meeting with Downer where you suggest or "The New York Times" suggested I was drunk, which even Alexander Downer and I have both confirmed we weren't even drinking. We had one drink. I was connected with three intelligence agencies leading up to my meeting with Downer. The U.S. intelligence agencies, the British and the Australians and even the Israelis made contact with me by mid- April. I didn't meet Alexander Downer until May 10th. So how did this meeting even emerge?

And the surroundings and the events that led up to this meeting with Downer are very suspicious. And look, I understand we want to simplify things and make things very black and white in a counterintelligence investigation, but I assure you that now that these new investigations are continuing, most of these events surrounding my life, including how I even met Joseph Mifsud, Downer, Halper, these were all going to be revealed.

And look, it maybe it's the truth. Maybe, you know, I slipped up to Downer, but you know, I don't think I did because I ended up reporting Alexander Downer to Bob Mueller and the FBI myself for spying on me and I actually testified to Congress that I felt he was doing the same thing. So there's something that, you know, I think is going to be clarified moving forward.

SMERCONISH: I hope so.

PAPADOPOULOS: It's a very complicated story. It's a very complicated story --

SMERCONISH: I hope so. Let me ...


SMERCONISH: Let me -- let me -- let me just say in the same way that I wanted to be data-driven and apply critical analysis to the collusion issue, I'm keenly interested now to know how did the investigation begin ...


SMERCONISH: ... and was it based on merit? So let's see where it leads. Thank you for coming on. I appreciate it.

PAPADOPOULOS: Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. What do we have so far, Catherine? From Facebook I think, "If you ever -- if you're ever investigating a man, always send a beautiful blonde." If you're ever. Got it. If you're a -- well, honeypot, Lori. Isn't that what they call this? This is like the classic honeypot, although it sounds to me like Mr. Papadopoulos is suspicious as to whether it was really the FBI who sent her, but it's Jason Bourne stuff.

Make sure you're going to the website this hour, Answer this survey question. The FBI dispatch of Azra Turk, who he describes as a sexy bottle blonde in her 30s, to interact with George Papadopoulos, good counter-intel work or spying? Cannot wait to see the result later this hour.

Still to come, will the economy be this president's saving grace?

And when is it controversial for a high school newspaper to publish a profile of one of its students? How about when that student sells nude videos, models for a porn agency and aspires to be a stripper?

Plus, 1976's "Frampton Comes Alive!" still one of the best-selling live albums ever, but after 50 years of touring, Peter Frampton's about to embark on one last tour due to a medical condition and I'll ask him about it.




SMERCONISH: A California high school newspaper ran into some controversy this week with a profile of one of its students. Seems relatively uneventful, right? But this was the article in "The Bruin Voice," a profile of an 18-year-old senior at Bear Creek High School who began a career in the adult entertainment industry.

The profile explores Caitlin Fink's successes. She sells erotic photos on Tinder and other apps, once earning $475 in three hours. She now is a verified member on Pornhub and signed a contract to make professional videos, but it also explores the harder parts of her job, the scars on her arm from mandatory STD testing every two weeks, a company canceling a shoot because of her body acne and threats that she's received.

Before the article's publication, the superintendent of the district demanded the profile be held until the district could review it and see if it violated election -- education codes. Not election. The district told newspaper teacher Kathi Duffel that if she failed to comply, she could face discipline including dismissal.

Duffel refused and acquired an outside counsel who determined the article did not violate any education codes writing, "There is no basis for censoring the article or for seeking any review beyond that already conducted by Ms. Kirkeby, her fellow student editors, Ms. Duffel and me. We hope you and the entire Bear Creek High School community enjoy reading it when it comes out on Friday." And on Friday it did come out.

Up ahead, the economy couldn't be better. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level since 1969. Hourly wages were up. Will the economy carry the president to victory in 2020? And with over 20 candidates running for president on the Democratic side, we'll have more on how some are already preparing for a contested convention and who they're courting to win the nomination.

And is the way that pro gambler James Holzhauer been tearing up records on "Jeopardy" of quick buzzer and high stakes bets actually ruining the show?




SMERCONISH: So is the newest "Jeopardy" champion actually ruining the show? For the past few weeks, avid fans of the long-running quiz show have been watching a 34-year-old professional sports gambler named James Holzhauer quick buzz his way past opponents. Last night, he won his 22nd straight game, bringing his total prize winnings to more than $1.69 million. He's closing in on all-time champion Ken Jennings, but Holzhauer has annoyed purists because he skips over the low money questions and heads right for the big bucks.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Answer Daily Double.

HOLZHAUER 11,381. What is equilibrium?

ALEX TREBEK, JEOPARDY HOST: You are correct. $82,381 today and now a 22-day total of $1,691,008.


SMERCONISH: Charles Lane in "The Washington Post" called him a menace writing, "Holzhauer's streak reflects the same grim data-driven approach to competition that has spoiled, among other sports, baseball. He does not so much play the game as beat the system. What's entertaining about that? And beyond a certain point, what's admirable?"

My next guest has a particular expertise on the subject. Tom Nichols was a five-time undefeated "Jeopardy" champion back in the 1990's. He's now a professor of national security affairs at the U.S. Naval War College. Hey, Tom. Thanks for being here. I see from a tweet of yours that you agree with the analysis that I've just referenced. You said this, "Just watched tonight's "Jeopardy". No hope for people who are new to stop a guy who's been handling the buzzer for so many games. Just like Ken Jennings, he won't be beaten. He'll play until he makes a mistake. Incredibly dull."

Are you and I in the minority along with Charles Lane in thinking this is not the way it should be? Defend that position. TOM NICHOLS, FIVE-TIME JEOPARDY CHAMPION: I hope we're not in the minority because I'd hate to think that Charles -- that Chuck Lane is right that what people really want to see is not competition, but just somebody who has figured out how to break the system and rack up $1 million. And let me just say, I mean, I don't begrudge James the money. He figured it out. He's figured out the algorithm. He's got a strategy that works, but there's an inherently unfair nature to this competition.

I think people who have never played "Jeopardy" in the studio, there are two things about "Jeopardy" that is important for them to understand. One is that most "Jeopardy" players are pretty much as smart as each other because there's a very tough test that screens us out. It is not a random sample. Everybody who walks in there is pretty bright.

[09:25:02] Now, some are better than others. Some are true prodigies like the great Frank Spangenberg, the transit cop who first, you know, really rocked the tournament of champions years ago. But the other is how much of "Jeopardy" is a purely mechanic operation with the buzzer and getting the rhythm right of knowing when to buzz in because you can't see it at home, but there's a light that goes on when your buzzer is -- when you can buzz in.

Once you get that rhythm down -- I mean, by my second game, by the end of my second game, I had a natural advantage over anybody who was coming in against me because I'd been handling that buzzer for two straight games already and Holzhauer and Jennings and the others, once you've won that many games, you're not indestructible, but it's really not a fair competition and most of Holzhauer's games have been over by the first break.

SMERCONISH: I have a clip of your success that I want to ask a question. Roll it.


TREBEK: In 1924, Trinity College of Durham, North Carolina changed its name to this. Tom.

NICHOLS: What is Duke.

TREBEK: Yes. Five in a row for Tom. He is fast on that signalling button in addition to being very bright.


SMERCONISH: So I read an interview with you in which you said that part of your success was in your training. Your training was practicing while standing up. Explain.

NICHOLS: It's a -- it's a very different game when you're standing up and you're holding a buzzer and Holzhauer has said that he practiced that way too and when people would ask me over the years what should I do, you know, stand up for 30 minutes. People think the game is easy because they're sitting in their Barcalounger, you know, with a beer yelling answers at the -- at the screen saying, oh, you know, flippers, Albuquerque.

But you actually have to stand there and you have to wait because that little light that you can't see at home doesn't go on until Alex is done speaking and so there's a kind of very careful rhythm. And also standing up is just a -- I don't know why it is. I guess a doctor or neurologist could tell you, but standing up is a different experience than sitting back, relaxed, with your feet up trying to play the game.


NICHOLS: And again, I think Holzhauer figured that out. He's good at it.

SMERCONISH: Tom, like you, I of course admire his success and I respect his intellect, by the way, gleaned from reading children books, and I also know that "Jeopardy" has always been a cut above. But very quickly my perspective is my dad was a guidance counselor. He was a champion on "Wheel of Fortune." On my block was Mrs. Stockel (ph). She ran the pool and patio furniture store. Wonderful woman. She went on "Joker's Wild" and I feel like now it's going to be a bunch of ringers instead of people like ...


SMERCONISH: ... my dad and our former neighbor.

NICHOLS: Watching "Jeopardy" now is about as interesting as putting a camera in the sports book room at Caesar's Palace. This is like watching a guy who, you know, does algorithms. I mean, even his Daily Double bets are, you know, right to the penny ...


NICHOLS: ... because he's done the math in his head. And you know, that's impressive, but it's also -- it's like ...


NICHOLS: I mean, it's like going to the horse races with a bookie. Nobody enjoys that.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, Tom.

NICHOLS: Thanks.

SMERCONISH: Want to remind everybody, answer the survey question at right now. The FBI dispatch of Azra Turk, a sexy bottle blonde in her 30s -- that's what George Papadopoulos said -- to interact with George Papadopoulos, good intelligence work or more nefarious spying?

Still to come, as 2020 heats up, unemployment is down, jobs and wages are up. Will the president be able to ride the numbers to re-election?

Plus, Peter Frampton has shown us the way for 50 years of touring. His next tour is his finale because of the effects of a debilitating disease. I'll talk to him about it.



SMERCONISH: Another booming job report. Another economic victory lap for President Trump. An impressive 263,000 jobs were created in April. The unemployment rate plunged to 3.6 percent, the lowest since 1969. But does the booming economy mean trouble for the election wishes of the 2020 Dems necessarily?

Joining me now is the house editor for the "Cook Political Report" David Wasserman. And columnist for the "Daily Beast" Margaret Carlson.

Margaret, a president with these numbers in any other circumstance would be a shoo-in for re-election?

MARGARET CARLSON, COLUMNIST, DAILY BEAST: Michael, you're so right. And if history is any guide, he'll just be swept back into office. But there's a big gap in his numbers that means that might not happen.

Your poll has approval for his conduct of the economy. Is it 56 percent? Somewhere around there.

SMERCONISH: Fifty-six. Yes, 56.

CARLSON: Fifty-six. Yes. Bingo, bingo. And his overall approval below 40 percent, in almost all polls. And that gap suggests that while it's within his control, nonetheless, his conduct is holding him back from enjoying the fruits of this good economy.

Conduct where, by the way, wanting to juice the Fed by nominating two people who would have done his bidding but were completely unqualified and of sketchy character? Even this very agreeable Senate Republican majority wouldn't go along with that.

And I think -- you know what? Your prior segment which I was fascinated by, I'm fascinated by "Jeopardy" that what Holzhauer is to "Jeopardy" Stephen Moore and Herman Cain were to the Fed which is to juice it more than it needed to be.

And, you know, the producers of "Jeopardy" didn't choose Holzhauer out of the blue. They knew that he was really that good. And they thought it would -- it would up their ratings and it has. But in the end, it's going to ruin the show, just as having political hacks on the Fed could ruin the economy.


SMERCONISH: David Wasserman, analyze the president's standing for 2020, in view of these economic numbers.

DAVID WASSERMAN, HOUSE EDITOR AND POLITICAL ANALYST, THE COOK REPORT: Well, Margaret is right. A 56 percent job rating on the economy is pretty good. And in 2012, Barack Obama succeeded in winning reelection in part because he was able to convince voters that the economy was better than it actually was.

We all know that Donald Trump is going to be getting out there on the campaign trail and saying the economy is rocking and rolling and to quote Peter Frampton, do you feel like I do? And there's a large segment of blue America that likes the way the stock market looks right now.

But there was one number in that same CNN poll that spells an opening for Democrats. And that's his 38 percent job approval rating when it comes to handling health care.

Let's go back to the midterms Democrats were able to campaign on health care and to some extent tax reform that was unpopular and win an awful lot of seats. So if Democrats can nominate an anti-elitist candidate, they might be able to beat him.

SMERCONISH: Margaret, I wonder, you know, he came in that night that victory night of 2016 with a pretty conciliatory tone toward Hillary. And then all bets have been off. And he's governed in a very abrasive, rough and tumble fashion. That's how I would summarize it.

It makes me wonder if he had struck a different tone, would he have been able to hold the base intact and expand the tent?

CARLSON: Well, you're getting back to that moment, when we all wrote about, and all talked about, that he was going to pivot to being presidential.

SMERCONISH: Right, right.

CARLSON: And we waited. And we waited. And we waited.

He's never pivoted. He's never going to pivot. And it's -- I mean, I'm sure he's been told this, but he doesn't have adequate impulse control.

You know, if he simply would not tweet 50 times in the morning, that would help that -- with that 38 percent number. I mean, Michael, if somebody said to you, you know, somebody on your staff or somebody in your family, Michael, you know, you're really doing well over here. But you've really got to stop doing this.

I assume you would stop. But the president doesn't have that capacity. Yesterday, spending an hour on the phone with Putin actually detracted from the economic numbers.

You know, the kind of -- let's both -- let me have a congratulatory session with the person I was accused of colluding with. And I got off. But, you know, let me have some collusion after the fact.

It -- no adviser would say to do that. And so, I don't know that he can get that 38 percent number better.

SMERCONISH: Right. But I can't help but think that his mindset is one of I don't want to lose the base and I'd lose them if I started to court others. Let's switch to the Ds. David Wasserman, I think you and I see the Democratic situation differently. I think that Joe Biden is arguably today the strongest Democratic candidate against Donald Trump. I'm not sure how he can do in the primary and caucus process.

You seem to think that he's a strong favorite in the primary and caucus process but that maybe is not the strongest candidate if he emerges and runs against President Trump. Explain.

WASSERMAN: Yes, Michael. I think the CW here is wrong because Joe Biden might actually have a harder time in the general election than most Democratic voters seem to think. I think that electability perception is an advantage for him in the primaries.

We're also looking at a Democratic primary electorate that is older, that is less white and more moderate than the stereotype of the Democratic Party, particularly on social media. And Joe Biden also benefits from an important region, the south where out of the 25 or so Democrats who are running there are zero candidates from the south unless you count Texas which is really the southwest.

But he has a very high share of support with African-Americans who are nostalgic for the Obama administration. And he certainly has high name ID with that group. And he's the only candidate who's well positioned to hit these critical 15 percent thresholds to win delegates virtually everywhere right now.

So he's got some key advantages in the primary. But once you fast forward to the general election look at the recent polling on voter's appetite for candidates who are over 75 years of age.

Only 37 percent in a recent Pew research survey said that they were enthusiastic or comfortable with someone of that age. And then considered Trump's ability to weaponize social media and other platforms to essentially exploit Joe Biden's four decades worth of baggage to divide the Democratic base whether it's on bussing, whether it's on his propensity to hug or touch people. Or his moderation or votes in line with corporate America. It doesn't matter whether it would be hypocritical on the part of the president.

SMERCONISH: I want to recommend -- we've ran out of time -- but I want to recommend what Margaret has written about Beto, in my words, jumping the shark.


It's a great piece from the "Daily Beast." So folks it's in my Twitter feed. Make sure you're looking at it.

Thank you, guys. Appreciate it very much.

CARLSON: Thank you, Michael.

WASSERMAN: Thanks a lot.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, lots of rock stars they claim they're retiring to boost ticket sales. But Peter Frampton, sadly, he means it. Due to his debilitating

medical condition, his upcoming tour will be his finale. And he is here to discuss.


SMERCONISH: First album I ever bought. First album a lot of us ever acquired. "Frampton Comes Alive."

Remember the liner notes from Cameron Crowe. Now, we have to explain to our kids what liner notes are.

Peter Frampton has been a rock star since I was a teenager. The British born guitarist and song writer made the cover of "Rolling Stone" on his 26th birthday for his breakthrough 1976 "Frampton Comes Alive."

It sold more than 17 million copies. Remains one of the best-selling live albums of all time. Frampton also has toured with former school mate David Bowie, has played with many, many others including two of the Beatles, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.


He just turned 69, looks great, has been touring for 50 years. But he recently revealed that because of a medical condition, his next tour starting June 18 in Tulsa will be his finale.

I sat down with him this week in Nashville, the town that he now calls his home.


SMERCONISH: You know when rock gods tell us it's the final tour. We tend not to believe them. In your case, sadly, it might be true.

PETER FRAMPTON, MUSICIAN: It is true. Unfortunately, it's not something I want to do, to stop playing ever because that's my passion. So, unfortunately, I have inclusion body myositis which is IBM. And it's a long -- I've had it a long time. It's very slow- moving but it is a degenerative muscle disease. Possibly autoimmune. We're not sure.

But basically, it affects my legs' muscles. They atrophy. And my arms and my hands. So, it hasn't got to the point where it's affected my playing yet. But it's moving that way. And that's basically why I want to go out playing my best.

And I know that I can do that this year. So, we changed all of our plans, when I realized things were kind of speeding up with this. And decided that, we would make this a farewell tour.

Long form, you know. Hopefully, you know, I'll be able to do single shows and things like that. But I can't -- I can't tell you that right now because it's not up to me. SMERCONISH: So, given the extensive catalog, how does Peter Frampton approach the final set list? Will there be one set list? Multiple set lists? What gets played?

FRAMPTON: I'm going to ask the public, the fans, as well as, you know, talking with the band, and what we like to play.

So we'll be -- because people are announcing to me online that they're coming to multiple shows --

You, too.

SMERCONISH: Me, too, yes.

FRAMPTON: Wow. So, we're going to mix it up. So there won't be a fixed set list. And it will be good for us and great for the audience.

SMERCONISH: You're about to play some iconic venues. Are there some that bring back a flood of memories?

FRAMPTON: Well, Madison Square Garden is somewhere that if when you first play that building, you know that you've achieved something because that's an awful lot of seats to fill, you know.

So, it's a very exciting venue to play because it's the Garden, you know. And we're going to be doing The Forum in L.A., too. And ending up, the very last show, we're completing the circle with San Francisco, where it comes alive a majority of it was recorded. Playing Concord there. My entire family will be there for the last show.

SMERCONISH: Have you thought about what it might feel like for Peter Frampton to walk off the stage after that final performance?

FRAMPTON: I've thought about it. But I don't think I'll know until I experience it.

But it's obviously going to be a sad occasion. But because it will be the end, the crowning joy of that tour, my family, being there and everything, it's going to be a difficult, but enjoyable.

SMERCONISH: And, Peter, as you look forward to going on the road potentially for the final time, you're awfully busy recording.

FRAMPTON: Yes. Because I know that I am limited in how long I have to play, I decided that I would, as soon as we finish 71 shows last year. And then I say, OK, we're going to take nine days off. I've got this wonderful studio here in Nashville. Thank you.

And all of the band came in. And within a 10-day period and a four- day period, we did 23 tracks. And the blues album "All Blues" which is coming out the first week of June is the first release of -- we're now are working on four albums.

So, I can't stop. I can't stop. I don't want to stop. [09:50:00]

SMERCONISH: We don't want you to stop. I'm looking forward to seeing you on the road.

Hopefully, multiple times. Godspeed and good fortune.

FRAMPTON: All right. Make sure you send me the numbers you want to hear.

SMERCONISH: I like them all. Truth be told there's nothing in the catalog that I haven't enjoyed all these years.

FRAMPTON: Thank you very much.


SMERCONISH: What a good guy. What a big thrill that was for me.

Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. We'll give you the results of the survey question -- one last chance to vote.

The FBI dispatch of "Azra Turk", a "sexy bottle blonde in her thirties" to interact with George Papadopoulos is that good counterintelligence work or spying?


SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at

What was the FBI dispatch of "Azra Turk", a "sexy bottle blonde in her thirties" to interact with George Papadopoulos was it good counterintelligence work or spying? Wow. Let's call it 16,000 votes, 69 percent say good counterintel work, 31 percent say spying.

Now, show me the way with some of the social media reaction, Katherine (ph). What came in?

James Holzhauer and Donald Trump gaming the system. Hope the irony was intended, because the parallels are too broad and deep.

Holzhauer and Trump both gaming the system -- Media Bam, I can only tell you there's nothing deliberate. I'm taken with the "Jeopardy" champion being able to have this level of success and wondering along the way, has he completely changed and for the worse, the character of the game.


But I get your argument. What else came in?

I would know that it was a setup or a scam if a "Curvaceous Bottle- Blonde" ever approached me.

Well, Jamal, maybe that says something about your appearance. I'm not sure.

Look, if the FBI -- this is the point that I was trying to make to George Papadopoulos -- if the FBI had not taken a look at him (ph) given the Trump comments about Putin, given Manafort's association, work in the Ukraine, et cetera. Flynn, Carter Page, and now the Australians call the Americans and say, hey, we've got some intel here that that WikiLeaks dump that just occurred, that that was already known to the Trump campaign.

If the FBI hadn't looked at that, wouldn't you say they were derelict in their duty? I will only tell you this. I'm as interested to know how it all began and open to wherever the facts may take me, as I was open to the Mueller report and all that investigation about Russian involvement. So, you know, be open-minded.

One more if I have time. And I think that I do.

The right has lost their minds. The left has lost their minds. I am stuck in the middle with @smerconish.

Well, Mitsubishi Miller, you're in good company because -- don't lose sight of this. Those loud voices on the fringes do not speak for the exhausted majority of the rest of us.

You can catch us anytime at CNN Go and On Demand. I'll see you next week.