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Our Immigrant Roots; How Do Swing Voters View Trump's Immigration Stance?; Shoot For The Moon, Land On A Conspiracy; Moon Landing Conspiracies Continue Decades After Apollo 11; How Do Conspiracies Continue Decades Later?; Why Do Evangelicals Support Trump?; Is The U.S. Prepared For A Cyber Attack?; Special Counsel Robert Mueller To Testify On July 24. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired July 20, 2019 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. All this talk of immigration has me appreciating my own roots. You know, so often social media divides, but this week, Facebook was a unifier, at least when I posted two pictures of some of my own ancestors. Meet my paternal great-grandparents and their children. They came from Calabria, Italy. My grandmother is the flapper girl on the far right. Her name at birth? Carmela Vaccaro (ph), but she would become Mildred Milly Walker.

My mother's family came from Montenegro in the former Yugoslavia. My maternal grandfather worked in the coal mines of West Virginia and then sent for his wife and infant daughter, my Aunt Bess, who, by the way, today is 93, alive and well in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

I posted these and I said now show me your family pictures. I really wasn't trying to make a political point, though there are so many to be made, and I was overwhelmed with fabulous family photographs and remarkable stories. Here's just a small sampling. Neha posted, "Here are my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents in New Delhi, India, 1969, the year my grandparents would marry and come to the U.S. so that my grandfather could study civil engineering at the University of Delaware. They immigrated alone with just two suitcases."

Lara said, "My grandfather and his mother and siblings, he was born here, but his parents came from Mexico to work in the fields of California. Hard work and passion for his country and their devotion to raising a family has created generations of happy and successful Americans, passionate about the country in which we live. I'm grateful for their sacrifices."

Lawrence wrote, "Meet the original Hale family my great-great- grandfather LeMond (ph) with my great-grandfather and his siblings. LeMond (ph) was actually born LeMond (ph) Franklin, his slave master's last name, but when the slaves were freed, he refused to carry it because the man was cruel and ornery. Due to my slavery and my ancestors being slaves, this, 1857, is where my family tree stops."

And finally these are Carol Ann's maternal great-grandparents from Italy with some of their 21 children. She says, "Known in family history as "The 21," Alexander Graham Bell used them as a case study of large families. This photo was in "National Geographic" in June of 1919."

I wish I had time to tell you more of all the stories that have been posted on my Facebook page. Please keep doing that. Almost all are grainy. They're are black and white photos often depicting formally dressed, unsmiling immigrants willing to risk it all for a better life for themselves and their children. Arguably nowhere else on the planet has enabled so many dreams to be realized. Let's not lose sight of that.

Now, following the president's racially charged attacks on the so- called "squad," but before the "send her back" rally, a poll showed his support among Republicans increased. "Reuters" and "Ipsos" found that the president's net approval rating among Republicans rose five percentage points to 72 percent. And a front-page analysis by Nate Cohn in today's "New York Times" notes that, "The president's views on immigration and trade play relatively well in the Northern battlegrounds, including among the pivotal Obama-Trump voters."

Now, maybe you're saying, wait a minute. Isn't this costing him with independently minded folks or, more importantly, swing voters? Surely they're not going to like his stance. Well, not so fast. Richard Thau of Engagious has been doing these very intriguing focus groups all across the country among swing voters and he joins me now.

So Rich, you were most recently in Michigan and let's make clear that these are folks who were for Obama and then Trump or Romney and then Hillary. What are they thinking about immigration?

RICH THAU, RUNNING FOCUS GROUPS OF SWING-STATE VOTERS: Well, it might sound counterintuitive, but it turns out that President Trump benefits politically by having all of these migrants massed at the border. Six of the 12 people in my focus group told me that immigration is their number-one issue going into 2020 and the thing for them is they want to build a wall.

They want to send people back to where they came from. They think that giving people food and shelter only encourages more people to come here and from their perspective, the only thing that stands between them and the migrants coming to their community is President Trump. He's protecting them.

SMERCONISH: The point to be made is, therefore, it's not just among Republicans that this is a very important issue. It's also among swing voters.

[09:05:03] I want to run a piece of tape from Michigan and then have you explain more about it. Roll it.


THAU: What should we be doing about all those people coming to the -- to the border?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send them home. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Send them right back home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send them home. You can only have so many people come in the country at once, otherwise you -- don't call United States. We'll call it United States of Foreign Affairs. How's that?


SMERCONISH: Is Michigan unique among the swing voters that you've interacted with across the country thus far?

THAU: They're not unique at all and I don't want to sound flip about this, Michael, but this was not the local chapter of the Emma Lazarus fan club here. These are people who really very seriously think that Americans are not being put first, that the benefits are being given to people from outside the country at their own expense and they resent it.

SMERCONISH: I have a hard time wrapping my head around someone who voted for Barack Obama and then Donald Trump. Speak more about that type of voter.

THAU: Well, those are -- those are change voters. They're people who, every eight years, I like to describe them as serial presidential monogamists. They basically date somebody for eight years, get tired of them, dump them and then go on to the next person and that's what they've done with Bush and then Obama, then Trump and the question I have for this coming election is will they dump Trump after four years or will they take him for eight? And so far what I've seen is most of these Obama-Trump voters are more in the Trump camp than in the Obama camp.

SMERCONISH: There's an -- there's an important point to be made, I think, distinguishing someone saying, "Send then back," meaning people who've come into the country illegally or amassed at our border now, versus, "Send her back," when her, she, is a citizen who, to boot, is a member of the U.S. Congress. Does that matter in this conversation?

THAU: It matters tremendously from a moral perspective, I would argue. I have not focus grouped on those comments because I haven't been in the field since those comments were made, but when I go back into the field in a couple weeks in August in suburban Minneapolis, I'm certainly going to be asking about it.

SMERCONISH: And then comes this analysis on the front page of "The Times" today which I know you've read, Richard, by Nate Cohn where he says, "The president's views on immigration and trade play relatively well in the northern battlegrounds, including among the pivotal Obama- Trump voters," and he makes the point that there's an argument for the president losing the popular vote maybe by 5 million votes in 2020 and still having an electoral college victory because, I think, of the type of issues you are discerning and uncovering in your focus groups.

THAU: Yes. The fact -- the fact of the matter is is that people like the president stylistically. They like what he is saying. They like what he is arguing for. It's not that they don't also like other styles. They liked Obama's style, but they also liked Trump's style.

The fact of the matter is there are certain people who drink both Coke and Pepsi. They like two different ways of leading and right now, the people who I've been meeting with, for the most part, not entirely, but for the most part, are happy with what the president is saying and how he is leading and how he's leading specifically on this immigration issue.

SMERCONISH: So this is why the survey question today at has a true-false. By the way, you can be the first one to answer it. Put up on the screen, Catherine, today's survey question at because I think the perception is, the conventional wisdom is, that he just had one hell of a week, meaning terrible. I'm asking, this week, politically speaking, was a disaster for President Trump. That, I think, is the conventional wisdom. Is that true or false? Richard, what's your answer to that?

THAU: My answer is that it's false. Among the voters who matter most, the swing voters in the Upper Midwest, this was a great week because the president reinforced what he's doing to protect them.

SMERCONISH: Richard, thank you so much. Come back after your next focus group.

THAU: I'd be honored to do it.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish. Go to my Facebook page. I will read some throughout the course of the program. This just came in, I think from Facebook. "My parents were immigrants, but came here legally. This country needs immigrants. It is who we are, but sorry, I do not believe in illegal immigration and we have forgotten the homeless and the hungry who we as a country are doing so little about." Shirley, on that last point, amen. Have you taken a look at what's going on in L.A. and San Francisco and all along the West Coast relative to the homeless issue?

Make sure you're voting at on the survey question. Go to my website now and cast a ballot. Was it a disastrous week for the president politically speaking?

Up ahead, 50 years ago today, NASA astronauts took the first human steps on the moon, but for moon landing conspiracy theorists, it's been a decade's long fruitless race to prove it never happened, including when the most notorious moon-landing denier demanded that astronaut Alan Bean swear on a Bible that he walked on the moon. Watch this.


[09:10:03] ALAN BEAN, AMERICAN ASTRONAUT: I've got my hand on the Bible. I went to the moon. I walked on the moon. All the other people that you think are people that NASA says went to the moon and walked on the moon ...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But you won't ...

BEAN: ... did go to the moon and walk on the moon. Take your stuff and get the f*** (ph) out.



SMERCONISH: Today is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, but for the people who live in an alternate fantasy land, that being about five percent to six percent of the public who believe the moon landing was faked, well, then today is just another day.

Given today's historic anniversary, I thought maybe it would be interesting to explore the thought process of somebody who just thinks it's a hoax and there's one individual whose name keeps coming up when you look into this subject, but then I found some video. I saw this ugly encounter that I think he, he shall remain nameless at least on my program, initiated with Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin that ends with this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please come with my first (ph).

BUZZ ALDRIN, AMERICAN ASTRONAUT: You really like attention, don't you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're the one who said you walked on the moon when you didn't. Calling the kettle black if I ever thought it (ph) saying I misrepresented myself?

ALDRIN: Will you get away from me?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're a coward and a liar and a thief.


[09:15:03] SMERCONISH: Coward, liar, he didn't fully get out the word thief, but that's where it was headed. Needless to say, once I saw this, I said we can't have this guy on. No charges were filed against Aldrin.

With me now is Dr. Asheley Landrum, an assistant professor and psychologist at Texas Tech University who attended something called the Flat Earth International Conference near Raleigh, North Carolina in 2017. Dr. Landrum, whether it's the earth is flat, whether it's O.J. didn't really do it, whether it's we didn't land on the moon, what I most want to say to folks who buy into these is, wait a minute do you know how many individuals would have had to have been involved and able to keep a secret? Why doesn't that resonate with people who buy into these thoughts?

ASHELEY LANDRUM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR & PSYCHOLOGIST, TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY: Well, for a couple reasons. One, many conspiracy theorists or people who believe that these theories are true will tell you it's really not that many people who have to buy into it, but that there's something called compartmentalization where only one or two of the sort of top people in charge of the conspiracy know everything and as you go further and further down, then people just know what other people have told them.

Two, some of the people who are conspiracy theorists really wouldn't put it past authorities and other officials who have power to hold these secrets and there's actually research showing that people who believe conspiracies would actually be willing to engage in a conspiracy themselves.

SMERCONISH: So do they have an alternate explanation or is it enough to just sit back and poke holes at conventional wisdom?

LANDRUM: Well, so each person has sort of their alternate explanation or their model of what they think happened, but that belief isn't really as important to them as the belief that whatever the official or public-facing story is not true. So you'll see a lot of disagreement among people in the conspiracy communities about each of the individual theories, but they're OK with that and they're OK with being wrong about their own specific theory, but they're not OK with being wrong that the public -- with their views about the public story being false.

SMERCONISH: Who are they politically ideologically? I mean, do they shift to the left? Do they shift to the right? Do they come from all different backgrounds? Is there something you can tell me about what unifies them?

LANDRUM: So in our research, we talked to about 30 people at the first International Flat Earth Conference and then we've also spoke to about that many at the second one and they really seem to be very politically diverse, very economically diverse. One thing that we found with regard to political views is that even though some would describe themselves as more conservative and some would describe themselves as more liberal is that none of them actually participate in the political process, that most of them refuse to vote, in part because they really don't think that it matters, that sort of everything is rigged anyway.

SMERCONISH: Right. The whole thing is fixed, so why am I going to waste my time? Dr. Landrum, thank you very much. It's a fascinating subject. We appreciate your being here.

LANDRUM: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This comes from Twitter I think. "Smerconish, I'm as skeptical as the next person on many things, but I just can't accept the moon hoax nonsense. Do you know how hard it is to keep an industrial level secret? Never mind between thousands of people who have to be in on it. Nope."

Yes, I feel the same way and that's what I just said to my guest. I'm surprised that that's not a -- sort of a deal-breaker for someone who thinks we didn't land on the moon. How many people would have had to have been involved? The same thing I said about the O.J. conspiracy. OK. So let's just see. Fuhrman gets a call in the middle of the night and he's told about the double murder and he says, oh, this is my chance to get O.J.. Let me call Lange and Vannatter. Blah, blah, blah, blah.

It just doesn't make any sense, but her response is they believe in compartmentalization. So not everybody's in on it. Everybody's in on just a little piece and the man in the high castle, he's the only one who knows everything I guess.

Up ahead, Evangelical voters, they have stuck with President Trump through thick and thin, but could the president's tweet telling Democratic Congress women to go back change their unwavering support? Let's not forget they stuck with him after this moment.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Two Corinthians, right? Two Corinthians 3:17. That's the whole ballgame. Where the Spirit of the Lord -- right? Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.





SMERCONISH: What explains the unwavering support of Evangelicals for President Trump and could the president's, "Why don't they go back?" tweet and rally this week be the last straw? Joining me now to discuss is Peter Wehner. He's a lifelong Christian Evangelical and never Trumper. He's a contributing editor for "The Atlantic" where he wrote this piece, "The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity." He's also the author of this book, "The Death of Politics: How to Heal Our Frayed Republic After Trump."

Peter, I thought "The Atlantic" essay was the most cogent, the tightest explanation of this political love affair. What's the thesis?

PETER WEHNER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE ATLANTIC: Oh, thanks. Thanks for having me on. The thesis is that Donald Trump has tapped into something deep among a lot of white Evangelicals and that support is about as strong as I've ever seen in American politics and a lot of it is based on the sense that he will fight for them.

Not that he is himself person a person of the Christian faith, not even that he himself is a manifestation of Christian virtues, but they feel like that they are involved in an existential struggle against a malicious enemy that they consider to be the left, the American left, and Trump will try and vanquish that enemy and that he'll do it in means that they themselves might be uncomfortable doing. There's a ruthlessness to Donald Trump and a dehumanization of them that they feel like is necessary to defeat a foe that they think will destroy most of what they know and love.

SMERCONISH: The now president famously employed Roy Cohn as his attack dog, as his lawyer when he was a Manhattan-based developer and as I read your piece, I was thinking it's as if the Evangelical community has similarly hired a ringer, hired a fighter for them regardless of whether he's one of them.

WEHNER: Yes. I think that's a good analogy. That is exactly it. They feel like he'll bring a gun to a cultural knife fight, Donald Trump, that he hates the same people that they hate and that he'll employ means that it'll get it -- get it done.

[09:25:03] Now, in doing that, I think it's led them into all sorts of dark alleyways. I think it's been tremendously discrediting to the Christian faith and I think it's shown to watching world a tremendous amount of hypocrisy. After all, this character counts (ph) and personal integrity and political leadership was central to what a lot of white Evangelicals argued when Bill Clinton was president and now that it's Donald Trump, they've decided to push that aside which means that morality for them was a means to an end, not an end.

It was a -- it was something to be used as a political weapon and when that happens, when people look at it and see it and say, oh, I get it. This is all a game, then that can have a corrosive effect on the trust that people have for Christians and I am a Christian, as you said. My faith is more important than my politics. They're both important, but to see what's happening to the witness of Christ and Christianity in all of this, it's a painful thing to see.

I argue in my book that I think a lot of these white Evangelical leaders are doing more to hurt Christianity than the so-called New Atheists ever could.

SMERCONISH: The perception among the Evangelicals that you're connected to, and I'll put on the screen something from "The Atlantic" essay, "Many Evangelical Christians are also filled with grievances and resentments because they feel they've been mocked, scorned and dishonored by the elite culture over the years." By the way, you add, parenthetically, some of those feelings are understandable and warranted. So you buy into some of that, but that's the perception they have that causes them to want to hire a guy who's going to bring a knife to a culture fight.

WEHNER: Yes. I think -- I think that's right. I mean, there's no question in my mind that there has been a lot of patronizing and condescension to people of conservative social views by the elite culture. That's been brewing for years and years and it's just seemed to have gotten worse and worse. So that feeling of being the object of contempt is not unfair.

What I think has happened, though, is it's began to pervade their spirit and it's driven a lot of their response. You know, one of the most frequent injunctions in the -- in the Bible from God is fear not, be not afraid and there's a lot of fear, I think, in the Christian world now and that fear has transmuted to anger and there is, as I said earlier, a sense that this is an existential battle.

I mean, people that I know use that term. They feel like all they know and love is under attack and would be lost if a Democrat became president or if the Congress lost or the courts lost. I don't think that's true at all, but that's what they see it as and if that's what your mindset is, you don't make a lot of deals with a devil to defeat Satan ...

SMERCONISH: OK. So I have a quick final question. In light of everything you've told us ...

WEHNER: Right.

SMERCONISH: ... the tweets, the chance, is that going to shake this alliance?

WEHNER: No. Not at all. It's actually going to solidify it because that's exactly what they essentially hired Donald Trump to do. They share his views. They like, in many cases, his style and they will support him to the hill. I don't know that there's virtually anything he can do at this point to sever that relationship.

If you look at the arc and the trajectory of a Evangelical relationship with Trump since he came on the national stage, what you'll see is that originally there was a -- they sided with him and they came behind him, but it was qualified support. With every passing week, with every passing month, that qualification has gotten less and less and now many of them are his most enthusiastic supporters.

I want to say one other thing quickly. I understand Evangelical Christians, white Evangelical Christians, who said they wanted to vote for Bill Clinton -- for Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. I get that argument. I didn't agree with it, but I get it. I think what's so discrediting is that they won't speak truth to power, that they won't confront him, that they will never say that you've crossed the line morally and ethically and indeed they are his sword and his shield and when that happens, that, I think, is a disgrace to the faith.

SMERCONISH: It's a -- it's a great essay that you wrote for "The Atlantic" and your book. Thank you, Peter Wehner. Really appreciate it.

WEHNER: Thanks for having me on.

SMERCONISH: Please make sure you're answering the survey question right now at Go to my political Web site right now and answer. This week, politically speaking, was a disaster for President Trump. Is that -- is that true or false?

Still to come, former White House counter-terrorism coordinator Richard Clarke says the 2016 election was our cyber Pearl Harbor. Hear whether he thinks we're ready for 2020.

[09:30:00] I'll admit it. I threw caution to the wind and used that Russian-owned face aging app this week. How much of my privacy did this cost me?


SMERCONISH: Last Saturday, there was a power outage in New York City that left 72,000 customers without electricity for five hours. While no definitive cause has yet to be determined, terror has been ruled out. Nevertheless, the situation was a reminder of one possible outcome of a cyberwar. The subject of a timely new book from Richard Clarke and Robert Knake called "The Fifth Domain: Defending Our Country, Our Companies, and Ourselves in the Age of Cyber Threats."

Knake served in the Obama White House as director of cyber security policy at the National Security Council. Clarke worked in government for 30 years including as White House counterterrorism coordinator under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He was the first individual put in charge of U.S. cyber security policy.

I sat down with both men at the Philadelphia Free Library earlier.


SMERCONISH: "The Fifth Domain" coincidentally, I was reading the book last Saturday when power went out in a portion of New York City. It wasn't terror, but you speak of that risk. Explain.

ROBERT KNAKE, SENIOR FELLOW FOR CYBER POLICY, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: We know that the Russians have twice carried out attacks against the grid in Ukraine, outside of Kiev and outside another major city. We know they have the capability to take down the power grid here because the director of National Intelligence has told us so.


So, do we know what was the cause of this incident? No. Could it have been the Russians? Absolutely, they have that capability.

SMERCONISH: They could take us down, I think you said, in the book, without firing a shot?

RICHARD CLARKE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL NATIONAL COORDINATOR COUNTERTERRORISM: That's right and the Chinese could do the same with the natural gas pipeline system and that is necessary for the electric power grid to work now. Because so many power require natural gas. So, as Robert said, according to the director of U.S. National Intelligence and Public Testimony our key infrastructure has been penetrated by the Russians and the Chinese.

SMERCONISH: Where does the title of the book come from "The Fifth Domain"?

KNAKE: So there are traditionally four domains of a warfare land, sea, air, space, and the Pentagon has named cyber space as the fifth domain.

SMERCONISH: You say in the book that the 2016 election was our cyber- Pearl Harbor. Are we ready for 2020?

CLARKE: No, we're not. And the reason we're not is we have 4,000 counties that all run election machinery. We have 50 states that all run their own election machinery. There are no federal security standards for federal election.

And the states and the counties say, well, we didn't detect any attack. Well, maybe that's because they don't have any detection equipment. They don't have modern sophisticated detention equipment because they don't have the money.

When you don't have detention equipment, you can't detect when you're attacked. You can't detect when someone gets in and alters the voting rules, or does other things. So, the House has passed a bill to give money to those counties and states so that they'll be able to defend themselves in 2020. And the Senate, well, the Senate refuses to take it up, because Mitch McConnell wouldn't let it come to the floor.

SMERCONISH: Something that I was alarmed to learn in the book -- many things, but something in particular, is that there are a handful of manufacturers for voting equipment. And that they refuse to share their software with our government so that we can discern whether there are bugs in the security.

CLARKE: If we get software for a new fighter plane from Boeing or Lockheed, the Pentagon says give us the source code so we can go through it and make sure there's no backdoor. But when is our democracy, when we have voting machines with software in them, we are happy, apparently, to take no for an answer when the manufacturers say, no, you can't see the source code.

SMERCONISH: Which country possesses the greatest cyber security threat to the United States?

KNAKE: Really, it's a geopolitical question. So right now, the question is Iran. Because of the heightened conflict with Iran, it is far more likely that Iran is going to use their capability against us than any other state.

SMERCONISH: You say that the next war will probably be initiated by cyber attack. How will that work?

CLARKE: Well, the Israelis, for example, last month, decided they had enough with Hamas attacking them from cyber space through Gaza. So, they flew F-16s over Gaza and dropped bombs on the Hamas cyber building. It's U.S. declaratory policy that if our country is hit by any major cyber attack, they won't define that, but if the U.S. is hit by a major cyber attack by a nation state, the Pentagon's public policy is we reserve the right to go to war, with conventional means, bombs and missiles.

SMERCONISH: I was surprised that you think that there's a shared responsibility between the private sector and the government for protection against cyber security. But the responsibility is more weighted toward the private sector. Why should the private sector be producing that service?

KNAKE: It's really one of those situations where there's no other option. There's no way that the government could sit on the public internet, could sit on the network of a major bank and protect it from foreign adversaries. That's not something that our government is capable of doing.

Our government is barely capable of defending its own networks, let alone the networks of a large bank. They don't understand how they work. They don't understand the technology. And they can't make the kind of decisions that the banks can make about how they're going to protect their network.

SMERCONISH: OK. And finally, what about me? What am I supposed to be doing to protect myself against all of these potential intrusions? After all, I'm the sucker who fell for that apparently Russian app that said how would you like to take a look at how you'll look when you're an old man, so I did it this week. But what should all of us be doing to protect ourselves?

CLARKE: And you look so good.


SMERCONISH: Frankly, I thought it was all right.

CLARKE: What we should be doing is using different passwords for every application. Having long complex passwords. And you ask me how -- how am I going to remember all of that?


CLARKE: Get a password manager app. One app to rule them all. It will generate a different password for every time you need one. A long complex password.


You only have to remember one after that.

SMERCONISH: OK. So, one, two, three, four, five, six -- or QWERTY, it's time for me to ditch both of those, that's what you're saying?

CLARKE: And stop using that for every application because if I hack one, I've got all of your passwords.

SMERCONISH: I thought the book terrific. It was harrowing in some respects but really insightful. So, thanks for discussing it.

CLARKE: Thank you.

KNAKE: Thank you.


SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From Twitter we've got this, Smerconish, for you who should know better and still use that nasty Russia app shows that you do support Trump, Putin and the Russians, shame on you.

OK. Lemant Lewis, seriously -- by the way, I like me. What is that me at 85 -- 80? I'll take that deal. But to the tweet -- can we put the tweet back on the screen? Let me just understand the ill logic of what you say. I am in the tank for Trump and Putin because I was willing to sacrifice my privacy to the Russians? That makes absolutely no sense.

And truth be today, my tremendous radio producer T.C. (ph), she used it on her phone. She took the picture. She's the one who I think might have the problem. Just saying.

All right. Still to come. One talent many members of Congress seem to lack. How to effectively ask a question from an unwilling witness? With Robert Mueller testifying next week it's an imperative skill to have.

And last shot, go vote on today's survey question it's a true/falser at This week, politically speaking, was a disaster for President Trump. Is that true or false?



SMERCONISH: Robert Mueller is due to testify next week. And to quote the title of one of my favorite TV shows I say, "Curb your enthusiasm." To those who have high expectations that will be stunners delivered at this late date, I just don't see if for a variety of reasons.

First and foremost, he doesn't want to be there. And he has who already told us that he will limit his testimony to the four corners of his report.

The second consideration is the format. It stinks. It's not a search for the truth. It's been set up to be an opportunity for individuals to get a good campaign sound bite. Something they can put in a commercial.

Either grilling Mueller if you're on one side of the equation or sucking up to him if you're on the other. It's so disjointed. I have taken hundreds if not a few thousand depositions. And the idea of handing off the ball to somebody else who now gets their five minutes, by the way, interrupted by somebody from the other political side, it just makes no sense.

Think of the hearings for Justice Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford. It went from one side to the other side and nobody was able to establish a questioning rhythm. Also many members of Congress, they just don't know how to ask a question.

Asking a good tight question that elicits information is really a trial lawyer's skill. Joining me now discuss is Shanin Specter he is a trial lawyer with the Kline and Specter law firm, by the way, where I'm of counsel. He's also a law professor at UC Hastings, Stanford, Berkeley and Penn Law. He has taught a course which is titled "How to Ask a Question."

OK. Here's my question, how should these committee members be preparing for the hearings?

SHANIN SPECTER, ATTORNEY, LAW SCHOOL PROFESSOR: Well, Mike, the first thing is that the members should know the facts. If you're going to ask about the report, you've got to know the report.

Second, understand the limitations of the hearing. You've got only five minutes to ask questions. That's not enough time to really develop a line of questions and answers.

Third, consider Mueller himself. He is not going to go beyond the four corners of the report if you ask about the report. He is not going to say anything political.

So, what I think the members should do is to consider working closely with each other. Members should be willing to give up their time to other members so that a very good questioner can have 10, 15, 20 minutes to develop a line of questions and a line of answers. And they should divide the topics sequentially so that there's one topic discussed at a time. So there's a rhythm and a flow, so people can understand what it is Mueller is saying and what the questions are and how they're leading to important subjects.

SMERCONISH: And then how do they actually formulate the questions, once they have determined what the subject matter is?

SPECTER: OK. Well, first of all, they need to ask very brief questions. Using old words, not new words. And short words, not long words. And words that are understandable by everyone. And the questions should be focused on a subject that can be answered very briefly. Hopefully, with a yes or no answer. Or with a very brief answer.

And then beyond that, no question should use legal jargon or any sort of phraseology that folks aren't going to understand or is going to be ambiguous. And beyond that, don't ask questions that bury (ph) us in the details of the report. Instead, the questions ought to be focused on important issues of policy. Important issues on the formation of law or important subject of high-public interest.

And remember that the audience is the American public. It's not a law school class. And it's not your friend's backup.

SMERCONISH: OK. I'm ready. You ready for my question?

I think it would be this, Mr. Mueller, tell us when and why you determined that fairness dictates you can't say a president broke the law? How am I doing? Critique that. And then give me a question of your own.

SPECTER: That is an excellent question, Mike. That gets to one of the central issues in this entire matter, which is why is it that Mr. Mueller did not tell us whether he thought that the president broke the law.


And your question is narrowly focused. Your words are good. They're short words. They're not ambiguous. It's a great question. I hope the question is asked. And if the question is not answered when it's asked, it ought to be asked again. Politely, but it ought to be asked again.

That is one of the two central issues in this matter which is why didn't Mr. Mueller say what he thought about the president breaking the law, yes or no. And what is his opinion in that regard.

Relatedly, he should be asked as a policy matter whether he thinks the president should be indictable. That's a question, the legal policy going forward. That's a very important question for this country to confront.

Relatedly, he should be asked whether if he could have indicted the president he would have done so. Again, it is a very narrow, brief question all with words that we all commonly understand.

And finally he should be asked whether there is anything that Attorney General Barr has said about his work with which he disagrees and if so, what is that?

SMERCONISH: Why don't you just do the questioning? I'll feed you what I am thinking. You could pose the questions. I think we glean more information than I think we will get this week. But thank you for being here. I appreciate it.

SPECTER: Thank you, Mike.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. And we'll give you the final results of the survey question. Have you voted yet?

Go to It is a true/false. This week, politically speaking, was a disaster for President Trump. Is that true?



SMERCONISH: So, how did you respond to the survey question at It was a true/false.

This week, politically speaking, was a disaster for President Trump. True or false?

Survey says -- whoa -- 16,979 votes cast. A lot of voting -- close, right? Very close.

The trues have it, 52 percent say it was a disaster. It's kind of like the divide in the electorate. But I think the conventional wisdom we've shown was wrong. Because so much of the perception of what transpired is, oh, he is done because of this.

And then comes the Nate Cohn analysis on page one of "The Times" which makes a lot of the same points that Richard Tao (ph) who is running those engages focus groups noted for all of us. These sentiments are out there. So it's not just the stuff that is boosting him among Republicans. Sorry, I got long winded.

Catherine (ph), what do we have in terms of social media?

I think it was a disaster for the GOP. They are Pelosi's problem. Let Pelosi deal with it. Well, the president -- that's one thing. He seems to unify Pelosi and the members of the squad so I'm not sure what the net effect of that will be.

One more I think I have got time for it.

It was a great week for him. The people he peddles to are loving this, feeling empowered, the more empowered and trending something is, the more people participate. I feel like he's gaining.

You know, there's this open question though, Kaci, as to whether strong turnout is to his benefit or the benefit of the Democratic candidates that remains to be seen. Will those Democrat turn out votes be concentrated in votes they're already going to win? Don't know.

See you next week.