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Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) Is Interviewed About Marijuana Legalization; Impeach or censure?; Should Dems drop impeachment and censure the president instead?; Trump utilizing the power of incumbency; My nomination for Time's "Person of the Year". Aired 9-10a ET
Aired November 23, 2019 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. An important part of the impeachment process seems now at a close. On Thursday, the House Intel Committee concluded seven public hearings during which 12 witnesses testified. Despite some moments of high drama, my hunch is that few minds were changed. Democrats led by Chairman Adam Schiff believe they have established that at a minimum, by withholding access and funding appropriated by Congress while demanding a political investigation, President Trump abused his office and may have committed bribery or extortion.
Republicans, led by Devin Nunes, argue that now Ukraine investigation of the Bidens was launched, President Trump ultimately did meet with President Zelensky and the earmarked money flowed. It seems likely that party line votes will now ensue, first by House Democrats to impeach the president, second by Senate Republicans to find him not guilty. Will Hurd the Republican House member from Texas is a good barometer. He's a moderate from Texas, a former CIA officer, not running for re-election. On Thursday, he said this.
WILL HURD (R-TX): An impeachable offense should be compelling, overwhelmingly clear, and unambiguous and it's not something to be rushed or taken lightly. I've not heard evidence proving the president committed bribery or extortion. I also reject the notion that holding this view means supporting all the foreign policy choices we have been hearing about over these last few weeks.
SMERCONISH: If Democrats haven't won Will Hurd's impeachment vote, they are unlikely to win any Republicans in the House or in the Senate. So, where the process has a foregone conclusion, is there a better resolution? Mark Thiessen, conservative columnist for the "Washington Post" recently suggested that Democrats pursue an alternative, censure. In his piece, "Why Don't Democrats Drop Impeachment and Just Censure Trump," he argues that unlike the Mueller probe, this time, Trump actually did something wrong, but that a minority of Americans see it as worthy of impeachment. Quote, if Democrats persist and to prove articles of impeachment, it will be a purely symbolic act, a way to publicly censure the president for his actions with regard to Ukraine. So, why not drop impeachment and censure him instead?
Thiessen sees precedent. In 1834, the senate voted to censure President Andrew Jackson for stonewalling a Congressional investigation into why he shut down the Second Bank of the United States. Trump would be only the second president in history so reprimanded and it would put Republicans in a bind. To vote against censure, Republicans would have to argue that there was no misconduct at all, which makes it much harder to vote against censure than impeachment. and as Thiessen puts it, a bipartisan censure vote would ultimately be more damaging to Trump than impeachment along party lines.
Of course, the counter is that if the punishment for misconduct is determined by counting noses, it opens the door for some, the majority, to always get a free pass. We routinely ask police and prosecutors to bring cases where they believe there was wrongdoing, not limited by the odds of victory in front of a jury. Why should a president be held to a different standard? It all makes for a great survey question. Go to smerconish.com and vote this hour. Should Democrats drop impeachment in favor of censure?
Joining me now to discuss is Jessica Levinson, Professor of Law at Loyola Law School. She was formerly the president of the Los Angeles Ethics Commission. Professor, is impeachment worth it where it results in a not guilty verdict?
JESSICA LEVINSON, PROFFESOR OF LAW AT LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: It is, because Constitutional provisions are like muscles. You have to exercise them when the moment arrives, and impeachment is still different from censure. Censure, I actually think, would be a great initial step for the Democrats to have taken. But impeachment is different because all these different things kick in, like you have a full investigation. That's one of the purposes of impeachment. You don't necessarily know before impeachment starts what the ultimate outcome could be. You have this educational moment for the public, and I think very importantly, you force a trial in the Senate. The Constitution clearly envisions not just that you have the impeachment in the House but then you go on to the Senate and you have to have the Senators publicly account for the type of trial that they have and the votes that they ultimately cast.
SMERCONISH: Before Ukraine, you were an advocate for censure. In fact, you coauthored a piece in which this paragraph appears: While congress weighs the potential pros and cons of embarking on impeachment proceedings it should take immediate actions to address Trump's serial transgressions now. A censure is a small but concrete step and it does not preclude impeachment at a later date. If anything, it could possibly help make the case for Trump's serial transgressions now.
[09:05:00] A censure is a small but concrete step and it does not preclude impeachment at a later date. If anything, it could possibly help make the case for impeachment more clear if and when that moment comes.
What changed and moved you from thinking that was in and of itself enough to now believing that impeachment is necessary?
LEVINSON: Well, previously, I thought that this was, as I said, a step along the way. What changed is the facts. That was before the whistle-blower account. So, at that point, it was an article that was written based on the Mueller report, based on quoting myself, serial transgressions, essentially. What changed is now we have a story with the president at the center of the story. It is different from the Mueller report where it was misconduct that was circulating around him. Now we have the president, I believe, asking in no uncertain terms for something for personal political gain as opposed to gain for the public good and so, now we have a situation --
SMERCONISH: Yes, I was going to say there's no guarantee that Republicans would even vote for censure. Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to question Senator Rand Paul on this issue. Here's what I asked and here's what he said.
SMERCONISH: If this were to turn into a censure move, it's not an impeachment move, would you be willing to consider censuring the president for his conduct here?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): No, because I think this is a public policy decision. I think it's a difference in an opinion. Would I have done it that way? No, if I were talking to the Ukrainian president, I would say, hell no, you don't get any money because we don't have any money. We basically are a trillion dollars short. We borrow money from China to send it to Ukraine so I'm not for giving Ukraine any money and I think we should stay out of the affairs of other countries.
SMERCONISH: Professor Levinson, the point being that as bad as the conduct seems to some who are paying close attention to the last two weeks, it's no guarantee that Republicans would even vote for a censure.
LEVINSON: Well, and I think actually, if you were looking at the impeachment proceedings, all signs indicate that they, in fact, would not vote to censure because the defense has been very consistent on the Republican side, not just that this might be a small transgression, but that there is no wrongdoing here that could rise to the level of either censure or impeachment, that this is all smoke and mirrors; that this is a kangaroo court. So I think that it's true, censure might not even get a bipartisan moment, which is obviously what the author of the op-ed wanted.
SMERCONISH: Final question. What about, it's a political question, not a legal question or ethical question but what of the argument that this will all have the impact of emboldening the president if come January of 2020 there is a not guilty verdict from the Senate?
LEVINSON: I absolutely think that it could, but I think it's going to embolden both sides, actually. I think when I talked to my students and I say, you know, look, President Trump is going to be impeached in the House, I don't think he's going to be convicted in the Senate. Who's going to use that in the 2020 election? I think the right answer is both sides. History will tell us who ultimately is the victor but history, if you look over not just a few years but decades and if you look beyond the U.S., shows us these impeachment proceedings can be politically ruinous for people. I don't think it will be in this case but it still means it's worth it for Congress to look at the Constitution, do their Constitutional duty.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Professor Levinson, I appreciate it.
LEVINSON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: OK, I know how she's voting. How are you voting? Tweet me @smerconish or go to my Facebook page and make sure that you're responding to the survey question on the website about this issue. Censure. Katherine (ph), what do we have?
No, Michael, the threshold has been met and impeachment is warranted, a Senate trial will air all the dirty laundry to the public. I wonder if it's going to air dirty laundry to the public more so than what we've had in the last two weeks because I've seen polling data that suggests a lot of folks are just not tuned into this. Make sure you're voting. Show that survey question from the website. Should Democrats drop impeachment in favor of censure? Results at the end of the hour. Up ahead, while everybody is watching the impeachment hearings, and the Democratic debates, Christmas has come early for the Trump base. President Trump made three decisions this week, flexing his unique power as an incumbent to shore up his 2020 chances. I'll explain.
And there's new reporting on the highly-contested Russian probe wiretapping of former Trump aide Carter Page. A watchdog report portrays the FBI's process as sloppy but also debunks the conspiracy that the probe was born of bias. I'll ask Carter Page about that and what do Rudy Giuliani, Cardi B., and Adam Schiff all have in common? All three are choices on "Time" magazine's online poll for who should be the 2019 Person of the Year. Well, I've got my own idea. I'll share it with you, but here's a hint. None of the above.
SMERCONISH: While the nation has been recently focused on impeachment hearings, Christmas has come early for the Trump base. The president has been wielding the power of incumbency by bestowing gifts upon some of his core constituents. There's a reason why the last three incumbents have all won re-election. In the modern era, come re- election time, incumbents have found ways to dictate or quash legislation and in the past week, President Trump has taken three big actions, each a gift to an important part of his base. First, on Monday, the administration declared that the United States
does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law. This reverses four decades of American policy and removes a crucial barrier to Israel annexing Palestinian territory in the future. The Palestinians have, of course, been trying for a two- state solution. Politically speaking, it's not so much about Jewish voters as it is an appeal to the pro-Israel evangelical American voters who have been such a bedrock of Trump support.
Second, the military. In a Twitter post on Thursday, the president said that he would intervene in a naval disciplinary proceeding to ensure that Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher will keep his trident pen besides prosecutors saying that he shot civilians and murdered a wounded captive with a hunting knife. When Gallagher's court martial ended in acquittal, Trump congratulated him and when the Navy demoted him, Trump reversed the demotion. In a tweet, quote: the Navy will not be taking away war fire and Navy S.E.A.L. Eddie Gallagher Trident pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business.
And third was a decision that he chose not to take about vaping. The president had pledged that he would move to ban flavored e-cigarettes to combat the vaping epidemic that affected five million teenagers. The FDA was set to announce the ban on November 5th, but the night before, he refused to sign the one-page decision memo concerned that it might lead to job losses that would hurt his re-election. And according to Gallup, more than four million people in swing states regularly use e-cigarettes. In fact, the number of adult vapers in battleground states exceed the margin by which Trump won those states in 2016. Consider that Trump won Florida by 113,000 votes, there are 1.3 million adult vapers in the state. If 1 in 10 vapers turn against Trump in 2020 because he foreclosed their vaping options, it could jeopardize his re-election. The president might argue that he decided each issue on the merits but all might have ramifications at the ballot box. That is the unique power of incumbency. Joining me now to discuss, CNN Global Affairs Analyst Aaron David Miller. He's a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and he wrote this piece for CNN.com., "The Power of Incumbency for Two-Term Presidents in a Row." He is also the author of "The End of Greatness, Why America Can't Have and Doesn't Want Another Great President." Aaron, he's checking all the boxes, right?
AARON DAVID MILLER, AMERICAN AUTHOR: He is Michael, I think those examples are really pertinent and I - and I think add to that the fact that the president is the energizer bunny of the American political system, unlike Congress and the Supreme Court, the presidency never goes in and out of session; visibility, 24/7, name recognition, in this case of this president, hourly tweet recognition, a campaign organization that's ready to go and one additional factor and that is the inherent risk aversion and inertia which seems to have affected the American voter.
We've now had three two-term presidents in a row, Michael. The last time that happened was Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, minus the FDR exception. So, I think it really does demonstrate, under most circumstances, that the incumbent has a tremendous advantage. SMERCONISH: You said something in your essay at CNN.com, the office
of presidency still represents what's left of our affinity and allegiance to national symbols and values embodied in an office and in an individual. But it occurred to me in reading it, he himself has not embraced that office the way that his predecessors have. Do you think that there will still be this natural inclination that you describe to be supportive of the incumbent?
MILLER: You know, it's fascinating. As our politics melt down, as the media becomes an argue culture, as we are descending into tribalism and intense polarization, the office of the presidency remains the one institution, the one we can all vote for. The real question, Michael, is whether or not there are enough Americans out there who still believe that the presidency reflects our values and respect for its norms and conventions and the integrity of the office really do mean something. If -- if that is, in fact, the case, then despite the modern power of the incumbency, we won't have four two-term presidents in a row.
SMERCONISH: So I rattled off just three examples of what I see. I could have had far more, but I used vaping, the Gallagher case, the navy S.E.A.L. case, and I also referenced Israel, a subject you know well, having been a Middle East peace negotiator for Secretaries of State from both parties. Will you speak to my cynical political analysis which says that was all about appeasing evangelical Christians?
MILLER: I don't think it's cynical at all because it's completely untethered, frankly, to the American national interest, like many of the president's moves with respect to the Middle East which draw from the flawed but still functional Iranian Nuclear Agreement, the decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel and opening an embassy there. There was no pressure to do that. The president did that primarily for domestic political reasons so yes, I think on that one, you're right on the money and if you add to that the importance that Trump attaches to military and military families, you could argue that his intrusion into the Defense Department cases in three of these cases, well, with pardons and now reprimand -- not reprimanding but going against the head of the Navy S.E.A.L.'s decision to expel Mr. Gallagher, all of this plays to important pieces in the president's base.
I think it really does reflect the reality and I've watched transitions from ds to ds, rs to ds, ds to rs, and rs to ds. Never have I seen - never have I seen the intrusion of domestic politics into a president's world view, his domestic policy and as we're watching unfold over the last several weeks, America's foreign policy.
SMERCONISH: Aaron, thank you so much.
MILER: Always a pleasure, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish twitter and Facebook pages. This comes, I think, from Facebook. Trump will be re- elected in 2020, economy is strong. Jeffery, the economy is strong, not for all, but it is strong. I'm just taking note of the fact that while our eyes are on impeachment and, you know, admittedly big events, it's as if he's jolly old St. Nick, you know, and he's got a checklist of just, okay, take care of this portion of the base, got the vapers over here, got the military over here, evangelical Christians over here, it all adds up; it speaks to the power of the incumbency.
I hope you are voting and answering the survey question at smerconish.com this hour. Really interested to see the way this goes. Should Democrats drop impeachment in favor of censure? Up ahead, for years, former Trump advisor Carter Page has claimed there were issues with the FBI's surveillance of him in the Russia probe. Now CNN reports a former FBI lawyer is under investigation for allegedly altering a document about that surveillance. Carter Page will join me in a moment plus, who should be the "Time" magazine person of the year? Candidates in the magazine's online poll include Lil Nas X, Robert Mueller, and Simone Biles. I will tell you my choice. It's none of the above.
Plus for the first time in history, a Congressional committee voted to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. Is America on its way to a different kind of a green new deal? The issue even made its way on to the debate stage.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D-NJ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I have a lot of respect for the vice president. He is -- swore me into my office; he's a hero. This week, I hear him literally say that I don't think we should legalize marijuana. I thought you might have been high when you said it.
SMERCONISH: On December 11, "Time" magazine's editors will announce its Person of the Year. Right now, the magazine has an online reader poll with a wide range of suggestions. I have my own choice, which I'll reveal in just a moment. This tradition launched in 1927 as Man of the Year with aviator Charles Lindbergh. The news weekly putting on its cover a person, group, idea or object that, quote, for better or for worse, has done the most to influence the events of the year.
Over the years, the list has included everything from the computer, which won in 1982, to several impactful world leaders. Barack Obama and Donald Trump got the title in their respective election years. Vladimir Putin in 2007 when he transitioned from president to prime minister. Among other notable choices, Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Wallace Simpson, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, Newt Gingrich and Bill Clinton sharing with Ken Starr. There have been groups that have impacted society and won the title, the American fighting man in 1950. 1966, I guess I can say I made the list, Americans under 25. 1969, it was the middle Americans, aka the silent majority. In 1975, American women. The past two years have been group awards. In 2017, it was the silence breakers, those who spoke out against sexual abuse and harassment. Last year, four different covers honored the guardians, Jamal Khashoggi and other journalists who risk life and limb in pursuit of truth.
The online poll has teed up a wide variety of people. Among them, President Trump, Volodymyr Zelensky, environmental activist Greta Thunberg, Boris Johnson, Adam Schiff, AOC, Attorney General William Barr, Rudy Giuliani, and Cardi B. as well as groups such as the Hong Kong activists, U.S. Women's Soccer Team, migrants, the whistle- blowers who won in 2002, by the way, the cast and creators of "Game Of Thrones," and the cofounders of Juul.
My choice is a group too but it's not one listed on their site. I vote for the diplomats. William Taylor, George Kent, Marie Yovanovitch, Alexander Vindman, Jennifer Williams, Kurt Volker, Tim Morrison, Gordon Sondland, Laura Cooper, David Hale, Fiona Hill and David Holmes. For these past two weeks of impeachment hearings the nation was captivated by these civil servants who usually go about their jobs in anonymity. So that's who gets my vote. The diplomats. they thought it was their patriotic duty, their moral duty to come forward, some of them after being specifically directed not to, and reveal what they heard, what they saw, what they knew about the controversial policy actions regarding aid to Ukraine. They had to put up with attacks from people with much more name recognition, including the president himself. They have earned my vote as "Time's" person of the year for 2019.
Still to come in 2016 and '17, the FBI got a FISA warrant to surveil former Trump campaign aid Carter Page but sources are now telling CNN that a former FBI lawyer is under investigation for allegedly altering a document related to that surveillance. What is Page's reaction? He'll join me next.
SMERCONISH: A former FBI lawyer is under criminal investigation for allegedly altering a document related to the 2016 surveillance of my next guest, former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. CNN was the first to report this development that is expected to be part of the Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz's review of the FBI's effort to obtain surveillance warrants under the Foreign Intelligence Service Act or FISA. According to sources the change was significant enough to alter the meaning of the document, but according to "The New York Times," Horowitz did not assert that it changed the validity of the surveillance application. We're told that Horowitz investigators confronted the witness about the altered document and the former FBI lawyer admitted to the change.
But according to sources, the entire Horowitz report is expected to conclude that the Russia probe was launched properly but low level employees made mistakes and improperly handled Page's surveillance warrant application. Joining me now on the phone is the man at the center of that 2016 FISA application, former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. Carter, here is my takeaway, obviously, not having read the Horowitz report which is not in the public domain but relying on the initial report from CNN, "The Washington Post," "The New York Times." It seems that you perhaps were done wrong but on the fundamental question of whether the probe was born from bias, that is an emphatic no.
CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN POLICY ADVISOR: Well, Michael, I think, you know, you touched on it. You said the altered meaning of the testimony, right? We have seen that for three years straight now, right? The information that journalists got from the DNC consultants which was eventually published by yahoo news and U.S. government media outlets, it was always altered. I mean, this is -- it's just more of the same. I mean, this is exactly what they have been doing from the beginning, so I don't think there's much --
SMERCONISH: Well, I feel for - yes --
PAGE: -- much surprise there, but yes.
SMERCONISH: But I feel for you. I mean, it seems, as I say, look, I'm looking at the front page of today's "New York Times," it's the lead story above the fold, "Report Is Said to Clear FBI of Bias Claims but Sloppiness is Cited in Russian Inquiry."
The sloppiness pertains to you, quote errors and omissions, altered an email, sloppy and unprofessional, a text from someone totally inappropriate, the crazies finally won. But what I, as a citizen, am most interested in, with no disrespect to your personal interests, was the probe born of bias and the answer to that is, no.
PAGE: Well, Michael, I think you -- the keyword that you just said is sloppiness, right? And unfortunately, the way that this inspector general report has been assembled and completed over the last couple of years and particularly over the last few months, is completely sloppy. Right? It's only one side's perspective. We'll see whether what "The New York Times" reported is the complete story, but by all accounts, you know, all I know is Mr. Horowitz, in September, had said that they've interviewed 100 people, right, and most of these people were involved in this coup, (inaudible), from the very beginning. So it's been very sloppy all along.
SMERCONISH: One of the questions -- one of the questions that I -- you know, you got to be into the weeds to appreciate where I want to go next, but I was most interested to learn what apparently this report is going to say about this mystery man from Malta, Joseph Mifsud, and for those who know the underlying facts, it's Mifsud who tells Papadopoulos that the Russians have dirt on Hillary and the allegation has been that he was really an FBI person. Apparently, Horowitz will say that is not the case, that Mifsud was not an FBI informant. Again, I'm focused on how it all began. It doesn't seem it began of bias.
PAGE: Well, again, if we - if you have bad facts, then the law, you can do whatever you want with it, basically. And you know, in terms of the relevance of that example, Mr. Mifsud, you know, I don't think I've ever crossed paths with this guy. I maybe had one call and -- with Mr. Papadopoulos and you know, maybe, I can't even remember crossing paths with him during our time as unpaid volunteers for the -- as part of the Trump movement. So, I don't -- you know, it's -- there's massive questions. I think maybe we'll get a few initial facts here in this preliminary report on December 9th, but you know, there's obviously so much more to be done on this.
SMERCONISH: The "Times" -- the "Times" while acknowledging that Carter Page seems to have been done wrong said at the same time, however, the report debunks a series of conspiracy theories and insinuations about the FBI that Mr. Trump and his allies have put forward over the past two years, though they caution that the report is not complete, the "Times" has not reviewed the draft which could contain over significant -- will you be personally disappointed if on one hand it acknowledges that you weren't treated properly but that the conspiracy theories don't hold water?
PAGE: I've been disappointed for the last several months when they just have not made this two sides of the story. I mean, it's very much, in many ways, like this impeachment process, because you've got one side laying out their story and you don't really have the other witnesses and the other facts from the other side and the people that are accused, right? You know, the people that are accused -- I mean, this is another whole ex parte, you're a lawyer, Michael, this is an ex parte, one-sided process, exactly the disaster we had in the FISA court beginning in 2016. So I mean, it's really unfortunately more of the same.
SMERCONISH: Look, I'm eagerly waiting and will read the entirety of the report and I appreciate you coming back on the program to discuss it.
PAGE: Great to talk with you, Michael, thanks.
SMERCONISH: Thanks, Carter. I want to remind everybody to answer today's survey question at smerconish.com. I have no way of knowing which way this one's going to turn out but I can't wait to see. Should Democrats drop impeachment? Should Democrats drop impeachment in favor of censure?
Still to come, Congressman Matt Gaetz is in the on deck circle. Can we show him? Listen to this now. I think he's about to say something that most CNN viewers will agree with. Stick around.
SMERCONISH: This week for the first time in history, a Congressional committee voted to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. It was on Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement or M.O.R.E. Act, which would remove the drug from the Controlled Substances Act. Currently, cannabis is a schedule I drug in the same category as LSD and heroin. The M.O.R.E. Act would require the expungement of federal marijuana convictions and includes a 5 percent tax on cannabis products to establish a fund to help treat substance abuse. The bill moves to additional committee for vetting.
Although it's unclear how successful it will be once it passes to the Republican-controlled Senate, the bill received bipartisan support in the House Judiciary Committee, passing 24-10 with the support of two Republican Congressmen voting with the Democratic majority. My next guest voted in favor of the bill, which paves the way to legalize marijuana federally. With me now is Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz. Hey, Matt, do you see this as a conservative issue, individual liberty and states' rights and so forth?
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): I do, Michael. Federal prohibition against marijuana has not worked. It has impaired research and it has stopped our states from being able to unlock cures. I was curious that one of my federal prohibitions against marijuana has not worked. It has impaired research and it has stopped our states from being able to unlock cures. I was curious that one of my republican colleagues said the federal government was rushing into marijuana reform, yet we have 47 states who have some version of a marijuana program and right now, federal policy functions as a wet blanket over the type of innovation and investment that could allow marijuana to improve people's lives around the country.
SMERCONISH: So, are you an island or do you see Republican colleagues, particularly in the Senate, not in the House, as maybe coming to the same mindset as Matt Gaetz?
GAETZ: Well, unfortunately, the game you watch in Congress is not necessarily the game being played though we moved legislation out of the Judiciary Committee, marijuana reform remains in peril for this reason. We have divided the movement where there are a lot of libertarians who traditionally would support marijuana reform not because they support marijuana but because they support the liberty and Tenth Amendment themes that you identified in the open of this segment.
However, some of the elements of the House bill that contain restorative justice, plowing money into communities that have been impacted by the war on drugs, that can offend the libertarian sensibilities of some of my Senate colleagues and so we remain, I think, still very far apart, which is so frustrating because as your platform demonstrates, a vast majority of the country wants to see sensible marijuana reform and because we're going to fight about how much of the money is going to go into traditionally communities that have been impacted by the war on drugs, we may be the cow that starves equidistant between two haystacks because we can't figure out which one to move toward first.
SMERCONISH: Kellyanne Conway was a guest of mine months ago and she was here in her role as the White House Drug Coordinator. We were focused on opioids and I raised this subject with her in the context of an opioid discussion. I want to show you just a snippet of what she said to me.
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: For all the folks who talk about the benefits and the legality of marijuana, there are many health professionals and employers increasingly concerned that this is not your grandfather or your father's marijuana. The TCH components are much stronger. We just can't say it's all good for all people at this moment. We're very concerned about the effect on the brain, among young people.
SMERCONISH: I was raising with her, Matt, the prospect that legalized marijuana is an alternative to those who are opioid addicted. I didn't seem to be gaining her support. Here's my question because you are a Trump whisperer. How does this play with the big guy and have you had the conversation?
GAETZ: I have worked to be a positive influence with the president on marijuana reform. To my friend, Kellyanne Conway, I would say, okay, boomer. I mean, that's a very boomer approach to marijuana if for no other reason than it's THC, not TCH and I think that her reflection shows a real ignorance to the science demonstrating that in states where there are marijuana programs, you see a reduction in schedule 1 drug recommendations, you also see a reduction in the types of overdoses that are crippling our country and hollowing out America, and so I think that if we have a lower acuity, anti-pain alternative to heroin and opioids, then I think you'll see the country do a lot better and it's just, like, this is not an issue that young people are fighting about. This is largely generational, more than it is partisan, because I think more and more young people in the country are saying, look, let's just go ahead and let people live better lives with a more natural alternative that has a lower propensity for addiction.
SMERCONISH: Final question, do you have any reason to believe that you can win president Trump's support on this issue-- legalization at the federal level of marijuana.
GAETZ: President Trump is no fan of marijuana, but I think that he made commitments about medical marijuana in his 2016 campaign that we still need to fulfill. Fortunately, Attorney General Barr is in the rule making process now, so we can accelerate approvals for research. That is the key. If we can get more research into the types of ailments where marijuana can be helpful, I think that that will accelerate the pressure on Congress to join the country and join the 47 states that are working for our constituents.
SMERCONISH: Congressman Matt Gaetz, thank you for being here.
GAETZ: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments like this one. What do we have? We actually agree on marijuana reform. I'm shocked, says April (ph), relative to Matt Gaetz. Yes. Enjoy having him on. Half the audience is disappointed in me for welcoming him and half the audience is disappointed in Matt for coming on. We'll give you the final results of the survey question in just a moment. Last chance to go vote. Should Democrats drop impeachment in favor of censure? Do to smerconish.com right now, cast your ballot.
[09:50:00] SMERCONISH: All right. Time to see how you responded to do survey question at smerconish.com. Should Democrats drop impeachment in favor of censure? Survey says, 15,699 votes cast. I think that's a record for us. The no's clearly have it - let's call it 80-20 say no, continue on, impeachment - impeachment. Here's some of the reaction that came in from social media. What do we have? 80/20 split, wow. Unreal. Clearly Trump is guilty and you still try to give him an out. We are in a fight for our country.
Lisa, I'm not trying to give him an out at all. I'm a game theorist. I'm saying we know how it ends. So when it ends, will it have been worth it? And, Lisa, you're clearly an antagonist to the president, and that's fine. Have you considered the potential for emboldening him politically? So that as people are going to vote in Iowa and New Hampshire, and this process is still going on, he gets to say, look, I was vindicated. I'm not telling you which way it should go, I'm just saying is it really the right call.
What else has come in? A ton of these I understand on our issue. No is the answer. That wouldn't bother Trump at all. Jackson was censured and his portrait hangs in the Oval Office. You know, Thomas(ph), you make a great observation. When I was reading my opening commentary, I should have - I should have said exactly that. It occurred to me while I was actually doing the opening. Dammit, I should have mentioned that it's his portrait that hangs in the Oval Office. Another one, please. What else has come in? These are all great comments.
Impeachment is the only way the Dems can win in 2020. They know this. I guess Chris(ph), I'm not sure what to read into your comment. You think it's a strategy by theirs to actually win the 2020 election. It may have a boomerang effect; I'm not sure. One more if we've got time and I think we do.
Smerconish, your three examples actually show that Trump has no real values or convictions, he does what appeals to his base and what he thinks works for his reelection. Hey, I was simply making a point about the power of the incumbency, not something to be overlooked as we look at 2020.
My American Life in Columns tour, next up, January 26 in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, that's really Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then Manchester, New Hampshire, come February. Have a Happy Thanksgiving. See you next week.