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What Is The State Of The Democratic Race A Week Out From Nevada?; President Trump Attacks Michael Bloomberg's Stature; What Kind Of Debater Is Michael Bloomberg?; Will Longtime Trump Political Adviser Get Any Prison Time? Aired 9-10a ET
Aired February 15, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Stuck in the middle. That's the state of the Democratic race. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. All eyes now on Nevada. Today is the first of four days of early voting. The caucus then occurs next Saturday night. Now, traditionally, Iowa and New Hampshire provide clarity to presidential elections, but that didn't happen this year. The field winnowed only among the outliers and the competition that's intensifying among those not on the far left seems to be creating the clearest path for the candidate who is in that most progressive lane.
Bernie Sanders deserves to be recognized as the front-runner having effectively tied Pete Buttigieg in Iowa, having won in New Hampshire and now leading in the polls in Nevada, but Bernie is unrepresentative of where most of the votes have been cast thus far.
On Tuesday night while participating in CNN's New Hampshire coverage, I fired off this tweet after most of the vote was counted. As I just said on CNN, add Sanders and Warren, then compare to Buttigieg plus Klobuchar plus Biden, New Hampshire voted or more moderates than progressives.
Later, others made similar observations, including the "LA Times" Scott Martelle who said, quote, "If you lump together the vote totals for Sanders, Warren and Steyer, they won 38.6 percent of the vote, but the moderates did even better. Combined, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Biden, Gabbard and Yang drew a combined 58.7 percent of the vote.
Warren sputtered in New Hampshire and when she said there were only two states now into the process, she was literally correct, but one of those states was her neighbor and two-thirds of New Hampshire is reached by the Boston media market. Meanwhile, Mayor Pete has come from nowhere to distinguish himself, but unlike Bernie Sanders, he's running in a lane that got more crowded with the rise of Amy Klobuchar. Both have benefited from Joe Biden's slow start, which he hopes to turn around when a more diverse electorate gets its say in Nevada and South Carolina.
And of course waiting in the wings is Mike Bloomberg who according to a morning consult survey released this week is now running third nationally behind only Sanders and Buttigieg.
What does it all mean? Well, that right now, unless Warren gets her mojo back, Bernie has the best path where the Democratic middle is muddled. That realization is causing angst in some parts of the party among those who fear that a Democratic Socialist at the top of the ticket is problematic. Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, co-chair of Biden's national campaign, in a conference call with reporters said that Sanders would cause, quote, "down-ballot carnage" if selected.
So will anyone arrive in Milwaukee with the requisite 1,991 delegates who are necessary for the nomination? Maybe not. And remember that as an accommodation to Sanders supporters post 2016, super-delegates will not have a say until the second ballot, leaving many to wonder what would happen if those 771 party elders put someone other than Sanders over the top.
We talk about the prospect of a brokered convention every four years. Maybe this is the year that it comes to pass. I want to know what you think. Go to the website at Smerconish.com this hour and answer this week's survey question. Will any of the Democratic presidential candidates win the nomination on the first ballot?
With me now is political reporter at "The Nevada Independent" Megan Messerly. Megan, looking forward to next Saturday in Nevada. It's a caucus state. Caucuses usually reward passion. Where does the passion reside in Nevada?
MEGAN MESSERLY, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: I think it's no surprise that a lot of that passion right now is behind Bernie Sanders. You know, we've seen him have an excellent organization here in the state. He's by far the biggest operation, 250 plus staffers on the ground right now. You know, his supporters, I think, are energized by the results out of Iowa and New Hampshire. He was already well- positioned here and is even better positioned, you know, after having momentum coming out of those contests.
At the same time, I think we're seeing, you know, folks sort of rallying behind Pete Buttigieg as well. He, you know, was slower to build his operation in the state, you know, but has a significant team here and does have that momentum coming out of Iowa and New Hampshire and I think he's hoping to capture some of that with the team that he's built here and he does have the organizational capacity he needs to sort of harness that momentum and energy and translate the into results as we head into early voting and then the caucus next Saturday.
SMERCONISH: I referenced the fact that early voting begins today. So that may sound odd to some folks that you can vote today and for four days, but then there's a caucus. What happens? How do they treat those ballots that are cast in the next four days?
MESSERLY: Right. It's a really interesting procedure they've designed. Essentially folks, beginning today, can go to roughly 80 early voting sites across the state. You have to go to one that's in your county, but you can go to any one in your county and you can cast your presidential preferences early.
[09:05:02] And the way the system is designed is those presidential preferences
will flow back to your home precinct on caucus day to be counted just as if you had been there in person alongside all your neighbors' preferences. Now, Nevada Democrats are requiring you choose at least three preferences and up to five.
That's because of the realignment process that happens in the caucus. If your candidate doesn't have 15 percent support at your caucus, your candidate isn't viable and you have to pick a different one. So they're asking early voters to pick multiple choices in case their first choice doesn't make the cut on the actual day of the caucus.
SMERCONISH: So it's a ranked system essentially for those who vote in the next four days. Megan, what is the Culinary Union and why does it matter so much?
MESSERLY: Yes. The Culinary Union here in Nevada, they're the most politically powerful union known for, you know, turning the tides in close elections. hey represent about 60,000 hotel workers across the state. They announced this week that they will not be endorsing in the Democratic presidential race. There had been a lot of speculation about whether they would get in. Joe Biden was rumored to be the favorite. He was actually the only candidate that the union's secretary treasurer mentioned by name in their non-endorsement announcement, calling Joe Biden a friend.
So this decision by the Culinary Union is thought to kind of level the playing field, especially among the more moderate candidates that support a public option and not Medicare For All because the union runs its own union health trusts and it is strongly opposed to any Medicare For All plan that would get rid of their union health care.
SMERCONISH: Final question. Joe Biden counting on a more diverse electorate that he'll face in Nevada than he had in New Hampshire or Iowa. How does he stand among folks of color as best we know?
MESSERLY: Yes. I mean, he has a long relationship with folks here in this state and when I talk to organizers working in communities of color, they say that trust is built over time. You know, it's harder for candidates that have just shown up this cycle and are just now starting to build those relationships with Nevada's communities of color and Joe Biden has done that.
He's been campaigning for -- he came out here in his 30s the campaign for Harry Reid and he's been here as Barack Obama's running mate. So he has that relationship. He's expected to still do well with voters of color, but we're waiting to see, you know, with his performance in Iowa and New Hampshire, whether those voters are now going to take a look at someone else.
SMERCONISH: Megan, well done. Thank you so much.
MESSERLY: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: As we get further into primary season, a contested convention seems to be more than a far-fetched possibility. Here to break it down is CNN's senior political writer and analyst Harry Enten. Harry, we do talk about it every four years. Might this be the year?
HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: I think it really could be. My god, the fantasy might actually come true and, you know, I just tell you, looking at the early results that we've seen so far in this primary season, I really do think it's possible. You know, I think we should just point out exactly what the contested convention is, right? You know, it's basically the idea that no candidate on the first ballot will have a majority of delegates.
And right now based upon the results from the first few contests, it seems that the Democratic field is so messy and looking at the national polls, it's so messy, you know, that this could in fact really happen this year.
SMERCONISH: Does the smoothest path at this stage appear to be that for Bernie Sanders for the reasons that I offered in my monologue which is to say that if Warren has lost her mojo, you've got a lot of those so-called more centrist Democrats jammed in the center lane, leaving it to Bernie on the far left?
ENTEN: I mean, yes, to an extent that's true, right? But you know, as, you know, we were talking about, what you need is a majority of delegates. You don't just need a plurality of delegates and if you look at the first few contests so far what you've seen is, you know, as you pointed out in your intro, yes, Bernie Sanders has done well, right? He effectively tied in Iowa and he won in New Hampshire, but, you know, use the state of New Hampshire or use Iowa as an example, right?
Look at 2020. Look at this. This is all the candidates contests in which four candidates have received 15 percent of the vote or more going back since '92 which was the first year in which Democrats allotted delegates proportionally with a 15 percent threshold. Every year through here, there were no years in which at least four candidates received at least 15 percent of the vote or more.
In Iowa, what happened? We had four candidates reach 15 percent of the vote or more. That is the type of formula that we need for a contested convention and even if you look at New Hampshire, right? It was the first Democratic primary in New Hampshire in history in which three candidates received at least 20 percent of the vote or more. You combine a messy field and that is exactly the formula you need for a contested convention.
SMERCONISH: Harry, in "The Wall Street Journal," Karl Rove voiced it this way. He said, "The front-loaded primary schedule means nearly 40 percent of all delegates will have been selected by March 4. Do the math. Say the front-runner after Super Tuesday has 35 percent of the delegates selected that far. He must then win 60 percent of the delegates in the remaining contests to have a first ballot victory at the Democratic convention.
That's not impossible, but it'll be hard to do." Do you buy into that mindset?
ENTEN: I absolutely do buy into that mindset. I mean, look, the fact is the calendar's the calendar and they front-loaded the calendar, right? So where by, you know, by Super Tuesday, right? Which is coming up in just a few weeks, you'll have 38 percent, I believe, of the delegates all of them totally allocated. By the end of March, 65 percent are allocated, which means unless the field can sort of get its group together, right?
And all of a sudden preferences start rolling whereby maybe there's only two people, as long as you have three or four people really eligible to be picking up delegates and reaching that 15 percent threshold, which so far we've seen that multiple candidates can in fact do so ,that is the formula, right? It's not just that one candidate is over -- you know, there's just one hand who's a weak frontrunner.
What you really need is multiple candidates reaching that 15 percent threshold and so far that's exactly what we've seen. I have to be honest with you, Michael, I study this stuff, I look at the stuff, I watch old election night tapes. This is something we've, simply put, never seen before and I think it's time that we recognize that in fact this is a real possibility.
SMERCONISH: Harry, well done. Thank you so much for being here.
ENTEN: Shalom, my friend. Be well.
SMERCONISH: OK. What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, do to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine? This comes from Facebook I believe. "I believe in a brokered convention -- I'll believe in a brokered convention when I see it." I know, Russ. You hear it from people like me every four years like, wow, this could go down to the wire, but Harry just made a hell of a compelling case, did he not?
And what happens, I think, is that if someone cannot break out on Super Tuesday, then they really need a stronger showing from that point forward. By the time our heads hit the pillow on March the 3rd, 38 percent of the delegates will have been selected and you've got a lot of candidates still on that stage who seemingly aren't going quietly into the night. Of course it all depends on money in the end whether they can hang in.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website as Smerconish.com this hour and answer today's survey question. Will any of the Democratic presidential candidates win the nomination on the first ballot?
Up ahead, Mike Bloomberg has been rising in the polls without debating, but he could qualify for the one this Wednesday. How might he do? Well, we have they asked one of the nation's foremost debate coaches to watch hours of prior Bloomberg debates and he is here to tell us what he learned.
Plus, President Trump is unusually fond of reminding everyone how short Mike Bloomberg is, but does height matter in elections and why is the president so obsessed with calling his adversaries little?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Little Michael will fail. Little Marco. Little Rocketman. Little pencil-neck Adam Schiff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: President Trump seems obsessed with Mike Bloomberg's height or lack thereof. The president, who's either 6'2" or 6'3" depending on the source, has often used diminutives to describe his adversaries even if they aren't short. Little Marco, Little Bob Corker, Little Adam Schiff, even Little Rocketman, but with Bloomberg who's five foot seven, which would make him the shortest president since POTUS 25, William McKinley, stature seems all that Trump can talk about.
Quote, "Mini Mike is a 5 foot 4 inch mass of dead energy who does not want to be on the debate stage with these professional politicians. No boxes please. He hates Crazy Bernie and will, with enough money, possibly stop him. Bernie's people will go nuts." And, "Mini Mike Bloomberg is a loser who can't -- who has money, but can't debate and has zero presence. You will see he reminds me of a tiny version of Jeb 'Low Energy' Bush, but Jeb has more political skill and has treated the black community much better than Mini."
Well, so far, Mayor Bloomberg has been swatting right back. Put it on the screen. "Donald Trump, we know of the same people in New York. Behind your back, they laugh at you and call you a carnival barking clown. They know you inherited a fortune and squandered it with stupid deals and incompetence. I have the record and the resources to defeat you and I will." And here's what he says about the height issue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Somebody said, you know, that he's taller than me, calls me Little Mike and the answer is Donald, where I come from, we measure your height from your neck up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Joining me now to discuss is Greg Murray, professor of political science at Augusta University, the editor of the journal "Politics and the Life Sciences." He's actually studied the relationship between height and leadership. Professor, here's Donald Trump's driver's license. He purports to be 6'3", but on the license he's shown as being 6'2".
I must confess that I recently found my high school football program where I had listed my height as 5'10". In truth, I am 5'9" and I'm not alone. Put on the screen, Catherine, what "Men's Journal" found when they studied some celebrities. They look -- they looked at the data and it actually said this. "'Men's Health' magazine once looked at published heights and checked them against reality. It found that Charles Bronson was 5'7", not 5'11"; Burt Reynolds 5'8", not 5'11" and Arnold Schwarzenegger 5'10", not 6'2"."
So Professor Murray, how tall are you?
GREGG MURRAY, PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, AUGUSTA UNIVERSITY: I, sir, am a proud 5'9" tall. I should ...
SMERCONISH: Why do we lie?
[09:20:00] MURRAY: ... I'm not going to ask you -- I'm not going to ask you how tall you are, Michael, but yes, I am 5 feet 9 inches tall, the height of the typical American male.
SMERCONISH: What is the relationship? Because you've studied the issue. Is there a correlation between height and electability at the presidential level?
MURRAY: You know what? It's crazy and as a scientist, I studied this and I'm probably a great person to do it because I am so skeptical of it, but I have studied it a lot and I continue to find it over and over again. Yes, there does seem to be some sort of relationship between between a -- between an elected leader or a leader's height and how he or she is perceived, in particular hes, male candidates.
So there is a relationship. We tend to, as humans, prefer bigger leaders who are more -- who have more physical formidability and there are some other reasons scientifically that this becomes interesting in terms of people who are bigger tend to be more likely to think that they are qualified to be a candidate and more likely to express interest in being a candidate for public office.
SMERCONISH: Why do you think that's the case? What's underlying that conclusion?
MURRAY: Well, you know, we've talked to a lot of people about this and thought a lot about it and it's really hard -- this is, again, one of those crazy things in human behavior that you find. The explanation that we've come up with primarily is this has to do with humans' evolutionary past and it was violent.
And what the argument is that we've made and other people have made is in the human evolutionary history, it was violent, people who had allies, who had -- who were of greater physical stature were more able to acquire and protect vital resources, food, shelter and mates than people who didn't have physically formidable leaders because the idea was that those -- that those physically formidable people would jump in if they got challenged and somebody tried to take those resources from them.
SMERCONISH: We created a graphic, if we could put it on the screen, that shows where would President Bloomberg fall historically speaking. There is -- I need to make this clear. There is precedent for electing individuals of his stature as President of the United States. You've got to go back a while, but there it is on the screen.
MURRAY: Yes. No doubt and it happens and you think in these -- in current days when, you know, people are on TV, they're not standing next to each other that this would not have as big of an effect as it has, but it continues to have an effect and as you've noticed, these candidates sort of beat up on each other with it. So they seem to think that there's an effect as well.
SMERCONISH: I took a look at your research. This is fascinating. So you asked subjects to draw a leader versus draw a common individual. They drew leaders who were taller. Then -- you correct if I'm wrong -- when asked about their own leadership potential, the individuals in your sample who were taller were more inclined to view themselves as leaders.
MURRAY: That's exactly right. You summed it up properly and perfectly and it is a very interesting fact. Actually, I think the bigger question, from a scientific perspective at least, and I am a scientist, it's the latter point that you made that folks who are larger in size are more willing to throw themselves in -- throw a hat in the ring to run for office.
As we all know, and you talk about every Saturday on your show, running for office is a brutal process and it takes some courage to do it and that's part of -- I believe physical stature is part of the formula that pushes some folks forward into deciding they will do that.
SMERCONISH: Hey, what do we know? We're just a couple of 5'9" guys, right?
MURRAY: Thank you. Yes.
SMERCONISH: Thank you, Professor. Appreciate your expertise.
MURRAY: Thank you, sir.
SMERCONISH: Let us see what you are saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This comes from Twitter. Love that subject. "Trump's degrading of people by using little is probably due to him being a bully of excessive mass and volume." Adrienne, he towers over most folks whether he's 6'2" or 6'3" and it's obviously a very important thing to him.
Here's something else that I think we know about the president. You know, nothing impresses him so much as the size of an individual's wallet and on that score, on that ledger, Bloomberg's got him beat, which is why I think he retreats to height because he can't talk money with Mayor Bloomberg.
Make sure that you are answering the survey question at Smerconish.com this week. Will any of the Democratic presidential candidates win the nomination on the first ballot?
Up ahead, horrible and very unfair, that's what the president tweeted about the prosecution's initial recommendation for Roger Stone's sentence. Now there's a controversy over whether AG William Barr is trying to get it reduced. What if the recommendation was, in fact, unfair?
And you're going to love this. Mike Bloomberg's polling so well that he may qualify for this week's debate which would be his first in more than a decade.
[09:25:08] How will he do? I asked one of the nation's top debate coaches to go to the videotape and here's what the president thinks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Look, he's a lightweight. He's a lightweight. You're going to find that out. He's also one of the worst debaters I've ever seen and his presence is zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: So what kind of debater is Mike Bloomberg? As the upstart billionaire candidate continues his rise in the polls, he could qualify for the next democratic debate Wednesday in Las Vegas. He needs to hit 10 percent or more in four DNC recognized polls. Well, he's already hit that in three.
He just needs one more before 11:59 p.m. Tuesday night. But does he actually want that to happen? Or has his strength so far partly derived from staying out of the fray?
His previous debate experience was three times that he ran for New York City mayor, 2001, 2005 and 2009. So the last time that he did it was over a decade ago. What can we glean?
I asked Dr. Todd Graham to review hours of Bloomberg tape and he did so. Todd is the debate director at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. His debate teams have won five national championships. Three times he has been named National Debate Coach of the Year.
Todd, thank you so much for doing this. I know it took a lot of time. I'll talk style and substance. But let's begin with style. What do you get from Bloomberg stylistically?
TODD GRAHAM, DEBATE DIRECTOR, SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY, CARBONDALE: Well, you know, I hate to say this but sometimes President Trump is is just absolutely right when he does sort of look at other people, especially on television, because he has a lot of experience there. So I was watching your clips earlier of President Trump saying that Bloomberg had low energy and zero presence. And I've got to be honest, I've never seen Michael Bloomberg in a debate. I watched these three debates and Trump's not wrong. Michael Bloomberg doesn't have a great deal of presence.
What I wrote was that he was very sort of dry, informative, sort of matter of fact like, but he doesn't have a lot of volume variety. A lot of rate variety, like the rate in which he speaks, so, yes, there is a point to be said that he's a very what I would just call dullish debater.
SMERCONISH: Is that necessarily a bad thing?
GRAHAM: That's -- now that's a different question. That's not a necessarily bad thing. Indeed, I think it would be a benefit if he was debating one-on-one, especially debating against Donald Trump. We can talk about why he stands up for himself, he wouldn't have any trouble there. But I think he would be a nice contrast against Trump.
Now the problem is, doing that same style of debate in a large Democratic primary debate where there might be five other people, so he would be the sixth debater, that might lead you into a little bit of trouble because you really do need to have a little bit more pop in these debates. When it's a big stage, a lot of people on stage especially because first impressions matter, Michael.
So a lot of these debates when I watched them it's the first time I've seen any of these candidates' debate. Well, this will be the first time if he debates this week that Michael Bloomberg has ever been seen by a majority of the American public. And first impressions matter. So if he comes out with that dry sort of informational sort of approach, I think he'll get overwhelmed by the five other Democrats on stage.
SMERCONISH: Let's go to the tape. This is Mike Bloomberg in 2001. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Elections are about choices. And choices are made based on character and accomplishment and potential. When it comes to character, I think anybody that's known me for the last 59 years will tell you that I am honest, I am loyal. Perhaps sometimes, to a fault. I speak my mind. I always try to be realistic.
When it comes to accomplishment, I've built a business. I've hired 8,000 people. I've negotiated contracts, dealt with unions, met budgets, delivered things on time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Todd, in his tweets recently, he's been pithy. He's had one-liners. I've shown some of them today. How about on the debate stage? Is he prone to zingers?
GRAHAM: Not really. And here's the problem is because, you know, I've seen those tweets as well. I've seen some of those comments and so when you asked me to watch his three debates, I thought the personalities that I saw online in those tweets was going to come out in the debates. And to be honest, it really didn't.
What you just saw there, you just played a clip that was his closing. That was his closing of a debate. There was no question that was his pitch for why he should be mayor. And it was just like, well, you know, you could vote for me because I get things delivered on time. It just had no energy and enthusiasm. And that won't play well on the Democratic stage coming up. So he needs to have just more energy.
SMERCONISH: I want to show you body language. Catherine (ph), roll the body language cut that we have and let Todd analyze this. A lot of use of the hands.
I'm a very active speaker. I see a lot of -- what do you make of this, Todd?
GRAHAM: This is a mirroring gesture. I actually personally call this working at Amazon because he's lifting those boxes. So he's moving those boxes around. So I see this a lot in public speakers. It's not a bad deal. It's just a mirror. It's a mirroring deal with gestures.
So I don't think the gestures are going to be any kind of a trouble for him. I think he'll be fine there. He's comfortable enough with them.
SMERCONISH: If the last few days have been any indication, he's going to be under fire. I want to show you Mayor Bloomberg in 2009, in the debate. Roll that. Then we'll talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: I think you're wrong. It wasn't the fourth grade is in the city. It was the four grade in the state. The city's test scores don't come out until next month and we're optimistic that we will beat the state and show real progress. But what you can't escape is that the progress in the schools is very different than it was back in the days when Bill Thompson ran the schools. Then the schools were violent --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: He was correcting the moderator and then taking control again of that stage. Respond to that.
GRAHAM: Yes. The moderator actually just made a mistake. And so the clip that you played had Bloomberg actually correcting the moderator. Saying, no, no, you're actually wrong about this. Here's this. And that's what I mean by the matter of factly way he debates.
He will stand up for himself. So don't mistake someone who is calm in demeanor for someone who doesn't stand up for himself, someone who can't push back. I did watch him in several different events in these debates push back. He really doesn't -- he likes to get the last word in.
I mean, he's a wealthy man. He was the mayor of the largest city. So he does -- you know, he's not going to take flak from anybody. So he's certainly going to push back. It's just in a more subtle sort of a way. A more subtle style.
SMERCONISH: And he has faced some of the same questions that I'm sure he'll get Wednesday if on the debate stage. This is 2005, the charge of him buying the election. Roll it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you've done such a good job as you've claimed, why the need to spend so much money?
BLOOMBERG: Well, first, let me say thank you for having me and thank you for the sponsors.
Let me get to the question. I'm trying to get my message out to every community in the city. It costs a lot of money. I don't have a big Democratic machine behind me. The city is 5 to 1 Democratic.
I'm trying to have a good record. I'm trying to tell everybody exactly what we have done. And I'm trying to focus on what we still have to do.
This city's gone in the right direction, I believe, but we can do an awful lot more. And explaining the facts to the people takes time, it takes organization. And it takes a lot of TV time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Dr. Todd Graham, how effective an answer to the buying the election question did he have then?
GRAHAM: I thought that was a pretty decent answer. I mean it does take money to win elections now. But the deal is he can actually expand on that answer, he can make it even better because right now, he has the perfect middle ground. I think this is a positive that he's self- funding it. Yes, he's going to take flak.
He's buying an election. The other Democrats aren't happy about it. But here's the problem, Pete Buttigieg has been making arguments in the debate because he takes money from big donors that we should take all of the money we can get because we're in this, as Pete Buttigieg said -- we're in the fight of our lives and we've got to use all of the tools in the toolbox. So I think that Bloomberg should be able to self-fund.
SMERCONISH: Here's what I'm taking away -- here's what I'm taking away. This is what I'm taking away from Dr. Todd Graham that one-on- one with Trump, the contrast could be to Bloomberg's advantage that understated factual dead-on approach. But distinguishing himself on a crowded stage is more problematic. Yes or no? Did I get it?
GRAHAM: You got it absolutely right. Remember, rising expectation is real. If people expect Bloomberg to be this big persona on stage. And the first time they see him he's not that, plus, he's getting attacked by all of the other Democrats who are talking about the billionaire class, et cetera, I think that could really hurt him in a Democratic primary debate. In fact, one of his former advisers said he should probably sit out the debates until at least the Super Tuesday debates.
SMERCONISH: Yes, I think that was Arick Wierson. Thank you Dr. Graham.
SMERCONISH: I really appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: From Facebook, what do we have, Catherine (ph)? Fascinating analysis.
Bloomberg must debate ASAP. We need to see what he's made of.
Well, I mean, do you really get a judge of a man or woman in a 60- second response to those debates? Look, I've watched all of them. I've been present for many of them. But often times it's like who can get it down within 90 seconds and rattle off a sound bite? Frankly, I think I'll be a hell of a debater with the training that I've gleaned here every Saturday. I think I can get it done in 60 seconds. Does that make me a good president? Not necessarily.
I want to remind you to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com right now.
"Will any of the Democratic Presidential Candidates win the nomination on the first ballot?"
Still to come, seven to nine years, that was the recommended sentence for Trump associate Roger Stone that was overruled this week by the Justice Department. So what's in store for the man who never shies away from controversy?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: I revel in your hatred because if I weren't effective, you wouldn't hate me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: The president's longtime political adviser Roger Stone asking for a new trial. Court documents were filed under seal Friday, potentially delaying his sentencing originally scheduled for this Thursday on his conviction of lying to Congress and witness tampering. Federal prosecutors now have until Tuesday to respond to Stone's request for that new trial.
This latest development caps off a chaotic week regarding his case after Attorney General William Barr confirmed Thursday that he personally stepped in to overrule the prosecutor's recommendation of seven to nine years in prison for Stone. That came hours after Trump tweeted that the recommended sentence was -- quote -- "horrible and very unfair." Although Barr said he made the decision before the president's tweet.
With me now is the chair of the White Collar Defense team at Holland & Knight, a former U.S. attorney John Brownlee. You'll remember that he successfully represented former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell in a landmark corruption case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.
Counselor, 10 years you spent in the Justice Department. You were a U.S. attorney. Now you're a private practice defense lawyer. I think you're well suited to answer this question. Is seven to nine years excessive for Roger Stone?
JOHN BROWNLEE, CHAIR OF WHITE COLLAR DEFENSE TEAM, HOLLAND & KNIGHT: I think it is. I think that, if you look at the other types of cases that have come into the Justice Department, basically, this is a case about making false statements and encouraging others to do the same, the seven to nine years is well outside the heartland of these kinds of cases. And so what the prosecutors have done, is what many prosecutors do, they got their conviction and now they're seeking a very high sentence. But if you -- if you kind of look at other cases that have been brought in the way that the guidelines were calculated, seven to nine years is excessive. And my guess is his sentence will be significantly less than that.
SMERCONISH: I know that you know this federal judge. How do you think that she'll respond, if at all, to all of the discussion, the controversy, the media coverage in the last couple of days?
BROWNLEE: Right. Judge Jackson is very experienced. She's been on the bench almost a decade. She was a federal prosecutor herself. She was a very well respected criminal defense lawyer at the law firm of Trout Cacheris. And so my sense is she's going to put all of that aside and look at the facts, look at the law, look at the other cases, look at where others have been sentenced and find an appropriate sentence that is significantly less than what the government had requested.
SMERCONISH: Is there an analogous case, is there something that you're thinking of a high-profile corruption case that this reminds you of that you can say so-and-so got "x" years?
BROWNLEE: Sure. I think, Scooter Libby case comes to mind. Mr. Libby was convicted of making false statements. It had political nature to the case itself. He received 30 months. Now his sentence was commuted so he never actually sentenced -- actually served a sentence but it was 30 months.
General Cartwright, he was the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was also convicted of lying to the FBI about a leak with regard to the media. His guideline range was zero to six months. He was actually pardoned by President Obama before his sentence came. You also have General Petraeus. He had actually pleaded to a misdemeanor -- mishandling classified information. But he had a -- was also accused of not being truthful to the FBI. He received a misdemeanor and no jail time.
And so the range on these is probably somewhere between one and two years. I think that in Mr. Stone's case, the fact that the government really uses to try to jack up the sentence is an eight-point bump in the guidelines for what he allegedly did was threaten another witness of physical harm. Now, that witness has come forward and said that he didn't view it as physical harm. I think he said something in a text about that.
And so that is a factual thing that the court will have to review and make a judgment on. But, again, I think those cases are more in line with what you'll see as opposed to seven or nine years.
SMERCONISH: John Brownlee, that was excellent. Thank you so much for offering it.
BROWNLEE: Thank you very much.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, your best and worst tweets on Facebook comments like this from Facebook.
Seven to nine years, rather vindictive, leave the old man alone. Does not endear anyone to the tactics used over the last three years.
Ann, I wanted to hear from Mr. Brownlee. Because of his credentials. He was a U.S. attorney, spent 10 years in the U.S. Justice Department, now is a criminal defense lawyer. And I think tells us pretty straight down the middle that seven to nine it was on the excessive side.
I just hate people weighing in on this and suiting up in their usual jersey. They like the president so they think that Stone is getting screwed. Or they dislike the president and they want the book thrown at him. Roger Stone should be sentenced this week or whenever it occurs based only on the facts of the case.
Coming up, we're going to give you the results of the survey question at Smerconish.com. Quickly go vote.
"Will any of the Democratic Presidential Candidates win the nomination on the first ballot?"
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com this week.
"Will any of the Democratic Presidential Candidates win the nomination on the first ballot?"
Survey says -- 55 percent no, with more than 10,000 weighing in. Wow. Interesting. Maybe we're all just caught up in the moment but this year, this cycle, does really seem different, doesn't it? We will know more in the next three weeks. I mean, not only Nevada and South Carolina. But March 3rd is going to be epic and by the time that night ends or maybe the following day, we will know where this thing stands, I think.
Here's some of what you thought this week from social media. What do you have, Catherine (ph)?
Yes, I think it's going to be brokered convention and the Bernie bros will cause chaos.
Well, Theresa, here's the question. I heard Senator Sanders say that it wouldn't be right if somebody goes into that convention with a lead but comes out without the nomination. I hear that and it makes intuitive sense but then on the other hand you say, well, wait a minute. There's a reason why they set a threshold at 1,991. And if you don't get to 1,991 then you haven't made it happen and the convention perhaps then serves a purpose of figuring out who's going to be the most competitive.
Here's another from social media.
Which Democratic candidate would benefit most from a brokered convention?
Well, Yvette, the 771 super delegates don't get to weigh in until the second ballot. And I know that so often people are critical of that whole process and think, well, why should they have a say. Here's the logic. The logic is they are elected officials.
They know something about the process, they know something about what it takes to get elected, and their collective wisdom should be factored in. They get ridiculed by some but I think there's actually a logical purpose that they would serve. They would probably pick a more conventional candidate. You can figure out who that might be.
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