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Normalcy Isn't for Everyone; Gallup: More U.S. Adults Identify as LGBT Than Ever Before; Should any President Have Sole Authority to Launch a Nuclear Strike?; Interview with General Robert Kehler; Ivy League Professor Uses Heroin and Says It Should Be Legal. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired February 27, 2021 - 09:00   ET



MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN HOST: Normalcy is not for everyone. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. How are you feeling about a return to normal presidency? You know, calm discussions with foreign leaders, empathy in times of tragedy from the empathizer in chief, lack of personal, ethical, moral or illegal scandal, political divisions based on policy disagreements, not personal hatred and destruction.

Yes, we're still in the midst of multiple crises and a pandemic, in which the House just voted to approve President Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic aid package, but normalcy is not for everyone. Tomorrow in Orlando, former President Trump will address the Conservative Political Action Conference.

It's an event that could offer an early window into the party's 2024 presidential contest. CPAC is attracting some of Trump's staunchest allies, including Rick Scott, Matt Gaetz, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Tom Cotton, Kevin McCarthy, Ron DeSantis, Kristi Noem, Mike Pompeo, Ben Carson and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but the star of the show will be the former reality star and everybody there knows it.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX) TEXAS: Donald J. Trump ain't going anywhere.


SMERCONISH: This fealty to Trump is amazing given that Trump's long- sought tax returns are now in the hands of prosecutors under the direction of New Nork District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. Vance's office obtained millions of pages of financial documents that contain tax returns spanning 2011 to 2019, this after the U.S. Supreme Court denied Trump's last-ditch effort to keep the records private.

For two years, Vance has been investigating whether Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in tax fraud, insurance fraud and other schemes to defraud, including potentially providing false information to financial institutions or banks about the value of certain assets. The records could be critical to the investigation because they're likely to contain documents that reflect the decision-making behind the valuation and tax write-offs which could be important to determine whether there was intent to commit a crime.

Investigators will review the documents before calling key witnesses before the grand jury. Vance, however, is not expected to run for re- election and with just 10 months left in his third term, the big unknown is this -- will he move quickly and decide to charge a crime or close the investigation before he leaves office? In the alternative, will he leave those decisions to his successor? It seems likely that should Trump face charges, his nemesis will be someone who, today, is unknown.

There are eight Democratic candidates running to be Manhattan's next district attorney, no Republicans running and each one recently refused to answer, when asked at a town hall, if they would commit to prosecuting crimes committed by former President Trump and the Trump Organization.

Had they weighed in, should any case go to trial, a judge could find that the campaign statements made by the new district attorney tainted the jury pool and in that case, legal ethics experts say that the judge could transfer the case out of Manhattan or even remove the prosecutor from the case.

If Vance brings criminal charges in the Trump investigation, the next DA will inherit a very complex case. Every big step would need the district attorney's approval, including plea deals, additional charges, even witnesses. It could take years to wrap it up, but none of this seems to dissuade those who are gathering at CPAC. Bill Maher, last night, seemed to understand all that as he addressed the larger implications of Trump's upcoming speech.


BILL MAHER, HOST, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": The shark went out to sea for a while, it's going to come back and eat more people on the shore.


SMERCONISH: Maybe we're going to need a bigger boat. I want to know what you think. Go to my website, Answer this week's survey question. Will taxes spoil Trump's return?

Joining me now to discuss is Daniel Alonso, former federal prosecutor who was Chief Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan underside Vance from 2010 to 2014. Now he's a partner at Buckley, which is a D.C. law firm. Councilor, thanks for being here. You know Cy Vance. Is there any prospect that he runs again?

DANIEL ALONSO, FORMER CHIEF ASST. DA IN MANHATTEN UNDER CY VANCE: Great to be with you. There is certainly a prospect that he runs again because he has not announced what he's going to do, but every knowledgeable observer believes he's not going to run. He hasn't been fundraising, he's been doing no campaign activity. So, it's highly unlikely, but certainly there's still a sliver of possibility.

SMERCONISH: So, in a case of this magnitude and complexity, is it conceivable that it could be wrapped up, meaning a decision as to whether charges will be brought, between now and the end of his term?

ALONSO: It's certainly conceivable. As you said in your opening, this is a very complex investigation.


I understand that there are millions of pages that they got from Majors (ph), to say nothing of what they've gotten from Deutsche Bank and from Ladder Capital, the lenders. There may be other lenders. They've been gathering records from all over the place. So, it could take time to analyze, but it's certainly possible and I -- and I'm sure that they're working towards trying to make a decision before the end of this year.

SMERCONISH: I recognize you're on the sidelines like the rest of us, but you have a rather trained eye and experience. Where do you think former President Trump faces the most peril in this investigation?

ALONSO: Well, let me -- let me make it a broader question. I think he faces peril in three or four jurisdictions, but focusing on this one, I think that, you know, it's interesting. The Stormy Daniels payment is a very discreet set of facts and if they can get over one weird legal hurdle in New York on the crime of falsification of business records, that seems like a case that could well have legs, right?

Michael Cohen paid the money, he was reimbursed by the Trump Organization and presumably, we haven't seen the records, but presumably the Trump Organization did not correctly list the information in their records and there is that recording of Cohen and Trump talking about one of the payments. So, I think that that could be a discrete case of falsification of business records assuming they can prove the felony count, which the statute of limitations hasn't yet expired.

The other stuff, you know, it's certainly very much worth investigating. There are these discrepancies between the valuation of what they're telling insurance companies and banks and other lenders and the tax authorities. Very, very substantial and certainly a reason to investigate, but as you said in your opening, you know, unless you can prove intent, you're not going to have a criminal case.

So, I think a lot of that remains to be seen. There are -- there's lots of evidence, there are lots of people to talk to and there have been accountants and lawyers, presumably, who have -- who were all involved in this. So ...

SMERCONISH: But do you think -- right.

ALONSO: Go ahead.

SMERCONISH: But do you think, Daniel, that if all Cy Vance has -- and we're just spit balling here, but if all he has in the end is the Stormy Daniels aspect, you know, an accounting issue relative to a payment to a stripper, you think he would bring those charges? I mean, I think in the court of public opinion, it would be regarded as Bill Clinton and the intern, you know, lying about that. Well, some would say of course lying about that.

ALONSO: You know, it's a great question, but the charges were worth bringing against Michael Cohen. We do have the principle that no one's above the law, so I don't -- I'm not sure it's fair, given that Michael Cohen didn't exactly do it for his own benefit, that if there is a provable crime against Trump -- and I emphasize "if" ...


ALONSO: ... that they wouldn't charge him for the same thing.

SMERCONISH: I was eager just to -- I was eager just to ...

ALONSO: It was another under the table -- it was an under the table payment.

SMERCONISH: I was eager just to pursue this today because, to me, this disconnect between so many Republicans already throwing in their lot for 2024, as evidenced by what's going on at CPAC, while I think it was a pretty stunning development that those long-sought tax returns, this week, ended up in the hands of a prosecutor. Final question for you. Would this not be the most impossible case to ever seat a jury?

ALONSO: No. It's not impossible. It would be far and away the highest profile case that certainly the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan has ever seen, perhaps the city of New York and perhaps the country. So, it would be difficult, logistically challenging and Trump is well known to litigate with scorched earth's tactics. So, who knows what kinds of things he might try, but, listen, these are seasoned prosecutors, both inside the office and the special ADA, that D.A. Vance brought in recently.

So, you know, they know how to handle these kinds of things. That said, it's unprecedented, but certainly this can go -- this could go to trial in theory. Also, one last thing I want to say is it's not necessarily Donald Trump, right? He may not be the defendant. They may not have enough on these accounting issues to charge him. They may have enough to charge the Trump Organization, they may have enough to charge other executives, including the kids or others at the organization or the -- or the CFO.

So, there are lots and lots of unknowns here and I wouldn't assume that the defendant is definitely going to be Donald Trump.

SMERCONISH: It's a good point. Daniel Alonso, thanks so much for your time.

ALONSO: Great to be with you.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish or go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program. From the world of Facebook, I think, "Cruz is paving the way for his run in 2024 when DT is in jail."

Well, Mardi, I think you make a really interesting observation which is to say when I look at Tom Cotton, when I look at Josh Hawley, when I look at the whole slew of those names that I just identified, I think they're, to your point, probably thinking in the same terms that I'm referencing.


Which is to say, hey, go present yourself to the CPAC crowd as being loyal to Donald Trump and if this other issue that I was just discussing pans out, then you'll be poised, you know, at the altar to be the successor. I think that's probably on a lot of their minds and interesting as well that former Vice President Pence is not going, probably on the theory that he figures, hey, I can't influence this process so long as Trump is still the titular head of the party.

Please remember, go to the website Answer this week's survey question. Will taxes spoil Trump's return? You get the pun, right?

Up ahead, in a new Gallup poll, the number of Americans ages 18 to 23 identifying as LGBT is 16 percent. That's nearly three times the national average. What should we make of that?

And since Cold War days, a president can single-handedly launch a nuclear attack, but a group of House Democrats is seeking to add another layer of approval. Are they right?




SMERCONISH: The House passed the Equality Act on Thursday. That aims at ending discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This comes as the analytics company Gallup released its findings on how many adults identify as LGBT in the United States and the numbers continue to rise.

Nine years ago, only 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. identified as LGBT. Five years later, that number rose to 4.1 percent. Last year, it rose to its highest point at 5.6 percent. Why the spike? It could have something to do with Gen Z. Gallup reported one in six Gen Z adults between the ages of 18 and 23 in 2020 identify as LGBT. How can the number be almost 16 percent among 18 to 23-year-olds, but only 5.6 percent among all U.S. adults?

Here to help analyze these data points and trends is Kerith Conron, the research director at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. Thanks so much for being here. What's going on with Gen Z?

KERITH CONRON, RESEARCH DIRECTOR, WILLIAMS INSTITUTE AT UCLA SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, that's a great question. First, thank you for having me. What we -- what I can say is that the 5.6 percent is not a surprise. As you noted, there has been a positive linear trend in the percentage of the population that will self-identify as LGBT on a survey.

We've analyzed other data collected in 2017-2018 and found similar percentages of the population will identify as LGBT as compared to Gallup collected at that same time point. We also have seen an increase in the percentage of people who identify as LGBT in many different data sets. So we believe that this trend of an increase in identification is real and the biggest increases that we see, as you noted, are among young people, among Gen Z folks and even those who are currently in high school.

So, in 2015, just 8 percent of youth identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual and by 2019, this was already slightly over 11 percent. The biggest increases that we see are ...

SMERCONISH: It's really amazing ...


SMERCONISH: I was going to say it's really amazing when you break it down by generation. Let's put that slide back up so that people can see what I'm referring to and I love that the ages are there because I can never keep straight what's a Millennial and what's a Gen Z, et cetera, et cetera.

So Kerith, here's what I'm showing the audience. Aged 75 and older, only 1.3 percent identify as LGBT, Baby Boomers, 57 to 75, 2 percent, Gen Z, 41 to 56-year-olds, 3.8 percent, Millennials, 9.1 percent, and then Gen Z, 15.9 percent. I guess my question is is behavior changing or just reporting that's changing?

CONRON: That's a great question. You know, first I want to say that the pattern that you've just articulated is also seen in federal data as well, in the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and Youth Risk Behavior Survey. So, this is not just a Gallup phenomenon.

What we -- what I believe we're seeing is that the underlying group of people in the population who experience same gender attraction are more likely to act on that attraction and to have relationships with people of the same gender and/or of different genders as well. Lots of people are bisexually identified or pan or queer sexually identified and that this isn't an actual change in how people feel sexual attraction, but just their willingness and comfort and ability to come out and to live as an LGB or a transgender person.

SMERCONISH: In other words -- in other words, with acceptance by society comes more openness to discussing this subject. Here's something else that I, as a layperson, took away from the numbers. Why are women and girls more likely to identify as bisexual than men and boys? Because there seems to be a big disconnect in the bisexual identification broken down by gender.

CONRON: That's a great question and here, I'm going to offer some informed speculation. We do see about 75 percent of youth and Gen Z folks who are LGB are female, are bisexual and about three-quarters, maybe two-thirds depending on the age group you're looking at, are female.

[09:20:08] I think it's about the acceptability of being bisexual, whether people view being bisexual for girls as a deviation from femininity or not. I think it's probably more acceptable and people are not seen as violating gender norms in the same way that boys are who are bisexual or gay identified. So, I think it's about how acceptable society feels it is for boys to be involved with boys or for girls to be involved with girls.

SMERCONISH: It'll be -- I wonder, you know, where do the numbers end up? Where, when there's sufficient acceptance that everyone feels comfortable in identifying the answer, you know, where does the data finally stop? Does there continue to be an uptick in all of those numbers? Just take my final 20 seconds on where do we end up?

CONRON: We need more information about same gender sexual attraction in big representative data sets, but I will say that even though the percent of the population that's identifying as LGBT is increasing, where we're not seeing significant changes are around bullying in high schools and so we're not seeing significant declines in suicidality among young people which is why making sure that schools are safe places, both high school, colleges, middle schools, is a really critical next step and you started with the Equality Act and ...

SMERCONISH: Well, what a great message. Yes. Your point is there's not been sufficient acceptance that some aren't being bullied. Thank you for bringing that to our attention.

CONRON: My pleasure.

SMERCONISH: Up ahead, opioid overdoses killed nearly 47,000 Americans in 2018 according to the CDC. Despite that, an Ivy League professor is a self-described recreational heroine user and I'm about to speak to him about his controversial mission to change preconceptions about these drugs.

Plus, you know the nuclear football, right? It's arguably the most important briefcase in the world. It's the only thing a president needs to launch a nuclear attack because nobody else's input is required, but at least 30 House Democrats say it's time to change those rules.


RONALD REAGAN, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.





SMERCONISH: Some Democratic lawmakers sought justification from the Biden administration for Thursday's air strikes in Syria, including independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont who warned against the president overreaching in his powers to declare military actions saying, "While the President has a responsibility to defend the people of the United States, our Constitution is clear that it is the Congress, not the President, who has the authority to declare war."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration had conducted a legal review before the strikes. That's not the only debate regarding presidential authority over military action this week. The President of the United States has the sole authority to launch a nuclear attack, but 31 House Democrats signed a letter on Monday asking President Biden to change the nuclear attack decision- making process.

The letter was written by Congressman Jimmy Panetta and it says in part, "Vesting one person with this authority entails real risks. Past presidents have threatened to attack other countries with nuclear weapons or exhibited behavior that caused other officials to express concern about the president's judgment."

The nuclear system is designed to respond to a president's launch order instantly. The president would give a verbal command to a top military aide who then opens the nuclear football, a briefcase containing all the materials needed to dial up a nuclear strike using a specific code, and then within minutes, missiles would leave their silos.

During the Cold War, there wasn't a second to waste, but these House Dems want additional safeguards, writing, "While any president would presumably consult with advisers before ordering a nuclear attack, there's no requirement to do so. The military is obligated to carry out the order if they assess it is legal under the laws of war."

Joining me now is retired Air Force General C. Robert Kehler. As the Commander of the United States Strategic Command from 2011 to 2013, General Kehler was directly responsible to the secretary of defense and to the president for all plans and operations of all U.S. forces conducting global strategic deterrence, nuclear alert, global strike, space and more.

General, thank you so much for being here. In your role as commander, did you ever second guess the process?

GEN. C. ROBERT KEHLER, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET): Well, good morning to you as well and thanks for having me and no, I had great confidence in the process and I still believe that that process is sound. I welcome the conversation about looking at the process. Of course that's something we've done many times over the years through the Cold War and beyond, but I think we have to be very, very careful here that we don't introduce things into the decision process that would damage the credibility of our deterrent.

SMERCONISH: What worries you most about the letter that's been sent and the conversation that it has generated?

KEHLER: Well, I think any time we're talking about placing limits on the president's authority as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, we need to be very, very careful about how we go forward.


I think as you mentioned very capably there just a moment ago some of the proposal in the letter would have the president go to Congress to get approval to use military force, of course, in this case we're talking about nuclear weapons in some scenarios. Other proposals would add one or more civilian officials either from the executive or the legislative branches or maybe the attorney general to give a go, or no-go approval before the president could order the use of nuclear weapons.

And again, I as a commander, I would be very concerned about dividing the authority of the commander-in-chief among two or more officials. I think that introduces the possibility for confusion over who is in charge of releasing nuclear weapons.

We have a crystal-clear command chain today. It also adds complexity to the decision process. And I think it could cause a delay or worse paralysis in some critical situations. So, I would not be comfortable doing some of the things that are proposed in letter.

SMERCONISH: General Kehler, I think it's important to think about the issue in the abstract and not to get bogged down in personality. Having said that, when I looked at one of the alternatives that was proposed by members of Congress, they spoke of the president seeking concurrence from the vice president and the speaker of the House. And of course, I immediately think of our former commander-in-chief going to his vice president and then trying to go to the speaker of the House from a different party with whom they didn't have good relations. That doesn't sound to me like the smoothest possible process which I guess is your point.

KEHLER: It is my point. And not only does that add much more complexity, because again the rules that are in effect today were largely created during the Cold War, but they still apply today. If we ever get to extreme circumstances where vital national interests are at stake, and those are the pre-conditions that the United States has said we would be having if we were considering the use of nuclear weapon, then we need to make absolutely certain that the command sequence, the command authorities are crystal clear. That we have an added complexity that could cause a delay or the kind of complexity here crossing departments not only having the executive branch involved but the executive and the legislative branch involved as well. I think then we risk some kind of paralysis here at the very time when clarity and decisive action would be required.

SMERCONISH: I think that I know your answer, General, but I'll ask anyway. Does it matter whether the context is preemption or retaliatory?

KEHLER: I think it matters in terms of timing. I think it matters in terms of perhaps the decision factors that come in, but the basic process is the same. It just -- you know, the process can expand to include more time, or it can retract. I do think that if we were talking about using nuclear weapons preemptively, which in my view is always possible of course. But I think more likely we would be talking about using in response to nuclear use or the imminent use of nuclear weapons. I think that that certainly any commander-in-chief would face the question about who to involve in that decision process and how extensively that would go, whether Congress would be involved et cetera, et cetera.

But I can tell you this that the decision process is not just the commander-in-chief consulting with someone carrying the football. It is a consultation process in a conference that includes senior officials like the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commander of strategic command and other commanders, plus any other civilian advisers the president wants to include.

So, I think, it would be very comprehensive. I can't image if we were ever seriously discussing using nuclear weapons preemptively that that group wouldn't be broader. So, I am again not concerned about the process as it exists today.

SMERCONISH: Final thought. What a unique role you played. I can only imagine when you signed off of that command how relieved you were that you never got the call.

KEHLER: Well, of course, for now over 70 years our United States policy has been that the objective is to deter the use of nuclear weapons. And that has been successful for all that time. It's a paradox of the nuclear age that in order to deter the use of nuclear weapons we have to be prepared to use them.


That's the job of strategic command and that job has been carried out very, very successfully for all these years.

SMERCONISH: General Kehler, thank you so much. That was really insightful.

KEHLER: You're welcome.

SMERCONISH: From the world of social media. I think this comes from Twitter. Catherine, what do you have?

A president who cannot be trusted with nuclear is that your definition of normalcy. Open borders, sucking up to Iranians, sucking up to the WTO -- whoa, whoa, whoa. Where the hell did this come from? We're in the middle of a conversation here about a nuclear capability and whether the president ought to single handedly be able to carry it out.

Put it back on the screen. I guess I have to respond to it now that we've shown it. Go ahead put it up.

A president who cannot be trusted with nuclear, is that your definition of normalcy? You're talking about Joe Biden? Joe Biden can't be trusted with nuclear capabilities. Open borders? I don't think we have open borders. Sucking up to the Iranians. Wait the Iranians who we just bombed in Syria, are you blanking me?

I want to remind everybody else to answer the survey question at Will taxes spoil Trump's return?

Still to come, in a new book, this Columbia University psychology professor argues for the legalization of heroin and other opiates and confesses that he regularly uses them himself. As you can imagine, I've got a lot of questions.



SMERCONISH: My next guest is a self-described recreational heroin user who probably defies whatever image that might conjure. He has also regularly taken Molly, ecstasy and methamphetamine saying they help manage the work/life balance.

Let's be clear. Opioids are dangerous and lead to many overdoses in America. According to the CDC in 2018, the most recent year for which there is data, 15,000 died of heroin overdoses. And overall opioid overdoses killed nearly 47,000.

But Professor Carl Hart is on a mission to change your pre-conceptions about these drugs and how they can be used and who uses them including himself. He's a husband. He's a father. He's a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Columbia University. And now he's the author of the brand new book "Drug Use for Grown-ups: Chasing Liberty in the Land of Fear."

Doctor Hart, thanks so much for being here. Your very first words in the book, this is not a book about promoting drug use. But of course, many are not reading it and probably won't hear it that way. What was your objective?

CARL HART, AUTHOR, "DRUG USE FOR GROW-UPS": Well, I can understand why many people won't hear it or see it that way because of all of the sensationalistic media headlines. It's important for people to understand that my objective is to help us do things better in this country when it comes to drugs and drug policy.

You talked about the opioid crisis, for example. In this book, I have clear solutions how to deal with, for example, opioid overdoses. Most of the people who are dying from opioid overdoses do so because they get tainted substances.

I offer a solution, a solution that is as simple as having drug checking in this country where people can submit small samples of their drugs for testing, which then they will get a chemical printout of what's contained in the substance. If it contains a contaminant that's dangerous, then they will know not to take it.

They do this sort of thing in Switzerland. They do this sort of thing in Spain, in Austria, in countries around the world because they care about their people. I care about the American people that's why I wrote this book to help them to understand that there is a better way do this.

SMERCONISH: Are you -- are you the outlier or are you the norm? Military service, prestigious job, stable family, not an addict. You say in the book most heroin users are conscientious and upstanding. Defend that.

HART: Yes. It doesn't really require a defense for anybody who's thinking -- think about this. The illicit drug trade business is a multibillion-dollar a year industry. Now, the people who support that industry, the people who buy the drugs, clearly have got to have disposable income, they have to have money in order to purchase these drugs.

That tells you, number one, that the people who are taking heroin and other illicit drugs are middle class, upstanding folks. We know this. But the reason why you only see the ones who are having problems, because if you admit to using any of these substances you will be vilified, you will be persecuted.

That's why in this book I admit having used all of these drugs so people can come out of the closet and change this perception that is wrong, by the way. And I've also come out of closet so I can take the hits. I can take the bullets on behalf of the people who cannot do it for themselves.

SMERCONISH: I want to read from your book. "My friend Kristen asked if I would be interested in trying heroin with her. She had never done it but wanted to try it. Same here. So, one Friday evening, we did. Unlike in the movies, we didn't use needles. By the way, nor do most heroin users. We each snorted a short, thin line. Immediately, we detected the nice, characteristic opioid effects, including dreamy light sedation, free of stress. We talked, reminisced, laughed, exchanged ideas, carefully documented our drug effects. After they had worn off, we called it an evening and we went home."

Critics have said and I'm thinking in particular of a "Wall Street Journal" review of your book. They said that your approach doesn't take into account the actual risks of people who can't handle it. Put this up on the screen.


Dr. Sally Satel, visiting professor of psychiatry at Columbia. "As persuasive as Mr. Hart can be, it is impossible to avoid certain doubts or cautions. The vexing paradox is that the very individuals who feel compelled to use intoxicants to excess are often those least psychologically equipped to handle them. As a psychiatrist, I know that some people can be responsible users of even the most feared drugs. But the pill mills of Appalachia and the needle-strewn of San Francisco show how devastating unfettered access to drugs can be. Mr. Hart promotes treatment and harm reduction, but he doesn't offer a detailed blueprint for keeping drugs away from the people whose lives can be ruined." Please respond to that. HART: First of all, I'd like to say I like Sally Satel. She's a friend

in fact. But there is a lot there. I mean the issue that Sally is raising there has more to do with people who are having problems in life. Not only with drugs, but a number of other issues. People who are -- who have been left behind in America.

So, in order to solve their problems, we need a whole lot more than a drug policy. People need jobs. People need better education. All of those issues are different from what I am talking about here.

One of the things that I want your audience to know is that I've been studying drugs for more than 30 years now. And we give these drugs as part of our studies in places like Columbia University and other universities. And so, when it comes to drug, believe me I know what I'm talking about.

I've published in the scientific literature extensively. I've written several books on this topic. And so, I think that what Sally is talking about conflates the issue that I am talking about.

I'm talking about drug policy. I'm talking about doing things a different way. The repressive policies that we currently have do nothing but force people into the shadows and increase the likelihood of people getting in trouble with these drugs. I'm talking about bringing them out of the shadows, helping the people who need help and enhancing other people's ability to do this safely who are doing it.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Hart, quick response if you can. Say something to the brothers, the sisters, the mothers, the fathers who have lost somebody to opioids, to heroin in particular who are hearing this and are finding it jarring if not a horrible thought this idea of legalization.

HART: Well, a few years ago a rapper named ASAP Yams died from what was termed an opioid overdose. His mother contacted me, and we have since struck up a friendship. One of the things we learned about his death, for example, is that he had multiple drugs on board including an opioid.

And one of the things that I like to tell the public is that if you are going to use opioids, you shouldn't mix them with another sedative like alcohol, like benzodiazepine. If we would send that clear message that would help a number of people and that message is in my book. So, I would encourage them to read my book. There are so many solutions in my book.

SMERCONISH: Dr. Hart, I appreciate you being here. It's a very provocative subject. I read it and learned a lot of things.

HART: Thank you for having me.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. From the world of Twitter, I think. What are the odds this guy gets busted in the near future?

Slim, I think. Because having read the book, I can tell you my impression is that he takes advantage of the laws of other countries when he is using. My impression is not that he is using in the United States against the laws, then again all I know is what I read in the book.

OK. Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments and the results of this week's survey question as per my opening commentary. Will taxes spoil Trump's return? Go vote.



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at this week. Will taxes spoil Trump's return?

Did everybody get that little play on words? Survey says 65 percent. Let's call it two-thirds of 22,000 and change say yes. Well, time will tell. But I found it really interesting, and the reason I wanted to pursue this week the realization that this will probably not all unfold on Cyrus Vance's watch. If he doesn't run for re-election, someone right now running for Manhattan D.A. may have to unwind all of this.

What else came in during the course of the week? Let's see what we have.

Smerconish, there is no Republican Party disconnect. They still see Trump as their leader and so does almost half of the country.

Wayne, you know, it's funny I got into this last night with Chris Cuomo. I don't think that there is a civil war taking place within the Republican Party. If there were a war, then there's already been surrender and victory declared.

It's not -- at present, it is not the party of Mitt Romney and Liz Cheney and Mitch McConnell. It is the party of Donald Trump and all of those who are at CPAC during the course of this weekend. And I revert again to the big ifs pertaining to the former president. If he's healthy, if he's solvent, if he's unindicted, and once this, then I don't know how they can stop him from being the nominee in 2024. But there's a lot of -- a lot of if in there.


One more if I've got time for it. What do we have? It's so simple, don't do drugs. Why toxify your body?

You know, Rita, I thought that Dr. Hart's argument was interesting, and I'll leave to experts the science of what he has to say. But this was interesting. He said he wraps himself in the flag in the book. He makes an argument that the Declaration of Independence assures him of his ability to life, liberty and what? Pursuit of happiness. So, his point is, if this gives me happiness and I'm not hurting anybody else, who is the government to tell me that I can't?

To be continued, as they say. Thanks for watching. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)