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How Ian Manuel Survived 18 Years in Solitary Confinement; Is All The Criticism Over The New Georgia Law Warranted?; Will Chauvin Trial Result in Conviction?; The Partisan Divide Over "Vaccine Passports"; Vaccine Passports: Key to Reopening or Government Overreach. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 03, 2021 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The best Sunday morning lineup is only on CNN, tomorrow starting at 8:00 a.m.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Blue on blue. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. We're one week into the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged in connection with the death of George Floyd. For five days, the prosecution has been making its case, showing brand new video from the incident and playing critical phone conversations while calling 19 witnesses, 12 of whom were eyewitnesses at the scene.
We watched emotional testimony from George Floyd's girlfriend, bystanders and witnesses described the events that unfolded right in front of them. We heard from a paramedic who thought Floyd was dead when he arrived at the scene. We heard from Derek Chauvin's supervisor to whom Chauvin initially didn't report that he knelt on George Floyd's neck and notably, a top homicide lieutenant, the longest serving officer in the Minneapolis police department, who testified that Chauvin's use of force was, quote, "totally unnecessary."
Each witness helping to paint a clearer picture of the final moments in George Floyd's life. Chauvin has pleaded not guilty to second degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges. So with the first week down, what are the takeaways?
Joining me now to discuss, two CNN legal analysts, Joey Jackson, criminal defense attorney and former New York state prosecutor, and James Gagliano, a retired FBI supervisory special agent who, by the way, is in the dissertation phase at St. John's University as a doctoral candidate with a focus on police use of force. James, I'm going to begin with you. Before the testimony began, writing an essay for the "New York Post," you acknowledged that Chauvin's conduct was both repugnant and criminal, but you predicted acquittal on murder and guilty on manslaughter. Now that you've heard a week of testimony, do you stand by that?
JAMES GAGLIANO, RETIRED FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: Well, Michael, firstly, no doubt this was a devastating week of testimony and the presentation of evidence for the prosecution and after watching almost every second, gavel to gavel, of the testimony this week, I came away with a couple of takeaways.
First of all, trials ebb and flow. I've had 25 years experience in the -- in the FBI. The prosecution will have good moments, the defense will have good moments. Here is where I think the prosecution made a huge, huge leap towards getting conviction in this case possibly on the top count. They used objective reasonableness which is a Graham versus Connor case that basically the Supreme Court decided which says the use of excessive course in the course of making arrest is judged by objective reasonableness.
Was the action reasonable? And in this situation, watching those just devastating nine minutes and 29 seconds of Officer Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd's neck after he was unresponsive and after he was no longer a threat, he wasn't struggling, he wasn't resisting arrest, he wasn't non-compliant, Michael, that may be the thing that sticks in the jury's mind the most, especially when two police officers testified that it was excessive force.
SMERCONISH: OK. Sounds to me like now you're thinking it could be a stronger conviction than manslaughter. Joey, your thoughts one week in?
JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: My thoughts about the prosecution -- good morning, Michael. Good morning, James. The prosecution presented a compelling case and I really would not be surprised and in fact I expect, there's a long way to go I understand, you can have convictions on all counts. Let me tell you why.
If you examine the evidence that was presented, you had a person testify yesterday, Lieutenant Zimmerman. He is the most senior officer on that force. He gave the indication that he had never -- you're never trained on this, right? You're never supposed to do this. It violates protocol. It violates everything we even stand for as a department and as a result of that, he's dead and it was unreasonable and unnecessary.
Wow. Usually you're in a situation where blue's protecting blue. Not today. You have someone with the knowledge and understanding saying it was wrong. Why is that significant, Michael? It's significant because the top count, you have to demonstrate an assault that led to death. Well, if you are not trained to do this, kneeling on the knee, if it's against protocols -- kneeling with your knee on the neck, excuse me -- then guess what, that's an assault and if that assault leads to death, that's second-degree murder.
Now just one other second, OK? In the event, for example, the jury's not convinced of that, they'd say, you know what? Perhaps it's not. He also testified, that is Zimmerman, to the fact that if you lay someone in the prone position, that is face down, chest down, and you restrict them of air because that position restricts them of air, you're taught to get them on their side. He laid him, that is Chauvin laid Floyd, in that position for an unreasonable amount of time.
He's trained and he testified, Zimmerman, that everyone was trained annually as to what to do and what not to do. Chauvin's been there 19 years. Count it. That's 19 times you were taught not to do that. You left him there. Doing that is depravity. What is count two? It's depraved heart murder. It means that you lacked humanity in doing what you did.
Final point, that gets you a conviction on that second count. Manslaughter relates to negligence. Well, guess what also, in the event that you know the protocols, you know the regulations, you know the directives, you know what to do, what not to do, you're on notice. Aren't you at least grossly careless and if you're grossly careless and you kill someone, that's manslaughter? That's count three. I think a compelling case for the prosecution. No doubt about it.
SMERCONISH: James, my first words today were "blue on blue" because like the two of you, I think what was most significant in a sea of very emotional testimony was that you had two high-ranking cops both say that this was excessive force. I'm just cutting to the chase here. James Gagliano, if those two officers are believed, does it leave only a causation defense available to Chauvin and could that be enough?
GAGLIANO: Well, Michael, you're speaking to does correlation always equate to causality and look, as I think Joey was trying to make the point there, there is a but for proximate cause piece of the law which basically says an injury or death that's caused by an incident or event but for the action, the result would not have occurred.
Here's where the defense is going to make hay and remember, trials are ebbs and flows. Where I think the defense is going to make hay and why I disagree with my good friend and colleague Joey Jackson here that this is -- the top charges here are going to -- it's going to result in a conviction. I believe this was manslaughter and here's why. Knowingly or consciously taking a risk that would result in the death of a person, that's what I believe this is going to end up with.
Why is that? The Hennepin County medical examiner made the determination in his autopsy report that it was a combination of three things that resulted in the death -- subdural restraint, not asphyxiation, but subdural restraint, a toxicological mix of amphetamines and fentanyl, which George Floyd was on, and thirdly, underlying medical conditions.
The defense is going to make that argument. They're going to say Officer Chauvin had no idea that by doing that, it would result in the death. We all may disagree, we may find his conduct repugnant and that's what I found it, repugnant and reprehensible that when a person stops resisting, you don't immediately ratchet back the level of force you use.
That didn't happen here, but I have a feeling that this is going to be a complicated case. I think there will be a conviction on the manslaughter. I do not believe there'll be conviction on second or third-degree murder.
JACKSON: Michael, let ...
SMERCONISH: Joey, respond to that.
JACKSON: I would love to. Listen, I think James, as usual, right? Makes an outstanding point in that regard, but let's focus on the prize. Let's focus on the actual law. The law indicates that you don't have to be the sole cause, you have to be the substantial cause. So having said that, if you look at the tape of him, that is George Floyd in that Cup Food, you see that he's milling about, he's not aggressive, he looks fine, he's speaking, he's dancing at times.
Does that look like a person that, due to drug use, was going to die an hour later? Does that look like a person who appeared that he was going to have a heart attack, or does he look healthy, does he look fit, does he look strong, does he look engaged, does he look energized? And therefore, let's take you now out of the Cup Foods, back to the scene with the knee on the neck.
Now if you're arguing as a defense, you can argue about his COVID, you can argue about his pre-existing conditions, you can argue about fentanyl and methamphetamines. You know what? They could be factors in the death. I'll take that, but is that the substantial cause or is the substantial cause the knee on neck?
And if you look at how he appeared after Chauvin dealt with him to how he appeared an hour before, there's no question in my mind that the substantial cause was the conduct of Chauvin and from a legal perspective, that's all the jury needs to conclude. The judge will instruct them as such and therefore, I say the top count is viable and I look for a conviction, if things stand as they are, on that count.
SMERCONISH: I'm already over. James, you get only 10 seconds. Quick.
GAGLIANO: I got to agree with Joey here. I think, again, there is a chance that there could be a murder conviction here. I'm holding out for manslaughter. I think it's appropriate, but Joey's points are all spot on, Michael.
SMERCONISH: What excellent analysis. Joey, thank you. James, really appreciate it.
JACKSON: You're welcome (ph).
SMERCONISH: Thank you, men.
GAGLIANO: Thanks, guys.
JACKSON: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I will read some responses throughout the course of the program.
This comes, I think, from Twitter. What do we have? "Smerconish, I was a juror on a complex murder trial. I agree with Gagliano. Chauvin will most likely only be convicted of manslaughter unless medical evidence can show a knee on the neck definitively killed George Floyd. Jurors want objective scientific standards."
Kyle, here's my response to you and everybody else. As an attorney, as a close observer of this trial, I think the case went in, as we say, very well week one for the prosecution, but there's more to come and the expectation of so many legal observers that I heard this week is such that it's going to certainly be a conviction.
Let's wait for the defense. Be open-minded. I just don't want people so believing it's a slam-dunk case that it creates a reaction thereafter if it doesn't go that way. Still haven't heard the defense case is all I'm saying.
Up ahead, when Ian Manuel was 13, he shot a woman in the face. She survived. He was sentenced to life without parole and then spent, beginning when he was 15, 18 straight years in solitary confinement. How he survived will surprise you.
Plus, this week, New York became the first state to use IBM's Digital Health Pass technology, allowing people to certify they've tested COVID negative or have been vaccinated. Republicans are attacking such so-called vaccine passports as an infringement on their freedom. I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com right now. Answer this question. Should private businesses be permitted to require vaccine passports from customers to prove vaccination?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It's completely unacceptable for either the government or the private sector to impose upon you the requirement that you show proof of vaccine to just simply be able to participate in normal society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Are so-called vaccine passports the key to reopening post- pandemic America or an unwelcome intrusion by Big Brother? Unfortunately, this has become yet another partisan battle. Last week, New York became the first state to formally launch a virtual health credential to enable businesses to more easily grant access to people who've been inoculated or tested negative.
The so-called Excelsior Pass, created in partnership with IBM, provides a scannable code that gives proof of vaccination or COVID- free status. The Biden administration has so far remained out of the fray. Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was, quote, "concentrating on guidelines," while noting that there will not be a centralized federal vaccination database and there are no plans for a federal mandate that all citizens have such a vaccination credential, but there's still been a lot of pushback.
On Friday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order banning the use of COVID-19 passports in his state. His order says in part, quote, "Individual COVID-19 vaccination records are private health information and should not be shared by a mandate. So-called COVID-19 vaccine passports reduce individual freedom and will harm patient privacy."
South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem linked the policy to the president, tweeting, "The Joe Biden COVID passport proposal is one of the most un-American ideas in our nation's history. We as Americans should oppose this oppression. #freedom." Justin Amash, the Libertarian who served as a GOP and Independent congressman wrote, "It doesn't get more dystopian than being required to show your health papers wherever you go."
Should private businesses be permitted to require so-called vaccine passports? Joining me now to discuss is Jason E. Kelley, general manager for IBM where he's working on digital healthcare pass technology. Jason, explain briefly, how does Excelsior work?
JASON E. KELLEY, GENERAL MANAGER, IBM/WORKING ON IBM'S DIGITAL HEALTH PASS TECHNOLOGY: Hello, Michael. Good morning. Great to be with you. First, we like to think about this in three parts. There is an issuer, the individual, you, Michael, and then the verifier and when New York tested this technology weeks back, I'll give you an example in that context is we had teams.
Some of our team in IBM went straight there to New York, were tested for the COVID-19 virus and with a negative test, that testing agency became the issuer and then that individual became the individual that received a QR code. No private data, just a QR code on their cell phone and when they entered the event, in this case Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, that entity was then the verifier.
So think of those three areas, the issuer, the individual and that verifier, as a trust triangle. That's how it works.
SMERCONISH: If I go to Yankee Stadium because it's New York, the Excelsior roll-out is New York, I go to Yankee Stadium and let's imagine that there's a requirement of people having to prove that they've been inoculated, and I flash my phone and I gain admittance. Am I giving up my medical records to anybody, to IBM, to the Yankees, to anyone concerned?
KELLEY: What you're doing in that situation is just giving up a QR code. None of that data about you personally is on your phone. So think privacy as a priority.
SMERCONISH: So it's being cast, though, in some quarters, and you heard my intro, as this abridgement of individual freedom, as Big Brother now being to tap into all this data harvesting.
When you hear that, with your knowledge of the program that you folks at IBM have designed, what's your reaction?
KELLEY: When I think about what we have provided in this work with New York state and around the world, this is a global solution. It's open, it's letting all different types of health credentials be used. So that's for both, as you said, vaccine and for the negative test. When I think about that, I think of a tool that helps people use what they want to use with their option. So it's optional, it's accessible, it could be on a phone or in print and it's scalable. So that's what I think about.
SMERCONISH: Jason, what industries come top of mind when you think of where this technology would be most beneficial? For example, hearing what you've said to me, I'm immediately thinking of the cruise industry, right? They've been flat on their back, they're eager to get back into the -- into the game, they want to make sure that they're providing a safe environment. I mean, am I on the wrong path and what other industries do you think might this be attractive to?
KELLEY: Well, when I think of industries as a whole, I think of it from your perspective, Michael, my -- as a consumer is what is it that's going to be important for us to get back into what we do in daily life? It could be transacting with those small businesses that have been impacted so greatly by this pandemic or it could be a cruise ship, it could be a theater. It's those things that we have come to value in public life and this tool is important as an option, whether in print or on that phone, to help those activities happen again.
SMERCONISH: When I want to get a piece of pizza or an ice cream cone on the Ocean City Boardwalk in the summer in New Jersey, I'm used to seeing that sign that says no shoes, no shirt, no service, maybe this is the extension of it, right? If a private employer, a private business seeks to take it in that direction, it might be no shoes, no shirt, no vaccine passport, no service.
KELLEY: Well, Michael, I tell you, those tough decisions, as you've mentioned, often get caught in politics and arguments and we'll leave that to the policymakers. Here at IBM, our job and one of our values is bringing innovation to us and the world and making sure that that matters, and we'll continue to do that.
SMERCONISH: Jason, thank you. I appreciate the insight, the education on this program.
KELLEY: Thank you, Michael. Have a great day.
SMERCONISH: You too. Let's see what you're saying via my social media platforms, Twitter and Facebook, Catherine. I think from Twitter, "Smerconish, a better question -- would you be more likely to go to a restaurant, bar, movie theater, gym or concert venue if it required a vaccine passport?"
Well, Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, OK, yes, my answer is hell yes. By the way, you know, this might be 30 days premature if I buy into the Biden administration timeline because in my area, Southeastern Pennsylvania, nobody can get a vaccine yet unless they're 1A. So it presupposes widespread access to vaccines, but when everybody's got a shot to get a shot, my vote's hell yes. I think it makes sense and puts pressure on those among us who have the opportunity to get inoculated and for whatever reason choose not to because everybody ought to. Sooner we get to herd immunity, the sooner we get to regain control of our lives.
Anyway, this is today's survey question at Smerconish.com. I cannot wait to see how it goes. Go to my website, Smerconish.com, right now, answer the question. Should private businesses -- this is not the federal government, ladies and gentlemen. Should private businesses be permitted to require vaccine passports from customers to prove vaccination? Ron DeSantis says no. Michael Smerconish says yes.
Up ahead, major league baseball announced Friday that Georgia will no longer host this year's All-Star Game or amateur draft just as the latest corporate protest of the state's new voting law. Is this an overreaction?
And this is the mugshot of a then 13-year-old Ian Manuel before being sentenced to life in prison without parole for shooting in the face a woman he was robbing. Well, beginning when he was 15 years old, he spent 18 straight years in solitary confinement. He is now a free man and here to tell us the secret of how he survived.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I'm Phil Mattingly at the White House and this is CNN.
SMERCONISH: Is long-term solitary confinement for prisoners on its way out? On Wednesday, New York became the latest state to put new limitations on the practice. The bill restricts prisons and jails from holding people in solitary for more than 15 consecutive days and forbidding the practice entirely for minors and people with disabilities, among others.
Had such a law been in place in Florida in 1992, it would have dramatically altered the life of my next guest. When Ian Manuel was 13, he participated in a robbery with some older kids and shot a woman in the face. He was charged as an adult with armed robbery and attempted murder. He was told to plead guilty to get a lesser sentence of 15 years. Instead, he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
When he was 15, he was punished for behavior and sent to solitary confinement. He remained alone in that small, windowless cell for 18 conservative years. He's a free man today because the Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in a case called Graham v. Florida that juveniles could no longer be sentenced to life without parole for nonhomicide. And then after he was resentenced the woman he had shot, Debbie Baigrie, petitioned for his release.
He was finally released in 2016. He writes about how he survived in an upcoming book called "My Time Will Come: A Memoir of Crime, Punishment, Hope, and Redemption." Ian Manuel joins me right now.
Ian, thanks for being here. We know why you went to prison. Why were you sent to solitary and for so long?
IAN MANUEL, SPENT 18 YEARS IN SOLITARY CONFINEMENT/AUTHOR, "MY TIME WILL COME": Thank you for having me, Michael. I was sent to solitary initially on my first day in prison for being 15 years old -- 14 years old to be specific. Afterwards, after being confined for three weeks I was placed in the general prison population and then given all the responsibilities of an adult while I was still a child.
I rebelled. I walked in the grass. I was unauthorized areas. Officers would curse at me. I would curse back. Just simple cool teenage behavior. But instead of being like grounded for an hour or two in my room I was placed in long-term solitary confinement from age 15 during the George H.W. Bush administration until Obama took office for 18 consecutive years.
SMERCONISH: Take me in that cell. Paint the picture. Is there a window? What were your surroundings for 18 years?
MANUEL: For 18 years, my surroundings were four corners of a wall and a door. I spent most of my time in my cell just imagining. I had to use my imagination to survive.
Imagining myself being free. Imagining myself getting out and being with family. All of my family died during my incarceration, my mother, my grandmother, both of my grandparents, my brother. Everyone died.
It took me tapping into my imagination and writing poetry. I used to rewrite Eminem's (ph) poetry, Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" poem. At lengths I use poetry -- it was poetry that kept me alive and going.
It was excruciating watching people being gassed with high-powered chemical agents. Prisoners being beaten by staff. The nurses watch it and falsify reports. It was -- it was -- it was one of the most horrendous experiences no human being should have to live to what I went through. As I told you during our radio interview if what happened to George Floyd happened during broad daylight, imagine what is going on behind those closed prison walls when no one is watching and there is no camera.
SMERCONISH: Ian, clear your head. Give everybody a taste of the poetry that this led to you writing.
MANUEL: Thank you, Michael. I wrote a poem called "Uncried Tears" that captures the emotion of me pushing my pain down when I was in solitary. My lawyer Bryan Stevenson featured this poem in his bestselling memoir "Just Mercy." And the poem says, "Imagine tear drops left uncried from pain trapped inside. Waiting to escape through the windows of your eyes. Why won't you let us out? The tears question the conscience. Relinquish your fears and doubts and heal yourself in the process. The conscience told the tears, I know you really want me to cry but in releasing you from bondage and gaining your freedom, you die. The tears gave it some thought before giving the conscience an answer, if crying brings you to triumph then dying is not such a disaster." "Uncried Tears."
SMERCONISH: That's pretty impressive, Ian. Hey, we should --
MANUEL: Thank you.
SMERCONISH: We should say that you would not -- you would not have gotten this new lease on life but for your victim Debbie Baigrie being so receptive to your overture while you were still in prison. Speak to that before we have to part company.
MANUEL: Yes. Debbie, definitely, played a role in the way of the system view me. But had it not been for the Equal Justice Initiative and Bryan Stevenson and my lawyer Ben Schaefer and my social worker Maria Morrison and the U.S. Supreme Court agreeing that my sin's cruel and unusual punishment I would have died in prison. There would have not been an Ian on the Michael -- on the Michael show.
There would not have been an Ian in "My Time Will Come." Debbie is my heart. She's my angel. She's my special friend for life and we have a special relationship.
But make no mistake about it. Ian Manuel would have died in prison had not the Equal Justice Initiative got the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn my life sentences. And I just -- I'm so forever thankful for the opportunity to have my life be free as a free man in society. After 26 years, age 13 to age 39, spent in prison and 18 of those years in solitary confinement the size of a walk-in elevator.
SMERCONISH: Ian Manuel, thank you. Good luck.
MANUEL: Thank you, sir. Thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, things aren't looking too peachy keen in the Peach State as corporations in Georgia and across the U.S. were pressured to take a stance against the state's new election law. I want to zero in on one provision that has many up in arms. Limiting access to food and water as those are waiting in line to vote. I'll do it with the chief operating officer of the Georgia Secretary of State's office. That's next.
And, please, make sure you're answering this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. Go there right now. Should private businesses be permitted to require so-called vaccine passports from customers to prove vaccination?
SMERCONISH: Facing legal challenges and intense scrutiny, Georgia's new voting law has the nation fired up. But is the debate over some provisions practical or purely partisan? Corporate America and professional sport franchises have been pressured to speak out against the state's new voting law.
The MLB now relocating this season' all-star game and MLB draft out of the Atlanta without confirming its new host city. This announcement came after President Biden said he'd strongly support the MLB making the move as a result of Georgia passing the law.
But are the changes in the law deserving of their demonization? Take this one for instance. Limiting how voters can be provided food or water while waiting in line to vote. I'm sure you've heard about it.
Critics view this provision as a clear example of voter suppression especially for communities of color who experience hours long lines. While advocates, like my next guest, view it as necessary to protect voters from political organizations or advocacy groups trying to subtly influence their vote.
I should point out the history. Georgia already had a law on its books covering electioneering at polling places. Here's what it said, in part. No person shall solicit votes in any manner or by any means or method, nor shall any person distribute or display any campaign material, nor shall any person solicit signatures for any petition, nor shall any person other than election officials discharging their duties, establish or set up any tables or booths on any day in which ballots are being cast.
In December of 2020, meaning after the presidential election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger warned that -- quote -- he "has taken action to crack down on political organizations and advocacy groups that use line warming as a loophole to conduct political activity in violation of state law. Political organizations or advocacy groups will use the giveaways or gifts known as line warming to inappropriately influence voters in the crucial final moments before they cast their ballots. Such efforts violate the protections Georgia law has placed on campaigning near a polling location or voting line."
That rationale explains the change in the law which then added this line -- nor shall any person give, offer to give, or participate in the giving of any money or gifts, including, but not limited, to food and drink, to an elector. Adding also, this code section shall not be construed to prohibit a poll officer from making available self- service water from an unattended receptacle to an elector waiting in line to vote. Other states have similar laws like Montana and New York which mentioned food and drink distribution prohibitions in their election codes.
So is the heat that this particular provision getting warranted? Joining me now to discuss further the chief operating officer of the Georgia Secretary of State's office, that would be Gabriel Sterling. Mr. Sterling, thanks so much for being here. First, react to the news of MLB not coming to Atlanta.
He is frozen. All right. What a shame. Then I'll just have to waste a little time until we get him back.
I may as well tell you what I think about this. What I find objectionable about -- actually put up the Ed Bastian, Jeff. If you could put up the full screen that we had from the Delta chief executive. There it is.
So here is what the Delta chief executive says. "The entire rationale for this bill was based on a lie that there was widespread voter fraud in Georgia in the 2020 elections. This is simply not true. Unfortunately, that excuse is being used in states across the nation that are attempting to pass similar legislation to restrict voting rights."
That strikes me as accurate, insofar, I think the Brennan Center, I'm doing this from memory, have said that there are like 24 different states that are cracking down on widespread election fraud based on the presidential race. There was no (INAUDIBLE) of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
So I've said in the past, is this all a solution in search of a problem? Having said that, when I scrutinize the Georgia law and break it down by its component parts, I do think that the demonization of it is being inflated.
And, you know, the sound bite, you saw that I just had to go through the reading of the law, what it used to be and what it is now. It's complicated stuff to actually wade through. It's far more effective as a sound bite to say, oh, my God, have you heard that in Georgia you can't even take water to somebody who is sitting out in that hot sun for three or four hours? I mean, that's a good sound bite. But the truth is a little different. Those are my two cents.
OK. Now they're saying the guest is back. Gabriel Sterling, thank you so much. Now you know how I view this. I do view the Georgia macro as a solution in search of a problem. But when I look at the (INAUDIBLE) don't find them so objectionable. Your response is what?
GABRIEL STERLING (R), CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, GEORGIA SECRETARY OF STATE'S OFFICE: (INAUDIBLE) way too rational to be in the news media or in politics alone. You're like read the bill and understand what the rationale was and walk through it in that way.
And you're right. The sound bite is easy. And the problem we have in this state is for one side the Democratic -- the Stacey Abrams, Raphael Warnocks, Jon Ossoffs of the world.
It's a great sound bite. They can raise money. They can do lawsuits. They can raise more money. And when you tell people, hey, they are trying to take your vote away, the normal human, the normal American response is, well, the heck they are. I'm going to go out and try to vote even harder.
So it's one of those kinds of things where they -- no matter what we pass and I wouldn't have written the bill this way, the secretary wouldn't have written the bill this way, but there's lots of good, boring election administration stuff in this bill. So I was so violently pissed off yesterday and (INAUDIBLE) because it's ridiculous. New York where they are has excuse-based absentee and fewer days of early voting. Whereas we have expansive early voting and even more mandated days in this bill and no excuse absentee voting is protected.
SMERCONISH: So let me -- let me drill down on line warming in particular. Because my understanding is that that memo from Secretary Raffensperger came out in December. What, if anything happened in the presidential election on the subject of line warming that necessitated, in your view, strengthening the law?
STERLING: Really had to make a bright line, because we were all trying to be common sense about it. Saying, you know, if there are lines, which there weren't really in November and January, there have been some in June, obviously. People were using the line warming to get around the prohibition on electioneering. We all knew that.
And put yourself in the position of a poll manager. How do you enforce that rule of anti-electioneering unless you're standing there with the person as you're talking to them giving them the food or water? You can't.
So we have situations where poll managers not knowing what to do in these situations when he saw people doing this he didn't have a way to police it, he would call a sheriff. These end in confrontations. This makes a bright line, makes it easy for the poll manager to enforce and if need be for a sheriff to come and enforce. Basically say, stay 150 feet away. You know the rules. Don't try to be cute about this. And that's what's happening. People are trying to be cute about it and get around it.
I really love the New York law. It's very specific. You can't give away tobacco, meat, refreshment or alcohol. I think they're very specific on there.
SMERCONISH: So the idea is that you don't -- I mean, I've got some experience in a prior life with working the polls, you know, from 7:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night. And I -- there were rules. In my case in Penssylvania you can't approach someone when they're within X- feet to the poling location.
And I guess what you're saying in Georgia is not only can't you go and hand over a sample ballot or whatever the leaflet might be but you can't even take a bottle of water while you're wearing, you know, an NRA t-shirt or Black Lives Matter or whatever the case may be. We just want there to be some distance as people are about to go in and perform that solemn responsibility.
STERLING: Absolutely. You described it exactly as intended under this law now. And trying to make this (INAUDIBLE) great sound bite. But my secondary question is how does this suppress anybody's vote? If they are in line to vote they are obviously voting. How does this turn into voter suppression? It doesn't. It's just another good sound bite to talk about. SMERCONISH: I mean, I get it. I do have to say because your screen froze you might not have heard the criticism that I offered. I am saying that when I scrutinize the law it doesn't match what I'm hearing in the national media. But I still say, is it a solution in search of the problem? Because there wasn't widespread fraud in Georgia or anywhere else in the presidential election. You get the final word.
STERLING: Well, the big thing we saw here was most of this is about boring election administration stuff. This is about putting an absentee ballot deadline so that people have the opportunity to vote. So if you request a ballot too close, you're not going to get to vote.
This is about expanding the number of mandatory early voting days. This bill literally expands the franchise and does the opposite of what the critics are saying it does.
SMERCONISH: Gabriel Sterling, thank you for being here. I appreciate your time.
STERLING: Thank you, Michael. Have a great day and keep being responsible.
SMERCONISH: Thank you. I don't know that it's in such demand these days, but hopefully it will come back.
Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. We'll give you the result of the survey question. Have you voted yet at Smerconish.com? "Should private businesses be permitted to require vaccine passports from customers to prove vaccination?"
SMERCONISH: Let's see the results. The survey question at Smerconish.com this hour, "Should private businesses be permitted to require vaccine passports from customers to prove vaccination?"
Survey says, 87 percent, I would say, have the correct answer. Eighty- seven percent say yes. Wow, 30,000 who voted.
Quickly, Catherine, hit me with the social media. I've got time for just one. What do we have?
OK. Not to point out the obvious elephant in the room but I'm for the vaccination. How is it OK but I.D. to vote isn't? Can someone rationally explain that?
Sean Brooks, tying together all the subject matter of today's program. It's OK to ask for an I.D. to vote, as long as it's the type of I.D. that people in all communities possess.
Happy Easter. See you next week. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)