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Origin of COVID Poisoned by Politics; Did People or Nature Open Pandora's Box at Wuhan?; Trump Intervened in NFL Scandal, Claims Late Senator Arlen Specter's Son; How Younger Generations Prefer To Work. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired May 29, 2021 - 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: It's a tale of two theories. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. You know, I've spent several days on radio this week discussing the latest revelations concerning the origin of COVID-19 and a number of callers have asked a question that I find absurd and it's this -- who cares? What does it matter whether the virus began by jumping naturally from wildlife to people or whether it escaped from a lab?
I have a hunch as to why they've asked me that. It's political. They worry that if the escape scenario is proven, it'll be a win for the other team, so they'd rather we not ask, but recent developments, they demand answers. This week, "The Wall Street Journal" broke the story that according to U.S. intelligence, in November of 2019, three researchers from China's Wuhan Institute of Virology became sick enough to warrant hospital care.
The details of the reporting went beyond what the State Department had revealed in the final days of the Trump administration when it said that several researchers became sick with symptoms consistent with COVID. November is when many epidemiologists and virologists believe the virus first began circulating around the city of Wuhan.
This was just the latest in a series of revelations that have caused many who initially dismissed the lab-leak theory to reconsider. Among those is Donald G. McNeil Jr., former science writer for "The New York Times" who recently published an essay titled "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lab-Leak Theory*." McNeil credits a former colleague with causing his reflection. That former colleague is Nicholas Wade who himself wrote recently for the "Bulletin of Atomic Scientists."
Wade does not come to a conclusion but says neither the natural escape theory nor the natural emergence hypothesis can be ruled out and as for why the escape hypothesis was given short shrift, he noted this, "Because President Trump said the virus had escaped from a Wuhan lab, editors gave the idea little credence. They joined the virologists in regarding lab escape as a dismissible conspiracy theory.
During the Trump administration, they had no trouble in rejecting the position of the intelligence services that lab escape could not be ruled out, but when Avril Haines, President Biden's director of National Intelligence, said the same thing, she too was largely ignored. This is not to argue that editors should have endorsed the lab escape scenario, merely that they should have explored the possibility fully and fairly."
Facebook even went so far as to ban posts claiming COVID was manmade or manufactured. They reversed that policy this week. President Joe Biden, this spring, shut down a State Department investigation into whether the virus could have leaked from the Chinese lab, deeming the probe an ineffective use of resources, but on Wednesday, Biden changed course, ordering intelligence officials to redouble efforts to investigate the origin of COVID and report back to him within 90 days.
But how many will be ready to listen when we get those results? Sadly, the origin of COVID-19 has become yet another of those issues where we suit up in our partisan armor before we have all the facts. Trump said X, I'll say Y. Trump believes the escape theory, then I'm going to go with an alternative explanation and the natural progression of this thinking among some is to not want there to be any answer of any kind because it might conflict with their predetermined views.
Case in point, this caller on my "SiriusXM" radio program.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
What difference does it make if the Spanish flu, we find out it didn't start in Spain, it started maybe in Fort Riley, Kansas or Vietnam or Thailand? What difference does it make? I frankly don't care. What I care about is how do we prevent it from happening in the future.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: He may not care, but I do. We're talking about a virus that's killed 3.5 million people worldwide. Ff paramount concern is preventing it from happening again. If this resulted from so-called gain of function research, then whether such experimentation should continue has to be considered, so too the funding, and if the Chinese were negligent and/or engaged in cover up, the world should know and there needs to be accountability and maybe compensation paid. That's why we need to know.
Now, it's a time where I want to know what you're thinking based on what we know at this stage. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and enter this week's survey question. Did the COVID-19 virus originate naturally or by a lab leak?
Joining me now to discuss is the aforementioned Nicholas Wade, science writer, editor, author who's worked on the staff of "Nature," "Science" and, for many years, "The New York Times." First question, is there any history of viruses escaping from even the best run labs?
NICHOLAS WADE, FORMER NEW YORK TIMES SCIENCE REPORTER: Well, yes, there's a long history of very bad viruses such as smallpox escaping from labs with high containment. On average, there's been about one bad escape a year that we know of and probably more that we don't. And coming to recent times, there's the case of the SARS1 virus that caused the SARS1 epidemic of 2002. That one's a real escape artist. It's escaped six times already, four times from the Beijing Institute of Virology.
SMERCONISH: Your essay is a very deep dive, and it includes the fact that Dr. Shi, the so-called "Bat Lady," set out to create novel coronaviruses with the highest possible infection of human cells. Explain this in layterms and its significance.
WADE: Well, what she was doing was taking the spike proteins of some viruses, those are the sort of knobs that come out of the surface of the virus and determine its target, the target on human cells, and she was putting them into the genomes of other viruses to see how the infectivity was affected and the reason she was doing this was the same as virologists all around the world do these gain of function experiments, just trying to get a jump ahead of what's going to happen naturally and they say this will help them predict and forestall the next epidemic.
SMERCONISH: I made clear at the outset, Mr. Wade, that you don't come to a conclusion. You think that the natural emergence and lab escape hypotheses, that neither can be ruled out, but, and I'll put this on the screen, you say that proponents of lab escape have a pretty strong case.
Quote, "It's documented that researcher at the Wuhan Institute of Virology were doing gain of function experiments designed to make coronaviruses infect human cells and humanized mice. This is exactly the kind of experiment from which SARS2-like virus could have emerged. The researchers were not vaccinated against the viruses under study, and they were not working in the minimal safety conditions of a BSL2 laboratory. So escape of a virus would not at all be surprising. In all of China, the pandemic broke out on the doorstep of the Wuhan Institute."
OK. Here's the question. So, what's lacking then for the scientific community to say this is where it began?
WADE: Well, what's lacking is direct proof. We have no direct proof of either lab escape or natural emergence. All we can do is take the available evidence and say which scenario explains the evidence better and I believe that lab escape does. To get the proof you suggest, what we need to see is the records from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, we need to know exactly what viruses Dr. Shi was working on, what experiments she was doing. All that data has been sealed up by the Chinese government.
SMERCONISH: In your essay, you also -- and I hope people will take the time to read it. You also -- the politics of this interest me. You said that two letters on which many relied, meaning many in the scientific community, Peter Daszak, I hope I'm doing right by the name, and Kristian Andersen were really political, not scientific and yet they were amazingly effective. Explain. WADE: Well, right from the start, those two groups of virologists captured the national mindset. They persuaded the mainstream media that there was nothing to look at here. It was obviously a case of natural emergence. Just move on. And the mainstream media, newspapers and television networks, they just bought into that story without doing any serious digging of their own and that's why we've been in this sort of delusion for more than a year.
Our media has let us down by failing to investigate a very flimsy story that these two groups of virologists put up and looking beyond it to the actual facts of what was happening in Dr. Shi's lab, all of which is a matter of public record in the U.S., as I laid out in my article.
SMERCONISH: You heard my opening commentary. Do you agree with my premise that the thinking among some is if Donald Trump were advocating it, they didn't want to hear it and they were going to go in the other direction?
WADE: Yes. It was disastrous when Mr. Trump made his statement the virus had definitely come from the Wuhan lab. I'm sure what his intelligence services probably told him was that, no, we can't rule it out which is a different matter, but his statement then polarized the issue. Everyone prefers to talk about politics rather than the scientific details which are rather hard to understand. So, we went round in this totally irrelevant debate about what Trump said or what he didn't say.
SMERCONISH: Final question. Will we ever know?
WADE: Yes, I hope we will. I hope if enough people in enough countries say that we think, on present evidence, the virus came from a Chinese lab, that will, for the first time, put pressure on China to open and cooperate with the rest of the world in trying to prevent another such pandemic. The alternative will be to become the world's pariah and cooler heads in Beijing may decide it's better to cooperate and tell us what they know.
SMERCONISH: Nicholas Wade, thank you.
WADE: You're welcome.
SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program. From the world of Twitter, "Smerconish, I believe it came from animals and China tried to experiment and learn about it and it got out of hand, but at the end of the day, who cares? Let's control it, vaccinate, wear a mask and watch your distance."
I care, Alex. I care because in your assessment, there's no accountability for the Chinese if, in fact, the story is different than they've led us to believe and you just heard from Nicholas Wade explaining that and you heard what he said, so make your own mind, but I believe I heard him say that those records from the Wuhan Institute of Virology would instruct us on this issue of whether the so-called "Bat Lady" was doing experimentation that had unforeseen consequences, meaning there's an answer out there, but they've got to give it to us.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com this hour and answer this week's survey question. Did the COVID-19 virus originate naturally or by lab leak?
Up ahead, the New England Patriots infamous Spygate videotaping cheating scandal happened almost 15 years ago, but we're just now learning there's apparently more to that story. The late Senator Arlen Specter once wrote that someone had offered him, quote, "A lot of money in Palm Beach to drop the investigation." Now his son Shanin Specter joins me to discuss his explosive allegation. He says that person who offered his dad money was former president Donald J. Trump.
SMERCONISH: Did a former president make a very unpatriotic offer on behalf of the Patriots? In 2008 before the NFL's Deflategate, there was Spygate. The New England Patriots were under fire for filming opponents hand signals and one senator from Pennsylvania was hot on the case. Then a Republican and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Arlen Specter launched an investigation into the scandal. This was potentially bad news for the Newfoundland.
But according to Specter, a mutual friend of his and Patriots owner Robert Kraft thought he could make the investigation disappear. Specter's memoir, "Life Among the Cannibals," documented a discussion with that friend. Quote, "On the signal stealing, a mutual friend had told me that if I laid off the Patriots, there'd be a lot of money in Palm Beach. I replied, 'I couldn't care less.'"
That one line always nagged at investigative reporter Don Van Natta Jr. He needed to know who was that mutual friend who allegedly offered a bribe to a sitting senator. Years later, he believes that he has the answer, Donald J. Trump. That's according to the late senator's son, Shanin Specter, as detailed in Don Van Natta Jr.'s "ESPN" report.
Shanin telling "ESPN" his dad was upset, quote, "He told me about the call in the wake of the conversation and his anger about it. My father was upset when such overtures would happen because he felt as if it were tantamount to a bribe solicitation, though the case law on this subject says it isn't. He would tell me these things when they occurred. We were very close."
"ESPN" reported that campaign finance experts are split on whether this amounted to a bride in a legal sense. We reached out to both Trump and Kraft for comment. Their spokespeople referred us to their denials in the "ESPN" story.
In 2020, Shanin Specter supported President Biden's election bid, but says his statements are in no way politically motivated. In fact, Van Natta Jr. notes that Shanin only answer his question definitively after Senator Specter's longtime communications aide Charles Robbins implicated Trump. Even before the alleged involvement of Donald Trump, it was clear that Senator Specter was deeply frustrated by the entire Spygate issue. Here's what he told me on my radio program in February of 2008 shortly before launching his one-man investigation.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ARLEN SPECTER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Michael, the fine was a light slap on the wrist for what is involved here.
SMERCONISH: Well, it was the -- it was the harshest in NFL history.
SPECTER: That didn't amount -- that didn't amount to a whole hell of a lot, Michael. The harshest in history record. They take away a draft choice and they fine them money and what I think was of concern to a lot of people, including me, was Belichick's response. When he was asked by the media, he brushed it off as if it wasn't worthy of a reply. There was no contrition, there was no apology. It was a "don't bother me."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Senator Arlen Specter passed in 2012, four years before Donald Trump was elected president. Joining me now is his son, Shanin Specter. He's a lawyer and adjunct law professor at Stanford, Berkeley, Hastings and Penn. Full disclosure, he is my friend of more than 30 years. Shanin, did "ESPN" get the story right?
SHANIN SPECTER, SON OF LATE SENATOR ARLEN SPECTER: Yes, sir. They did.
SMERCONISH: What exactly did your father tell you?
SPECTER: My father called me in 2008 and said he'd gotten off the phone with Donald Trump who had passed along an offer from Bob Kraft, the Patriots owner, that if my father laid off his investigation of the Patriots, that there'd be a lot of money for him in Palm Beach.
SMERCONISH: And how did your father interpret that offer?
SPECTER: He felt that it was close to an offer of a bride, if not an offer of a bribe, and he did some legal research after that and told me he found that it did not quite fit the bribe definition under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, but he was very angry about it and disappointed in Donald Trump who was his friend.
SMERCONISH: You supported now President Biden in the campaign. Do politics have anything to do with this revelation coming to light now?
SPECTER: No, Mike. They don't. Look, if I were interested in trying to get Donald Trump, I would have tried to make a stink about this in 2016 when he ran for president or in 2020 when he ran for reelection for president. I got a phone call from "ESPN," it goes back about 18 months ago or so, asking me questions about this part of my father's book. I answered the questions and that's all there is to it. I heard the commentary that maybe I was out to get President Trump, but that's just not so.
Look, this is who President Trump is. You think about the phone call he had with President Zelensky in 2019 just like the phone call with my father. They were both inappropriate phone calls from elected officials inappropriately mixing official business with campaign matters. The call with Zelensky got him impeached. His phone call to my father is going to end up being a footnote in history.
SMERCONISH: Well, it's a pretty big footnote because I took note of the fact that the morning after the tragedy in San Jose this week, the killing, the slaying of nine individuals, when I looked online at "The Washington Post," the number one story in "The Post was this report from "ESPN." What accounts for that?
SPECTER: I think there's tremendous hatred of President Trump in this country. Anything that reinforces that hatred is going to be read and watched. I think, however, that the final analysis, it's not going to change any opinion. I don't think there's anybody in America who had a good opinion of President Trump on Tuesday this week and has a bad opinion of him today based upon this story on "ESPN."
SMERCONISH: When the story broke, I received an e-mail from Roger Stone, the subject of which I'm going to quote literally. He said, "This is all bullshit and it's hearsay. What's your response?
SPECTER: Well, I don't think Roger was in the phone call between Donald Trump and my father in 2008 and he wasn't in the phone call that occurred just after that between my father and me and the conversation that occurred at our home with my wife and I and my dad on the following weekend. So I don't think Roger knows much about that, nor much about evidence for that matter because you really want to get technical about it, it would be admissible under a variety of hearsay exceptions.
SMERCONISH: How typical was it -- I'm curious now about the big picture as to what, if anything, this says about the climate in Washington in the time that your father was there, which was a long time, Pennsylvania's longest serving United States senator. How often would offers like this be made to him?
SPECTER: I mean, he would mention to me once every, I'd say, few years when he felt somebody had crossed the line, mixing in conversations about official business with campaign contributions. It made him very angry. It's the kind of thing that does happen in Washington, occasionally it happens in state capitols around the country as well. It is wrong. It's not an appropriate conversation. Some people have it in their character to say things like that and some -- and most people fortunately do not.
SMERCONISH: Shanin, a final thought. Your father was a lot of things. He was not corruptible. I mean, those of us who knew him and knew him well knew that he had a deep sense of integrity. Donald Trump knew him fairly well. Does it ...
SMERCONISH: ... belie the story in any way that Donald Trump would have even made such an overture to your dad? Because if he knew him, he'd know that Arlen Specter would have no tolerance for that.
SPECTER: I just think that's the way that Donald Trump is. I don't think he cares that much about the listener, he cares more about the speaker and this is the way he's always operated. He's gotten himself in trouble for doing stuff like this. He was impeached in 2019 over something just like this.
In relation to the phone call with my father, he was not outed by my father publicly because of their friendship. My father, I think, prized his loyalty to his friend Donald Trump at that time, of course that was different Donald Trump than the one we have come to know, from the public issue. He did, of course, put the fact of the phone call in his book and he was very angry about the call and very angry about the Patriots' conduct (ph).
SMERCONISH: Was it a break point in their relationship?
SPECTER: No, it was not a break point in their relationship. He continued to have affection for Donald Trump. They had known each other since the 1980s. Trump had begun to follow my father's career in the 1960s when he was a student at Penn and they have a warm relationship. I think the right word to use is that he was disappointed in his friend Donald Trump, but he wasn't going to report him to the FBI.
SMERCONISH: Shanin, thank you for that.
SPECTER: You're welcome, Mike.
SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying on my Smerconish Twitter and Facebook pages. This comes, I think, from the world of Twitter, "I have no doubt that Trump tried to bribe Senator Specter. I mean, seriously, we only have to go as far as his mentor, Roger Stone, to realize what sort of malarkey he uses to take advantage of those in government."
Well, Jared, I didn't know that was coming, but you heard me offer you what Roger Stone thinks of this whole story. I'll be more delicate this time and say he thinks it's all BS and hearsay and couldn't be proven and yada, yada, yada. Make up your own mind.
I want to remind you, go to my website at Smerconish.com, answer this week's survey question, please. Did the COVID-19 virus originate naturally or by lab leak?
Up ahead, 90 percent of Millennials and Gen Z don't want to go back to the office. We're going to take a closer look at how different generations view work habits.
And later, imagine if you were tasked to take a bullet for the president. That's what's expected of the men and women of the Secret Service and a new book details how the Service has also been stretched pretty thin for a long, long time.
SMERCONISH: The slow but sure return to the office is starting but will people show up? A new study suggests the text savvy younger generations would rather not. Ninety percent of Millennials and Gen Z employees worldwide do not want to return to working in the office full time, according to a study done by Citrix.
A reminder, Millennials are those between 27 and 41 old. And Gen Z those are between nine and 26. So, has the pandemic inspired new work- life outlooks for working age Millennials and Gen Zers?
Joining me now to discuss is Jean Twenge. She's a psychology professor at San Diego State University who has studied differences between generations for decades. Her latest book "iGen: Why Today's Super- Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and What That Means for the Rest of Us."
Dr. Twenge, why the generational differences on the return to work?
JEAN TWENGE, PSYCHOLOGY PROFESSOR, SAN DIEGO STATE UNIVERSITY: Yes, there's a number of reasons. So, one is when you look at the big survey data that we have over time say, looking at 18-year-olds, Gen Z or iGen, and Millennials are much more likely to value work-life balance compared to Gen Xers and Boomers at the same age.
So, they say, for example, you know, I might not want a job or I would have to work too hard. They would really rather have that balance. And I think working at home is one way that they can find that balance so that might be one reason why they're more interested in that.
SMERCONISH: I hear Boomers yelling at their T.V. sets right now, they're lazy.
TWENGE: Well, we always have to recognize that generational differences are not all good and not all bad so there's always tradeoffs involved. On the one hand you might see this as work ethic. They don't want to work that hard. On the other it is absolutely true, the Americans work too many hours that we probably would be better off if we found more time for leisure and for family. So, there's two perspectives to this and we have to keep that in mind that, you know, it's not all good or all bad.
SMERCONISH: So, Gen Z -- Gen Z is the group. I get confused. Gen Z is the group that you referred to as iGen, right? Those who have come of age with a smartphone in their -- in their pocket.
I understand that they want to return to work less in a conventional environment. Do they aspire to less material gain? Do they aspire to less wealth than prior generations? In other words, are they OK with earning less as a result of not being in the office?
TWENGE: Yes. So, they're -- they're not and Millennials weren't either. So, that's where there is a little bit of a disconnect that -- there sometimes this idea that Millennials and Gen Z, you know, want more purpose and meaning in their work.
And it turns out when you actually ask them that's really not true. Instead, they really want that financial gain, not surprising in an age of income inequality and college loans to pay off and very high housing prices, yet it is true some of this is going to collide with reality if they are saying, "Well, I don't want to the hours but I still want to make the money."
SMERCONISH: Well, it sounds to me, Dr. Twenge, like there is a reckoning coming probably at the end of summer, early fall as workplaces are now returning to some sense of normalcy. Because employers watching this maybe they are already aware of the data but somehow, they are going to have to come to terms with that younger tech savvy work force not wanting to return to the way things had been. How does it all get resolved?
TWENGE: Yes. I think we are going to see that conflict partially, generationally, and just overall of those who want to keep working from home, and then those who say, look, we need to be in the office to have that face-to-face interaction.
Best-case scenario is we get compromises of a hybrid model. So, maybe going into the office once or twice a week, working at home the rest of the time. Worst-case scenario, it wouldn't surprise me if we see a lot of Millennials and Gen Z quitting and saying, you know what? If you won't let me work at home at this job I'm going to go find another one. So, it's going to be interesting to watch.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Twenge, thank you as always.
TWENGE: Thanks so much.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, the service has the word secret before it for a reason. The men and women who put their lives on the line to protect the president operate in the shadows. But a new book delves into the Secret Service's noble but troubled history and evolution. The author of that book is next.
Plus, lots of people asking, why Republicans derailed the effort for a 9/11 style January 6 commission? I have a different question. Why didn't Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seize this as an opportunity to derail Donald Trump for 2024? I'll answer that question for you in a moment.
Another reminder, make sure that you're answering this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. "Did the COVID-19 virus originate naturally or by a lab leak?"
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [09:41:37]
SMERCONISH: We know the Secret Service keeps America's VIPs safe with their famous fancy code names and sunglasses and earpieces. But how much do we really know about how the agency operates?
A new book reveals some secrets, some scandals and shake-ups that might surprise you."Zero Fail: The Rise and Fall of the Secret Service" details the agency's noble but troubled history and how it's apolitical reputation has sometimes faltered. It's written by "The Washington Post's" Carol Leonnig who joins me now. She's a Pulitzer Prize winner, a veteran investigative reporter. She interviewed dozens of current and former agents, government officials, and whistleblowers in order to write the book.
Carol, you know that Tim McCarthy famously took that bullet for Ronald Reagan. Is that truly something they commit and pledge to do?
CAROL LEONNIG, AUTHOR, "ZERO FAIL: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE SECRET SERVICE: One thousand percent, Michael. I've seen the training. It's called "attack on principal" and it's an amazing thing. It's basically like at the sound of a gunshot, at the sight of trouble, they literally, as Tim McCarthy did, hurl themselves between the bullet that's incoming and the president that is behind them, which Tim McCarthy sort of famously did instinctively the minute John Hinckley got off the first shot.
SMERCONISH: "Born of blood," words that you use in the book where tragedy begets change. JFK's assassination, the end of open-air limos. The Bremer shooting of George Wallace, now the rope line is going to function differently. The Ronald Reagan attempted assassination by Hinckley, I guess, was famous for two changes. Magnetometers of the crowd as well as the covered access now when a principal arrives. It's a shame that it's always something that happens and then comes the change.
LEONNIG: So true. I mean, we say that like American government writ large is often so reactive and the Secret Service has been too. You know, what is funny is before he died, I interviewed President Reagan's detail leader, Bob DeProspero, he was kind of famous. And he said to me, you know, we wanted to use magnetometers before that shooting at the Hilton, before Reagan was almost killed that day because of a bullet. Despite McCarthy's efforts, despite his detail leader pushing the president into the back seat of the limo as soon as he could a bullet did ricochet against the limo's door and went into his lung.
But DeProspero said, we had hoped to have those but always had resistance from the White House. And that is the tension in this -- you know, in this world in which the president wants to get re-elected and look like he's an everyman with the people, not being protected from them. And the Secret Service which is saying, look, we got to keep you alive and we have to think about all of the potential risks.
SMERCONISH: The Secret Service agents, they know everything, including which presidents or vice presidents have had sexual dalliances. What's the rule book? What's the code? When do they speak up? When are they supposed to speak up, if at all?
LEONNIG: You know, there was a famous battle over this during the investigation of President Clinton's relationship with Monica Lewinsky. It didn't start as an investigation into his relationship with a White House intern, but it went all the way to the Supreme Court, because investigators for the independent counsel wanted to hear and see what the witnesses standing beside the president heard and saw, and those were the secret service agents.
And the Secret Service director at the time fought like hell to prevent agents from having to testify. He lost and they did have to go to the grand jury. Now, the ones that went forward basically said that they knew that the president -- they didn't put it this way, but they knew the president had lied about saying that he had never been alone with Monica Lewinsky.
The trouble is agents want to protect the president. They want to be close. They don't care about his moral decisions or political embarrassments, what they care about is his security.
And when a president like President Kennedy, President Clinton, and others have tried to get away from the agents to get some privacy or get away from agents to create an image of themselves as all powerful and normal, they have pushed the agents away. And agents have to be able to protect what is on the other side of the door. They have to be able to know what woman is going into that room even if the president is having, you know, an adulterous affair with her.
SMERCONISH: Carol, final question. Some believe this to be a very harsh portrayal of the Secret Service which, by the way, was not my take having read all 500 pages. I thought if someone with your investigative chops looks at an organization of 7,000 people you're going to be able to write a book like this regardless of what the organization might be.
LEONNIG: You know, the most important thing to me -- I'm so glad, first of all, and flattered that you and so many other people have read it. It is a long book but it does have a lot of information in it. I was shocked by what I learned and I thought I knew a lot about the Secret Service.
The number one thing that I learned is it is made up of incredibly dedicated public servants. They'll sacrifice things I couldn't. They'll do things that I know that I would crumble before I would be able to deliver on, but their mission is zero fail. And they told me a lot of secrets at danger to them, at risk to their careers.
Some of them lost their jobs for telling me this. That's how dedicated they were to telling the truth because they want this fixed. They want to be able to deliver on that zero fail mission. That's how dedicated they are.
So I know it's hard for the Secret Service leadership to take these lumps, but it really has to accept what these problems are, fix them. Instead of trying to cover for them and, you know, appear impenetrable and pretend everything is all right. Because the American people deserve --
SMERCONISH: Well, they're also -- they're also in an untenable -- they're in an untenable position where they've got to be right 24/7 and some bad seed needs only one opportunity. Hey, Carol, the book is great, really great. Thank you so much for being here.
LEONNIG: Thank you, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Still to come. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had a prime opportunity to derail Donald Trump for 2024 but he passed. How come? I'll try to explain.
And this is your last chance to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com. "Did the COVID-19 virus originate naturally or by a lab leak?"
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to this week's survey question at Smerconish.com. "Did the COVID-19 virus originate naturally or by a lab leak?"
Survey says -- 74, wow, interesting. Three-quarters say lab leak with let's call it 14,000 people who have cast ballots. I mean, we really don't know. Obviously, we're just weighing in and offering a gut check. But I think if I had asked that survey question here three weeks ago even, it probably would have been a complete reverse.
Here is hoping that we get the true answer. Social media response. Here is some of what came in during the course of the week. What do we have?
Smerconish, I'm in the corner of who cares. Really? And I really don't care that you care. A total wasted effort. Move on.
OK. I love how it is such a wasted effort that -- could you put that back on the screen? I love how it is such a wasted effort, and this is so ridiculous, I think I'll compound it by taking the time to send a tweet and tell him how ridiculous it is. That's ridiculous.
What is next? Smerconish, the reason Mitch won't derail Trump's 2024 run is because it most likely will be a slam dunk given the direction that things are going. Wow. In other words, Trump's election will be a slam dunk given the way it is going.
Look, this is the story. I mean, Republicans stopped inquiry on caucuses of Capitol Hill attack, did I read that accurately? You know what I'm talking about.
So the question is, if there is no love lost between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wants to be Senate majority leader again, and Donald Trump, then why didn't McConnell let a 9/11-style commission do his dirty work? In other words, launch the probe and then just sit back and let it run its course because nothing good can out of that investigation for former President Donald Trump.
A report comes out, the report says, hey, on the afternoon of January 6, Trump sat back, watched his flat screen televisions as Rome was burning. And it would be so devastating that now McConnell would get his wish which is that Trump would be vanquished as the 2024 candidate, which is what I really think he wants.
Now, the simple answer is to say, yes, but McConnell wants to be Senate majority leader more than anything else. He doesn't want bad news coming out at the beginning of the midterm cycle. That's true. But there is a bigger part being overlooked by everybody else and it is this -- McConnell knows that it wouldn't matter to the base. Even if a devastating report came out on January 6, it wouldn't matter to the base and they would still support Donald Trump.
Have a good Memorial Day weekend. Don't forget the purpose of the weekend. I'll see you next week.