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White House, Trump Battle Over January 6 Attack Investigation; What Did Utah Police Know When Stopping Petito And Laundrie? College Women now Outnumber Men 60-40. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired September 25, 2021 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: "Peril," does the word apply more to Trump or to Biden? I'm Michael Smerconish today in San Francisco. The hottest book in the country is Bob Woodward and Robert Costa's "Peril." By the way, Costa will be joining me soon. It's a look at both the 2020 campaign and final days of the Trump administration. The book is an indictment of Donald Trump personally and relies heavily on the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff army general Mark Milley.

So concerned was Milley about Trump's degrading mental state that he used a backdoor communication to try to assuage Chinese concerns that Trump would be able to unilaterally start a nuclear war. "Peril" further details the lengths to which Trump was willing to go to hold on to power, including the existence of a two-page memo, a battle plan prepared by lawyer John Eastman laying out a strategy whereby Vice President Mike Pence would facilitate the overturning of the election outcome.

The plan was to either have Pence outright declare Trump the winner or throw the matter to the House of Representatives where a GOP margin would enable Trump to stay in office. The Senate parliamentarian, Elizabeth MacDonough, reaffirmed to Pence that he was simply a vote counter. Period. His old Hoosier buddy, Dan Quayle, vice president himself, said likewise.

And remember John Yoo, the now Berkeley law professor who wrote memos providing a legal basis for the Bush 43 administration to use so- called harsh interrogation or torture methods? He wouldn't support the idea either.

Thank God Pence didn't go along with the coup attempt, but the book has provided a road map for further investigation by the House Select Committee investigating January 6. Allegations of an unfit president hell-bent on holding power. No wonder the book has a one-word title meaning serious and immediate danger, which is why a scene in the book toward the end is so incongruent.

Trump's pollster, John McLaughlin, pays the former president a visit last June in Bedminster, New Jersey. He came armed with the results of a recent survey, a survey that showed that 73 percent of Republicans want him to run again and 82 percent said they would support him if he got into a primary campaign. "These numbers, your numbers, are better than what Reagan had," McLaughlin tells him, "The pendulum is going to swing back, Mr. President. Just be patient. Hang back and wait and see what happens and there will be buyer's remorse about Biden."

To a reader of "Peril," the idea seems fantastical, at odds with the nearly 400 pages that preceded the anecdote. Buyer's remorse about Biden when he followed Trump? And yet here we are eight months into the Biden administration and, no, he does not pose a perilous threat to the nation, but he is facing a political peril. Don't misunderstand. I'm not drawing a moral equivalency between Trump and Biden. I am saying that one brought the nation to peril and the other now finds himself in a perilous place politically speaking.

A combination of crises have caused the president's approval rating to tank and relief that he hoped to get from passage of a major bipartisan infrastructure deal now in jeopardy. First, there was Afghanistan. While a majority of Americans supported the president's decision to get out, the withdrawal was haphazard and calamitous for 13 of our servicemen and women. Plus, three days after the terror attack that killed Americans at the Kabul airport, a U.S. drone killed 10 innocent Afghans, seven of them children.

And then there's the pandemic. The U.S. vaccination rate 47th in the world. We're 55.1 percent vaccinated. No other wealthy nation is so vaccine poor. As a result, we're struggling to put an end to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, there are the harrowing images from Del Rio, Texas, thousands of Haitian migrants who amassed on our southern border, no doubt motivated to make a dangerous trek because of mixed messaging from the administration on whether the border is open. And our closest ally, France, just recalled its ambassador in protest over the administration's lack of consultation after reaching a new submarine pact with Australia and Britain.

Against this backdrop, maybe it's no wonder then that Biden's approval ratings have dropped significantly since earlier this year. The three most recent polls show an average decline of 11 points when compared with polls conducted around the 100-day mark of his presidency. According to new Gallup numbers released this week, Biden's job approval now sits at just 43 percent while the majority, 53 percent, disapprove of how he's handled his duties.

Where he's showing his greatest decline? With Independents. Just 37 percent of Independents approve. That's his lowest to-date, 24 points below his high of 61 percent. The president, he says he's unconcerned.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Remember I said it's going to take me a year to deliver everything I'm looking at here and that's number one. Number two, take a look at what I inherited when I came into office. This is a process and it's going to be up and down. That's why I don't look at the polls. Not a joke. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Relief was hoped for at the White House with the passage of a bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill which would fund overdue repairs to American bridges, rail and broadband, but there's a stalemate between Democratic House moderates who want immediate passage of that bill and Democratic House progressives who want Biden to go bigger or they might go home.

Biden's political peril no doubt pleasing to the man in Bedminster who brought a different kind of peril to the nation, which brings me to this week's survey question at The dip in President Biden's approval rating, is that normal fluctuation or something more permanent?

Joining me now to discuss is David Axelrod, CNN senior political commentator, host of the podcast "The Axe Files" and of course former senior adviser to President Obama. David, thank you so much for being here. When you look at the numbers, the Biden polling numbers, what is it that you see?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think you summed it up pretty well. First of all, thank you for your -- for your oration there because it makes me so much happier to be sitting here with you on a Saturday morning than being sitting in the White House where I have -- I have flashbacks from some bad summers that we had there.

look, you know, there's no doubt he had a great spring and he's had a very tough summer and you see the impacts of it and some of the reasons that his numbers have gone down are self-inflicted wounds, some are things that you can't control and that is part of being President of the United States.

But, you know, the movable part in our electorate are Independents. You know, we're so tribal that Democrats tend to stick with a Democratic president, Republicans tend to oppose him. The opposite is true when we have a president of the other party, but Independents are important and he has lost a lot of ground there and I think, you know, part of it is that he ran on this notion of competence, of experience, of sure-handedness and hasn't looked that way at times during the last few months.

And if he passes these bills, I think that will help steady the ship, but, look, we're a closely divided nation, Michael, and this is going to be a long, hard slog for him and it would be, I think, for any president at this juncture.

SMERCONISH: If you were back at the White House, what is it that you would be saying to the president?

AXELROD: Well, I'd be saying a few things. One is get a hold of COVID communications. I think that part of the -- you're right, vaccinations has been a real challenge for him and I think the fact that they've become so politicized has been really deeply problematical, but another part of that is just communications. The fact, you know -- we just saw it again on the booster shots.

There hasn't been a clear, consistent message from his COVID team and by him about what to expect, about what was needed, about how we were going to move forward. I think that's been a big problem. He has to fix that.

He has to pass these bills for sure. If he doesn't pass these two bills, the infrastructure bill, the reconciliation bill that are being debated right now in Washington, it's going to be a very tough go, particularly in the midterm elections which are going to be hard anyway. He's got to tell a clear, consistent story about the priorities he's pursuing and how they affect peoples' lives and if he passes those bills, he'll have a lot to talk about and then he has to frame the choice.

You know, he always quotes the old quote about, "Don't judge me against the almighty, judge me against the alternative." Well, the alternative that the Republicans are presenting right now is a pretty ripe target. We saw it last week in the California recall and, you know, they provide a great contrast because they're very extreme and I don't think Independent voters embrace the kinds of things we've seen out of Texas. They don't embrace some of the resistance to anti-COVID tactics.

So, you know, he's got -- he's got steps he can take, but it's hard and I'm not going to sit here, having been there, and say, gee, you know, if you, you know, just follow these four steps and everything will be great. These are -- these are tumultuous times.

SMERCONISH: A final point. I noticed that you used the plural, "bills," both those infrastructure packages. Do you see them equally?


Because some think there's far more political peril in the $3.5 trillion given the price tag.

AXELROD: Well, if it's -- if all the discussion is is about the price tag, then I would say yes. If it's about -- if it's about, you know, early childhood education, pre-kindergarten, if it's about lowering drug prices, if it's about making healthcare more accessible and affordable, if it's about, you know, child care -- I'm sorry -- child tax credit, if it's about specific things that impact on peoples' lives, I don't think it's perilous.

If all it is -- and this is what Republicans would like. If all it is is about the size of the legislation, the cost of the legislation, then I think it's much more perilous.

SMERCONISH: David, thanks so much. It's great to have you here. I really appreciate it.

AXELROD: Always good to see you. Thank you.

SMERCONISH: So as David discussed, it's a kitchen sink of a Congressional bill and much of President Biden's agenda now riding on it, the $3.5 trillion package that Democrats have been wrestling with for weeks, but this intramural squabbling threatens to topple the whole precarious house of cards.

Joining me now to discuss, Democratic congresswoman from the great state of Pennsylvania, Chrissy Houlahan, a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus. Congresswoman, thanks so much for being here. You heard my conversation with David. How is this about to play out? Uh-oh, I'm not hearing the congresswoman. Hang on one second. See if we can square that away because ...


SMERCONISH: There we go. Hey, you're back now.


SMERCONISH: Thanks so much. So what's about to unfold?

HOULAHAN: You're welcome. Thank you for having me. These next few weeks are going to be critical for this administration and for the promises that have been made to the American people and for the reasons why Americans voted en masse for President Biden and his administration and so I do believe that these two bills are very, very essential for that.

I do believe that in order to, you know, kind of fulfill some of the promises that he's made, we have responsibilities to work really hard as a Congress to make sure that we deliver on those two bills and I'm hopeful, frankly, that we'll be able to do that bipartisanly. The infrastructure bill passed the Senate with 19 Republican votes and if the proportion of the House were to be mathematically formulated, it would be more than 80 Republicans ought to be in support of that infrastructure bill.

As Mr. Axelrod reflected, the second bill, the Build Back Better bill, is a litany of really important investments in the American people and that's indeed how President Biden was elected on the platform on which he was elected.

SMERCONISH: The president, for reasons I've just articulated, I think politically speaking, he needs a win. Is he going to get the $1.2 trillion win on Monday?

HOULAHAN: I don't know exactly if it's going to be Monday. Certainly I and a number of my colleagues have been working very, very hard for the past week and a half to make sure he holds to and the speaker holds to that guarantee that we will vote on that piece of legislation this week. I am very hopeful that it will be Monday and it's certainly something we've been asking for and I think would be a good step in the right direction for investment in infrastructure, hard infrastructure.

SMERCONISH: Congresswoman, it's like a game of chicken between the more moderate influences within the Democratic House caucus and the more progressive and I guess we're all kind of waiting to see who buckles first. Your thought?

HOULAHAN: So good people can disagree on how to get to where we're going, but I think we all understand just how important it is that we do get that second package across the finish line and so I think if I've learned anything in Washington is that it all looks like a disaster until it's not and I think we all understand how important this particular piece of legislation is.

Right now as we speak, it's in the Budget Committee being processed and marked up and hopefully we'll have the opportunity to see that piece of legislation on the floor, potentially as early as next week, but probably a little bit further from that.

SMERCONISH: A final point. I think David made a wise political observation that if the $3.5 trillion is defined by its number and not by its component parts, then it's a losing argument. You get the final word.

HOULAHAN: I completely agree. I think what's in that bill -- again, we're going to be responsible for making sure that we're messaging how critical and important those investments are in schools and in children, in healthcare, in greening our economy. Those kinds of things are very popular, bipartisanly popular, with the American people and this is an investment in the American people like none other that we've made in recent generations.

And so we will hopefully be able to pass it and then hopefully be able to message how critical and important these investments have been.

SMERCONISH: Going to be an interesting week. Thank you so much for being here.

HOULAHAN: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @Smerconish, go to my Facebook page. I will read some throughout the course of the program. What do we have, Catherine? "Dems who voted for the pair will stick and stay, but Independents have left the building."


Rotten Ralph -- funny handle -- yes, the Independents, and David was pointing this out, are those with whom the president is suffering most. Will they come back?

I agree with what David Axelrod had to say. It was a good spring for the president, but it's a very, very difficult summer that's now coming to a conclusion and he needs that $1.2 trillion win that Mitch McConnell was among -- what? Seventeen, 18, 19 Republicans in the Senate who voted? Politically speaking, take that win and keep moving, but we'll see because maybe the progressives have more sway in the House caucus than the more moderate Problem Solvers.

One more if I've got time from Twitter. Here it is. "One thing to say in response to your opening commentary. Trump 2024!" Well, Joseph -- and Bob Costa's about to be here. It is amazing that this book -- and this is my thinned down version. Don't get me started. It's my prep strategy.

But this book is 400 pages long and it is a total shellacking of Donald Trump and then you get to the final portion and you've got John McLaughlin, the pollster, going in and saying to Trump, hey, this is looking pretty good for 2024. There will be buyer's remorse about Trump, which is totally like belied by what came in the first 400 pages and yet here we are to an extent, to an extent.

Remember, I want to know what you think. Go to my website at and answer this week's survey question. The dip in President Biden's approval rating: What is that? Is that normal fluctuation or is that permanent?

Still to come, four close confidants of former President Trump have now been subpoenaed by the House Select Committee on January 6. The letters to two of them cite reporting in the new best-selling book "Peril" that I've been referencing. Robert Costa is here to discuss.

And enrollment at American colleges now 60/40 female, the largest gender gap in the history of our higher education and a total reversal from the ratio 50 years ago. I'll ask Scott Galloway why is this happening and where is it heading?




SMERCONISH: Men are abandoning higher education in record numbers. Women make up nearly 60 percent of college students with men at 40 percent. That's the largest gender gap in the history of American higher education and it's getting wider and it's basically a reversal of where things stood a half century ago. In the fall of 1970, men accounted for nearly 59 percent of U.S. college students, women 41 percent.

Last year, American colleges enrolled 1.5 million fewer students than five years ago and 71 percent of those who are gone are men. According to the Common App, in college applications for the most recent school year, women outpaced men 3.8 million to 2.8 million. So where have all the men gone and why and where's this headed?

Joining me now to discuss is Scott Galloway, professor at the NYU Stern School of Business, the podcaster, the author of "Post Corona: From Crisis to Opportunity." Professor Galloway, are you seeing this manifest in the classroom? In other words, does this catch you by surprise?

SCOTT GALLOWAY, PROFESSOR OF MARKETING, NYU STERN SCHOOL OF BUSINESS: Yes, it doesn't catch me by surprise because it's been incremental, but absolutely you've seen more women and in some cases, you walk into a class and it's kind of two to one, but the numbers are even worse than you indicated, Michael, because men drop out at a greater rate.

Over the next few years, for every one man that graduates from college, there's going to be two women. So this is becoming overwhelming. College is becoming the domain of women and not men.

SMERCONISH: So I've got three sons in their early 20s who are big Scott Galloway fans. It seems like you've been able to tap into ...


SMERCONISH: No, listen to me. It seems like you've been able to tap into this demo. So tell me what's going on? What's driving this?

GALLOWAY: Simple. The products become more expensive and it's not any better. We haven't -- at our elite universities, we're so drunk on luxury, we haven't expanded enrollments. So it's like, well, I'm going to get rejected for something that I might have to pay a Mercedes price for a Hyundai and also, quite frankly, the opportunities for men at that age are greater than they are for women.

You can walk into a construction site in Florida, you can turn on an app, cop, fireman, trade job, which, at the age of 18, if you can make $100 to $200 a day, that feels like real cabbage. So the opportunities are greater for men at that age and it feels like, quite frankly, our role models, whether it's Donald Trump or Elon Musk, sort of -- sort of disparage or have disdain for college grads. So anti- intellectualism, the products gotten more expensive and there are more opportunities for men at the age of 18.

SMERCONISH: You remind me that my brother said to my nephew when he was graduating from high school, "I can buy you a backhoe or I can send you off for four years and it's your choice," and he thought about it. Let me give you a different explanation. This is from Doug Belkin in "The Wall Street Journal." Put that up on the screen for Professor Galloway.

Here's what he says, "Social science researchers cite distractions and obstacles to education that weigh more on boys and young men, including video games, pornography, increased fatherlessness and cases of over-diagnosis of boyhood restlessness and related medications." Is he onto something in that explanation?

GALLOWAY: Yes, I think there's some truth to that, but quite frankly, the flip side of that is young girls, 7 of 10 valedictorians are girls are showing more discipline around not engaging in distracting behavior. You know, that comment you made about a hoe, I don't know about you. I was offered a Trans-Am if I didn't go to college. My father -- and I thought about it. I liked the idea of me in a T-Top Trans-Am.

But here's the problem, Michael. What we don't talk about is the existential threat this presents to society. We talk a lot about income inequality.


We have mating inequality in this country. Two in three relationships start on Tinder, 50 men, 50 women. Forty-six women show all their attention to just four men and what do those four women have? They signal success with a college degree. So you're going to have -- the most dangerous person in the world is a broke and a lone male and we are producing too many of them.

The mating inequality that's going to come out of this dearth of men in college poses an existential risk to our economy and our society.

SMERCONISH: There was a book that came out a couple of years ago called "Marry Smart" and the argument was if you're on a college campus, take advantage of the work that the admissions office has done for you in limiting the pool of potential mates and I think you're -- see, this is what I haven't thought out and you're obviously thinking it through. What are the long-term implications beyond the classroom for what this holds for society? You get the final word on that.

GALLOWAY: The bottom line is we, on the left, like to think that men and women are exactly the same. They aren't. They're different, including in their mating preferences, and the reality is college graduate women aren't interested in mating with men who don't have college degrees.

If you look at the most unstable, violent societies in the world, they all have one thing in common. They have young, depressed men who aren't attaching to work, aren't attaching to school and aren't attaching to relationships and our inability to provide the resources and encourage men to go to college is going to result in us producing too many of the most dangerous cohort in the world.

America is not about exceptionalism, it's about acceptance. Michael, you and I are here talking to each other right now because back when we applied to college, UCLA had a 70 percent admissions rate, not a 14 percent admissions rate. America is about acceptance, not exceptionalism. This is a huge problem.

SMERCONISH: I was a legacy. I make no bones about it. Thank God Lehigh University took a chance on me. Thank you, professor. I really appreciate it.

GALLOWAY: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying in the world of social media. "Maybe because they don't want to get anywhere from $30,000 to $300,000 in debt." Well, Hunter, that is in part what Scott just said, right? And you would say, well, OK, the price tag is the same for men and for women. So why would it cause men to go in a different direction and not a similar number of women?

And he answered that question because guys have an alternative in the trades and, listen, if you are in the trades where I live, you can make a hell of an income because they're so in demand. I mean, if you're a skilled painter, if you're a skilled carpenter, if you're a skilled electrician, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, you're going to do extremely well. Why not go that route instead of being saddled with all that debt?

I want to remind you, go to my website at and answer this week's survey question. The dip in President Biden's approval rating: What is that? Is that normal fluctuation or is that permanent? Up ahead, what was happening backstage at the Trump White House before, during and after the January 6th Capitol riot? Documents are being demanded, subpoenas being issued. I'll ask Robert Costa about the reporting he and Bob Woodward did for their best-seller, "Peril."

Plus, as more facts emerge about the tragic murder of Gabby Petito, concern has grown over conduct of the Moab officers. What were they told about that 911 call when they interviewed Petito and her fiance? We'll talk about the latest next.



SMERCONISH: What were former President Donald Trump and his aides doing the afternoon of the January 6th attack on the Capitol? This week, the congressional committee investigating the attack issued subpoenas to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former White House deputy chief of staff Dan Scavino, former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and Kashyap Patel, the chief of staff to the acting secretary of defense. While the White House is moving to make more information available about Trump's actions that day, meaning the Biden White House, the former president is threatening to invoke executive privilege likely setting the stage for a legal battle.

Letters accompanying the subpoenas to Bannon and Scavino, cite the new best-seller by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the "Washington Post" "Peril" about the last months of the Trump administration January 6th and the transition of power, the letter to Scavino cites reporting in "Peril" that Scavino was with Trump -- quote -- "On January 5th," the day before, "when he and others were considering how to convince members of Congress not to certify the election for Joe Biden."

Joining me now is Robert Costa, "The Post's" national political reporter. Hey, Bob, let me just say upfront how pleased I am with your success and how cool it is that I look at the acknowledgements in the back of the book and see you thanking three of your teachers at the Pennsbury High School. So, good for you and I'll bet they are awfully happy to see, you know, a number one best-seller written by a former student of theirs.

ROBERT COSTA, WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER/CO-AUTHOR, "PERIL": I really appreciate that, Michael. I've been listening to you on radio and, of course, watching you for over 20 years. You're a class act in every way and it's special how life kind of comes around full circle to be with you here this morning.

SMERCONISH: Bucks County guys, look at us now. Look at you.

OK. Here's the question, who best knows what Trump was doing beyond Trump on the afternoon of January 6th? I, of course, have read the book and I see the tick tock you've assembled. But who do you think is the best fly on the wall?

COSTA: Our book shows what Woodward and I were reporting out, that whole question and trying to find an answer. [09:35:03]

And it's clear General Keith Kellogg, one of the president's national security advisors, was with him in the West Wing in the Oval Office at that time so was Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, some Trump family members like Ivanka Trump were there. But we recognized in the course of nine months of reporting that it's not just about January 6th. January 6th was the culmination of a pressure campaign, a lot of activity on President Trump's part.

So, what we tried to find in our reporting is not just his reaction that day, watching television of the riot, the insurrection, but what was he doing especially on the day before, January 5th, pressuring Vice President Mike Pence one-on-one in the Oval Office and calling in aides like Dan Scavino late on January 5th trying to find a way to get lawmakers to do his bidding on Capitol Hill.

SMERCONISH: Yes, I thought Ivanka would probably be at the top of the list because of her repeated exchanges with him. For me, the most shocking new revelations from the book, John Eastman and the memo. Who is he? And what is the memo?

COSTA: This is so important because it's not just about grievances over the campaign and the election that were driving the discussions ahead of January 6th. There was actual documentation. As we say in our reporting ranks, "We have receipts here."

There was a memo from John Eastman, a conservative legal scholar. And it wasn't just circulated to Vice President Pence and his staff. It was put right in their hands, one-on-one, face-to-face.

On January 4th, two days before the insurrection, John Eastman, President Trump stand with Vice President Pence in the Oval Office and Pence's lawyers. And President Trump says to Pence, listen to John. Listen to John. Try to read this memo. Follow his guidance.

And this memo shows President Trump wanted Vice President Pence to throw out electors on January 6th to effectively throw the election to the House of Representatives where President Trump would have a very good chance of winning because the way the constitution works the party that has the most delegations in the House could then win the presidency. That's what President Trump wanted to actually have Pence help him take the election away from Biden.

SMERCONISH: Here's what I'm thinking, that heretofore in the media, and no doubt because of the visuals, our attention has been focused on the breach of the Capitol and the violence that ensued. What we've been missing and what "Peril" brings out is what was at play behind the scenes.

By the way, was violence a part of the plan? Was violence a part of what Eastman and others around President Trump were anticipating and hoping for?

COSTA: Eastman's memo doesn't anticipate violence. To be sure, a careful read does show that he does predict chaos is going to happen. He writes something to the effect of, chaos will ensue. Democrats will be up in arms.

What's also important is to pay attention to Steve Bannon who in our book reports that he was talking to President Trump not only in early January, on January 5th, for example, on the eve of the insurrection but in late December. And there's one scene in the book -- and you got to read the full story to get the whole context here. Bannon saying to Trump on December 30th, get back to Washington. January 6th needs to be a reckoning.

You know what President Trump did on December 31st? He comes back, skips the Mar-a-Lago New Year's Eve party. And you can see him getting off the helicopter, Marine One, looking very stoned face. This was serious business not just on the 6th but in the days and weeks before. A real effort to change the course of a country and an election.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Bob, we're limited on time but I just want to say this, it's quite jarring to go through 400 pages of what really is an indictment of President Trump and what was going on and to get to the McLaughlin briefing last June in Bedminster where he says, hey, you know what? Your numbers are looking pretty good. And there's going to be buyer's remorse about Biden. Quick thought from you?

COSTA: Bob Woodward and I had a lot of talks, Michael, about how in 1974 Nixon throws his hands in the air, gets on Marine One and goes away to California. That's not the case here with this presidency of Donald Trump. He's trying to come back. He's talking to pollsters like John McLaughlin. And his former campaign manager says privately in summer of 2021, if he runs again it will be for vengeance.

SMERCONISH: Robert Costa, thanks so much for being here.

COSTA: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's check in on your tweets and Facebook comments. What do we have?

He didn't bring the nation to peril. What does that even mean? The media just hated him.

Mr. McKidney? Mr. McKidney, read the book. There was a move afoot. Forget what took place with those who breached the Capitol on January 6th because that has gotten all of our attention up until now. What you need to know is that behind the scenes there was a methodical approach undertaken to try and completely throw out the result of a democratic election for president of the United States.


Initiated by whom? The sitting president of the United States. I mean -- that's because the media hates him? No, that has nothing to do with what the media like or dislike. The Eastman memo that says, here's our road map and Pence is going to be our guy, has nothing to do with the media.

I want to remind you to answer this week's survey question at my Web site. The dip in President Biden's approval rating -- what is that? Is that normal fluctuation or is that permanent?

Still to come, police in Moab, Utah, coming under fire for their response to a domestic dispute between Gabby Petito and her fiance Brian Laundrie. Now, officials want to determine if the officers are at fault for letting them go.



SMERCONISH: The manhunt is intensifying and a federal arrest warrant has been issued for Gabby Petito's fiance Brian Laundrie who's been missing for more than a week. Meanwhile, police in Moab, Utah, say they're launching an independent probe into how their officers handled a domestic dispute between Laundrie and Petito during a traffic stop on August 12th.

In a 911 audio recording from that day, a caller claimed he witnessed Laundrie slapping Petito and chasing her up and down a sidewalk. During the traffic stop police spoke to both parties separately, made the determination that it was Petito who was the abuser and Laundrie the victim. Laundrie reportedly got a fist bump from one of the officers and was told he did nothing wrong before being driven to a hotel for a free night stay. Petito, who was hyperventilating, was left with the van.

It's important to note Utah, one of 22 states with legislation that requires officers to arrest someone when responding to reports of domestic violence as long as certain conditions are met. And that leaves to question, did the police who made the car stop know of the 911 caller's account that he was slapping her? To find out, we reached out to the Moab, Utah, chief of police, didn't receive a response yesterday.

Joining me now from Venice, Florida, to discuss is CNN national correspondent Nadia Romero. Nadia, that's the question that most interests me, right? When the call comes in we know what it said. What information was communicated to the police who then made the traffic stop? Do we know?

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michael, that is still the big question. I think that is something that we'll learn during that independent investigation by the Moab Police Department.

So, you get a call that comes in, what was relayed directly to the officers? Did they know that the report was that Laundrie was slapping Petito? Because as you mentioned, the police report that the Moab police officers filed shows that Petito was the abuser. And that Laundrie had visible markings and bruising on his face, on his body that they believe came from Gabby Petito. So, it's the exact opposite of what that 911 caller called in and said about what was going on that got this whole thing rolling.

So, this part of the country, Moab, Utah -- this is a small police department. They're not used to a big national attention or scrutiny. And so, this will be something that they'll have to contend with, how their officers handled this especially now that it has gotten all this attention.

As you mentioned that Utah is one of those states where someone has to be arrested. So, you want to look at this in two ways. The people who are for this kind of legislation or laws that happen in different states say that this is an opportunity for an abuser to get away from -- for a victim to get away from their abuser.

So if you have someone who is being abused and they're trapped in that situation, police come after a call. They take the abuser to jail. They're arrested. And then the victim has a moment to escape. Free themselves out of that situation.

But then there are other people who look at this law and say, maybe no one needs to be arrested. Maybe they had a heated conversation or things got out of control, but it's not a situation where someone needs to go to jail.

Either way, there is a little bit of wiggle room for the police department. But there are certain circumstances in the state of Utah like if the police believe that the victim was likely to be assaulted or abused in the future then that would be grounds for arresting someone.

So, this is all something that should come out in this independent investigation. That's happening in Moab, Utah. I'm here in Florida right now, outside of the Carlton Nature Preserve, because Brian Laundrie's parents said that this is where he was going the last time they saw him on Tuesday. So, we have multiple states now, Michael, involved in looking for what happened to Gabby Petito and trying to find out where is Brian Laundrie now. Michael.

SMERCONISH: Nadia -- Nadia, that was a great report. Thank you so much for it.

Look, I'm not looking to shift the blame away from the guy, I think is the bad guy, right, in this case. I'm not trying to lay it off on the cops. But we do need to know, what information was communicated? Were they told, we have a domestic incident? Or were they told, we got a guy slapping a woman and chasing her up the street?

Still to come, more of your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. Make sure you're voting on the survey question at



SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question this week at The dip in President Biden's approval rating, what is that? Normal fluctuation or something more permanent?

Here are the results. Eighty-seven percent say normal fluctuation, 13 percent -- pretty decisive. And 15,000 and change voted.

Here's some of the social media commentary from this week. What do we have, Catherine?

Biden's approval has dropped, but does that mean people want Trump back? Lesser of two evils. Do you think Biden will run again in 2024?

I do not think that he will run again in 2024 and I'm not sure Trump will either. But in terms of where people really stand, it's the Republican number that John McLaughlin was taking to Trump that said, if you run, you'll get the nomination. And I think there's truth in that.

Here's more of what came in. What else, Catherine?


Smerconish, who cares why men aren't in college? The wonderful thing is that women saw the writing on the wall, so to speak, about where their careers were. Using COVID down time --fantastic.

No, Donna, there's more to it than this. I mean, we're all thrilled, right, that more women are going to school but there -- there is a societal implication. And you heard Scott Galloway talk about, you know, marriage and me referencing the book that talked about marriage from a college campus point of view. How that resolves, I think, is going to have long term implications.

One more, if I've got time for it. Smerconish, what did your nephew choose the backhoe or the university?

University, not the backhoe. Thank you for asking that question. That's hysterical. And apparently is doing quite well as a result.

Thanks for watching. See you next week.