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Expert Analyzes Levels Of Seized Classified Documents; Is AMerican Democracy Teetering?; Will Donald Trump Be Prosecuted?; Alarming Decline In High School Grads Going To College; Waters Tells Crowd CNN Made Him "Look Like A Prick". Aired 9-10a ET

Aired August 13, 2022 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Alternative facts. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia. Never in the field of search warrants has so much been assumed by so many though known only to so few.

Monday search of Mar-a-Lago began a whirlwind week of speculation, misdirection and parsing. And if you thought the public release of the warrant and inventory would end all the mystery and allow the emergence of one truth, you are mistaken. Yesterday, the "Wall Street Journal" was the first to detail what was retrieved, 11 sets of classified documents including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities.

A list of items removed from the property shows FBI agents took around 20 boxes of items, as well as binders of photos, at least one handwritten note and a document about pardoning Trump's ally Roger Stone. Also included was information about the president of France according to the three page list, that list contained in a seven page document that also includes the warrant to search the premises, which was granted by a federal magistrate judge in Florida.

The list includes references to one set of documents marked as various classified TS/SCI documents, an abbreviation that refers to top secret Sensitive Compartmented Information. It also says agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents and three sets of confidential documents. The list didn't provide any more details about the substance of the documents.

To the extent that anybody is back to work in an office, I can just imagine a conversation between a Republican and Democratic co-worker, they're gathered around the Keurig (ph) and the Democrat says, "Ah, the "New York Times" reported Thursday that there was a subpoena issued, so when Trump didn't comply, the search was necessary." And the Republican response, "Yes, but he had produced certain documents and he was cooperating. He even greeted the people from the archives when they came to his house in June. So why didn't the Feds file a motion to compel or issue another subpoena?"

The Democrat says, "If Trump really was a victim, he'd have produce the warrant and inventory that day it happened." And the Republican response, "The warrant and inventory, they're meaningless. Show us the affidavit." The Democrat, "The Washington Post said they were classified documents relating to nuclear weapons. So, there was urgency in conducting the search."

And the Republican response, "The warrant was signed on a Friday, executed on a Monday. That's not urgency."

Too many weighed in too soon, for and against Trump. And now, evidence be damned, there's no going back, especially when close to midnight on Thursday, the former president himself released a statement calling the search un-American, unwarranted and unnecessary. Already by then, Kevin McCarthy, Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis, they'd already rallied to the side of the former president.

Peter Wehner served in three Republican administrations, those of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, but he's a never Trumper. Writing for The Atlantic this week, he summarized some of the other support Trump received before anybody could have fully known the facts, "The Gateway Pundit, a pro-Trump outlet, wrote "This means war."

Steve Bannon called the FBI "the Gestapo" and said, "We need to choke down the FBI and choke down the Justice Department. Former Trump adviser Michael Caputo said, "With this militant raid on President Trump's home, we've become Russia. The FBI is the KGB." Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said of the FBI, "We'd be better off to think of these people as wolves, wolves who want to eat you, wolves who want to dominate."

Fox News Jesse Watters wondered, "How do we know they're not planning evidence right now?" Mark Levin, "This is the worst attack on this republic in modern history, period."

Well framed as such, is it any wonder that on Thursday, a guy who was at the Capitol on January 6 was killed by law enforcement after showing up armed at an FBI field office in Ohio. In the midst of the incident, he found time to post on truth social encouraging others to prepare for a revolutionary type war.

The response, on the left on Monday, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow was described as gushing, telling her viewers to buy a physical copy of the newspaper. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, quote, "beaming" as she reminded that nobody is above the law even an ex-president. Late night host Stephen Colbert positively giddy over on Twitter. George Conway of the Lincoln Project tweeted, "A belated happy Mar-a-Lago search and seizure day to all who celebrate."


Trump's 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton hawking, but her emails merchandise. And at the intercept, they were already wondering, could Trump go down like Al Capone?

Well, at least there was this, from conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg, quote, "Just remember, if these reports are true, that means that if they can search the ex-president's home for vital nuclear documents and signals intelligence, they can do it to you too."

Where we can't agree on the facts, there's the concern that things will get even worse. As David Brooks writes in the "New York Times" under the headline, "Did the FBI just re-elect Donald Trump? America absolutely needs to punish those who commit crimes. On the other hand, America absolutely needs to make sure that Trump does not get another term as president. What do we do if the former makes the latter more likely? I have no clue how to get out of the potential conflict between our legal and political realities."

Here's my thought, let's all catch our breath, step back, let the dust settle and hopefully we can learn what was in the documents Trump kept and why did he keep them. Were some nuclear in nature? Were any properly declassified? And were all less adverse means exhausted by the Justice Department before the search warrant was obtained? Those are my questions.

I want to know what you think about something related. Go to, answer this week's poll question, did the search of Mar-a-Lago boost Trump's odds of being the 2024 GOP nominee? I'll give you the results at the end of the hour.

My next guest says during his career he had the responsibility to see and use various levels of classified information, including the top secret SCI or Sensitive Compartmented Information documents that federal agents said they recovered from Mar-a-Lago.

Joining us now is retired Lieutenant General Mark Hertling. He's a CNN Military Analyst. He served as commanding general of the first armored division and later the U.S. Army, Europe and the seventh Army.

General, thanks so much for being here. What is this SCI classification? And where does it fit in the hierarchy of classified documents?

LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, as you said, Michael, SCI stands for Sensitive Compartmented Information, most people don't understand that. That means it's an element of top secret documents where the access is restricted to those that have a, first of all, a top secret clearance but also have a need to know additional information and certain details. SCI is classified information that comes from sensitive intelligence sources, we might say spies or some type of satellites or things that other nations don't know about or methods or analytical processes. And it's handled with formal access control systems established by the DNI in our government. So it's critically important stuff.

There are all sorts of additional elements of top secret programs, SCI is one of them. SAP programs, which we were talking about earlier in the week, Special Access Programs, are another and they all have requirements to be restricted so that people who don't have a need to know, who don't have the correct classification cannot see them.

SMERCONISH: I don't see in the warrant any reference to SAP nor do I see any reference to nuclear just in terms of addressing things that got a lot of press attention earlier in the week. You know, General, not lost on me is the fact that someone in your position had to undergo vetting and probably on an ongoing basis just to be able to get access to the type of documents that we're speaking of, and yet to get elected President of the United States, it's presumed that you're entitled to that level of access.

HERTLING: Yes, you're listeners probably don't know this, Michael, but whenever you go for a security clearance, no matter what level is confidential, secret, top secret, top secret SCI, or even the additional SAP programs, the excruciating details of the vetting process can go on for months. It includes, first of all, filling out a form called an SF86. You put in every place you've ever lived, names of your teachers, names of your friends and neighbors, the kinds of jobs you've held, what kind of things you've done in the past that you're not -- sometimes not really proud of, because after that FBI agents of a special organization or CID agents will come not only to your home to conduct interviews, but the homes of people you name in your document, but also people that they name.

So, if they go to my third grade teacher and she says, well, Mark also had a run in with this guy, then they go to that guy to find out more. Those things can take anywhere from six months to a year to process. You normally go under additional requirements to say things and do things like, you know, well, I'll leave it at that, but it's excruciatingly detailed. And you can't believe anyone who's been through it knows how difficult it is, especially when you get into the FBI --


SMERCONISH: The former president --

HERTLING: -- programs because you could be giving intelligence to others that you might know.

SMERCONISH: The former president says he had a standing order that when he would take documents from the oval back to the residence they were all declassified and tried to present this as analogous to all of us in the regular working world, we take home our work. What was your reaction to that?

HERTLING: Well, Michael, I'm a soldier, I'm not a lawyer. So, any comment I might have on that film by Mr. Solomon (ph) on Fox News or Mr. Trump's legal strategy isn't relevant. But what I will say is anyone in government who treats classified information in a cavalier manner or anyone who supports them as they do so, and I'm talking about others in government put lives at risk, and it places our national security in danger. And to me, that's scandalous and reprehensible.

I, you know, I have my own thoughts. I mentioned them to my wife last night when I first saw that film about offering that defense. And again, I'm not a lawyer, but I would guess any prosecutor would have a good time with that kind of defense.

SMERCONISH: General Hertling, thanks for your expertise. We appreciate it. HERTLING: No problem. Have a great day, Michael.

SMERCONISH: What are your thoughts? Tweet me @smerconish. Go to my YouTube or Facebook pages. Hit me on social media. I'll read some responses throughout the course of the program.

From the world of Twitter, "Trump is the GOP god. If no charges are brought against him, it will make him so much stronger. In the end, he may refuse the nomination." Joe Z, but does the execution of the search warrant embolden him? You saw, I mean, you had Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence immediately rallying to his side, I'm sure because they were fearful of alienating the base if they didn't.

So, logically, it seems like his odds of being the GOP nominee were just enhanced by all of this. That's what I'm asking in this week's poll question. And if he is the Republican nominee, then you know, it appears in view of what we went through in the last cycle, it's like a 50-50 proposition that he wins.

I want to know what you think. Go to my website Answer this week's poll question. Here it is, did the search of Mar-a- Lago boost Trump's odds of being the 2024 GOP nominee?

Still to come, even if President Trump did store national secrets in his home, how likely is it that he'll be prosecuted?

And with college enrollment down 4 million in the past decade and tuition out of control, is higher education no longer worth it?

Plus, soon after Trump announced the FBI had -- he said raided Mar-a- Lago, the hashtag "Civil War" was trending on Twitter. Is this a real threat? I'll ask one of the historians who just last week in a private White House meeting was part of a group warning President Biden that democracy is teetering.


BILL MAHER, "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER" HOST": The holy man, Donald Trump, was insulted so now all across the right wing media it's war, they're literally using this word, civil war war. As a right wing podcaster, I think the name is Steven Crowder said, sleep well, tomorrow is war.




SMERCONISH: Is American democracy teetering on the brink? That's what President Biden was warned about a week ago by a group of esteemed historians in a private meeting at the White House. The historians, one of whom is my next guest, compared the threat facing America to the era leading up to the Civil War and to the pro fascist movements that preceded World War II. "And that was before this week's raid on Mar-a-Lago," quote unquote, and its incendiary, polarizing effects. There were death threats against the judge who issued the warrant and online attacks on the entire FBI, plus a physical attack on the Cincinnati field office by an armed man who'd been at the Capitol on January 6 and who was fatally shot after a standoff.

On Monday night, "the phrase civil war was trending on Twitter, one user on Trump's social media platform truth social said "F a civil war, give them a revolution."

Joining me now to discuss is Sean Wilentz, who attended the meeting with President Biden. He's a professor of history at Princeton University.

Professor, good to see you. You have said that when a nation loses faith in elections, democracy is dead. Are we there yet?

SEAN WILENTZ, PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: No, we're not there yet. But first of all, good morning, Michael. It's great to be here with you.

I mean, look what we said to the President, I can't go into any detail, right, but generally, as a historian, I think we're in a very, very difficult situation to say the least. There really have been three periods I liken it too, or rather there are three periods that stand out. One is, as you said before the period -- the decade leading up to the Civil War. Secondly, the 1930s, during which the global economic collapse. And then a longer period, actually, going -- it's culminated in what we have now, but it really goes back at least to the 90s and hit an inflection point, I think, around 2000, in which -- now what what's common to all three are two things, first of all, is global, as well as domestic.

All of these are situations where, you know, the the situation for democracy worldwide was in crisis. And it was in combination with that the events unfolded in the United States. But secondly, it has to do with legitimacy. I mean, that's the key to all of this is when the basic institutions of the country are being called in -- the legitimacy of those, of those institutions is being called into serious question. That certainly happened before the Civil War, it led to secession when, you know, the slaveholders rebellion in which they said, look you don't -- we don't believe in your constitution, your constitution is wrong, we have our own, goodbye.


In the 1930s, when there were these fascist movements, but more than that they were real attempts to take over the government, not just by, you know, the German American wound or something, but you know, there was a banker's plot, there were all kinds of things that were going on that were trying to unsettle American democracy, and then more recently. And what you see, not only elections, as you said before, elections being called into question, January 6, but then you go back to November 22, 2000, in which they were another mob tried to stop the counting of votes in Miami Dade may have affected the election.

All along the basic institutions of government. Now we have even the FBI, law enforcement is being called into question. Those are moments I think, when democracy really is in trouble. And we're certainly at one of those moments now.

SMERCONISH: OK. So when you look at those three episodes that you compare what we're going through now to, where's the light at the end of the tunnel? How do they end? And what can move us forward and keep this union together?

WILENTZ: Yes, I mean, I'm an historian, sometimes I wish I had a crystal ball. I don't know. History does not give us those kinds of lessons.

Thus far, we've -- United States has been very lucky in a way that we had leaders like Abraham Lincoln and FDR to guide us through this. We don't have that kind of leadership today. But besides all of that, we don't know where things are going to change institutionally. But we do know that at the bottom of all of it are the voters in the end. I mean, that's what's going to matter.

And, you know, this is going to be up to the voters to vote in people who are going to be able to restore the legitimacy of these institutions. And, you know, I do think we're in a dangerous situation.

I would agree with you, by the way, about everybody should just take a deep breath right now, instead of jumping to conclusions, figuring out what's going to happen here, what's going to happen there, you know, the the argument at the Keurig between the Democrat and Republic, everybody should try to calm down, that would be the first thing I'd say. You know, we don't know what's going to happen, we've seen the cover of a book in effect.

SMERCONISH: Professor, one of the problems --


SMERCONISH: -- is we can agree on facts, we can agree on truth.

WILENTZ: Yes. No --

SMERCONISH: When you speak of lack of faith in institutions, I think of the media, where we're all getting our information from opposite ends of the spectrum.

WILENTZ: I completely agree, and it's a real problem. We've ever seen -- you know, there wasn't an internet in 1860. There wasn't social media in 1932, '33. You know, we're in a world now, which is beyond my comprehension as an historian, you know. I look to the past, I can't quite figure out what's going on right now.

So I'm not, you know, terribly optimistic. I'm just giving you what would have to happen. I'm not sure it's going to happen.

SMERCONISH: Final question. I know you can't share with us what you told the President. Whatever it is you told the President, did he seem to get the message?

WILENTZ: Well, I think he gets it. He understands the situation we're in.

You know, he doesn't have any easy answers, either. But I think he's going to do the best he can to lead the country. I mean, that's very clear. And that's the best he can do.

We can all just do our jobs. And I think he's going to try to do his as best he can.

SMERCONISH: I liked the idea that he brings in smart people and wants to hear their opinions. Thank you for being here. Appreciate your time.

WILENTZ: Great to see you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: Let's see what you're saying via social media, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, what do we got? From the world of Twitter, "You liberals won a Soviet state?"

Is that addressed to me? I'm the liberal.? I won a Soviet state? Guess what, I thought it used to be that those on the right, I'm going to assume that's where you are, respected the rule of law.

You know, when I was a Republican, when I was a Republican in the Bush years, meaning George, Papa, Herbert Walker Bush, those were the years when we put on a pedestal law enforcement, the FBI. Did you read all those comments coming from so called leaders on the right wanting to tear this country down by questioning law enforcement? I think that's a horrible thought. I'm not the problem. That mentality is.

Please make sure you're going to this hour. I want to see how this is going to turn out. The poll question of the week, did the search of Mar-a-Lago boost Trump's odds of being the 2024 GOP nominee? While you're there, register for the daily newsletter.

Up ahead. Although we now know some of the underlying potential crimes that gave rise to the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago this week, including espionage by the way, what's the likelihood that the former president will actually be prosecuted?

And there's this, with college costs skyrocketing and the benefits becoming less and less clear, enrollment dropping precipitously. Is school, to quote Alice Cooper, out forever?



SMERCONISH: After the unprecedented search of a former president's private residence, what comes next? The unsealing of the Mar-a-Lago search warrant reveals FBI agents went to Donald Trump's Florida home this week looking for possible violations of major crimes. The Federal magistrate judge who signed off on the warrant authorized agents to search with the bureau called the 45 office, as well as all of the rooms or areas at Mar-a-Lago that were available to Trump and his staff for storing boxes and documents. They recovered 11 sets of classified documents including one marked top secret SCI, one of the highest levels of classification.

While the details about the documents themselves remain scarce, the laws cited in the warrant offer new insight into what the FBI was looking for. The laws cover, quote, "destroying or concealing documents to obstruct government investigations and the unlawful removal of government records according to the search warrant." Also among the laws listed is one known as the Espionage Act, which relates to the, quote, "retrieval storage or transmission of National Defense Information or classified material."


Here now to discuss is CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, this flows initially from a grand jury that at least I didn't know existed. In other words, it's very hard to keep straight all the different investigations of former President Trump, but am I right, that there's some other grand jury operating out there that we didn't know about until just this week?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, look, you're not alone. We didn't know until after the search on Monday that -- we learned that there had been this June meeting at Mar-a-Lago where Jay Bratt and the investigators from the Justice Department, the FBI, came to Mar-a-Lago and it turns out there was a grand jury subpoena that was served that it allowed them to take some documents at the end of that meeting in June.

There was a subsequent subpoena, grand jury subpoena, that was served for access to surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago. The FBI wanted to know who's got access to this area because of the sensitivity of the documents that we're talking about that were being stored in this basement in the former president's beach house in Palm Beach.

So, again, the level of sensitivity here was such that the FBI wanted to make sure -- they wanted to make sure who had access to this. And this grand jury, these grand jury subpoenas really does -- it really tells us that there's been this escalation of this investigation well before the Monday search, right, which is, you know, the president, the former president and his team have tried to portray that everything was great and everything was fine. And then there was this massive surprise what they call a raid or a siege is what the former president called it. It turns out there was a lot more going on behind the scenes that we didn't know about.

SMERCONISH: Did they reach these conversations, negotiations, a break point?

PEREZ: Yes. That's what happens. And you can see what the attorney general said when he spoke to us a couple days ago. He said that it was essentially at a point where less intrusive means, and that means, you know, things like a grand jury subpoena, that did not solve the problem, that the former president did not surrender the documents that clearly were still there.

They claim that there was nothing left there and yet they showed up on Monday, the FBI shows up on Monday, and has 20 boxes, 11 of which -- 11 sets of classified -- various classification of documents. So that tells you that there was a breaking point and things got contentious much earlier than we realized.

SMERCONISH: Evan, like everyone else, I'm caught up in the classification issue because it speaks to the significance of the materials at issue. But as I take a look at the warrant and the three references to the federal statutes, prosecution for violating those statutes is not dependent upon any particular classification. Is that a fair statement as far as you know?

PEREZ: That is -- that is -- that is a very, very, very smart thing to point out. And I think it's going to be a hugely important part of this investigation because the former president is coming up with various excuses or explanations for why these things were there. One of them is, you know, I declassified them. One of them -- another one is -- even more exotic one is that just by sending documents to the residence at the White House from, you know, the secure areas of White House to his bedroom, that by virtue of that he was declassifying them. All of these things obviously there's a reason why he's doing this because he believes that these are going to be good defenses.

What's interesting about the statutes that the government has chosen, the prosecutors have chosen to cite in this document is, you know, it doesn't depend on these documents being classified. 793, which was the espionage statute that, you know, sort of -- the one that everybody is focused on, that one just talks about, you know, mishandling of national defense information. Obviously, those things tend to be classified. But it doesn't depend on the classification for you to be violating the law, for you to be prosecuted for it.

We've seen some cases of NSA employees who took home this type of stuff and they were prosecuted. And again, it was -- you know, these were people who had the right to have access to this stuff. But they took it out of the secure circumstances under which they're supposed to be stored. So this is where --


SMERCONISH: I think there are still --

PEREZ: Right.


PEREZ: And other people could be charged, too, by the way. There are other people who may have had access to these things that shouldn't have.

SMERCONISH: I still have more questions than answers. Evan, thank you so much. Been watching you all week doing a great job unraveling all of this.

PEREZ: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: So keep it up.

PEREZ: Thank you. Appreciate it.

SMERCONISH: Checking on more social media reaction. This, I think, comes from YouTube. What do we have?

Question is why didn't the FBI take them the first time in June? I agree, Roni. I don't know the answer to that. I don't know if he offered to give them to him.


I mean, something went on where documents were initially handed over but not all documents. They come back. They see them. They have conversation. And then it reaches a break point.

Why -- I want to know the answer to your question, right, which is, what was the break point and what brought it about? I also want to know the answer to the question of why did Trump keep them to begin with? Like, why was he holding -- this seems like an unforced error, does it not? I can't imagine he was writing a memoir and needed to rely on, you know, the evidence for footnotes.

Make sure you're going to and answering this week's poll question. Did the search of Mar-a-Lago boost Trump's odds of being the 2024 GOP nominee?

Still to come, while the debate about forgiving student loans drags on, there are 4 million fewer college students now in America than a decade ago. Where have they gone? And are they ever coming back to campus?



SMERCONISH: There are 4 million fewer students in college today than there were just 10 years ago, 4 million. And as President Biden gears up to make a key decision on student loan forgiveness, many more are asking, is college even worth it?

The cost of a four year degree is not only rising but requires more time to complete. The director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University told "NBC News" -- quote -- "With the exception of wartime, the United States has never been through a period of declining educational attainment like this before."

And universities are taking notice. This week, Drexel University here in Philadelphia, said it will offer a 50 percent reduced tuition to community college transfers to their university. That's a deal worth over $28,000. Other states like New Mexico have even passed legislation offering tuition-free college to residents willing to attend a local public university.

As it stands, the unemployment rate for those with a degree is lower than those without one, but just by 3.5 percent. Is that alone enough to hush the skepticism over the value of a degree? My next guest is a higher education editor at "The Hechinger Report." Jon Marcus joins me now. Hey, Jon, if college enrollment is in such steep decline, is it necessarily a bad thing?

JON MARCUS, HIGHER EDUCATION EDITOR, THE HECHINGER REPORT: Well, not everybody has to go to college. But, the empirical implications of this ongoing and continuing decline are that, as you point out, people without a university degree are more likely to lose their jobs in an economic downturn. They make less money over the course of their lives. That means they pay less in taxes. They require more in social services. That's kind of a drag on the economy.

There are also knowledge industries that fuel the American economy that require bachelor's degree educated students. Even before the pandemic, there was a shortage of 9 million workers with bachelor's degrees. So this is only getting worse.

SMERCONISH: So, if they're not going to college, the 4 million, and the data that you've written about suggests they're not necessarily taking a first job, what are they doing?

MARCUS: Yes. So, there does seem to be sort of common wisdom, almost sort of discounting this problem around the idea that this is a pandemic-oriented problem. And it is true that the decline has accelerated during the pandemic. But as you pointed out, it's been going on well in advance of the pandemic.

There are also fewer 18-year-olds. There has been fluctuations in the birthrate, so there are just fewer people in the category of the generation that would be prospective college students. But neither of those things is enough to account for the dramatic nature and the steep decline that we're seeing. Nor, as common wisdom has suggested, are they necessarily going directly into the workforce.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics data suggests that immediate recent high school graduates are going into the workforce at a lower rate than was true before the pandemic. Where are they? I don't know. But they're not in the workforce and they're not in college.

They're maybe in the gig economy. They are out there somewhere floating around. And that's a problem for the long-term economic success of, you know, of this country.

SMERCONISH: I can only imagine that all the public conversation about student loan, the size of student loan and student loan forgiveness being contemplated by the president, every time it gets discussed it's re-enforcing to the future would be college students, hey, do I really want to incur all that debt? Final thought from you?

MARCUS: Yes. The inadvertent consequence of all of that discussion is just to remind us all how much debt there is out there and that's yet another discouragement to these students. Equally interesting and something that I think a lot of people haven't thought about, these kids' parents, the kids that are graduating high school now, their parents are still paying off their college loans. So those are parents that might not be incredibly enthusiastic about sending their own kids through college, incurring debt for their kids.

SMERCONISH: These universities need to up their game in the placement office. You know, make sure that they're focusing enough energy toward getting jobs for those who are graduating, maybe that's a way to help. Thank you so much for your expertise. I appreciate it.

MARCUS: Thanks for having me.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, last week I interviewed Roger Waters about his music and his politics. Now he is saying our edit made him -- quote -- "look like a prick." I think I should respond to that.

And more of your best and worst tweets and YouTube and Facebook comments. Plus, we'll give you the final result. Go vote now, if you haven't, at Did the search of Mar-a-Lago boost Trump's odds of being the 2024 GOP nominee?



SMERCONISH: Last Saturday, one of my guests was Roger Waters, the legendary lyricist for Pink Floyd now on solo tour with a very political message. The interview was prerecorded. We aired about 6.5 minutes. Waters very animated. His controversy comments made headlines. And I immediately released all 27 minutes of the interview on my YouTube channel. Well, Wednesday night he was on stage in Columbus, Ohio, and had this to say about the interview.


ROGER WATERS, CO-FOUNDER, PINK FLOYD: However much they cut up my interviews on CNN to make me look like a prick. I will not sell out. We will stand on our tiny platform of human rights forever.


SMERCONISH: Roger, come on. Nobody cut off your interview to make you look like a prick.


I was directly involved in what was aired on CNN. And if I had anything to be embarrassed about, I would have never released the uncut version, nor come to your show last Saturday night. Good luck on tour.

Time to see how you responded to the poll question this week at where I'm asking, "Did the search of Mar-a-Lago boost Trump's odds of being the 2024 GOP nominee?"

Here's the result. Wow. I'm always suspicious when they're such round numbers, even though it's my poll. Twenty-six thousand four hundred and eighty-six votes, 70/30 say no. I'm surprised by that, I'm really surprised by it, particularly where you had Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence and Kevin McCarthy immediately rally around the former president before they even knew what this was about, a point that I made in my opening commentary.

Here's some of your reaction. Let's see what you're thinking about this and other subjects.

It will depend on the contents of the documents. If Trump is charged with what is essentially a process crime, it will help him. If he did something like sell nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia, he's toast.

Well, yes, if he sold nuclear secrets to Saudi Arabia, you would think that he would be toast. I just think as I said earlier in the program that there's not going to be one truth that will emerge from all of this. I mean, already you can see just in the way people are suiting up in their usual armor that we can't agree on a heck of a lot.

Nuclear -- there's no reference to anything nuclear in the warrant. I know that was reported by "The Washington Post" and maybe it's accurate. But there's nothing referenced in the warrant nor the inventory on that issue.

I think people are probably going to continue to see it the way they want to see it. Of course, the changing dynamic is if he's charged with violating the Espionage Act, and we don't know. But he was probably enhanced with the base. And keep in mind that if he wins that GOP nomination, all bets are off, who knows how it ends?

Catherine, what else came in in terms of social media? I would like to congratulate the FBI and the liberal left for jump-starting Trump's re-election campaign. He's already raised a ton of money.

Gina, I don't know that he's raised money in a way that can be used. I'm getting into the weeds on this. Specifically for a presidential campaign, you'll remember that he raised $121 million before any of this but the $121 million can't properly be used to advance his presidential campaign.

I have thought he would announce sooner rather than later so that he could raise funds specifically for use in the 2024 campaign. But I do see all the tweets and the texts and realize that he's trying to fund raise from it.

What else did we get this week? Hey, I've got more time for it this week, I like this.

Yes, I would love to vote for DeSantis but I believe the DOJ has forced Trump upon us. Maybe that's the Democratic plan.

Rawhide, I think you're too Machiavellian. I don't -- I don't think that Merrick Garland was acting with political animus. By the way, I'll go on record on this as well. I completely believe, I know this is being derided in some media quarters, derided the idea that Garland and Biden weren't in cahoots. It would have been ridiculously foolish for Merrick Garland to tip off the White House as to what he was about to do at Mar-a-Lago. And for Joe Biden, you don't want to know that sort of information so that you can remain at an arm's distance.

One more, if I've got time. Two, I may have time for. What do we got? Smerconish, you mentioned the right's criticism of the FBI and the DOJ. Where is your outrage about the left's denunciation of the SCOTUS and the Constitution?

Donna P., the left's denunciation of the SCOTUS and the Constitution meaning what? The plan to pack the court? I mean, I'm not sure where you're coming from in saying that the left is denouncing of the SCOTUS. They haven't been denouncing of the SCOTUS except, I guess, you mean the overturning of Roe versus Wade.

Look, I addressed the overturning of Roe versus Wade here when it happened. And many didn't want to hear what I had to say which is that they are not a group of mullahs. And that anybody who actually took the time to read Alito's opinion would see that there was some legal logic to it. Roe versus Wade in my opinion was the proper outcome, the proper practical outcome, but based on case law and precedent that was shaky at best.

OK. One more and then I am going to run. Go ahead. What do we got?

It is sad that we live in a society that continues to grow further apart. Nobody cares for each other. No middle ground. Our democracy is like a toxic relationship. It will probably screw up our kids too.

I sure hope not. What's lacking is social capital, a subject that I addressed in last week's program. We just don't have common experiences and we have got to figure out how to spend more time among people who are dissimilar from us.

I cited last week Bob Putnam who wrote "Bowling Alone." I cited the work of Charles Murray from "Coming Apart." Bill Bishop from "The Big Sort." And, of course, Raj Chetty from Harvard, his recent data that showed that there is still opportunity for the poor to get rich in this country.


And what's the ticket? When they interact with people who are wealthier than they are. But the issue is we're all in, you know, our bubbled existence living in, not necessarily literally, but gated communities. And the internet has made it easier for us to find the like-minded and the people who have interests the same as ours.

So bottom line, get out of your bubble and mix and mingle more with people who do not look like you do. That's the solution. Social capital.

All right. Thank you for watching. Go to and keep voting. Register for the daily newsletter when you are there. And I will see you next week.