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Your Move, Governor DeSantis; Still No Suspect In Killing Of Four Idaho College Students; Should Employees Be Protected From Being Fired For Political Beliefs?; Harvard, Yale And Other Law Schools Exit "Best" Rankings List. Aired 9-10a ET

Aired November 19, 2022 - 09:00   ET




MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Your move, Governor DeSantis. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia.

Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland, spotted special counsel regarding the federal investigations into the events of January 6 and Donald Trump's holding on to presidential records at Mar-a-Lago. Here's how he explained the move.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Based on recent developments, including the former president's announcement that he is a candidate for president in the next election, and the sitting President stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a special counsel.


SMERCONISH: Trump then responded during a keynote speech at the America first gala at Mar-a-Lago calling it an appalling announcement and a horrendous abuse of power.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They want to do bad things to the greatest movement in the history of our country, but in particular bad things to me but I've gotten used to it. Lucky. It's lucky. A lot of people wouldn't get used to it so easily.

This is a rigged deal, just as the 2020 election was rigged. And we can't let them get away with it.


SMERCONISH: So, what could all of this mean for the 2024 race and Trump's potential leading rival Ron DeSantis? Trump just made his intention to run official Tuesday night, just one week after an underwhelming performance by Republicans in the midterms. One bright spot for the GOP, that 20 point landslide victory by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, that, despite Trump nicknaming him Ron De-sanctimonious .That was a shot across DeSantis's bow, a warning of the rough and tumble world of being a Donald Trump opponent.

Soon, DeSantis is going to have to decide what he wants to do. He's only 44. The question is whether the next election is his best shot, you know, strike while the iron is hot. Ask any Paul and they'll cite two examples of candidates at similar crossroads with vastly different outcomes. Barack Obama in 2008, Chris Christie in 2012.

Remember, many scoffed at the junior senator from Illinois when he announced his presidential campaign shortly after being elected to the U.S. Senate, but Obama caught lightning in a bottle and the rest is history. Then there's Chris Christie. The tough talking former prosecutor was elected governor of New Jersey in an upstart campaign against incumbent Jon Corzine in 2009. Christie was Trump before Trump relishing his boardwalk face to face confrontations with Garden State detractors.

While Christie contemplated running for president in 2012 against Obama, his decision of course came before the reported hug between the two at the time of Superstorm Sandy. Instead, Christie opted to burnish his gubernatorial credentials while running up the score in his reelection. Christie was reelected, but his fortunes quickly turned.

Anyone remember the George W. -- the George Washington bridge closure scandal. Soon after, Morning Consult found that Christie had the worst disapproval of any American governor. By his last day in office, his approval rating stood at 14%. And when he did eventually run for the presidency in 2016, he placed sixth in the New Hampshire primary and then dropped out of the race.

No doubt DeSantis is studying the Obama and Christie playbooks and trying to figure out which model matches his current situation. And DeSantis' calculus is complicated by the presence of Donald Trump.

Early polling commissioned by the Club for Growth shows that DeSantis handily beats Trump in critical early states. DeSantis leads Trump by 11 percentage points in Iowa, by 15 points in New Hampshire. He leads Trump by 26 points in Florida and 20 points in Georgia. But that's head to head with Trump. And there's no guarantee that DeSantis gets Trump alone one-on-one.

Remember, back in 2016, Trump was able to win the nomination because he had a relatively small but loyal group of supporters and a very crowded debate stage. I remember being at the Reagan Library for the second GOP debate of the 2016 cycle, there were 15 candidates, so many on that debate stage that it had to be split in two. The more the merrier for Donald Trump but not for Ron DeSantis as he decides whether to run for president in 2024, DeSantis has to be worried about more than just the size of the field.

The only venue for a fight with Donald Trump is a steel cage. DeSantis might win the battle and lose the war. There's no guarantee that if you beat Trump, he embraces you. Trump's for Trump, not for a party not for an ideology.

It's hard to envision DeSantis vanquishing Trump, but still gaining his endorsement thereafter. Remember, Trump's the guy who trashed presidential protocol and refuse to attend Joe Biden's inauguration. He relishes burning down the house. Just ask Georgia senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.


So DeSantis has to consider that he could enter the race, get Trump in a small field and beat him, big ifs, only to have Trump trashes after the nomination is settled, and tank the general election to the benefit of Democrats. Maybe the better course is to sit it out and wait for another cycle. Or maybe he should call Chris Christie.

Joining me now to discuss this Gary Fineout who writes the Florida playbook for Politico. Gary also just wrote this piece.

Gary, what are your thoughts in terms of how the Merrick Garland announcement impacts DeSantis' timeline?

GARY FINEOUT, REPORTER, POLITICO/AUTHOR, FLORIDA PLAYBOOK: Well, I'm not really sure it will. I mean, obviously, there's a lot going on there and we'll see where all that plays out.

It's my understanding that DeSantis, for the most part, the timeline is, if it is -- when a decision is made, it would be made sometime probably in the late spring after the next legislative session here in Florida. So I'm not sure this is going to immediately impact that timeline. They've got to transition to deal with, they've got an inauguration and then sort of the upcoming session in which I would anticipate that the Florida Legislature will again be called upon to do things to sort of, you know, help brandish his name.

SMERCONISH: You have written that all signs, make it appear likely that he does run. What's the basis for that opinion?

FINEOUT: Well, I think item number one, is he sitting on a lot of money. He raised a probably what maybe a record for a gubernatorial candidate in America. And he basically -- they didn't have to spend all of it, I think that last count, probably about 70 to 80 million that -- and I know there's some questions as to legally how you do all this and the hurdles and everything like that. But 70, 80 million that could be transferred over to a Super PAC at some point in time. That's item number one.

You know, and then when we talk about the timeline, and you were talking about the whole Christie Obama thing, understand that, you know, he just got reelected, so, let's just do the math. We have term limits in Florida. So, basically, he would leave office in '26. So if he waited, he would be out of office for two years.

And you know, the thing about it is, is that having the governorship is a good place to get a lot of attention, media attention and other things like that. So, you just wonder how it would be. I mean, the thing about, you know, Jeb Bush, who was one of the ones who was vanquished by Trump, he had been office -- at office for about eight years. And even though he raised a lot of money for that race, it's sort of like he had been out of the picture. Now two years is obviously different than eight but it's something to consider.

SMERCONISH: He hasn't taken the bait so far, right? De-sanctimonious, there was no respond in kind. Does that surprise you?

FINEOUT: No, no, I think -- we had a story a few days ago in which we quoted somebody, a consultant who said, there's sort of a thinking about, well, maybe Donald will punch himself out that, you know, they're not going to respond. Now, you did see that he's taken sort of these -- he's made comments without responding directly to the insults. He's basically said, you know, just the other day, when somebody asked him point blank about Trump, he said something about, well, you know, I'm going to focus on what I'm doing, but you know, what we're doing in Florida is working, look at the scoreboard. And he was telling at another time, he said, you know what, people just need to chill out about all this.

So, I think that he -- you know, I think that they're sort of in a standpoint where, you know, they've just come off a very large win. And when they give them super majorities in the legislature, there's going to be those who feel that the Republican takeover of Congress is in no small part to Ron DeSantis because it was his administration that pushed forward a map that get netted Republicans for seats in Congress. Now that map is being litigated, and there's those who say it is unconstitutional, but we'll see. But for now, he's got all these wins that he can point to as he moves into next year.

SMERCONISH: You're closer to it. My hunch is that he probably wants to keep his powder dry and hope that Merrick Garland or the special counsel do some of his work for him.

Gary, thank you as always. We appreciate your insights.

FINEOUT: Thank you for having me on.

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

Wouldn't it just shut all the rhinos and leftist nut jobs up if Trump picks DeSantis to be his V.P.? T McCormick, interesting thought. But let me remind you of this, and I think my memory is accurate, you recall W selecting Dick Cheney, my recollection is Dick Cheney was that a Texas resident and you can't have -- by law you, can't have both members of the ticket coming from the same state, hence the move to Wyoming.


So, now if I'm right, who leaves Florida? There's no way -- DeSantis is a lifelong Floridian, right? I think it's from Dunedin, there's no way he's leaving, he's the governor. And I cannot see Trump saying I'm now about to vacate the state to placate DeSantis. No, that never happens. Still to come. Investigators still stymie in the stabbing deaths of four University of Idaho students last weekend, no suspect, no weapon, no motive. I'm going to get the latest from a local reporter on the ground.

Plus, with many Americans being penalized for their politics in the workplace, should the Civil Rights Act be expanded to include protections for political beliefs? That's what my next guest proposes.

And with crime running rampant, here in the city of Philadelphia, the State House, the Pennsylvania State House has impeached Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for his progressive, some would say soft policies, but he did just win reelection. I've got thoughts on that matter.

Speaking of which, crime has been spiking across the country at the same time many progressive prosecutors have replaced those who traditionally have run for office promising to lock up the bad guys, right, and throw away the cake. So this week I'm asking the following, do progressive prosecutors deserve blame for the crime spike? Go vote.



SMERCONISH: So what do we know about the killings at the University of Idaho. Last Sunday afternoon, four students found stabbed to death in an off campus house under circumstances that remain mysterious. Authorities still trying to identify a suspect, they've released a map and timeline of the victims' movements.

Two of them, boyfriend and girlfriend Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, both 20, were at a campus party Saturday night. The other two, Madison Mogen and Kaylee Goncalves, both 21 were at a downtown bar Mogen and Goncalves were last seen alive at 1:41 a.m. ordering in a late night food truck. All for back at the house after 1:45 a.m.

And then at some point in the early morning hours all for stabbed to death likely while asleep, say authorities. There was no 911 call until about noon. And that was for an unconscious person, not a person with a stab wound. Investigators say that two surviving roommates have been very cooperative. But clues have been slow to trickle in. Kaylee's sister told ABC News this about the house.


ALIVEA GONCALVES, SISTER OF VICTIM KAYLEE GONCALVES: There is that door, there's also a back sliding door. And I will say yes, there's that keypad lock on it. And my sister was absolutely a door locker. This was the party house and it's been generations. And so I won't say that They were very private with that code.


SMERCONISH: Joining me now for the latest is Sally Krutzig, a reporter for the Idaho Statesman where her latest story is, "How did things unfold before after University of Idaho killings?

There's so much that I don't understand, Sally, but not the least of which is, from your timeline in the Idaho Statesman, and helped me with this. So, Monday -- pardon me Sunday, the day of the discovery and the day of the murders, Sunday afternoon, word goes out from law enforcement that the community is not at risk. Monday that's repeated. But then on Wednesday, there's a backtracking of that very fundamental question of whether, you know, there's somebody on the loose that we need to be fearful of.

SALLY KRUTZIG, REPORTER, THE IDAHO STATESMAN: Right. And interestingly, when they did backtrack, and use a very careful language, they said, we can't say there isn't a threat, which is the same as saying there is a threat. So, the community is just really confused about how they can possibly say there's no threat when clearly they have no suspects right now.

SMERCONISH: Who is Jack? What do we know about Jack? Explained to my audience what I'm making reference to?

KRUTZIG: Are you referencing the phone call with, I believe?


KRUTZIG: Right. So, we don't know a lot so far. What we do know is that Kaylee made some phone calls late -- you know, early that morning at Sunday before she was killed. We don't know the nature of the calls yet. But that's -- that would be her boyfriend that -- she was making those calls too.

SMERCONISH: So it's in the critical time sequence, right? 2:26 a.m. Kaylee starts to call Jack (ph), Kaylee calls Jack six times between 2:26 and 2:44, 2:44, 2:52. Madi calls Jack three times, Kaylee makes a final call at 2:52am. You're saying that's one of their boyfriends that they were calling.

KRUTZIG: Right, right. And, you know, we don't have an exact time right now, but the closest we've heard that the killing happened between three and four. That wouldn't have been long before that happened.

SMERCONISH: The roommates who were in the house, correct me if I'm wrong, two of them at the time, presumably sleeping. Is it one of the roommates who made the 911 call the following afternoon?

KRUTZIG: No. So police have confirmed it was not the roommates. But they're saying we are not ready to say who it was. I spoke to Ethan's mom and she told me that she was told a friend made the call. So you know we're not sure if it was a friend who walked up to the house around noon and saw something and made that call.

SMERCONISH: The rumor mill understandably runs rampant. Through your reporting, you're trying to tamp down some of that which we now know from law enforcement not to be accurate. For example, nobody was bound, no one was tied up, right?


KRUTZIG: Right. You know, we're seeing -- it's so strange, we've seen so many rumors come out from the very beginning that have already been debunked, too. But someone actually posting as a fake additional roommate said, I found them bound and gagged. And that really shook the community thinking, you know, oh, my gosh, this is real. But police have said that that is not correct. That person is not real.

SMERCONISH: I imagine that the cops are sensitive to now the entire world from the outside looking in and saying, hey, come on, you don't have a weapon, you don't have a motive, you don't have a suspect, and you're not even sure if the community is at risk. How are they responding to this scrutiny?

KRUTZIG: Police are keeping very tight lipped on what's happening. And I think sometimes their own detriment, you know, the community just wants a few answers. Everyone understands that not everything can be divulged at this time. But police you know, for days, we didn't hear, you know, what kind of weapon it was, we didn't hear, you know -- it took them almost, you know, 20 or 12 hours after their death to even notify the public that there may be, you know, a homicide.

So, yes, police are getting, you know -- hearing a lot of frustration from the community right now. But they have not opened up too much.

SMERCONISH: Sally Krutzig, thank you. We'll continue to read the Idaho statesman and find out what's going on. We appreciate it.

KRUTZIG: Thank you.

SMERCONISH: Up ahead, the Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on race, religion, gender. But given what's going on in America today, does it need to be expanded to include protections for political beliefs?

And as it is, in many cities, crime is up here in Philadelphia? The D.A. is Larry Krasner. He's just been impeached by the Pennsylvania State House. Is that the right outcome?

I want to remind you to go to This hour, this poll question, do progressive prosecutors deserve blame for the crimes fight? Go vote.



SMERCONISH: The Civil Rights Act protects against discrimination based on race, religion, gender, should it be expanded to include protections for one's political beliefs. There's a movement afoot to protect employees from being punished for expressing political beliefs that are seen as on woke.

In the recent "Wall Street Journal" opinion piece, "The New Woke Discrimination Demands a New Law." Authors Vivek Ramaswamy and Jed Rubenfeld advocate for just such an expansion of the Civil Rights Act. They cite several recent examples where it would presumably apply.

Among them, "Disney fired Actress Gina Carano after she compared the treatment of conservatives on social media to Nazi persecution of Jews. The company called her post abhorrent and unacceptable although co-star Pedro Pascal wasn't sacked for likening Trump supporters to Nazis. A Virginia high school teacher fired for refusing to use a student's preferred pronouns. USA Today editor demoted for tautologically tweeting, people who are pregnant are also women. Southwest Airlines fired a flight attendant who made anti-abortion posts on Facebook, and a Texas hospital fired a nurse for objecting to a mandatory course that required her to admit she's racist because she's white."

Joining me now, the piece's coauthor, Jed Rubenfeld, is a professor at Yale Law School and a First Amendment lawyer.

Professor, here at my factory, we're just making widgets. I don't want you showing up with a Blue Lives Matter, a Black Lives Matter shirt, because you're going to offend our client base, let's just stick to the mission and make widgets.

JED RUBENFELD, PROFESSOR, YALE LAW SCHOOL/FIRST AMENDMENT LAWYER: You know, I would have no problem with that. You know, the problem is when Goodyear tells its employees that Blue Lives Matter shirts are forbidden and you can be fired for that. But the BLM shirts are fine and that's OK. You know, it's about evenhandedness.

If an employer wants to keep politics out of the workplace, that's OK. But you know, what they can't do is make people choose between expressing their political opinions and putting food on the table. That's un-American. And that's not fair. And that's not the freedom of speech.

SMERCONISH: The focus of the Wall Street Journal piece, indeed, the headline of the Wall Street Journal piece was all about wokeness. Do these cases cut both ways? Do they come from the left? And do they come from the right, in equal number?

RUBENFELD: Well, I don't think so. I mean, I don't have any hard statistics on this. I'm not sure anybody does. But it sure looks like at the present moment, what you see is folks being fired for conservative, what's called conservative views.

And that can change, you know, this should not be a partisan issue. And the good news is, it's a pretty easy fix. I mean, you just add to the Civil Rights Act, instead of just being protected for your race, your nationality, or religion, should also be protected for your political beliefs. And, you know, a truth is that even though, you know, the freedom of speech is only technically violated if the government does something to you.

We don't have the freedom of speech in this country if people are afraid to speak their minds. And if you put people to the choice between speaking their minds and putting food on the table, they're going to put food on the table, and then you don't have the freedom of speech anymore. SMERCONISH: OK. How about this one? Kyrie Irving still not back with the Nets, although I think he's expected to return tomorrow. You know, the circumstance here. He tweeted a link to a movie with anti-semitic tropes. He's been suspended from the team. Still not back in playing.

And I'm just reading Jonathan Greenblatt, the executive of the ADL saying, look, my kids, you know, they wear his sneakers, they wear his shirt, we cannot have him being a spokesperson with this kind of opinion and mindset that he's spreading. How would you handle that case?


RUBENFELD: Well, I think that's a great question and it's tough. And, you know, when you see one ethnic group going after another ethnic group, it's just -- it's just so sad. And some -- you know, part of me says, instead of the ritual denunciations, maybe we should be trying to figure out, you know, where the views are coming from and do something about it.

But look, here's my view about this. You know, I haven't seen the movie, but if it's -- if there's racist speech in it, if there's insulting speech in it, again, an employer can have rules against that, as long as they do it evenhandedly, as long as they do it across the board.

What I don't think you can do is have, you know, one set of rules for Kyrie Irving, and another set of rules for everybody else. And you have one set of rules because you don't like the opinions he's expressing. But you have another set of rules for other people because you do like the opinions they are expressing.

That's just not fair. And, you know, people should be able to express their opinions. And you can regulate racism, you can regulate insults, as long as you do it evenhandedly, and don't pick and choose, I think that's how we should handle it.

SMERCONISH: Is this a Yale philosophical conversation? Is there any practical likelihood that this could actually get past what would be required to get this done? I've got just 30 seconds. Tell me if it's realistic.

RUBENFELD: Oh, I think it is realistic. First of all, there's a few cities in the country that have already done this. Second of all, you know, if you're a government worker, if you work for the government, your employer already can't fire you for your political opinion. That is a matter of constitutional law.

So we've got all this law out there. We've got test for this. It hasn't caused a big disruption in government workplaces, why can't we do this at private workplaces too? Now it would be fair to protect the First Amendment and I -- you know, I think that's what we should do.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Professor, stick around, I'm going to read this aloud. You'll get to hear it and we can both respond to it. This comes from social media. Put it up on the screen and I'll read it for the professor aloud.

This is patently ridiculous. A law like that would encourage people to proselytize their politics at work. Also, there are some pretty horrible political beliefs. I got to go to work. Not to hear what horrible ideas are rattling around in the skull of the guy next to me.

What do you say to Angry Monkey?

RUBENFELD: I think Angry Monkey is just not realizing it's a matter of evenhandedness. If an employer wants to keep political speech and political proselytizing out of the workplace, fine. But what you can't do is say, you know, blue lives matter, that gets you fired, but Black lives matter then you're fine and everything is OK. That is not fair to those, you know, with a certain political opinion. It's just -- it's just not American.

SMERCONISH: Even-steven. Parity is what you're looking for. Thank you, Professor, appreciate it. About to talk -- about to talk about your institution in a moment.

Still to come, Harvard, Yale, Berkeley and Stanford law schools all regularly rank near the top of "U.S. News and World Report's" ratings. And yet this week, all of them withdrew from the process. Is the list power suddenly coming to an end?

And this week, the Pennsylvania State House impeached Philadelphia's district attorney Larry Krasner blaming his progressive policies for the surge in murder and violent crime. Is that actually an impeachable offense?

I want to remind you to go to and answer this week's poll question. By the way, register for the newsletter while you're there. I'm asking, do progressive prosecutors deserve blame for the crime spike?



SMERCONISH: Are college rankings on their way out just like the SATs? This week, Yale and Harvard law schools announced that they're exiting "U.S. News and World Report's" influential list of best schools. Berkeley and Stanford law quickly followed suit even though all have ranked high on that list for decades.

Since 1983, the media company has been compiling best lists of universes and colleges using data submitted by each school. The schools' deans criticize the list methodology and how the results perpetuate disparities. In a statement, Harvard Law School dean John Manning said that the ranking method is -- quote -- "work against law schools' commitments to enhancing the socioeconomic diversity of our classes, to allocating financial aid to students based on need, and through loan repayment and public interest fellowships, to supporting graduates interested in careers serving the public interest."

Joining me now to discuss is Jeffrey Selingo. He's a special adviser at Arizona State University. He spent a year embedded in the selection process at the University of Washington, Emory University, and Davidson College so that he can write this book "Who Gets In and Why, A Year Inside College Admissions."

Jeffrey, I am biased in this conversation. I was always a poor performer on the standardized tests, think ACT and SAT even LSAT. This ranking, this rating system is what has forced the universities to be make it a numbers game, right? Because one of the important criteria is was what were the scores of those that we accepted. That's my read of this. What's yours?

JEFFREY SELINGO, AUTHOR, "WHO GETS IN AND WHY: A YEAR INSIDE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS": It's a huge piece of it, right? The score they get on LSAT, the scores students get on the LSAT really play into the rankings. The other thing that's schools do -- law schools do is they give out merit aid in order to get students to come to their school especially those with higher scores. And on top of this the ADA announced yesterday that LSAT scores won't be required anymore for law schools. Now, law schools can still require them if they want to but we're still -- we're really seeing a sea change here in terms of what's happening with the law schools and with law school rankings.

SMERCONISH: I remember in your book, reading the chapter in which you discussed in detail the experience of Northeastern University. You know, they made a conscious decision that they wanted to move up that ladder. How were they able to get it done?

SELINGO: So what Northeastern did at the undergraduate side is they really focused on all the metrics that are important to "U.S. News and World Report."


So, things like SAT scores on the undergraduate side. And so they would give out tons of money to students with high SAT scores to persuade them to come to Northeastern instead of Boston University, for example, Boston College or even -- maybe even Harvard. They've looked at classes under 20 students because that was important to the metrics of "U.S. News and World Report."

They basically reverse engineered the rankings and they moved from something like 150 to under 50 within 10 years in terms of the rankings. And what's going to happen here -- I don't think that, you know, Harvard and Yale, I don't think students are not going to go to those schools. They're still going to be ranked, you know, probably fall because they're not going to share data with "U.S. News."

What's interesting is what's going to happen to lower ranked schools. Are they going to drop out? Because the only way, I think, that these rankings diminish in the eyes of the public is if the lower ranked schools also join in on this with the higher ranked schools with the law schools.

SMERCONISH: There's another reason why you're uniquely qualified to have this conversation, back in the day, it was in the early 1990s, you were actually an intern at "U.S. News and World Report" for whom this is big business, right?

SELINGO: It's a huge business. At that time, they still published a real, you know, print magazine. And they were known around the world for all their news gathering and so forth.

But now, rankings, particularly, the college rankings is what drives views to their Web site around the year. And it's not only the undergraduate and the law school rankings, the business school rankings, they do rankings of all different types of school.

And so, this is a huge business for them. And if too many schools pull out, they still can get data from government sources and things like that. But they really rely on law school deans filling out surveys about what they think of other law schools, but they also rely on data they could only get from the law schools. And so, it's going to be really problematic if too many schools pull out.

SMERCONISH: I get your point that it matters what happens beyond that sort of upper tier. Something I was thinking is that if Yale and Harvard and Berkeley and Stanford, on a graduate level say we're no longer cooperating, don't you think it follows that at the undergraduate level, they will do likewise?

SELINGO: I think that's what we're waiting for now. First of all, I think you're now going to see a number of other top law schools follow. It's interesting, you know, after day one and two and then suddenly you have four and suddenly six law schools. I think you're going to see something at the undergraduate level as well.

And the other thing, Michael, going on here, is the Supreme Court is taking up a case right now on affirmative action in college admissions. And college admissions officers want flexibility in crafting a class. And test scores really rein them in terms of crafting a class. And if you have a low test score, they're less likely to take you. And if they want to have a diverse class, they want to put less emphasis on that test score.

SMERCONISH: Yes. I think you need a sequel because there is a sea change. You know, lack of SAT, lack of LSAT, now the rankings being questioned and the looming Supreme Court decision pertaining to use of race as a factor. Jeffrey, thank you so much. We always appreciate your expertise.

SELINGO: No problem. It was great to be with you again.

SMERCONISH: Still to come, the San Francisco D.A. was recalled this year after voters linked his job performance to a spike in crime. Now the Philadelphia D.A. has been impeached by the State House. Does he deserve to lose his job?

I want to remind you answer this week's poll question at Do progressive prosecutors deserve blame for the crime spike?



SMERCONISH: Has Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner misbehaved? That's the specific question that needs to be answered in the Commonwealth and in the City of Brotherly Love.

Crime is raging in the city and Krasner is a progressive district attorney. He's one of a half dozen or so supported with the money of George Soros over the span of the last several years. He's part of a cadre which included Chesa Boudin who is too progressive even for San Francisco and was recalled, and George Gascon in Los Angeles who narrowly avoided a recall election because his opponents' bungled their petition gathering effort.

As the "Wall Street Journal" summarized "They have pursued goals such as diverting nonviolent drug offenders to treatment instead of jail, sparing juveniles from being tried as adults and devoting resources to scrutinizing old cases in search of wrongful prosecutions and imprisonments."

Well, this week, Krasner was impeached by the Pennsylvania Republican- led State House based on a finding that he had engaged in misbehavior in office, a phrase cited but not defined in the Pennsylvania constitution as grounds for impeachment.


STATE REP. MARTINA WHITE (R-PA): Impeachment is a very serious matter and we look forward to bringing all of the evidence during trial in the Senate, and having District Attorney Larry Krasner answer for his misbehavior in office.

STATE REP. JOSH KAIL (R-PA): The job of the district attorney is to enforce laws and he has failed, and he has done so on purpose.


SMERCONISH: The impeachment articles include accusations that Krasner has fueled the city's surge in murders and homicides, obstructed a legislative committee investigating his office, and mishandled specific criminal cases. The 107 to 85 vote it was almost exclusively along party lines. The chamber hasn't impeached an office holder in nearly 30 years and has only done it a handful of times ever. About this, there can be no dispute. Philadelphia like much of the nation has a big crime problem. Homicides in Philadelphia hit a record 562 last year, rising from 277 in 2016.


So far this year, the city has recorded 459 homicides. That's five percent fewer than where we were this year last stage -- this stage last year, pardon me, it's still a hell a lot of death. Open for debate is whether there is correlation between Krasner's progressive policies and the crime rate or causation. I think he is at least a contributing factor.

In October, the committee behind the impeachment movement in the State House released a 63-page report taking issue with Krasner's tenure. They highlighting issues which included a declining conviction rate, an increasing number of firearms cases being withdrawn or dismissed, and a very high staff turnover, and they sought to link those issues and others to the city's ongoing gun violence crisis.

They noted that a higher number of prosecutions including gun cases were being dismissed or withdrawn than in years past as shootings and homicides were on the rise. It said there was no doubt that criminals are emboldened by a lack of arrests and failing prosecutions. Makes sense to me.

I remember former Philadelphia police commissioner John Timoney once documenting that there is a revolving door of a relatively small number of bad seeds who commit a disproportionate amount of crime. And if you let them out they'll continue to commit crime.

But I suspect progressive prosecutors are but a piece of a more complex puzzle. Many have pointed out proportionately red states have more of a crime spike than blue states. I get that. And the more accurate question now is whether Krasner has misbehaved in office.

That's the standard that needs to be met. And it's vague. Missing is any evidence here of corruption.

Krasner was first elected district attorney in 2017 as the "The Philadelphia Inquirer" put it, "A former civil rights attorney, he ran on a pledge to reform the prosecutor's office, seeking to divert some low-level offenders away from the criminal justice system, release wrongfully convicted people from jail, and implement alternatives to cash bail for people accused of nonviolent crimes."

Last year, Krasner easily won a primary challenge from a more conservative former prosecutor from the same office, 67 percent to 33 percent. And then he was re-elected in the predominantly Democratic city by an even wider margin 69 to 31 percent.

Look, I am not a Krasner fan. I would never vote for him if I were still a city resident. Last year PBS they aired a glowing eight episode documentary series called "Philly D.A." for which they embedded cameras in Krasner's office during his first term. I think viewers were supposed to find him virtuous and doing wonderful things, it's not how I came away from it. I watched and I thought, he is too soft for this job.

But I question whether impeachment is the right outcome. He said what he was going to do. He did it and he was re-elected by the people.

In a statement Krasner responded, "In the hundreds of years the Commonwealth has existed, this is the only time the House has used the drastic remedy of impeachment of an elected official because they do not like their ideas. Those ideas are precisely why Philadelphia voters elected and re-elected me. They have impeached me without presenting a single shred of evidence connecting our policies to any uptick in crime."

Philadelphians' votes, and Philadelphia voters, should not be erased. History will harshly judge this anti-democratic authoritarian effort to erase Philly's votes by Black, brown and broke people in Philadelphia. And voters will have the last word."

Think of it in national terms. What if Republicans had won control both of the House and Senate. They don't like Joe Biden. They've been talking about impeaching him for a long time. If you don't like Joe Biden go vote him out. If you don't like Larry Krasner, do the same. Impeachment should not be about preference. It ought to be reserved for gross misconduct.

I want to know what you think. Answer this week's poll question at Do progressive prosecutors deserve blame for the crime spike? Results right after the break and more social media.



SMERCONISH: All right. There it is, the result of this week's poll question, 23,000 and change, close to 24,000. Do progressive prosecutors deserve blame for the spike in crime? Sixty-three percent say no. Pretty much a 60-40 result in all of this.

I was in the yes vote. Noticed I didn't say, and maybe I could have done a better job, I didn't say do they deserve some, do they deserve all. I am not giving them all the blame. I think it's complicated. But I am giving them at least some of it.

Social media reaction. What has come in during the course of this week? What do we have? Unless free will has been taken off the table, I'm not sure how the prosecutor is responsible for the person's decision to commit crimes.

Well, Paganchild, if you buy into my premise, the premise of the late great John Timoney who was a commissioner here in Philadelphia, the number two in New York, the chief in Miami as well, I mean, he documented it. I remember the report that he wrote.

Here are the 5,000 people that are committing disproportionate amounts of crime and if it becomes a revolving door because you have gotten soft then guess what? You're going to keep having crime.

Another one that came in during the course of the week. What do we have?

So in other words, if someone's politics are anti-gay, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, racist and otherwise trample on the civil rights act, should that same act protect them -- asks Joe Abrams.