Return to Transcripts main page
Does Bail Reform Lead To Increased Crime Rates? Poll: Most Adults Consider Reproductive Rights In College Decision; Twitter Chaos, Musk Removes Blue Check From Verified Accounts; Biden To Announce, Poll Shows DeSantis Falls Behind Trump. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired April 22, 2023 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Lori lights up the Dems. I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia.
Yesterday, outgoing Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a Democrat, put her party on notice for its rhetoric on crime.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) CHICAGO: As Democrats, if we do not speak the truth about violent crime in our city, we will be the worst for it. If we say, yes, the police department is spending all this time and resources to arrest put a case on and then the judges and the prosecutors say, you know what, we're going to let you out on electronic monitoring to wreak havoc again. And if we don't call that out every single day with these prosecutors and with these judges, many of whom don't live in our city and don't care about what's happening, then we are going to lose an opportunity to advocate for the victims and the witnesses and the residents who just want and deserve peace. We got to say it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: She was one of the four black mayors leading America's biggest cities who gathered at the African American Mayor's Association Conference, New York City Mayor Eric Adams made a similar point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAM (D-NY): We need to be honest and forthright about the small numerical number of people who are repeated offenders. We have about 2,000 people in our city that are extreme recidivism, they all -- they are arrested one day, back on the street the next day carrying a gun committed another crime. And I've refused to say just because you are black, I'm going to ignore that fact that you have committed crimes in our community.
(END VIDEO CLIP) SMERCONISH: Former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo even weighed in, tweeting, "Democrats, when you ignore crime, you hurt the people you represent." It's no coincidence that these politicians are making these statements to counter the GOP talking points that Democrats are soft on crime. It's an issue that could pay off big at the ballot box.
A Gallup poll found that 54 percent of Americans personally worry about crime a great deal. That's the highest number since 2001 on that issue. It's a perception prevalent in America. You probably heard it from political commentators, maybe you believe it yourself, crime is soaring in American cities and Democratic policies like bail reform are to blame.
Does that match with reality? Well, here's the bottom line. These crime statistics they lend themselves to lots of sound bites, but the big picture is more nuanced. Nationwide violent crime spiked by more than 5 percent from 2019 to 2020, then it dropped by just 1 percent in 2021. During that same year, murder jumped by more than 4 percent rate of 3.9 percent. Robbery and aggravated assault are the only two categories of violent crime that declined.
As the Philadelphia Inquirer pointed out about this city, the homicide rate while lower than in the past few years remains at a pace that's near a three decade high. So yes, some violent crimes are on the rise. Are the downtown areas of American cities crime infested? Crimes committed, they're certainly get most of the attention. Consider the images of marauding teens in Chicago's Magnificent Mile just last weekend.
While the Brookings Institution studied crime statistics in New York, Chicago, Seattle and Philadelphia, and found that residents' perception about where crime occurred was significantly warped. Researchers found that increases in homicides were largely concentrated in disadvantaged neighborhoods that already had high rates of gun violence, along with significant histories of public and private sector disinvestment. Local data on property and violent crimes shows that in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, crime in the downtown area made up a small percentage of the overall increase of those crimes. To be clear, crimes weigh up in some areas. But the downtowns are being blown out of proportion.
Here in Philly, crime still a big problem. Again from the Enquirer, "In Philadelphia, property crimes such as retail theft and burglaries citywide up by 38 percent from 2019 to 2022, but in Center City, our downtown area it accounted for less than 1 percent of the spike. Violent Crime increased too, and specifically homicides are way up, but again, the downtown, accounted for a tiny proportion of such incidents."
In New York, Manhattan's core accounted for 2 percent of the city's increase in violent crime, 3 percent of its increase in property crime. Extensive media coverage of the crimes that do occur in downtown areas may be having an impact on residents feeling that city centers are crime ridden. Think of that age old local news mantra, if it bleeds it leads. Of course crime in any part of the city is a problem. [09:05:18]
As the Brookings Institute study pointed out, "Pointing to the mismatch between where crime predominantly clusters and residents perceptions is not designed to delegitimize their concerns or deny the impact that crime in other parts of the city can have on perceptions of downtown. Rather, it is to demonstrate the spatial distribution of crime has real implications for how local leaders can address it."
OK. What about bail reform? Is that behind the increases in crime rates? There are lots of headlines and political grandstanding claiming that to be the case, that with fewer people paying bail people charged with crimes or out of the streets, and they're committing more crimes.
When someone's been arrested and charged with a crime, a judge or a magistrate may decide it's necessary to get a money guarantee to ensure that person is going to come back for a court hearing. But by its very nature, the system discriminates against poor people who can't afford to pay bail. So, even though you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, many who are charged but not yet convicted, they end up behind bars. Therefore, some states have recently moved to reduce or even eliminate cash bail for lesser offenses.
In 2019, New York State adopted a law ending cash bail, in most cases involving misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies, it led to an immediate backlash. And although Lori Lightfoot didn't use the words cash bail, it's clearly what she's talking about when she decried judges and prosecutors who let people out on electronic monitoring to wreak havoc again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LIGHTFOOT: If somebody seek musters the courage to come forward and identify the person who would just shut up their neighborhood and then cease pokey walk in bold as day back on the street two days later, what does that say to them? You're telling them that the criminal justice system doesn't care about victims and witnesses?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Do you agree? I want to know what you think. Please go to smerconish.com and vote on this week's poll question, Do you agree or disagree with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who said, "As Democrats, if we don't speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we will be the worst for it."
Joining me now to discuss is Jocelyn Simonson, Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research and Scholarship at the Brooklyn Law School. She's written a book, it'll come out this August and it's titled "Radical Acts of Justice, How Ordinary People are Dismantling Mass Incarceration."
Professor Simonson, respond if you would, please, to what you heard from Mayor Lightfoot, does she have the right answer? JOCELYN SIMONSON, PROFESSOR, BROOKLYN LAW SCHOOL: Good morning. Thank you for having me.
What I do agree with Mayor Lightfoot about is that public safety is important and taking care of survivors of harm are important. But I disagree entirely with her characterization of what bail reform does and even what prosecution and incarceration do. And I should add that the people of Chicago disagreed as well.
If we're thinking about perceptions of crime and safety, Lori Lightfoot recently lost an election. So someone who is saying that public safety shouldn't always mean arrest, bail and prosecution.
SMERCONISH: What does the data show? What does the data show if you get rid of cash bail? You let people out on the street who otherwise wouldn't be out in the street, do they commit more crimes?
SIMONSON: No, they don't. In fact, the -- what you'll notice when these mayors are making announcements about bail and crime is that they're not able to use statistics that link bail reform to an increase in so called violent crime. And in fact, if you look at major jurisdictions around the country where there has been bail reform in recent years, there is no such trend. New York, for example.
SMERCONISH: Professor, I made the point at the outset that the data is, I think, pliable, can be used easily to advance any kind of a case you'd like to. So, having said that, here I go. Isn't it true that the DOJ data, the DOJ data, and I'll put something up on the screen and I'll read it to you, because you might not be able to see it, but it shows that financial bonds like cash bonds have a lower rate of pretrial misconduct than when someone is released on their personal recognizance? In other words, there is, it appears, a relationship between misconduct awaiting trial if there's no cash bail that has been utilized.
SIMONSON: I can't see the statistics you're talking about and whether they're federal or based on jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
SIMONSON: But I can tell you more broadly -- what's that?
Well, the federal bail system is different than the bail system state by state. And in fact in federal court, it's much harder to keep someone in jail pending trial simply for the fact that they're poor. So those statistics aren't going to represent what's happening around the nation.
But when you use that phrase of engaging in misconduct, we have to think about what we're measuring. It doesn't say that it's connected to people being harmed. And it doesn't say that it's connected to people not coming back to court over time versus say, missing one court date.
SMERCONISH: There's a headline from the Daily Mail, I'll read it to you because I get that you're not able to see my monitor. Put that up on the screen. "Exclusive," it says, "Suspected felons have walked free and half of cases since Alvin Bragg took office, double the rate in 2018, as New York's lacks bail laws allow cities worst criminals to roam the streets."
Professor Simonson, it doesn't say and they're committing crimes. But hell, if you look at that headline, right, it'll scare you to death. You got all these bad folks who are out there who probably shouldn't be. Respond to that if you can do it in 30 seconds.
SIMONSON: Sure. I think that headline says a lot and exactly what you're saying. There's a key word in that headline with it -- which is suspected felons. These are people who have been arrested, are presumed innocent, pending guilt. And the headline does not say that anything bad happens. Instead, it's evoking the same image that Mayor Lightfoot evoked, which has no basis in statistical fact.
And what it's not doing is describing all the so-called suspected felons who were able to go home, keep their jobs, stay with their families, which studies show makes them less likely to be rearrested in the future.
SMERCONISH: Professor Simonson, thank you for being here. Appreciate your expertise.
SIMONSON: Thank you for having me.
SMERCONISH: Social media reaction, what do we have gang? Put it up there and let's check it out. If you don't want to be in jail, don't commit the crime.
Right. Observer, I think there's an arm missing there. But I think, Observer of Facts, the professor would say, but you haven't been convicted, right? I mean, we're holding you shy of having been convicted of a crime. I get it, it's a complicated issue.
I agree with what I heard from Eric Adams about the rate of recidivism. I remember my friend, the late great John Timoney, he was the chief here in Philly, he was number two in New York, he was the chief in Miami. I remember him saying to me, we've got 5,000 individuals in the Philadelphia area and they're committing the lion's share of the crime. And when we let them out, they commit more crime.
But I want to know what all of you think. Please go to my website @smerconish.com and answer this week's poll question. It's an agree or disagree with Lori Lightfoot. I bet some of you didn't think you'd ever be agreeing with Lori Lightfoot. "As Democrats, if we don't speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we will be the worst for it."
Please go vote. Still to come, unexpected fallout in the battle over abortion rights. Prospective and current college students are now deciding where to enroll or stay enrolled based on the state's reproductive policies.
And Ron DeSantis hasn't even declared he's in the 2024 race yet, but he's already gone from being 14 points up on Donald Trump to 13 points behind. Has he fumbled the political football?
SMERCONISH: In a Friday night ruling, the Supreme Court protected access to a widely available abortion pill at least for now. The nation's highest court ruled to freeze the lower court rulings that had put restrictions on the bills -- on the pills usage. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito were the only justices noted their dissent.
President Biden then praised the move and urged Americans to elect a Congress that will codify Roe versus Wade protections. This abortion pill case could end up right back in the Supreme Court of the United States as it continues to make its way through the appellate process. And that Supreme Court decision will likely have an impact far beyond the walls of a doctor's office or pharmacy.
A newly released Gallup poll finds reproductive health laws are also influencing prospective and current students on their decision where to enroll or stay enrolled in school. Nearly three quarter of currently enrolled college students report that reproductive health laws in the state that they attend school are at least somewhat important, while a smaller but still significant majority of unenrolled students between the ages of 18 and 59 also say reproductive health laws are at least somewhat important in their decision to enroll in a specific school.
Joining me now is Mohamed Younis. He's Gallup's editor in chief and editor of The Week in Charts.
Mohamed, nice to see you again. So, now if I'm a prospective applicant at a school, I want to know the ranking, I want to know do they have my major, I want to know what's the social life like, and I want to know, what's the state's abortion policy?
MOHAMED YOUNIS, EDITOR IN CHIEF, GALLUP: That's unfortunately the state we're in today. A lot of what we find in our work with Lumina Foundation on what keeps currently enrolled students in class, and also people who aren't enrolled considering going to an institution of higher education. And it's not just a four-year college, really, all institutes of higher education are saying that this is an important factor for them and considering whether to stay in school or whether to go to where they're considering. And the people who will say it's an important factor are overwhelmingly saying they're looking for environments that have less restrictions, not more restrictions to reproductive health services. SMERCONISH: Do you see this among not only Democrats, which I would anticipate and expect, but also among Republicans? Do you see it among both men and women?
YOUNIS: Yes, we do. And what's really important to keep in mind is this is also happening in an environment of declining enrollment rates that predate COVID. So if I'm leading a university in one of the states that just happened to be passing or even just considering passing restrictions on reproductive health services, this is potentially a really big challenge for my enrollment rates as I'm already seeing them decline and trying to get them going up. So, it is a very obviously serious and nuance issue but when it comes to higher education the over representation also of women and younger Americans in that population this is a really important issue for them.
SMERCONISH: I wonder if it'll extend to weed? I'm probably catching a cold, but this thought just occurred to me, if I'm going to consider the reproductive rights policy of a state before I apply to a particular school, I wonder -- I wonder if they're also thinking what's the status of weed? Is it legal or unlegal -- illegal? Pardon me.
YOUNIS: It's -- you know, it is. And you are catching me off guard, but never with weed. What's fascinating is like abortion, but much more dramatically, attitudes about the moral acceptability of the use of marijuana have astronomically changed in the United States. Just legalization across states now, I think over 20 states have now taken some measure to enable recreational access.
So, yes, but I think even less so because it's less of a central mental health related issue and physical health related issue, which is actually one of the most important factors that we find in our work with Lumina Foundation that causes students to pull out of school which we call stopping out of class. So, it's another issue that's out there, but I think abortion is a much more critical and central part of that decision for young people.
SMERCONISH: Mohamed, final 30 seconds, big picture, where are we as a nation on the broad subject of reproductive rights?
YOUNIS: And it is so important to put those perceptions of students in the broader context. We're living in a moment right now where attitudes, generally speaking, are shifting towards wanting to see less restrictions towards reproductive health services.
Now, you can say that and it's said with a lot of nuance, there are still certain people, obviously, on both sides of the old divide here in the United States, I feel very strongly about that. But I'll give you a couple of statistics that kind of highlight. Right now, 48 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation's policies regarding abortion in general. That's a 20 point rise since 2021. Again, that's a 20 point rise in two years, it's something you don't usually see with these kinds of topics. People who identify as prochoice, it's at a relative higher here in the United States at 55 percent. And we did see that jump up after Roe v. Wade was overturned. Six in 10 America thought --
SMERCONISH: Big issue.
YOUNIS: And six in 10 American thought --
SMERCONISH: Yes, I was going to say big issue for the Ds to motivate their base.
YOUNIS: Yes, absolutely. And it's become more of a focus for people on the left side of the spectrum. But keep in mind six in 10 Americans overall thought that overturning Roe v Wade would be a bad idea. So, we have a very popular, in terms of popular opinion, unpopular decision by a supreme court that's also dropped dramatically in its approval ratings with the public.
So, this is an issue for public --
SMERCONISH: Got it.
YOUNIS: -- has zeroed in on.
SMERCONISH: Mohamed Younis, thank you. Appreciate it.
SMERCONISH: I have a poll of my own @smerconish.com right now. Go and vote on this week's survey question. Do you agree or disagree with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who said, "As Democrats, if we don't speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we will be the worst for it."
Up ahead. Elon Musk removed the long standing verification system for Twitter accounts on Thursday and immediately the platform was swamped with imposters. He began reverifying certain users like the Pope and LeBron James, but the platform has now been thrown into some chaos is the damage already done.
Plus, CNN now reporting that there will be a meeting next week between Hunter Biden's lawyers, a U.S. attorney and a senior DOJ official, this in the wake of an IRS whistleblower claiming the President's son was afforded special treatment. Is the long simmering illegal probe about to ignite? Elie Honig will be here.
SMERCONISH: It finally happened, Elon Musk's Twitter went haywire. As Musk long threatened on Thursday, Twitter began removing blue checkmarks from previously verified accounts. Yes, I even lost my blue checkmark, there it is.
The verification system had been put in place by the social media platform to give credence that an account really belonged to a person or organization. Musk announced that he would begin charging $8 per month for the service but provided no system for verification beyond a phone number and a credit card. Media organizations, which were going to be charged $1,000 a month for gold verification badges, they balked as did many businesses brands and individual users.
Gary Shteyngart, an author with more than a half million followers tweeted this, he said, "Anyone with a blue checkmark is now officially a sad loser without a life." Friend of this program, NYU Professor Scott Galloway tweeted, "The blue check is now the new MAGA hat."
Almost immediately the platform was swamped with impersonations of accounts including those of government entities. New York City is no longer verified official government account tweeted Thursday evening the following. This is an authentic Twitter account representing the city of the New York City government, later and imposter account with the same image and a slight variation of the username replied, no you're not, this account is the only authentic Twitter account representing and run by the New York City government.
The platform had to scramble to rereverify certain high profile figures such as Pope Francis. And Musk decided to pay for several blue checks for celebrities, among them, LeBron James, William Shatner, and Stephen King. King, no fan of Musk tweeted this clarification, "My Twitter account says I've subscribed to Twitter Blue, I haven't. My twitter account says I've given a phone number, I haven't."
Joining me now is Samuel Woolley, Professor at the University of Texas' School of Journalism and Media and a Program Director of its Center for Media Engagement. He's also the author of "Manufacturing Consensus, Understanding Propaganda in the Era of Automation and Anonymity.
Dr. Woolley, the vanity aspect of this, celebrities and do they continue to have their blue check mark is getting a lot of attention. But the more serious aspect seems to be the one that I showed, for example, with New York City, right? Government entities that need to keep the public informed, and now the public confusion can easily rise.
SAMUEL WOOLLEY, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS SCHOOL OF JOURNALISM AND MEDIA: That's right. Yes, Twitter has long been a space where people go to get breaking news. They go for information during crises, for instance, natural disasters. And so, it's really important that people are able to get verified trustworthy information on Twitter. Otherwise, what we have is a sense of chaos.
SMERCONISH: I mean, I treat it like a wire service to the point you just made when there's -- when there's a breaking news story I'm looking at my Twitter account because I want to see what all the news sources are reporting. And I want to see what individuals whose opinion I respect or maybe not respect are saying about it to keep myself informed. What's going to happen to that ability now? WOOLLEY: I think that ability has gone out the window, at least for the time being. We see some changes being made retrospectively back towards giving some people blue check marks again. However, there's also gray check marks which -- to know government authorities and those are being sort of given in a haphazard way to different authorities. Many don't have them. And so, for the time being that wire service sort of use of Twitter is kind of going down the drain for you as well as me. I use it that way as well.
SMERCONISH: So what is he up to? I mean, I regard the guy as a mad genius. I am -- I am not a critic of Elon Musk. His ingenuity is something that I have great admiration for, and I think he makes a wonderful car. But what's his game here? Because this seemed also predictable that there would be a revolt against him.
Did he really think that the $8.00 revenue or the $1,000 from media sources or from businesses that it was going to enhance his bottom line? I'm trying to give him the benefit of the doubt.
WOOLLEY: Musk's argument was that there was sort of a class based system on Twitter where if you were popular, or if you knew someone that you could get a blue check mark, and so he took away that that system. He said he wanted to make it a system where anyone could get a blue check mark.
The problem with that is that in my research I studied propagandists and people that spread disinformation, what we know is that propagandists are willing to spend a little bit of money to get their message out there. And so right now what you have is, unfortunately, a lot of people buying blue check marks who are in fact working to deceive other users.
SMERCONISH: That's the concern that I have. Speaking of social media, let me put something on the screen. I'll read it aloud and we can both respond to it together. What do we have, Jordan? Pop that up.
Blue checks were nothing more than the ultimate vanity plate for the culturally elite. Now there's somehow threatened because ordinary folks can get one.
I'll go first, Dr. Woolley. My response is to say, no, it has nothing to do with me as one who had a blue check resenting, you know, common folk from having a blue check. It's that someone's going to be able to go out and imitate a person with a profile and fraudulently act like they are them. How would you respond to that person?
WOOLLEY: I'll be honest. I always thought there was issues with the blue check mark system in the sense that it wasn't clear how they were given out. That being said it needs to be made more systematic but not less.
What we need is more verification for trusted entities like news organizations, journalists and other entities that are delivering us our news rather than making it this open -- open season on blue check marks where anyone can buy it, including propagandists. Potentially including foreign adversaries that are attempting to manipulate public opinion in the United States during various crises and elections as we've seen in the past.
SMERCONISH: Right. I mean, I think the same thing. Think about Russia's invasion of Ukraine and how Putin might seek to gain this process or the upcoming 2024 election where there are a whole host of ripple effects. Thank you, Dr. Woolley. Appreciate your time.
WOOLLEY: Thanks for having me.
SMERCONISH: Please make sure you're answering this week's poll question at Smerconish.com. By the way, register for the free newsletter when you're there. It comes out every morning. I handpicked all the links and it's free and worthy.
Do you agree or disagree with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot who said, as Democrats, if we don't speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we will be the worse for it?
Still to come, after a lot of will he or won't he, President Biden is said to be announcing his reelection bid Tuesday via video. Only 47 percent of Democrats think he should run. Meanwhile, Ron DeSantis, who has yet to announce, finds himself rapidly falling behind former President Donald Trump. Ron Brownstein is here to discuss 2024.
SMERCONISH: The 2024 presidential race is heating up already. It's had its share of surprises and reversals on both sides of the aisle.
CNN is reporting that on Tuesday, President Biden will finally make the long expected, albeit it less than certain announcement that he is seeking reelection. He will do so via video on the fourth anniversary of when he entered the 2020 race, but not before a lump of coal appeared in his stocking in the person of Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who on Wednesday announced his candidacy to challenge Biden for the Democratic nomination. More concerning for team Biden, a new "Associated Press" poll found that only 47 percent of Democrats think President Joe Biden should be running again in 2024 when he will be nearly 82 on Election Day.
Meanwhile, on the GOP side of the aisle, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has suffered a series of setbacks in his as yet undeclared challenge to former President Donald Trump losing not just donors and endorsements but also likely primary voters. In a new "Wall Street Journal" poll, in a head-to-head matchup, DeSantis has fallen from a 14-point advantage in December to a 13-point deficit.
He now trails Trump 51 to 38 percent. Joining me now, CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein, who is also senior editor of "The Atlantic" where he recently wrote this piece, "The GOP's Abusive Relationship With Trump." Ron, great to see you.
Did Alvin Bragg just single-handedly reverse the standing on the Republican side of the aisle?
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's a really interesting question. I don't know. I don't think single-handedly. I think it was moving in that direction already.
It's obviously premature to just, you know, call this fight. You know, this far before anyone has voted, but what has to be ominous for the other Republicans is how similar this looks to the way Donald Trump marched the nomination in 2016.
You know, in 2016 Trump divided the Republican Party along a new axis that ultimately became the same axis that divided the general election along and that's education. The evangelical versus not didn't matter that much. Ideology, moderate versus conservative didn't matter that much.
Trump won because he dominated among Republicans without a college degree, winning about half of them, an incredible number in such a crowded field, and that allowed him to survive, even though two-thirds of the Republicans with a college degree wanted someone else. They could never unify around who that someone else would be.
But here we are, Michael, seven -- eight years later and the Republican electorate because of the changes that Trump has imposed is probably even more tilted than it was then towards his side. It's even more heavily shaped by those non-college voters. And once again as in these, you know, in these polls we're seeing he is winning about half of them. Still only winning about a third or a quarter of those college Republicans, but he's basically reassembling the coalition that worked for him the first time.
SMERCONISH: On the Democratic side of the aisle President Biden expected to announce, as I said, on Tuesday. RFK Jr. got into the race earlier this week. I was surprised by a poll that showed among Biden voters from the 2020 cycle RFK Jr. starts out with double digits. Could he ever get Biden on a debate stage?
BROWNSTEIN: No. And I don't think he would really get double digits in the end. You know, Biden is looking at a lot of indicators that historically have been red warning lights on the dashboard or maybe red warning lights now on the touch screen for an incumbent president.
I mean, his approval rating is usually at 45 percent or below. You have three quarters or more of the country saying, the economy is only in fair or poor shape. And as you note, there is a large percentage of voters, 60 percent or more, who say they don't want him to run again. And all those are going to be challenges after he, you know, announces his second term on Tuesday.
But -- and there is a but. What we saw in 2022 was an unusually maybe in an unprecedentedly large number of voters who said they were disappointed in Biden's performance or disenchanted with the economy still voted for Democrats anyway because they viewed the Republican alternative as too extreme as symbolized on the issue of abortion.
And, Michael, that was especially true in the handful of swing states that are likely to decide. 2024. You know, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, three quarters or more of voters said the economy was in bad shape. And Democrats won the governorships in those states anyway in some cases easily because, again, they did not view the Republican alternative as acceptable and that is kind of the wind in the sails, I think, for Biden whatever his standing with the public overall.
SMERCONISH: Ron, here comes the social media comment. I'll read it aloud so that we can both respond to it. Pop it up there and let me take a take a peek. Here we go.
DeSantis won't even mention Trump by name and he's getting slammed by him. In the end, Ron will not run.
Whoa! What do you think of that, Ron Brownstein?
BROWNSTEIN: Well, the first part is definitely correct, right? I mean, the clear lesson of the last six months is that Trump is still unequivocally the biggest figure in the Republican Party. The vast majority of Republican voters despite everything that happened, January 6th, you know, racist comments, chaos in the cabinet, still believe his presidency was more a success than not, and that means you are not going to dislodge him unless you give voters a much firmer, more clear reason than his opponents have been willing to do so far.
I don't know if DeSantis blinks in the end. He certainly -- you know, you look inside that "Wall Street Journal" poll he's still has some assets in this race against Trump, but I think there is no question that the message of the past six months is that if you kind of tiptoe around the issue of whether Republicans can or should renominate Trump he is going to steamroll you. He is a big believer in that Mike Tyson, you know, saying, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.
SMERCONISH: Quick thought from me. He's 44. So, you say by Biden standards he's got three more decades where he could run for president. On the other hand, if he does blink people will look back and say, well, don't you remember what happened in 2023? It can't be him.
Ron, it's great to see you. Thank you for being here.
BROWNSTEIN: (INAUDIBLE). Yes. Right.
SMERCONISH: Great point. Great point. Ron, always with the institutional recollection. That's why we love him.
Still to come, is Hunter Biden in hot water? The CNN exclusive reporting on an upcoming meeting between his lawyers, a U.S. attorney and a senior DOJ official. Elie Honig is here.
SMERCONISH: Could charges be coming against Hunter Biden? According to CNN's exclusive reporting, lawyers for the president's son are scheduled to meet next week with U.S. attorney David Weiss and at least one senior career official from the DOJ. This all has to do with the years long investigation into Hunter Biden's finances.
Prosecutors still weighing whether to bring two misdemeanor charges for failure to file taxes, one count of felony tax evasion related to the over reporting of expenses, and a false statement charge regarding a gun purchase. Hunter has denied any wrongdoing.
The news comes on the backdrop of an IRS whistleblower who has gone to Congress claiming to have information about alleged mishandling of political interference in the case. The agent says he has information that contradicts A.G. Merrick Garland's testimony before Congress in March when he said that he pledged not to interfere with the Hunter Biden investigation. And I have carried through on my pledge, he said.
Joining me now is CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York, a former federal prosecutor, and also the author of the book "Untouchable: How Powerful People Get Away with It." Elie, how unusual is such a meeting?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Not unusual at all, Michael. In fact, it's standard fare. When somebody is under investigation and it comes time where they might get indicted it is very common for defense lawyers to request and almost always be granted this kind of meeting.
They come in. They pitched the prosecutors and they always, of course, say here's why it would be a mistake to charge my client. Michael, the other thing about these meetings is they do tend to happen towards the very end of the process at that make or break moment of decision.
SMERCONISH: Why is this taking so long? If it's true that the investigation began to enter about 2018 is it really that complicated a case?
HONIG: Oh, amen to that, Michael. The pace of this case is, I would say glacial, but I don't want to insult glaciers. I mean, there is absolutely no reason that this case should take five years. This is, by the way, not an investigation of the laptop. As you said, this is a tax case relating to an individual and this is a case involving an obscure firearms statute.
So, this should not be a five year investigation. This should not be a one year investigation. This should be a few months investigation.
My best surmise is charging or not charging Hunter Biden is the ultimate darned if you do, darned if you don't situation. Either way, you're going to infuriate a large swath of the population. And I think prosecutors need to get over it and make a call. Charge or don't charge. Do your job.
SMERCONISH: Well, I've made the same observation about the so called obstruction of justice investigation pertaining to Donald Trump and the documents at Mar-a-Lago. You know, on that isolated instance I don't know why that's so complicated.
And, Elie, the concern that I have is that, you know, it's like, game on. Here I am. I'm talking about DeSantis and Trump. And I'm talking about Biden. And I'm talking about RFK Jr. in the polling. And the RNC is already selecting its debates. How far into this process do we get before the DOJ says, well, we can't do anything now?
HONIG: This is an absolutely legitimate and important criticism of the prosecutors on the Hunter Biden case, of the prosecutors who are looking at Donald Trump, all of whom took at least two years plus to do anything. Now, here we are. It's getting into the middle of 2023. We've got declared candidates, and now you're going to get into the realm where no matter what happens there's going to be this realm of, is this political?
These questions asked that's not good for those cases. That's not good for the public acceptance of DOJ's impartiality. And I blame all these prosecutors who frankly have been dragging their feet whether it comes to Hunter Biden or Donald Trump.
SMERCONISH: Yes, a lot of shoes potentially are about to drop. Elie, thank you so much for being here. I wish we had more time.
HONIG: Thanks, Michael. All right.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, more of your best and worst social media comments and the final result. Did you vote yet at Smerconish.com? You can use the Q.R. code.
Do you agree or disagree with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who said, as Democrats, if we do not speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we will be the worse for it?
SMERCONISH: Here is the result of this week's poll question at Smerconish -- wow. Wow. Yes, 97 percent agree with Chicago mayor -- I'm not surprised that that was the winning argument. I am surprised by the margin, 97 to three with nearly 30,000 people voting. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who said, as Democrats, if we don't -- if we don't speak the truth about violent crime in our cities, we're going to be the worse for it. By the way, I can't help but wonder if that had been her campaign mantra which -- have had a different outcome in that recent mayoral election.
Social media, what do we have? This came in during the course of the program.
I think you are missing something about crime in big cities. Big cities like New York are remarkably safe. Look at how rough things are in midsize cities in the middle of the country. Crime in my hometown of St. Louis.
Victor, it's the big cities that have gotten all the attention. That's why that was my focus today, but I think that the data bears you out that there's crime all over, including in rural America. There's also this misperception of the level of violence in the downtown areas in comparison to the remainder of the cities, and the data just does not bear that out.
Here's more social media reaction. What do we have?
I worked in jails for years. It was not unusual for someone to be held for months for minor crimes for less than -- lack $100 -- staff even talked about taking up collections.
Yes, that's heartbreaking to me. I'm ready -- I'm ready to reimagine incarceration in the United States. I'm game for that discussion especially for the hypothetical that you present of somebody where it's nonviolent it's $100 bucks keeping them in.
I don't know if that's true but if that's true that's outrageous. But I'm not ready to reimagine incarceration for violent offenders. You know those, like my buddy John Timoney said, are the guys who are, and they are guys, committing all the crime. No, not for them.
Hey, 9:00 this week, I'm guest hosting here on CNN and I hope that you'll be watching. Monday through Thursday this week, 9:00 p.m. Have a great day.