In this episode of “American Thought Leaders,” Epoch Times senior editor Jan Jekielek sits down with radio and talk show host and best-selling author Larry Elder, the “Sage of South Central,” who has made a habit of challenging conventional wisdom.
Jan Jekielek: Larry, a lot of things are going on in the news right now. So I wanted to hit you up on your thoughts.
Larry Elder: Like what?
Mr. Jekielek: Well, let’s start with the aftermath of special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. We know there was no collusion now, or it’s definitive. And there are still some folks out there trying to kind of stretch that out a little bit.
Mr. Elder: No collusion, no coordination, no corruption, no interference with the investigation, no assertion of executive privilege, no finding of obstruction of justice. As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t call it an exoneration the way the president has, but certainly, they didn’t find the stuff that they wanted to find and now, they’re continuing to investigate and investigate and investigate. What I find fascinating is one of them said right away, “We want the full Mueller report. We believe that the redacted one has all sorts of evidence of obstruction of justice and collusion. We want the full report.” Why do you need the full report if you have all the evidence already? They’ve already decided the president has committed obstruction of justice. They’ve already decided he’s committed impeachable offenses based on what is in the Mueller report.
Mr. Jekielek: They, meaning the people …
Mr. Elder: The Democrats. But they want the full report. So that it would confirm what they’ve already decided: that it’s in the report. It’s just bizarre—22 months, $30 million, all these investigators, all these people who’ve been subpoenaed, all these depositions that have been taken, and they didn’t find what they want. They didn’t find the collusion, the corruption, the coordination with the Russians. And what Trump is angry about is two things: He’s angry about the assumption that, but for the Russians, he would not be president. He’s also angry about all the time he spent defending himself, time that he could have been spent advancing his agenda. So I understand why he’s so angry. And that is why Mueller found that there was … and that is why [Attorney General] William Barr found and [Deputy Attorney General] Rod Rosenstein—this is important to mention that Rosenstein was right there—signed the four-page letter that the Democrats are now saying were four pages of lies. Rosenstein co-signed that. And he was right behind Barr when he had that press conference, where Barr outlined the findings of the Mueller report. So if you’re going to call Barr a stooge for Trump, you have to call Rosenstein a stooge for Trump. And Rosenstein is the one who appointed the special counsel.
Mr. Jekielek: Right. So let’s jump to all the questions that the Mueller report raises now. Like what are the things we’ve been … we had a sense there wasn’t a lot of evidence of collusion, you know. Two years ago, we were already writing about that, but in our investigations and the investigation of a number of folks, there are a lot of questions and a lot of investigations that have yet to be had, from what I understand. I wanted to hear your thoughts about that.
Mr. Elder: I don’t see what more Congress can find out that the Mueller investigators didn’t find out. This is not about trying to find out the truth or anything. This is about harassing the president up until the election. They don’t want him gone. Some people are saying they want him impeached. They don’t want him gone. They want him there. They want him bloody. They want him mangled. They want newspapers every single day to be about, ‘We subpoenaed this person. This person resisted. This person didn’t bring the documents. President Donald Trump is hiding something. Trump is hiding something. And by the way, Trump is hiding something.’ That’s what they want. They want a bloody candidate limping into the election … He’ll be easier to beat. That’s really what they want.
Mr. Jekielek: And so what about all the questions that have been raised around the Steele dossier and how it even kept … how did all this happen? There was no collusion.
Mr. Elder: Those are my questions. I’d love to find out how this whole thing started. I’m still unclear. Apparently, George Papadopoulos, one of Trump’s aides briefly, … bragged to somebody about some Russian tie. Next thing you know, there’s an investigation, and then the Steele dossier that the Democrats paid for, that was clearly unverified, becomes a factor in getting the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) warrants. I’d like to find out about how this investigation started, what role the dossier played, and what role the bias of the investigators played in going after President Trump. That’s what I’d like to find out.
Mr. Jekielek: Why don’t you outline a little bit about what we already know from your perspective?
Mr. Elder: Well, what we know is that the Russians tried to interfere with the election. What we know is that they took out a lot of ads on Facebook. What we know is that they tried to penetrate voting machines. There’s no evidence that they did. And in my opinion, they did it because they wanted to just sow dissent. They probably felt the same way that most people did and that Trump was a sure loser. So what we’ll do is we’ll put ads that are going to be pro-Trump to try to make the thing a little more competitive, so that when Trump loses, he’ll be able to argue that he was robbed. All we want to do is create crisis, create chaos, and sow dissent among Americans. If you look at the Facebook ads they took out, most of them had to do with race—the blacks and whites. Sometimes, they were pro-black, sometimes they were anti-black ads they took out. They were just trying to sow dissent.
And frankly, in my opinion, they were very successful at doing it. We’re still having this conversation, and after the Mueller report came out, we’re having a conversation about the conversation of the Mueller report. So the Russians have been very successful in getting us to get at each other’s throats and spent very little money to do it.
Mr. Jekielek: So there’s now evidence that the British government was spying on the Trump campaign. What do you make of this?
Mr. Elder: I’m sure a lot of people were spying on the Trump campaign, and we probably do a lot of spying as well. Campaigns are nasty, nasty things. And in Trump’s case, in his defense, people thought of him as a racist, as a fascist, as a Nazi. Those are the kinds of things that were said about him. Anybody that works for him is working for a fascist and a racist and a Nazi. He was a surefire loser. I think on the very day of the election, Nate Silver put the percentage of Hillary winning at 85 percent.
So you weren’t able to get the A-list people to work for Trump. That’s why you got people like Paul Manafort, who wasn’t even relevant to the 1970s. And so you’ve got a lot of second- and third-tier people working for Donald Trump. And they were not the best of the best, in large part because they did not think Trump could win and didn’t want to work for somebody like Trump. When Trump tried to get law firms to defend himself, he went around D.C., and a whole bunch of law firms said no. They thought he was toxic, didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
And so Trump ended up having a lot of people around him who were not the most savory of people, in part because he was called a fascist and, in part, because the media said that he’s a dead-bang loser. So, not too surprising. A lot of respectable people, who otherwise would have worked for a campaign like that, refused to work for him.
Mr. Jekielek: So how is it in your mind that something as salacious and utterly unverified as the Steele dossier could become the basis of these investigations?
Mr. Elder: I think there were a number of people in the so-called deep state that sincerely believed that they were being patriotic by going after this dastardly guy named Donald Trump who was vulgar, who was profane, who was racist. That’s what I thought.
And then you have the media that hated Trump from Day One. Let me back up. They didn’t hate him from Day One. They enjoyed him at first, because he was getting good ratings. Then, they realized that the American people were taking him seriously, and they realized that they had a hand in giving him a whole bunch of free publicity when he first ran, that they then began turning on him.
So you had a perfect storm. You have a candidate that a lot of people didn’t like. You also have the inherent bias against Republicans from the media. And then you had a bunch of zealots within the government that really thought that they were being patriots by going after this guy. So that’s why this thing happened.
Mr. Jekielek: And finally, one of the casualties in all of this, and actually maybe even for good reason, has been faith in some of our core institutions, like the FBI, for example. I don’t know if you would agree with that. And secondly, if I’m right, what can we do to fix this?
Mr. Elder: Well, there were certain zealots in the FBI high up, investigators on the Mueller team who, in my opinion, felt that Trump was just a bad person. And that’s what animated them. I don’t think that we throw out the baby with the bath water. I think the FBI is a respectable institution. I think Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, is somebody that I trust. I think we had some bad actors and bad apples, and I think that’s what we need to need to get to the bottom of.
Mr. Jekielek: So you’re advocating for investigations?
Mr. Elder: I really do believe there ought to be an investigation of this investigation—how it started. I think it should be an investigation about the Steele dossier. What role did it play in getting these FISA warrants? And how can something like this happen? If they really felt that Trump’s campaign had been infiltrated, they should’ve given him a warning. They should have come to him and said, “Look, there are some problems here.” They didn’t. It was almost like they wanted him to continue to associate with Russians, so they could then argue that he was some sort of a plant or a stooge. Normally, what you would do in a campaign, if there’s some evidence that the Russians are infiltrating, you go to the candidate and give them a heads-up. They didn’t do that.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s shift gears a little bit. Speaking of investigations, you know, some weeks ago, I was sort of shocked to discover that all charges against Jussie Smollett were being dropped. And since, I think the Chicago Police Department is suing for the cost of the investigation. And now, recently, I’ve been reading that the two brothers who were accused of the attack are also suing. Can you unpackage this for me a bit?
Mr. Elder: The whole thing is a mess, isn’t it? When it was pretty clear that Smollett had not been attacked by two people at 2 o’clock in the morning while he was getting a sandwich from Subway—when they were pretty clear that that didn’t happen—I recall one reporter from People Magazine TV. She said, “I was dreading that this day might come,” meaning the day that it was exposed to be a fake. So she would rather believe that there were two Trump-supporting goons patrolling the streets at 2 a.m. in Chicago looking for gay black guys to beat up. She’d rather believe that’s true than to believe that this guy lied. That’s pretty incredible to me. The whole thing is a mess.
And you’re right, the brothers have retained a lawyer, and they’re now suing for defamation—not against Jussie Smollett—they’re suing defamation against the two lawyers who made a bunch of statements, that in the brothers’ view, were false. I’ve never seen lawyers being sued for making claims that are designed to advance their client’s interests. I don’t think the lawsuit is going to go anywhere, but it is an indication that this thing is a hoax. And what Smollett is essentially doing by still insisting it happened, is he’s calling the state attorney, Kim Foxx, a liar. She happens to be black. He’s calling Eddie Johnson, the Chicago—
Mr. Jekielek: How is it that he’s calling her?
Mr. Elder: Well, she insists that he did it. She says that the reason for the charges being dropped is that this was an alternative dispute resolution, that he still did it, the charges were valid, and he, in fact, pulled a fake crime. So he’s calling her a liar. He’s calling the black superintendent of police, Eddie Johnson, a liar, he’s calling the two brothers liars. They’re black. So it’s going to be very challenging for Smollett to play the race card, but I’m sure he’ll be able to figure it out some sort of way of doing it. After all, he’s the “gay Tupac.”
Mr. Jekielek: So how do you think this is all going to play out?
Mr. Elder: He’s already lost his role on Broadway. He was playing the first black ballplayer to come out as a gay person. He’s lost that role. And the head of “Empire” just said that it’ll be very difficult for him to come back. So it doesn’t look like he’s going to come back from that either. So he’s lost a whole lot.
Mr. Jekielek: You think America is going to believe he’s innocent in the end as, as he’s maintaining, despite …
Mr. Elder: I haven’t seen any polls, but I doubt very many people believe he’s sincerely innocent. I mean, they’ve got the brothers’ receipts buying some of the rope and the bleach or whatever it was they used. The brothers themselves have said that they were encouraged to do it by Smollett. The police believe that it was a fake crime. The state attorney believes it’s a fake crime. And you’re right, the city of Chicago is suing him to recover the overtime money that was spent investigating this thing. So, there’s no question, in my opinion, that this was a fake crime, a fake hate crime. And Smollett has now been outed as a liar. And what he tried to do is to use the hostility toward Trump, the assertion that Trump has made the country worse because of his alleged racism, to advance his career. I mean, it’s hideous, it’s absolutely hideous, and he should be shamed. He should be afraid to leave his house in the daytime.
Mr. Jekielek: So let’s shift gears again here, and let’s talk about this very crowded field of Democratic presidential contenders. We’ve learned that Joe Biden has now thrown his hat in the ring.
Mr. Elder: Threw his hair plugs in the ring. Joe Biden has run twice before. He would be a formidable candidate. In my opinion, he’d be the one that would be the most difficult for Trump to beat—if Biden can survive the primary. I don’t think he can. This is a guy who voted for the Iraq war. This is going to come back to haunt him. He voted for the crime bill that a lot of people now think is racist. He’s going to have to apologize for a lot of positions he’s taken in the past. I don’t know that Joe Biden is down with the Green New Deal, down with a $15 minimum wage, down with Medicare for All, down with guaranteeing a job whether you want one or not, down with abolishing ICE. These are mainstream positions now in the Democratic Party. And if and when Biden begins to shift towards those positions, he’s going to seem insincere. So why not get somebody who doesn’t have to shift to those positions? Get somebody who’s younger, who already adopts those positions, that’s going to be his problem. And, these guys are, these Democrats are interested in winning.
They’re not going to give him a pass just because he’s Joe Biden, just because he used to be the vice president to Obama. One of the freshmen congresspersons criticized Obama and said just because he has a pretty face and a pretty smile, it doesn’t mean we’ve got to forgive the droning that he did. So they’re not above criticizing Obama and, therefore, they’re not above criticizing Joe Biden. So he’s going to have a very, very difficult time. High name recognition, [so] out of the gate he’ll be the front-runner. But little by little, I think he’s going to have a lot of difficulties. And also in this era of “Me Too,” he’s gonna have to explain his tendency to a crowd … It’s not a big deal, but it’s something he’s going to have to talk about.
Mr. Jekielek: So, one of the things that I’ve seen talked about a lot recently is how the Democratic Party is very good about keeping consistent around talking points. In fact, you know, apparently much better than, say, the Republicans. So this seems to flaunt that idea.
Mr. Elder: Well, the Democrats have different views on a lot of things. I mean, you have a socialist who is right behind Biden, and that’s Bernie Sanders. And you have other Democrats who are saying, “I’m not a socialist.” They don’t know what to do about the Mueller report. You have some Democrats who want him impeached, others who say that we ought to concentrate on issues that Americans care about. So there are some differences. And you’ve even had some of the Democrats say that the idea of allowing felons in prison to vote is insane. But you have Sanders saying it and you have a Kamala Harris saying we should give it a conversation. And you have Mayor Pete saying it’s ridiculous. So there are going to be some differences. And there’ll be highlighted as this thing cooks up.
Mr. Jekielek: But that’s similar to what we saw in 2016, right? There were all sorts of different perspectives, all sorts of attacks. But finally, you know, when all was said and done, everyone kind of consolidated around the candidate. How do you see this playing out?
Mr. Elder: Except for 2016, the fix was in. Hillary was going to be the candidate, and that was that. That’s why they set up the superdelegate thing. And based on the DNC emails we’ve now read, there’s no question that they wanted Hillary to win and they expected her to win. This is a whole different deal. Obama is staying out of this so far, he has not put his thumb on the scale one way or the other. He’s met with almost a dozen of these candidates and has encouraged them. I’m sure Biden is not all that happy about that. So it’s going to be a whole deal. This is going to be a free-for-all. It’s going to be very entertaining to see who emerges.
Mr. Jekielek: So you don’t think there’s going to be a fix for Biden, even though he has the greatest chance as you suggested?
Mr. Elder: I don’t know what they’re doing about superdelegates this time, but whatever they’re doing, it won’t be the same as last time though. I think Biden has to earn it on his own, and he’s going to have a really difficult time. He’s white in a year where it’s not a good year to be white. He’s male in a year where it’s not good to be male. You’re having all these Democrats being asked—the ones who are male—will you have a female running mate? And Cory Booker just now said yes. What is that? I’m going to have a female running mate irrespective of how qualified she is, or whether or not she is the best possible running mate? This is how these guys are. It’s all about identity politics. We haven’t had a female president, so therefore, we should have at least a female vice president. That’s how they roll, and I think that’s going to be a real problem.
Mr. Jekielek: So who would be your favorite pick on the Democratic side?
Mr. Elder: I am not impressed with any of them. I’m really not. The one I think is the most challenging for the president, as I mentioned earlier, is Joe Biden. Harris is too radical. You know, their whole agenda: raise taxes, Medicare for All, a $15 minimum wage while we have an economy that’s rocking and rolling. I think it’s foolish. And raising taxes on rich people, a wealth tax. The top 1 percent already pay about 40 percent of all the federal income taxes, while getting about 20 percent of the nation’s income. The rich are in fact overtaxed, but the left wants to tax them even more. I just don’t think the average American is comfortable with how radical the Democrats have become.
Mr. Jekielek: So it’s also been said that the Trump agenda has been very successful on the economy side at least. And so what do you see the Democrats put up against that?
Mr. Elder: You know, in a normal world with an economy this good, the president, as he pointed out, should be up 10 [to] 15 points. Bill Clinton was impeached, and because the economy was doing well, he retained his popularity. In fact, his popularity even went up during the impeachment thing. So, normally, it’s the economy, stupid, until it’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the economy, stupid, when Democrats are running; when Republicans are running, it’s not. When George Herbert Walker Bush was running for re-election in 1992 in October, Investor’s Business Daily looked at a collection of newspapers, the front pages of their business stories—of the stories having to do with the economy. And 90 percent of these stories were negative. Even though we were in like the 16th consecutive month of positive economic growth, a majority of people thought we were in a recession. We were [not] even close to being a recession.
The next month, November 1992, after Bill Clinton wins, Investor’s Business Daily looked at the same newspaper to find out if they changed their tone, and they did. Only 14 percent of the business stories were negative. Same data. Data hadn’t changed. Their interpretation of the data had changed because their guy was now going to be in the White House. All of a sudden, the economy had done a 180 in their minds.
My point is, if this were a fair and balanced media, there’d be story after story after story about how people are employed, about how many businesses have been started, how the revenues have grown. But because they “hate Donald Trump,” it’s no longer the economy, stupid, it’s Trump’s comment about Charlottesville, it’s the separation policy on the border, it’s Trump’s racism, it’s all sorts of issues having nothing whatsoever to do with the economy, when in October of 1992, it was all about the economy.
Mr. Jekielek: So the media’s position has changed since … or the media’s role or perhaps a gravitas in society has changed since George H.W. Bush. And how do you think that will play into people’s decision-making?
Mr. Elder: Well, I do believe that this term “fake news” has struck a chord with a lot of people. And I think a lot of people are much more skeptical about the media than they used to be. If you look at the ratings of Trump, depending upon the polls, maybe 37 [to] 38 percent. Congress is even lower. The media is even lower than Congress. And that is, in part, because I think people have realized that there is fake news. The way the media gave Hillary a pass on the server deal. Here’s a woman who clearly violated the Espionage Act, which does not require intent. All it requires is an act of gross negligence. What’s more grossly negligent than putting a server unsecured in your basement when you’re secretary of state. And she lied and said that she hadn’t received or sent classified information when in fact she had. She lied and said she hadn’t received any information that was stamped classified, when in fact she had. She destroyed 30,000 emails that were under subpoena. Her conduct was absolutely outrageous. No question. It was a violation of the Espionage Act.
There’s a sailor who took a picture of his nuclear submarine, [with] no intention to harm the country. He did a whole year in jail for violating the Espionage Act. Intent [is] not a requirement. Yet, James Comey stood up there, outlined all the bad things Hillary had done, and, at the very end of the story, gave us a twist and said, “But she lacked the intent. So, therefore, no reasonable prosecutor would have gone after her. So, therefore, I’m not going to do it.” Intent is not a requirement of the statute. He gave her a pass. And I think people are seeing this, and they’re seeing what’s going on with Trump for the past two years.
The Mueller report did not find collusion, yet the Democrats are still just yelling and screaming about collusion, but they gave Hillary a complete pass. This is the kind of double standard that drives people on the right crazy.
Mr. Jekielek: And you’re seeing the same double standard in the media.
Mr. Elder: Absolutely. Yeah. Barbara Bush once said she’s surprised when any Republican wins because the media are so against us. I think that Pew Research found out that only 7 percent of reporters describe themselves as Republicans. Ninety-three percent call themselves something else. The New York Times has not endorsed a Republican for president since 1956. The Washington Post never has. Never? So, Jimmy Carter over Ronald Reagan? Really? I mean, this is the unfairness that Republicans always have to deal with. And it’s almost on steroids, given the hostility they have toward Trump.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.