updated 1/6/2014 10:49:49 AM ET 2014-01-06T15:49:49

POLITICS NATION
December 17, 2013

Guests: Emanuel Cleaver; Susan Milligan, Gordon Johnson, Dana Milbank, Alex Lemus

REV. AL SHARPTON: Good evening Ed and thanks to you for tuning in.

Tonight`s Lead, Smear Factor. The healthcare law is helping millions of
Americans. So what does investigate in Chief Congressman Darrell Issa do?
Try to tune up for healthcare scandal.

He is on an ObamaCare`s road trip holding one side adherence trashing the
law. His latest hearing in Texas was in -- it wasn`t excuse for
Republicans to attack the so-called healthcare navigators who explain the
laws provisions and help people signed up.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARREL ISSA, (R) CALIFORNIA: The purpose of navigators is to explain
ObamaCare to people and facilitate enrollment into coverage.

REP. PETE SESSIONS, (R) TEXAS: Who are these navigators and what is their
role?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m concerned that the navigators are not properly
veteran trained.

REP. BLAKE FARENTHOLD, (R) TEXAS: Unfortunately this area is also ground
zero of some of the problems that are beginning to appear with the
navigators.

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: We cannot have
a repeat of the Acorn-like activities that led to too many people believing
there was something for nothing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Acorn-like activities? Congressman
Issa never misses a chance to bring up Acorn., the community organizing
group that folded after right wing attacks.

Here`s what`s going on. The same right wing group that smeared Acorn
released videos claiming to show health care navigators telling people to
lie about their income when they apply for insurance. If that`s true, it
was wrong. But government officials say they took immediate action. The
navigators on that video were decertified and later suspended. The agency
that employed them increased training. And the centers for Medicare and
Medicaid services promised to make unannounced visits to the agency to
check up on them.

If there was a problem, it was handled. But Congressman Issa doesn`t care
about that. He doesn`t care that navigators are helping people sign up for
health care. And one Texas group says Issa didn`t want to hear from them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Several navigators actually requested to testify at
today`s hearing and were denied access. This hearing today really is a
witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A witch hunt. This is the Issa playbook of controlling hearings
to make it one sided. Need further proof that this was a -- that this
hearing was a joke? When Congressman Issa didn`t like an answer about
health care Web site security, listen to this.

He told the witness, quote, "you need to watch more FOX, I`m afraid."
Watch more FOX? That`s his suggestion in a congressional hearing? You`d
probably see a whole lot of Congressman Issa talking up his phony scandal
of the month. Maybe Benghazi or Fast and Furious or Solyndra or the IRS.

And let`s remember the guy holding these hearings. Remember what he said
about president Obama three years ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ISSA: He has been one of the most corrupt presidents in modern times.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Issa later tried to walk that back, but he made his point. Just
don`t expect us to take his hearings seriously.

Joining me now are Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Democrat of Missouri, and
MSNBC.com executive editor Richard Wolffe. Thank you both for being here.

RICHARD WOLFFE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: Thanks, Reverend.

REP. EMANUEL CLEAVER (D), MISSOURI: Good to be here, reverend.

SHARPTON: Congressman, that group called Darrell Issa`s hearing a witch
hunt. What do you make of the hearings?

CLEAVER: Well, it is not a health care hearing. And you called the role
earlier about all the hearings that have been held that really produced
nothing. In spite of all of the charges, all of the allegations from those
hearings, nobody`s been indicted. Nobody has ever -- even been held in
contempt of Congress for perjury.

And so here`s the problem. You can go around the country. You can
frighten people. Most people are trying to live their lives particularly
during this holiday season. And so, they`re not going to go out and read
two or three sources to gather information. They`re going to listen to the
things being said by a member of Congress that is frightening. They have
no idea that while we had a bumpy start, the Affordable Care now is moving
and moving rather smoothly. And maybe that`s what the theory is.

SHARPTON: I think that is what the problem is here, Richard, is that his
target is health care. He`s just not a guy just out there with an aimless
witch hunt. They want to derail health care.

WOLFFE: Sure they do.

SHARPTON: And now that these glitches and problems as the congressman says
bumpy start, is starting to smooth out, here we go with the hearings. A
Texas non-profit says they weren`t allowed to testify at the hearing
yesterday. We also saw protesters when Congressman Issa held health care
hearings in North Carolina. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m here because I want to have an opportunity to put
out the positive wonderful benefits that the affordable care act offers
millions of people in this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The house committee that`s meeting is not telling
both sides of the story.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I formally requested to witness at this committee on
time in writing as they requested. I was still denied.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So you`re having congressional hearings to get information, but
you only want to hear one side, Richard? I mean, clearly, do they think
these people and the total information and the positive and negative can be
ignored?

WOLFFE: Well, they`ve scared a lot of people for a long time about
Obamacare. And they`re very worried that as people figure out what`s
actually in this legislation, they will find that the law becomes more and
more popular.

But let`s just remember, this is an abuse of the congressional hearing
concept. Hearings can be information gathering. They can be
investigative. That`s what Darrell Issa is supposed to be doing. This is
neither. This is congressional hearings as propaganda to try and drive
local news.

You know, getting on the local news is not something unusual. Congressmen
do it all the time. But generally, in a real hearing, in a real field
hearing, you`re trying to get what the real story is on the ground. You
would be open to both sides. This is about web video hits and FOX News
clips.

SHARPTON: And that people need to understand as you say this, Richard.
He`s the head of the investigative committee.

WOLFFE: Right.

SHARPTON: So he can just call these hearings. And you`re saying that when
I said that these were quoting the person saying it`s a witch hunt when
Congressman Cleaver was saying there`s been no prosecution, no indictments.
You`re saying they`re not after that. They`re after the evening news.
They`re after putting video on the internet.

WOLFFE: Sure they are.

SHARPTON: This is all about politics.

WOLFFE: It`s about getting attention for this. There is legitimate role
for an investigative committee. Absolutely. Democrats have done it to
Republican presidents. That`s not what this is. He could have interviewed
the people overseeing the navigators in D.C. They`re trying to get out in
the field in Republican areas to get on the evening news and make some
publicity. That`s not a hearing. That`s just a piece of -- that`s a press
release.

SHARPTON: Congressman, let me go back to you.

You were talking about how he has done this over and over as head of the
oversight committee. And let`s remember, he promised to hold hundreds of
hearings when he took over that committee. Always looking for scandals.
The most famous one may be fast and furious when he went after the attorney
general. But he also tried to turn Benghazi into a scandal. He attacked
green energy loans to Solyndra. Said the IRS was targeting the president`s
political enemies. None of these phony scandals have stuck. So will he
try to make something out of the health care law, Congressman Cleaver?

CLEAVER: I think he`s going to go the same route he`s gone historically.
He`ll go and try to stir up things. Remember this committee has the
subpoena power that is extremely important as Richard said for a Congress.
We need to investigate. And so, I think he`s going to talk about this as
long as he can. He did that with everything else. And then at some point
he`ll start investigating Mickey Mouse or, you know, Tweety bird or
somebody up here.

The point is that these are not real hearings. And I don`t mind him doing
it. If he would say, look, we want to go out in the country and try to
find some people who can tell us things they don`t like about the
affordable care act. And then I want you to listen to me tell you some
things that I don`t like.

Because, I mean, what is the point? I mean, what is he trying to do? Is
he trying to help the president or is he trying to do damage, is he trying
to discourage people? And I think it`s the latter. They want to
discourage people, get people not to sign up so then they can jump on the
bandwagon that people are not interested.

SHARPTON: You know, Richard, the only Democratic congressman at the Texas
hearing talked about the real scandal with the health care law. Listen to
this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MARC VEASEY (D), TEXAS: I hope that we can talk about a much more
significant problem and that is why our Governor Rick Perry is refusing to
expand the state`s Medicaid program. And why he is doing that, I can only
imagine that it`s for purely political reasons.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, Governor Perry is refusing the Medicaid expansion for
purely political purposes and it`s hurting the real people on the ground.
It`s denying insurance to more than a million Texans. And nationwide
Republicans are denying insurance to 4.8 million Americans, Richard. How
can you take a health care hearing in Texas seriously when they don`t
address that issue?

WOLFFE: Remember, these are Republicans who in theory worry about the cost
of this kind of thing. Uninsured Americans put a greater cost burden on
the rest of us because they don`t go untreated. They put a burden on every
single hospital. There are many big hospital companies in the Texas area
donating to Republicans who need to be putting pressure and saying not only
is this the right thing to do, generally, but it`s actually is the right
thing economically for the Texas health care system.

SHARPTON: Let`s hold it right there.

Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Richard Wolffe, thank you both for your
time tonight.

WOLFFE: Thank you, Reverend.

CLEAVER: Good to be with you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, they obstruct, they block, and they threaten. But
today some big progress. Why now is the time to keep fighting for
fairness.

And too rich to jail? Overwhelming response to a drunk teen using the
affluenza defense to get away with killing four and paralyzing one. A
victim`s brother wants justice. He joins me live tonight.

Plus, did Chris Christie shut down part of the George Washington Bridge for
political payback? He was laughing about it two weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones, actually.
Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: That guy with the cone, he`s laughing now. People are resigning
and serious questions are emerging.

And what is President Obama getting for Christmas? The first lady spilled
the beans. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: That music means one thing. The revise are coming. What was
the best political move of the year? The defining political moment of
2013?

And who will bring home the distinguished blueberry pie lifetime
achievement award? We want to hear from you. We`re opening up the
nomination process to you. Head to our facebook page and tell us which
political stories and people made the biggest impact on 2013. We can`t
wait to hear what you have to say.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: If you don`t give in, you just might win. It`s been years of
Republican obstruction, brinkmanship, blocking, threats. But today we`re
seeing real progress. For months, they refused to confirm Jeh Johnson to
lead the department of homeland security. One Republican called him a
political hack.

But last night Senate Democrats got it done. They`ve also now confirmed
two of the president`s nominees to the critical D.C. court of appeals
circuit court of appeals. And the third confirmation is expected within
days.

Over a dozen nominees have been confirmed since last week. It wasn`t easy,
but Democrats like Senator Harry Reid and President Obama kept pushing.
It`s the same story on the budget deal which today took a step closer to
passing. Is it perfect? No. But it avoids a shutdown. And rolls back
devastating sequester cuts.

There are major fights ahead though. In just 11 days, over a million
people will lose unemployment benefits unless Congress acts. Now is the t
to keep fighting. Because, remember, if you don`t give in, you just might
win.

Joining me now is MSNBC contributor Goldie Taylor and Susan Milligan.

Thank you both for being here tonight.

GOLDIE TAYLOR, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thank you.

SUSAN MILLIGAN, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT: hanks for having me, Rev.

SHARPTON: Susan, how significant is it that we`re finally seeing nominees
like Jeh Johnson get confirmed?

MILLIGAN: I think it`s very significant because the filibuster had become
so abused that it was no longer a protection for the minority. It ended up
being minority rule. And you know, with preventing the president from just
administering his government and from enforcing laws that the Republicans
didn`t like and look, they`re unhappy. They`re very unhappy with this
whole, you know, row of nominees that are being pushed through. But I
think that will slow down when they get through the backlog and maybe some
of the resentment will diminish a little bit. But it`s very important.

SHARPTON: Now Goldie, let`s not forget that they had to go nuclear to get
this done. Senate Democrats literally had to change the rules on blocking
presidential nominations.

Look what they did. In all of U.S. history under all previous presidents,
a total of 86 presidential nominees have been filibustered. In all of the
preceding presidents. But during the past five years, Republicans have
blocked 82 of President Obama`s nominees, almost as much as all the other
presidents combined. The only way to break that gridlock, they had to go
nuclear. Goldie.

TAYLOR: This was the best possible fallout that could have happened.
We`re seeing government work again. We`re seeing people being confirmed to
positions where there`s actually some accountability and they`re being a
lead of certain agencies.

You know, the D.C. circuit is, you know, arguably the most important
appeals circuit that we have in this country. Major, major cases comes
through that circuit. And so, the idea that we could not confirm people to
that bench was simply a farce.

And so, the very notion that we had to change the rules in order to keep a
party from abusing the rules, you know, I think is very unfortunate. But
it had to happen and we`re seeing the results of that happen now.

SHARPTON: Now, Susan, when you look at the president`s agenda next year,
items include extending long-term jobless benefits, raising the federal
minimum wage hike, preventing the massive Republican food stamp cuts, and
pushing through immigration reform including a pathway to citizenship.

Now, on these key issues, Americans are with the president. Fifty-seven
percent say increase in equality is bad, 69 percent support an increase in
the federal minimum wage, 63 percent support a pathway to citizenship.

Next year is a midterm election. We`re beginning to see some split in the
Republican Party. We`re beginning to see maybe a civil war in the
Republicans between the moderates and these extremists. Will this lead to
more progress for the president`s agenda, Susan?

MILLIGAN: It may. I mean, keep in mind that there was also overwhelming
public support for background checks for gun purchases and that didn`t pass
either. But I do think the progressives on the hill are becoming a bit
more emboldened. And they sort of retreated for awhile, I mean, especially
after the 2010 elections. And I think they were kind of, you know, not
pushing some of these issues that they didn`t think they`d have the chance
of passing.

And look, you can make a conservative argument for raising the minimum
wage, absolutely, because it basically ends up being a federal taxpayer
subsidy to corporations that don`t pay people well enough and they end up
being on Medicaid. They end up being on (INAUDIBLE) benefits and so forth.
So, you can actually make a conservative argument for raising the minimum
wage as well. I think it will still be tough, but I think there`s more of
a possibility for that now than there has been.

SHARPTON: But Goldie, in 11 days, just 11 days from now, unemployment
benefits will run out for over a million Americans, o mean. Listen to
their voices.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: The former reading tutor says if he doesn`t
find anything, he`ll have to sell his belongings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got a huge book collection. And then I don`t know
what to think.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you ready to see me on the street begging for
food, you know? I`m not ready to. I can be a very contributing member of
society.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where are we at? I understand they have to reconcile
the budget in Washington, but in the process of hurting people who through
no fault of their own lost their jobs is ridiculous.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: These are not takers. These are American citizens that need to
continued assistance to try and find gainful employment, Goldie.

TAYLOR: Absolutely. And we`re not talking about a lot of money per
person. Here in Georgia the unemployment compensation for someone who has
earned this benefit is somewhere between $100 and $300 a week, depend on
how much money you earned. But the maximum is $330 a week for someone
who`s likely earned six figures in their prior life. And so losing a job,
you know, and relying on unemployment benefits is not like eating off a
calf. It really means that you`ve got to tighten your belt and you got to
get out there and look for a brand new job.

And so, people aren`t leaning on this. This is stuff that they need to
survive, cope, and make it. This is a very notion that 11 days from now,
we are going to see millions of people across this country lose their
unemployment benefits if we don`t have a congressional fix is absolutely
outrageous.

I`m glad that we`ve got this deal for processed reasons. I think it opens
up the way for many more things to happen, you know. But we can`t count on
the Republican Party to do things that are in line with public policy. As
my colleague said, you know, we certainly didn`t pass any new gun control
legislation even though, you know, the vast majority of Americans approved
of background checks, approved of limiting high capacity magazines. And
so, we`re seeing the same kind of public polls happen and Republicans not
responding. I`m not sure they`re going to respond after the coming year
either.

SHARPTON: Susan, the last big item that may be on the president`s agenda
is immigration reform. Your prediction, will he get that through?

MILLIGAN: I really don`t know. I`d say people are -- they`re not
confident, but they`re a little more hopeful than they were. In part
because Patty Murray and Paul Ryan did this deal on the budget that no
one`s happy with. But, I mean, it kind of reminded people of what
legislating is supposed to be like where you pass something that there`s
something in it for everybody to hate.

Now, the difference with the budget is there is also something in it for
everybody to love. And now, they don`t have enough money to pass around
for that to be case. But what`s going to push immigration reform is not
even this sort of new comedy on the hill. It`s the political pressure from
an electorate that`s increasingly Latino. And the Republicans if they go
into the 2016 election looking like the anti-immigrant party, they`re not
going to win.

SHARPTON: Well, it`s a hot one. We`ll sure be all over it covering it.

Goldie Taylor, Susan Milligan, thank you both for being here tonight.

MILLIGAN: Thank you.

TAYLOR: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Coming up, it`s the tragedy in Texas that has the whole nation
talking. A rich teen gets off after killing four and paralyzing one.
Drunk driving. A victim`s brother joins me live.

And a growing political scandal for Chris Christie. Did he shut down part
of the George Washington Bridge out of spite?

And first dog sunny has been a little naughty this year. But she`s getting
a Christmas gift and no, it`s not coal. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: The growing political questions around Chris Christie and the
world`s busiest bridge. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: What started out as a local traffic jam has turned into a
political scandal for New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie. New
Jersey Democrats are accusing the governor`s cronies of closing part of the
busiest bridge in the world. As political payback against the mayor of one
end of the bridge.

This summer, the democratic mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey refused to
endorse Christie for re-election. In September, Christie`s allies at the
agency that controls the bridge closed two to three lanes leading into the
mayor`s town supposedly as part of a traffic study. The closures created a
huge traffic jam that paralyzed the town for days. Democrats are furious.
They`ve been holding hearings on whether Christie or his allies were
abusing their authority to punish his political enemies. Christie has
denied that allegation. And two weeks ago he laughed off the story.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones, actually, on
that. Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was
in overalls and a hat. So, I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working
the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question. What
happened -- no, I haven`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Well, he`s not laughing anymore. Christie had placed two key
allies at the agency controlling the bridge. Both with six figure
salaries. Now both have resigned. On Friday, Christie said, he was
bothered by the whole thing, but he wasn`t angry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: It`s OK when I make the mistakes, you know, that I`m
responsible. When others make the mistakes, you know, it bothers me. I`m
not angry, but I`m bothered when people make mistakes that wind up
reflecting poorly on their performance. Because their performance is the
performance of this administration. It`s unfortunate for them that a
mistake got made near the end of their tenure, but you know, it`s just the
way life works sometimes. And I wouldn`t call myself angry. Being
bothered, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: A mistake got made? Really? Well, now Democrats have
subpoenaed documents to find out what if anything, Christie knew about it.
There are growing calls for Congress to investigate. And the National
Press is starting to take notice.

Joining me now is New Jersey State Assemblyman Gordon Johnson. His
district includes Fort Lee, the town affected by the bridge closures.

And Dana Milbank from "The Washington Post." Thank you both for joining
me.

DANA MILBANK, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Hi, Reverend.

GORDON JOHNSON (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Thanks for having me,
Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Assemblyman, let me go to you first. This traffic jam was a
serious problem. Police and first responders couldn`t make it to calls.
Are more investigations needed to get to the bottom of this?

JOHNSON: Absolutely. More investigations are needed. Assemblyman John
Wisniewski, the chair of the Appropriations Committee has subpoenaed people
and documents, so the Appropriations Committee can look further into
exactly what happened and what was the -- what initiated these closures of
these lanes. Why was it done? Now, we know that Chris Christie`s
political appointees was behind it. We also know that Mr. Wildstein told
the managers of the bridge and tunnels not to tell anyone. Tell no one.

SHARPTON: Who`s Mr. Wildstein? Is that one of the --

JOHNSON: That`s one of the appointees by Chris Christie, one of his
appointees.

SHARPTON: All right.

JOHNSON: Told the managers who actually run the bridge who said this was
wrong to do, this was a bad idea, this will not come out well, the exact
words. And when pressed -- when Assemblyman asked him, why did you follow
these orders if you knew it was wrong to do? Was your job -- did you fear
for your job if you had not done this act? And he hesitated for a long
time and said, yes, he feared for his job. He was concerned that if he did
not follow these orders he would be dismissed. Thirty-year veteran.

SHARPTON: A 30-year veteran.

JOHNSON: Of the port authority.

SHARPTON: Following orders from one the political allies of the Governor
Christie who is now resigned.

JOHNSON: Correct. Correct. And what came out of this -- what`s coming
out of this previous statements made is that there`s an environment there
of intimidation and fear. Brought on by political appointees of Chris
Christie.

SHARPTON: Now, Dana, Christie denied that the latest resignation was
related to the bridge scandal. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I`d made the judgment as a management position that four years
of the day-to-day management of the port authority was enough and that
someone else deserved a chance to have an opportunity to have that
experience and do that job. I really do think that circulating new
management through there is good for the organization. But it doesn`t
reflect in any way on Senator Baroni.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I mean, it seems pretty coincidental, Dana. I mean, was it
merely a coincidence that this official resigned just as this scandal was
heating up?

MILBANK: Well, Reverend, if you believe those two things are unrelated, I
have another bridge in Brooklyn that I`d like to offer for sale to you.
No, that doesn`t make much sense at all. And here`s the problem for
Governor Christie here. People don`t actually suspect that he was the guy
out there with the cones. Maybe he didn`t know about the whole thing. But
the problem for him and for his national ambitions is this fits in with
sort of the reputation he has.

Yes, being a straight talking tough guy, but also operating out of anger
and pick and being vindictive. And so this sort of fits in with that
narrative of Christie. And it`s unfortunately coming exactly at the moment
when the entire country is paying attention to him after his re-election.
And they`re getting that kind of an image of him. This is not helpful to
his career. He`s not going to be undone by the G.W. Bridge, but it`s going
to be part of the Christie narrative now.

SHARPTON: Now Assemblyman Johnson, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller who heads
a transportation committee wants a federal investigation. He said, quote,
"I`m concerned about the larger federal implications of what appears to be
political appointees abusing their power to hamper interstate commerce and
safety. It demands a comprehensive investigation." Your reaction.

JOHNSON: I concur with that. The George Washington bridge is the busiest
bridge the world. Also has one of the highest tolls, by the way, in the
United States. But it`s the busiest bridge in the world. It`s a lot of
commerce that traverses that span. A lot of working people, people trying
to get to work. Middle class people who couldn`t get to their jobs during
this shutdown because these individuals, these agents of the governor used
-- abused their authority and shut down these lanes, these access points to
the bridge.

So, a lot of middle class people suffered because of that. A lot of
commerce suffered because of that. And a lot of people in the borough of
Fort Lee who had traffic chaos for those days where first responders could
not get to calls, or cause to delay. I shouldn`t say could not get --
cause a long time to get there. But their response times had increased
because of this traffic chaos. So, an investigation is proper, yes.

SHARPTON: You know the governor. You work in Trenton, the state capital.
What`s your gut? Would these guys operate these appointees without talking
to Christie? Are these guys` guys that would do things that Christie
didn`t know and they feel he would want? I mean, where`s your gut?

JOHNSON: Yes. I can`t call that right now. And that`s why I`m glad the
Assemblyman John Wisniewski called for more information for the subpoena
and more testimony under subpoena. So, once we find that, once we hear
that, then we`ll definitely have more information and have a direction to
go. Now, do I believe Chris Christie called these individuals and told
them to do that? I don`t think so, but I don`t know. And also we have to
recognize that the GAO had released a report prior to this.

SHARPTON: Right.

JOHNSON: Had to release a report prior to this stating that there`s a lack
of transparency and the port authority of New York and New Jersey.

SHARPTON: You know, Dana. In presidential GOP 2016, presidential polls,
Christie is at 24 percent. Rand Paul 13 percent. Paul Ryan 11. Cruz 10
percent. Christie, if he continues being the front runner, he will
continue to be under intense scrutiny. Can he handle it? This is only one
of many if he maintains a presumed front runner status.

MILBANK: Well, that`s right. And this, I mean, think about it. We`re
talking about closing a couple lanes of traffic and it becomes a national
story. So, you can only imagine when it gets into issues that are
affecting the entire country. So part of this is something that Governor
Christie did not solicit in terms of that publicity. But he`s fueling it
by going on all these TV shows and granting all these interviews. So he is
asking for more publicity. It`s mostly worked to his advantage in terms of
his popularity and how he`s looking in the polls, but this is going to come
with it. There`s a whole period of building up a candidate before that
candidate gets knocked down. It`s possible that Chris Christie has just
turned that corner.

SHARPTON: All right. Well, I`m going to have to leave it there. New
Jersey State Senator Gordon Johnson and Dana Milbank. Dana, I come from
Brooklyn, so I`ll pass on that bridge offer.

MILBANK: That`s a wise decision.

SHARPTON: Thank you both for your time tonight.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Coming up, unwrap. First Lady Michelle Obama unveils her
Christmas gift for President Obama.

But first, the story that has the country talking. How can affluenza
defense set this teen free after driving drunk, killing four, and
paralyzing one? A victim`s brother wants justice. He joins me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s the Texas tragedy that has the whole nation talking. The
case of a teenager who some said was too rich to jail.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Did the crime but he won`t do any time. Tonight,
outrage builds against this 16-year-old probation sentence for killing four
people while drinking and driving.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is Ethan Couch a rich kid who got a slap on the wrist?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Prosecutors say, they have no way to seek a tougher sentence
against Ethan Couch. Even though this young man of means was able to
escape with probation for killing four. While countless others who aren`t
rich have been forced to do some heavy jail time for far less. The tragedy
unfolded on June 15th on a road near Fort Worth, Texas. Couch was driving
with a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit when his car
careened out of control and cut four lives short in an instant.

Like that of 24-year-old Breanna Mitchell. Her only crime that night, the
fact that her car had broken down. Brian Jennings, a father of three,
stopped to help her. And so did two other good Samaritans. Holly Boyles
and her daughter Shelby. All four were killed instantly leaving families
shattered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC BOYLES, LOST WIFE AND DAUGHTER: We had over 180 years of life taken.
Future life. Not 180 years lived, but 180 years of future life taken. And
two of those were my wife and daughter.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: There`s also anguish from the family of Sergio Molina. He was
once a rising soccer star, but his life was changed that night too.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DISPATCHER: Sir, how many people are injured, do you know?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: One, two, three, multiple.

DISPATCHER: Multiple?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don`t even know how many.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ma`am, I`m telling you it`s dark. There`s four or
five kids are laying in ditches in streets.

(SCREAM)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Sergio was thrown from Ethan Couch`s SUV. These days he can`t
talk, he can`t even move. These victims are why this story resonates.
They`re why this story has caused such outrage around the country. And
they`re why justice is so desperately needed.

Joining me now is the brother of Sergio Molina who was paralyzed the night
of the accident. His name is Alex Lemus. Alex, first of all, thank you
for coming to share your story.

ALEX LEMUS, BROTHER PARALYZED IN ACCIDENT: Thank you for, you know,
following up with me.

SHARPTON: You know, first of all, how is your family? How are they
handling this tragedy?

LEMUS: To tell you the truth, I mean, on a daily basis we`re just living
on a day basis. You know, looking for a better tomorrow. I mean, we`re
just getting by, to be honest.

SHARPTON: You know, when you heard the verdict that Ethan Couch would be
serving no jail time, what went through your mind, Alex?

LEMUS: I mean, where the justice in that? You know? You can say that
that`s justice, but to me that`s -- no. No, sir.

SHARPTON: You were in the court, I understand, during the trial. And what
did you make of this affluenza defense when you heard it?

LEMUS: I mean, I mean, I never heard that before. So I`m thinking you`re
so rich that you made up a word just to get you out of whatever it is that
you got yourself into.

SHARPTON: Now, what a lot of people don`t know is that people inside Ethan
Couch`s car, I`m told, actually asked him to slow down that night. Didn`t
they?

LEMUS: Yes, sir, they did. Everybody.

SHARPTON: And he wouldn`t listen?

LEMUS: No. He didn`t care.

SHARPTON: And Ethan`s lawyer has praised the decision. Let me show you
what he said. Listen to this, Alex.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SCOTT BROWN, COUCH`S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: We applaud Judge Boyd for having
the courage to issue this sentence that`s going to give Ethan Couch a
chance to develop into a productive citizen and then try to make amends for
his actions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, it gives him a chance to try and rehabilitate himself, but
in the six months since the accident, what has the medical bills been like
for your brother and your family?

LEMUS: Man, they outrageous. It`s over a million dollars, man.

SHARPTON: Over a million dollars?

LEMUS: Yes, sir, it is.

SHARPTON: What kind of guy is your brother? Give us a sense of what kind
of guy your brother is like and has been like.

LEMUS: My brother was a God given child, man. I mean, he was the one that
was I guess chosen by God himself to bring joy to anybody that came in his
presence. Whether you had a bad day, a good day, he was just -- he just
wanted to see somebody smile. No matter what.

SHARPTON: And as people around the country hear, Alex, about this story
and about your brother, what do you want people around the country to think
about and know about this case and your brother?

LEMUS: Man, I want to be addressed that everything is being put on towards
Ethan Couch, but look at the lost ones. Look at my brother. You know, my
brother has a life sentence of conviction for something that he didn`t
obviously not plan for. You know? And this child, I mean, he doesn`t even
have one day in any kind of jail or anything.

SHARPTON: Alex, thank you so much for sharing your story with us tonight.
Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. And we`re going to
stay on this. Believe me. We`ll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Yet another strike against the GOP`s favorite myth. That
there`s rampant voter fraud in America. Iowa`s Republican Secretary of
State Matt Schultz pledged to stamp out voter fraud in the Hawkeye State.
He literally pledged $150,000 to the effort. And what did he find? Almost
nothing. An 18-month investigation found a fraud rate of .00075 percent.
Sixteen whole cases of fraud. And five were already dismissed. Five
others have pled guilty. It`s getting harder and harder for Republicans to
hide behind the fraud -- the voter fraud myth. And the evidence continues
to build that restrictive voter laws are disproportionately impacting
minority voters.

A new report examines the impact of these harsh voting laws and found that,
quote, "the more that minorities and low income individuals in a state
voted, the more likely such restrictions will be proposed." And that
restrictive laws are more likely to pass when Republicans control the
governor`s house and legislature. So, yes, there is voter fraud. But it`s
coming from Republicans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Forget about phony war on Christmas. At the White House,
they`re in the midst of a very festive holiday season. President Obama`s
in the Christmas spirit. He even showed off his dance moves lighting the
national Christmas tree. And first dog Sunny was a little naughty this
year, but she`s getting a gift.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: OK. Close your ears. Close your ears.
They`re getting chew toys. Yes. Lots of the hard ones. Because they chew
their toys up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: But what`s the president getting for Christmas? First Lady
Michelle Obama has now spilled the beans.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

M. OBAMA: I might get him some workout clothes. What? That`s what he
wanted, though. He said that`s what he wanted. Don`t think -- I`m not
forcing my husband to work out. Don`t think -- there`s going to be some
let`s move joke about how I`m strapping him to the treadmill. No. He
likes to work out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: So it`s workout clothes for the president. A great gift. But I
wonder why she would think people would criticize Let`s Move. So far -- so
far, no grinchlike response from the right wing. Maybe it`s a Christmas
miracle.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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