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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, January 9th, 2014

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THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
January 9, 2014

Guests: Jonathan Dienst; Alfred Doblin


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Chris Christie kept talking and
talking and talking in his press conference today as if he didn`t want it
to be over because once the press conference ended, his political career
would end with it.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I know you guys are obsessed
with this. I`m not. It`s not that big a deal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lane closure controversy on the George Washington
Bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The George Washington Bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Controversial lane closures.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Newly obtained e-mails.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of Christie`s staff --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A top aide to Christie.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How will Chris Christie respond?

CHRISTIE: I come out here today to apologize to the people of New
Jersey.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie`s response to allegations of
political retribution surrounding the closing of the nation`s busiest
bridge.

CHRISTIE: I had no knowledge or involvement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s fired a top aide.

CHRISTIE: I`ve terminated Bridget`s employment.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s now said, well, Bridget Kelly lied to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s no evidence that he ordered the lane
closings in question.

CHRISTIE: I am stunned. I was blind sided yesterday morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A whole slew of things are suddenly in motion
here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A port authority official has been testifying
now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I respectfully assert my right to remain silent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The U.S. Commerce Committee has already launched
its own inquiry.

CHRISTIE: I had no knowledge or involvement in its plan organize its
execution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This story is going to continue for weeks and
maybe months ahead.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: Chris Christie talked and talked and talked some more
today, but he did not talk himself out of trouble, except in the eyes of
some easily fooled political pundits, and he most definitely did not save
the sinking ship that once was his presidential campaign.

Chris Christie apologized to the people of New Jersey. He did not
specifically apologize to the children who were stuck in traffic in their
school buses in Fort Lee, New Jersey, thanks to the actions of Chris
Christie`s staff -- maybe even with Chris Christie`s own approval and maybe
not.

And he did not say that he felt sorry for the children trapped in
those school buses, but he clearly does feel sorry, mostly for himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I`m sad. I`m sad. That`s the predominant emotion I feel
right now, is sadness -- sadness that I was betrayed by a member of my
staff, sadness that I had people who I entrusted with important jobs who
acted completely inappropriately. Sad that that`s led the people of New
Jersey to have less confidence in the people that I`ve selected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: To have less confidence in the people that I`ve selected?
How about less confidence in the person who selected those people who wrote
those vile e-mails to each other, explaining that there was no reason to
feel sorry for the kids on those school buses because they were not
children of Christie voters?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I am heart broken that someone who I permitted to be in
that circle of trust for the last five years betrayed my trust. I would
have never come out here four or five weeks ago and made a joke about these
lane closures if I ever had an inkling that anyone on my staff would have
been so stupid but to be involved and then so deceitful as to not disclose
the information of their involvement to me when directly asked by their
superior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Chris Christie is heart broken, but not for the children
on the school buses, not for the 91-year-old woman who was waiting if for
an ambulance that was stuck in traffic. Traffic created by Christie`s
team, maybe with Christie`s approval, and maybe not.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: This morning, I terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly
effective immediately. I terminated her employment because she lied to me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Not because of what she did to those people who were
stuck in traffic. Not because of the danger she created to the people of
New Jersey and New York whose lives can sometimes depend on how quickly
they can cross the George Washington Bridge to get to a hospital, for
example.

New Yorkers used that bridge on September 11th, 2001 to flee New York
City when it was under attack in the most desperate of circumstances. They
used that bridge. They believed to save their lives. They lied on the
George Washington bridge on 9/11 to save their lives.

Chris Christie`s trusted Bridget Kelly and her co-conspirators did
not know that there would not be another terrorist attack in New York or
New Jersey on the days that they decided to create a traffic jam on the
George Washington Bridge. They did not know that there would not be a
terrorist attack at the George Washington Bridge, which Homeland Security
officials have long believed is exactly the kind of target that terrorists
are looking for, one of America`s iconic bridges, one of the world`s iconic
bridges, and the busiest bridge in the world.

Those conspirators had no idea what emergencies might develop on or
near the bridge that emergency personnel would not be able to respond to
because of the traffic jam that they decided to create for political
reasons.

In the 24 hours Chris Christie used to think about this, before he
was capable of speaking a single public word about it, he decided to do
only two things -- took him 24 hours to decide to do only two things. One,
fire his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and two, fire his campaign
manager.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I was disturbed by the tone and behavior and attitude,
callous indifference that was displayed in the e-mails by my former
campaign manager Stepien. And reading that, it made me lose my confidence
in him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Really? Lose confidence in Bill`s confidence. That`s
all? Lose confidence?

Here is what Bill Stepien said in his email. He received an e-mail
from David Wildstein when the conspiracy was under way in September -- a
negative newspaper story came out about the traffic jam in the George
Washington Bridge, and David Wildstein, who used his position at the Port
Authority, to order the traffic slowdown himself was afraid that he might
be fired on the spot that day by Chris Christie, the day that the negative
news story about the traffic jam came out.

And Bill Stepien told Wildstein not to worry, it`s fine. The mayor
is an idiot, though. Win some, lose some.

Wildstein calmed down and replied, I had empty boxes ready to take to
work today just in case. It will be a tough November for this little
Serbian.

The little Serbian that Wildstein was referring to in his e-mail is
the mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, who you may have seen on "RACHEL MADDOW
SHOW". He`s actually of Croatian descent. Bill Stepien was clearly
involved in this conspiracy and all that did, all his clear written
involvement in those e-mails did for Chris Christie was make Chris Christie
lose confidence in his campaign manager`s judgment.

Up until now, it was Chris Christie`s judgment that Bill Stepien
should be the chairman of the Republican Party of New Jersey and also that
he should be on the payroll of the Republican Governors Association. That
was Chris Christie`s best judgment about Bill Stepien until today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I`ve instructed Bill Stepien to not place his name in
nomination for state party chairman, and he will not be considered for
state party chairman. And I`ve instructed him to withdraw his consultancy
with the Republican Governors Associations. If I cannot trust someone`s
judgment, I cannot ask others to do so.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And so now that the people of New Jersey know that they
can in the trust Chris Christie`s judgment about who to hire, what are they
to do? Now that the people of New Jersey know that they cannot trust Chris
Christie`s judgment about who he trusts, what are the people of New Jersey
to do?

Chris Christie has decided that he no longer trusts his deputy chief
of staff, Bridget Kelly, so he fired her. But he has decided -- for no
apparent reason, he`s decided that he does trust his chief of staff, Kevin
O`Dowd, and apparently he trusts him simply because Chris Christie has not
yet read an e-mail from Kevin O`Dowd that proves he`s lied to him.

If you haven`t proven on paper that you`ve lied to Chris Christie
then he believes you. But what if Kevin O`Dowd has lied to Chris Christie
verbally, leaving no electronic record of his lie? What if Kevin O`Dowd,
as Christie`s chief of staff, was completely in on the conspiracy that the
deputy chief of staff was involved in to block traffic at the George
Washington Bridge?

We now know that we cannot trust Chris Christie`s judgment about
who`s telling the truth in his office. And Chris Christie`s judgment of
his chief of staff, Kevin O`Dowd, is not just that Kevin O`Dowd is
completely innocent of any involvement in this case, but that Kevin O`Dowd
should actually now become one of the prosecutors with jurisdiction over
this case.

That`s right. Chris Christie wants to appoint Kevin O`Dowd to be the
attorney general of New Jersey. One of the smart questions Christie was
asked today was about Kevin O`Dowd.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REPORTER: Do you think this could this have an impact and should you
put on hold Kevin O`Dowd`s nomination to be attorney general since he was
chief of staff and would probably be involved in setting the tone?

CHRISTIE: Oh, absolutely not. Kevin`s confirmation will go forward
on Tuesday. And I expect, you know, he`ll be vigorously questioned, like
any candidate for attorney general should be. And I expect that he`ll get
swift and certain confirmation because he deserves it.

O`DONNELL: And so, we are about to find out, just how irresponsible
the New Jersey state senate can be. Next week if they move to confirm one
of the suspects involved in this mystery to become one of the prosecutors
in this case.

One of the big unanswered questions of the day is exactly what did
Chris Christie do yesterday. He said he did not speak to the two people he
got rid of today, Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien because he thought it
could be perceived as inappropriate interference with ongoing
investigations into those people.

He was not asked if he knows if anyone else spoke to Bridget Kelly
yesterday. Did Chris Christie meet with or talk to a private defense
attorney yesterday? One who would have attorney-client privilege with
Chris Christie as the government lawyers around him do not? Did Chris
Christie get private legal advice about how to protect himself in what is
now a criminal investigation?

Those are some of the many unasked questions today. Chris Christie
tried to portray his action against Bridget Kelly as swift.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I found this out at 8:50 yesterday morning. By 9:00 this
morning, Bridget Kelly was fired. By 7:00 yesterday evening, Bill Stepien
was asked to leave my organization. That`s pretty swift action for a day`s
work.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: What is swift about that? If he found out what Bridget
Kelly did at 8:50 yesterday morning. Why wasn`t she fired at 8:51
yesterday morning? He said today that he didn`t have to talk to Bridget
Kelly to decide to fire her. He just had to read the e-mail.

The reporters never came close to getting the full story out of the
Christie about what he had actually been doing for the last mysterious 24
hours, except -- except feeling sorry for himself.

In the press conference, Chris Christie did something that he would
tell you is a classic indicator that a witness is not telling the truth.
He changed his story. But reporters didn`t seem to notice. Here is
version one.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I brought my senior staff together I think about four
weeks ago tomorrow and I put to all of them one simple challenge. If there
is any information that you know is about the decision to close these lanes
in Fort Lee, you have one hour to tell either my chief of star Kevin O`Dowd
or my chief council Charlie McKenna.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That was Christie speaking during his carefully prepared
opening statement -- a statement in which he very specifically says that he
did not ask his staff to tell him if they had any information. He gave
them one big hour to tell his chief of staff or his chief council.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Over the course of the next hour, Kevin and Charlie
interviewed each member of my senior staff, came back and reported to me,
that they all reported that there was no information other than what we
already knew that had been testified to by Senator Baroni regarding this
incident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Got that?

OK, here`s version two.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Four weeks ago and when I had them all in that office and
said if any of you have this information about this that I don`t know, you
need to tell me, Kevin or Charlie now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: See that? Christie forgot his script there. Now,
there`s three people you have to tell.

This is the time, this bit about you have one hour to tell Kevin or
Charlie became you need to tell me, Kevin or Charlie now. Not in one hour.

Only one of those versions can be true. And there are important
differences between the two. Did Chris Christie really sit in that room
and look into the eyes of Bridget Kelly and say to her and everyone else in
that room, look into their eyes and say if any of you have any information
about this that I don`t know, you need to tell me now.

The second time he told that story, that`s how he told it. And that
is, of course, what Chris Christie should have done with every person on
his senior staff. And he should have closed in on them one-on-one and used
his own judgment as a former prosecutor, his own judgment as an evaluator
of truth to try to get that truth out of his staff one-on-one, eye to eye.

And he sounds like he did it in the second version. He pretends he
did it in the second version. In the first version he doesn`t say he did
that at all. But it sounds like the way to do it, right?

Even Chris Christie thinks it`s a good idea to do that. Now --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I have and will continue to, started yesterday, to once
again now have personal one-on-one discussions myself with the remaining
members of my senior staff to determine in if there`s any other information
that I do not know and need to know in order to take appropriate action.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: So Chris Christie is doing now, now what he should have
done at least four weeks ago, maybe months ago. Chris Christie is only now
today trying to find out what his staff knew and when they knew it.

And he`s doing that after admitting today that he is a terrible judge
of character. That his judgment about who on his staff is telling him the
truth and had been horribly wrong and that he is now trying to use that
dysfunctional judgment about who the truth tellers are and who liars are
while he himself is wallowing in self-pity about his presidential campaign
being trapped in a traffic jam.

Coming up, what just happened to Chris Christie`s presidential
campaign? Steve Schmidt and David Corn will join me next.

And then "The Rewrite" tonight, Christie`s talk till they drop press
conference followed the model offered in an episode of "The West Wing" that
I wrote. Such a press conference required a press corps unskilled at
asking prosecutorial questions and a politician willing to talk at length
about irrelevant things like, say, maybe his feelings.

Today, everything went according to the script.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Republicans who want to run for president are already
being asked about Chris Christie.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: Who emailed who and who works for
whom. And I`ve been in traffic before that. I know how angry I am when
I`m in traffic and I`m always wondering, who did this to me?

REPORTER: Do you think it says something about his leadership style
that he didn`t know?

PAUL: Yes (INAUDIBLE).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Next on Chris Christie`s political future if he has one.

And later, an editor of the newspaper that broke the story of the
smoking gun e-mails.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I am enormously flattered that folks would talk about me
in I my party as someone who they think could be a candidate for president.
But I am absolutely in nowhere near beginning that consideration process.
I haven`t even been sworn in for my second term yet.

I`ve got work to do here and that`s my focus. My focus is on the
people of New Jersey and the job that they gave me. And so, all those
considerations are, you know, the kind of hysteria that goes around this,
because everybody is -- in that world gets preoccupied with that job. I am
not preoccupied with that job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is Steve Schmidt, a senior adviser to the
McCain `08 campaign and an MSNBC political analyst, and David Corn,
Washington bureau chief for "Mother Jones" and MSNBC political analyst.

David, is Chris Christie really, truly no longer preoccupied with the
presidency because today he realizes he cannot win it?

DAVID CORN, MOTHER JONES: I think he might be a little less
preoccupied because he has other things more pressing at the moment. I
mean, the interesting thing here, we don`t know how this will turn out. If
no new information comes out after what we have today, I think he has a
chance of putting this behind him. But I think that`s a big if.

But the script was, and Steve can tell me if I have this right here,
is after winning this major re-election victory last November Chris
Christie -- well, you know, still being governor 9:00 to 5:00 some days was
moving on to the national stage. He was taking over the Republican
Governors Association, he`d been campaigning for candidates throughout 2014
and just really getting a larger, wider profile on the national stage to,
you know, run for president.

But yet because of this, he`s pulled back in to the swamp of New
Jersey politics and possible scandal. So, he can`t really sort of get that
launch that the last election was supposed to give him on to the national
stage. He`s going to have to deal a lot with what`s going on in New Jersey
and what`s going on with these investigations knocking at his backdoor.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something Chris Christie said today about
his management style.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: There`s this kind of reputation out there of me being a
micromanager. I`m not. I think if you talk to my staff what they would
tell you is that I delegate enormous authority to my staff, and enormous
authority to my cabinet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: "I delegate enormous authority to my staff."

Steve, that`s exactly what Republican audiences want to hear and
Republican presidential primary debates, isn`t it?

STEVE SCHMIDT, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No, look, I think as the
news conference went on and he was extemporizing, he opened himself up to
some trouble.

Look, though, I do agree with David, if, in fact, there is no new
information, if, in fact, Chris Christie was not involved, and I take him
for his word at it, that he had no knowledge of these e-mails before this
morning, he took responsibility, he apologized. He held people who were
close to him accountable -- which is something very much missing from the
political calculus when we see these scandals unfold in Washington, D.C.,
and I don`t think it will derail his presidential ambitions.

I think, Lawrence, that presidential candidates often have nine lives
over the course of the process. He certainly has used up a number of them.
He`s made his path more difficult, or his deputy chief of staff has made
his path more difficult.

This was an outrageous abuse of power. It`s something he`ll be
dealing with for some time.

And lastly, and I think it`s an important point, this whole question
of whether Chris Christie is a bully or not, this is now something, if he
loses it in New Hampshire or in Iowa, where people are going to have a
predisposition to believe that, in fact, he is, as opposed to being a tough
fighter for the people`s interests, and that`s a problem for him.

So, he`s starting out at the beginning of his second term in a bit of
a hole here. He has some work to do. But if there`s no new information,
if he was entirely candid -- and I believe he was candid today, and I
certainly hope that I`m right about that -- that I think he survives this.
If he wasn`t then his political career is over.

O`DONNELL: Steve, I don`t think -- I`m going to bet you`re not
proven right about him being candid today. I understand your willingness
to take his word for it. I don`t think anyone else around here does.

David Corn, you have to believe, if you want to follow Chris
Christie`s story and if you want to look at this thing as something that
he`s going to -- that`s going to get behind him, you have to believe that
his deputy chief of staff is absolutely as high as this story goes. It
does not go one office higher than her -- that, I find, impossible to
believe.

CORN: I think Steve is being very generous tonight. I don`t
begrudge him that graciousness.

But I still -- you know, I do think it`s very unusual in a situation
like this to find somebody, not just one person. You know, she called
someone -- or e-mailed someone at the Port Authority who knew exactly what
she was talking about -- time to get on this traffic thing in Fort Lee. He
said, "Got it."

He didn`t say what the heck you were talking about. And then there
was a whole attempt at a cover-up, you know, with this traffic study
stonewall.

And, you know, Chris Christie, this former federal prosecutor seemed
to ask no real questions about that. That, you know, that cover-up was
blown out of the water inside of 12 hours. And yet, you know, Chris
Christie wasn`t saying, hey, come in my office, you guys aren`t telling the
truth. I want to get to the bottom of this.

But one other point besides this, I think with the story shows that
Chris Christie can be vulnerable on other fronts now. There`s a lot that
goes on in state politic the, particularly New Jersey state politic, but
Chris Christie has been able to sort of rise above that. And now, anything
that comes up it`s going to get a lot of -- you know, a lot of scrutiny
that he may have trouble with.

O`DONNELL: Steve, there are a lot of things in this press conference
today that you could cut 30 second ads on, or certainly talking points for
debates. The idea that Christie says I delegate all this stuff to my
staff, and then Christie admitting that his judgment about who he hires is
actually quite terrible.

And his own judgment about when his staff that he`s delegated
everything to is telling him the truth or lying to him is also equally
terrible. There`s a lot of very bad admissions for an executive in that
press conference, don`t you think?

SCHMIDT: Look, there`s no question that if he is a candidate for
president, that this will be an issue that he deals with through the entire
duration of the Republican primary process, if he becomes the nominee, on
into the general election.

And the other thing that will happen as a result of this, Lawrence,
is that every instance of his staff being heavy-handed with anyone, whether
it`s with other governors, whether it`s been with members of the New Jersey
legislature, with government agencies, every instance is going to now
become public. And so, the narrative here will begin to turn and the
speculation will begin to focus on the extent of the culture problem around
Chris Christie with the people that he has given enormous authority to and
that he`s delegated enormous trust to. So now how he managers to deal with
that aspect of the story I think is a chapter unwritten, but it`s certainly
not over yet.

O`DONNELL: Go ahead, David. Quickly.

CORN: He`s on very thin ice now. I mean, he may skate by, if nothing
comes by on this, but I think Steve is right. It`s not just, you know,
people looking for, you know, other examples. I think the New Jersey
media, which has been pretty easy on him, is now going to be looking at
other episodes. So he really, you know, can`t afford one more factoid
about this case, about any other example that`s similar to this.

O`DONNELL: Listen, Bridget Kelly can destroy the guy`s career with three
words -- the governor knew. That`s all she has to say.

Steve Schmidt and David Corn, thank you both for joining us tonight.

CORN: Sure thing. Thank you.

SCHMIDT: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, what next in the investigation? And what crimes may
have been committed? And in "the rewrite" what Christie was trying to do
in his talk until they drop press conference today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: In the spotlight tonight, the Christie gang takes the fifth.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. You may be seated.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you currently employed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And most recently, were you employed?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully assert my
right to remain silent under the New Jersey and United States constitution.

ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI, NEW JERSEY: Who in the governor`s office knew
about the plan to close the lanes or divert the lanes? Who was involved?
What did they know? When did they know it? And just as equally, who was
involved, what did they know, when did they know it, when the effort was
made to craft an explanation.

ALAN ZEGAS, DAVID WILDSTEIN`S ATTORNEY: If the attorney generals general
for New Jersey, New York and the United States were all to agree to grant
Mr. Wildstein with immunity, I think you would find yourself in a far
different position with respect to information he could provide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: If you were to get a subpoena for whatever
reason, what would you do?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I`m not going to speculate on that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now is attorney Ari Melber who is also the co-host
of MNSBC`s "the Cycle" and Jonathan Dienst, the chief investigative
reporter for WNBC New York.

There`s a lot of buzz among national pundits today, Jonathan, about, well,
you know, there`s no real crime here. I mean, it`s just a traffic thing.
In fact, you`ve looked into some statutes, its federal statute controlling
interstate highways and so forth. It seems there is possible criminal
liability in this situation.

JONATHAN DIENST, CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORT, WNBC NEW YORK: Very early to
tell. A lot of federal officials who we spoke with and defense lawyers
that practice in the federal bar here in New York say it`s a bit of a
stretch but there are some statutes they`re looking at. One, 18 U.S. 1952
using an interstate facility to carry out unlawful activity. They need to
look at more. But they say that`s one possibility.

More likely they say just given on the facts they know now, possible
federal civil charges for the cost and expenses in all of this. And pass
it on to a state level for prosecution because there you have tougher laws
about official misconduct and also conspiracy to disrupt, harass, menace.
So that there are state penalties.

But this is very early on. We do know that the U.S. attorney in New Jersey
is taking this very seriously. They put out a statement today. The FBI in
New Jersey, we also have the U.S. attorney`s office in New York and the FBI
in New York. Remember, the port authorities of New York and New Jersey,
their offices here in New York. There could have been -- the George
Washington Bridge crosses both states. So there is some question about
right now, New Jersey has the lead. But certainly several places, very
interested in taking a very hard look at what went on here.

O`DONNELL: You talk about interstate commerce. The George Washington
Bridge is an interstate roadway. That bridge is interstate.

And Ari, it`s very clear in those e-mails that the Christie gang had no
idea that they were interfering with interstate commerce or anything that
could possibly involve the FBI`s interest.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Well, I think what they thought is that
they were on closed circuit and to the degree that anyone in New Jersey was
going to look into it, it was going to be their buddies. An important
thing that Governor Christie failed to do today was address the fact that
he has put his chief of staff up for attorney general of the state of New
Jersey. He was speaking of some of this in your opening about the fact
that he`s only tuned into this when it affected him personally and said now
he`s angry. Well, the problems that affected his state have been around
for some time.

Now, when you look to the legal issues here, I think the clearest ones, the
clearest cases to be made are probably on state law, which we know will be
enforced by folks that are potentially closer to him. But if there is any
obstruction of justice issues at any point with the investigations that are
already ongoing in the state, if there were any issues around
documentation, changing documents, backdating anything for the traffic
study or plans to do that. You could get into forgery charge, official
misconduct. And this would be a more stretch, but if there`s an abuse of
government resources. There`s a lot to look at.

Lastly on the federal piece, if you do get a full blown federal
investigation, you can ask scooter Libby and a lot of other people who have
been targets how that works often after the fact, even misleading a federal
officer gets you a very serious charge.

O`DONNELL: And look, we saw the first member of the Christie operation go
under oath today and the first thing he does is take the Fifth Amendment.
There are obviously going to be many more invitations for under oath
testimonies otherwise known as subpoenas thrown at all of these people and
we may see many more invocations of the fifth amendment, or possibly even
scarier for Christie, someone actually does get immunity like this guy was
publicly begging for it today and starts telling them everything.

DIENST: That`s another question. Will somebody turn and have information
that perhaps points higher up. This is classic how federal prosecutors in
the FBI operates. They start with the lore fish and try to work their way
up.

But again, Chris Christie and the top staff say look, we did not know that
this was happening and we were lied to by members of our own staff. What I
just can`t understand tonight is, we keep hearing this traffic study that
became a vendetta or vendetta that became a traffic study. How is it
something that happened back in September, we still don`t know whether
there was a legitimate traffic study under way and the nature about it?
That I find --

O`DONNELL: I think we know.

MELBER: And I think to echo that, look, Chris Christie is nothing if not a
very raw, emotional speaker, Lawrence and he was doing that. But you know
when he didn`t sound emotional? In the point you just cited. He sounded
to me to my ears very lawyerly whenever the traffic study kept up. And he
kept up this line he clearly rehearsed about whether it was a study that
grew into a vendetta or vice versa.

That is very weird when we have public evidence e-mails showing it was a
legitimate study. It was designed for payback. That`s already known. And
it raises the question, and he is going to have a lot of questions to
answer, raise the question whether Chris Christie knows something else
about more materials out there about this traffic study because he didn`t
sound normal. He didn`t sound credible at all on that.

DIENST: Except the mayor of Fort Lee forgave him and says he believes him.

O`DONNELL: Forgave him, publicly after his first request being please,
don`t ever do this again to Fort Lee.

Jonathan Dienst and Ari Melber, thank you both very much for joining me
tonight.

Coming up, Governor Christie`s talk till their drop game plan that he used
in today`s press conference has been used by other politicians before him,
including at least one fictional politician. That`s in "the Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The talk until they drop press conference is only used by
politicians in big trouble. Trouble that they think they can talk their
way out of. I actually wrote a fictional version of such a press
conference that many of you reminded me of on twitter today. You`ll see a
bit of that on "the Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the most important issue facing this country in
this campaign. Now who said what in nuclear power 25 years ago. Or did
one of us use too strong a word in a debate. The real decision the
American people are going to have to make is, who do they want as their
next commander-in-chief? All right, next question. Anyone? Ellen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nope. Thank you. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Damn this guy is good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Son of a bitch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The great Ron Silver. We all miss him.

In "the Rewrite" tonight, the talk until they drop press conference. The
first time I saw this done, it was performed by Geraldine Ferraro when she
was running for vice president and her husband`s business dealings came
into serious question. She took questions about that for nearly two hours.
David (INAUDIBLE) used the Ferraro model when facing a tax scandal as
candidate for mayor of New York. He told reporters of the old set quote "
I`m here to answer every question."

The idea is to take it all the way to the point where the reporters have no
more questions. They actually get bored. Talk until the reporters drop.
That was clearly Chris Christie`s strategy today and it worked. Some
reporters did get bored and made the mistake of publicly admitting that on
twitter.

There wasn`t one boring second of that press conference today if you were
listening to every word. If you were catching the spots where Christie
changed his story, and if you were desperately waiting for important
unasked questions to be asked. Some of which were never asked.

As I mentioned earlier, the strategy of doing a talk until they drop press
conference relies on reporters asking relatively easy questions, and it
relies on reporters getting easily bored. And the political media has
demonstrated over and over again that they are entirely reliable on both of
those points as most of them were today. Reporters are terrible
prosecutors. Reporters ask politicians how they feel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: As I said earlier, I think in the answer to your question, you
know, I don`t know what the stages of grief in exact order, but I know
anger gets there at some point. I sure isle have that too. But the fact
is right now I`m sad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Prosecutors never ask witnesses how they feel. They ask them
what they did. They ask them exactly who they talked to. They ask them
exactly what they said. Prosecutors confront witnesses with their own
inconsistent statements. But reporters in press conferences cannot easily
do that.

Today, Christie said this --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: Of course, we`ll work cooperatively with the investigations.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And then over an hour later, he was allowed to say this without
objection from any reporter.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE REPORTER: If were you to get a subpoena for whatever
reason, what would you do?

CHRISTIE: I`m not going to speculate on that. Next.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: If Christie does not comply with any and every subpoena in this
case, he is not cooperating with investigator. He`s not trying to help
them find the truth. Christie`s answer to if you get a subpoena what would
you do should be, of course, I will cooperate with all investigators in
every way including complying with any and all subpoenas.

That`s what his answer should have been. But he got away with refusing to
answer that very important question because it came toward the end of a
talk until they drop press conference. And reporters were already tweeting
about how bored they were. And about how much they wanted this to be over
and how they didn`t think there were any more good questions to ask. Just
because they couldn`t think of any.

And the bored ones, and most of the non-bored ones apparently had no idea
how important that answer was. The talk until they drop press conference
works not so much because the politicians answers are true and complete and
satisfied, but mostly because the press can always be counted on to
eventually drop. They can be counted on to get bored. They can be counted
on to add to their own boredom by asking irrelevant questions about
feelings.

And so Chris Christie managed to talk his way past his inquisitors today,
but the questions will keep coming and he will never, never talk his way
out of trouble on this one.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: And editor if the newspaper that revealed the smoking guns in
the scandal that could end Chris Christie`s political career will join me
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I am who I am. But I am not a bully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, Alfred Doblin, the editorial page editor of the
Bergen "Record," the paper that first broke the Chris Christie bridge
story.

And you revealed that your paper revealed the smoking guns of these e-
mails. I want to read something that you wrote last month.

There is no bridge gate. Christie will not be harmed by this nationally.
In your op-ed for tomorrow`s papers, you say I have been slow on the
uptake, refusing to believe the governor`s office would involve themselves
in something so petty and downright stupid. I was wrong but my portion was
small compared to Christie`s.

Did you know or do you know people in the governor`s office and it was on
the basis of knowing them that made you think they wouldn`t get involved on
this?

ALFRED DOBLIN, EDITOR, THE RECORD: Well, I deal with the governor on a
pretty regular basis. So, I think I have a sense of who the governor is
based on my own back and forth with him. I mean, we`ve argued and we`ve
agreed.

O`DONNELL: As is common for people in your position.

DOBLIN: Yes. And I think I get a different kind of interaction with a
governor that a reporter in a news conference. When you see an editorial
page editor, there`s no logical reason for what happened with the bridge.
I mean, in any level, even if you want to be nasty, vindictive, shutting
down a bridge is not going to tick off people against the mayor of the
town. It`s going to take off people against whoever controls the bridge.
And if the governor of New Jersey and the governor of New York control the
bridge, I don`t think, you know, there`s any logic into it.

So I think you have to first take that leap of faith and say that there`s
any reasoning in what went on because there was none.

O`DONNELL: Let`s go to this situation with Kevin O`Dowd (ph) which I find
extraordinary. There was exactly one body separating Governor Christie
from the deputy chief of staff, Ms. Kelly and that is Kevin O`Dowd (ph),
the chief of staff who the governor wants to become the attorney general of
New Jersey by appointment.

Is it conceivable that the Democrats in the Senate and New Jersey will say
yes, let`s take this guy O`Dowd from suspect status in the middle of this
mystery and make him one of the prosecutors with jurisdiction over this
case.

DOBLIN: I don`t know if he is a suspect at the moment. But there is -- I
think there is two values because I think O`Dowd is someone you can be OK,
person above Kelly. But I think Stepien`s relationship is important here.

O`DONNELL: Campaign manager outside the formal --.

DOBLIN: Campaign manager and supposedly, you know, they had, they were
very close in terms of, you know, mentor, relationships. So it is
conceivable if you want to --

O`DONNELL: Stepien was close with Ms. Kelly?

DOBLIN: I believe that`s one of the reasons why she was promoted up is
that they, you know, he trusted her. So, I don`t know of that relationship
with Kelly. I don`t know how that works. The there are three deputy
chiefs of staff and I don`t know how close these three are with O`Dowd.

I think he`s going to have hard, hard questions. I would assume that the
folks in the Senate, Democrats in particular have a sense of who he is
before this and everything is up for grabs. I wouldn`t say that it`s
impossible for him to get confirmed. I think he`s going to have a really
bad day in training.

O`DONNELL: Only in New Jersey. This amazing set of characters and
intersections.

The governor today, was this what you expected to see from him today?

DOBLIN: Sort of. I mean, we called in our editorial today, you know, we
wanted Kelly fired by this morning which wasn`t quite what we got. We
wanted Stepien gone. So I think that was clear. I think the apology was
good going to Fort Lee was good. But I mean, all of those things, if you
were scripting it, that`s what you would tell somebody to do.

We were a little upset that he didn`t confront Kelly. I mean, we think -

(CROSSTALK)

DOBLIN: He is a former prosecutor. We would want to hear that this guy
had a really unpleasant conversation with her, and we did not get that. So
we wanted that.

O`DONNELL: And the thing is, to Kelly, who told you to do this? That`s
question one. He did not ask it. We`re out of time, sorry. Alfred
Doblin, editorial page editor of the Bergen Record, thank you very much for
joining us.

DOBLIN: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.

END

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