January 10, 2014
Guests: John Wisniewski; Sal Rizzo; Gordon Johnson, Jess Macintosh, Joe Madison, Nicholas Scutari, Barbara Buono
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: Good evening, Ed, and thanks to you
for tuning in.
Tonight`s lead, did Governor Christie know? Today, several thousand pages
of new documents were released in the investigation of the New Jersey
bridge scandal. One of the most striking new developments and biggest
revelations came from David Wildstein, the former Christie appointee who
refused to testify at a hearing yesterday. The leading investigator says
documents from Wildstein refer to a meeting between Governor Christie and
David Sampson, the chairman of the port authority, the agency in charge of
The meeting took place just one week, just one week before Christie`s
deputy chief of staff e-mailed quote "time for some traffic problems in
Fort Lee." The investigator says, quote, "by submitting these documents,
Mr. Wildstein is telling us they are related to their -- to the lane
closures in some way."
The question that demands answering is how. That`s a very provocative
question. Was the Christie meeting somehow related to the lane closures?
We`re going to speak to the assemblyman, asking that question in a moment.
Also in these documents, we catch a glimpse of a fevered effort behind the
scenes to keep this story quiet. When the lanes of traffic were reopened,
a top Christie appointee, who has since resigned said, quote, "there can be
no public discourse. And on October 1st, two weeks after the lanes
reopened, reporters started asking more questions.
In this e-mail, David Wildstein learned the reporter was, quote,
"questioning our prior statement on this issue that said the toll lanes
were closed because of a test when he has a copy of an e-mail that says
otherwise." And Wildstein forwarded that e-mail to Michael Drewniak,
Governor Christie`s spokesman.
So the governor`s office knew there was concern of the fallout. And other
e-mails today also show that agency knew how real people were being
affected. One woman called the agency saying it was clear they didn`t,
quote, "care about their customers, and that they were playing god with
Her husband was 40 minutes late to a job that he just got after being out
of work for over a year. Another amazing day of developments, and new
scrutiny on whether Governor Christie knew of the lane closures.
Joining me now, New Jersey Democratic Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who is
the leading investigation chair in the assembly into this bridge scandal,
and MSNBC contributor E.J. Dionne.
Thank you both for being here.
E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to be here, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Assemblyman, let me go to you first.
I want to go right to the chase. The documents show many people were
involved. We were told yesterday by the governor it was only a few, but
there is all kinds of names and documents now. It shows a lot of people.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: There are a lot of people
involved. And one of the things we hoped to get yesterday from David
Wildstein was an explanation about that August 5th communication about a
meeting between the governor and David Sampson. We wanted to know about
the involvement of Michael Drewniak and other people in the governor`s
Obviously, you saw, we were denied that opportunity because Mr. Wildstein
pleaded the Fifth Amendment, because he is afraid of criminal prosecution
in this event. But what that really shows is a very serious breach of
public trust here, and that can`t be forgiven.
SHARPTON: Now the meeting that you`re referring to took place before the
week before the closures. And for whatever reason, they included that in
the documents they handed over to you.
SHARPTON: And the document subpoena was on things relating to the closing.
So in effect they`re saying that somehow this meeting related to the
WISNIEWSKI: Right. We don`t know if the meeting happened, but we do know
that they were scheduling a meeting between Dave Sampson and the governor.
We do know that it was provided in response to this question, provide us
the e-mails that have anything to relate with the lane closure. And so the
question that is needing to be answered, is what was that meeting about?
Who else was at that meeting? And what was the outcome of that meeting?
SHARPTON: Now, I said that you had the investigation in the assembly, but
your power of subpoena runs out on this coming week.
WISNIEWSKI: January 14th when the current legislature expires and we get
sworn in for a new term.
SHARPTON: Will you be put in the position where that is extended? Will
they extend so that you and the committee can continue this investigation?
WISNIEWSKI: I`m asking assembly speaker, incoming assembly speaker Prieto
(ph) to grant that authority by allowing a resolution to be voted oven on
January 14th that would allow the committee to continue uninterrupted its
work there is a lot of stuff we still need to look at. Any interruption in
what we do is going to require us to really go back a few steps instead of
moving forward to a conclusion.
SHARPTON: So you`re asking the new speaker to extend and allow you and
your colleagues to continue to the work that you`ve already started.
WISNIEWSKI: Absolutely. We`ve come this far. There is no reason to stop
or go backwards.
SHARPTON: Do you think the speaker will allow this?
WISNIEWSKI: I think so. I think he understands how important this is not
only for the people of New Jersey, but for public trust. I mean, the
governor has destroyed public trust by what he has allowed his
administration to do. We have to try to get that back.
SHARPTON: E.J., also included in the documents the director of the port
authority said about the closure quote "I believe this hasty and ill
advised decision violated federal law and the laws of both states." Bill
Baroni forwarded that e-mail minutes later to David Wildstein. Do you
believe it violated federal and state law, E.J.?
DIONNE: Well, I am not a lawyer, but I do think that there are severe
legal questions involved when you talk about using a public facility for a
political vendetta. That`s almost the definition of corruption. So I
think there is -- there are ample grounds to investigate, to have the U.S.
attorney and others investigate this to see if there was a violation.
But I think what really becomes clear from the new documents that came out
today is that, a, this was a political operation and b, that they were
trying to cover that up. The headline on "The New York Times" says "bridge
scandal documents indicate effort to hide political motive." And I think
that`s what it is. And I think the question that Governor Christie left on
the table yesterday --
SHARPTON: So they`re saying in effect that the traffic study was bogus?
DIONNE: That is what "The New York Times" story suggests. And I think the
question that governor Christie left on the table yesterday is why did he
wait until the smoking gun came out to try to look into this? Why was he
not more curious? Why didn`t he have some urgency about this when two of
his appointees resigned? I think that`s a question he still has to answer.
SHARPTON: Why do you think he was waiting?
DIONNE: Well, there are two possibilities. One, he has denied, which is
he knew something about this. The other is he might have had a suspicion
there wasn`t good here but he wanted it to go away. I don`t know what the
third could. I guess the third could be he thought this whole thing was so
preposterous, how could his people do this. And it surely was preposterous
as well as awful.
WISNIEWSKI: You know, the governor said in his two-hour press statement
yesterday that he has a lot of people under his charge, and he can`t know
what everybody is doing. But curiously, he also said I asked my staff, and
I gave them 60 minutes to respond as to whether they knew anything.
If you have a very large staff, it seems almost like you`re trying to
create no answer by giving them only 60 minutes. There is a lot of
questions that this governor needs to answer because people very important
to him, his spokesman was involved in this. And I find it hard to believe
that Michael Drewniak in all of this time involved in not only talking
about the actual traffic jam but the cover-up never once said anything to
SHARPTON: Now, where do you want this investigation to go? You`re in
charge. Where do you want it to go?
WISNIEWSKI: We have two things we have to do. This can`t ever happen
again. Well can`t have people using public resources for political
vendettas. So this agency has to be drastically recreated. And that`s the
role of the New Jersey and New York legislatures. But we also have to get
to the bottom of it so that we can restore public trust.
People don`t believe government does the right thing most times. And our
governor in New Jersey gave people ample reason to believe that government
is up to no good.
SHARPTON: We`re hearing names like Bridget Anne Kelly and other names.
Will you subpoena any of these names we`re hearing?
WISNIEWSKI: I would like to have Bridget Kelly respond by providing all of
her e-mails and document and then come in for testimony. The same with
Bill Sptepien, the man who used to be the governor`s campaign manager. And
ion two days before was nominated for state Republican Party chair and then
two days later taken out of that position. Same thing for him, we need his
e-mails, we need his documents and then we need his testimony.
SHARPTON: E.J., it seems clear that the governor`s press conference
yesterday did not put this to rest.
DIONNE: I think that`s right. I think it play have been good enough for
the people who were really already committed to Governor Christie. But I
am struck not only -- it`s not just liberals or Democrats who are raising
questions about this. There are a lot of conservatives who didn`t much
like Chris Christie, not all for good reason, like the fact that he said
some nice things about President Obama. And I think this is just gives
those conservatives who oppose him another reason for doing so. So I think
his problem here in terms of politics is as much on his own side as it is
on the other side.
SHARPTON: I want to go back to something, Assemblyman, that E.J. referred
to in "The New York Times" story. This power point about the traffic jam
that was issued three days after the traffic jam.
WISNIEWSKI: It was never issued. That`s the interesting thing. Mr.
Baroni came before our committee on November 25th. And at that time, we
asked Mr. Baroni, was there anything prepared about this so-called traffic
study? He said nothing was prepared because we didn`t collect enough data.
And mysteriously, in Mr. Wildstein`s document submission, we see a power
point that was started, but the conclusion page as you saw is blank.
SHARPTON: So Mr. Baroni told you nothing was prepared. But in the
documents turned over by Wildstein, you have this power point that was
being prepared but not concluded.
WISNIEWSKI: And the power point shows that the people of Fort Lee would
suffer immeasurably by this plan.
E.J., it doesn`t seem like this traffic report is going to be the answer
DIONNE: If you need a traffic study to show you that Fort Lee would be
jammed with traffic if you shut down two lanes of this bridge, you
shouldn`t be in the transportation business. I mean, it`s absurd on its
face. Bill Bennett, not often quoted on this network, once said that
social science involves the elaborate demonstration of the obvious by
methods that are obscure. This was a demonstration of the obvious by a
method that was unnecessary and probably contrived.
SHARPTON: Well, we`re going to have to leave it there. But I can say this
that we`re hearing more names, more questions. And you heard tonight
Assemblyman Wisniewski saying they want to extension on the time so they
can do the work to get to the bottom of this. And he is calling on the
speaker to let a resolution be voted upon in the New Jersey legislature for
the new session so he and his group, his other elected officials can
continue this investigation.
Assemblyman John Wisniewski, thank you very much for coming.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Reverend.
SHARPTON: And E.J. Dionne, thank you as always and have a good night.
DIONNE: Have a good weekend, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, one of the big unanswered questions in the scandal,
why did it happen? Was it really about a power struggle in the state`s
Also this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have terminated the employment of
Bridget Kelly effective immediately. I terminated her employment because
she lied to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But did she act alone? If not, who gave the order? We`ll go
live to the state capitol to see who else investigators are looking at.
Also, scandal? What scandal? Believe it or not, the right-wingers are
trying to make the Christie controversy all about President Obama.
Big show tonight. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Did Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff act alone? Many
people that know her well don`t think so. We`re live outside of New Jersey
state courthouse in a moment.
SHARPTON: It`s a key question in the Chris Christie bridge scandal. Why
did his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, wake up on August 13th and
send this e-mail to the port authority at 7:30 in the morning, quote, "time
for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." That`s the e-mail that led to her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I`ve terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly effective
immediately. I terminated her employment because she lied to me. I am
stunned by the abject stupidity that was shown here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: But now many are wondering if Bridget Kelly really did all this
on her own. The Bergen Record says those who know her describe her as a,
quote, "hard-working conscientious, and diligent political staffer who
balanced the needs of four children with a long commute to Trenton."
In looking at Kelly`s life and then comparing it to the portrait presented
by Christie, the pieces don`t fit. The issue of where the order came from
is being put under the microscope, along with the entire Christie political
machine. The governor`s top team consists of his chief of staff Kevin
O`Dowd, and general counsel, Charlie McKenna. They were the two people who
questioned Bridget Kelly before she was fired. And now Christie`s press
secretary, Michael Drewniak, may face questions as well.
Over at port authority, two executives have already been implicated in the
bridge incident, Bill Baroni and David Wildstein. Christie`s reelection
campaign is also involved. His campaign manager Bill Stepien corresponded
with David Wildstein via e-mail over the lane closings. So far four of
those people have resigned, been fire order punished politically. And the
investigations are just getting started.
Joining me now is New Jersey assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Star Ledger
reporter Sal Rizzo live from the state capitol.
Thank you both for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton for allowing us to be here
SHARPTON: Assemblyman, let me go to you first. Did Bridget Kelly order
these lane closings all on her own?
ASSEMBLYMAN GORDON JOHNSON (D), NEW JERSEY: I find it hard to believe that
Ms. Kelly, working in the shadow of Chris Christie, in his office, in his
inner circle would initiate an action, this action that would cause this
SHARPTON: Sal, you know there are a lot of questions remain about Bridget
Kelly`s role in all of this. "The New York Times" reports that for years
she was, quote, "mid-level staff member to a low profile legislator." But
in 2009, Ms. Kelly worked long hours for the Christie effort in Bergen
County. Afterwards, many political operatives voiced surprise when Mr.
Christie promoted Ms. Kelly. Can you tell us what you know about Bridget
SAL RIZZO, STAR LEDGER REPORTER: I think part of that rise and why it was
so stunning was all due to Bill Stepien. Bill Stepien was, you know, the
whiz kid who ran the governor`s two election campaign successfully,
impressing a lot of people not just in New Jersey, but nationwide. And you
know, in that first campaign when she ran that phone bank in Bergen County,
a very democratic community, very democratic place. She did very well, you
know, Bergen County came out almost half and half between Corzine and
Governor Christie. And you know, that was enough for Bill Stepien, I
think, to push her up the ranks as sort of a protege of his and that`s why
she landed where she did.
SHARPTON: Now, Assemblyman, today on MSNBC, the former governor of
Pennsylvania, Governor Ed Rendell said he doubts Kelly acted on her own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED RENDELL (D), FORMER GOVERNOR, PENNSYLVANIA: I was a very hands-on
governor like Governor Christie. My deputy chief of staff, whose desk was
25 feet from mine, would never have done something like this without my
clearance, without asking me for prior approval. In a month of Sundays,
would never have contemplated doing something like this. And I can`t
imagine anybody worked for a strong governor like Chris Christie would have
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So he is basically saying what you said. And I`ve also heard
other people say they`re not even sure that people would have listened to
an order like this from a deputy chief of staff. Maybe they would have
inquired around somewhere to find out where this was coming from.
JOHNSON: To confirm that she has the authority to put this out, exactly
SHARPTON: What kind of questions, and what are you looking to ask? And
who do you want to talk to?
JOHNSON: I like to see Ms. Kelly come in and testify before the
transportation committee and just to find out so she can tell us exactly
where this order came from, and exactly where this idea came from.
As I said before, I do not believe that she initiated this action. And for
the governor to say he wasn`t aware of what was going on, I find that very
hard to believe also. When, if I can give you a quick timeline there, on
October 16th, Senator Loretta Weinberg goes to the board of commission`s
meeting at the port authority inquiring about this traffic tie-up, what was
going on, asking for some answers. She did not get it.
November 13th, Senator Weinberg, Assemblyman Wisniewski and I go to the
meeting. Same thing again, inquiring about this, no answer. December 4th,
same thing. Well go there to a monthly meeting, no answer. December 6th,
Now, the commissioners from New Jersey, Sampson, Bagger, Pacino, Shuber and
Steiner, three of them were put there by the governor.
SHARPTON: Three of the commission?
JOHNSON: Right. They were nominated by the governor. They must know him.
They didn`t pick up phone and say we have a problem here. We have elected
officials inquiring about this alleged traffic study. I find it hard that
they wouldn`t call. One, it wouldn`t call and tell his office that these
people are here inquiring. I just don`t understand it.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Sal Rizzo, you mentioned Stepien, and how
he was the whiz behind the campaign. Tell me about him. And in your
opinion, could he have ordered this?
RIZZO: I don`t know whether he ordered it. That remains to be seen. And
I think the investigation continues --
SHARPTON: Did he have the clout?
RIZZO: Sure. Anyone could have ordered it that is mentioned in these e-
mails or, you know, the people that you just showed on screen. But it`s
hard to tell with what we know right now. But yes, he was a strict
enforcer for the governor on the campaign trail. And, you know, just in
the political, you know, retail go to this town, go to that town, see what
we can do here and there, just in the day in and day out of government.
So yes, he was someone who was very involved, who knew everyone at the
local level, who knew every ground game in the Republican politics in New
Jersey. And he is someone who would have been, you know, I think very
aware of something like this if he was running the governor`s campaign with
eyes and ears open.
SHARPTON: Now, Assemblyman, the governor appointed or at least put up to
JOHNSON: Nominate the three of these individuals.
SHARPTON: -- for three of these individual, the governor clearly had
people now than we knew were involved in this. Is it conceivable to you
that none of them would have come to the governor and said any of this was
JOHNSON: It makes no sense. You have elected officials attending their
monthly meetings, asking questions, and no one picked up a phone to say hey
Gov., you know, this is on the radar, FYI or something. So, I just don`t -
- these are all intelligent people. So I don`t -- I can`t comprehend that.
SHARPTON: I am going to have to leave there it.
Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Sal Rizzo, thank you both for your time
JOHNSON: Thank you, Reverend.
RIZZO: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Coming up, why did they do it? It`s a question everyone is
asking. Why did they order traffic problems in Fort Lee? There are some
new theories developing and one has to do with what Christie was doing
hours before the smoking gun e-mail was sent.
And an amazing twists in story. Will Christie`s chief of staff, Bridget
Kelly`s boss, be the state`s top law enforcer? Stay with us.
SHARPTON: Is it possible that Chris Christie`s chief of staff will become
the top law enforcement official in New Jersey? It is amazing and is
possible. That`s next.
SHARPTON: To the right wing, the whole Christie bridge scandal is no big
deal. Rudy Giuliani says it`s nothing more than a little prank.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: Politically stupid things,
political pranks that turn bad, all that other stuff, every administration
-- don`t tell me this doesn`t happen in the Obama administration, and the
Clinton administration, and the Bush administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: See? It`s just kids stuff. I mean, who hasn`t shut a bridge
down? And if the right is not busy dismissing the scandal, they`re
ignoring it. On the day the scandal broke, FOX News spent less than 15
minutes covering the story. And when they did finally get around to
reporting it, suddenly Christie`s response was a lesson in leadership. It
was Responsibility 101. In fact, the Obama administration should be taking
pointers because Republicans know this Chris Christie scandal is all about
one thing, President Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: The administration holds no one accountable,
not when it comes to the botched ObamaCare roll-out, the IRS enemies list,
the NSA spying scandal. And remember fast and furious? Well, that
controversy, nothing happens there. So they may want to rethink this
attack on the New Jersey governor.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: When you look at the president of the United States, he
says I didn`t know anything about the Affordable Care Act website, I didn`t
know anything about the IRS, the DOJ, Benghazi.
RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: We`re spending now an hour press
conference on lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. We haven`t
spent this much time in a press conference on four Americans dying in
HANNITY: Does not compare to the scandals that are plaguing the Obama
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: With all the right wing, with the right wing, all bridges lead
to one place, blaming President Obama.
Joining me now are Jess Macintosh and Joe Madison. Thank you both for
coming on the show tonight.
JOE MADISON, SIRIUS XM RADIO HOST: Thank you, Reverend.
JESS MCINTOSH, EMILY`S LIST SPOKESPERSON: Thank you for having me.
SHARPTON: Joe, let me start with you. How did the Christie bridge scandal
get to be all about President Obama?
MADISON: I really don`t know other than everything is about President
Obama with them. I don`t care what it is. It`s again part of the campaign
to discredit him. But this is what I want everyone to please understand,
and we had almost two hours of conversation on our show, Reverend Sharpton.
And that is that this could have been a national security disaster. This
is what everyone kept telling us, that this bridge is the only way to get
into Manhattan with major trucks.
MADISON: For example, since 9/11, trucks can`t go through, and you know
this better than I do, the tunnels. So this is an issue of national
security. And I am absolutely disappointed and amazed that the former
mayor of New York would say this is nothing but a few lanes being closed
down. Now, I expect that from Rush Limbaugh. But the mayor who was there
at 9/11, he knows exactly the significance of any chaos on that bridge.
SHARPTON: Now, let me go back just to my introduction when I talked about
the right think the president could learn a thing or two from Christie`s
leadership. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Could Washington learn a thing or two about what
leadership really looks like? We report, you decide.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Chris Christie really indicated to many what
leadership looked like after facing a crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: See, now what President Obama would have done, according
to the past history with this administration is rather than fire somebody,
he would have just allowed them to retire.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Or promote them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I mean, leadership lessons? He could have learned from Chris
Christie? Are we looking at the same situations here?
MACINTOSH: No. I hope that Chris Christie takes all of his running for
president advice from Rudy Giuliani. I think that would be just fantastic.
But I mean, you kind of got to feel bad for them. The Republican Party has
been in the wilderness when it comes to leaders. And Chris Christie was
sort of their last best hope at a savior. So yesterday Christie talked a
lot about the five stages of grief. And I think right now we are seeing
the Republican Party go through denial. That`s not going to last very
They`re not going to be able to keep putting up the wrong tag line and the
wrong Chiron and pretending that failure is leadership and up is down, no
matter how good the Republican Party is at pretending the black is white
and women are better off without equal pay and Americans are better off
without health care. They`re really good at cognitive dissonance. But I
don`t think that this one is going the last.
SHARPTON: But Joe, what is interesting to me is how they`re trying to mix
apples and oranges.
SHARPTON: With all of the questions that they raise about President Obama
and members of his administration, we`re talking about whether officials
MADISON: That`s right.
SHARPTON: With no other circumstances that fed into it, went out to do
something that harmed and affected the public. They`re talking about
situations that people could have been inept, could have been incompetent,
could have made a mistake, but not intentionally planned something that
would negatively affect the public. They`re trying to mix apples and
oranges here like we`re stupid.
MADISON: Absolutely right. Let`s take the roll-out. Everyone admitted,
everyone admitted inside the administration, the press, he stood right
there in front of the American people and said look, I`ll take the blame
for this. I should have known. We had Anton Gunn.
SHARPTON: But she should have known, you`re talking about in terms of the
SHARPTON: That`s my point, Joe. No one is alleging though that someone
conspired to mess up the roll-out. We`re talking about people here that
allegedly conspired to make something happen that did not naturally happen.
You`re comparing that to something that might have messed up, not that
somebody conspired to mess it up.
MADISON: You know, because you look at that memo. You really have to be
crazy. When somebody sends a memo that says it`s time --
MADISON: -- to screw with somebody, I mean, you know, I`m paraphrasing, you
know, that`s on purpose. That states a purpose. That`s -- and that`s why
it`s not going to fly. Because when the president knew that people had
screwed up, you want to talk about leadership, Anton Gunn told us that
after the president got through yelling at us, he told you going to fix
this. Those of you who broke it through whatever reason, incompetence, you
didn`t know what you`re doing, no, I`m not going to fire you, you`re going
to get in there and fix it. And that`s as much leadership as anything
SHARPTON: But Jess, my point is that there is no allegation that somebody
woke up at 7:30 this that morning and called and said let`s mess up the
website. It`s mixing apples and oranges.
MACINTOSH: ObamaCare is a program designed to help people.
MADISON: Thank you.
MACINTOSH: There was never any good intention to shutting down lanes on
the GWB on the first day of school. So apples and oranges from the very
beginning. But I think also there was a real leadership contrast. The
president didn`t come out and make jokes about how he was the one writing
the code. Chris Christie came out and pretended that this was funny. You
know, people`s days were messed up. There were emergency situations that
couldn`t be handled as well as they needed to be because of this. And he
came out and joked about it.
I think that one of the reasons why we`re seeing the Republican reaction
and the flailing that we`re seeing is because this scandal is the
Republican Party. It is all about tone and not about substance. It is all
about politics and not about people. We heard more about Chris Christie`s
workout routine yesterday than we did about the people whose lives were
affected by the lane closures.
MACINTOSH: And Republicans are always focused on style over substance.
It`s why they liked Christie in the first place, and it`s ultimately going
to be their downfall.
MADISON: I`m surprised --
SHARPTON: Got to leave it there, Joe.
SHARPTON: Thank you so much. Joe Madison, Jess Macintosh.
MADISON: Thank you.
MACINTOSH: Thank you for having me.
MACINTOSH: Thank you both for your time this evening.
MADISON: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Have a good weekend.
MADISON: Have a great weekend, Reverend Sharpton.
SHARPTON: Still ahead, is it possible that Chris Christie`s chief of staff
will become the top law enforcement official in New Jersey? It`s amazing
and very possible.
SHARPTON: It`s one of the most amazing parts of this amazing story. And
it`s about Governor Christie`s top aide. His name is Kevin O`Dowd.
Governor Christie`s chief of staff and his long-time friend. In the chain
of command, he was one of just two aides who reported directly to Christie.
He was Bridget Kelly`s boss. And he`s one of just two aides who last month
interviewed staff about who knew what before reporting back to Christie.
Christie says O`Dowd assured him no aides were involved. But here is the
twist. Just last month, Christie nominated Kevin O`Dowd to be the state`s
new attorney general, the top law enforcer and top law officer in the state
of New Jersey. O`Dowd is due to go before the Senate judiciary this
Tuesday. So Bridget Kelly`s boss could be in charge of this investigation.
Sound like a conflict of interest? Not to Governor Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Do you think this could have an impact and you should
put on hold Kevin O`Dowd`s nomination to being the attorney general since
he was chief of staff and would probably be involved in setting the tone?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Absolutely not. Kevin`s, you know,
confirmation hearing will go forward on Tuesday. And I expect, you know,
he`ll be vigorously question like any candidate for attorney general should
be. And I suspect that he`ll get swift and certain confirmation because he
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: So either Kevin O`Dowd was lied to by staffers, or he knew more
than he told the governor. Either way, he could be running an
investigation into what happened in the scandal inside his office.
Joining me now are New Jersey State Senate Democrats Nicholas Scutari and
Barbara Buono. Senator Scutari chairs the Judiciary Committee, Senator
Buono of course ran for governor last year against Christie. Thank you
both for being here.
STATE SEN. BARBARA BUONO (D), NEW JERSEY: Good to be here.
SHARPTON: Senator, on Tuesday, Governor Christie has his chief of staff
being -- having the confirmation hearing in front of your committee. You
are chairing that committee. Is that going to go forward?
STATE SEN. NICHOLAS SCUTARI (D), NEW JERSEY: No. No it`s not. We`ve
already decided that for technical reasons --
SHARPTON: Wait a minute. It`s not going forward?
SCUTARI: Not going forward. We`ve already decided that a delay would be
in the best interest of everyone involved, the people of the state of New
Jersey, and for a variety of reasons, the new Senate has to be
reconstituted on Tuesday. Before that time, I can`t even officially
schedule the hearing. And then, you know, just because of scheduling
matters, it just would be impossible to hold the hearing on that day. I
mean, when I originally anticipated that the hearing was going to go
forward on Tuesday, we didn`t really understand the scope of how long this
hearing might go. So obviously, there is going to be a heck of a lot more
questions now than there would have been just a couple of weeks ago when we
were anticipating the hearing.
SHARPTON: Now, so you saw me play the tape yesterday. The governor said
this hearing is going forward, and you`re saying tonight as chairman of the
judiciary committee, that hearing will not happen Tuesday.
SCUTARI: That`s correct. I mean, luckily for us, we decide when those
hearing go forward. In the state of New Jersey, the governor makes
nominations, but we have the advice and consent power as to when and if a
hearing is scheduled for any gubernatorial nomination.
SHARPTON: Could you imagine as chairman of the judiciary, and I`m not
asking you to prejudge anything, but could you imagine him being confirmed
before all of this was aired out?
SCUTARI: Well, I want to take a measured approach to this because of my
personal dealings with this individual during his time in the Christie
administration have been straight forward. But on the other hand, we could
not and cannot ignore the fact that unfortunately for him, his name,
although his name has not been mentioned, he is at the center of it by
virtue of his position. So I mean, it deserves a full vetting.
SHARPTON: Senator Buono, when you ran last year against Governor Christie,
you certainly raised a lot of questions that you now got to be looking at
people, saying that obviously there is some management, if nothing else
questions about how the state has been run.
BUONO: Well, the governor is either lying or he is incompetent. And
neither of those are good alternative for this governor. Let me tell you,
back in September when we knew of these lane closures, I know Chris
Christie. I`ve dealt with him for four years. He knows everything that is
going on. He has a reputation for being retaliatory, for being petty, for
being thin-skinned. I knew he was behind this. But what really surprised
me was the tenor of those e-mails. You know, they were almost gleeful.
The one Wildstein I think it was, he said oh, don`t worry about the
children. They`re the children of Buono voters.
SHARPTON: You mean that people voted for you against Governor Christie
BUONO: Yes. I mean, the abject disregard, callous disregard for the
people of New Jersey.
SHARPTON: Now, by what you know of him having known him four years and had
to work with him, do you think that it is possible that all of this could
have happened and no one mentioned anything to him?
BUONO: It`s so absurd. I can`t even find the adjectives to say how absurd
that is. This is a guy who runs his administration like a paramilitary
operation. It`s very, very structured, very disciplined. The orders come
from the top down. And these kids don`t go to the bathroom unless they ask
Chris Christie`s permission. So to suggest that his chief of staff did
something without asking him, to suggest that Michael Drewniak, his top
communication guy for years didn`t talk to him about this is just absurd.
And that`s why we need a federal investigation into it.
SHARPTON: Senator, obviously the whole world is looking at this. This is
front page in Croatia. You`re the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee
in the state. What do you want to see happen here and how are you going to
help try to guide from your part where this goes?
SCUTARI: Well, obviously, a full vetting of the facts. And there is so
much more information that needs to be garnered from all the individuals
that seem to have played a part in this. I mean, obviously the voters and
the citizens of New Jersey deserve answers to the myriad amounts of
questions that have arisen as a result of these e-mails that has to happen.
And I don`t think anyone that is involved, including Mr. O`Dowd, I think he
understands that there needs to be a full vetting of the facts. Although
he hasn`t been mentioned to date and no one has been pointing the finger at
him particularly, there continues to be questions and problems at this
point in time.
SHARPTON: Let me be clear again. You are delaying the O`Dowd hearing on
Tuesday. When do you think it may happen?
SCUTARI: Well, we haven`t set a new date in consultation with the Senate
president and members of the committee; we`ll continue to have discussions
on this. And we`re continuing also to talk to the administration and Mr.
O`Dowd himself to see what would be the appropriate time to conduct the
hearing. I mean, in everyone`s best interests, it might not be appropriate
to go forward. I mean, we can certainly start a questioning process. But
then to take a vote is a little bit more difficult.
SHARPTON: Let me ask you, Senator Buono, do you think your colleagues
would vote to confirm O`Dowd before all of this has been thoroughly put to
BUONO: Well, I know my colleagues. I`ve served in the Senate for 12
years. I trust their judgment. And they are particularly this chairman
and the Judiciary Committee take their jobs, take their responsibilities
very, very seriously. And I can`t imagine them taking that to a vote
before all of these other factors are settled.
SHARPTON: Big news here tonight. Tuesday is canceled, at least for you,
Mr. O`Dowd. New Jersey State Senate Democrats Nicholas Scutari and Senator
Barbara Buono, thank you both for your time and have a good weekend.
BUONO: Thank you.
SCUTARI: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead, remembering a man who stood up for what was right. By
sitting down at a lunch counter. A moment of courage that changed history.
SHARPTON: Finally tonight, remembering a civil rights icon who sat down at
a lunch counter and stood up for justice. On February 1, 1960, Franklin
McCain and three other college students walked in to a Woolworth`s store
for lunch in Greensboro, North Carolina. They sat at the whites only
counter and politely asked for service. They were refused and told to
leave. But they remained seated for the rest of the day. This single
moment of civil disobedience ignited a movement across the nation that
challenged racial divides and attitudes. A few years ago, McCain talked
about how he saw change begin that very day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN MCCAIN, CIVIL RIGHTS SIT-IN MOVEMENT PIONEER: There was a little
old white lady who sat maybe five or six stools down from us. She walked
behind us and put her hands on our shoulders. So she said in a very calm
voice, boys, I am so proud of you. I only regret that you didn`t do this
ten years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: An amazing story. A reminder of how progress begins in the
hearts of all of us. Franklin McCain died last -- late last week. He was
73 years old.
Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. "HARDBALL" starts right now.
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