updated 1/13/2014 10:01:48 AM ET 2014-01-13T15:01:48

UP with STEVE KORNACKI
January 12, 2014

Guests: Brian Murphy, Heather Haddon, Richard Merkt, Raymond Lesniak, Jamelle Bouie, Perry Bacon, Jr., Adrienne Elrod, Ana Marie Cox


STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Chris Christie has offered his self-defense
but the questions and the documents keep coming.

There are two big pieces of the Chris Christie bridge scandal, according
how the governor is defending himself against scrutiny. So, I believe he`s
not been examined closely yet. We also have this morning some new
reporting on the story that we`re going to be bringing to you later on in
the next hour and the question of what it will mean for his presidential
ambitions, plus, for a change of pace, if you`ve ever wondered what it
looks like when four sitting U.S. senators, a governor, a congressman,
candidates for all of those offices and a lot of other people all gather
in an elementary school gym for a night of glad handing and raccoon eating,
yes, raccoon, we have an exclusive and very fun report from last night`s
big muckety-muck raccoon dinner in the state of Arkansas.

I`m not making that up. It is a huge, quirky tradition in that state and
this year it`s more important than ever. Because control of the U.S.
Senate could be decided in Arkansas. Our friend Perry Bacon is standing by
on the scene for us in Arkansas this morning. We will get to that later,
but first I want to play for you the one moments, the one moment in fact
that Chris Christie`s press conference this week that jumped out at me more
than any other.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: When you`re a leader of an
organization, and I`ve had this happen to me before where I`ve had folks
not tell me the truth about something -- not since I`ve been governor, but
in previous leadership positions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: So, you got there right. At the core of Christie`s self-defense
here, his explanation for why he never exhibited the slightest bit of
curiosity for weeks and for months as the bridge story was building, as the
questions grew, as the doubts mounted, the reason he said he never gave any
of this much thought is because his staff is always honest with him. It
never occurred to him before this, that somewhere on his gubernatorial team
might willfully mislead him, might lie to him.

Everyone is asking why Christie didn`t suspect anything until this past
week and that`s his answer, that`s his explanation. That`s why he kept
talking about how sad he was because he`d experienced for the first time in
his gubernatorial career the bitter, the shocking feeling of being lied to
by his own people. And here is why that line jumped out at me because I
remember another Christie press conference, three and a half years ago when
he was also stunned and also furious that one of his top gubernatorial
appointees had lied to him. Well, had supposedly lied to him.

This is Bret Schundler. And if you don`t know his name at all, if you know
his name at all, it`s probably a faith memory at this point. But there was
a time not a long ago, that he was a rising star in New Jersey Republican
politics and in national Republican politics. He was a free market loving
Jack Kemp Style conservative. He was a well-meaning guy. No matter what
you made of his politics, he cared deeply about connecting conservatism
with the poor, with minorities, with voters who have long shunned the
Republican Party. He made some money on Wall Street and then in 1992 at
the age of 33 he got himself elected mayor of Jersey City.

A greaty town where only six percent of the voters were Republicans, well
over head of the population. It`s Black or Hispanic. Its victory made
national headlines, it was a totally unlikely, totally improbable victory
by a conservative Republican in a very non-conservative, non-Republican
city. Bret Schundler was on the rise. He got re-elected in 1997. William
F. Buckley, Jr. even wrote a column saying he would be president of the
United States by 2008. He made his big move in 2001. He ran for governor.
He was sort of an odd duck in the state Republican Party who put up their
own candidate to oppose him but he won anyway.

And now he was one step away from the governorship and from there that shot
at the White House. It was all lining up for Bret Schundler and then,
well, and it didn`t work out. He lost in the fall of 2001, do a democrat
named Jim McGreevy. You probably know his name. Probably know his story.
And Schundler tried again in 2005. This time he didn`t even make it out of
the Republican primary. He had been the great conservative hope that big
career making breakthrough he needed, well, it ended up being elusive. And
by the time 2009 rolled around, he`d just been eclipsed. Chris Christie by
that point was the next big thing in New Jersey Republican politics.

He made his name prosecuting crooked politicians and in 2009 the GOP made
him its candidate for governor and he won that fall which meant that as the
new governor he had jobs to give out. He had important jobs to give out,
jobs in his cabinet, jobs like state education commissioner. That job,
Christie announced to some surprise, would go to Bret Schundler. So Bret
Schundler was back. Education reform and charter schools had always been a
passion of his and now here he was, the point man in a new Republican
administration ready to put his policy ideas to work. But it wasn`t the
White House that it put him back in the game.

If it went well for him, well, who knows, maybe it would have been stepping
stone to one more campaign, one more chance at redemption, one more shot at
the big time. Except, well, then this happened. The Obama administration
launched what is called the race to the top. It`s a competition amongst
states for big federal education bucks. Schundler`s team put its pitch
together for that money, more than 1,000 pages of documents. They got a
date, they got a time to meet with the Feds.

Four hundred million dollars was on the table. And then they lost out,
barely, though. They lost out by 4.8 points according to the Obama
administration scoring system. The reason for that -- they submitted
budget information for the years 2010 and 2011, but they were supposed to
submit it for 2008 and 2009. This was very embarrassing for the Christie
administration. Four hundred million dollars of federal money left on the
table because of a bungled application. So the governor, well, he lashed
out. And who did he lash out at? He lashed out at the Obama
administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: When the president comes back to New Jersey, he`s going to have
to explain to the people of the state of New Jersey why he`s depriving them
of $400 million that this application earned them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Christie said Schundler and his team were blameless, that they
had tried to give the correct information to the Obama people during the
meeting, but they hadn`t been allowed to because the Obama people were
petty bureaucrats. Then a videotape came out and that videotape
contradicted the story. It was a videotape of the presentation that showed
Schundler had been completely blindsided and totally unprepared for those
requests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We were unable to find in the application the funding
levels of school education funding levels specifically for the years 2008
and 2009 as requested in the application. Can you explain how or where
this information was presented in your application?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: No, I cannot. I don`t --

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: And we can come back to that. That would be fine.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That would be helpful.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And so now Chris Christie looked like a fool. He guaranteed his
team had done nothing wrong, that it was all the Obama administration`s
fault, but now here was glaring evidence that contradicted him. So, what
did he do? He said that Schundler had misled him about what had happened
at that meeting. That he had lied to him and then he went public and he
fired him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: It is, I think pretty clear at this point, that the truth wasn`t
told. Told a lie to the governor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: That`s what Chris Christie said at that press conference. He
said, the number one rule in this administration is you don`t lie to the
governor. Now here is why I`m telling you this story. Because when I
listened to Chris Christie this week go on and on, and on and on, about how
floored he was that someone would lie to him, I`m totally, completely
unaware he`d been of what was going on down at the George Washington
Bridge, when I listened to all of that I thought of what happened next in
the story of Bret Schundler because, remember what I said, whatever you
think of his politics, Bret Schundler is an honest man and a proud man, and
he didn`t like being called a liar. And, also, he had e-mails.

So he waited a few days. He put them all together and then he went public
with proof that he had been totally up front with the governor`s office all
along about what had gone wrong with the race for the top. What had gone
wrong at that hearing. How he bungled it. Why New Jersey had lost that
money? And he provided his own seven-page personal statement recounting
his phone conversations and personal interactions with Christie and with
Christie`s team.

Chris Christie called Bret Schundler a liar even though there were
documents out there, lots of documents out there, that proved Schundler had
not been lying to Chris Christie. Bret Schundler went public and proved
that Chris Christie was full of it. The stakes were lower back then. That
was a much smaller story. It passed quickly. It`s been forgotten by many.
But as we consider where the bridge story goes from here, when we think of
how emphatically Christie is insisting he`s been lied to and that no one
ever told him anything about this bridge matter, just remember this, this
is a dance he has danced before.

I want to bring in to talk about all of this Heather Haddon, she`s a New
Jersey reporter with "The Wall Street Journal," Richard Merkt, Governor
Christie`s running-mate in the state legislature during the 1990s, he later
opposed him in the Republican primary for governor in 2009 and said this
week that he sees shades of Richard Nixon in the bridge scandal. Also at
the table, we have New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a democrat who
believes the U.S. attorney`s office should be looking into all of this.
We`ll ask him about that. And we have Jamelle Bouie to give us his
national perspective here and a staff writer at "The Daily Beast."

So, thank you all for joining us. And Heather, I`ll start with you just
reporting on this. A the lot of the commentary I heard this week in the
wake of that press conference that Chris Christie gave was this is a guy
who would never have made the emphatic statements he made, everything we
just played there, if he wasn`t sure that there`s nothing out there that
could link him to this. The story I just recounted makes me wonder if
that`s necessarily the case. I know you`ve been covering him. What do you
make of that?

HEATHER HADDON, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, it`s been interesting as we`ve
seen in these documents released, you know, that the initial batch on
Wednesday and we got further ones on Friday and it does seem that there`s
more and more layers of the administration that seem to know about this.
So the question is how long can he be insulated from this? What we don`t
know from the documents is, you know, particularly the one you talked about
yesterday. I think from Regina Egea, did she talk about this with him?

KORNACKI: And this is, Regina Egea is -- his incoming chief-of-staff.

HADDON: Right.

KORNACKI: Or at least his schedule to become his chief-of-staff.

HADDON: Right. And one of the very inner circle, he`s one of his ten
senior staff members. He was the leader of the authorities, which had
regular contact with the Port Authority. She was forwarded an e-mail, the
Pat Foye e-mail where he expressed to the Port Authority staff member from
New York, from New York side where he was so concerned about the bridge
closure. So, you know, there was potentially state and federal laws that
were violated here. She was forwarded that e-mail from Bill Baroni. So,
the question is, what does she do with that? We don`t know that. And
there`s a lot of questions that needs to be answered now, we know that some
of the most inner circle of his staff were aware of this.

KORNACKI: Right. And that jumped out at me Senator Lesniak because I
mean, I had been saying Google all week that I had thought there was sort
of a gray area, and there still may be a gray area of it`s not that he
hatched the scheme and knew all about it from the beginning, and it`s not
that he was completely duped, that he was sort of willfully ignorant. When
I see that an e-mail marked priority high from Pat Foye saying, hey, the
Jersey guys, the Port Authority may be breaking state and federal law is
forwarded to Regina Egea, someone who is that close to the governor, back
on September 13, this had to have come up with these specific concerns, had
been raised at a very early level in this.

STATE SEN. RAYMOND LESNIAK (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, for sure. And the liar
in chief here is Chris Christie and the obstruction of justice is what is
going to be his biggest problem. I don`t believe he was involved in the
lane closures itself, but those lane closures violate the federal law.
Interfering with interstate`s traffic, raucously endangering people`s
lives. That`s one thing. Then he circled the wagons, developed this phony
story about a traffic study that nobody could believed. And then low and
behold, the morning that we found out it was a phony story he found out.
What he found out was that we found out.

KORNACKI: So, and you had been calling for a federal investigations, the
U.S. attorney for New Jersey announced last week that they are sort of
preliminarily starting to look into this to see if there`s a case. I mean,
my thought when I saw the news was, wow, if Chris Christie was still the
U.S. attorney for New Jersey, it was a democratic governor in a situation
like this, we all know that Chris Christie would be -- I mean, subpoenas
would be flying by this point. What is your read at -- as the U.S. trading
for New Jersey? What is your read on that situation? Do you expect him to
pursue this with any kind of the same aggression Christie would have?

LESNIAK: No. He is much more cautious. Much more reasonable and, quite
frankly, more responsible public official. He will pursue it but it will
take time. In the meantime, the assembly investigation of Assemblyman
Wisniewski is going to continue. His subpoena power is going to be
reauthorized and that`s when we`ll going to have to see more and more
evidence come up that Chris Christie is just not telling the truth.

KORNACKI: Yes, that`s a big part of this, too, is that we had Wisniewski
on the show yesterday who was saying, yesterday morning, he came on the
show and he said, he was still in doubt whether that subpoena power would
be renewed. I guess it`s the power of up, a few hours later, the incoming
speaker said maybe it was something else. But the incoming speaker said, a
few hours later that that authority will be renewed.

Jamelle, as I look at that story, I just -- what strikes me is how many
tracks are sort of in motion right now to get more information. So, we`re
talking about the State Assembly Committee, we`re talking about the U.S.
attorney in Washington. We`re talking about Jay Rockefeller and the
Commerce Committee potentially having interest in this. So, I just think
there are so many different fronts now where more information can come out.

JAMELLE BOUIE, "THE DAILY BEAST": Right. And I think with so many
different new information coming out, new information is going to come out,
and I, you know, when I saw that press conference, I was willing to give
Chris Christie a little benefit of the doubt. But after thinking about it
a little more and seeing that even within the press conference there were a
bunch of just mutually contradictory things, he`s claiming, that he had
this tightened staff, that could have never imagined anyone, you know, not
telling him anything, that there`s -- something is going to come out.

I think, you know, I don`t think he ordered it from above like some Bond
Bilett (ph) but I do think that he had something he knew this was going to
happen. When that comes out to any of these investigations, he`s done. I
mean, he was so emphatic about not knowing anything that any bit of
information that he had any inkling about what`s going on I think finishes
him.

KORNACKI: And so, and Richard, you have quite a history with Chris
Christie that I wouldn`t enter. We have some time bit, but just to start
with, your comment in the press this week was to make the comparison to
Richard Nixon and sort of what Jamelle is saying there, you know, ties into
it. You know, when it came out how much knowledge Richard Nixon actually
had of what was a relatively seemingly petty crime. That was the undoing
and, of course, it unearthed all sorts of other things but talk about that
comparison you made this week.

RICHARD MERKT (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: Well, it`s a bit uncanny
actually. First of all, it`s important to understand this scandal is only
in the first quarter. So we really don`t know what`s going to come out.
If you went back to, for purposes of comparison, Watergate and you looked
at the first quarter of that scandal, what did the White House say? We
didn`t have anything to do with this. We don`t know anything about this.
This was something that went on completely outside and then, of course,
they were forced to retreat, retreat, retreat.

What I saw as a similarity is, looking back to Richard Nixon`s time he was
riding high in the polls for re-election as a popular incumbent Republican.
He didn`t need to do anything untoward and yet he couldn`t help himself.
It was just the thin skinned vindictive nature that propelled this whole
thing and it did him in. When I look at the current situation I see,
again, a very popular Republican incumbent running for re-election far, far
ahead of his democratic opponent in the polls. Certainly his
administration didn`t need to do anything at all to secure his win, and yet
we have this, what I would call juvenile behavior, and perhaps illegal
activity. It`s not major comparison. The comparison draws itself.

KORNACKI: And you use the term, you know, vindictive nature there. You
know, you were talking about that in the press this week saying that you
sort of saw something like this coming -- vindictive nature. We`re going
to pick it up after this. I want to talk to you a little bit more
specifically about your history with Chris Christie, and what you`ve
observed both close up, running with him in his early days back in Morris
County and what you`ve observed as a Republican. We`ve heard all sorts of
stories this week about how Christie and his administration meddled in a
way that other governors haven`t. I want to put some specifics that maybe
you can talk to that. We`ll pick it up right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Did you apologize to the people of Fort Lee?

CHRISTIE: Of course. I did that this afternoon and I`m here today to also
apologize to the people of Fort Lee and we did a terrible thing. And we`re
going to work to regain their trust.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And as Governor Chris Christie being asked by our MSNBC`s Craig
Melvin about his meeting with the Fort Lee mayor on Thursday just hours
after that press conference.

And, Rick, I want to pick it back up with you because I want to see if you
can sort of flesh out some of these characterizations of Christie we`ve
seen this week about the vindictive nature, about the nature of his office.
Your story is back in the 1990s Chris Christie was this up-and-coming
politician in Morris County, he was on the county board of free holders
there. It ended in disaster. He ran for the assembly in 1985. He ran on
a ticket. You guys were kind of a line back then. Clearly you are no
longer a line. What can you tell us about the Chris Christie you knew back
then? Has he changed? Has he always been the same? What are your
observations of his style as a leader and a politician?

MERKT: I think over a period of 20 years, I think Chris Christie`s
character has basically remained pretty much the same. He was always very
ambitious, could be belligerent and I think that`s actually kind of shown
itself. He`s not forgiving. He once said to me, you know, we don`t get
mad. We get even. And I think that`s kind of -- so, I mean, he`s grown up
in a culture of brass knuckles politics. And as he, himself, has quoted
that famous saying, "Politics ain`t beanbag."

KORNACKI: And just within the Republican Party in the state of New Jersey,
too, can you speak to obviously it`s always been a unified front since
Chris Christie became a governor, this is Chris Christie`s party. He has a
lot of control over the party but what is the attitude of Republicans as
you talk to Republicans right now in the state? How are they processing
all of this? Is he in danger of losing Republicans? He`s already lost
you. But I don`t know if he had you for the last few years but.

MERKT: Well, I think from what I`ve seen and talked to various people in
Trenton, I think there`s a real reticence to discuss anything concerning
the governor. You could call it fear. You could call it intimidation, but
the fact is there is a concern that if they do talk about anything in any
way that could even be construed as possibly being negative, that there
could be political repercussions. So, most of them being smart people,
recognizing that the governor is incredibly powerful public official in New
Jersey have just been reluctant to go public.

KORNACKI: Heather, as a reporter, what have been your observations as to
how this administration conducts itself?

HADDON: One thing I would like to add on that point is so far state
Republicans have been pretty quiet on this. But during the hearing of
David Wildstein where he took the fifth, there were some procedural
measures before he actually did that to vote. The committee had to vote to
say whether they thought their subpoena power included the bridge, not just
Port Authority finances. All the Republicans voted for it. I thought that
was very interesting. They could have said, you know, they`ve said before
this is political, we don`t like this partisanship that has been shown
through this investigation, but they voted for to continue --

KORNACKI: Yes, it was unified, it`s not a party line. I want to put up a
really interesting quote, this is from "The Washington Post." I think it
was yesterday or the day before. But former Governor Tom Kean, one of the
most respected political figures in New Jersey, his reputation is as Chris
Christie`s political godfather talking about Christie`s president, "On the
one hand, I think he has a lot to offer. I think he`s the mobile able
politician since Bill Clinton. On the other hand, you look at his
qualities and ask do you really want that in your president?"

And Senator Lesniak, obviously you know Governor Kean. You speak a little
bit about the Christie/Kean relationship and the significances of somebody
like Governor Kean saying something like this in public.

LESNIAK: For him, for Governor Kean to be agreeing with me that Chris
Christie`s national political ambitions are over is just remarkable. But
also very insightful. He realizes that it`s over and at some point in time
Christie is going to have to realize it is as well.

KORNACKI: But the other story with Kean, and I think this is something to
maybe appreciate from -- appreciate about the peculiarities of New Jersey
politics. As couple of months ago, there was an incident in the state
legislator, right after the election, Chris Christie sort of high off the
60 percent re-election and one of his first actions was to move against the
Republican leader of the state Senate to try to oust the Republican leader
of the state Senate, whose name is Tom Kean, Jr.

LESNIAK: By the way, working with the Senate president who is a democrat.

KORNACKI: Right. Now, that`s the thing I want you to explain to people.
Because this is so hard for people to understand I think is that what Tom
Kean, Jr.`s crime was in Chris Christie`s eyes, was that he was trying --
Senate Republican leader to defeat Democrats, there is this pro-Chris
Christie wing of Democrats in the state who have been protecting him.

LESNIAK: Sure. But Christie has always said, I will do whatever it takes
to win and he`s told national Republicans and whatever it takes to win
sometimes means throwing Republicans overboard and shaking hands with
President Obama. When it was important. So, this is a very Machiavellian
governor who will do whatever it takes to win and that message went through
to his staff. And obviously they carried it way too far.

KORNACKI: And Jamelle, that`s the thing I`ve talked about a little bit on
the show. But I wonder when people look at this nationally, they tend to
look at it, you know, a Republican/Democrat issue but the fact that Chris
Christie has peeled off in a Machiavellian way so many Democrats in New
Jersey, I guess one of the risks for him, too, is that bipartisan image
that a creates is at risk now nationally.

BOUIE: Right. If it is the case that he was working to punish a Democrat,
then certainly to bring in voters whose hazy view of Chris Christie is
bipartisan guy, that image suffers. I think Christie`s biggest danger is
his national political ambitions, is if I`m a Republican donor or activist
or some sort of elite and I`m trying to evaluate candidates ahead of the,
you know, actual voting primary and I`m looking at Chris Christie and Scott
Walker and Marco Rubio, guys who have maybe not a similar profile but
could strike a similar profile in a national electorate, I see this bridge
scandal with Christie and I`m wondering, can I trust that he won`t implode
if he`s the nominee?

Can I trust that if he`s president, he won`t implode in the White House?
And maybe I would prefer to give a second is look to guys like Scott Walker
who could strike the same profile for national electorate and don`t nearly
have both the vulnerability of kind of a bullying persona, handling
instances of bullying in his career. So let`s say this blows over somewhat
and Christie survives governor and makes run for president, I think it
really harms them among the people he needs to crowd on his side actually
stand away from other competitors. The electorate aside.

KORNACKI: We`ll take a break here quickly but we`ll pick it up on the
other side with sort of the question of where this is going right now
because there are so many people out there who may have the records
subpoenaed, maybe have to testify, so many questions about so many people,
so what is the next shoe to drop? That is what we`re going to ask right
after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: Using the George Washington
Bridge, a public resource, to exact the political vendetta is a crime.
Having people use their official position to have a political gain is a
crime. And so if those tied back into the governor in any way, it clearly
becomes an impeachable offense.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: The Assemblyman John Wisniewski to NBC News yesterday. He`s
heading up the investigation on the assembly side, he on was on our show
earlier. I wish he had said it on our show earlier. But he said it to
Isikoff and that`s good enough.

Anyway, talking about what could come next. So, Heather, that question of
what could come next, we talked about this a lot on the show yesterday.
All of these people in Christie`s orbit now who are facing or who may face
subpoenas, all the people who pop up in these documents from David
Wildstein and Bill Baroni, when you look at that urban of people, who do
you think Chris Christie has the most to worry about right now?

HADDON: Well, those senior staff. So, again, Regina Egea. You know,
Michael Drewniak, and his colorful comments in there. So, the senior staff
I think -- more subpoenas are going to be issued potentially as soon as
Monday. But probably after the subpoena powers renewed. So, I think
they`re going to, we`ll see -- will they take the fifth again like David
Wildstein? But what I want to really know now is, you know, what is David
Wildstein going to say? You know, his lawyer made very clear, if he`s
given immunity from state and federal prosecutors he has things to share.

KORNACKI: That jumped out at me as the most amazing part of his testimony
at the very end.

HADDON: Right.

KORNACKI: And Senator, because you`ve seen a number of political
investigations in New Jersey, veteran New Jersey politics. That means you
are a veteran of watching the New Jersey political investigations. But
when you saw that, when you see David Wildstein and his attorney there
basically saying, you know, I want immunity and you might learn a lot more,
do you think we might be going down the road where he gets immunized and
that`s how we learn a lot more about this?

LESNIAK: When I heard that I said, wow, it`s over. That there are going
to be other people who are going to say, wait a second, he`s going to go in
first? No, I want to go in first. And not only was the lane closure
recklessly endangering lives a crime, but the cover-up can likely be
obstruction of justice and that happened within the governor`s inner circle
and likely involved the governor himself.

KORNACKI: And the filings, the stuff that was subpoenaed from Wildstein,
I`m reading through it and it looks, again, I tell people Wildstein was my
boss for three years in New Jersey. It`s a long story, I`ve told it
before. But let`s put it out there. But I`m reading all of these e-mails
and all these texts, it reads to me like clues. Like he`s leaving clues
here. What is redacted, what isn`t redacted? And it`s like juicy clues,
hey, this name just popped up. I wonder why his name popped out. Is it
connected to this? And it`s basically baiting prosecutors. It`s baiting
authorities to say, listen, cut me a deal and I can put all of these pieces
together.

MERKT: Are you asking first?

(LAUGHTER)

KORNACKI: Yes. If you have one.

MERKT: Yes. Well, I think the problem the Christie administration has is
it`s kind of like trying to put the ketchup back in the bottle at this
point. You now know if you`re reading the reports that at least six people
who are high-level Christie appointees even at the Port Authority or in the
governor`s own office knew about what was going on, so the problem is, does
that make the governor`s denial on Thursday that he knew anything about
this until the e-mails came out, does that make it look implausible?

Personally, it seems pretty improbable to me. That`s going to be the real
concern. For Christie, however, it`s not just a question of surviving as
governor. It`s also a question of what the national impact is. If you`re
out there and you`re looking at a possible Republican who might have
luggage carry into the national campaign, I have to think that`s a
tremendous liability. So Christie is in a difficult position because he`s
got to clear this up one way or the other. I think that`s what the press
conference was all about and it was an academy award nomination
performance. But the reality is if he`s unable to do that, and if the wall
breaks, if you have to use a terrible analogy, if you have John Dean come
out and testify, any one of them, any one of the six, and they say the
wrong thing, I think the administration will be in a lot of trouble.

KORNACKI: And, to me, it looked like Wildstein was almost volunteering to
play the John Dean role in this if they can cut him some kind of a deal.
So that jumped out as hugely important. Even if Chris Christie survives
all this in New Jersey, there is still that little matter of the
presidential campaign he seems he wants to run. Our national Republican --
is standing by and we have some new reporting on that from NBC`s Kasie Hunt
and she`s going to join us, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So back when he was treating this whole bridge saga like one big
joke, Chris Christie famously talked last month about working the cones
during a December press conference. Pay attention to what he said just
after that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: The fact is, I didn`t even know Fort Lee got three dedicated
lanes until all of this stuff happened, and I think we should review that
entire policy. Because I don`t know why Fort Lee needs three dedicated
lanes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Why the bridge scandal is much bigger than a traffic jam? We
have some new information for you. We`re going to bring it to you in the
next hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: Before the bridge scandal back when Chris Christie won a
crushing re-election victory back in December, we all assumed that his next
big jump was going to be to the national stage. A presidential run in
2016. He was plainly preparing for it and he looked like the front-runner,
at least one of the front-runners. As were all the headlines were about
back then. And his re-election campaign had been part of that national
strategy. He was by all accounts driven to run up the score against his
Democratic opponent to show that he was moral Republican nationally
uniquely marketable in blue state America. Remember, that`s why Chris
Christie held that ridiculously expensive special election for the U.S.
Senate last fall just before the governor`s election, he wanted to make
sure that Cory Booker wasn`t on the same ballot that Cory Booker wasn`t
there to draw away Democratic voters from the Christie column.

But in the wake of this week`s e-mail, disclosures, headlines about Chris
Christie`s presidential future are now looking more like this. George
Washington Bridge scandal could harm Chris Christie in the 2016
presidential run, Chris Christie`s rise in 2016 star in peril as bridge
controversy grows. And my personal favorite, forget about it. Gee, I
wonder where that one came from, which makes one of the key questions in
all of this, what do Republicans outside New Jersey, Republicans in those
key early primary and caucus states who will decide whether Christie is
their candidate in 2016, what do they make of all of this?

Well, actually a lot of them right now seem to be supportive, the
chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party saying in part, quote, "I
think that it`s unlikely that this is going to have a significant influence
in 2016. I think he handled it very well. I think that he`s shown
leadership. He held people accountable." Now in South Carolina, the guy
who leads the GOP there, he chimed in, quote, "It`s a long way until 2016.
I don`t think Governor Christie`s reputation as a decisive leader has been
diminished. In fact, it might be increased following the press conference.
It`s refreshing to see a leader step up and take responsibility."

These interviews and more are all part of NBC political producer Kasie
Hunt`s new report that was posted just this morning at NBCNews.com and she
joins us now from our Washington Bureau. So, Kasie, thanks for taking a
few minutes this morning. We really appreciate it. First, we ran a couple
of, I guess, representative samples there. But you called around to the
early, you know, primary and caucus states and is that totally reflective
of what you heard? They really think he kind of put this to rest on
Thursday?

KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS POLITICAL PRODUCER: I wouldn`t go so far as to say he
put it to rest. Everyone is still using the caveat, well, assuming he told
the truth and there`s no other shoe to drop. Everyone across the board
essentially said he acquitted himself very well, he handled a bad situation
about as well as one could handle it and you also have to consider this in
the context of what the alternative could be. There`s a lot of private
hand wringing, people are concern that this is going to mushroom, that it`s
going to cause problems for him. But they could be publicly stepping out
and saying that this is something that would kill him, that he has no shot
yet, you know, in a presidential race in 2016 and that is not what they`re
saying at all.

Instead, they`re sort of offering up this idea that this press conference
actually in Christie`s actions make him look like a decisive leader or
that`s how it will wear over the course of the next two years as we head
toward Iowa. And they also say that, you know, it`s a little bit of a
different side of Chris Christie than we`ve seen in some of these other
combative press conferences, the things that have gotten him sort of tagged
as a bully. Instead he sort of had an opportunity to show contrition and
to show that he was taking responsibility for what happened, and that
offered an opportunity for him to show a different dimension of himself. I
think we saw over the course of that press conference the top of the press
conference was very much like that. It seemed to fall a little bit back
into combative Christie as the press conference went on.

KORNACKI: Yes.

HUNT: But it`s pretty clear that these figures want to at least make sure
that Christie still has an opportunity in their states.

KORNACKI: Well, yes, old habits die hard there for Christie`s press
conference. It almost sounds to me like what you`re describing is wishful
on the part of these Republicans that they saw this performance, the
theater, the drama of what he did on Thursday, it was very impressive from
a theatrical standpoint. And you know, what? If everything he`s saying is
true, then I`ll even sit here and say, yes, that`s really impressive in a
leader. But if you`ve been listening to the earlier part of the show,
there are so many unanswered questions left. There are so many mechanisms
that are in place to potentially bring out more information that could be
damaging to him.

But one thing I want to ask you is, that image of New Jersey, there are
sort of two images of New Jersey. At least, that`s what my experience has
been. One is sort of the positive one that Chris Christie has played off,
it`s like I`m this unvarnished guy, I tell it like it is. I`m blunt. You
know, I got some rough edges, it`s Jersey style. He goes around the
country talking that way. But are you hearing when you talk to Republicans
across the country, are they thinking of that other reputation of New
Jersey now, that reputation is this sort of seediness, of corruption, of a
lot of questionable behavior? Is this bringing up or is it reinforcing any
of that?

HUNT: For sure. I think there`s some concern that Christie`s reputation
as a reformer could be damaged by this in particular. I mean, one of the
reasons why Christie has been so appealing in the early stages of this
presidential race, while he has plenty of problems with conservatives, he
does have a style that appeals to Tea Party voters. But those Tea Party
voters are also particularly concerned about issues like corruption in
government and having good manager, they`re fed up with Washington, D.C.
and to have him acting like this or have the perception that he`s acting
like this or allowing this to go on in his administration is certainly
something that sort of making people nervous in the early states about how
much crossover appeal is he going to be able to maintain.

And his personality, also, if you think about the states that play an early
role in the process, Iowa, you know, everyone has a reputation for being
Iowa nice. It`s a bit of a cliche but the reality is they sort of want
their politicians to be aboveboard. It`s pretty clear Christie has the
best shot in New Hampshire of all the early states, it`s sort of the
conventionalism at this point. When you move on to the south, I`ve had
several people raise concerns about how he would do in South Carolina in
particular and in the south in general as a region. I mean, it`s kind of a
genteel place. I mean, they played dirty politics a lot but it`s very much
behind the scenes. It`s not in your face, and they expect people to be
pretty polite and it`s going to be -- it`s kind of an open question as to
whether Christie is going to be able to walk that line from this
personality perspective in addition to what they`re looking from him on the
policy side.

KORNACKI: So there are questions here about what the sort of the -- in the
early Republican primary states are saying about him but there`s also
questions about what his potential rivals are saying, how they might use
that, and we have some fascinating sounds and some quotes on that this
week. And we`ll share a few of those and toss it around when we come back
after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t know who e-mailed who and who works
for whom. And I have been in traffic before and I know how angry I am when
I`m in traffic and I`m always wondering, who did this to me?

(INAUDIBLE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Senator and possible presidential candidate Rand Paul having I
think what was probably one of the funniest days of the last maybe year or
two for him. Jamelle, that`s so fascinating to me. I said, Rand Paul
clearly ran for president but more than that, he has been sort of trying to
pick fights with Chris Christie.

BOUIE: Right.

KORNACKI: There`s been this early 2016 squabbling between the two of them
and like watching Rand Paul, they suggests to me, we can talk from Kasie`s
great reporting about how early state people are responding. But you she
were alluding to this a little bit earlier, it`s also question of like,
look, if Christie`s rivals -- if he does run and his rivals in 2016 decide
to resurrect this and use this, this is a potentially powerful thing for
them.

BOUIE: Right. Because is not -- 2016 will not be 2012 for the Republican
Party. There are strong candidates on sort of all sides of the Republican
divide. And so, if you`re yes, if you`re Rand Paul, and I think Rand Paul
-- I`m not sure Rand Paul is the strongest candidate in the world, but he`s
not a weak candidate. And you`re running for president and you want to
throw a water on the guy who is pre-seeing himself as like the potential
savior of the Republican Party. This is something right. This is, you say
to voters in Iowa and South Carolina, you say to donors in Texas, like,
look at this guy.

We don`t know that if he is the nominee or if something will come out to
sink our ticket completely. Because the Republican Party is at a point now
where they are losing three presidential elections in a row is very
unusual. And if it were to happen it would I think turn last year`s round
of soul-searching. It would blow that away there would be a real drive in
the Republican Party to change something. It`s just the thing that doesn`t
happen.

KORNACKI: And Heather, that has been the big selling point for Chris
Christie nationally is been electability. That`s why he cared so much
about winning by such a big margin in New Jersey. It`s like, look, I can
win by 22 points in blue state New Jersey. Maybe, I can put that
Pennsylvania in play, all of these things, and the question is, does that
also change the thinking of Republicans? Maybe this guy isn`t, you know,
this isn`t our Bill Clinton.

HADDON: Right. I mean, he got 60 Democrats to endorse him. And look at
the exit polls from that race. He had women, he had minorities. I was
just looking at them yesterday, he even had liberals who voted for him.
The question is now, I mean, since he`s come out, there`s been a lot of
voices saying, I wish I hadn`t voted for him. You know, so the question
is, does that start to translate nationally to some of that great
bipartisan stripes wither a little bit.

KORNACKI: And you have Barbara Buono who say -- I`m thinking this is
George McGovern in 1973saying, gee, I remember those bumper stickers in
Massachusetts. I saw a few of them in my town growing up, it said, we told
you so, the outline of Massachusetts, they always take the vote from
McGovern. But Kasie, you`ve talked to the earliest state people, you would
played Rand Paul there, there was also Lindsey Graham this week said, and I
think we have in front of us. Lindsey Graham gave a quote to NBC News.
This is what Lindsey Graham told -- it`s not something that we can play, I
have to read it. It says, this is Lindsey Graham saying, "It seems to me
that this whole bridge thing reinforces a narrative that`s troublesome
about this guy. He`s kind of a bully."

And then Graham went on CNN later that day and he tried to, you know, walk
it back a little bit on CNN. And you have the quote there, you know, "I
think he went a long way to helping himself today," you know, blah, blah,
blah. I think the first one sort of shows the instinct of Lindsey Graham.
Is there -- are you noticing a disconnect maybe between the early state
people you talked to and more of the Republicans in Washington and now
they`re processing this.

HUNT: Yes. Actually I talked to Lindsey and he had a number of choice
words to say about Christie. But it was pretty clear that he felt the need
to backpedal pretty quickly after that came out. But I mean, there`s --
the disconnect here is even in the early states you have an establishment
versus an insurgent wing of the party, and that really to what you were
talking about earlier, is the second half of this, what`s going on, which
is to say that these early state, people are very concerned about the
continuing civil war between the insurgent wing of the party and the
establishment and they`re really concerned that this has already fed fuel
into this fire and given conservatives a reason to go after somebody that
they think is a plausible candidate to beat Hillary Clinton.

KORNACKI: All right. NBC`s Kasie Hunt. We thank you. It`s a great story
this morning everybody should check it out. And we thank you for taking a
few minutes to join us this morning.

HUNT: Thanks, Steve.

And still ahead, there are some new developments on the stakes involved in
all of this. We will going to tell you all about that, that is straight
ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: So after this week the words time for some is traffic in Fort
Lee seemed destined to echo through the ages in politics. They will become
the perfect short hand for unleashing a devious political payback scheme.
Some traffic in Fort Lee is what Bridget Anne Kelly, Governor Chris
Christie`s now former deputy chief of staff seemed to order up in her
already notorious e-mail and some traffic in Fort Lee is what Christie`s
crew at the Port Authority delivered.

You`ve heard all the nightmare stories from the second week of last
September. Commuters` travel times tripled a school, children sitting on
buses that couldn`t move or waiting for buses that wouldn`t come, that
couldn`t come, the ambulances that suddenly were taking twice as long to
make it to emergency calls, the frustration, the rage, even the potential
tragedy. This is the human story we`ve talked about when we talked about
what the closure of those access lanes to the George Washington Bridge did
to Fort Lee, New Jersey. And it was the question of payback, of apparent
political payback that seemingly was directed by members of Chris
Christie`s team against the town`s democratic mayor.

But it also was more than this, more than has been reported so far. It
wasn`t just the everyday lives of commuters and residents that were altered
and in some cases jeopardized by what happened in Fort Lee. Something else
was affected, was potentially jeopardized, something of enormous economic
and political significance. It`s something we`ve learned about through
some research and some reporting these last few days and what we`ve
discovered in turn raises a host of questions. Remember the question that
hangs over all of this obviously is how much Chris Christie knew, when he
knew it, and why if he was involved at all, why he would have inserted
himself into such a seemingly ultra local and ultra petty affair.

And to start to answer that question, we need a clearer picture of motives
and stakes. What could have motivated a governor to care so much about the
mayor of a medium sized New Jersey town, a town that`s one of 566
municipalities in the state, to single that mayor out for this kind of
treatment? That`s how we approached it. What exactly was at stake with
these closures? So here is what we found. This is an e-mail that were
sent by the mayor of Fort Lee Mark Sokolich to Christie`s point man at the
Port Authority, Bill Baroni on September 12th as after the fourth straight
morning with the lane closures in full effect.

And in that e-mail, Sokolich pleads for the lanes to be reopened and he
includes this, quote, "Query, what do I do when our billion dollar
redevelopment is put online at the end of next year?" Now maybe you`ve
heard Sokolich makes some reference to that billion dollar redevelopment in
the TV interviews he`s done this week. So, we thought we would take a
closer look at it and here is the story. This for decades, what you`re
looking at, was perhaps the most coveted slice of real estate in all of New
Jersey, a priceless patch of 16 empty acres situated at the edge of the
George Washington Bridge, the gateway to New York City, smack in the middle
of Fort Lee.

It`s 16 acres of land that has a rich and a tortured history. Nearly 40
years ago a previous mayor of Fort Lee, a man by the name of Burt Ross,
pictured on the right, right on the screen there, he was approached by
allegedly mob-linked developers and he was made an offer that was awfully
hard to refuse. Give them the rights to slap a high rise on that land, on
those 16 acres, and they would give him half a million dollars. It sounds
like a classic story of New Jersey politics but it comes with a twist.
Burt Ross didn`t want that money but he did want to wear a wire for the
feds and those crooked developers went to jail.

A book was even written about all this, it was called "The Bribe." This
wasn`t exactly the luckiest piece of land. And ever since then, four
decades ago, that land, those 16 acres that every builder in the state has
salivated over, that land has sat vacant. That is until last year and
that`s because of Mark Sokolich, a mayor who has repeatedly and insistently
said that he has no higher ambitious in life than to run his town and he
has made the redevelopment of that site his defining mission as mayor.
It`s what he`s poured his efforts into, it`s what he wants to be remembered
for. It is his legacy. So what is it that he`s done? What is it that he
wants to do?

Well, the project is so big that he`s split it in two. The eastern half of
that land which by the way the whole thing they`re calling redevelopment
area five, for what that`s worth. The eastern half is soon going to be
occupied by two enormous 47-floor residential towers. Ground was broken in
late 2012. The first one is up now, the second one on its way. Residents
are expected to start moving in later this year. Then there`s the second
half of redevelopment area. The western eight acres. This is where things
get a little interesting because, well, take a look at this.

This is from "The Bergen Record" announcing that financing has been secured
for that part of the redevelopment for a project called Hudson Lights.
It`s a $218 million deal for a mix of residential, commercial, and parking
space. It turns out, according to the article, this announcement had
actually been delayed because the people behind it wanted to wind up a big
name tenant and quote, "to nail down financing." Now, look at the date on
the article, September 16th, 2013. That is three days and the first full
business day after Fort Lee`s traffic nightmare ended.

Three days after Pat Foye, the executive of the Port Authority, someone who
was not appointed by Christie and who was there to represent the state of
New York, three days after he had written a scathing memo about the lane
closures calling them hasty, calling them ill-advised, calling them a
potential violation of state and federal law. That is the memo that put a
stop to Fort Lee`s traffic problems. And then a couple days later the
financing issues were over and the money to continue building that
redevelopment area five was in place.

Now check this out. Again, here is the street map around redevelopment
area five, but highlighted to point out something nobody besides the
everyday driver of Fort Lee knows. Those lanes that were closed by
Christie`s Port Authority crew are the same lanes that anyone moving into
or working at or parking at anything built in redevelopment area five will
be using some day. Its proximity to the bridge, is part of why this, part
of why the redevelopment area five was such coveted real estate for so many
years and that proximity was a major selling point in a brochure that the
main developer of Hudson Lights published.

And as the town of Fort Lee considered whether to allow all of this
redevelopment, it commissioned a traffic study that emphasize the speedy
and direct access that tenants would have during rush hour to the George
Washington Bridge because of those lanes. Quoting from the study, "Note
that the shared westbound left turn thru lane was observed to operate as a
full movement lane during the constrained conditions of the weekday morning
peak period due to the high volume entering the George Washington Bridge.
Additionally, the shared southbound thru right turn lane is assigned as an
exclusive right turn lane during the weekday morning peak period."

In plain English, thanks to those local access lanes, the town wouldn`t
have to worry about a glut of new traffic and the redevelopers could sell
investors and tenants on the easy ride to the bridge and into New York
City. But close down those lanes and that changes everything. This huge,
massive, decades in the making, billion dollar redevelopment plan that Mark
Sokolich has made his priority as mayor, suddenly faces incredible
headaches. The value of the property is directly related to how easy it is
to get to the bridge. Take those lanes away, reduce those lanes severely,
it`s no longer so attractive to residents, to tenants, maybe even to
redevelopers.

So what does this have to do with Chris Christie? Well, that`s one of the
unanswered questions. And maybe it has nothing to do with him. But
consider how Christie talked about those Fort Lee access lanes, the lanes
that redevelopment area five sits on top of. Consider how Christie talked
about them back on December 2nd when he was still trying to blow this all
off, still trying to make jokes about putting out coats. This is what he
said moments after that joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I didn`t even know Fort Lee got three
dedicated lanes until all this stuff happened. And I think we should
review that entire policy. Because I don`t know why For Lee needs three
dedicated lanes to tell you the truth and I told Chairman Samson this that
we should look at this policy. Because I don`t know why one town gets
three lanes. One lane maybe. Three lanes? One town, I don`t quite get
it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And that is the same sentiment that his Port Authority point man
Bill Baroni expressed when he testified, not under oath, before the State
Assembly Committee that was looking into this back in November.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL BARONI, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: Is it fair that one community
with 4.5 percent of the users has direct lanes on the bridge where every
other community, and with the exception of Assemblyman Amodeo, forgive me,
every one of you has people in your communities who sit in longer traffic
every day because of the special lanes for Fort Lee?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: When you consider those comments and when you consider that
Christie was still this week suggesting there might have actually been some
kind of real traffic study, it suggests the possibility that there was a
plan to severely restrict the access to those lanes permanently. And to do
that would be to alter the future of redevelopment area five, that $1
billion project that is so important to Sokolich, that is the largest
redevelopment project in the history of his town, something he staked his
reputation on, something he has called, quote, "monumental in the rebirth
of Fort Lee."

So while we`ve talked a lot this week about how the traffic jams caused by
the lane closures caused all sorts of headaches for the mayor just because
of the traffic jams and the delayed emergency responses and the stalled
school buses, what we haven`t talked about is what he asked Baroni about in
that e-mail he sent to him way back when this started going on. "Query:
what do I do when our billion dollar redevelopment is put on line at the
end of next year?"

A threat to permanently close, reduce those lanes would have been a threat
to unravel what Sokolich envisioned as the crown jewel of his tenure as
mayor. So, that`s what we`ve learned. The massive redevelopment project,
the definitive undertaking, a Fort Lee`s -- of the career of the mayor of
Fort Lee was affected by the lane closures. There is still a lot we don`t
know like, for instance, was this part of a payback plan? What this part
of a payback plan to derail, to devalue, to destroy this $1 billion
project? If it was, did it almost work? Does the reason that it took
extra time to line up financing for that Hudson Lights project have
anything to do with the lane closures?

There was, as we have found, a Fort Lee Borough Council meeting that was
held in August 15th where in closed session with no notes the contract with
Tucker Development, that`s the prime developer behind Hudson Lights, was
discussed. And this came just two days after the infamous time for some
traffic in Fort Lee e-mail was sent by Bridget Kelly. Does one have
anything to do with the other? Was one anything relevant to all of this
discussed at the August 15 meeting? And what about the next Fort Lee
Borough Council meeting that`s held in August 22nd, a week later, that`s
where the mayor was authorized to, quote, "execute approval of financing,
documents for the redevelopment."

And finally, what about that apparent meeting between Governor Christie and
David Samson, the former state attorney general, and the man Christie
appointed to chair the Port Authority? A meeting became a week or so
before Kelly wrote that time for some traffic e-mail. We know that meeting
apparently happened because of text messages that were subpoenaed from
David Wildstein, it was told to turn over records that are relevant to the
lane closure. So by turning over those texts, he is suggesting that the
Christie/Samson meeting had something to do with the closures. Again,
there are far more questions than answers here. Even if undermining
Sokolich`s prize redevelopment program was part of this apparent scheme, we
don`t know why he would have been targeted or if there would have been
something else, something bigger, someone else, someone bigger at stake at
the heart of this.

We still don`t know exactly who would have been involved. Documents that
haven`t been released so far are not going to tell us that story. But we
do know that the biggest project ever undertaken in Fort Lee, something
that had huge economic and political ramifications was affected by the
closures. Was on Sokolich`s mind during the closures and could have been
significantly altered if those closures had remained in place for good.
This affected a lot more than just the traffic. We`ll talk about these
revelations with a special guest, someone who could help us understand them
after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: The fact is I didn`t even know if Fort Lee got three dedicated
lanes until all of this stuff happened, and I think we should review that
entire policy. I don`t know why Fort Lee needs three dedicated lanes to
tell you the truth and I`ve told Sharon Samson this. That we should look
at his policy. Because I don`t know why one town gets three lanes. One
lane maybe. Three lanes for one town? I don`t quite get it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: We`re back talking about a new wrinkle in the Chris Christie
traffic scheme, potentially involved in a huge development project in the
town that is right on top of those access lanes to a George Washington
Bridge.

And to discuss this, I want to bring in Brian Murphy, he`s one-time New
Jersey politics reporter, now with Baruch College who we`ve been talking
with about this story. Also, still on our panel with us here, we have
Heather Haddon with the Wall Street Journal, Rick Merkt, one time political
ally, turned opponent of Governor Christie, New Jersey State Senator
Democrat Ray Lesniak and Jamelle Bouie, staff writer at "The Daily Beast."

And Brian, I`ll start with you and I`ll give you disclosure which is my
disclosure to you, also once wrote for Politicsnj.com which was owned by
David Wildstein. So, we can both put that out there.

BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE: Right.

KORNACKI: But you are also an expert on New Jersey politics and you know
an awful lot about how the intersection between development issues and New
Jersey politics. And I wonder, first, I`m curious if you can you start
with this explaining a little bit just -- we put it in that piece there but
the permanent closure of these traffic lanes in a project like this, what
the effect would be on a project like this?

MURPHY: Oh, I think it would be devastating. I mean, and I should also
say not only did I work for law edge, David Wildstein, Bill Baroni was also
a guest at my wedding. I know these people. I should put that out there.
You know, when you look at this project and when you look at that map, it`s
clear that the access to the GWB, to the George Washington Bridge, and
specifically the proximity of that ramp to the project, it`s a crucial,
right? It`s a billion dollar project the mayor has talked about it as a
billion dollar project. Without those lanes, that is not a billion dollar
project anymore, right? It affects the vitality and the viability of that
project.

And it`s just hard for me to believe that investors weren`t sweating during
that week when those lanes were closed. I mean, you think about sort of --
and this is where I think you begin to think about development and the role
of development politics and, you know, what is it that political parties
and political institutions do when they`re not running candidates for re-
election and they`re not running election campaigns? They get involved in
things like this. The reason it`s worthwhile to have your people at Port
Authority, and the reason someone like David Samson even takes a job at a
place like Port Authority is you get to do big deals. You get to get
involved in big development projects. And so development is very much a
part of politics, right? We think about the Port Authority as something
that kind of professionalizes this process and these assets like the
Lincoln tunnel and the George Washington Bridge. But they don`t take the
politics out of it. The politics gets intensified in many ways.


KORNACKI: Well, the other thing there is we play Christie -- we played
Baroni, both giving this sort of story that they are concerned that Fort
Lee has dedicated Fort Lee only lanes. And you know this and you can speak
to this a little bit, the reality of those lanes and who uses those lanes
is overwhelmingly not Fort Lee people.

MURPHY: Sure, that`s right.

KORNACKI: This is just to ease traffic in North Jersey to the George
Washington Bridge. So when I hear those explanations, again, there could
be a lot of red herrings here and there`s a lot we don`t know but those
explanations are sound like bogus explanations that are being put out there
in place of something else. Whatever that something else is, we don`t
know. But those do not seem like reasonable explanations.

MURPHY: That`s exactly right. That`s exactly correct. I mean, I think,
you know, you look at the physical location of where that is, right? It`s
not only Fort Lee using those lanes. I`ve use those lanes. Everybody
probably on the show today has driven across the bridge, uses those lanes,
because sometimes the other part just get backed you up. And if you are in
any of the towns that are South of Fort Lee or to the North of Fort Lee,
you are also using those lanes, so it`s not just three lanes to Fort Lee.
That statement sort of jumps out at me as something that is just patently
not true and it`s not believable as a storyline.

KORNACKI: Senator Lesniak, we put in there that there`s this insinuation
in David Wildstein`s e-mails, texts that got released, there was a meeting
between the governor and David Samson at the beginning of all this, before
the time for traffic days. What is your -- how suspicious are you about
the role of David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority in all of
this?

STATE SEN. RAYMOND LESNIAK (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, he`s going to have to be
called for a witness by Assemblyman Wisniewski. He`s going to be put under
oath and he`s going to be asked whether he takes the fifth, we don`t know.
But that`s one way to get to the bottom of it and find out.

KORNACKI: And Brian, the other thing here, too, is like we`ve been trying
to get to the question of motive, right? Like the story that`s been out
there always has been like, well, Sokolich the mayor of Fort Lee didn`t
endorse Chris Christie. Chris Christie wanted democratic endorsements and,
therefore, he was punished. And it`s never quite made sense because, you
know, Sokolich is a mayor of, you know, a mid-sized town and this is such
disproportionate retribution.

Again, just by, when you start to look at this development project, now
you`re talking about the mayor of a mid-sized town who has a billion
dollars attached to him, who has a project that is viable for the economic
well-being not just of his town but of the state of New Jersey. So this
claim by Christie have just like, I wouldn`t have been able to pick the guy
out of a lineup, I never knew who he was, because by the nature of that
project, Christie should have known who Sokolich was.

MURPHY: That`s right. I mean, I think the thing that viewers have to
understand is that development projects when they`re being put together,
there are hundreds of small choices that have to be made. About who gets a
contract, which engineering firms, which traffic engineering firms? Who
gets picked to do the traffic study and all of those decisions happen
within an economy of influence? And who is picked is right, in parts
that`s influenced by who the developers and in part it`s influence by who
has permanent control, who is in charge of the zoning authority over this.
Who gets in charge of the approvals, right?

All of those people have moments where they could put a bid in for their
own people. All right. That`s why, again, something like Port Authority
is important. And if you with north back at this historically, right, I
look at it as a historian and, you know, think about the Erie Canal, think
about Triborough Bridge, they are not just projects in their own right,
they`re projects that make other land valuable and the tolls that those
projects collect get fed not just into the payroll and painting and paving
and buying coffee for the office, they get used to underwrite bonding for
other big projects.

So, you know, at every level, the smallest level, a billion dollar project
like this means that Mark Sokolich is not just a mayor of the 35,000 person
town. All right. He is a guy who has got a big foot in the door on this
big project and that project has a lot of money to spend. And if he wanted
to try to muscle in on someway on getting a piece of that, boy, this is one
way to do that. And we don`t know that that`s what happened.

KORNACKI: Right. Exactly.

MURPHY: Again, we both worked for David Wildstein. I know Bill Baroni.
These are smart gentlemen. It`s just hard for me to believe that people
put themselves on the line for something like an endorsement.

KORNACKI: Right. All right. Well, Brian Murphy, you`ve been a huge help
to us in the story. We appreciate it, with Baruch College. Thank you for
your time, some great insight from New Jersey politics and intersection
development. We have one more block to go here on New Jersey. I want to
go back to our panel for some final thoughts on this. This is a story with
so many angles. We`ll do one more block. It`s not enough but we`ll do one
more. We`ll pick it up when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. So, back to close out the conversation on Chris
Christie here. And, Rick, I`ll turn to you as somebody who probably knows
him personally better than anybody else here. We started this show today
by looking at how Chris Christie has in the past called people liars and
then it`s turned out there`s been documents out that have shown that they
were not lying to Chris Christie. And I remember when that happened with
Bret Schundler, a story I told at the start of the show, somebody told me
that there`s just, you have to appreciate the psychology of Chris Christie,
and liken him to LBJ.

And if you read these Robert Caro books about LBJ, that talking about how
he can come up with these elaborate personal stories in his mind that are
completely fictitious about, you know, heroism in the world or whatever.
And LBJ would tell you with this convincing fervor and detail that there`s
an element of that in Christie. Is that an accurate assessment?

RICHARD MERKT (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLYMAN: Well, I think he`s a
very, very gifted presenter, if you will. His difficulty is that the story
he`s giving out to the public right now doesn`t quite jive with what people
know about how he operates and how he attacks politics. He has to persuade
not just America, he has to persuade first New Jersey that six of his
people knew about this stuff, but he didn`t know a thing. I don`t find it
plausible. I doubt the people of New Jersey will find it plausible. The
folks nationally who have been looking at this right now, they are just
seeing sound bites. They`re not seeing the whole story. It`s early. I
think when the whole message comes out, I believe we`ll know exactly
whether the governor was telling the truth or whether he was lying to us.

KORNACKI: Well, and Jamelle, from the national standpoint, the national
press, obviously this is their biggest story this week, do you think the
national press is going to follow up on this now and follow the granular,
you know, details at whatever comes out or is this a story made to the
national press steps away from and it`s dependent on whether the local
press can report anything else?

JAMELLE BOUIE, "THE DAILY BEAST": I think it`s probably a combination of
both. As long as there`s a drip-drip of information, the National Press
will be on it, and will be paying attention to it. If that drip-drip stops
and I think the National Press will sort of like go to wherever the red
laser dot points next. National Press in the case, they`re like cats. But
if something, if local reporters turn something up in that event, then it
all starts again. I would liken it to what happen in Virginia with the
former Governor Bob McDonnell. The National Press was on the first
revelations regarding the gift scandal when he took tens of thousands of
dollars in gifts from assorted people and sort of like dropped away. But
every time something new popped up, and every time a new big revelation
popped up and the National Press was on it again.

KORNACKI: So, Heather, he`s saying it`s on you, it`s on you and your
colleagues who follow this every day to get to the bottom of this.

HEATHER HADDON, WALL STREET JOURNAL: Well, one thing I would say, this is
coming at the worst time for the governor. This is a time for him where he
is in a very public role. So coming up this week in the state of the
state, that`s you know, the governor gives the ceremonial remarks. The
whole question before this was whether he`s going to call for a tax cut now
before. Will he still do that? And then he`s going to Florida. I mean,
he is the new chair of the Republican Governors Association, a very public
role for him. That was the role that Bill Stepien was supposed to help
him. Now, he is not. So he`s going to continue to be in the National
Press just by default at this role right now. So, it`s going to be hard to
totally ignore him or this issue.

KORNACKI: And just very quickly, Senator Lesniak, you`re in the state`s
Senate, there`s this outstanding issue right now with Chris Christie`s
chief of staff Kevin O`Dowd, he wants him to be the next attorney general.
The confirmation hearings are on hold. Do you think that nomination is now
dead?

LESNIAK: Well, and I like O`Dowd but we will going to question him under
oath about his role in all of the discussions. That would have been a
difficult one for him, so I don`t see how he can possibly appear before the
Judiciary Committee which I served on and answer these questions under
oath.

KORNACKI: Right. No one seems to want to answer the questions right now.
This panel will answer it. But not the people who are at the top of this.
But anyway, I want to thank the Wall Street Journal`s Heather Haddon,
former New Jersey Assemblyman Rick Merkt, State Senator Ray Lesniak.

Coming up, why in this election Arkansas is such an important state and why
last night four sitting senators went down there to dine on raccoon? We
have a pretty incredible video report bringing you our own behind-the-
scenes look at this curious, quirky, and this year very important political
tradition.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: In presidential years, we`re used to the big battles around
states like Ohio and Florida. But in 2014 it`s control of the Senate
that`s up for grabs. The state of Arkansas is at the heart of that fight.
Democrat Mark Pryor just might be the chamber`s most vulnerable incumbent.
Faces a formidable opponent and Republican House Representative Tom Cotton,
he`s an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran who is attacking Pryor for supporting
the Affordable Care Act. Every Republicans attacking every Democrat for
supporting that.

For his part, Pryor is questioning Cotton`s support of the government
shutdown. All of this in a state that was once a democratic bastion but
it`s been moving further and further toward the GOP column. And if you
want to be a politician in Arkansas no matter what your party, there is one
essential requirement, you have to eat raccoon. Annual state political
feasts are a ritual in American politics. You may have heard of Tom
Harkin, the Harkin`s Iowa state fire fancy farm in Kentucky or in Arkansas,
the big day on the political calendar is the Gillett Coon Supper, the coon
in the title is short for raccoon.

The supper begin as a raccoon hunt in the -- I can`t even that rat, it`s an
easy word. Then they started serving in the `40s, they served with a --
and over the years politicians began showing up. Some of the people that
last year organizers put out a crisis call that more raccoons were needed
for the supper. The only catches that it must be a raccoon. Now, it was
the directive. Don`t try to bring in other small animals and try to pass
them off as raccoons. The raccoon feast is such a big deal in Arkansas
political culture that longtime Senator Dale Bumpers actually invoked it in
his closing arguments for the defense during Bill Clinton`s impeachment
proceedings 15 years ago. Has it already been 15 years already? Well,
listen what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DALE BUMPERS (D), FORMER ARKANSAS SENATOR: As I come here with some sense
of reluctance, the president and I have been close friends for 25 years.
We even crashed a twin engine beech bonanza trying to get to the Gillett
Coon Supper, a political event that won, misses at his own risk. And we
crashed this plane on a snowy evening in a rural airport. Off the runway,
sailing out across the snow jumped out, jumped up, and ran away unscathed.
To the dismay of every politician in Arkansas.

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: And back in 1987 then Governor Bill Clinton showed up and
commented on the main
course.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: For those who have never had the opportunity to try
coon, we asked some coon -- to tell us what it tastes like.

FMR. REP. WILLIAM ALEXANDER (D), ARKANSAS: It tastes as little like
squirrel except squirrel is a little tougher and more stringy. But if you
can cross a squirrel with a chicken, that would be coon.

FMR. PRES. BILL CLINTON (D), UNITED STATES: It`s sweeter than beef or
pork, sort of sweet pork.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Those were Bill Clinton`s pre-vegan days. And last night, Mark
Pryor and Tom Cotton were both in attendance at this year`s dinner. But
why just then, when we decided this was something we had to experience four
ourselves. Well, not me. I only eat about five things and raccoon doesn`t
happen to be one of them. That would be too much saturated fat or
something.

But I was able to talk a few people into going for us. Our friend Perry
Bacon, The Grio and our producer Anne Thompson. They were in Gillett last
night, they`ve got to see what this Coon Supper is all about.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PERRY BACON, JR., MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Tell us honestly, how much do you
like or dislike eating raccoon?

GOV. MIKE BEEBE (D), ARKANSAS: These are great people. I represented them
for a long time.

SEN. MARK PRYOR (D), ARKANSAS: On a scale of one to ten, I`d better not go
there.

REP. TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: If something moves in the waters and the
woods in Arkansas, someone is going to kill it and eat it in.

FMR. REP. MIKE ROSS (D), ARKANSAS: It`s not just eating coon, it`s eating
barbecued raccoon. And it`s really tasty, it`s really good.

SEN. JOE DONNELLY (D), INDIANA: They said, how is the brisket? The
brisket was awesome. They said, how was the raccoon? I said, it was on
the plate.

BACON: Angus King from Maine, Joe Donnelly from Indiana, what are you all
doing here?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I), MAINE: Hey, man, we`re here for the coon dinner.
What else? You know, it`s delicious. I came 1,000 miles. Actually, we`re
here to support our friend, Mark Pryor.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I`m looking forward to my first taste of
raccoon. I`ve heard about it. Must be an Arkansas delicacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You can`t just go down to Wal-Mart and pick up some
coon.

BACON: The raccoon, is it good?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Yes, it is very good.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I want to spit it out.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (INAUDIBLE) and what`s left people to take home for
dinner tomorrow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI: Perry Bacon, Jr. joins us from Little Rock in New York. And we
have Adrienne Elrod, communications director with the pro-Hillary Clinton
group Correct the Records, she is also an Arkansas native. She knows
politics in her state very, very well. Maybe raccoon, too. We`ll ask her
about that. Ana Marie Cox, political columnist at The Guardian. And
"Daily Beast" Jamelle Bouie is back with us.

Perry, down there in Little Rock, I`ll tell you we have a plate of
delicious Starbucks pastries at our table. I would not be afraid to eat
these. Raccoon a little different. The first question, did you eat the
raccoon?

BACON: Of course I did, Steve. I`m here. I do not recommend it. I tried
to have a second piece just to try it out and it was really -- it`s a
little stringy. It`s a worse version of deer. It definitely does not
taste like chicken, you know, like a lot of other things do. It is not a
meat I recommend it.

KORNACKI: Everybody says, it always tastes like chicken, when you say it
is a worse version of deer, although, that doesn`t actually clear it up too
much in my mind. I haven`t eaten deer either. So, tell us a little bit
about -- I love these quirky local political traditions. We did one, you
know, a few months ago on fancy farm in Kentucky, very, you know, quirky
things. This is also a major event in Arkansas. We have Clinton there,
you know, a generation ago. You have Arkansas as the center of, you know,
top political race in the country. Tell us a little bit about, you know,
the politics of what you were watching last night.

BACON: So, you have this really, you have two big races. First one you
know, you`ve mentioned it earlier, Mark Pryor against Tom Cotton, a Senate
race in my desire who control the Senate. The other big race down here
also is Mike Ross who if you remember was actually he`s a congressman, a
Democratic congressman from Arkansas, he`s now running for governor. He
was actually Bill Clinton`s driver back in the `80s. He`s running against
Asa Hutchinson, who is one of the impeachment managers in the 1990s. And
they are running for governor, a big race here as well.

And his festivals, about two hours south east of Little Rock. Everyone
feels like they have to really attend even though Ross and Hutchison, you
can only -- if like the officials, it`s only Cotton and Pryor who got to
speak. But it`s actually not only is there a supper for the raccoon --
there`s a raccoon supper, there`s also a pre-supper event now, too. Almost
a daylong event here in Gillett, a town of 621 people.

KORNACKI: Do they eat anything funny at the pre-supper where they have
like chipmunks or squirrels or something?

(LAUGHTER)

BACON: So they have a duck wrap, duck that`s wrapped in bacon. But the
food there is actually pretty good. There`s no raccoon served at the pre-
supper and that`s very intentional. Because pretty much no one I met in
Arkansas actually enjoys eating raccoon and the people who would say I
would like it, I would ask them how often do you eat it and they would say
once a year at this event.

KORNACKI: Right. They don`t serve it at the pre-supper because as we
said, there was the great raccoon shortage of 2013 apparently. Well,
Adrienne, Arkansan, raccoon, you`ve eaten it. What`s the story here?

ADRIENNE ELROD, CORRECT THE RECORD: Yes, I`ve had it before. And you
know, as Perry said, he actually just said it, no one from Arkansas
actually likes raccoon. And I would actually say it`s not horrible. It`s
not my preferred thing to eat.

KORNACKI: Not horrible. There is the endorsement for the raccoon
industry.

(LAUGHTER)

ELROD: You know, there are worse things that you can eat. But, you know,
it is a tradition in Arkansas. And this is a really big dinner that anyone
who is running for elected office at the statewide and federal level have
to go to. So, eating raccoon or at least taking a bite of it is something
that, you know, you kind of have to do when you got at this dinner.

KORNACKI: We say it dates back to the 1940s. Is there another purpose for
it? Are they raising money for something? What kind of crowd does it
usually attract?

ELROD: Well, you know, the dinner started out as a fundraiser for the
Gillett High School football team and I think it sort of evolved into once
keeping the football team afloat and then evolving into, you know, paying
for uniforms and what not for the team. And then Marion Barry, Congressman
Marion Barry is a former member of Congress sort if took it over and made
it more into a political type of event. You know, it was something that
obviously then Governor Bill Clinton attended every year. As Senator Dale
Bumpers was just talking on the floor of the Senate about, you know, the
importance and the Coon Supper, and you know, the infamous plane landing
that he was talking about. So, it`s just something that if you are running
for office in Arkansas especially in a high-profile position, you need to
be there.

KORNACKI: And Ana Marie, I`m not -- but I`m guessing raccoon, you know,
not vegan, Bill Clinton probably wouldn`t be eating that. Are you like me?
I mean, I love, you know, because really we talked about how --

ANA MARIE COX, THE GUARDIAN: Oh, yes, the chad plunking (ph)?

KORNACKI: Oh, that`s a great one.

COX: Yes, sure, I love this stuff. And I would actually just thinking, I
mean, looking at that front page of "The Times" today, the story about how
our national networks are funding all the state races and creating and
nationalizing these races so that one party can control the whole thing. I
mean, these things that we`re talking about are kind of, I mean, they`re
not criticisms. I mean, parties no longer need them in the state.
National money is coming in. So they turn in basically, the only way they
can survive is to become a media event.

I mean, as far as fund-raisers go, a lot have of them have disappeared. I
noticed in the article that your producer sent around from "The New York
Times" from 1987. As far as like a catalog of regional dinners go. You
know, they can be very important, I mean, one of the big ones, I mean, I`m
sure maybe everyone here has been to the Iowa Jefferson Jackson dinner
which is where candidate Obama made one of his very first like incredibly
successful speeches that really put him on the map and put him on the map -
- he was on the map but made it credible as a challenger to Hillary
Clinton. Remember when Hillary Clinton was -- I remember I was at that
dinner and it was different to be there. I mean, it reminded me of -- I`m
actually jealous of Perry because there is a value of going to these
things. You do see like something different.

KORNACKI: You`re right. It`s dispiriting in a way our politics has become
so almost nationalized and predictable and we can run these, you know, oh,
this candidate is going to win by 40 percent. We already know. So you
have these things, it just, it makes it a little bit more human, a little
bit more quirky. But there are, as we said in the introduction, real
stakes to this election in Arkansas this year. So, we`re going to talk a
little bit about what we heard from those candidates last night, how this
fits in the national picture and the battle for control in the Senate. So,
we will pick it up, more raccoons and a little more politics right after
this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: We`re back talking about the Raccoon Supper in Arkansas, but,
also, you know, as we were saying, Jamelle, this is a hugely important
race. The control of the U.S. Senate is up in 2014. Mark Pryor is one of
those, you know, increasingly rare, Arkansas basically a red state, he`s a
Democrat, he`s been there for two terms, he`s in serious danger of losing
his re-election. Talk about raising in terms of the national context of
what this says about 2014, the climate, the Republican strategy this year.

BOUIE: Well, Democrats have a bath hand this year of having to defend,
bunch of red states in North Carolina and Arkansas. And they just lost
their state and not Louisiana --

KORNACKI: Louisiana, true -- yes.

BOUIE: And so, and they don`t have enough seats to be able to just lose
them and still hold the Senate. So, they sort of have to -- Republicans
still have to run the table, I think, to control everything. But every
seat is Democrat that Democrats lose, it`s not good for them. And so
that`s basically the state of this race. And Mark Pryor, if Mark Pryor can
survive, you know, Democrats can lose every other race this year in these
states and still hold on to the senate. And if he can hold on to the
Senate for this cycle, then 2016 is a very good cycle for them.

KORNACKI: Right.

BOUIE: They have so much Tea Party senators in blue states coming up. And
I mean, I think they`re almost certain to lose in a presidential year.

KORNACKI: Right. The Ron Johnsons in Wisconsin.

BOUIE: Right.

KORNACKI: Adrienne, tell us a little bit about though the evolution of
politics in Arkansas. Because it`s Bill Clinton`s, you know, home state.
You know, it is a state with a -- like every southern state, has a
democratic tradition. Slower than other democratic states, moving to the
Republican column. But really, that seems to have accelerated in the Obama
era. Can you tell us about what`s going on in Arkansas?

ELROD: Well, you know, just what we`re saying, I mean, all you have to do
is go back to 2009, when five of the six federally elected office holders
were Democrats and of course, now that`s flipped, where you have five of
the six who are Republicans. Obviously, 2010 was a very brutal year for
Democrats across the country and Arkansas was no exception. But you know,
the unique thing about Arkansas, in my view is, they look at personality
over politics in many regards. Governor Mike Beebe is a perfect example.
And he is, time and time again, the most popular democratic -- I`m sorry,
most popular governor in the country. And he`s a Democrat in a state that
many people consider to be red. So, you know, I think when you look at
these upcoming elections in 2014 in Arkansas, people are going to be
looking at the person who they can identify the most with as opposed to
somebody who, you know, may be a Republican or may be a Democrat.

KORNACKI: I want to get Perry Bacon in here from Little Rock. Because
Perry, the thing that jumped out at me about your video there was, Angus
came from Maine, Dick Durbin from Illinois, you have these out of state
senators who presumably have no natural interest in eating raccoon, coming
down to this dinner. That`s how important this race is for Democrats in
keeping control of the Senate.

BACON: It also told you, so, they were here to go to this dinner, because
they`ve heard of it before. They wanted to go duck hunting with Pryor. It
goes to the fact, I don`t think any of these three guys are people who are
going to like to change the dynamics of the race here. I don`t think Dick
Durbin endorsement is going to help. Pryor particularly. But well, the
show of support. Pryor is very well liked among -- there are some senators
other senators don`t like. Pryor is very well-liked among his colleagues.
They want to see him win, they want to support him.

The danger here though as Adrienne talked about is this state is becoming
more and more Republican. Blanche Lincoln won 37 percent of the vote in
2010. Obama got 37 percent of the vote in 2012. And Cotton is not, you
know, Cotton may not be the most personable person. Pryor probably knows
more people in the state. He`s more personable. His dad was a senator
too. That said, I mean, Cotton talking about it all the time. He talked
about yesterday, Pryor cast the deciding vote for ObamaCare. It`s not
clear what the deciding vote is or how you would determine that --

KORNACKI: Everyone`s the deciding vote.

BACON: Yes. Everyone`s the deciding vote. But Cotton says that every
day. And that`s a real problem for Mark Pryor.

KORNACKI: All right. Well, Perry Bacon, thank you for making the trip to
Arkansas for us. Thank you for eating raccoon for us and thank you for our
producer, Anne Thompson, who went down there as well. That was such a fun
piece you guys put together. So glad we had it. What should we know
today? I`ll talk to the panel, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI: All right. We`re going to find out what our guests think we
should know. We`ll start with you, Adrienne.

ELROD: Sure. I think you should know that if you want to get all the
correct information about Secretary Clinton`s record as secretary of state,
you can go to our website, my organization`s website,
correcttherecord2016.org.

KORNACKI: All right. And Ana Marie?

COX: The gates poke that`s being used to sort of pick a side, you know,
people have use it as ammunition. People should actually read the book.
It`s actually about the over politicization of politics in the military.
So, it`s sort of ironic that people keep using it as ammunition.

KORNACKI: That is interesting. Yes, Jamelle.

BOUIE: This is surprising. Listen, not surprising but it`s a little
shocking. A recent study finds that if you are an African-American man,
you are up to three times more likely to be stopped by police for an
investigation while driving than a comparably aged white person, and you
have to be a 50-year-old African-American man to have your chances reduced
to those of a 24, 25-year-old white man.

KORNACKI: Wow. That`s an interesting study. I also learned, and we
didn`t get to mention this in the air, Jamelle apparently has not had
raccoon, but has tried possum before. So, we`ve have possum, raccoon and
what was the other --

ELROD: Cat fish.

KORNACKI: Cat fish, yes, I don`t know. I eat salads and burgers. I don`t
know. I want to thank all of you are guests today. Adrienne Elrod, Ana
Marie Cox, and Jamelle Bouie, thank you for getting up and thank you for
joining us. We will be next weekend, Luke Russert will be joining us for
the game show. Melissa Harris-Perry is coming up, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

END

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