'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 14, 2014
Guests: John Wisniewski, Loretta Weinberg, Frank Rich
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Tearing the latex mask off. All political
consulting is a racket.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It is a racket.
MADDOW: Prepare for the ceiling to fall in.
HAYES: Who are we kidding?
MADDOW: Thanks, man.
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
This is awkward. This is a photo taken on 9/11. It was taken this
past September 11th, 2013, at the World Trade Center site in Lower
Manhattan. This photo was published today in this morning`s "Wall Street
Now, one of the ambient things about the New Jersey bridge scandal
that has always been particularly disgusting about this scandal is the fact
that the bridge shutdown happened on the week of September 11th. I mean,
if there are dirty tricks going on in politics somewhere, even in the New
York City area, it`s not like everybody expects September 11th to be an
armistice day for politics or anything.
But gridlocking a town in northern New Jersey and portions of the
George Washington Bridge on September 11th was particularly nasty. Not
only for people in New Jersey who might have wanted to use the bridge to
get to 9/11 commemorative events. This was, after all, a very hard hit
area of the country.
But also because, frankly, the bridge, itself, is seen as a potential
terrorist target. It`s not just a landmark. It is the busiest bridge in
the world. And on the anniversary of 9/11, you worry, right? The mayor of
Fort Lee told "The New York Times" this week that while the bridge lanes
were closed, quote, "his blood pressure rose two ticks each day." But he
says it, quote, "went up twice that on September 11th, specifically."
But the reason this photo, which was taken on September 11th, during
the traffic jam, the reason this photo is particularly awkward for New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie is because the guy he`s interacting with in
this photo, the guy in the dark coat and the white shirt and the red tie is
David Wildstein, the Chris Christie administration political appointee to
the Port Authority who personally organized the shutdown of the bridge
When the governor`s deputy chief of staff ordered, quote, time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee, it was David Wildstein who responded,
"Got it," and it was then David Wildstein at the Port Authority secretly
organized the traffic engineers, maintenance department and bridge general
manager and everybody else who had to be in on it to get those lanes shut
down. And then he swore them all to secrecy in terms of not letting
anybody in Fort Lee know what was about to hit them.
David Wildstein was calling the Fort Lee mayor that little Serbian.
It was David Wildstein the guy who said don`t feel bad for the children who
are stuck in those traffic jams, in the first day, in the first week of
school in Fort Lee because, quote, "Those are the children of Buono
voters," Buono being the Democratic candidate who was running against Chris
That was David Wildstein who ordered radio silence as a response to
complaints from the mayor and from other Fort Lee officials, even when what
they were complaining about was delayed ambulances trying to get to injured
people and people who were having heart attacks. That`s David Wildstein,
and that`s David Wildstein with Chris Christie during the bridge shutdown
on September 11th.
And for a governor who is desperately trying to distance himself from
this scandal, trying to say he had nothing to do with it, I mean, it is
awkward enough for there now to be photographic evidence he was with the
guy who shut down the bridge while the bridge was shut down.
It`s even worse than that for Governor Christie, because of the
governor`s insistent, even over the top efforts to try to deny any
connection with David Wildstein, try to deny personal history, any past
association, even any real current familiarity with the guy who he is seen
talking to right there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) friend David Wildstein?
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Let me clear something up, OK,
about my childhood friend, David Wildstein. It is true that I met David in
1977 in high school. He`s a year older than me. David and I were not
friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school.
I mean, I had a high school in Livingston, a three-year high school
that had 1,800 students in a 3-year high school in the late `70s, early
I knew who David Wildstein was. I met him on the Tom Kean for
governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer. So was I.
Really after that time I completely lost touch with David. We didn`t
travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class
president and athlete. I don`t know what David was doing during that
period of time.
I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long
time, well before the election. You know, I could probably count on one
hand the number of conversations I`ve had with David since he worked at the
Port Authority. I did not interact with David.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I did not interact with David. During the traffic jam, there
is the governor interacting with David.
Couple of months before the traffic jam, there, again, is the governor
interacting with David. This is in June at another Port Authority event.
In case you`re interested, the guy on the right, that`s David Samson, the
Port Authority chairman. And the guy on the left, that`s Bill Baroni, the
other guy who had to resign along with David Wildstein.
But in the middle there, that is our hero Governor Chris Christie and,
again, David Wildstein. The governor says he can count on one hand the
number of times he`s interacted with David Wildstein since Mr. Wildstein
was hired at the Port Authority back in 2010. Well, if Christie has the
expected number of fingers, that would mean it only happened five times
and, hey, there happens to be photographs available of two of those five
times including one taken during the shutdown on September 11th.
There`s something else going on, too, that does not jibe with how the
governor has explained this scandal and his knowledge of it and his role in
it. The day after this picture was taken of Chris Christie and David
Wildstein together during the traffic jam on September 11th, the day after
that, that was a Thursday, the day -- that was a Wednesday. The day after
that was a Thursday which is while the shutdown was still going on.
On Thursday, the day after that photo was taken, Thursday, this e-mail
was sent between two people who work in governor Christie`s office, between
two of his top staffers. Christina Genovese Reena. She`s the director of
departmental relations for the state in New Jersey. I know, it`s obscure.
A lot of people have job titles like that in New Jersey, it can be
In this case, what it means is that she worked in the governor`s
office and she reported to Bridget Kelly, who`s the governor`s deputy chief
of staff who we now know is the person who ordered time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee to which David Wildstein responded, "Got it."
So, during the shutdown, while it was still happening before the
executive director of the authority intervened and forced them to stop
doing what they were doing, Fort Lee was into its fourth day of gridlock
because of this manmade shutdown. On that fourth day, on Thursday,
Christina Renna wrote to Bridget Kelly this e-mail about the Fort Lee
traffic disaster and the mayor of Fort Lee.
This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich. The mayor
is extremely upset about the reduction of toll lanes from three to one.
Not only is it causing horrendous traffic backup in town, but first
responders are having a terrible time maneuvering the traffic because the
backup is so severe.
The mayor told Evan that he has no idea why Port Authority decided to
do this but there is a feeling in tow that it is government retribution for
something. He simply can`t understand why that would be the case, however,
because he`s always been so supportive of the governor.
Evan told the fine mayor, he was unaware that the toll lanes were
closed but would see what he could find out."
This is an e-mail during the bridge shutdown. It`s to Bridget Kelly
who ordered the bridge shutdown. It is from Christina Renna who worked in
the governor`s office.
The Evan who was referenced in the e-mail we think is probably Evan
Jay Ridley, who also worked in the governor`s office. Nobody seems to know
what his exact job title is other than aide to the governor. Public
payroll information shows that he worked in the governor`s office as an
aide and gets paid $52,000 a year. Other than that, all we know is that he
works in the governor`s office. All of them do.
And that means that during the shutdown, three people who work in the
governor`s office are e-mailing about the ongoing bridge lane shutdown and
the disaster that it`s causing and the allegation that it is politically
There is no discussion whatsoever about there being some traffic study
which the governor says was the prevailing belief about what was happening
with that bridge.
And this was contemporaneous to the problem. This wasn`t long after
the fact when there`s some newspaper article about it, in retrospect, that
alerted everybody the fact that there had been some problem that`s now
resolved. This was during the event.
And that means that the governor has absolutely and blatantly not told
the truth about what was going on in his office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: What about the cover-up piece of this?
CHRISTIE: Yes, well, that`s your characterization, not mine. But
there`s nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this issue until after
the issue was already done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not true. Here`s the other part of this that makes
no sense. Against the governor`s description of what happened here. And
why nobody should believe that he was involved.
Remember, Governor Christie`s defense, in part, is that this sort of
thing, the shutdown of the bridge couldn`t have been done to punish the
mayor of Fort Lee, because Governor Christie says he didn`t even know who
the mayor of Fort Lee was. He couldn`t pick him out of a lineup.
This guy was not on his radar. Pick your metaphor for I don`t know
the guy. Governor Christie has insisted on him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: The other part of this that just shocks me is, as I said to
you all many times before, Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. I
don`t remember ever meeting Mayor Sokolich. Until I saw his picture last
night on television, I wouldn`t have been able to pick him out of a lineup.
REPORTER: Did anyone say to you, the mayor of Fort Lee, he`s going
with your opponent?
CHRISTIE: He never -- his name was never mentioned to me. His
position was never mentioned to me. I never heard the Fort Lee mayor`s
name, Mark Sokolich, his name until all this stuff happened. So he was not
on my radar screen at all. Plenty of other mayors were. I don`t know this
I mean, I don`t know this guy. I mean, I don`t know this guy. But
I`m telling you, until yesterday when I saw his picture on TV, I wouldn`t -
- if he walked in a room, I wouldn`t have been able to pick him out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s a big part of the governor`s defense. I`ve never
heard of this guy. Nobody`s ever heard of this guy. Why would anybody
bother to try to hurt this guy who nobody`s heard of in his town and
nobody`s ever heard of? Right?
But then look at the first line of this e-mail sent from two of the
governor`s top staffers, while the shutdown was still under way. Look.
"This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich," not Evan
received a all from a mayor named Mark Sokolich from Fort Lee or from the
mayor of Fort Lee, a man named Mark Sokolich.
No, "This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich." No
further explanation needed.
And then look at this, in the same e-mail, it came from a number he
was not familiar with that was actually a secretary who patched the mayor
through to Evan. That`s the way the e-mail too Bridget Kelly starts.
Essentially saying, hey, don`t be mad. Right? I`m really story to tell
you evan took a call from mayor you know who.
And then the closing line of the e-mail is this. "Evan told the fine
mayor he was unaware the toll lanes were closed but see what he could find
out." Now undoubtedly, Mayor Sokolich is a fine mayor. He`s very fine.
I`m no expert. Fine.
Why the snark, right? The fine -- why the fine mayor snark here? If
this is some anonymous mayor who nobody in the governor`s office has ever
heard of, why the implicit apology for having taken his call? Oh, Evan
didn`t recognize the number. That`s the only reason he took it. The
number was a secretary`s number. Implicitly, otherwise he would have known
not to take the call.
And in closing, this back handed fine mayor, like ah, this jerk
complaining about the first responders not being able to get to people
having heart attacks.
The governor`s top staff were discussing the shutdown -- the effect of
it, allegations of political retribution and the mayor of Fort Lee in
provocative terms while the shutdown was still happening.
Despite Governor Christie`s denials, it seems like something was going
on between the governor`s office and that specific mayor. That specific
man, lots of people who work directly for governor Christie and who work in
the governor`s office and who are in the governor`s inner circle were in
discussions about that shutdown while it was happening. Obviously, Bridget
Kelly, the governor`s deputy chief of staff, the one who said, "Time for
some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Now, we also know Christina Renna,
governor`s department of departmental relations who send sent the e-mail
about the mayor to Bridget Kelly while the shutdown was still happening.
We also know involved in the e-mail one of the governor`s aides, Evan
We also know the governor`s campaign manager, Bill Stepien. A few
days after the shutdown, he wrote to David Wildstein, quote, "The mayor is
an idiot," talking about the mayor of Fort Lee."
Regina Egea, who was the director of the authorities unit. So, on
Christie`s staff when the shutdown happened and next in line to be his
chief of staff after the one that he had before is promoted to attorney
general. The morning that the toll lanes were opened up again, she got
sent the angry letter from the Port Authority executive director who
reacted with fury when he figured out what was going on, saying he, quote,
"believed the hasty and ill-advised decision violates federal law and the
laws of both states."
The governor`s soon to be chief of staff, Regina Egea, got that e-mail
sent to her marked with high importance on the last morning of the shutdown
as the lanes were finally being re-opened.
The mayor`s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, just days after the shutdown,
he`s fielding inquiries from reporters starting to call about it. When the
Christie appointees at the Port Authority start to freak out about the
press, this is how it goes. David Wildstein texts Bill Baroni, hey, "The
Wall Street Journal" called my cell phone. Bill Baroni responds, "Jesus".
Less than a minute later, "Call Drewniak." Call Drewniak, Governor
The governor`s spokesman, the governor`s campaign manager, the
governor`s chief of staff, his top two appointees at the Port Authority, an
aide to the governor, governor`s new chief of staff, director of
departmental relations, they`re all in the loop on this crisis while it`s
still under way and immediately thereafter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: There was nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this
issue until after the issue was already done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not true. Provably not true.
Today, remarkably, the gods of timing blessed us with this. Governor
Christie had to give his state of the state address in New Jersey today
because it is the start of a new legislative session. His very first words
in the state of the state address were about the scandal, even though he
never described it directly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: The last week has certainly tested this administration.
Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we`re
entrusted to serve.
I know our citizens serve deserve better, much better.
I`m the governor. I`m ultimately responsible for all that happens on
my watch, both good and bad. Now, without a doubt, we will cooperate with
all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not
happen again. I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that
what has occurred does not define us or our state.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Not to be blunt, but nobody thinks that shutting down that
bridge as an act of political retaliation is something that defines the
people of New Jersey. Nobody I know from New Jersey did that, except maybe
Chris Christie, or at least the people who work for Chris Christie.
This is an opposite of an "I feel your pain" moment. This is a "don`t
you feel my pain" moment?
I want to assure you this doesn`t define us? Nobody is worried about
it defining anybody except you.
Substantively, what the governor said there about the ongoing
investigation into this matter may end up being important. What he said
specifically, I`ll quote him directly was, quote, "We will cooperate with
all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen
Well, in order to make sure this does not happen again, we still need
to know what happened here in the first place and why it happened and who
Whether or not the governor thinks that is an appropriate inquiry or
not, that`s what he said, "We`ll cooperate with all appropriate inquiries,"
whether or not he thinks that inquiry is appropriate, it happening -- in an
ongoing way in terms of a potential criminal investigation being looked
into by the federal prosecutor in New Jersey but also aggressively in the
New Jersey state legislature, both in the senate and in the assembly.
Tomorrow, they`re going to convene to define and vote for the remit
and the powers of these new investigative committees that they are putting
on this scandal. Heading into that new phase of the investigation that
starts tomorrow is the uncomfortable fact for Governor Chris Christie that
his own assertions thus far about what he knew when, and who he was in
contact with, and who was involved in his direct staff, all of those
assertions are looking pretty wobbly at this point.
New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who`s at the front of this
investigation and will continue to be so, joins us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I`m the governor. And I`m ultimately responsible for all
that happens on my watch, both good and bad. Now, without a doubt, we will
cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of
trust does not happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Joining us now is New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
He`s chairman of the investigation committee which is leading this in New
Jersey thus far.
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for being here.
ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Rachel, good to be here.
MADDOW: Governor Christie said today he would cooperate with all
appropriate inquiries. Is that a change in attitude toward your
investigation from the governor, or is that consistent with what he has
said in the past?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, he didn`t use the word "appropriate" when he made
his apology the other day. And today he chose to use the word
"appropriate." I certainly hope he considers the assembly committee an
appropriate authority because we do consider ourselves that. That`s our
And we`re going to be asking questions, and we`d expect his
If he went through the troubles of saying those words the other day
and then again today, they ought to mean something.
MADDOW: The assembly started its new session today. On Thursday,
you`ll be convening, as I understand it, to make some votes and make some
decisions about exactly what`s going to happen with the new committee that
you`re going to be heading including the involvement of a special counsel.
What`s going to happen on Thursday and what happens after that?
WISNIEWSKI: We`re going to adopt a resolution. We`re going to create
this new committee.
This started in the Transportation Committee because we`re looking at
the Port Authority and became much bigger an took us right into the
governor`s office. And so, now, this investigation is more than just about
the Port Authority. It`s about an abuse of power and attempt to conceal
that abuse. It was appropriate to make the committee a little broader,
widen its jurisdiction and also to bring in assistance to help us because
the issues have become much more complicated.
Instead of looking just simply at one agency and talking to the people
in the agency, we`re now talking potentially into the governor`s office
about people who work for the governor and other state agencies and so we
wanted to make sure that we had the right type of legal counsel to make
sure we`re making the right decisions, issuing our subpoenas in the correct
fashion, making sure we`re not doing anything that would in some way
unintentionally harm the investigation.
MADDOW: This appointment of a special counsel seems like an important
part of taking it to this next level that you`re about to start on
Thursday. Can you tell us anything about who`s being considered for the
special counsel job? And is it -- is their role limited to that kind of
advice that you described there or would it have anything to with any
potential prosecutions that might emerge out of the investigation?
WISNIEWSKI: The assembly is not a prosecution agency. We`re a
legislative body. So their role is not one of being a prosecutor. But
what we are looking at are law firms and individuals who have the type of
experience, who know about running investigations. People who have been
involved, for instance, working in the U.S. attorney`s office or other
federal investigative agencies, to make sure that we have the right type of
guidance so that we make sure we`re making the right decisions.
MADDOW: In terms of what`s going to happen next, obviously in the
documentation that was released at the end of last week, a lot of people in
the governor`s top-tier staff are mentioned directly in those e-mails.
Those of us guessing where you`re going next are expecting subpoenas from
people like Bridget Anne Kelly. Can you tell us if that`s the next step?
WISNIEWSKI: There are going it to be subpoenas as early as Thursday.
After the assembly meet, the committee meets then we`ll issue those
subpoenas. And there are going to be subpoenas into the governor`s office.
There`s going to be a lot of subpoenas. I don`t want to surprise
people by telling them tonight. They`re going to be coming. And we`re
going to be looking at figuring out where the chain of e-mails came from.
I mean, you`ve pointed out, others have pointed out, you don`t get an
e-mail "it`s time for traffic problems in Fort Lee" unless there was some
discussion beforehand. Somebody higher than you made you believe you had
the authority. Right now, we don`t know who that is. We`d like to find
The way to find out is look at the documents that Bridget Kelly may
have had, that Bill Stepien may have had. Did this come from the state
Republican Party? Was the Republican Party of New Jersey directing
operations of at least one person in the governor`s office? That would be
stunning if proven.
MADDOW: Have there been any orders to either the governor`s office or
to the Republican Party or groups or individuals who may be involved,
telling them not to destroy e-mails and communications related to this
I mean, I`m thinking if I was one of the staffers who got my name
mentioned in one of the e-mails without orders not to do so, I`d be burning
my hard drives.
WISNIEWSKI: I understand that. And that`s one of the things -- one
of the reasons we`re bringing on special counsel to make sure we have the
right kind of advice and those type of notices go out to all potential
targets of our investigation.
This is going to be a lot larger than it had been. And we`re going to
be looking at all of the relevant and realistic leads to find where all
these questions go to.
MADDOW: In terms of the senate also looking into this. Senator
Loretta Weinberg is going to be with us in just a moment talking about the
Senate now taking up their own committee which will also have subpoena
power. They`re also pursuing it on that side of the legislature.
Is that a competing body? Do you expect you guys will work in a way
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I hope we can collaborate and work together.
Senator Weinberg and I have been working jointly, even though it`s in an
unofficial capacity. It`s an assembly committee investigation. I`ve
included her every step of the way as we`ve gone through the investigation.
I`d like to continue that process as we move forward.
MADDOW: All right. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chairman of the
Transportation Committee, soon to be heading up the assembly`s
supercommittee on this investigation in New Jersey -- thank you for your
time tonight. As always, please keep us posted.
WISNIEWSKI: I will, Rachel.
MADDOW: Still moving fast.
All right. Lots more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: We`ve got more on the New Jersey bridge scandal and some
other news coming up. The excellent Frank Rich is here tonight.
But there`s also some late breaking news tonight out of the very red
state of Oklahoma. A federal district court judge in Oklahoma tonight has
ruled that that state`s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under
federal law. The judge calling it, quote, "an arbitrary irrational
exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental
benefit." Last month, when a similar ruling struck down the marriage ban
in Utah, the collective response nationally was basically, oh my God, Utah!
Utah is the reddest state in the nation.
Not true, as it turns out. I mean, Utah is a really, really, really
red state. Really red. But, you know, what`s redder than Utah? Oklahoma.
And now as of tonight, these are the two most recent states to have their
gay marriage bans struck down in the courts.
The Oklahoma ruling did not allow couples to start getting married in
Oklahoma right away tonight, the way it worked in Utah, but the Oklahoma
ban is struck down now, pending appeal. As we learn more, we will let you
We`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE REP. LOUIS GREENWALD (D-NJ), MAJORITY LEADER: We know
everybody`s fascinated by bridge-gate. I know that the reality is that I
think we`d all like to go to the last chapter of the book and read what is
the conclusion here. That`s not responsible. There needs to be a
methodical and systemic approach to this.
STATE REP. VINCENT PRIETO (D-NJ), ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: This has become
more than a transportation issue. It`s now gone beyond that, and I want to
ensure that we give all the tools and resources to this committee to
actually be able to leave no stone unturned.
STATE SEN. STEPHEN SWEENEY (D-NJ), SENATE PRESIDENT: We need to be
thorough. We need to have every question answered.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That last person speaking there was the New Jersey senate
president speaking today. Right after governor Chris Christie`s awkwardly
timed State of the State address.
So far, it`s the state assembly taking the lead on this investigation
in part because they happen to have subpoena authority left over from a
different investigation into the Port Authority. But on Thursday, not only
will the assembly expand its investigation and extend its subpoena power.
On Thursday, the state senate will also be launching its own investigating
committee which will also have subpoena power.
Senate committee will be headed by the Democratic majority leader
Loretta Weinberg, who has been on this issue since the very beginning, who
has been going to Port Authority meetings since the crisis, trying to
figure out what went wrong here and who represents a district that includes
Fort Lee, New Jersey.
New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, thanks very much
for being here.
STATE SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Governor Christie addressed the controversy at the beginning
of his State of the State speech today, saying he will cooperate but
essentially he wants to move on. As you`re taking this new leadership role
investigating this, what do you want from the governor?
WEINBERG: The truth. We would like the gaps in the story filled in.
I don`t think anybody in New Jersey politics, anybody who has any
peripheral knowledge of this thinks that Bridget Anne Kelly sat in her
office one day and said, I`m going to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee.
That came in the context of something, in the context of some reason for
doing it. You know, this is part of a pattern of an environment of
retribution, of calling people names. But this was carried to a point of,
you know, I`ve described it really as a vicious act.
We put thousands and thousands of people in jeopardy. You think they
were little kids, kindergarteners and first graders going to school on the
first day caught in traffic jams. It`s the week of the 9/11 observance.
Apparently, from what we`ve seen in some of the press reports today, the
governor and two of the main characters in this drama, David Wildstein and
Bill Baroni, spent some part of 9/11 together at an observance.
Perhaps they never whispered to him, gee, there`s something going on
in Fort Lee? The mayor is upset, the people are upset. There`s a major
Nobody ever exchanged any words? What I want from the governor is
what I think the people of New Jersey want and deserve.
MADDOW: As you --
WEINBERG: And that is the truth.
MADDOW: As you are starting this new investigation, obviously you
have worked closely with and seem to have a good relationship with
Assemblyman Wisniewski who has been running this investigation on the
assembly side. Now, you will both with running parallel investigations.
How do you expect to use that to maximum benefit and not get in each other
WEINBERG: Well, we haven`t gotten in each other`s way thus far.
WEINBERG: When I started going to the Port Authority meetings, I
actually brought up with them, if, since you`re not forthcoming, I`m going
to ask for subpoena power, and having forgotten that the assembly
transportation committee, as you well pointed out, had subpoena power from
a prior -- it actually came from the toll hikes.
So, when Assemblyman Wisniewski and I talked about this, he said, I
have subpoena power. I said, use it, let`s get moving and see what the new
legislative session brings. I hope -- I have full confidence that we are
going to coordinate. We`ll try to coordinate our schedules, our witness
subpoenas. And I talked to leadership about that today, leadership in both
houses. And I look forward to continuing working with him and to really be
an asset to each other.
MADDOW: In terms of coordinating the subpoenas, does that mean we
should expect a different subpoena list in terms of subpoena targets from
your committee and from his?
WEINBERG: No, because I think we have many of the same people are
WEINBERG: But perhaps dividing up how we`re going to use the
subpoenas, what days we call people, that sort of thing.
MADDOW: New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg who has
been involved in this from the very beginning and about to take a big new
leadership role here -- thank you for your time tonight. Please stay in
touch about this.
WEINBERG: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right. Apparently even when an administration is knee
deep in scandal, there`s always still time for name calling. "New York"
magazine`s Frank Rich joins us straight ahead.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is the Meldahl Locks and Dam along the Ohio River, about
30 miles east of Cincinnati.
It`s apparently great fishing in the Meldahl pool at this point in the
Ohio River. It`s clean. There are a lot of different fish there. A lot
of people fly fish there.
At least it used to be good fishing there. One of the rivers that
spills into the Ohio River is the Elk River in West Virginia. The Elk
River, of course, is nationally famous now because its home to the massive
chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water 300,000 people in nine
West Virginia counties.
The Elk River flows into the Kanawha River and flows into the Ohio
River and it`s all just downstream.
Well, some West Virginia residents are finally starting to get their
water back on off a five day do-not-use order. Their chemical spill is no
longer West Virginia`s own. A 60-mile chemical plume of contaminated water
that started in the Elk River in West Virginia is now starting to drift
downstream into Ohio and Kentucky and is drifting toward Indiana.
Today, the Ohio River water valley sanitation commission reported that
the chemical spill has reached the Meldahl Locks and Dam. The chemical
licoricey smell is now in Ohio and it is still moving. As the slurry
closed in on Cincinnati, Ohio`s third largest city, the mayor there is
preparing to shut down the city`s water valves along the Ohio River tonight
for 48 hours, starts tonight. Trying to keep what happened in West
Virginia from happening in Cincinnati, too.
A federal investigation into this ongoing disaster is now under way.
Members of Congress have started calling for a regulatory hearing to figure
out how this could have happened. But you know who`s not calling for a
regulatory hearing? The most prominent member of Congress whose district
includes parts of greater Cincinnati.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I am entirely
confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect
the health and safety of the American people. Somebody ought to be held
accountable here. What we try to do is look at those regulations that we
think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing our economy
jobs. That`s where our focus continues to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: House Speaker John Boehner being asked about the spill today.
He represents the Cincinnati suburbs where the water valves on the Ohio
River are being shut tonight to try to protect that city from a 60-mile
chemical plume that is about to hit them. But he says he is confident that
there are ample regulations to protect American people in instances like
this -- probably in his estimation, too many regulations if you really
think about it. That chemical storage facility that leaked this chemical
into the Elk River, it had not been inspected in decades.
Turns out, West Virginia law doesn`t require inspections for chemical
storage facilities, at all. If you are making chemicals, yes, sure, then
you get inspected. If you`re storing them in West Virginia like these guys
were, go nuts, you`re on your own.
One local official telling "Charleston Gazette" today there was no
local planning at all for a spill at this facility. Quote, "That`s just
something that`s kind of fallen by the wayside", he said. And so, it took
five days to get the water back on for some of the people in West Virginia,
and hundreds of people reported getting sick from that chemical. And now
the water is almost back on in Charleston.
But that chemical plume that crippled that part of West Virginia is
now on its way downstream to Ohio and to Kentucky and to Indiana.
Watch this space.
MADDOW: One of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s challenges in
escaping the scandal of the intentional punitive 2013 traffic jam in Fort
Lee, New Jersey, is that as incredible and over the top as this thing
seems, messing with the busiest bridge in the world to punish a small town
mayor, as crazy as that is, the Chris Christie and his administration have
a long record of behaving that way -- of using over the top retribution to
settle even tiny political scores.
There was the Rutgers professor who made the mistake of siding with
the Democrats over the Republicans on their redistricting maps. Chris
Christie line item vetoed the funding for the professor`s program at
Rutgers in retribution.
There was the former Governor Richard Codey who blocked a couple of
Chris Christie nominees. The governor responded by stripping Mr. Codey of
his state trooper protection, which is something that all former governors
have always had in New Jersey. And then on the same day, he fired Mr.
Codey`s cousin and he fired one of Mr. Codey`s former staffers who were
both working for state agencies. He did all of that on the same day.
In Jersey City, in the second largest city in New Jersey, a day-long
slate of meetings with state officials and Chris Christie cabinet
officials, up to and including the state treasurer, a day-long schedule,
painstakingly pieced together over the course of weeks and months by the
governor`s office to try to help out Jersey City and its newly elected
mayor, that whole plan, every single one of those meetings, canceled as
soon as that mayor said he was not going to endorse Chris Christie in his
This is what they do. This is what governing means if Chris Christie
is the governor in charge of where you live, which is part of why the
otherwise ridiculous, impossible to believe bridge scandal has not gone
away. Well, in the midst of that ongoing bridge scandal, the e-mails
showing what happened in Jersey City, that retribution and the
documentation about it, those e-mails were released yesterday by Jersey
City in response to an opens record request.
Today, in the midst of the bridge scandal, on the day that Governor
Christie had to give his state of the state address, today, Governor
Christie`s office responded to those Jersey City documents. And this
honestly, this is my favorite development in the story all day long. This
may tell you whether or not Chris Christie survives this scandal and
outlives this crisis.
Look at how his spokesman responded. Again, these e-mails show
clearly that as soon as the endorsement message went to the governor`s
office, all of that help for Jersey City was outer loop yanked immediately.
And in most cases it was within the hour that the mayor said he would not
endorse. They yanked all the meetings.
But when Governor Chris Christie`s spokesman responded to that today,
he offered no explanation. No alternate explanation whatsoever for what
Did you, in fact, yank all that help you had previously been offering
for New Jersey`s second largest city for not endorsing the governor for re-
election? Did you do that?
This was the governor spokesman`s response today. Quote, "Mayor
Fulop`s words and actions must be viewed through the lens of partisan
politics, and his attempt to advance his own personal agenda."
When in doubt attack! Even when you`re caught, attack! Even when
you`re caught dead to rights in print doing exactly what you said you would
never do -- attack, attack, attack, attack, attack, attack.
God, I love this story.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, "New York" magazine writer-at-large.
Frank, thanks for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to be here, as always.
MADDOW: In the big picture, does it help or hurt Governor Christie
that the behavior in this scandal, shutting down the bridge, right, is
almost too outrageous to believe? That what is now proven to have happened
here is almost unbelievable. Does that help him in a way?
RICH: I don`t think it does, because the pattern that you mentioned,
there`s such a pattern of other stuff beyond the so-called bridge-gate that
you know it`s going to come up in the wash. It`s going to come out in the
One thing that`s been sort of forgotten in all of this is that Mitt
Romney vetted this guy to be his vice presidential running mate. There was
a lot of pressure on Romney from the Eastern establishment to use him. He
was a favorite of Rupert Murdoch`s, of Roger Ailes. And he didn`t, because
he saw something in that vetting process that made him, and let`s face it,
Romney did a lot of reckless things during his campaign, back away from
So I feel probably we`re going to find that the George Washington
Bridge is just sort of a loss leader for whatever else is going to turn up.
MADDOW: It will be interesting to see if there are criminal charges
here, and those criminal charges might have to be state charges and that
brings the issue of who will bring the state charges. This will be
fascinating to see.
But if this takes a take a turn towards the criminal, and it seems
like the alleged behavior, or documented behavior that is alleged to have
been directed for political reasons, it seems pretty clear that someone is
going to have to be prosecuted. If that ends up taking Chris Christie off
the table politically entirely, will the message here just be, Chris
Christie turns out he was a bad egg? Or will it be a message about this
kind of governing more broadly?
RICH: Well, probably it will be about this kind of governing more
broadly. And look, we had an example on this side of the river with
Giuliani, that he tolerated Bernie Kerik, who ultimately went to jail. He
recommended him to the biggest security job in the United States at a time
MADDOW: Homeland Security secretary, that`s right.
RICH: Because he was a crony, it was covered up. He had a pad above
Ground Zero. After 9/11, Kerik did. So it always comes out badly. It`s
interesting to me that Giuliani was one of the few Republicans who rushed
to Christie`s defense over the weekend.
But this kind of -- you know, there`s always a comeuppance. Go back
to Tammany Hall. Go back to Jimmy Walker, mayor of New York. Go back to
things have happened in many states in the country. This kind of thing
usually explodes in the end.
MADDOW: I find this saga in New Jersey to be fascinating, even
totally independent of Chris Christie`s presidential hopes. And he does
clearly want to run for president. He does seem like, at least before all
this happened, the Republican other than Rand Paul most likely to run for
But a lot of national discussion about it, as the national press sort
of picked it up belatedly has been asserting kind of breezily that Chris
Christie was not just going to run, but that he was the likely nominee.
That both doesn`t seem important to this scandal, but I also am not sure
that I believe that.
Do you think that`s true?
RICH: I never believed it. I felt that the Republican base loathes
him. His positions, it may seem strange to us, but are actually to the
left of the current Republican Party on gun control, on immigration reform.
He embraced Barack Obama after Sandy.
MADDOW: The hug, the toxic hug.
RICH: The toxic hug.
And if you listen to right wing media, not FOX which is in Christie`s
camp. But if you listen to the, you know, the radio shock jocks and all of
them during the Republican convention after Christie spoke, they don`t like
him. He`s not invited to conservative groups to speak. They like Rand
Paul better, they like Ted Cruz better.
So I never understood, no matter how much support he got from what`s
left of sort of moderate conservative Northeastern establishment Republican
support, how he was going to win the nomination of that party.
MADDOW: So maybe it is fitting that Giuliani was out as his surrogate
this past weekend defending him because he`s sort of playing the Giuliani
role that Giuliani played in 2008 where all the media assumed he would be
the nominee and when actual Republican voters came face to face with him,
they had no interest.
RICH: That`s right. Remember, it was going to be a Rudy-Hillary
MADDOW: That`s right.
The Murdoch-FOX connection I think is very interesting, because even
when the northeastern elites like somebody and the base doesn`t, that`s a
different dynamic than when FOX News likes somebody and the base doesn`t.
Do you see evidence of Murdoch and Ailes and FOX News more broadly
sticking by Christie and trying to help him through this process? Will
that make a difference?
RICH: Well, it was an interesting split. I think there is some
evidence on FOX News, Bill O`Reilly and others. And that reflects Roger
But "The New York Post" turned savage last week on Christie. And "The
Wall Street Journal" reporting on Christie has become pretty aggressive.
So I`m not so sure they`re 100 percent, whatever FOX News says about
MADDOW: When I was reading through the thousands of pages that came
out in the exhibits on Friday. It kept saying "Wall Street Journal"
reporter Ted Mann, "Wall Street Journal" reporter Ted Mann, "Wall Street
Journal" reporter Ted Mann, just throughout the documents, doggedly
pursuing the story. I couldn`t help but think how uncomfortable that must
have been in the editorial department of "The Wall Street Journal," let
alone the masthead.
Frank Rich, "New York" magazine writer at large, thanks for your time
tonight. I know you`re busy with tons of veep stuff and every else right
now. Frank, it`s nice to have you here.
RICH: Nice to be here.
MADDOW: All right. That does it again for us tonight. We`re going
to see you again tomorrow night.
I`ve got to tell you, what`s happening right now is that this scandal
in New Jersey is broadening into a bigger problem that is affecting state
Republican parties. The National Republican Party has just made a decision
based on that. And we`re going to have that report for you tomorrow night.
Stay with us.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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