Skip navigation

PoliticsNation, Thursday, Janurary 16th, 2014

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

  Most Popular
Most viewed

January 16, 2014

GuestS: Kendall Coffey; Gordon Johnson; Brian Schweitzer, Steve Kornacki,
Krystal Ball, Alicia Reece

REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR: And thanks to you for tuning in.

Breaking news tonight. A flurry of subpoenas in Governor Christie`s bridge
scandal including in the governor`s inner most circle. Late today
lawmakers in the assembly announced they`re sending out 20 subpoenas,
demanding all documents that could be related to the lane closings,
including e-mails and texts among those being served, 17 people and three
organizations, including the governor`s reelection campaign.

Two fired officials are reportedly being served, former deputy chief of
staff Bridget Kelly, who sent the notorious e-mail, time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee, and former campaign manager Bill Stepien. All that`s
on the assembly side.

We`re also getting late-breaking word of subpoenas from the state Senate,
including two high-ranking officials, David Samson, the chairman of the
agency that runs the George Washington Bridge will be served. He is a very
close ally of Governor Christie`s, and he has come under intense scrutiny
in recent days.

Also being served Regina Egea, Governor Christie`s incoming chief of staff,
and someone whose name appeared in documents released last week. Of note,
early this morning we learned the Christie administration hired legal
counsel in the name of assisting the investigation.

And today a fast-moving development is clear the states are rapidly
increasing. Who else will be subpoenaed? Will we get some answers soon?

Joining me live from outside the New Jersey state house is Assemblyman
Gordon Johnson, who is on the special investigation committee, and former
U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey.

Assemblyman, this is a wide scope. What can you tell us tonight?

STATE SEN. GORDON JOHNSON (D), NEW JERSEY: Only that we have begun our
second phase, or the second part of this investigation. Adds we stated
before, wherever this investigation leads us, that`s where we`re going to
go. So as we go forward and these subpoenas will be I guess delivered to
these individuals probably tomorrow. We will then take up the information
they bring us and go from is there.

SHARPTON: Will these go to the port authority, to people in the governor`s

JOHNSON: It`s a variety. As you mentioned at the top of the show, it is
going to individuals and organizations. I would not want to name the
individuals that I know of out of respect for them because they have not
been served yet. Tomorrow, of course, well, after their served, the list
will be made public. But it just goes to show you that the assembly is
serious about getting to the bottom of this abuse of power.

SHARPTON: Now, it`s been stated, and I repeated in the opening that you`re
asking for e-mails, texts, any kind of documents. How far back are you

JOHNSON: I believe they`re going back to sometime in September in the year
2012, as I heard. So, it`s going to be an extended research that we`re
going to be doing.

SHARPTON: An extended research. Very interesting!

Let me ask you Kendall Coffey, when I didn`t hear the leading assemblyman
in the investigation say today he is not sure where this could lead, listen
to this.


investigation, I was convinced that we would be looking at the port
authority and only the port authority. And so I`m as surprised as anybody
that we`re at the point we`re at. And so we`re going to not omit anything,
and we`re not going to exclude anything, and we`re not going have any
prejudged decisions. We`re going to follow the facts wherever they may
lead us.


SHARPTON: Now Kendall, you have been involved in investigations. Take us
on the inside of a big investigation like this. What are they looking for
and how do they deal with this?

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, as you were saying, Reverend,
time for some subpoenas in New Jersey. And that`s a bunch of them right at
the beginning. Certainly, they`re trying to get personal e-mails as much
as any government e-mails and trying to capture text messages which, as you
know, don`t stick around forever. With everything that is out there,
there`s got to be a concern that what can be the most important evidence in
an investigation, e-mail, text messages, those things don`t necessarily
change the way sometimes a witness` testimony can evolve. That`s why
they`re starting out very aggressively, very expansively with those things.
They obviously have identified a number of people they think have some
connection to what they believe is decision making. But this does not mean
that these 20 subpoenas are the end of it. It could be just the beginning.

SHARPTON: Now let me go back to you a minute, Representative Johnson.

Senator Rockefeller asked the port authority a series of questions, and the
port authority`s response shows zero evidence of a traffic study behind the
GWB or to the George Washington bridge closures. A letter from the port
authority, the agency in charge of the bridge seems to lay the blame on
Governor Christie`s former appointee, David Wildstein. Now, quote, "Mr.
Wildstein made it clear that he would control the communication about the
toll lanes closures. Mr. Wildstein failed to inform or brief the executive
director." So they`re pointing fingers at Wildstein. What do you make of
this, Mr. Johnson?

JOHNSON: Well, when we get the subpoenaed information, these texts that
were out there and e-mails, as you know, when we began this process early
on, we thought it originated in the port authority. After getting the
information that was subpoenaed at the prior meeting, during the prior
year, e-mails led us to the office of the governor`s office -- the office
of the governor.

So it`s this -- it`s going to be an interesting investigation, and it`s
going to be a thorough investigation that we put forth here. So who knows
where we`re going to wind up? And I stated before, this is just the
beginning of this process, these 20 subpoenas for informational subpoenas.

SHARPTON: Now, even though we`re now at the very beginning of the
subpoenas going out, do you feel that this rests, a lot of it, in the hands
of David Wildstein, Representative Johnson?

JOHNSON: I`m not sure where this is going to take us. But I know Mr.
Wildstein has supplied -- had come before us, as you know, and took the
Fifth Amendment. It`s obvious that the messages came from the governor`s
office. So it will be very difficult for me to believe that it will stop
at Mr. Wildstein.

SHARPTON: Let me go back to you again, Kendall.

What are the possible traditional exposure that is faced here by those
involved and the governor because clearly the assembly and the Senate
investigates on one level? But what are the possible criminal charges, if
any; that you think could possibly come from some of this?

COFFEY: Well, we certainly begin by acknowledging the fact that somebody
gets a subpoena, even that something is said about something doesn`t mean
anybody is guilty. What I think from the information we gathered so far,
the indications are clear that New Jersey has a law when power, the power
that is entrusted to a public servant is misused deliberately. It`s a
crime. It`s a felony of official misconduct. And I think that while there
are federal charges that could be considered if the feds want to get
creative, the core criminality if there has been a crime is going to be
under the New Jersey state laws for misuse of power for an unauthorized
reason when it`s done intentionally.

And that, by the way, Reverend, gets us into a lot of complicated issues in
terms of who would be the decision-makers with respect to a state criminal
investigation? Isn`t the attorney general of New Jersey ultimately in
charge? And who points that attorney general?

SHARPTON: So, if you have -- let`s follow that for one second. If you
have the attorney general in charge and clearly the attorney general may
have a conflict here because of the governor`s potential involvement, then
what happens? A special prosecutor, and then who appoints that, the

COFFEY: Well, a special prosecutor could be appointed. New Jersey law
permits it. And that is a decision which would involve the concurrent
action of the attorney general with the approval of the governor.

Now, the feds may have jurisdiction here. But looking at this as a former
prosecutor, it doesn`t seem like there is a clear example of a federal
crime that would be easy to put together. The most logical charges could
be under state law, and that would take us into a complicated thicket in
terms of figuring out who could independently handle that kind of

SHARPTON: So Representative Johnson, would Kevin O`Dowd, with the governor
having nominated his chief of staff to become attorney general now being
held back, we are seeing potential conflicts on top of conflicts. But at
the same time, the assembly and you are moving forward, and the senator
moving forward. And watching all of this is the possibility of dealing
with some criminal matters or not dealing with them. But that in itself
will be complicated by the fact that we`ve got to get something on that
side that has no conflict of interest.

JOHNSON: What you`re saying is very complex. And I guess it`s probably
true. I have to rely on the leadership of John Wisniewski, the chair of
this committee and the leadership in the assembly to, as they craft out, I
guess, a plan or a strategy, when it gets to that point as to where do we
go at that point.

JOHNSON: Let me ask you this, Kendall. If in fact you went over on the
stateside, you were prosecuted, and you started to deal with official
misconduct, could you charge or look at charging someone with the misuse of
government power or state power if in fact they didn`t have the power and
was operating on behalf of someone that did? Because clearly some people
that are in this could not have ordered people in the port authority to do
anything. They had to do it with the inference that they were operating
for someone who did have the power.

COFFEY: Well, Reverend, the specifics of the official misconduct laws
refer to a public servant, somebody who is working for the government. But
you know what they say is a prosecutor`s best friend, the laws of
conspiracy. And so prosecutors looking at this case would not only
consider those who had public power, public authority, but those acting, if
there are such other people, in conspiracy with them.

SHARPTON: Well, let me repeat what you said. Subpoenas do not mean that
anyone did anything wrong here. And we`ll see where it goes.

Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Kendall Coffey, thank you both for your time

COFFEY: Thanks, Reverend.

JOHNSON: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton.

SHARPTON: Coming up, more on the breaking news. Twenty subpoenas are
being served. Governor Brian Schweitzer joins me live.

And will he cooperate more on the Christie administration`s legal counsel?
And white be an appropriate inquiry.

Stay with us.


SHARPTON: As we speak, 20 subpoenas are being served in the Chris Christie
bridge scandal. Lawyers are being hired. Files are being reviewed, and
Governor Christie`s credibility is on the line. That`s next.


SHARPTON: Subpoenas are in the process of being served in the Chris
Christie bridge scandal. The assemblyman leading up the investigation says
that the subpoena list has grown to 17 people and three organizations.
What will those individuals say under oath?

At stake here is their own credibility and the credibility of the man
running the state, Governor Chris Christie. Not only is he the senior most
politician in the state, he is also chair of the Republican`s governors
association and a major name floated for 2016. Is his credibility that is
really on the line, because whatever happens to him will have you huge

Joining me now is former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer. During his
tenure, he held Christie`s position on the Democratic side as chair of the
democratic Governor`s association.

Governor, first of all, thank you for coming on the show tonight.

Well, great to be with you, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, subpoenas coming to some of the closest to the
governor. What do you expect from them?

but Governor Christie is a lawyer. He was a prosecutor. And, you know,
there are three options that could come out of all this. The first option
is that he is a good lawyer and he was a prosecutor. And when he says
there is no evidence that I had any knowledge of this, you know, I`m going
to kind of believe him there.

Second option is that it was kind of a wink and a handshake. His staff
would say, now, Gov, we`re going to go over some things. Maybe you ought
to leave the room. And I don`t know if that happened either.

But here is the third one, and maybe the worst one. Is it possible that
his management style is so out of touch with his staff that he doesn`t
spend any time in the engine room, that he spends all of his time up there
on the pop deck, just waving a flag? Is it possible that these staffers
are running the entire state and he doesn`t even know what they`re doing?
That is the worst option, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Now, Governor, I would think that would be the worst option.
But let me bring you back to your tenure.

You were governor. In the middle of a reelection, is it feasible if you
didn`t know how something started to happen, that you would have four days
of disruption and the largest bridge in your state, less known in the
world, and no one would brief you because it may come up at a campaign stop
from the media or from some citizen that you`re trying to convince them or
crowd to vote for you for reelection?

SCHWEITZER: Alice in wonderland reality, absolutely impossible. And to
have his deputy chief of staff sending an e-mail, saying that we ought to
have some traffic problems. And remember, his deputy chief of staff took
the place of the guy who became his campaign manager. So it looks like
there was a lot of coordination going on within the governor`s office.

And my God, if he wasn`t paying attention to this, what other shenanigans
were they doing all over New Jersey? That might be the next question.

SHARPTON: And then when you look at all of these people that were
involved, I mean, and all of the people that have been cited and very close
to the governor, you were governor of Montana. Was your deputy chief of
staff in another building or very close to you physically in terms --

SCHWEITZER: Two doors down.

SHARPTON: Two doors down.

SCHWEITZER: Two doors down. Two doors down was in my office --.

SHARPTON: Go ahead.

SCHWEITZER: -- in my office two or three times a day. As a governor, you
sign 20, 30, 40 documents a day. And your staff goes over those documents,
reviews them, make sure they`re ready to be signed. You sign them. They
go off to be notarized. Your deputy chief of staff is right next to you.
Your right-hand person.

SHARPTON: Now let me ask you this. You headed the Democratic Governor`s
Association. Mr. Christie heads the Republican Governor`s Association.
What will this do, this scandal that seems to continue to grow now? What
will it do with his standing among Republican governors and Republicans
nationally as well as his prospects for 2016? Give me the politics of what
goes on as a party leader and then as a potential presidential candidate.

SCHWEITZER: It isn`t good. Let me tell you why. First off, the chair of
the Republican governors or democratic governors has to travel the country
to raise money you. You have to have the confidence of those donors.

Second, you need candidates in every one of these states that are running
to want to stand beside you and let the people of their state believe that
if they elect this fellow or this gal to be governor or Republican
governor, they`re going to be in the mold of this fellow who came from New

Now, are you sure that a lot of the states across this country want to have
a governor in the mold of the shenanigans that have been going on here
whether he did them knowingly or it was his staff running rogue?

But listen, we`ve heard that governors run for president because they have
records. He has bigger problems than this thing. You know, New Jersey
has, let`s see, the highest unemployment and taxes in America. And
according to a recent study of George Mason University, they say New Jersey
ranks 50th, last place in financial management. So he`s got a scandal
brewing here. But he has been governor for four years. They have the
worst managed state in the union. People are going to say I don`t think we
need that as our president.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, what do you think is going on inside of that
governor`s office now with all of this going on, subpoenas dropping today,
what do you think is the climate and the movements going on inside that

SCHWEITZER: I bet you they are not sending any e-mails anymore, Reverend.

SHARPTON: Former governor of Montana Brian Schweitzer. I want to say I`m
used to seeing you in your bolo tie. You wore your Sunday tie for me

SCHWEITZER: I dressed up for you, Reverend. This is my Sunday go to
meeting clothes, just for you.

SHARPTON: Thank you for your time tonight, governor. Good to see you.

SCHWEITZER: My pleasure.

SHARPTON: Coming up, the Christie team talks again about fully cooperating
with, quote "appropriate inquiries." What exactly do they mean by that?

Plus, and an ironic headline from a young Christie, the time he was happy a
bridge was open.

Also, Attorney General Eric Holder is taking a big step on racial
profiling. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: Here is the new reality for Governor Christie. There is going
to be unexpected scrutiny on his past especially when it comes to bridges,
traffic jams, and bullied politics. Talking points memo unearthed this
story on Christie`s reputation as a political bully even way back when he
was president of his college Congress.

But here is where the story gets ironic. They uncovered this headline in
the student newspaper -- Bridge to be opened for graduation. You can see a
college photo of Christie. He was excited to learn the bridge would be
open. Quote, "there will be no impediment for the June 1984 at least as
commencement at least as planned now.

Coming up, more on that other bridge, the one with the impediment, and of
Christie team hiring lawyers today. That`s next.



looking at is the why. I mean, we have a -- we know who sent out the
request to close those lanes. We know who received it. We don`t know why
it was sent.


assemblyman leading the investigation into the bridge scandal. He says
that in the process of serving 20 subpoenas in the case, and the question
now, will the governor`s office cooperate? The governor`s office has hired
an outside law firm to help with an internal review. And when the governor
first addressed the scandal last week, he pledged his full cooperation.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Listen, I have absolutely
nothing to hide. And I have not given any instruction to anyone yet. But
my instruction to everybody will be to cooperate and answer questions.


SHARPTON: Nothing to hide. But this week his language changed.


CHRISTIE: Without a doubt, we will cooperate with all appropriate
inquiries to insure that this breach of trust does not happen again.


SHARPTON: They`ll cooperate with all appropriate inquiries. That`s
also what the governor`s office said in a statement today. Quote, his
administration is fully cooperating with the U.S. attorney inquiry and
other appropriate inquiries and requests for information. There are
several investigations into the bridge scandal, and the assemblyman leading
one of them said today his is definitely appropriate.


WISNIEWSKI: The governor made a statement that he will cooperate
with all appropriate investigations. We`re certainly an appropriate


SHARPTON: We`ll have to see if the governor agrees.

Joining me now is Steve Kornacki and Krystal Ball. Thank you both
for being here.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC CO-HOST, "THE CYCLE": Thanks for having us, Rev.

SHARPTON: Steve, we`re still waiting to find out who is subpoenaed.
Let`s start there. But 17 people and three organizations have been. What
is your reaction?

talking to a member of the assembly just a few minutes ago, actually, and
he said basically time is of the essence here. They`re worried about a
couple of things. One thing that members on the assembly side are worried
about is that you have this parallel investigation that is going to be run
by the state Senate. The state Senate is also going to be issuing
subpoenas, also going to be asking for records. There is some concern here
that this is going to be chaos, and that this is going to create an
opportunity for the Christie administration potentially to go to court and
say hey, look, so and so is subpoenaed by the assembly.

They want these documents. They want this person to appear. They
also want the person to appear before the State Senate Committee. You`re
subpoenaing the same person, the same documents twice. Some of these
people may be represented at taxpayer expense, at public expense. It may
give an opening to the governor`s office to delay this thing by going to
court and by saying the legislature needs to get its act together, needs to
act as one. And so part of it here is I think there is also a sense here -

SHARPTON: Well, that`s already started. Because NBC News has
confirmed two subpoenas from the Senate.


SHARPTON: Regina Egea and David Samson. Right.

KORNACKI: Regina Egea and David Samson. And the other question here,
the other thing that there is some concern about is if the U.S. attorney
himself, if Paul Fishman steps into this, essentially -- functionally that
could have the power of shutting down the state legislative. Paul Fishman
is a Democratic appointee as U.S. attorney. He is been -- when it comes to
prosecuting public corruption, he has been nowhere near for better or for
worse -- nowhere near as aggressive as Chris Christie was when Chris
Christie was as a federal prosecutor. If you talk to Democrats privately,
they express lots of concerns about how they think Paul Fishman`s office,
which again, keep in mind includes a lot of Chris Christie holdovers, how
that office might approach this case.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, Krystal, the assemblyman leading the
investigation was asked if he planned to subpoena the governor. Here is
what he said.


WISNIEWSKI: There is no intention right now to subpoena the
governor. We`ve not seen any kind of direct link. So to even speculate
really takes this investigation and, you know, takes it to an area that I
don`t want to go to right now. We`re going to follow the leads we have.
And when we have leads that are relevant, we`ll follow them. We don`t have
any that take us in the direction right now.

SHARPTON: What do you say to that?

BALL: I think the Democrats are really trying to take a very measured
approach. And it may not be necessary to actually subpoena Christie`s e-
mails if you have Regina Egea, if you have David Samson, if you have the
aides and all the people surrounding him, you can see what the
conversation. You can see where the direction was coming from. Because I
think the big question that everyone has is when Bridget Kelly is saying
"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," did she come up with that on
her own? Where did she get that idea? Who did she think she was
benefitting? Did she think that that was coming directly from the
governor, that she was backing him up by doing that? Did she receive
encouragement? And I think if we have the e-mails and the documentation
from the aides surrounding Christie, we can get to that conclusion, and
perhaps even evidence that allows us to then go and subpoena Christie`s
records as well.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, though, Steve, because you spend time in
New Jersey, and you know state structure in terms of governor`s offices. I
think Krystal raised a good point about who she was helping, who she was
serving. And clearly, that would lead to if there was a conspiracy, who
were you doing this for. But even before that, she`s deputy chief of staff
sending this e-mail to someone she has no authority over.

KORNACKI: Right. Which is why another name to keep in mind here, I
think another name that creates a lot of suspicion when you talk to people
in Trenton is Bill Stepien.


KORNACKI: Bill Stepien, the political lieutenant who ran both of
Chris Christie`s campaigns was going to play a top role in a 2016 Chris
Christie presidential campaign. People look at him and say this is
somebody who may be -- it`s a lot more plausible than Bridget Kelly when
you get how new to the governor`s sort of circle Bridget Kelly was, it may
be more plausible for Bill Stepien.

SHARPTON: But I`m not even talking -- I`m talking about completely
dealing in protocol. This person she sent it to, had there not been some
pre-discussion or some understanding she was operating for someone would
have likely said well, who do you think you are.

KORNACKI: That`s it, yes.

SHARPTON: To do anything.

KORNACKI: No, no, obviously, as Krystal says, you`re picking up this
discussion midstream.


KORNACKI: So the question is the more of these people you can
subpoena, and if you get them to comply, you get them to comply the way
Wildstein and Baroni did. They`re going to start, OK, oh, this Bridget
Kelly e-mail, well, just two hours earlier, she talked to X. She e-mailed
Y. You know, here is a perfect example is Regina Egea, who is the
governor`s current pick to be his next chief of staff she runs his
authorities e-mail, she oversees the Port Authority, you know, from the
governor`s office, at least in theory.

Three hours after this guy Pat Foye in New York on December 13 writes
this scathing memo that says you are possibly breaking state and federal
law, three hours after he writes that e-mail, Bill Baroni, Christie
appointee at the Port Authority gets it, forwards it, priority high to
Regina Egea in the governor`s office. Where you subpoena her records, you
get her records, you`re going find out what did she do with it? Who did
she send it to? What did she say about it? Who else -- because that was a
damning memo that Pat Foye wrote.

BALL: Right.

KORNACKI: We`ll find out who in the Christie administration knew
about it.

SHARPTON: Today they hired a lawyer to lead the team, Christie`s
office, to lead their team, Randy Maestro, he`s a former assistant U.S.
attorney. He specialized in target and organized crime as a prosecutor.
He also worked as chief of staff and deputy mayor for Rudy Giuliani, and
now co-chairs his firm`s crisis management group. And I know him. He is a
smart guy. Is this a good move, and what do they expect him to do?

BALL: Yes. I think it is a good move. He is also has been, you
know, a strong supporter of Republican candidates financially. And I think
Christie has known him for a while. Christie is really trying to take
control of this narrative and show that he is serious about making changes
in his office. Because even if we find that there is no direct link to
Christie, right, there is no smoking gun and people say OK, it was just his
aides acting in a rogue fashion, he still has to clean up the fact that he
hired those folks, that he put his trust and the public`s trust in those


BALL: And what does that say about him and the way that he runs this
office. So part of the job of Randy Mastro is to put those pieces together
and demonstrate, OK, here is what we have done. Here is where things went
wrong, and here is the changes that we`ve made to make sure that it never
happens again so that he can restore the trust both of the people of New
Jersey, but also of voters more broadly if he is going to explore

SHARPTON: Political damage.

BALL: Absolutely.

SHARPTON: You know, at the same time, Steve, the former deputy chief
of staff Bridget Kelly, who we were just talking about has also hired a
lawyer named Walter Timpone who has worked for one of the largest firms in
New Jersey. He is appointed by the governor to serve on the New Jersey
Election Law Enforcement Commission and his firm`s managing partner served
on Governor Christie`s transition team. So they`re getting lawyered up.
And certainly there is going some legal protection. But what are you
hearing? I mean, you`re plugged in in New Jersey. What are you hearing
what is going on in the governor`s office? I can`t wait until you come on
Saturday morning. Tell me.


What are you hearing?

KORNACKI: Well, my contacts inside the governor`s office not as good
now as they were a little while ago. But no, there are a couple of
indications here. When you look at who Bridget Kelly is using as an
attorney, there is an indication there, and there was also a report in "The
New York Times" this week where some of Bridget Kelly`s friends talked to a
reporter of the "New York Times." Bridget Kelly is sending signals from
wherever she is that she is still hopeful of looking to, wants to do the
best she can to protect the governor. She feels terrible about this. So
there is a lot of talk out there that`s like, you know, will Bridget Kelly
turn on Chris Christie and will she spill all these goods on him. She is
sending word right now that that is not the case.

BALL: How many times did he call her a liar? That is remarkable.

KORNACKI: Well, but the one that is a lot more interesting is David -
- at this moment at least is David Wildstein who was at that hearing openly
asking for immunity that is somebody who, and in fact the fact that his
documents being released was the first clue that if there is no back
channel communication going on there between him and the Christie
administration. And you know that because he blindsided them with his
documents last week. They announced Bill Stepien as the next Republican
state chairman on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, Wildstein`s
documents came out that put Stepien in the middle of all of this. If they
had had any inkling that that was coming, that the governor`s office had
any inkling that was coming, they would have never announced this. So,
that shows you different then Bridget Kelly.

SHARPTON: So, in that saying, he may not be on the governor`s team?

KORNACKI: Yes. That`s telling me right now, if you`re looking at
Bridget Kelly, if you`re looking at David Wildstein, one seems a lot more
interested in immunity and a lot more interested in maybe saying something
interesting than the other, and that`s David Wildstein.

SHARPTON: Wow. Interesting. Steve Kornacki, I knew you had
something. And Krystal Ball, thank you both for your time tonight.

BALL: Thanks Al.

SHARPTON: And be sure to watch "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI," weekends at
8:00 a.m. Eastern. And catch Krystal on "THE CYCLE," weekdays at 3 p.m.
Eastern, both right here on MSNBC.

Ahead, as we approach Martin Luther King Day, some on the right are
distorting his dream and his legacy.

And the Justice Department makes big news today on the issue of
racial profiling. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: On Monday, America will pause for a national holiday to
honor the legacy of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. We should respect
that legacy. But tonight there is a lot of controversy over flyers like
this. Using photo shopped images of Dr. King to promote parties. These
flyers use Dr. King`s image in inappropriate ways, ways that do not reflect
the ideas he fought and died for. Dr. King`s daughter Bernice calls this
imaging appalling, and I agree.

I`m even more disturbed by how Dr. King`s legacy is being distorted
in the political arena by conservatives twisting his life`s work for their
own agenda. On the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, one
conservative radio host, a former congressman, delivered his own "I have a
dream" speech.


FMR. REP. JOE WALSH (R), ILLINOIS: I got a dream that young black
males don`t become daddies until after they`re married and until after they
have a job. How about that? I have a dream that blacks cease their
dependency on government which has enslaved them to a life of poverty.


SHARPTON: That same month, another right wing activist claimed that
if Dr. King were alive today, he would oppose Planned Parenthood and a
woman`s right to choose. And last year, a pro-gun activist invoked King`s
name to oppose gun control with this shocking statement.


King would agree with me if he were alive today that if African-Americans
had been given the right to keep and bear arms from day one of the
country`s founding, perhaps slavery might not have been a chapter in our


SHARPTON: These kind of ignorant views and statements don`t reflect
the legacy of Dr. King. He fought for civil rights, voting rights, health
care, equality, respect. Our job is to protect the progress he made while
also advancing his dream. My next guest is working to advance that dream.

Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, she is pushing a new voter
bill of rights in Ohio. Representative Reece, thank you for your time

STATE REP. ALICIA REECE (D), OHIO: Thank you for having me.

SHARPTON: Now, first of all, how are voter rights under attack in
your state right now?

REECE: Well, almost every week, whether it`s in the House or the
Senate, there is a new bill that is being introduced and rushed through and
sometimes signed into law to take away the voting rights that we currently
have, whether it`s taking away early voting days, whether it`s purging the
rolls in terms of those who are registered to vote. We are constantly
under attack. And unfortunately, the Ohio legislative black caucus having
17 members between the House and the Senate, we don`t have the votes to
stop it, and we can`t keep up with it, because it`s coming every week at a
very fast pace.

SHARPTON: So, then what will the Ohio voters bill of rights do that
you started?

Well, we were very excited today to launch Dr. King`s people`s
movement is what we call it today when we brought together clergy, the --
A. Philip Randolph, NAACP, the National Action Network. And we came with a
bottom of approach for a ballot initiative to put a voter bill of rights in
the Ohio constitution. We start in Ohio, but we would certainly like to
see it across the country. And what it does is protect the voting rights
that we`ve had. It takes early voting and puts into it the Ohio state
constitution. The right to vote, and who can vote right now, those things
can be changed because it`s not in the Ohio constitution. And so this
gives the people a voice.

SHARPTON: It puts it in the state constitution and then it can be a
model around the country. And that is what you kicked off today. Because,
you know, one of the things I was checking out, Representative Reece is
that voter fraud in your state`s 2012 election was nonexistent. You have
5.63 million votes cast. Just 135 possible cases of voter fraud were
referred to authorities. That`s 0.002 percent. So all these new voter ID
laws and all these laws are against something that is not happening in your

REECE: Well, absolutely. It`s a scare tactic. The real issue is in
Ohio and in my district. You know, we`ve had people who have waited almost
two years to have their votes counted. In my district, we`ve had voter
intimidation billboards targeted in the African American community, trying
to stop people from voting. And so we thought it was very important to
launch a people`s campaign in the spirit of Dr. King as we celebrate his
birthday. And we`ll have a lot of ceremonial events throughout the
country. And we want to move from singing "We shall overcome." It`s time
to overcome. And we`re calling for a voter bill of rights that allows the
people to have a voice and a vote and put voting rights in the

SHARPTON: Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, thank you for your
time tonight.

REECE: Thank you for having me.

SHARPTON: The Justice Department makes big news on racial profiling
today. It`s progress. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: A bipartisan group in Congress announced the bill today
that will help fix the part of the voting rights act that was gutted by the
Supreme Court last summer. After that court ruling staged across the
region rushed to pass new restrictive voting laws. This injustice is why
we marched last summer at the commemoration and continuation march on
Washington. And it`s why Attorney General Eric Holder filed lawsuits to
challenge some of those restrictions. Today`s announcement is another move
in the right direction. Here is civil rights pioneer Congressman John


REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: It is amazing to me, it is
unbelievable, it is almost unreal that we were able to come together so
quickly to craft a compromise that both Democrats and Republicans can find
a way to support and move forward.


SHARPTON: Almost unreal. How quickly the sides came together. And
he was joined by one of those Republicans, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner,
who talked about the challenges the group faced.


REP. JIM SENSENBRENNER (R), WISCONSIN: What we were facing and
drafting a modernization of the VRA was both a constitutional challenge
given the court`s decision, as well as a political challenge in figuring
out how to get the votes to pass this legislation in a divided and very
fractured and partisan Congress. I think we have threaded that needle.


SHARPTON: Congressman Sensenbrenner has worked hard and across the
aisle on this issue, and I congratulate him for it. This bill is not
perfect, and it`s not yet clear when or if it will come to a vote. But it
is progress. And it is time. Past time for our representatives in
Washington to finally take action to write these wrongs.


SHARPTON: Finally tonight, a big step towards reducing the problem of
profiling in America. "The New York Times" says the Justice Department
will, quote, "significantly expand this definition of racial profiling to
prohibit federal agents from considering religion, national origin, gender,
and sexual orientation in their investigation." This is a much needed
step. This past summer, Attorney General Eric Holder shared his personal
experiences of how he had been profiled.


ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: They brought me back to a number
of experiences that I had as a young man. When I was pulled over twice and
my car searched on the New Jersey turnpike when I`m sure I wasn`t speeding.
Or when I was stopped by a police officer while simply running to catch a
movie at night in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. I was at the time of that
last incident a federal prosecutor.


SHARPTON: After the Trayvon Martin verdict, President Obama talked
about his own experiences.


PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: There are very few African-
American men in this country who haven`t had the experience of being
followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.
There are very few African-American men who haven`t had the experience of
walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars.
That happens to me, at least before I was a senator.


SHARPTON: Now the Obama administration is taking a crucial step
towards assuring that justice is the same for everybody. We`ve come a long
way since April 1998 when state troopers fired into a van of black and
Latino men on the New Jersey turnpike after years of court battles, the
troopers finally admitted they stopped the men solely because of their skin
color. I was involved in the leadership of that fight in `98. I`m still
here with many others of races, religions, and orientation saying profiling
is wrong.

If we could end segregation in the generation ahead of us, we can end
profiling and stop prejudgment today. Dr. King and that generation made
laws. We must protect them and enforce them. We cannot honor Dr. King and
dishonor the next step in those that follow in the generations that became
the recipients of that mantle.

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


<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Transcription Copyright 2014 ASC LLC ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. No license is
granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not
reproduce or redistribute the material except for user`s personal or
internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall
user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may
infringe upon MSNBC and ASC LLC`s copyright or other proprietary rights or
interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of

Sponsored links

Resource guide