'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, January 20th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 20, 2014
Guests: John Wisniewski, Alfred Doblin
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST": That is "ALL IN" for this evening.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: I have taken to watching football the same
way I watch horror movies, which is like peering through when I know it`s
HAYES: Particularly the Navarro play, that was really -- ugh.
MADDOW: OK. Yes, thanks, man. I appreciate it.
And thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. New
Jersey is the most densely populated state in the United States of America.
People are more on top of each other in New Jersey than in any other
Of the top 10 most densely populated cities and towns in this country,
seven of the 10 are in New Jersey. And the combination of that population
density and the very unlucky aim of a very large storm, the largest
American -- excuse me, the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded -- that
is why the impact of Superstorm Sandy on New Jersey, specifically, was so
Sandy affected every state on the Eastern Seaboard. It caused
fatalities as far south as Haiti and as far north as Canada. Sandy sent a
storm surge flooding through New York City, the biggest city in the nation,
and essentially turned the lights off in New York for a very long time.
But when it comes to New Jersey, it was something different. Sandy
just punched the state of New Jersey right in the face. And from the very
beginning, it was clear that densely populated little Hoboken, New Jersey,
one of the most densely populated cities in the nation, 50,000 people
living in basically one square mile, all right up on the mighty tidal flow
of the Hudson River that swelled and surged and overflowed in that storm,
from the very beginning, it was clear that the little city of Hoboken, New
Jersey, was in trouble.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Twenty thousand people trapped, Hoboken became a virtual
island, as 500 million gallons of water overwhelmed this square mile town.
By Wednesday morning, the National Guard showed up in force, rescuing the
elderly trapped inside their homes, and delivering much-needed food and
supplies to those still stranded.
MAYOR DAWN ZIMMER (D), HOBOKEN, NJ: One thing that we truly need, we
need more fuel.
REPORTER: Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer.
ZIMMER: We need more food, we need more resources. So, anyone who`s
listening to this in the city of Hoboken or neighboring towns who can get
to us, we ask you to come and deliver your supplies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was from "NBC Nightly News" on Halloween night, which
was a few days after Sandy had hit.
I got to say, though, personally, I vividly remember our coverage of
the storm making landfall as it hit. And, specifically, of the flooding
and the rescue efforts in Hoboken, because the most harrowing live report
that we had during that storm was from Hoboken, while we were live on the
phone with Hoboken mayor, Dawn Zimmer, and she told us something that we
had no idea about, before she told us live on the air. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Can you tell us at this hour, what`s the state of things in
Hoboken? Have you still got deep flooding? Are you still doing rescues at
ZIMMER: Oh, yes, we still have severe flooding in the city of
Hoboken. Probably half our city is flooded. We have, there`s probably
about 20,000 people that still remain in their homes, and you know, we`re
trying to -- you know, we`re trying to put together an evacuation plan, get
the equipment here, trying to, you know, ask the National Guard to come in
and help us and bring the equipment that we absolutely need.
You know, the payloaders aren`t doing it, we can`t get down some of
the city streets and really concerned about the residents who were stranded
in their homes right now. And we`ve had emergency situations and we just
can`t reach people. We`ve got the P.A. systems, but, of course, their
chargers on their phones have run out, so just very concerned.
MADDOW: Is it a matter of being able to find people who are stranded,
or is it a matter of -- the fact that you know where people are, but you
physically can`t get to them because the equipment either doesn`t exist or
it hasn`t gotten there yet?
ZIMMER: Oh, I mean, we know where they are. They`re in their
buildings and half of Hoboken is literally flooded and underwater. So,
yes, we don`t have the -- we have two payloaders and we`re going in when we
get the calls and trying to go in where we can to help people, but the
payloader cannot -- we have small city streets and payloaders can`t fit
down all the city streets. And that`s the only vehicles we have to get
down city streets.
I`m just worried, we have live wires in the waters and the waters are
completely contaminated and getting more contaminated every minute, really,
because the sewage system was completely flooded out. So, it`s rainwater
mixed with sewage water. It`s becoming more sewage water.
MADDOW: Just to be clear, in terms of getting the word out
nationally, and I think it needs to be underscored, this is not a situation
that`s in the past, where Hoboken went through something bad and you`re now
reflecting on it, this is ongoing in Hoboken.
Just to be clear, Mayor Zimmer, how many people do you think are still
stranded in Hoboken?
MADDOW: I`d say about 20,000 to 25,000 people are still stranded in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Twenty thousand to 25,000 people, stuck, right there, unable
to get out. That was one of the most memorable moments -- in a bad way --
that we have ever had on this show. The realization, in the middle of
these rescue efforts, with a storm that is over, but the realization in the
middle of the rescue efforts that this was a city mayor, not just giving us
information about what had happened in her town, but letting us know about
20,000, 25,000 Americans, in need of help, right then, live, in the moment,
who were not getting it.
Now, within two hours of that interview, in fact, the National Guard
did start to arrive on scene in Hoboken, to start to help. This was the
report we were able to do the next day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: At 11:01 p.m. last night, the city of Hoboken sent out this
tweet. "The National Guard has arrived." Specifically, the second
battalion of the 13th infantry, with 12 vehicles able to make it through
Hoboken`s narrow streets and deep floodwaters to begin assessing the city`s
needs. Their first priority was getting the most vulnerable people in the
city who were still trapped on to dry ground, and then figuring out who to
With daylight, another look at the devastation from the air revealed
just how much there was to do. Roughly half of that city is still
underwater. One stranded resident showing what that looked like from his
The National Guard spent today driving these high water vehicles
through the flooded streets, rescuing stranded people. Yes, some people
rescued with their pets, their very large pets, getting folks to friends or
to emergency shelters that were set up in a couple of churches. Other
stranded residents were able today to hitch rides out on boats.
In the dry side of the city, neighbors were banding together. People
who still had electricity created makeshift cell phone charging stations
for their neighbors to use while everybody in the city still waits for the
floodwaters to recede. This is ongoing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Hoboken had a really hard time in Superstorm Sandy.
So did a lot of New Jersey, but Hoboken was right up there. "The Star
Ledger" and "ProPublica" and NJ.com collaborated on a joint effort after
the storm to try to quantify the damage that was done to various towns
across New Jersey. For everyone town throughout the state, they counted
the number of buildings of houses, businesses, any kind of structure that
were just affected by the storm or that sustained minor damage in the storm
or that sustained major damage, or that were destroyed.
And, of course, the townships where the most buildings were totally
destroyed were the towns that were right up on the shore, right up against
the Atlantic, and took that huge storm surge full face.
But look at who had the most buildings to sustain major damage in the
storm. Number one, for the whole state, is Hoboken. It`s a terrible
distinction, in terms of the number of buildings that were still standing
after Sandy, but that sustained major damage in the storm. It`s a terrible
distinction, but nowhere else in New Jersey was anywhere near Hoboken.
More than 1,200 buildings with major damage. They just got creamed.
And it felt like it at the time, right? It was the anecdotal
experience of the people who were there and saw it happened. And it was
borne out thereafter by the damage surveys of how hard hit New Jersey
Well, today, after the mayor of Hoboken this weekend said that she was
told that Sandy relief funds were at least partially contingent on that
mayor supporting a private development project in Hoboken that was
important to the Chris Christie administration, after she made those
allegations this weekend -- today, the Christie administration responded to
the Hoboken mayor by denying the mayor`s allegations, by saying that
Hoboken was never shortchanged in its Sandy relief funds for any reason.
And, besides, according to the office of Governor Chris Christie, quote,
"Hoboken was just not one of the state`s hardest hit communities."
That`s part of the pushback from the Christie administration against
these explosive new allegations from the Hoboken mayor that were first
exposed here on MSNBC on Saturday morning by Steve Kornacki. Part of their
reporting is that Hoboken just didn`t need that much help.
Mr. Kornacki reported new claims on Saturday morning, from Hoboken
mayor, Dawn Zimmer, that during one week in May, this past May, right after
the mayor had complained to Governor Christie office that Hoboken was not
receiving enough help after Sandy, the mayor says within days of her making
that complaint in writing to the governor, two separate members of the
Christie administration, two separate members of his cabinet, the
lieutenant governor and the commissioner of community affairs, both
communicated to her that Sandy money would start flowing to her city, if
she moved to expedite a private redevelopment project in Hoboken, that was
working its way through channels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE KORNACKI, UP: "Please, Governor, Zimmer," wrote in a letter
when these decisions came down, "we need your help. I have assured Hoboken
residents that we would be treated fairly, because you have always treated
Hoboken fairly in the past."
Zimmer says there was no response to that letter, but note the date,
May 8th of last year. That was the same day the Hoboken planning board did
not adopt the redevelopment recommendation for the Rockefeller property.
And then, two days later, Mayor Zimmer got a call. The lieutenant
governor, Kim Guadagno, wanted to come to town to do an event at a Shop
Rite, to promote how businesses that had recovered from the storm. So,
they set that up.
And on May 15th, there they were, Kim Guadagno, the lieutenant
governor of New Jersey, and Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, at the
Hoboken Shop Rite. You can see them in the picture. Zimmer has told us
that Guadagno pulled her aside during that visit and delivered a message to
her. If you want that Sandy money, you need to get that Rockefeller
Project moving, because it`s very important to the governor.
That`s what Dawn Zimmer, the mayor of Hoboken, told us that Kim
Guadagno told her that day. And she`s not just saying it to us now,
because she says when it happened, she was so shocked, that she wrote it
down in her personal diary, which she has shared with us.
And here is how she describes the threat Guadagno made in an entry in
that diary, dated May 17th. Quoting from it, "At the end of a big tour of
Shop Rite in meeting, she pulls me aside with no one else around and says
that I need to move forward with the Rockefeller Project. `It is very
important to the governor. The word is that you are against it and you
need to move it forward or we are not going to be able to help you. I know
it`s not right, these things should not be connected, but they are,` she
says. `If you tell anyone I said that, I will deny it.`"
This is what the mayor of Hoboken says Chris Christie`s lieutenant
governor told her that day. Zimmer`s diary entry goes on to add that
Guadagno told her, quote, "I don`t know all the details, but I was with the
governor on Friday night, and all I know is that the impression is that you
are against this project and you have to move it forward."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was from Steve Kornacki`s show here on MSNBC on Saturday
morning. Mayor Zimmer of Hoboken went on that day to do a follow-up
interview with "The Star Ledger" newspaper in New Jersey, where she
repeated the claims. She then did another long interview on Sunday on CNN,
where she repeated her claims.
The Christie administration vociferously denies these allegations.
The commissioner of community affairs has called them not only false, but
absurd, saying, quote, "I welcome a full and thorough law enforcement
review of her libelous claims." The law firm who was involved in these
negotiations, the law firm of David Samson, the chairman of the Port
Authority, that law firm has also issued a categorical denial.
And then today, with Governor Christie himself still out of town in
Florida, the lieutenant governor herself denounced the Hoboken mayor and
said, effectively, yes, the two of them talked about development issues in
Hoboken, but, no, it wasn`t connected to Sandy relief funds, and it was
nothing like the mayor says it was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KIM GUADAGNO (R), NEW JERSEY LT. GOVERNOR: I am not going to take any
questions. I will repeat that. I am not going to take any questions. You
know there are ongoing inquiries. I think, I`m sure, all the facts will
come out at the appropriate time.
But right now, I think in short, you need to hear me say this out
loud, and I will. In short, Mayor Zimmer`s version of our conversation in
May of 2013 is not only false, but the illogical and does not withstand
scrutiny when all of the facts are examined.
Any suggestion, any suggestion that sandy funds were tied to the
approval of any project in New Jersey is completely false. I am very
surprised by the mayor`s allegations and I deny, wholeheartedly, those
allegations. I proudly support and will continue to support the creation
of jobs in Hoboken and all of New Jersey, and I will continue to work on
But I`m going to end, and I mean end, by reemphasizing one thing. I
deny any suggestion made by Mayor Zimmer that there was ever any condition
placed on the release of Sandy funds by me.
I want to thank you all for coming out, for giving me the opportunity
to speak. I look forward to the inquiries. I am sure, absolutely sure,
all of the facts will come out. Thank you very much.
REPORTER: Lieutenant Governor --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And as promised, she took no questions.
For her part, the mayor of Hoboken is not backing down one inch. She
released this statement after those words from the lieutenant governor.
Mayor Zimmer said, quote, "I`m genuinely disappointed that the lieutenant
governor has lived up to her promise that she would deny linking Hoboken`s
application for Sandy hazard mitigation funding with expediting a private
development project. She says, I stand by my word. I remain willing to
testify under oath."
The mayor also says that on Sunday, yesterday, she says she spent more
than two hours meeting with the U.S. attorney`s office in New Jersey, the
federal prosecutor who has started an inquiry on the bridge issue in New
Jersey. Mayor Zimmer says the meeting was at the request of the U.S.
She said that she has not only answered all of the U.S. attorney`s
questions thus far, but that she also handed over her personal diary. She
handed over her journal to the prosecutors. That`s the journal that she
says was her contemporaneous accounting of what happened back in May when
she said those two members of the Christie cabinet, effectively, shook her
down, shook Hoboken down for Sandy relief money.
The claims from the Hoboken mayor are explosive. If proven, they
could potentially be even more damaging than the allegations around the
shutting down of lanes on to the George Washington Bridge. Not only
because the alleged shakedown here would be, itself, an egregious abuse of
public power for private ends, but also because the handling of Sandy, in
New Jersey, and the recovery effort in MLK is something that Governor
Christie expects to be central to his national appeal as a politician with
Sandy is supposed to be where Governor Chris Christie rose above
politics, where he put petty conflict and transactional politics aside for
the good of his state. The idea of malfeasance around the Sandy recovery,
specifically, that is a more damaging political accusation than anything
the governor`s staff meted out to poor Fort Lee, New Jersey, and its access
to that bridge.
Right now, though, it is the mayor`s allegations against the
administration`s vehement denials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZIMMER: I would be more than willing to testify under oath and answer
any questions and provide any documents, take a lie detector test. And my
question back to them is, would all of you be willing to do that same
thing? To testify under oath? To take a lie detector test?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: How does this issue get resolved? And is this a whole new
separate investigation of the Christie administration apart from the bridge
fiasco? Or does this dovetail? Is this the same thing?
The man leading the select committee on investigations in the New
Jersey assembly joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
ZIMMER: I would be more than willing to testify under oath and answer
any questions and provide any documents, take a lie detector test. And my
question back to them is, would all of you?
GUADAGNO: Mayor Zimmer`s version of our conversation in May of 2013
is not only false, but is illogical and does not withstand scrutiny when
all of the facts are examined.
DAVID GREGORY, NBC NEWS: You hear this charge by the Hoboken mayor.
How much weight do you give it at this point?
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Mayor Zimmer is a serious
voice. She`s a well-respected mayor in New Jersey. I think the committee
needs to look at facts, hear her story, look at the e-mails, and consider
where we go next.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Joining us now is New Jersey State Assemblyman John
Wisniewski, who`s the chairman of the New Jersey Assembly Select Committee
Mr. Assemblyman, thanks for being here.
WISNIEWSKI: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: I have to ask your first reaction upon hearing these new
allegations from the mayor of Hoboken. Did you have any advanced notice
they were coming? Were they a surprise to you?
WISNIEWSKI: My reaction was, wow! I mean, those are very serious
charges that Mayor Zimmer has leveled. We don`t know all of the facts that
surround it. It`s curious that the lieutenant governor and her response
admitted that there was a conversation, because she said mayor Zimmer`s
version of the conversation was false.
So, at least we have agreement that there was a conversation, but what
we don`t really know are all the details about it, all the nuance. And I
think, that`s an important part. I know that as chair of the committee, I
get asked the question, is this what the committee will pick up next?
We are still working on following our leads, the trail that took us to
the governor`s office on the George Washington Bridge. We need to look at
these issues carefully, these new issues with Hoboken, and make a decision
going forward after talking with counsel and getting some of the facts and
meetings, perhaps, with Mayor Zimmer, to understand how this interplays
with what we`re doing, if at all.
MADDOW: I was just going to say, specifically on the remit of your
investigation, the language that was used to create the committee that you
now chair talks about the abuse of governmental power, attempts to conceal
the abuse of governmental power. Are those specific to the shutdown of the
lanes on the bridge, or are you looking at abuses of government power that
might be unrelated matters?
WISNIEWSKI: In theory, they arise from the bridge, but it`s very
broad. And so, we can follow abuse of government power and the attempt to
conceal that abuse wherever it may lie.
I think what we want it to be very clear when we adopt that
resolution, or we have the debate on the floor of the assembly that day is
that the granting of the power to the committee is not basically a blind
check where every time something comes in front of the committee, we`re
just going to go look at that and look at another issue. We`re going to
consider what happened here in Hoboken.
We`re going to first consider it by looking at Mayor Zimmer`s
statement, perhaps having a conversation with her, looking at the
documents, getting all the facts, and then deciding whether it`s something
that the committee ought to be addressing, because we know that she sat
down with the federal authorities. And we also are very mindful that we
don`t want to start intruding in something that they`re actively
MADDOW: In terms of, you mentioned the vote to create the committee
that you chair, and essentially, to further this investigation, to give you
subpoena authority that lasts beyond what it otherwise would have expired,
that was a unanimous vote in the assembly. Every Republican in the
assembly looked for it.
Since then, specifically, over the weekend and today, Republicans in
the assembly have started to change their mind. After New York City Mayor
Rudy Giuliani said that you have a partisan bias and you should step down
from this investigation, the top Republican in the assembly said the
investigation should be called off entirely in favor of just letting the
U.S. attorney handle it.
What`s your response to those developments?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think it really goes back to the old saw, if you
can`t beat the message, if you can`t address the message, which is an e-
mail that shows wrongdoing in the governor`s office is, then try to beat
the messenger. So, what this has become is accusations leveled at me that
I`m somehow biased or that I`ve predetermined the outcome.
What I`ve said is I found the governor`s statement that he did not
know about any of this until January 8th, I just find it hard to accept.
Now, I`m not saying that he ordered it. I`m not saying he sent the e-mail
to Bridget Kelly, saying, hey, this would be a good idea.
But I am saying that for him to say that he didn`t know until January
8th, when all of his senior people in the midst of a re-election campaign
knew about it, just doesn`t make sense.
MADDOW: In terms of what happens next, do you expect that this is now
going to become a more partisan fight and you will lose the support you`ve
had thus far from Republicans in Trenton as you move forward with the
investigation? Will it become partisan, because they`ve called it
WISNIEWSKI: That`s entirely up to them. I mean, we`ve tried to work
this investigation step by step, look at each fact, take it to the next
logical conclusion. If they want to choose to make this partisan, that`s
on them. We`re not trying to do that.
MADDOW: New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who chairs the New
Jersey Assembly Select Committee on Investigation in these matters, you
have a lot of work ahead of you. Thank you for being us.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: All right.
As of Steve Kornacki o`clock on Saturday morning, the huge political
story out of New Jersey became, of course, the two huge political stories
out of New Jersey. There does, though, remain one huge unanswered
questions that`s at the root of all of this. And that big unanswered
question is coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey gets inaugurated for
his second term of governor tomorrow, which is amazing in itself. We`ve
got one more development on that story tonight, which I have to tell you
directly concerns MSNBC.
Also, some important and strange news out of Virginia and out of West
Virginia, still to come.
Stay with us.
MADDOW: This is fuzzy. Justice Fuzzy, actually. Justice Fuzzy is
the newest member of the New Jersey state Supreme Court. He had his
ceremonial swearing in on Friday.
At the swearing in, you can see Governor Chris Christie there in the
background, looking on as Justice Fuzzy takes his oath.
To be clear, Justice Fuzzy is not his real name. His real name is
Faustino Fernandez-Vina. But people do call him Fuzzy, with his
permission. And you have to admit, that`s kind of awesome, even if you
know nothing else about him.
This is how the chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court
introduced the new justice at his swearing in.
(BEGIN VIDEOI CLIP)
CHIEF JUSTICE STUART RABNER, NJ SUPREME COURT: So many of Fuzzy`s
friends have come from near and far, many have been mentioned, others not
yet been covered, and we`re particularly honored that Fuzzy`s family is
here in attendance today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: For the record, the nickname has nothing to do, as far as we
can tell, with any actual fuzz, nor is it a reference to being more warm
and fuzzy than the average bear. Although people do seem to think the
justice is a nice guy.
The reason New Jersey`s newest Supreme Court justice is called Fuzzy
is because he idolized a Green Bay Packers called offensive lineman named
Fred Thurston, and everyone called Fred Thurston "Fuzzy". Fuzzy opened a
popular sports bar in Green Bay called Fuzzy`s #63. he also inspired a
lifelong nickname for a man who was a New Jersey superior court judge right
about now, but who has now been elevated to that state`s Supreme Court.
And as it turns out, Justice Fernandez-Vina swearing in on Friday,
Justice Fuzzy`s ceremonial elevation to the courts is one of the trailing
ends of a huge political fight in New Jersey, a political fight that has
been given new attention, at least, if not new life, because of its
proximity to the still unexplained bridge lanes shutdown scandal that has
been unraveling New Jersey over the course of the last couple of weeks.
Justice Fernandez-Vina is the first Supreme Court nominee chosen by
Governor Chris Christie, who`s actually been confirmed by the New Jersey
Senate, in two years. He`s the first Christie nominee to get through since
a huge political fight broke out back in 2010. That`s when Chris Christie,
shortly after his became governor, took the unprecedented step of declining
to reappoint a sitting judge to the state Supreme Court, because he said he
did not think the state Supreme Court was conservative enough.
That judge he took off the court also happened to be the only African-
American justice on the court at the time. Democrats were furious with the
new Governor Christie for kicking Justice John Wallace off the Supreme
Court, kicking a sitting justice off the Supreme Court is something that no
governor of New Jersey had ever done before in the history of that state`s
Democrats decided to retaliate by refusing to confirm Christie
nominees to that Supreme Court, one after another after another. It has
been a very, very bitter fight.
Look at the headline here. War between Governor Christie and Senate
threatens justice itself, experts say.
Well, that war that threatened justice itself, one of the biggest
battles in that war happened last summer, specifically, in August,
specifically on Monday, August 12th. Monday, August 12th, 2013. That was
the day that Governor Christie announced that for the second time in New
Jersey state history, he would be pulling another sitting justice off the
Supreme Court, except this time, it wasn`t another Democratic appointee who
he wanted to take off the court to make the court more conservative.
This time, in frustration, Governor Christie announced that he would
pull off the court a Republican state Supreme Court justice, who he very
much liked. He said he would rather have her off the Supreme Court than
have her renomination subjected to New Jersey Senate Democrats. New Jersey
Senate Democrats, who he called animals for the way they had held up his
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I simply could not be party to
the destruction of Helen Hoens` professional reputation. And the only way
for he to guarantee that being avoided was to make sure that I didn`t put
Justice Hoens in that position. That`s not the way I deal with people that
I respect and admire and I was not going to let her loose to the animals.
Wasn`t going to let it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was late in the day, Monday, August 12th, 2013. A fed
up Governor Chris Christie calling senate Democrats animals and yanking a
serving Supreme Court justice off the bench, saying he would not party to
the destruction of her reputation.
The very next morning, at 7:34 a.m., on Tuesday, August 13th, the
governor`s deputy chief of staff sent this e-mail, "Time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee", to which a Christie ally on the port authority
responded, "Got it".
And that, apparently, put everything in motion, right, for the
purposeful, man-made gridlock of Fort Lee, New Jersey, which started with
shutting down some lanes on the George Washington Bridge, was which lasted
for more than four days.
Did the events of that previous afternoon have anything to do with
that e-mail the next morning? That time for some traffic problems in Fort
When the governor got so mad at Senate Democrats that he called them
animals, and he ended the judicial career of a judge who he respected and
admired, did his administration decide the next morning to take out the
their frustration on the leader of the Senate Democrats, who happens to
represent Fort Lee, in the New Jersey state senate? Is that a plausible
explanation for why the governor`s deputy chief of staff appears to have
ordered up that gridlock for Fort Lee? Is that a plausible explanation?
I don`t know. Neither do you. Only the people who ordered the bridge
shutdown know why they did it.
When Steve Kornacki this weekend broke the story of Hoboken Mayor Dawn
Zimmer and her claim that two members of Governor Christie`s cabinet told
her that Hoboken might find they get easier access to Sandy relief funds if
she helped along a project in her city, a project that was important to the
When Steve broke the story of those allegations from the Hoboken mayor
on Saturday morning, this was how the governor`s office responded: "The
facts behind MSNBC`s false Sandy claims."
The initial response from the governor`s office was to dismiss those
allegations from the Hoboken mayor on the basis of the fact that those
allegations were aired on this network. The governor`s office included our
report on the coincident timing of the New Jersey Supreme Court dispute, as
part of the reason why nobody should believe the mayor of Hoboken and the
latest allegations, because we raised that question. We raised a purely
speculative theory that the bridge closings might be tied to the Supreme
To quote Governor Christie`s spokesman, "It`s a purely speculative
theory." Purely speculative, yes, it is pure speculation. And it has
always been presented as such by us and by me.
We presented that theory as a way to get at the most important and as
yet, totally unexplained question still at the center of this unfolding
scandal, which is why? What is a plausible explanation for this? Why did
whoever ordered those lanes closed order those lanes closed? Was it the
popular but also purely speculative theory that it was the mayor of Fort
Lee, not endorsing Chris Christie? Nobody`s proved that, at all.
And the governor has denied that outright. Well, if it wasn`t that,
what was it? Saying it was about the mayor not endorsing in Fort Lee, that
is also speculation.
If that was not it and Governor Christie says, that was not it, then
it was something else that caused the governor`s deputy chief of staff on
the morning of August 13th to call for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.
The question of why matters.
Governor Christie`s office has tried to shame people for asking what
the reason might plausibly have been. But they have offered zero
explanation of their own. They say it wasn`t the endorsement. Well, what
was it then? Why did Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff send that e-
During Christie`s apologetic press conference on the closing of the
bridge, he said he did not ask his deputy chief of staff why she sent that
e-mail, why she apparently ordered the shutdown of those bridge lanes. He
said, in fact, he was not interested in whatever explanation she might have
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I have -- I have not had any conversation with Bridget
Kelly since the e-mail came out. So she was not given to me the
explanation to me why she lied, because it was so obvious that she had.
And I`m quite frankly not interested in the explanation at the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He was shot interested in the explanation at the moment,
maybe he was just mad. But we still don`t know if Governor Christie is
interested in the explanation now.
So far, nobody on his side has offered any explanation whatsoever as
to why this happened. What was the trigger?
And until that question is answered, people are going to keep asking
what the answer might plausibly be. Even if Governor Christie`s spokesman
prefers we stop doing that and attacks us when we do.
Joining us is Alfred Doblin. He`s editorial page editor at "The
Mr. Doblin, thanks for being here tonight.
ALFRED DOBLIN, THE RECORD: Thank you.
MADDOW: Congratulations, I have to say, to your paper in its role in
breaking this story both locally and nationally.
The Christie administration has not offered an alternate explanation
for what might have caused the bridge shutdown. Is he not curious on
purpose? Is he sort of not allowed to be curious on this, because that
might impede the investigation?
DOBLIN: I think at this point, he`s not curious on purpose. I mean,
you`ve got a former U.S. attorney. He`s, I would think, a pretty smart
lawyer. He`s faced with a challenge. I mean, here`s a U.S. attorney
looking into this. I think, at this point, if you start bringing people
into your office, you`re probably also going to find yourself giving
testimony in a trial.
The bigger question is, why didn`t he ask those kinds of questions
some time before "The Record" broke the story and in between, at least when
Mr. Wildstein and Mr. Baroni, the two high-ranking folks at the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey, left their jobs.
You know, if you didn`t believe it was anything more than a traffic
study in September, which is plausible, and you didn`t think it was
anything more than political posturing in October, which is still
plausible, at the point that your two top guys at the Port Authority leave
their jobs, not because they have a great opportunity at, say, another
cable network, that he might like, the only conclusion would be, then, that
maybe there`s something more there. And that`s really when I think most
people, even supporters of the governor would say, why didn`t you ask him
And I think that`s a problem for the governor. I mean, he`s run this
supposedly very tight, tight ship, where he`s supposedly in charge of
everything. And now, we have to believe -- well, I really wasn`t in charge
of everything. There were other people that I gave enough trust to that I
was comfortable that they did what they wanted to do and it was going to
And, clearly, if we believe the governor, they didn`t represent him.
The governor is also on the record from that press conference saying,
nobody on his senior staff had any knowledge of what was happening on that
bridge, until it was all over. And we now know that`s not true, because of
the documents that were released by the assembly. And so, the governor is
on record having said something that isn`t true, and so, I would feel like
he at least has to clear that up in terms of maintaining his own
credibility on the subject.
But on the issue of who done it, essentially, it seems to me -- and I
guess I just want your opinion on this -- it seems to me that you have to
know why this was done in order to start to even find the trail of who
might have done it.
DOBLIN: Right, this is an illogical thing. I don`t think there`s any
scenario, anything that`s played out where one could say, closing two local
lanes to the GWB is a good idea.
DOBLIN: I mean, there`s just nothing that that makes sense. The only
way that would be a good idea if people at the Port Authority wanted to get
back to the people at the Port Authority. And it`s my guess that the
Democrats and Republicans do that every day. So, that part is totally
I think there`s a little more sexiness to the possibility that it`s
something big, like land development. That would be more New Jersey. You
would expect it would be about land development, and you would hope that
someone`s wearing a wire in this whole story that we have, a recording of
what went on.
The political playback is a possibility. It just seems so
implausible, but this is an illogical story, that the mayor of Fort Lee,
who`s not exactly, you know, the big prize. I put in a column, he`s more
the Cracker Jack prize, no offense to the mayor, but he`s not a big player.
Getting his endorsement or not getting his endorsement, doesn`t really move
the needle one way or the other.
So, would you close those lanes for that? It`s very hard to say.
There are people who think that Stepien, who -- Bill Stepien, who was
his campaign manager, had his trust, was very much his right-hand man, you
know, would very much be like Scooter Libby to a Dick Cheney, which didn`t
turn out rather well, he could have spoken for the governor. And people
could have believed that.
I mean, Stepien could have, pun intended, overstepped. But he`s
supposedly a very smart man. Why would you close --
MADDOW: Do something this big and potentially exposable for such a
MADDOW: Yes. The central at the center of this, which I think it is
-- I respect the governor`s efforts to push back and to try to make the
people who are reporting on this story the story, instead of the story
itself, but I`ve got to say, until I offer some sort of plausible
explanation for what they did, everybody`s going to keep trying to figure
out what the answer is, in the press, and on TV, and everywhere else,
everybody`s talking about this.
Alfred Doblin, editorial page editor at "The Bergen Record" -- again,
congratulations to the folks at your paper and thanks for being here.
DOBLIN: Thank you very much.
All right. And then there`s a guy named Bob McDonnell. Remember him?
If Bob McDonnell fell in the forest right now, would anybody hear it?
Stay with us.
MADDOW: Around lunch time two Thursdays ago, Thursday, January 9th,
about a week and a half ago, right? The West Virginia American Water
Company got word that something had gone wrong. That company provides
drinking water to more than half a million West Virginians.
But that Thursday, the 9th, they were informed that something had
contaminated the water supply. Hours earlier, there had been a chemical
spill in the Elk River near a quarter treatment facility and the water
company did not know exactly which chemical had spilled but they apparently
started working under the assumption that the chemical that spilled is a
chemical that was commonly used in water treatment.
The president of the water company said in a news conference that day
that his company was, quote, "fairly confident" that they could treat the
chemical. When asked what might happen if someone drank the contaminated
water he said, quote, "It`s not particularly lethal in its usage form."
But that afternoon the water company learned that they got the
chemical wrong. It was not a chemical used in water treatment. Instead it
was a chemical used in the processing of coal, which had been leaking from
a storage facility along the river. That night, about six hours after
first discovering the leak the water company in the state of West Virginia
issued a do not use order for the water. The chemical leak had
contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people in nine counties.
After four days of being instructed not to use their tap water for
anything that was not flushing toilets or putting out fires, on Monday of
last week, the water company and the state started lifting the do not use
order in phases. Residents were told to flush the water through the pipes
in their houses.
They used -- they released this how to flush your plumbing system
guide from the water company. Once everybody successfully flushed their
water systems to the point where water from the taps would have only trace
amounts of the chemical, then everybody got told you`re all free to drink
the water, all clear -- or not.
On Wednesday, two days after saying the water was okay to drink, the
directive changed. Pregnant women were cautioned not to drink the water at
all until it was completely free of the chemical. Even small traces of it
were not OK for pregnant women. They said on Wednesday, after Monday
saying it`s OK to drink it. So hey, pregnant women, undrink all the water
that you drank over the last two days, and unbrush your teeth as well.
That was the word as of Wednesday. Then, as of Friday, the water
company announced that all of the water had been properly flushed, the
water was ready to be consumed everywhere that had previously been
affected, blue on this map means it is drinkable.
That same day, though, Friday, residents in Putnam County, West
Virginia, whose water got the okay for drinking days before, they started
complaining that the water still smelled of chemicals. One man said,
quote, "I tried it this morning before daylight and it was undrinkable."
Despite what the company had said, tests revealed that residents in
Putnam County were right, their water was not okay to drink. And a new do
not use ban was issued in that county on Friday. After all of this was
supposed to be fixed.
It has now been a week and a half since the chemical spill knocked out
water for more than 300,000 West Virginians. And while there are still
unanswered questions about how that this thing is still going on. There`s
There are still pressing questions about whether the water there is
safe to drink now. As the days have stretched on more and more people have
reported getting sick from exposure to this chemical.
As of this weekend, a total of 411 people have been treated at ten
West Virginia hospitals for reported chemical exposure. And while the
governor`s office has been busy trying to downplay the increase in
hospitalizations, attributing it to the flu season and virus season,
patients have been reporting symptoms like rashes and diarrhea and stomach
aches and burns -- symptoms that are consistent with exposure to this
chemical that leaked.
It was a week ago today, it was last Monday that West Virginia
residents first started getting word that the water there was safe to drink
again. But since the "do not use" orders have started being lifting the
number of people reporting they got sick from the water has been going up,
This thing has been a disaster from day one. What is most worrying
right now is that it is a disaster that is still going on.
MADDOW: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell`s last day in office was last
Saturday. In December, right around Christmas time, "The Washington Post"
reported that the federal prosecutor who has been investigating Governor
McDonnell had informed him and his lawyers that criminal charges are going
to be filed against Governor McDonnell. Bob McDonnell will be criminally
indicted. But merry Christmas, according to "The Washington Post,"
prosecutors decided to wait until the governor was out of office before
they brought those charges.
Well, he`s now out of office nine days. Was the "Washington Post"
right? Are those criminal charges forthcoming?
I don`t know. And neither do you.
But apparently, Governor Bob McDonnell has been asking top Virginia
legislators. He asked the top Democrat in the Senate and the top
Republican in the state assembly to call the U.S. attorney`s office on his
behalf to, quote, "attest to his character." According to new reporting
from "The Post" today, these two legislators did try to make the call to
the prosecutor. They got together and called the U.S. attorney`s office
and left a message about how much they like Bob McDonnell.
But sadly for Bob McDonnell, the U.S. attorney declined to speak with
The Bob McDonnell scandal of course involves him accepting well over
$100,000 in cash and expensive gifts from a Virginia businessman who
received what appears to be fairly lavish attention and even promotional
help from the governor and his wife while they were in office.
And this case has been lurid and strange from the beginning. But
consider also, consider now this latest development, consider how weird it
is in any federal criminal care, let alone a public corruption case. For
the suspect to try to lobby the prosecutor to make the prosecutor think
you`re an OK guy. I mean, that`s usually the kind of thing that happens
once you`re convicted. It affects how you get sentence, whether you`re
sentenced to a nicer prison. It`s not the kind of thing you do to keep
yourself from getting indicted in the first place.
But it appears to be what`s happening in Virginia right now. Nothing
about the Bob McDonnell gift scandal or its timing has been normal or
predictable from the very, very beginning of this scandal. In this one,
we`re just going to have to wait and see. It was apparently federal
prosecutors at the Department of Justice in Washington who convinced the
local U.S. attorney in Virginia that he had to wait and sit on these
charges until Governor McDonnell is out of office. Weird enough decision
in the first place but now, Governor McDonnell is out of office.
What happens next?
That does it for us tonight. Thanks very much for being with us.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Have a great night.
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