'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Friday, January 17th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
January 17, 2014
Guests: John Wisniewski, Ted Mann
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was terrifying, between you and the
bloody fingers and the merging of human and machine, I feel like I`m a
little rattled, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: Well, you know, it`s the movies.
MADDOW: Thank you. Thanks, man. Happy Friday.
HAYES: Have a good weekend.
MADDOW: You, too.
Thanks to you at home for being with us this hour.
You know, late in the day on a Friday, for most people who work Monday
to Friday, late in the day on a Friday is the time when you least want to
be at work. But if you work in this business, if you work in the news
business, late in the day on a Friday is the happ, happ, happiest time of
the week -- because late in the day on a Friday is when huge and unexpected
news tends to drop out of the sky.
And today`s late in the day on Friday, huge and unexpected news that
fell out of the sky, was this -- Office of the Governor, P.O. Box 001,
Trenton, New Jersey, please find attached hereto, a subpoena to the office
of the governor. We command you, laying aside all businesses and excuses,
to produce all books, papers, correspondence, other documents and materials
and electronic data described below. Your production of documents is
governed by the following legal statutes. Failure to comply with this
subpoena shall make you liable for such penalties as are provided by law.
Did you see this coming today? I did not see this coming today.
Subpoenas have been served and now publicly released in the Chris
Christie bridge scandal in New Jersey, not only to Chris Christie
appointees and Chris Christie staffers and the people who we know seem to
have taken part in shutting down the lanes of that bridge as some sort of
act of political retaliation last September, not just to those people, but
a subpoena went out today to the governor`s office itself, and to Governor
Chris Christie`s campaign for re-election.
We were told yesterday that there would be roughly three entities,
three organizations who were getting subpoenas alongside a long list of
individuals. It turns out it is two entities. It`s the governor`s re-
election campaign and the governor`s office, which means that as sprawling
as this scandal and this investigation have become, they are much more
tightly focused than we knew on the governor himself and his immediate
This is not a far-flung investigation into how politics is done in New
Jersey, which is some of the way that it`s been covered in the national
press. No. At least so far, from what we can tell about the scope of the
investigation, this is about Chris Christie.
The subpoena tells the governor`s office to hand over all
communications of any kind, all documents and records of any kind
concerning the bridge lane shutdown, and they want those documents from
September 2012 to the present date. Not September of last year, but
September the year before.
All correspondence, notes, e-mails, texts, BlackBerry messenger
messages, instant messages, telephone records, voice mails, everything.
They want all calendars, all day planners, all notes, all diaries.
From the governor`s office specifically, they say they want call logs,
all call logs and all visitors logs. That`s a common thing in high-level
government offices, you know, to have a formal record of every call that
comes in and every person who comes by the office.
From Governor Christie`s re-election campaign, specifically, they`re
asking for a list of all employees for all of the last year.
The 20 subpoenas that were released today are all asking, basically,
for the same thing, with a lot of the same verbiage, but there are some
differences between the subpoenas, like that request for a list of
employees from the campaign office. And, I`ve got to tell you, some of the
people who got suspected, these people who you see on your screen here,
they were told that they have to hand over their cell phones -- cell
phones, smartphones, iPads, any other personal digital devices that they
use in any capacity, including a personal capacity, at any time, from
September 2012 to the present.
The people who have been personally served subpoenas now include, of
course, Bridget Kelly, Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff, who sent
that e-mail in August, that said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort
Lee," and David Wildstein, who`s the man who responded to that e-mail, "Got
it," and who then personally orchestrated the shutdown of the bridge lanes.
Mr. Wildstein has since resigned from the Port Authority.
Also, David Wildstein`s boss at the Port Authority. He`s a Chris
Christie appointee, a former New Jersey state senator. He has also
resigned from the Port Authority because of the scandal, Bill Baroni is his
Also, everybody`s boss at the Port Authority, the chairman, who is
also a Chris Christie appointee. He`s a former attorney general of the
state of New Jersey. His name is David Sampson.
Also Mr. Sampson`s top aide at the Port Authority, Phillippe
Danielides. Also the top community affairs person at the Port Authority,
who we know was told in advance about the shutdown. She was told the
Friday before the shutdown happened. We also know that she fielded calls
and messages about what a disaster the shutdown was, once it was underway.
Also interestingly, I`m not sure anybody saw this coming, but Paul
Nunziado there is a police official. Now, he has previously told the
assembly that he had nothing to give them when they subpoenaed him the
first time around. He did, though, tell the press, incorrectly, that there
had been no ambulance delays are caused by the shutdown when it happened.
Now, he`s getting a second subpoena.
Those people were all people from the Port Authority who got subpoenas
last night or today.
Now, that`s the Port Authority. In Chris Christie`s office, his
office as governor, other than Bridget Anne Kelly, the one who sent the
"time for some traffic problems email," we`ve saw e-mails from her boss,
Chris Christie`s chief of staff, Kevin O`Dowd, who`s Mr. Chris Christie`s
nominee to be the next chief of staff of New Jersey.
Also, Chris Christie`s pick to replace Mr. O`Dowd, as his new chief of
staff, Regina Egea. And his chief counsel, who Governor Christie says is
one of two people other than his chief of staff, Kevin O`Dowd who was a
direct report to him on this issue of the bridge shutdown. Also, the
governor`s chief spokesman, also the governor`s other spokesman, also a
high-level staffer in the governor`s office, the governor`s director of
departmental relations. Her name is Christina Genovese Reena. We know
that she was sent notification that the bridge shutdown was happening on
its final day.
Also subpoenaed today, a low-level staffer named Evan Ridley, who we
know took a call from the mayor of Fort Lee during the shutdown, when the
mayor was desperately looking for somebody to listen to his complaints
about what was going on in his town. That`s the governor`s office as
Over at the governor`s re-election campaign, though, the people who
have received subpoenas includes his campaign manager, Bill Stepien, also
his campaign spokesperson, Maria Carmella, also the campaign staffer who
reportedly was the one who asked the Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for his
endorsement, his name is Matt Mowers. He`s now became the executive
director of the Republican Party for the state of New Hampshire, which made
sense when Chris Christie was going to start winning the Republican
nomination for president in that state next year.
But here, this last one, look, that turns out is a really interesting
one. Nicole Davidman Drewniak. That name is probably not familiar to you
even if you have been following this story closely. It is a name that has
not been focused on before.
But this person, it turns out, is known to have a role in what we know
so key time and a key place. Her name is Nicole Davidman Drewniak.
Nicole, I should mention, incidentally she is married to Governor
Christie`s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, which is why she has that name.
Who knows if that`s relevant here, but that`s why her last name is
But Miss Davidman Drewniak worked for the Chris Christie re-election
campaign. She`s not in the governor`s office. She`s on the campaign,
worked there as campaign finance director.
Now, check this out. November -- so after the shutdown, after the
election, right? This is when the press was pushing really hard to figure
out what had happened with the shutdown. The legislature was starting to
sniff around, to try to figure out what happened with the shutdown.
But at this time in late November, Governor Chris Christie was still
mocking this story, telling everybody it was nothing. In late November,
Bill Baroni testified to the legislature about what happened on that
bridge. And he appears to have not told the truth in that testimony,
really, at all, really egregiously.
For example --
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BILL BARONI, FORMER PORT AUTHORITYU OFFICIAL: At all times during the
week of the study, the Port Authority Police Department monitored traffic
on the George Washington Bridge. They were alert for any emergency
vehicles in the area and prepared to further alter traffic patterns --
excuse me -- in the event of an emergency.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: That is not true. Emergency vehicles had a ton of trouble,
actually, because of the bridge lane shutdown.
We know that because of EMS chief in Fort Lee writing to the mayor in
that town during the traffic jam, on the second day of that traffic jam, on
Tuesday of that week, writing to the mayor, quote, "This traffic is causing
unnecessary delays for emergency services. Paramedics were delayed due to
heavy traffic, in an accident where four people were injured and had to be
transferred to local hospitals," the EMS chief told the mayor, "the
response time was delayed." Some of the EMS responders had to jump the
curb because of the traffic in order to get to this.
We know from contemporaneous reports that emergency vehicles were
delayed because of what they did to that bridge and what they did to Fort
Lee. And no one further altered the traffic patterns in order to help that
out, because they recognized an emergency was happening. That didn`t
We also know that when Bill Baroni told the legislature that that
happened, when Bill Baroni told the legislature that untrue thing, he knew
when he said it that it wasn`t true. Bill Baroni has been notified the
first day of the shutdown that Fort Lee police and medical responders were
already having difficulty responding to emergencies because of the traffic.
That e-mail was sent to Bill Baroni, so he knew. We also know Mr.
Baroni was sent a letter from the mayor of Fort Lee on Thursday of the
shutdown, telling him, quote, "Our emergency service vehicles are suffering
tremendous response time delays."
We also know Mr. Baroni received phone messages from Fort Lee`s mayor
during the shutdown, specifically about emergency public safety matters,
right, messages to which Bill Baroni did not respond, even though we know
he got them.
So, when Bill Baroni testified to the legislature that day in late
November, and he said, the Port Authority took care of it, the Port
Authority, at all times, we were monitoring the situation, to make sure no
emergency vehicles were having any trouble, we stood ready to change any
traffic patterns as need be, if emergency vehicles were having any
problems. When he said that to the legislature in late November, it was
not true and he knew that it was not true.
So, yes, Bill Baroni was one of the first people who had to resign in
this scandal and now he`s been subpoenaed and he`s been told to hand over
his cell phone and all the rest. Yes, that`s what happened to Bill Baroni.
But, but, look at this -- as soon as Bill Baroni finished his
testimony that day, his untrue testimony that concealed the real story of
why those bridge lanes were shut down, as soon as his false testimony was
over at the legislature, at noon on November 25th, he sent this text to
David Wildstein. "Trenton feedback?" David Wildstein responds, "Good."
Then the next line is blacked out.
Then Bill Baroni responds, "Just good?" Then he swears. That`s not
actually a redaction. That`s actually us blacking out his curse word.
A minute later, David Wildstein responds, "No, I have only texted
Bridget and Nicole, and they were very happy."
So don`t feel upset that the testimony -- I`m not telling you good is
a way of damning you with faint praise -- no, "Good, I have texted Bridget
and Nicole and they were very happy."
This is the guy who just lied to the legislature. Who, just, forgive
me, in the words of the subpoenas, the guy who appears to have just made an
attempt to conceal an abuse of government power, while speaking to the
legislature, and Bridget Kelly, who is the one who ordered the traffic jam
in the first place, who ordered, "time for some traffic problems in Fort
Lee," Bridget Kelly, who therefore must know that Bill Baroni just lied to
the legislature when he said those traffic problems were caused by a study,
Bill Baroni says that to the legislature and thereafter, Bridget Kelly, who
knows what he said is false sends word, "Good job, I`m really happy with
this thing I know is not true that you just said apparently to conceal an
abuse of power when you spoke to the legislature."
She knows what he said isn`t true and she says, good job. But it`s
not just Bridget Kelly who says it, Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff,
right? It`s not just her who high-fives Bill Baroni for his false
testimony to the legislature, it`s also Nicole, who, reasonably speaking,
given the subpoenas today, may turn out to be Nicole who is governor
Christie`s campaign chief on his re-election effort. She is the person who
got subpoenaed today. Her name is Nicole.
If the crime here was concealing an abuse of government power, that
appears to have happened in that testimony that day, before the New Jersey
legislature, all that false testimony from Bill Baroni. That was back in
The documents we have so far indicate that not just governor
Christie`s office in the form of Bridget Kelly, applauded and said, oh,
we`re really happy with that false testimony. Even though Bridget Kelly
was in a position to know it was false testimony while she was applauding.
But now, we also know that a person who appears to be a staffer from
the governor`s re-election campaign, Nicole, said the same thing. Good
job! You did great.
And maybe she did not know it was false testimony when she applauded
it. Maybe she thought what Bill Baroni was saying was true and she just
liked Bill Baroni`s style when he delivered this testimony, or maybe she
knew it was false like Bridget did, since Bridget appears to have ordered
the shutdown in the first place.
One more thing here. The other person who applauds Bill Baroni`s
false testimony to the legislature, where he delivered that false testimony
about a traffic study, which we now know is intended to cover up what they
were really doing, which is shutting down traffic for some political
reason, the other person who high-fived Bill Baroni for that purposefully
misleading testimony was Charlie.
Charlie said, "You did great". Who`s Charlie? Could be anyone.
Could be Charlie Brown. Could be Charlie Sheen. Could be that Charlie
tuna character from the old ads. Could be Charlie anybody.
May very well be Charlie McKenna, who is Governor Chris Christie`s
chief counsel, who is also suspected today.
After Bill Baroni delivered false testimony to the legislature, making
up a story about a traffic story, a traffic study, a traffic study that
could only have been intended to cover up what they`re really doing, quote,
"Charlie says you did great, great", in all caps.
The remit of the investigation here is to find out about abuse of
government power and efforts to conceal abuse of government power --
everyone known to be involved in the shutdown, and now the governor`s re-
election campaign, as an entity, have been asked to turn over documents on
that, as has the governor`s office itself.
One question is, is the cover-up worse than the crime? Does the way
that this goes into all these other entities, does it follow the chain of
people who knew that the cover-up, the whole traffic study bunk, was nuts
and who took some part in cooking up that story and applauding it once it`s
delivered. Is that the way that this rises?
The other question is, does Governor Chris Christie himself, as part
of the office of the governor, does Governor Christie hand over his own e-
mails and his own text messages and his own notes and his own phone logs
and everything else is that relates to this investigation? Does Governor
Christie himself answer the subpoena, including his own communications that
he made as governor?
Hold that thought.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Do you feel like you have the authority to subpoena the
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Well, you know, that
question gets asked all the time, and there`s intention right now to
subpoena the governor.
REPORTER: But do y8ou have the authority?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, you know, see, the problem with that question is,
when you want to answer that question, the entire context is not going to
be reported. And I understand it. So all I want to say is --
REPORTER: There are cameras recording everything.
WISNIEWSKI: I know, I know, I understand how this works too. That`s
not -- that`s not what we`re doing. Right now, we`re going to issue
subpoenas to individuals and organizations that we`ve seen in the documents
that are relevant to our inquiry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: One of those organizations commanded to turn over documents
today is the office of the governor. What is the significance of that
subpoena? Does that mean that Governor Chris Christie`s own e-mails and
texts and notes and phone logs and all the rest of that will be part of the
response to this demand for documents?
Let`s ask the chairman leading the investigation, Assemblyman John
Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for being here.
WISNIEWSKI: Good to be here, Rachel. Thank you.
MADDOW: Does the subpoena to the office of the governor indicate that
you expect documents, specifically from Governor Christie`s own official e-
mail and phone records?
WISNIEWSKI: The reason we subpoena the office of the governor is we
want the records, you know, we`ve asked for things from Charlie McKenna,
Regina Egea, and the office of the governor is the entity that controls
those records. So, in order to get those -- to make sure that we`re doing
it all properly, that`s why the subpoena is there.
This is not about the governor. We don`t have any connection right
now that the governor sent an e-mail or received an e-mail, but we do see a
lot of other names in the e-mail chains we`ve looked at. So we want to
make sure that we can see the other e-mails, perhaps, that other people in
the office received, involving this incident. And this is the best way to
get to it.
MADDOW: To be clear, though, if there is anything in the governor`s
office that was written by the governor himself, that pertains to the remit
of the subpoena, there`s no legal grounds to excuse that from their
document reply, just because he`s the governor.
WISNIEWSKI: No, there`d be no reason to exclude it, but we haven`t
crossed that bridge yet, and obviously, the governor`s office has hired a
high-power firm to defend them in some respect on something or at least
advise them on something. So we`ll see what happens when we get closer to
February 3rd, when the production date arrives, to see what kind of
document response we get.
MADDOW: In terms of the number of subpoenas you put out here, 20
subpoenas, as you say, they are due by February 3rd, including that one to
the governor`s office. What are you expecting in terms of the volume of
the material that you`re going to get and what`s your plan for getting
WISNIEWSKI: Well, it`s going to be a bigger volume than we have. We
had several thousand pages, just from a couple of people, and now we`ve got
20 people. I don`t know how many pages we`ll get. I mean, some people may
have absolutely nothing. And I think it`s important for everybody to
watch, who knows that these people may have information, they may not.
And one of the ways that we can rule somebody out is to ask for their
documents. We may look at somebody`s documents that they produce and say,
well, there`s absolutely no reason to continue to discuss them. We`ll move
on to somebody else.
And, so, it`s partially a process to figure out where the chain goes
next. I mean, we know somebody had to discuss this with Bridget Kelly
before she sent that e-mail. We don`t know who. We have a lot of likely
people that have been involved in communications. We want to talk or we
want to see what we have, first, and ultimately, potentially, talk to them.
And this is one way to start the process.
MADDOW: One of the things that seems, like an interesting choice to
me, I guess I should just tell you, an eyebrow raising choice to me is that
on, I think it`s five or six of these subpoenas, including Bridget Anne
Kelly, and including David Wildstein, but also including, I believe, the
governor`s campaign manager and a few other people.
You`re asking for not just documents, but you`re asking them to hand
over their cell phones. Any cell phone or BlackBerry or iPad or any device
like that that they have used since September 2012.
Why those people and why that big a request?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, the request is not that big, but the information is
very important. The information contained in those PDAs, cell phones. We
want to make sure it`s preserved. We want to make sure the committee has
an opportunity to analyze it, understand whether there were phone calls,
text messages, e-mails, PINs, or any other means of communication.
That`s one way to preserve that information, by sending this subpoena
out and by putting them on notice that we would like to look at it.
Again, we may look at this stuff and find it`s of absolutely no use,
but we won`t know that until we have an opportunity to look at it.
MADDOW: Why did you pick September 2012?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, we wanted to go back a year. One of the things we
observed in the first set of subpoenas is we went back to August, which was
a full month before this happened, and we saw in the very beginning of that
time frame, August 5th, there was this communication about setting up a
meeting between Dave Samson and the governor.
So, it leads us to believe that there could be things in the month
before in July or June, and we wanted to at least make sure we were broad
enough, one year seems to be a sufficient time frame to be able to look at
this and see if there was stuff going back even further.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about one other member, you have subpoenaed
Dave Samson, who is the chairman of the Port Authority, former attorney
general of the state of New Jersey. You mentioned him in conjunction with
The Senate committee that is investigating this matter also announced
this week that they are planning on sending a subpoena to David Samson, the
same guy, next week. That seems strange to me, that he might be getting
two subpoenas from two different entities within the legislature. Is there
a potential conflict there? Does that not open the legislature to some --
to that subpoena, at least, to him, being hung up somehow in the courts,
because he`s got two from two different entities?
WISNIEWSKI: He would have an obligation to respond to both. We have
talked to our lawyers about that. He would have an obligation to respond
But also what I`ve pointed out before when we spoke about this, is
that even though there are two committees constituted, the goal is with
Senator Weinberg for her committee and the committee I chair to work
cooperatively and collaboratively. And we`re still working on that process
and I think that things will come together as we move forward.
So, I don`t think there`s any danger or doubt that ultimately we`ll
get that information from David Samson. And I think the fact that there`s
two subpoenas out there is really not a big issue for any of us to be
MADDOW: I hear it`s not a big issue for you. I`m also observing this
and seeing what the governor and his side are planning on doing to fight
this, based on what they`ve lined up for legal representation. I think
that`s a big -- I see that as a big red flag. But we`ll know when --
MADDOW: -- response.
Chairman John Wisniewski, who`s leading the assembly, special select
committee on investigating this matter -- it`s been a big week for you.
Thanks for helping us to understand this.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right, the art of clothing people in immunity is coming up. And
also, the president`s big speech today.
Much more to come this hour. Stay with us.
MADDOW: OK. This is a heads up about some new reporting that is
about to come out. It is also a programming note, but it is not a
programming note about this show.
One of the sort of sidebar characters, who`s emerged alongside the
Chris Christie bridge scandal in New Jersey is the mayor of Hoboken, New
Jersey. Her name is Dawn Zimmer. She and her town have ended up as a
peripheral note in this bridgegate story, because of stories suggesting
that Hoboken, her city, was denied what the mayor said was critical state
aid after hurricane Sandy, specifically because Mayor Zimmer refused to
endorse Chris Christie for re-election, when he and his campaign asked her
to endorse him.
Here`s the thing, though. The MSNBC show, "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI,"
has now obtained documents that suggest a very different reason why that
mayor may have been targeted by the Christie administration.
Steve Kornacki is reporting on that story exclusively. He`s going to
have that story tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m. Eastern and he is going to
have the mayor herself here to comment on it in her only television
Steve Kornacki made his bones covering New Jersey politics and he is
always great, no matter what he`s talking about. But I`ve got to tell you,
Steve is must-see TV on this story right now. And that scoop that he`s got
on this big story is breaking tomorrow morning, 8:00 a.m. Eastern, here on
I asked Steve yesterday, when I knew he was working on this, I said,
if you are going to be able to do it, could I please let my audience know
ahead of that Saturday show, that that scoop was coming on Saturday
morning, and Steve gave me permission to tell you, to let you know that
it`s on its way. So, now you know. It`s 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, OK?
We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Supreme Court Justice John Roberts was appointed to the
Supreme Court by President George W. Bush in 2005. And while any Supreme
Court appointment is for life and is a huge deal, a chief justice has a
whole raft of responsibilities that nobody else in the whole country has.
For example, if the chief justice of the Supreme Court votes with the
majority on a case, he gets first dibs at writing the opinion in this case.
If he chooses not to write the opinion, he gets sole authority to decide
which of the other judges is going to be able to write it.
The chief justice also gets to serve as the presiding judge, should
there be an impeachment of a sitting president. William Rehnquist served
in a role during the impeachment of Bill Clinton.
Weirdly, the chief justice of the Supreme Court also gets to be
chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution. No, I don`t know why, but
reason enough to be want to be that justice, the chief, rather than just an
associate justice like the other eight.
The chief justice of the Supreme Court, though, has another
responsibility that became newly important today. The chief justice alone
gets to appoint all of the judges, all 11 of the judges, who serve on one
very important secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,
FISA. That`s the court that essentially authorizes the government to
conduct top-secret surveillance operations. This is the court that gives
the NSA the OK to do things like, say, collect huge amounts of telephone
metadata that the government doesn`t really admit to in public.
The FISA court is really, really powerful and secret. And this one
guy, the chief justice of the court, gets to decide who sits on that court.
He appoints all of the judges for that court.
Everything about that court is done in secret. The judges meet in
secret. They discuss cases in secret. They make their rulings in secret.
Nothing is done publicly in this court.
And no one involved in the court proceedings -- this is important --
presents the other side of the argument. There`s nobody in those secret
court proceedings, representing the public, for example. I mean, the
government goes to this court and says, we want to do this surveillance
thing, and then the judge just decides whether or not that`s legal.
Nobody`s appointed to make the other side of the case. Nobody`s appointed
to argue against the government`s request for more surveillance.
After all of the disclosures this year from NSA whistle-blower Edward
Snowden, there was some talk that maybe that aspect of the FISA court would
change. Maybe President Obama would make the FISA court an adversarial
process. He would add a layer to the court, essentially, a permanent
advocate for the public and for privacy rights, to argue against the
government`s position in cases heard by the secret court.
In the lead up to the president`s big speech today, though, announcing
reforms to U.S. surveillance policies, something very out of the ordinary
happened concerning the court. One of Chief Justice John Roberts` old
appointments to the FISA court, this man, John Bates, was asked by Chief
Justice John Roberts to write a letter on this issue to policy makers,
specifically to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the
In the letter, this judge argues that basically we on the FISA court
don`t need your stinking privacy advocates. The secret FISA court
shouldn`t have a person arguing against the government. The FISA court
shouldn`t have a person there representing the privacy interests of regular
folks against the government`s request. He says that would be unnecessary
and counterproductive. He says it would, quote, "substantial hamper the
work of the courts." No independent privacy advocate needed here, says the
man tapped by John Roberts to make an appeal on behalf of the court on this
That very unusual letter, playing a very unusual role in the
tripartite split American government, that letter went out earlier this
week, just before President Obama`s big speech today.
And when President Obama announced today his changes to how we conduct
surveillance as a country, he did address this specific issue. And listen
to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To ensure that the
court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I`m also calling on
Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from
outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases
before the foreign intelligence surveillance corps.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Significant cases before the FISA court. So, President Obama
is calling for a public advocate, for an adversarial process, but he wants
that process to only happen in novel cases, in specific and significant
cases before the court.
Well, who decides what`s a significant case? Who decides what`s a
novel issue? Who knows?
It appears that maybe that lobbying from John Roberts and the judge he
picked to do the lobbying, worked here.
Critics of the FISA court also wanted to take the power to appoint
judges out of the chief justice`s hands, but according to today`s speech,
it seems like that`s not going to happen either.
This was a big consequential speech from President Obama today, that
will change some of the ways the NSA operates going forward. The president
announced that the bulk collection of telephone metadata will continue, but
intelligence officials will now need to obtain specific approval from the
FISA court, before they`re allowed to tap into all that data, for whatever
reason they want to tap into it. They`ll no longer have unrestricted
access to use that data however they want.
We also learned today that President Obama plans to move the actual
phone records database out of the government`s control, and to some sort of
outside entity. He gave the attorney general, Eric Holder, and other
intelligence officials, to the end of March to get back to him with a plan
as to where that information should be housed going forward.
President Obama today also announced that there will be no more
eavesdropping by the U.S. government on foreign leaders. That change comes
after the very public and very embarrassing disclosure that the NSA had
been tapping, say, the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, our great
This was a big, important speech today by President Obama. It came on
the heels of more than seven months of one leak after another, from former
NSA contractor and whistle-blower, Edward Snowden. At first glance, this
appears to be the most significant revision of spy practices since the
Church Committee in the 1970s, but much about how it will happen and what
it will mean, remains to be seen.
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: America`s capabilities are unique. And the power of new
technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on
what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough
questions about what we should do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WISNIEWSKI: Could you state and spell your last name for the record?
DAVID WILDSTEIN, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: David Wildstein. W-
WISNIEWSKI: And where do you currently reside?
WILDSTEIN: Montville, New Jersey.
WISNIEWSKI: OK. Are you currently employed?
WISNIEWSKI: And most recently, where were you employed?
WILDSTEIN: On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully assert my
right to remain silent under the United States and New Jersey
WISNIEWSKI: Page 751 contains communications -- my question is, does
page 751 contain communications dated August 5th, 2013?
WILDSTEIN: On the advice of counsel, I, again, assert my right to
On the advice of counsel, I assert my right to remain silent.
WISNIEWSKI: The right to refuse to answer questions to this committee
is not permitted under those rules. The committee does have the right to
find your client`s failure to respond to validly asked questions to be in
contempt of this committee`s subpoena and to take a vote on that, and that
matter may be referred to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. You
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is understood, sir.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was David Wildstein and his straight out of casting
attorney, saying as little as humanly possible in Mr. Wildstein`s testimony
to New Jersey lawmakers, who compelled him to testify last week, on the
great New Jersey bridgegate scandal.
Dave Wildstein is the official who appears to have carried out the
order from Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff, to cause some traffic
problems in Fort Lee, which he accomplished by closing down lanes to the
George Washington bridge last September, in what appears to be an effort to
intentionally cause those traffic problems for Fort Lee. They went on for
four days plus.
Mr. Wildstein sat at the witness table in the New Jersey legislature
last week, refusing to talk, knowing that committee could hold him in
contempt for his refusal. The committee ultimately did vote to hold him in
contempt. That contempt charges now been referred to a New Jersey County
But it`s interesting, the threat of being prosecuted for contempt
didn`t seem to scare David Wildstein into talking, right? He knew that was
a possibility when he was claiming the Fifth. Didn`t make him talk.
David Wildstein and his lawyer told the assembly that day, though,
that what they were holding out for, if they really wanted him to talk, was
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WISNIEWSKI: There are interesting questions raised by who in the
governor`s office knew about the plan to close the lanes or divert the
lanes, who was involved, what did they know, when did they know it. And
just as equally, who was involved, what did they know, when did they know
it when the effort was made to craft an explanation for the lane closure.
And so, those documents only tell part of the story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the attorneys general for New Jersey, New York,
and the United States were all to agree to cloth Mr. Wildstein with
immunity, I think you`d find yourself in a far different position with
respect to information he can provide.
WISNIEWSKI: That`s your job. We just want answers to our questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Understood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Mr. Chairman, my client would like to be clothed in immunity.
He would like to be bathed in immunity. He would like to be wrapped in the
tender arms of immunity from prosecutors in New Jersey and also prosecutors
in New York and also prosecutors the from the United States government.
Today, with subpoenas piling up for officials at the Port Authority,
where Mr. Wildstein worked, and for Mr. Christie`s recollection campaign,
and for officials inside the office of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie,
and for the office of Governor Christie`s itself, as an office, including
this new subpoena for David Wildstein today, calling for documents and e-
mails and voice mails and text messages, all the way back to September
2012, telling him to turn over all of the cell phones and smartphones and
iPads and personal digital devices he has used in the last year and a half,
with all those new subpoenas being handed out today, the lawyer for Mr.
Wildstein is now reiterating, in a less offhand way, spelling it out in no
uncertain terms, that his client is willing to talk. He will talk. He
will tell what he knows, in exchange for immunity.
Mr. Wildstein`s lawyer telling "The A.P." today, quote, "If he has
immunity from the relevant entities, he`ll talk." That`s just exactly the
way they say it in the movies. "He`ll talk."
This is not a simple matter, though. No one entity, I think, can give
David Wildstein all the immunity he`s going to need, given all the
different investigations that are underway or that might start. But it
does show that people who pretty definitely know what happened in this
scandal, and who probably know everybody who was in on it, well, the guy
who probably has the most damning things to say if he does talk is already
showing he`s perfectly willing to do so for the right price.
Mr. Wildstein`s decision to make a deal if he can is not an inevitable
thing. You could imagine this going the under way, right? You could
imagine him insisting on right to silence, taking the Fifth Amendment and
closing ranks. I take the Fifth. You will never get me to flip on people.
Fine me, send me to jail, I will not talk.
He`s not doing that. He is willing to deal.
And in the movies at least, this is how conspiracies like this start
to fall apart and people start to get in trouble. This is not the movie,
though, this is New Jersey.
Joining us now is Ted Mann, reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."
Mr. Mann, thanks very much for being here.
TED MANN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: My pleasure.
MADDOW: First of all, let me ask you the big picture, 20 subpoenas
from the assembly today. Bridget Wildstein and Bridget Anne Kelly, but a
lot of other people, including the governor`s office.
What do you think is the importance of that to the story and this
MANN: Well, pretty clearly, they have thrown as wide a possible net
as they can at this stage as they can justify -- everything short of
actually personally subpoenaing Chris Christie himself. Every name of any
real meaning we`ve seen so far and come out has now gotten a demand to show
a tremendous amount of information about what they might have known about
And I think Chairman Wisniewski was saying this before, and he said it
a number of juncture, they`re trying to build this deliberately, partly for
political reasons so they can`t be accused of being on a fishing expedition
or a witch hunt trying to damage a very popular Republican governor.
But what they`re really trying to do is establish what this chain of
demand was that led to the apparent order in Bridget Kelly`s e-mail. No
one seems to believe that the initial statement that launched this traffic
study or whatever they`re calling it now was Bridget Kelly just firing off
a vague e-mail that David Wildstein intuited immediately. It just doesn`t
MADDOW: In terms of the governor`s own communications, I just asked
Chairman Wisniewski if the subpoena to the governor`s office would exclude
things that were personally from the governor, e-mails that he sent, text
messages that he sent, notes that he took, anything else. He said no,
we`re not looking for things from the governor specifically, but if he did
things and wrote things and is on the record in the records of that office
saying things that are relevant to this investigation, we would expect his
communications not to be excluded from the subpoena, just because he`s the
In real politic terms, do you think that the governor is expected to
fight the request to turn over any of his own documents on grounds of
executive privilege or something else?
MANN: I think we can only look at what the other example we have
involving John Wisniewski trying to get information about toll hikes he
didn`t like and the New Jersey Democrats didn`t like at the Port Authority.
MANN: The state of New Jersey was sued by the AAA and the legislature
issued subpoenas trying to get more information about how the toll hikes
were passed. They`re still fighting over what the Christie administration
and the Port Authority have turned over and have not turned over.
And we know today, according to a source who has seen some of what
they`re arguing about, that part of what they`re arguing about are actual
e-mails among the top-level staff of Chris Christie`s administration and
some from the governor himself according to our source about that toll
MADDOW: And he`s fighting -- in the toll hike investigation, he
fought turning those over. So far has not been forced to turn those over,
if they exist, like your source says.
And his attorney in that matter fighting those subpoenas is the same
attorney he just hired to represent him with this guy.
MANN: Yes, and not very pleased about that is the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey, who sent a message today to that law firm,
basically saying to them, what are you doing taking on another client that
potentially presents a great conflict of interest here because of our
overlapping and potentially, you know, conflicting interest here.
MADDOW: It`s fascinating. I think that your piece today is the first
one that lets people read in maybe as much as they should do Governor
Christie`s choice of attorney in this matter. It helps a lot in terms of
understanding the decision making here.
Ted Mann, reporter for "The Wall Street Journal" on this story from
the very beginning. Ted, thank you very, very much.
MANN: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There`s a lot about to happen in the world. On Monday, that
is when a clock starts ticking on a real big deal the U.S. government has
struck with Iran. It`s the deal to temporarily freeze much of Iran`s
In exchange for Iran taking that historic step, it is starting next
week, starting Monday that the Obama administration will start to loosen
some of the economic sanctions that we have imposed against Iran.
Starting Monday, they stop enriching uranium and we stop imposing some
of the sanctions that they have been suffering under. Well, the bill to
impose new sanctions on Iran and thereby scuttle this bill, the bill I like
to think of as the let`s have a war instead bill, that sanctions bill
that`s caused so much consternation in the White House has now reportedly
been tabled by the Senate, at least for now. That means that Monday`s an
even bigger deal. It means the six-month deal is going to start.
And it means the six-month deal struck by the Obama administration is
allowed to at least start moving forward and that starts on Monday.
Then on Tuesday, another big deal in domestic politics. Which party
is going to control the Senate in Virginia. Tuesday is a special election
to fill the state Senate seat that became vacant when Democrat Mark
Herring, who is a state senator, got elevated to the attorney general`s
office. He won the race for attorney general and his Senate seat became
That election on Tuesday is not just a big deal in terms of who is
going to hold that one seat, it may also determine which party has control
of the Senate in Virginia.
Earlier this month, there was another election in Virginia to fill
another open seat in the Senate because the lieutenant governor who won for
the Democrats was also a senator before that election. That race for that
other Senate seat was so close, nine votes in the Democrats` favor that a
recount is happening there. If Democrats win that recount and they win the
special election on Tuesday, then control of the Virginia state senate will
swing to the Democrats.
So it looks like just a little special election in Virginia, not that
big a deal, but it could control something really important in that part of
the country depending on which way it goes.
Also on Tuesday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is going to be
enjoying his re-inauguration and associated festivities. He will also be
hosting some extra guests who are not plan on paying to get into the
festivities. They will be lying down as of Saturday, planning to camp out
on the statehouse lawn in protest of the Christie administration`s other
scandal right now, involving alleged overspending for the "stronger than
the storm" ads which feature the governor and his family in the wake of
Hurricane Sandy using taxpayer money.
Occupy Christie protesters say they plan on camping out starting
tomorrow and they will be there through his swearing in which is at 11:30
at the Trenton War Memorial.
One note about Governor Christie`s inaugural festivities on Tuesday,
the big party he`s having is on Ellis Island. Ellis Island is half New
Jersey and half New York. The Chris Christie inauguration party for him
becoming governor of New Jersey, he`s going to hold it on the New York side
of Ellis Island. No big deal unless you`re feeling a little sensitive
about Chris Christie being the governor of New Jersey tonight, the Occupy
Sandy folks certainly think so.
That does it for us tonight. We will see you again on Monday.
Now, I`m sending you to prison.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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