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'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

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January 29, 2014

Guests: Alfred Doblin, Steve LaTourette, Joe Schmitz

ARI MELBER, GUEST HOST: More questions about what New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie might have known about the lane closings on the George
Washington Bridge. And one question for Republicans -- why so many
responses to the State of the Union?


still and neither will I.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Obama puts Congress on notice.

OBAMA: Tell America what you would do differently. Let`s see if the
numbers add up.

more hopeful Republican vision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There wasn`t one response. There were three other
Republican responses.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Official, Tea Party, and other --

RODGERS: Republicans believe health care choices should be yours.

SEN. MIKE LEE (R), UTAH: Obamacare all by itself is an inequality

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: It`s not that the government is
inherently stupid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then there was Rand Paul.

PAUL: Although it`s a debatable point.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who taped his own response.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have different wings flapping in different

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everyone sees in this what they want to see.

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I had no knowledge or
involvement. I was blind sided. I don`t know this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Garden State governor cannot seem to escape
his past.

CHRISTIE: I wasn`t told the truth.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning`s "New York Times" details the
meticulous micromanagement --

CHRISTIE: How does this happen?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- in the New Jersey statehouse --

CHRISTIE: As I stand here today, I don`t know anything about traffic
studies, frankly.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- that raises serious questions --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did the governor know ?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- about whether Christie was totally in the
dark about the George Washington Bridge closures.

CHRISTIE: I had no knowledge, or involvement. I was blindsided. How
did this happen? I don`t know this guy.


MELBER: Hello. I am Ari Melber, in for Lawrence O`Donnell.

We have new developments in the controversies facing Chris Christie`s
administration tonight.

Today, two congressmen from his home state are calling into a federal
inquiry into new allegations about Hurricane Sandy funds. We will get to
that shortly.

But first, another report on Christie investigations in the Garden
State. Today, "New York Times" published an exhaustive look at the inner
workings of the Christie administration with details on Governor Christie`s
hands-on approach to his political operations and the state government.

It`s a story about the strength of Governor Christie that verged into
an obsession, not only seeking a big margin for his re-election, but
targeting special swing towns that mirrored the electorate of national
swing states like Ohio and Florida. Christie`s team called them the top
100. The idea was that if Christie won many of these 100 towns, he would
bolster his main selling point as a Republican presidential candidate,
electability in areas where national Republicans have struggled. Christie
advisers believed that kind of victory would counteract any concern in the
GOP primary that he wasn`t conservative enough.

So, they meticulous collected politically intelligence on these 100
cities in New Jersey as "The Times" reports, staff members created tabbed
and color coded dossiers on the mayors of each town, who their friends and
enemies were, the policies and projects that were dear to them, that were
bound in notebooks for the governor to review in his SUV between events.

And given that detail-oriented approach, Christie could track his
relationships and benefits for each city any day, even while sitting in
traffic. "The Times" reports on some disbelief that he would be out of the
loop over the George Washington Bridge operation as well.

Quote, "Mr. Christie has said that he had not been aware in his
office`s involvement in the maneuver to close the bridge lanes, and nothing
has directly tied to it. But a close look at his operation and how
intimately he was involved in, described in interviews with dozens of
people in both parties including current and former Christie administration
officials gives credence to the puzzlement over how a detailed obsessed
governor could have been unaware of the closing or the efforts over months
to cover-up a political motive."

"The Times" also notes that while some incriminating emails have
emerged, Christie`s team was tight knit and often in touch face to face.
Many of the key players in the bridge lane closures were steps away from
Christie`s office and others met with him in long strategy sessions in his
kitchen at home.

Joining me now is the editor of "The Bergen Record" editorial page,
Alfred P. Doblin and David Corn, "Mother Jones" Washington bureau chief and
an MSNBC political analyst.

Welcome to you, both.



MELBER: Let me start with you, Alfred. I actually want to read an
op-ed that you wrote in December when you were first assessing this issue.

You wrote, "There is no bridge-gate, a convenient name for the ongoing
story over why two local lanes of the George Washington Bridge were closed
during the week of the September 11th anniversary. Yes, this is a messy
story with legs, tut the legs the length of any NBA player. The hope of
Democrats far and near is that somehow this will dash the presidential
ambitions of Christie. I don`t see that happening."

You have changed your views recently based on the evidence. Tell us.

DOBLIN: Well, I don`t know what an NBA players legs are like. So
maybe that`s the problem.

I think like a lot of people who covered the governor and had
interaction with the governor, you would assume that his administration was
too smart to be engaged in something that seemed too stupid. Clearly, the
stuff is that`s come out from "The Record" and stuff that we have broken in
terms of the e-mails, linking people within the governor`s staff to the
lane closures, it changes the whole equation.

And it`s "The Times" piece today, it`s really fascinating because it
gives you a schematic. It`s a very small area. You know, the governor`s
office in the state how are not these grand kind of palatial things. It`s
a small kind of area. They`re all seated not that far apart.

So, it`s a little hard to understand how he didn`t know what was going

MELBER: Right. We`re looking up on screen right now how close it is.

DOBLIN: For someone who is that on top of it.

But I think the other thing that`s very fascinating what the "Times"
reported today, two things. One, there are these color-coded files on the
top 100, then I would assume those at some point are things that could be
subpoenaed by the U.S. attorney to look at whether there`s a game plan and
some of those things might indicate -- well, where does Fort Lee fall into
that top 100?

The other thing that troubles me, they mention about the town hall
meetings that the governor has had -- town hall-style meetings which have
always been considered somewhat orchestrated for political purposes. But
if they actually were something that was set up where there was a study
done in terms of donors and possible endorsements, these were on the public
dime, these events.

MELBER: Right. And "The Times" reports a lot of this was under the
so-called interstate or government affairs piece of this, right? Which is
supposed to be working with local government on public goods, public
interests. It`s not supposed to be a shadow campaign. The laws on that
can get complex.

David Corn, I want to bring you in on the texting piece of this. And
I know you`ve been known to use a cell phone to text yourself. You`re a
hip guy.

Well, you and Chris Christie have that in common. According to "The
Times" here, they said, "Mr. Christie attended to the smallest of details
when he wanted to discuss something with lawmakers. He texted them
himself. Indeed he told one top legislator, he had learned from his
experience as U.S. attorney not to e-mail. Texts were harder to trace."


CORN: You know, I read that, and the first thing I thought was
Soprano rules in New Jersey. Another part of the piece that he didn`t like
to have, e-mails when he could do face to face meetings. He didn`t like
conference call where are other people might be able to listen in on.

He wanted to keep things really closed in without a lot of paper
trail, electronic trails. And so you`ve got to ask yourself, why is that?

One issue that`s come up is that they were using personal e-mails for
this bridge-related traffic communications. You know, was he using a
personal e-mail to do gubernatorial business? I`ve spoken to some
legislators who are involved in the investigation and that`s something
they`re looking at. You know, why would you do this? This has been an
issue in other states, too.

I mean, Ari, the big picture here, I don`t know anything about NBA
legs either, but if I was an editorial cartoonist today, I would draw a
picture of Christie sitting on an elephant, sitting on the top of -- you
know, walking across a frozen pond with all these cracks. Because once you
get investigations going, U.S. attorneys, legislative committee, they`re
free to ask the people who they`re subpoenaing and interviewing and whose
records they`re getting, anything they want.

MELBER: Yes. And, David, let me jump in there on those questions,
because this is something we mentioned at the top of the show here. Out
new today, you have two New Jersey congressmen, basically asking now for a
new federal probe. I`m going to read from their letter.

"We ask that you investigate the state of New Jersey`s dealings with
HUD to oversee the usage of these Sandy relief funds. We fought too hard
for these federal disaster recovery dollars to stand by while they are
recklessly mismanaged.

Alfred, your thought on that piece, which affects a lot of people`s

DOBLIN: Well, I think I agree that, you know, the flood gates have
opened. So, there are questions about, I guess, everything the Christie
administration has done. And there are concerns very much about the way
Sandy relief funds have been distributed.

So, the Zimmer accusation, Mayor Zimmer`s accusation that she was
being pressured to go with a develop deal or no Sandy funds really hits
hard. This is a visceral thing with the people of New Jersey.

And the governor`s national reputation, you know, is built around his
Sandy recovery. It`s built about him in that navy blue fleece going around
the state and going around the country being this very compassionate but
strong leader. So if that money has gone somewhere where it shouldn`t or
it was attached to some political kind of payback, that`s a very serious,
serious charge.

MELBER: Right. And, legally, that`s also where the U.S. attorney has
maximum leverage. Those are federal funds and the allegations of misuse of
even a dollar of them gives you that legal hook.

I do want to play, David, some sound from Chris Christie. You were
mentioning earlier. Well, why? Why was he doing this?

One answer, as we know from the article and from his entire vision was
to have a coalition he could sell. Take a listen to Governor Christie on
"Meet the Press" after his re-election.


CHRISTIE: What the election showed was that if you want to attract a
majority of the Hispanic vote, if you want to nearly triple your African-
American voters as a Republican, what you need to do is show up. You go
and you show up and you listen and you start to make your argument about
your policies. And I think the results of the election show that that`s
the kind of engagement we need as Republicans all across the country.


MELBER: David, that was Chris Christie`s argument. He won because he
showed up and listened. These stories in "The New York Times," reporting
by Steve Kornacki of MSNBC and a lot of other allegations suggest other
reasons for the level of that support.

CORN: I`m telling you, there`s still a lot to sort out here. The
stories that have come out, they have been linking political actions to the
development in north Hoboken, of $1.1 billion development that is being
represented by one of his top guys, Samson. I mean, this is really the --
you know, reeks of crony conventional business. Not surprising.

But yet he tried to stand out as a guy who wasn`t really in that muck
that way and was a straight talker who could do what he did in terms of
getting other types of votes. His whole rationale for running for
president is perilously close to exploding.

MELBER: Right. It`s close to exploding and it`s again, do you want
to get a reputation for being bipartisan by working with people, or
potentially using your aides to bully people into pretending to be
bipartisan. And that is the weirdest part of all of this, the overreach,
at least among his aides, even though nothing directly linking him yet.

Alfred P. Doblin and David Corn, thank you both for your time.

CORN: Sure thing.

DOBLIN: Thank you.

MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate you joining us.

Now coming up, the president signed the first promised executive order
and the Republicans do exactly what you would expect them to do. We`re
going to do some fact checking on the constitutional law here.

And later, Republicans add a Spanish language response to the State of
the Union, but they forgot to mention why that not even be allowed in John
Boehner`s House.


MELBER: Up next, the president, his phone, his pen and why the
Republicans are thinking lawsuits.



OBAMA: I`m going to sign a presidential memorandum that directs the
U.S. treasury secretary, Jack Lew, to create a new way for Americans to
start their own retirement savings.


And now, I`m going to sign this bill. Thank you. God bless you. God
bless the United States of America.


MELBER: President Obama made it official in Pennsylvania today. He
signed an executive order creating new retirement accounts to encourage
savings. That`s one of several executive actions the president is rolling
out this year, as he told Congress in last night`s State of the Union.

Some Republicans complained today that the executive branch was using
executive powers at all. Senator Ted Cruz wrote an op-ed in "The Wall
Street Journal" saying, of all the troubling aspects of the Obama
presidency, none is more dangerous than the president`s persistent pattern
of lawlessness."

Some Republicans want to ask another branch of government to get
involved here. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann said this, "The president
renewed his commitment that he was going to be king Obama. This is
something that is really frightening to the American people. If he wants
to move forward with this unilateral activity, he better be prepared with
the lawsuit that the U.S. Congress will bring to him. He may think he`s
king, he may declare he`s a king, but that`s not what he is under the

It is fun to read Michele Bachmann lines. They just jump out.

House Speaker John Boehner confirmed today that House Republicans will
consider lawsuit against the president over the executive orders at their
retreat, which began today.

Joining us now is former Ohio Republican Congressman Steve LaTourette,
president of the Mainstream Partnership, and editor, Richard

Welcome to you both.

Congressman, quickly, your view here as an opening discussion of this
kind of pushback of executive action?

FORMER REP. STEVE LATOURETTE (R), OHIO: I think it misses the point.
The president`s point, which I took was, that he called for action and he
wanted the Congress to act, and he said if Congress isn`t going to act, he
was going to act.

But in his speech, I think he recognize the limits the executive
authority, so he can`t raise the minimum wage for every American, but he
can for federal contract employees.

So I think this lawsuit talk is stupid. It`s nonproductive. And it
really misses the point of -- I thought the president attempted to -- you
know, all day we were told he`s going to be tough, he`s going to usurp your

Maybe on the car ride up from the White House, he changed his mind
because I found it to be a conciliatory speech that he`d like to work with
Republicans to solve these problems, but if they weren`t willing to meet
him, he was going to do stuff he could do by himself.

MELBER: Yes, I heard a lot of that myself. I thought it was somewhat
conciliatory to the point on how executive action works, Richard.
Obviously, it was this critique is somewhat ahistorical. Barack Obama has
done about 168 executive orders so far, that leaves him behind a lot of
other presidents. We ran the numbers today.

And yet there is this angst about him being president. A lot of the
speech, while it was promoted that he was doing what he could alone, a lot
of the speech was on immigration, even voting rights, saying let`s work

RICHARD WOLFFE, MSNBC.COM: Let`s work together. And these executive
orders -- they are about really small things. We`re talking about a
retirement account. And the point about executive orders, of course, they
can be undone by the next executive. That`s what makes it different from

So if Republicans really find this so offensive and a monarchical
abuse of power, then they just need to win the election. And the old
monarch`s actions will sweep aside. So, there`s just too much pretend
outrage about these really small things that as you point are, in fact, par
for the course, of presidents past.

MELBER: You sound good when you say monarch.


MELBER: Just rolls off the tongue.

Congressman, I`m also going to read something from Kevin Drum at
"Mother Jones".

He writes, "Look, Obama did not throw down the gauntlet to Republicans
last night. If you listen to the actual speech the president gave rather
than the spin the White House put on it, it really wasn`t an in-your-face
challenge to Congress. There were a couple of routine shout-outs to
gridlock and how the American people expect more from their public
servants, and there were several places where Obama asked Congress to join
him in addressing the country`s problems. Honestly, that`s pretty garden
variety stuff. It happens in every State of the Union. This wasn`t a
Declaration of Independence."

So, Congressman, help me understand. How much of this relates to the
current mood in the Republican Party to make everything a sort of
constitutional question and a Tea Party-type historical exciting challenge?
And how much of it reflects, I think, a misdirection and a discomfort with
the president being president?

LATOURETTE: Well, I think again if you look at the people you quoted
at the top of this segment, I mean, I don`t consider Ted Cruz or Michele
Bachmann to be spokespeople for the mainstream Republican Party. You know,
and both of them, I think they`re about half a bundle off on some of this

But the fact of the matter is the president -- I mean, he touched all
the bases. He talked about minimum wage. He talked about global, climate
change. He talked all the things that the Democrats wanted to hear.

But then the balance of the speech, I mean, he told jokes. It was the
first time I heard President Obama told jokes. I thought he was funny. I
thought he was engaging and I thought he said I want to work with you.

Now, what still has to happen, he has to be willing to do that and the
Republicans have to be willing to work with him, but I expected a much
harsher speech because the president has always come in like a professor
and sort of lectured everybody. And he was pretty human last night, I

MELBER: Yes, I think that`s fair. I do want to play -- I take your
point, and I know you`re part of this ongoing debate within the Republican
Party, which is why we`re excited to hear your view.

It isn`t just extremists. It`s a lot of I would say the people who
have the most energy behind them. And it`s not just politics. This came
up at a hearing today with Senator Mike Lee, cross-examining to some degree
the attorney general on this issue.

Richard, I want to get your thoughts on this. Let`s take a listen.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president will not act in a way
that`s inconsistent with the way that other presidents have acted in using
their executive authority. He has made far less use of his executive power
at this point in his administration than some of his predecessors have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you look at the quality, not just the
quantity, but the quality, the nature of the executive orders he has
issued, he has usurped an extraordinary amount of authority within the
executive branch. This is -- is not precedented.


MELBER: Richard, that`s oversight right there. We`re supposed to
take that seriously. That`s not a campaign event.

WOLFFE: Yes. But have you ever been to these congressional hearings?

That kind of thing for the camera is also -- just as par for the
course as presidents writing executive orders.

Usurping authority -- I mean, that is inflammatory language. And that
may suit some kind of constituency for the members of Congress as voters
back home. But what are we talking about?

As Steve LaTourette just said, this State of the Union did not
challenge Republicans. He didn`t say, the president, if you don`t raise
the minimum wage -- I will do this for federal contractors and I will
campaign against you.

There was no threat in it. It was really mild for an election year
State of the Union. And the executive order reach of this president --
look, they may still be offended by Obamacare, but these executive orders
don`t come anywhere near to usurping authority in any legal sense.

MELBER: Well, and that`s the issue, right? I think for some
progressives, there`s a frustration that it wasn`t more of a drive towards
the midterms. It didn`t have a list, for example, of the work undone to
say, you know, for example, you never gave me a vote on the gun regulations
we said we wanted. They deserve a vote previously. Do that, you know, you
owe that, pass this bill.

It didn`t drive that. The gracious view of that is to say yes, that`s
because the president is putting more focus on what we do as a country
before the midterms than trying to posture for them. That would be the
nicer reading of it.

Richard Wolffe and Congressman LaTourette, thank you both for joining
us tonight.

There was another dramatic State of the Union story last night. The
congressman who threatened to throw a reporter off a balcony -- really,
that is up next. You`re going to see it here.

And meanwhile, officials in Georgia said they didn`t see this storm
coming even though the weather guys were predicting it for a whole day. We
have an interview with one of the people who has been stuck for over 30
hours. And unfortunately, he is still stuck. That`s up next.



REPORTER: And just, finally, before we let you go, since we have you
here, we haven`t had a chance to talk to you about some of the --

REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: I`m not speaking about anything
that`s off topic. This is only about the president.

REPORTER: Well, what about -- all right, so, Congressman Michael
Grimm does not want to talk about some of the allegations concerning his
campaign finances. We wanted to get him on camera on that but he refused
to talk about that. Back to you.


MELBER: Back to you.

Well, in the spotlight tonight, a grim truth. The president made lots
of headlines last night but New York Congressman Michael Grimm may have won
the competition for the most intense TMZ moment.

He was doing an interview about the president`s address with a local
reporter, just another standard back and forth. You see these kinds of
things a lot on big nights. But it got ugly when he thought he heard a
question he didn`t like.

Here`s what happened right after the reporter signed off.


REPORTER: Back to you.

GRIMM: Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again, I`ll
throw you off this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) balcony.

REPORTER: Why, why, I just wanted to ask you?

GRIMM: If you ever do that to me again.

REPORTER: Why, why, it`s a valid question.


GRIMM: No, no, you`re not man enough, you`re not man enough. I`ll
break you in half. Like a boy.


MELBER: The congressman then gave this explanation for the incident
last night, quote, "I expect a certain level of professionalism and
respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I
doubt I`m the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter and I am sure
I won`t be the last."

After sleeping on it, however, his tune did change and he called the
reporter to apologize. Here`s Michael Scotto, a reporter for New York 1
now and, by the way, a former MSNBC journalist, this afternoon on "NOW WITH


MICHAEL SCOTTO, NY1: I think what happened prior to that was the
coverage was just terrible. You look over Twitter and you would just see
all these negative tweets towards his behavior. The coverage from
lawmakers who were weighing in on what he did was also unfavorable. And I
think he realized sticking with that stance of blaming us for asking that
question was not going to work. And then he decided to come out and
apologize to us.


MELBER: And for more on Grimm`s side of the story, here`s what he
told NBC`s Kelly O`Donnell today.


REP. MICHAEL GRIMM (R), NEW YORK: I`m a human being and sometimes
your emotions get the better of you. And the bottom line is it shouldn`t
have happened. You should always cool and that`s why I apologized. When
you`re wrong, you`re wrong. You have to admit it and it shouldn`t happen.


MELBER: When you`re wrong, you ear wrong, or at least when you`re
wrong on tape. But this isn`t just a story about Congressman Grimm, I
don`t think. It also suggests some pretty fundamental problems with a
certain congressional mind set.

Joining us now, MSNBC`s Krystal Ball and "Talking Points Memos" Hunter

Welcome to you..

Krystal, I want to start, there is a lot to do here. But I will start
with the original statement after the altercation when the congressman says
I doubt I`m the first member of Congress to tell off a reporter, I`m sure I
won`t be the last. So even after a little time, he still thought this was
within the bounds of how you address a reporter.

KRYSTAL BALL, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: Yes. That was the piece that in
some ways was even more amazing. Because if you know this guy`s back
story, you know he can potentially fly off the handle. But the fact that
after he did it his response, his thought out planned, issued response was
to basically say this was totally valid behavior was to me even more

And I think that was actually the real response. That`s how he
actually feels. And it was only after, as the reporter was saying, he got
all the pushback, and I`m sure some of his leadership on the Republican
side came to him and said this is not OK. You`ve got to make this better.
You`ve totally overshadowed our response. You totally overshadowed our
message of the state of the union that he finally thought maybe I should
try to clean this up.

MELBER: Right. I mean, this was for many people the Republican reply
to the state of the union.

BALL: Absolutely.

MELBER: It gets a lot of attention when you act that way, Hunter.
And there are a lot of members of Congress, who, while they don`t go this
far definitely feel that the only questions they ever want to take should
be prescreened.

HUNTER WALKER, TALKING POINTS MEMOS: I mean, absolutely. There`s
certainly an increasing, you know, PR industrial complex kind of
surrounding all the politicians that we cover. And you know, you see
access kind of getting more and more controlled and smaller and smaller.

But I think, you know, in Michael Grimm`s case, one thing that`s
really interesting is the allegations against him are stemming from his
2010 campaign. He has been dealing with these questions for two years.
I`ve asked him these questions. Other reporters have asked him these
questions. Why is it no uh that he`s freaking out? And I think a big part
of it may be that court documents recently showed that one of the people
involved in this investigation may be prepping a plea deal. So perhaps
he`s --

MELBER: So let`s look at that. You`re giving some good historical
background here. and this has been going a while. He`s had some success in
keeping it out of questions. This is what they do. They say I`ll only
take a question on this. Better than nothing. And if someone pushes back,
apparently, this is the response you get. So, with that in mind, let`s
look again at his response to thinking he`s going to get this kind of




MELBER: Krystal, what you see there is the threat, which is serious
and a lot of people would feel potentially intimidated by it. I`m going to
throw you off this balcony. And he looks angry enough and reckless enough
that you could fell it`s credible. And yet, the response that you don`t
usually see in a bar for all the physical altercation of this nature is
hey, it`s a valid question.

BALL: That was my favorite piece of this in a way, is that the
reporter is still, what`s the problem? It`s a valid question. He`s still
operating on that level of like I`m just doing my job. I don`t understand
why you`re so upset.

And I think that`s the piece of this, if he wasn`t over the top. He
wasn`t overly aggressive, the reporter. And for Grimm to just go after him
like that and especially on such a big night. I mean, that`s the piece of
this that is so important. Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave a perfectly fine
State of the union response. She is a different face of the Republican
Party and everything she did was completely overshadowed. Now, we`ve got
Michael Grimm, we had Mike Huckabee last week with his comments about
libido and uncle sugar, and the Republican Party must be like they should
just take a vow of silence between now and the election. It is to do
themselves some good.

MELBER: Well, and Hunter, some of these, the politics of quote-
unquote "masculinity."

WALKER: Well, you know, you have heard some commentators in the cable
news space lament this sort of feminization that is going on in the culture
right now. And I think there is some feeling on the conservative space
that, you know, we need to be tougher right now. And you know, it`s really
interesting to see sort of this guy who`s made his name as a former marine
and an FBI agent kind of act as though, you know, this very legitimate
piece of government, the fourth estate, is not masculine.

MELBER: Yes. And a weird part here is a lot of people, if you
conduct yourself that way in reverse against a member of Congress or
government official, you would be arrested that night and you would be
facing serious charges of threats.

BALL: Yes. I mean, in any other job, you would get fired.

MELBER: Right. And so -- well, not in this Congress. Not for now.

Krystal Ball and Hunter Walker, thank you both for joining us tonight.

BALL: Thanks, Ari.

MELBER: Coming up, why it`s not about the words, it`s about the



JIMMY FALLON, COMEDIAN: A big new announcement from NSA leaker Edward
Snowden in a new interview. He says he no longer has any confidential
documents in his possession. Then he said hey, where is everybody going?
I have the seven herbs and spices from KFC. The secret sauce. I know what
the secret sauce is. Don`t forget about me.


MELBER: It`s not just our friend Jimmy Fallon or today`s politicians,
haven`t forgotten about Edward Snowden`s either. Two of them have
nominated the NSA leaker for the Nobel peace prize. Now, in case you`re
wondering, anyone can be nominated. The prize is given in October.

Now up next, why a Spanish language response for the state of the
union is a perfectly good idea that the Republicans managed to mangle.





MELBER: So began the Republican response in Espanol to the
president`s state of the union address. It was delivered by a Florida
Republican congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. And as we reported it was
one of four national responses from the GOP.

But the Spanish response was a duplicate provided to reflect the GOP`s
standard English response by Congresswoman Rodgers. Now, that Spanish
duplicate was a good thing. All our politicians should try to address all
our citizens. And if some House Republicans are finally genuinely figuring
that out, then welcome aboard.

But there`s a problem that the GOP response conveniently failed to
mention. If many House Republicans got their way, it wouldn`t even have
been allowed last night. That`s because of a very popular piece of
legislation from Iowa, Republican Congressman Steve King introduced just
last year.

The English language unity act of 2013. And like so many Republican
policy package, that word unity was not a literal description. This so-
called unity act was not about uniting. It was about dividing. The
legislation would basically do two big things -- declare English as the
official language of the U.S. and require that the official functions of
the government be conducted in English.

Now, this bill was introduced just ten months before a member of that
same Republican house caucus responded to the president`s state of the
union address in Spanish which, as we know, is a language that is not

Now, some people might say well, hey, this is just one congressman`s
bill. But in the last full Congress, take a look at this. That same bill
drew 118 Republican cosponsors. That`s 49 percent of the entire Republican
caucus. And over in the Senate, as recently as 2006, 95 percent of
Republicans voted to declare English the national language.

And back to Congressman King. He was the author of the, well, shall
we say, most interesting GOP sound bite on immigration last year.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: And there are kids brought into this
country by their parents unknowing that they were breaking the law. And
they will say to me and others who defend the rule of law, we have to do
something about the 11 million and some of them are valedictorians. Well,
my answer to that is -- and by the way, their parents brought them in, it
wasn`t their fault.

It`s true in some cases but they weren`t all valedictorians. They
weren`t all brought in by their parents. For everyone who is a
valedictorian, there is another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds
and they have got calves a size of camel wolves because they are all in 75
pounds of marijuana across the dessert.


MELBER: So, that is the kind of thing Congressman Steve King has to
say about immigration. And he writes bills that would declaring that is
the official language in the U.S. and stipulate government business
speeches can only be conducted in English and half of House Republicans
lined up behind him. Now to be fair, there are voices of reason on the
right on the issue of immigration.


time trying to fix a broken immigration system than I have. I talked about
it the day after the election. I`ve talked about it 100 times since. And
while some may disagree about how we`re going about fixing the broken
immigration system. It`s been a big goal of mine.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Eleven million people living in the
shadows in this country is not an acceptable situation. To do nothing I
think is a grave disservice to the American people and sooner or later, we
will have to address this issue in a comprehensive fashion.


MELBER: And when Republicans want votes, we`ve seen campaign ads in




MELBER: But here`s the point. Ads and speeches in Spanish are again
just words. The Republican party`s action on issue has been largely to
stone wall Democrats in the White House, refuse to compromise and so far
get no action.

Even today, this very day, GOP senator who`s seen as a leader on
immigration reform said the barrier wasn`t a Steve King caucus or this
selective outreach we`re talking about here, but rather President Obama and
his attorney general.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: What I found was the central impediment
to making progress on this issue is people would say to me, we understand
that you put all the security stuff in the bill but we don`t think it
matters. We just don`t think the government will enforce the law anyway.
And as a result, they`ll just do the legalization part but they won`t do
the enforcement part and that`s what happened last time.

And then they pointed to the IRS scandal and the Benghazi stuff and
then the NSA revelations. And then Obamacare decisions by this
administration as evidence of how the government, this administration
unilaterally decides which portions of the law to enforce and which not to


MELBER: I don`t really buy that, but not every Republican member of
Congress has to be close minded here. The speeches and some of the Spanish
ads a start, but House Republicans, you would also have to try to stop ban
the Spanish language outreach that your own colleagues are doing. It`s
wrong and it also makes you look a little consistent. Stop cosponsoring
Steve King`s revised bill. It makes people think he is your point person
on these issues. Nobody should want that, I guess except Steve King. And
that`s a start towards building good will on immigration reform, even
piecemeal reform, even border security reform, because there are
compromises on the table here. And if people stopped demagouging, that
would be the goal in the end. And that`s what we should all want --
action. And there`s an old saying, action speaks louder than words.

(SPEAKING SPANISH), sorry about that.


MELBER: How bad can two inches of snow really be? Just ask Atlanta
and that is next.


MELBER: We bring you another important story tonight. Many parts of
the south are still trying to sort out the mess of the winter storm caused
there yesterday. The worse of it was in Atlanta where 10,000 kids were
trapped at school overnight and 16-hour commutes have been common. Could
this chaos have been handled with preparation? That`s up for debate.


GOV. NATHAN DEAL (R), GEORGIA: The national weather service
continually had their modeling showing that the city of Atlanta would not
be the primary area where the storm would hit.

AL ROKER, WEATHER FORECASTER: Early Monday morning at 4:53, the
Atlanta metro area added a winter storm watch by the national weather
service. Now, we move ahead. And now we are into Atlanta metro area,
upgraded to a winter weather advisory Monday evening.

Tuesday night, overnight Tuesday, 3:38 a.m., winter weather advisory
upgraded to warning, a full eight hours before the snow started. And as
you watch on the radar, you will see it move in and engulf Atlanta, 2.6
inches. There was plenty of time to make those adjustments for any kind of
snow removal. So you decide.


MELBER: We go to NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez with more on the paralyzing
storm from Atlanta.

stretch of i-75. There are still hundreds of cars stranded alongside the
road. They were abandoned yesterday. The past 24 hours here have been
chaotic. People are furious asking why state and local officials didn`t
see this coming.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They watched the sunset and they watched the sun

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): A major American city paralyzed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It took us 14 hours to get here and we ended up
sleeping right over there at the shell station in our car.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When it`s going to be wet and cold, get the salt
trucks on the road. We are on the clock. It is not that hard.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was absolutely traumatized because my car kept
fish tailing and I couldn`t get traction.

GUTIERREZ: Today Atlanta, still really work to dig out from its
harshest winter storm in years. Cars abandoned on roads, drivers stranded
in ice, children left to spend the night in their schools because the roads
were too dangerous for buses and panicked parents. Ninety students and
some 20 staffers spent the night at E Rivers elementary school. Mark
Nielsen walked six miles in the snow to be with his 5-year-old daughter,

MARK NIELSEN, RESIDENT: Just to make sure she was comfortable.

GUTIERREZ: But 11:30 this morning, 60 children were still stuck. The
principal still hadn`t slept.

kids, the safety of my drivers. That was the most important thing to me.
So, I couldn`t let them out of the building.

GUTIERREZ: The snow began around noon yesterday and people hit the
road. Within an hour, traffic came to a standstill everywhere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Backed up traffic everywhere.

GUTIERREZ: Driving to Atlanta, Paula (INAUDIBLE) had to sleep
overnight in her van with a coworker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We were very, very shocked at the conditions.
It`s a common feeling of helplessness and, you know, what are we going to

GUTIERREZ: And trying to get to her children, Jennifer Wilkins felt
like a prisoner in her car.

JENNIFER WILKINS, RESIDENT: I had one bottle of water and no food and
I have about half a tank of gas left.

GUTIERREZ: Luckier drivers found shelter, taking cover overnight in a
nearest grocery store or at home depot where exhausted travelers sought
shelter in the aisles. And little Grace Elizabeth was born to (INAUDIBLE)
on the way to the hospital.

Across the state, more than 1,200 accidents, 790 in Atlanta alone.
Throughout the day, social media became a place to ask for help. A husband
stranded, he needs his medicine. A friend, stuck since 11:00 a.m.
yesterday with three kids in Great Dane. Looking for cousin, eight months
pregnant, and a place to vent.

But among their frustrations came relief, good Samaritans taking to
the streets. And the National Guard rescuing motorists and passing out
prepackaged military meals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`ve got food and probably about 20 more MREs
left. And if anybody needs help getting from one place to the other, as
long as it`s within a short distance, we can make that happen.

GUTIERREZ: There`s also relief at E. Rivers elementary.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s been tough, but as long as the kids are
safe, I`m fine.

GUTIERREZ: Where Clarisse Bell was able to make it home with her
three daughters.


GUTIERREZ: City officials say there are definitely lessons to learn
about how they responded to this ice storm. But that the response was
better than after a similar storm in 2011. That one brought this town to a
stand still for four days, Ari.

MELBER: Wow. NBC`s Gabe Gutierrez, thank you for that report and
stay safe.

Now, joining us now by phone is Joe Schmitz. He`s a truck driver from
Indiana who`s still stuck in Atlanta tonight on i-285.

Joe, welcome. I want to ask you, First, you were driving from Miami
yesterday afternoon. You got stuck. How long have you been stuck?

JOE SCHMITZ, TRUCK DRIVER (via phone): I left Miami yesterday
morning, and I hit the Atlanta area about 2:30. And that`s when I became
disabled on the side of the road. Not disabled but I had to pull over
because there was just no way of getting through it.

MELBER: Understood. And are you moving at all now? What are you
seeing out there?

SCHMITZ: Actually, within the last hour and a half, traffic has
started moving. There`s trucks that are still parked on the shoulders.
I`m one of them. There`s still some cars out on the shoulders and off in a
few lanes of the interstate. But it looks like it`s starting to clear out
a little bit. So, in the morning it looks to me as though I`ll be able to
get out of here.

MELBER: Well, that`s good. We are glad you`re making some progress
there. And I understand at one point this morning you went out and got
supplies for some other stranded individuals. What did you do? How far
did you go?

SCHMITZ: I did. I woke up about 4:00 this morning and I needed to
get to the gas station. There was one about two miles away from where I
was parked. When the sun came up, I started walking up and back and forth
the interstate. And I went down there, got some food and water, when I
came back, and when the sun came up, I started walking up and back and
forth the interstate and was handing out, you know, food and water to
people that need it. I was shooting for people with kids and pregnant
women and elderly. I even passed out some food and water to a few fellow
drivers that ran out of supplies. So that`s just doing the right thing.
That`s all I was trying to do, to get out there and help people that needed

MELBER: I mean, that`s something that really matters at a time like
this. People who can move helping each other. I know you`ve been driving
for 14 years, I read here. Have you ever seen anything like this?

SCHMITZ: With my own eyes, no. I have never seen anything like this.
I was in the blizzard of `09 back up there in Des Moines, Iowa back in `09.
And I was stranded for three day at a truck stop, but the roads weren`t
clogged up like they were down here. So now, I have never seen anything
like this at all. I traveled all over Canada and all over the floor 48.
So, first time for me.

MELBER: All right. Well, look, Joe, appreciate you spending some
time on the phone with us. I`m glad you`re moving. We want to wish you
all the good luck and safety out there, all right? Thank you for your

SCHMITZ: All right, Ari. Appreciate it. Thank you for having me.

MELBER: Absolutely. Appreciate your report from out there. Wish
everyone a safe return.

I am Ari Melber now, in for Lawrence O`Donnell. And you can find me
on twitter @AriMelber or find us tomorrow on MSNBC at 3:00 p.m. eastern on
"the Cycle" with Krystal Ball, Abby Huntsman and Toure.

That does it for us tonight. "All In" with Chris Hayes is up next.


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