All In With Chris Hayes, Friday, January 31st, 2014
Read the transcript from the Friday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
January 31, 201
Guests: Raymond Lesniak, Roman Oben, Mike Pesca>
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris Hayes.
And there is big breaking news and rapidly unfolding new developments
today in the scandal surrounding Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.
This one pertaining to the original "Time for some traffic problems in Fort
Lee" bridge-gate scandal that kicked it all off.
As we await the production of documents due Monday from 20 different
subpoenas, many of them to Governor Chris Christie`s inner circle, today,
in the words of "The New York Times" comes this stunning development. "Ex-
Port Authority official says evidence exists Christie knew about lane
Governor Christie`s office today denied any discrepancy. We`ll get
to that in full.
As for that ex-Port Authority official, it is this man, David
Wildstein -- who is obviously by now a familiar figure at the center of
this unfolding drama. Wildstein, the man who went to high school with
Chris Christie, the man who was given a job in the Port Authority, a job
apparently created for him with no job description and which paid $150,000
He is the same man when told by an e-mail from then-deputy chief of
staff Bridget Anne Kelly, "Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee",
responded, "Got it."
Wildstein is the same man who pled -- took the Fifth before the New
Jersey Assembly Transportation Committee. He`s the same man who through
his lawyer said he would be willing to talk if he were offered immunity.
And today, his lawyer has written a letter to the Port Authority, the
purpose of which to seek reimbursement for legal fees.
But the most relevant passage says this. It`s also come to light
that a person within the Christie administration communicated the Christie
administration`s order that certain lanes on the George Washington Bridge
were to be closed and evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to having
knowledge of the lane closures during the period when the lanes were
closed, contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press
conference he gave immediately before Mr. Wildstein was scheduled to appear
before the Transportation Committee. Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy
of various statements the governor made about him and can prove the
inaccuracy of some."
What exactly did Governor Christie have knowledge of? When exactly
did Governor Christie have knowledge of it according to Wildstein? The
lane closures? The real reason for the lane closures? These are a host of
But keep in mind, Governor Christie spent two hours of the January
9th news conference denying he knew of any plan to create traffic problems
in Fort Lee and even that the closures, themselves, were happening while
they were happening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Well, let me tell you,
everybody, I was blindsided yesterday morning. That was the first time I
knew about this. It`s the first time I`d seen the documents that were
revealed yesterday. I had no knowledge or involvement in this issue, in
its planning or its execution. And I am stunned by the abject stupidity
that was shown here.
And I knew nothing about this, and until it started to be reported in
the papers about the closure. But even then, I was told this was a traffic
study. I had no knowledge of this of the planning, the execution, or
anything about it, and that I first found out about it after it was over.
And even then, what I was told was that it was a traffic study. I
didn`t know about it, but it`s my responsibility because I`m the governor.
I found this out at 8:50 yesterday morning. By 9:00 this morning, Bridget
Kelly was fired. By 7:00 yesterday evening, Bill Stepien was asked to
leave my organization.
Listen, I have absolutely nothing to hide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: I first found out about it after it was over -- that is the
key claim there, the claim that Wildstein appears to be challenging in his
Now, Christie`s office has reacted to Wildstein letter, the office of
the governor releasing this statement. "Mr. Wildstein`s lawyer confirms
what the governor said all along. He had absolutely no prior knowledge of
the lane closures before they happened and whatever Mr. Wildstein`s
motivations were for closing them to begin with. As the governor said in a
December 13th press conference, he learned lanes were closed when it was
report by the press. As he said in his January 9th press conference, had
no indication this was anything other than a traffic study until he read
otherwise the morning of January 8th. The governor denies Mr. Wildstein`s
lawyers other assertions."
Joining me to unpack all of this and there is a lot is MSNBC`s chief
New Jersey expert, Steve Kornacki, host of "UP", which airs weekends at
8:00 a.m. Eastern, which means you get to watch it tomorrow. I understand
there`s some new reporting there.
And NBC News national correspondent Michael Isikoff.
All right. There is a lot here. Let`s start with the narrow point
of contention and then let`s widen out to the context of what this all
What appears to be relayed in this letter, Steve, is that there is
some evidence out there whether in the possession of Mr. Wildstein or not
that will show the governor in fact knew contemporaneously that the lanes
had been closed despite the tape we just played in which there are repeated
denials he did not. Is that basically what we`re dealing with?
STEVE KORNACKI, UP: There`s that. There`s also the statement when
he alludes to Bridget Kelly`s "time for some traffic" e-mail, and he frames
that, the lawyer frames that in this letter as an order that was coming
from the administration through her. And one of the sort of defenses or
wishful defenses if you`re a Christie defender is that this was just this
sort of group of people going rogue.
HAYES: A Bridget Anne Kelly pet project.
KORNACKI: Bridget Kelly and Wildstein, maybe these people were going
rogue. What this letter is stating as fact is that message from her was
coming up from somebody higher up in the chain in the administration. So,
there`s those two things and also the statement at the end of this where he
basically says that Christie made statements about him at the press
conference, some of which he can prove are not true.
HAYES: Michael, it seems to me the key thing here is if -- and this
has been clear I think from the moment that all of us watched that two-hour
press conference, and I think everyone who watches that was saying to
themselves or saying to people they were watching with, if he is found to
be lying about any of this, he is toast.
He was so emphatic. He was so repetitive. He was so demonstrative
about how blindsided he was, about he didn`t know anything about planning
or execution, his words, about -- until it was over, his words, until he
read it in the press, that if that proves not to be the case, he`s in a lot
MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. And so,
obviously, the main question here is, what exactly is Mr. Wildstein
alleging and what evidence has he got to back it up? And it`s very hard to
know from this letter, itself.
Couple things worth remembering here -- Wildstein was subpoenaed for
all his documents related to this by that original transportation committee
investigation, and he turned over hundreds of pages, including those
bombshell e-mails, the one from Bridget Kelly "Time for some traffic
problems in For Lee." And also had lots of redactions in those e-mails --
ISIKOFF: -- and texts, which raised a lot of eyebrows at the time.
The supposition, one inference might be that there`s something in those
redacted e-mails and texts that implicates the governor.
But remember, it was Wildstein, himself, who made the redactions and
texts. So if there is something he had that he did not turn over, he is
potentially liable for obstruction and covering up this evidence. So,
that`s one thing to keep in mind here. Is it something he has, himself,
and can prove, or is it some evidence that he`s heard about?
ISIKOFF: We just don`t know.
HAYES: And the key phrase is "evidence exists", right?
HAYES: Now, given Wildstein`s role in this -- Steve, you know David
Wildstein, you were his employee, you were working for him at a point when
you didn`t know who the man was, it was David Wildstein.
What is -- what is this play? What is going on? What is he doing?
Because right now, this guy is backed into a corner and he has been sending
signals saying, I will roll if I get immunity. How do you interpret this
KORNACKI: You know, I think this is fourth signal he and his lawyer
sent that he wants a deal. In terms of withholding stuff from the
committee, I mean, he`s already been held in contempt of the committee for
not answering questions. So, I`m not sure how much the redaction are going
to bother him from that standpoint.
This is somebody who -- remember, the timeline on this is the day he
was going down there to give that testimony to the assembly was the day
that word came out the U.S. attorney was looking around at this.
I think if you`re somebody in his position on a day like that and
you`re saying, you know, well, I got this assembly committee asking me
these questions and I`ve got the U.S. attorney looking around, I`m going to
err on the side of not sharing anything with the assembly --
KORNACKI: -- with legislative committee because that`s the thing I`m
worried about is the U.S. attorney.
But this is somebody who`s looking for a deal. And the contrast is
striking between the action that he took today and state of the action that
Bill Stepien, Christie`s campaign manager took today and basically saying,
I`m not going to cooperate, not only am I going to testify before the
committee, I`m not going to cooperate in sharing documents with him.
That is a guy who seems to be girding himself for a legal battle, for
a trial. Wildstein is the guy who seems to be looking for a deal here.
And, again, it`s understanding the relationships of all these people, the
point that I keep trying to make to people, when you look at this whole
sort of -- all of the characters around Chris Christie in this drama, the
one who probably had the least loyalty to him going in has always been
His relationship with Christie I think was misunderstood from the
very beginning. They weren`t close that politically. They really weren`t
that close professionally or even personally. So, I always say from the
beginning of this David Wildstein was sort of the most likely to be looking
for something like this.
HAYES: To reiterate that, all right, they did go to high school
together. When that came up, Chris Christie went out of his way in the
press conference to distance himself to say, look, we weren`t that close.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID WILDSTEIN, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: On the advice of my
counsel, I respectfully assert my right to remain silent under the United
States and New Jersey Constitution.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We were not even acquaintances
in high school. We didn`t travel in the same circles in high school. You
know, I was the class president and athlete. I don`t know what David was
doing during that period in time.
And how do I feel about David now? Listen, what I read yesterday
makes me angry. That`s the one bit of anger I felt. That language and
that callous indifference in those e-mails from David yesterday are just
over the top and outrageous.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That struck me, Michael, because it seemed to me that if this
is a guy -- that was maybe not the best way to, like, I love that line,
too, like I don`t know, I was pretty popular in high school, I`m not sure
what that nerd was doing.
HAYES: But from a legal perspective, what`s your play if you`re
Wildstein and Wildstein`s attorney?
ISIKOFF: Well, look, a couple things. First of all, I mean, yes,
it`s clear he wants an immunity deal and his lawyer has been saying that
repeatedly including at that hearing.
But, remember, a letter like this is not what the U.S. attorney is
looking for when he makes a decision about whether to grant immunity.
They`re going to want to proffer. They`re going to want to know exactly
what he`s got to say. They`re going to want to see the evidence.
Before they give him immunity, they`ve got to be confident in their
own mind this guy`s got a story to tell that they can stand behind.
And I just want to differ with Steve a little bit on those redacted
messages. Yes, it`s one thing to be held in contempt for taking the Fifth,
but if he consciously concealed evidence that was relevant to the
investigation, that could be interpreted as part of an -- as an obstruction
effort on his part that the U.S. attorney might even take into
consideration as part of a conspiracy.
So, you know, what this evidence -- I mean, I keep coming back to
what evidence is he talking about? And what does it show?
HAYES: Well, and also in terms of how this all plays out for
Wildstein and his interactions with the U.S. attorney`s office, the big
question, right, from the U.S. attorney`s office perspective is there
something prosecutable? If you`re going to -- it`s not even clear
particularly when we`re talking about the bridge scandal what necessarily
would be prosecutable. It all depends on what Wildstein knows and what
ISIKOFF: And one thing I want to just point out, Chris, in that
subpoena that went to the campaign committee and to the New Jersey
Republican Party, no particular statute was cited. Now, they don`t have to
cite a statute, but often they do. But clearly they were leaving
themselves open to try and find a statute that they could prosecute here.
And it`s not, still not immediately clear what the federal crime is
going to be.
HAYES: But --
ISIKOFF: Doesn`t say that they can`t find one, but it`s not clear.
KORNACKI: They can be very creative, too, if they want. I remember
a U.S. attorney named Chris Christie invoking the Mann Act which hadn`t
been invoked since 1905.
HAYES: That was the infamous law in the progressive era to ban white
KORNACKI: To prosecute Charles Kushner, some interesting
trafficking. No, but the other thing to keep in mind, too, is Wildstein
clearly wants a deal. We don`t yet know if there are others who are going
to be looking --
HAYES: That`s the other thing. Jeff smith who`s been on this
program and who ended up doing federal time for obstruction said that the
dynamic here, you set up a competition between different people who are
racing to get the first deal because the first deal is the best one. And
we don`t know what Bridget Anne Kelly`s doing. She`s the mother of four
children, presumably doesn`t want to be facing jail time. I mean, that`s a
very serious situation she might be facing.
The other thing I think to keep in mind here, Michael, and I think
we`ve got to be clear here. Legal distinction/political distinction,
whatever the law says, whatever -- if any part of the Christie story given
at the two-hour press conference was not true, I think he`s toast because
you cannot -- I`m serious -- you can`t get up there, commit for two hours
on national television across all three cable networks with everyone
watching, the entire press corps watching and emphatically say this story
that doesn`t hold up. That`s the most damaging thing here.
ISIKOFF: I couldn`t agree more. Look, after we were done with all
the legal caveats, this was as politically damaging for the governor as
could possibly have played out here. Because, and for another reason, it
could be quite some time before we know the answer to these questions.
ISIKOFF: I mean, Stepien`s taking the Fifth. Wildstein has already
taken the Fifth. We condition presume Bridget Kelly is going to take the
Fifth. If Wildstein gets the deal, that`s here the U.S. attorney. He`s
not going it be eager for him to tell his story before a legislative
So, this thing drags on for quite some time, with the key questions
unanswered. And how does Governor Christie continue to go out nationally
as the chairman of the Republican governors conference and, you know,
perspective presidential candidate without and assure people that this saga
HAYES: Right, don`t worry.
ISIKOFF: -- is over when the key witnesses haven`t been heard from
and one of them seems to be making serious allegations against him.
NBC News national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff, Steve
Kornacki is going it stay with us because we never let him go home.
And coming up, a member of the New Jersey state senate who has big
reaction to this latest news. He`ll be here to give it to us live. You
definitely do not want to miss that.
So, stay with us.
HAYES: More on the breaking news in the Chris Christie scandal
coming up in a moment.
Later, a former NFL player will be here not to talk just about the
Super Bowl Sunday, but to debate whether this is okay.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t care how much pain you`re in, you don`t
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You guys forget that they are babies.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If that kid comes across, I want you to put it in
his helmet. You understand?
UNIDENTIFIED KID: Yes, sir.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t care if you get up. Let`s go.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Stay with us.
HAYES: Steve Kornacki still with me. Joining us now is New Jersey
State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat. And if you`re wondering where
Chris Christie is at this hour, his office, of course, issuing a statement.
The governor, himself, attending Howard Stern`s birthday party where he
introduced Jon Bon Jovi who played "Wanted Dead or Alive."
Senator, your reaction to today`s news?
STATE SEN. RAYMOND LESNIAK (D), NEW JERSEY: Startling. Startling.
Certainly, Wildstein`s letter establishes reasonable suspicion that a
series of crimes may have been committed by the governor, including
malfeasance in office, nonfeasance in office, obstruction of justice. I
mean, if he knew while these lanes were being closed and did nothing about
it, while people`s lives were being endangered, while people were
inconvenienced, couldn`t get to school, work, particularly emergency
response vehicles -- if he knew and did nothing about it and then
participated in a wild cover-up making up a false story, those are serious,
serious problems for the governor and something that we have to move
forward with and investigate, and if probable cause is established, then
we`d have to issue that would be the assembly, articles of impeachment.
HAYES: So, that -- you`re thinking about -- you`re starting to think
down that road?
LESNIAK: Well, now for the first time. I`ve never said that before,
but right now, we certainly have reasonable suspicion that that`s a path we
must take. We are obligated to take that.
HAYES: "The Newark Star Ledger" saying, the same editorial board
that endorsed Chris Christie for governor in 2013, re-election, "Star
Ledger" endorsement, Christie for governor. Today, "If this proves to be
true the governor must resign or be impeached because it will show that
everything he said at his famous two-hour press conference was a lie. This
is a shocking development. Christie is now damaged goods. If Wildstein`s
disclosures are as powerful as he claims" -- which I will say is an "if" --
"the governor must go."
Steve, are you surprised at the "Star Ledger`s" decision and the
senator discussing the "I" word?
KORNACKI: It`s startling to hear it. But I think logically speaking
when you think back to the press conference in January 9th and everyone`s
comment coming after that was, wow, how emphatic this was, he left
absolutely no wiggle room. If an ounce of what he just said isn`t true,
this guys is screwed. We all kind of agreed afterwards, as if -- well, no
one would get out there and be emphatic unless they were absolutely sure of
I think two things -- one, realistically speaking, Chris Christie
even if he consciously had been aware of all this going into that press
conference, if he said anything but what he said at that press conference,
his career ends at that moment on that spot. So, to survive even for
another day, week or month politically, he had to say --
HAYES: Whatever the facts of the matter were, he had to say that to
KORNACKI: That`s the only thing politically to survive.
HAYES: Hold on a second, as a professional politician, do you agree
with that? That the only political option for him to survive another day
in that moment was to say what he said?
LESNIAK: I don`t want to make political decisions for this governor.
HAYES: Far be it from you to get involved in the dirty work of
LESNIAK: But more importantly, again, if he knew and did nothing
about it, it took the executive director of the Port Authority from New
York to stop the lanes --
HAYES: The only reason we know about this whole thing, the only
something -- I`m sorry I interrupted you.
The second point?
KORNACKI: Well, no, the other thing is, though, we also say as if no
politician would get up there with all those camera and say something that
emphatic unless he knew there was no paper trail, there was nothing that
was going to come out and undercut him hours, days or weeks later. We have
had that experience with this governor where he`s done exactly that. When
he fired his state education commissioner, Bret Schundler, in 2010, he
fired him for the sin of lying to the governor. The exact same grounds
that he fired Bridget Kelly for, stood up there and called him a liar.
HAYES: Emphatically, demonstrably in front of the cameras.
KORNACKI: And Bret Schundler basically said I deserve to be fired
because our team screwed up the race to the top with the federal Department
of Education but I`m not a liar. And Bret Schundler had e-mails, Bret
Schundler had memos, Bret Schundler had documents, Bret Schundler had phone
records. Brett Schundler produced everything within about a week that
showed he had not lied to the governor and the governor had been totally
and completely off base and calling him a liar.
Now, much more at stake back them. So, it`s kind of forgotten in a
week. But it shows me that Christie --
HAYES: Let`s say this, forget Chris Christie because I don`t know
the guy from Adam. I`ve been covering him like crazy but never met him,
I have in my life as a political reporter had dozens of times a
politician looks in my eye and lied to me. This would not be the first
time just straight told a bold-faced lie. I`m not saying he is lying.
Wildstein seems to be implying.
Now, here`s a question for you. As an august member of the State
Senate of the state of New Jersey, why would you trust David Wildstein?
Why would you put any credence on what the man says at this point?
LESNIAK: Well, we have to look into why. It leads us toward the
direction that I said. OK? We can`t just ignore it.
And why did this happen in the first place? Why did the governor not
do anything from September until it finally came out? And why did he fire
Bridget Kelly for lying to him? Why didn`t he fire her for creating a
traffic jam that endangered people`s lives?
LESNIAK: So, I mean, this just -- it added more evidence to show
that this governor was in deep doo-doo on this from the get-go.
HAYES: There`s other news out today. We mentioned it before and I
want to sort of pin it to the ground here. Bill Stepien, as you know, he
was very close to the governor. You must have had interactions with him
when he was one of the governor`s most trusted aides. Would you call him
LESNIAK: I would say he ran the show.
HAYES: He ran the show.
Stepien ran the show in the senator`s words. Shows up in the e-mails
talking about Mayor Mark Sokolich, calling him an idiot. He today is one
of the subjects of the subpoenas.
Now, he has said he will not testify and he`s actually refusing to
comply with the subpoena on constitutional grounds. He`s saying he has the
constitutional right against self-incrimination and complying with the
subpoenas would be self-incrimination and violate his Fifth Amendment
How do you interpret that?
KORNACKI: What I found interesting, I`m not a legal expert so I
defer to the senator here. But this to me, I thought there was news in the
statement from Stepien`s lawyer. Consider the special circumstances that
Stepien is facing if he`s not only been subpoenaed by the legislative
committee. He has always been -- the U.S. attorney is looking into the
bridge closings and subpoenaed Chris Christie`s re-election committee.
HAYES: Which he ran.
KORNACKI: Which he ran.
So, he is part of that. His lawyer said in a statement that not only
is there a state legislative investigation going away, there`s a federal
grand jury investigation going under way.
Now, again, I`m a layman here, so there may be distinction of
difference, but I wasn`t sure just because we knee that the U.S. attorney
had subpoenaed the records from the Christie campaign, that an actual
federal grand jury investigation was going on. That`s the first time I`d
seen it phrased that way. If there`s a federal grand jury investigation
going on into this.
HAYES: And are you worried that essentially the supercommittee`s
work, the assembly of the combined committee between the assembly and the
state senate investigating this that has issued the subpoenas is now going
to be stonewalled because of the presence of the possibility of some
LESNIAK: Without a doubt. I mean, we`re going to have witness after
witness pleading the Fourth Amendment, pleading the Fifth Amendment and we
will be stonewalled, but evidence will come out. There will be leaks.
These leaks are what make us, our days go forward. Sorry.
HAYES: State Senator Raymond Lesniak being diplomatic about this, as
diplomatic as he can be.
Steve Kornacki, you can catch his show "UP", weekends at 8:00 a.m.
And, Steve, my understanding is you`ve got some big reporting
KORNACKI: Yes, obviously this kind of stole our thunder talking all
about this, but also, there were some big stories this week about how Sandy
money -- decisions being made about who is getting Sandy money, who isn`t
getting sandy money. And we`ve done some research and some reporting into
a state law that should have addressed all of this that has basically been
either the Christie administration has been very, very slow to implement
this or intentionally dragged its feet on it. You can decide.
Look at our reporting tomorrow. But we have that tomorrow morning.
HAYES: The dollars and cents of the Sandy money is a story we`ve
been on since the campaign. And I think the more you look at it, the more
it does not add up.
State Senator Raymond Lesniak, thank you so much.
Coming up, ALL IN`s handy guide to the many, many subpoenas flies
around New Jersey right now. That is next.
HAYES: So much news coming out of New Jersey today, we are almost halfway
through the show and there is more because tonight the city of Hoboken has
confirmed it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney`s Office to hand
over documents related to the other big scandal that`s been brewing, Mayor
Dawn Zimmer`s allegations that Christie administration withheld Sandy aid
money to punish the city for not pursuing a development project represented
by David Samson, the man who heads up the Port Authority.
The list of subpoenas flying around Chris Christie`s New Jersey is getting
long and sometimes difficult to track. So let`s go through them with a
handy dandy ALL IN subpoena guide. First there`s a subpoena that started
it all, David Wildstein, former Port Authority official. He was subpoenaed
by the New Jersey Assembly late last year.
After fighting the order to hand over documents related to the traffic jam,
Wildstein handed over hundreds of pages of e-mails to the assembly
including the infamous "time for traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail from
Bridget Kelly. Bill Baroni, another former Port Authority official and six
others also handed over documents. But those are just the beginning.
Earlier this month, the New Jersey state legislator issued 20 new subpoenas
for documents related to bridge-gate on the very long list of names are the
Bridget "time for some traffic in Fort Lee" Kelly. Christie`s former
campaign manager, Bill Stepien, who said today, the subpoena violated his
fifth amendment rights, ad Christie`s top Port Authority appointee and
close adviser, David Samson, and perhaps most crucially, the Office of the
Governor, itself, and the governor`s re-election campaign.
Those documents are due next Monday and they are just the subpoenas from
the New Jersey legislature. There are a whole host of other subpoenas now
coming from the federal authorities. Last week, U.S. Attorney issued grand
jury subpoenas to the governor`s re-election campaign, which is now being
hit by both state and federal subpoenas and now is actually asking
permission to use the remaining funds as well as raise additional money to
pay the legal bills arising from its cooperation with the state and federal
There is also a subpoena out to the state Republican Party. Those
documents are due next Wednesday, and those are just from the U.S.
Attorney`s Office`s investigation of the Fort Lee matter. Today, the U.S.
Attorney expanded their investigation subpoenaing the city of Hoboken for
documents related to Mayor Dawn Zimmer`s allegation. Something tells me
even after everything we`ve seen so far, this is just the beginning.
HAYES: If you`re watching this right now, odds are close to 100 percent
that you or someone you love deeply has wrestled with addiction. It`s a
brutal wrenching thing to watch. I`ve seen it up close. You want to grab
the person and shake them until they stop and, of course, that doesn`t
work. Because when you confront an addict about their addiction, they
generally respond in one of two ways.
Some are at a point where they can`t even bring themselves to acknowledge
that they`re destroying themselves. It`s fun when I drink. It`s not a big
deal. I`m not hurting anyone or --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drill, baby, drill? Drill, baby, drill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Drill, baby, drill, and drill now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You famously coined the term "drill, baby, drill."
given this catastrophe, are you rethinking your position?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. We still need to drill, baby, drill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Other addicts are ready to acknowledge they`re addicted, that
they`re trapped in a self-destructive cycle. They know it and it kills
them they are. They need to stop. When you push them to actually stop,
what they do is procrastination and irrationalize. It`s my best friend`s
wedding this weekend. As soon as I get back to you, I promise you I will
quit on Monday or --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The all-the-above
energy strategy I announced is working and today America is closer to
energy independence than we have been in decades. One of the reasons why
is natural gas. If extracted safely, it`s the bridge fuel that can power
our economy with less of the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: What`s maddening about this argument is that in some sense the
addict is correct. I mean, it actually doesn`t matter if they quit
tomorrow or the day after, if they quit a month from now or five weeks from
now. But the problem, of course, is that logic is infinitely extendable.
To the addict, tomorrow never comes. The time to quit is never now.
Our nation, our society, is addicted to fossil fuel. Quite literally we
are dependent on it. We have a chemical dependency and we need to break it
or we`ll raise the temperature of the earth so much it will invite massive
risk of widespread catastrophe, disaster and misery.
In fact, if we avoid heating the planet past the 2-degree threshold, the
world has agreed is the outer limit to avoid the worst hazards of climate
change, it`s estimated we have to leave 80 percent of the current known
fossil fuel reserves in the world in the ground. That`s right. Trillions
of dollars of crude oil, of tarsans oil, of coal and natural gas, we have
to leave it in the ground, abandon it there.
In other words, we have to stop. And that is why a growing movement has
come together to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. A project that would
pump dirty tarsans oil reserves in Canada across much of the central states
down to Texas to be refined. Tarsans oil is far more polluting than crude.
That`s why the pipeline is the line in the sand. It`s the day circled on
the calendar. It is quitting time if we are serious. If we`re actually
going to leave 80 percent of the known reserves in the ground, if we`re
actually going to save the world from heating past 2 degrees, then we have
to say no.
Today, the State Department which has authority over the pipeline`s
permitting because it crosses a national border released its final
supplemental environmental impact statement. While it acknowledges that
oil sans crude produces 17 percent more carbon pollution than average
crude, it also says that approval or denial of any one crude oil transport
project including the proposed project is unlikely to significantly impact
the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy
crude oil at refineries in the United States.
This is the logic of the addict. Sure. No single project is going to be
the project that does us in. Just like no single drink is what does the
drunk in. Sure. It doesn`t matter if we quit today or tomorrow, but if we
say we`re going to quit today and then push it off until tomorrow, we are
not quitting, so let us not fool ourselves. If we spend billions of
dollars to tap an entire new keg, a dirty keg at that, we are not quitting.
We are sinking further into our dependence and self-destruction and
dissolution. Now, this fight is far from over. John Kerry ultimately
still has to sign off on the recommendation to allow the pipeline to be
built, and the president will have the ultimate say and he has set the
standard very recently in his own state of the union.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The shift to a cleaner energy economy won`t happen overnight. And
it will require some tough choices along the way. But the debate is
settled. Climate change is a fact, and when our children`s children look
us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more
stable world with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say, yes,
HAYES: "Did all we could." Those are the president`s words. The miracle
of those who break addiction is the incredible resolve they somehow manage
to find within themselves to counter the inner addict`s logic. The part of
them that tries to seduce them into one more drink by just telling them
it`s just one more. And everyone who breaks free of any addiction digs
down and finds some inner strength to say, no, to stop. To say this is the
day I start to turn my life around. And the question is whether we as
citizens and Barack Obama as a president, as a human being, can find that
strength within himself.
HAYES: Two days from now we will witness the single biggest sporting event
in the country, an event to big that advertisers from around the world are
willing to pay $4 million to air a 30-second commercial, an event so big
and so lucrative that most companies are not even allowed to say its name
unless they`ve paid for the privilege. This event is run by an empire that
practically prints money.
That empire is commonly known as the NFL. And the event, of course, is,
and I can say it, the Super Bowl. Now, the empire known as the NFL is run
by an emperor named Roger Goodell. In 2011, Roger Goodell`s salary package
totaled $29.5 million. That very same empire, the one that pays its
fearless leader a salary in the eight figures incredibly is classified as a
tax exempt non-profit organization, which means that we as taxpayers are
subsidizing the NFL and its commissioners eight-figure compensation
As Republican Senator Tom Coburn pointed out in his 2012 "Wastebook,"
quote, "In 2010, the registered NFL non-profit alone received $184 million
from its 32-member teams. It holds over $1 billion in assets. Together
with its subsidiaries and teams, many which are for-profit tax entities,
the NFL generates an estimated $9 billion annually."
Senator Coburn has since teamed up with Maine`s Angus King to co-sponsor a
bill to strip the NFL of tax exempt status. The NFL as the richest sports
league in the world is willing to reap the benefits of this tax exempt
status, but it is not apparently willing to give lifetime health care to
the players who risk their health and destroy their bodies for the league.
Today in an amazing moment during a pre Super Bowl press conference, a
current NFL player showed up and challenged his own commissioner on that
VERNON DAVIS, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Hi, Roger.
DAVIS: Vernon Davis here, tight end for the San Francisco 49ers.
GOODELL: I know who you are, Vernon. Glad to have you here.
DAVIS: Thanks, Roger. I appreciate it, buddy. Roger, we play one of
America`s most dangerous and most lucrative games, but still we have to
fight for health benefits. We have to jump through loops for it. Why
doesn`t the NFL offer free health care for life, especially for those
suffering from brain injury?
GOODELL: Vernon, first off, we had lots of discussions about that in the
collective bargaining process. We went back and approved a lot of our
health benefits. Both for former players and for current players to the
point where I think the health benefits that are provided to current NFL
players are the best in the world.
HAYES: Joining me now is Super Bowl champion, Roman Oben, a former NLF
offensive tackle, who is now part of the New York Giants broadcast team and
Mike Pesca, sports correspondent for NPR. Let`s start with the tax exempt
part. I had no idea. I somehow missed this and today was digging through
different parts of the tax code, which have been inserted and carved out
specifically to keep the NFL a tax exempt organization.
MIKE PESCA, NPR SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I actually don`t think it`s
that huge a deal. I think Roger Goodell will make $29 million or however
much they value him. He increases the worth of the franchise. The
individual teams aren`t tax exempt. This organization called the NFL. The
real thing to look into is if the stadiums are tax exempt, if they get tax
breaks for building a stadium, that`s a horrible thing.
HAYES: Which happens all over the place, we should --
PESCA: That is correct.
HAYES: We should note.
PESCA: It`s not a hypothetical.
HAYES: The moment today with Vernon Davis was pretty incredible. I mean,
you don`t get to see that very often. It did occur to me, yes, why isn`t
it the case there`s just health care for life given the fact the league is
making as much money as it is?
ROMAN OBEN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Ironically, I was on some of the early
stages of the board that did all the research and it would have cost, I
think, $1.4 million per player to guarantee health benefits for life. You
didn`t know if Kaiser, Cigna, or these people would be in business back
OBEN: There`s also a belief in a small few that say if you play three,
four years, if you work three, four years for IBM, are they supposed to
insure you for life? From a business standpoint, I think they think you
can`t guarantee someone health insurance longer than they actually did the
job. I think that`s really the argument that they make on that.
HAYES: But the big difference, if I may just push back on that --
HAYES: -- when you work for IBM, if your boss is coming in, taking your
head and slamming it against the desk in multiple concussive episodes that
would stay with you for the rest of your life, there might be a case for
IBM to give you a lifetime health care.
OBEN: Roughing the programmer is not --
HAYES: Right. Right.
OBEN: I got done playing in 2007 was my last season. That was the first
year they started the Shaw health insurance program where you get five
years when you`re done of health insurance that continues and $25,000 a
year in my account. That maxes out at $300,000 because I played 12 years,
25 times 12 is -- I mean, $25,000 a year times 12 years is $300,000. So I
get $300,000 to go against that whatever $2,000 a month per family of four
for health insurance. They are making proactive steps, but you can`t live
in the past. You can`t fix the whole problem. You can only say, OK, what
can we adjust? And move on.
HAYES: One of the things that always strike me when the Super Bowl comes
around is just how big football is in this country and how it gets bigger
every year. It`s cannibalizing everything. Join look at it from a
revenue, a ratings standpoint, the most watched thing in the country is
Sunday night football on NBC. The most watched show that`s not football is
the pregame show, Sunday night football pregame show. It is -- there is
something about it that somehow at a time when audiences for everything
gets smaller and smaller, and football gets bigger. Why?
PESCA: It`s striking this chord. The media day which is universally seen
as this joke draws more interest than any baseball game. Has anyone said
to you, unless yourself a Red Sox fan, what are you doing for the World
Series? Coming over for a World Series party? That never happens. I was
reading a study that says the worth of the Olympics went down because some
summer games were against some NFL preseason games.
So to your point, this thing is gigantic. I just think that this week in
New York, it`s almost as if New York City stood up to everything that was
the NFL and said we`re not going to get taken over by this. We`re a
pretty huge city. We`re not Indianapolis.
OBEN: As a player, for me it`s the access. Fans want to be everywhere.
You know, when the guy is getting his ankle taped in the locker room, they
want to have every single access allowable.
HAYES: The thirst and demand seem bottomless. There`s a whole world of
children that play football. I want to talk about the question of whether
that`s a good idea, after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over the years, we`d always talked about injuries.
Talked about what our limits were. You know, for example, concussions. We
had decided several years ago that three was it. When the kids get their
third concussion, they`re done. And they know that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was a clip from the new reality show "Friday Night Tykes" that
follows five youth football teams in San Antonio, Texas, area. That show
airs Tuesday night from the Esquire Network. We`re back with Roman Oben
and Mike Pesca.
That show, by the way, I`ve seen clips of. It`s incredibly disturbing.
You talked about on your great podcast "Hang Up And Listen." I think it`s
an extreme version of youth football. It`s not even pop warner. It`s this
less regulated enterprise. The president said this, President Obama, "I
would not let my son play pro football. These guys, they know that they`re
doing, buying into. It`s no secret. I sort of have that feeling about
There is a question about 12-year-olds. Should 12-year-olds be running
around knocking helmets with each other when the amount of evidence we have
is pretty inconclusive about what that might be?
OBEN: From an NFL standpoint, they`re finding guys, throwing flags, yellow
flags left and right. They`re trying to make the game safer. That will
eventually trickle town to the 7, 8, 9-year-old kid now. By the time he is
lucky enough to make it to the NLF, which 1 out of 5,000 kids. It will be
a lot safer. It will be a safer game. All those things will happen.
HAYES: the other question is, part of what the research shows is that lots
of repeated sub-concussive impacts have a real impact on brains. That`s a
risk, whether -- most people play in pop warner into middle school
football, you play eight years of football, they`re not making it to the
NFL, but there might be genuine quantifiable risk there.
PESCA: Those kids in that show are 8 and 9. They`re not even 12. The
coaches on that show are an abomination. I thought I would watch it and be
upset. The -- because it totally contradicts mine and I`m sure your youth
HAYES: You played youth football.
PESCA: We had loving coaches who told you all the right things and proper
technique. And you have coaches on this show crying when their 8-year-olds
lose, who tell their 8-year-olds to stick it in the other kids` ear. They
cut you, you`re going to bleed, and if you cut them, they`re going to
bleed. This child abuse organized with uniforms. The NFL doesn`t like it,
but I do think that they`re striking out.
If you ask those coaches they`re striking out against a societal problem
which is that kids are coddled, kids are weak. I think they represent a
bigger societal problem, adults with no sense of proportion and no sense of
propriety. The coaches are acting like they think Vince Lombardi is on the
OBEN: Parents -- this is actually an extreme case.
HAYES: Your kids play football.
OBEN: In 2001, my older son was born. I said, all right, no tackle
football until 12 years old, until seventh grade, pre-puberty. When you`re
not strong enough -- do soccer, do basketball, do all the other sports and
build that foundation of your motor skills so you can take the abuse of
football-related injuries. This was before all the -- I mean, 2001.
HAYES: That was just a common sense kind of thing. You were reading the
research and played the game.
OBEN: Most guys like me that played aren`t young and screaming -- folding
their arms, encouraging because they know how hard it is. But parents have
to understand, like, why do you put your kids in football or any sport?
Teamwork, setting goals, learning how to deal with adversity, not for an
end result because your 8-year-old kid probably won`t make it past high
school anyway so make sure your youth league is a sanctioned league. USA
Football, for example.
HAYES: That`s right. They`re getting something out of it. I think we`ve
seen 40 percent of American adults would sway their children away from
football. We`ve seen a drop in pop warner. There is question now. The
12-year-old cutoff seems to me as a starting point a commonsensical one,
former NFL player Robin Oben, also Super Bowl winner and Mike Pesca from
NPR, who has not won a Super Bowl.
That`s ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel who also has not won a Super Bowl.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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