updated 2/3/2014 11:24:23 AM ET 2014-02-03T16:24:23

POLITICS NATION
January 31, 2014

Guests: Kendall Coffey; Brian Wice, Gordon Johnson, Michael Isikoff, Frank
Pallone


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

A Chris Christie investigation bombshell, the port authority official who
carried out the September lane closings to the Washington bridge claims
Governor Christie knew of the closings, knew of the lane closings as they
were happening. The claim directly contradicts Governor Christie`s own
story. It comes from David Wildstein, the man who replied got it after
receiving that now infamous e-mail time for some traffic problems in Fort
Lee.

Wildstein resigned in December. But in a letter released late today, his
lawyer states "a person within the Christie administration communicated the
Christie administration`s order that certain lanes of the George Washington
Bridge were to be closed and evidence exist 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," end of quote.

The key claim there that the governor knew of the lane closings as they
were happening, which contradicts the governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: 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. And there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday
that was brought to my attention or anybody else`s attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: Now, that was Governor Christie on January 9th. He made similar
claim in a press conference on December 13th.

Joining me now are MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki and E.J. Dionne. Thank you both
for being here.

E.J. DIONNE, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: Now, Steve, you led much of the report thong Christie
investigation story. What is your reaction to this?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: Yes, it is two things.
I mean, t he letter that we`re talking about right now, part of this is the
port authority where David Wildstein was employed. The port authority he
resigned from.

SHARPTON: Who you used to work for.

KORNACKI: I worked for David Wildstein. So, I do know David Wildstein. I
have not spoken to him personally since this whole thing, you know, broke
in the last few months.

SHARPTON: All right.

KORNACKI: But -- so, the port authority denied him -- denied paying for
his legal defense. So ostensibly, that is what this letter is about. He
is making a claim to the port authority that it was wrong denying paying
for his legal defense and here is why. It`s significant because this is
going to be inexpensive legal defense. And so, certainly, there is a
motivation for David Wildstein to try to get the port authority to pay for
his legal defense.

But I think there is a second way of reading this letter. And it goes hand
in hand with a few things we`ve seen from Wildstein and his lawyer over the
last few months, and that is that they are putting it out there not so
subtly that hey, there is stuff that David Wildstein knows. There is stuff
that I know. There is stuff that I can prove. There is stuff that that
might be useful to say the U.S. attorney to a federal prosecutor.

His lawyer said at the hearing before the assembly a few weeks ago,
basically said, give me immunity. Give my client immunity and he will be a
lot more helpful to you. What he writes in this letter -- I mean, he
asserts as a fact that that e-mail from Bridget Kelly, time for some
traffic in Fort Lee, defenders of the governor, the optimistic defenders of
the governor would like to believe this was a small cabal of people
operating rogue outside of the governor`s office. He asserts as fact in
here that that was an order coming from higher up. It is one of the --

SHARPTON: And that while it was being executed, the governor had
knowledge. He doesn`t say before it was executed, but he does say while it
was executed, contrary to what the governor said, he had knowledge.

KORNACKI: And it`s worded in a very -- the evidence exists, and then he
talks about how he takes issue with some of the governor`s
characterizations in his press conference on January 9th, and he can
disprove some of them. Well, which ones can he disprove? Which once
can`t? It`s sort of game here. But I think this is sort of an offer to
the U.S. attorney for immunity. That`s partly how I read it.

SHARPTON: E.J., what is your reaction?

DIONNE: Well, first of all, I do agree with Steve that Wildstein -- first
of all, this is somebody who really got thrown under the bus. And so what
he is saying is you throw me under the bus, I`m going to throw you under an
Acela train. And that, you know, when the two moments that the Christie
news conference back in January that really stuck with me, the first was
his incredibly broad denial of knowledge about this. And I have more
respect for Christie than to think he was that clueless or incurious what
was going on. But there is also that moment when he was asked, you know,
where he basically denied that he was a close friend of Wildstein and said,
you know what, I basically, I was an athlete and class president. I don`t
know what this guy was doing.

So, when I watch that, I had first of all wondered whether that first
statement could stand. And second, what David Wildstein must have been
thinking at that moment. Now when you look at the Christie denial, and I`d
really love to know what Steve thinks about this, there really seems to be
some parsing of words about what the meaning of when it was going on or
after it happened is.

SHARPTON: Let me -- you referring to the denial. Let me let the viewers
see the denial.

This was released by Governor Christie`s office. And it says, "Mr.
Wildstein`s lawyer confirms what the governor has 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 only first
learned lanes were closed when it was reported by the press. And as he
said in this January 9th press conference, had no indication that this was
anything other than a traffic study until he read otherwise the morning of
January 8th. The governor denies Mr. Wildstein`s lawyer`s other
assertions.

SHARPTON: Now E.J., clearly we`re parsing words here, because we don`t
know what other assertions he is denying. And the governor did not say
only that he didn`t have knowledge prior. He said he knew absolutely
nothing about it during the lanes closings. Not even that he was told it
was a traffic study during it. So this would be an absolute clear
contradiction if in fact the evidence exists. And I agree with Steve,
though, we don`t know what that evidence is.

DIONNE: Right. And at some point, I mean, that`s got to come out at some
point. But really what you have got is some parsing before, during and
after. It would appear he knew nothing before except that Wildstein is
suggesting this came from higher up in the administration.

But the during part, Wildstein seems to be saying he did know something
then. The governor is saying no. And then after we don`t even have any
knowledge right now. I think from the Wildstein letter about what might
have been done to cover this up or push this aside.

SHARPTON: Steve, your reaction to the statement released by Governor
Christie`s office.

KORNACKI: you know, it`s very confusing to read. And you have the
Wildstein letter today talking about evidence existing of the governor
knowing about this as it was playing out. You have the statement saying --
well, the lawyer confirmed what`s the governor said all along and he
absolutely no prior knowledge. Well, prior knowledge versus as it was
going on could be the difference of just a couple of days. You have the
governor saying here, he only first learned lanes were closed when it was
reported by the press. It was reported by the press about three days into
the shutdown. We`re talking about September 12th of last year and not
until January 9th, not until right before January 9th.

SHARPTON: But Steve, you said he is making a loud noise here, Wildstein so
that the U.S. attorney and other investigators say this guy may have
something. Give him immunity. But wouldn`t that depend on the evidence he
has?

KORNACKI: Exactly.

SHARPTON: I mean, if they determine that his evidence is not up to a
certain level, or does not really fit a criminal element, would they not
say no, we`re not giving -- we`re not interested?

KORNACKI: Absolutely. It`s interesting to see.

SHARPTON: Because you have the political as well as the ethical state and
the criminal.

KORNACKI: Right.

SHARPTON: We`re looking at this through three or four different angles
here.

KORNACKI: Yes. It strikes me it`s the fourth time there has been sort of
a public hint at a desire for immunity here. One was in when initially the
subpoenas went out and Wildstein`s came back, the way they were deck, it
was almost strategic. As if to raise all sorts of questions, all sorts of
possibilities, all sorts of lurid possibilities, and to hold out Wildstein
as sort of being the guy who could potentially connect all the dots. Ten
he goes before the assembly committee and he takes the fifth. And at the
end of that, his lawyer says cloak him in immunity, he`ll be able to answer
a lot more questions. Then a week after that his lawyer gives an interview
and basically says we want immunity. He`ll be able to talk more. Now, we
have his letters. We are like four instances of him basically publicly, in
my mind, publicly putting in a bid for immunity.

The wild card, though, in all this is first of all, like you say, well,
what can he give the U.S. attorney? That`s ultimately for the U.S.
attorney to decide. Can he give him enough hard evidence that makes it
worth giving him immunity/

SHARPTON: That`s a federal crime.

KORNACKI: Right. The second part is David Wildstein is not the only
player here. What can Bridget Kelly potentially give U.S. attorney Paul
Fishman? There are all those subpoenas that went out to all these
different people. This could almost end up like a game of let`s make a
deal.

SHARPTON: But E.J., if I`m Christie, if I`m on the other side of this who
was a federal prosecutor, wouldn`t by argument be that not only does he
have to have evidence, but he would have to have evidence that fits a
federal crime or a state crime or an impeachable act if it is the state
investigators, not just evidence? I mean, evidence could be Wildstein
making a statement. Wouldn`t a lot of this weigh on all of that? And
isn`t the problem that the public has and the media has is how we have to
deal and distinguish between what is politically damaging to devastating,
and what is legally devastating or damaging.

DIONNE: Absolutely. And I think we`re way ahead of the game if we start
talking about crime. We don`t know yet that there is any crime committed
here by the governor. And we`re not even sure what the criminal action is
going to be on any of this stuff. So I do think it`s premature on that,
way too premature on that side.

On the other hand, politically, there are a couple of things here. This
story has moved even faster than I thought it would. And the notion that
the governor has to continually answer questions about this has to have his
original denial come under this kind of attack really from David Wildstein,
the fact that there are other wild cards out there like Bridget Kelly, who
got a new lawyer along the way, which suggested that she -- it`s not clear
which side she is going to be on at the end of this.

I think all of this raises a mountain of political problems. He has
already dropped in the Republican polls. This is not going to help him in
that respect at all.

SHARPTON: And the problem you get there is being that no one knows what
Wildstein is referring to.

When you hear E.J. talk about other players, if there are other players
engaging in communication with him, they may want to step forth thinking he
may be prepared to throw (INAUDIBLE) of the Acela train as E.J. says.

KORNACKI: That`s exactly right. And that`s exactly right. That`s why
February 3rd when the subpoenas are due back, those are due back next week.
When those come back, I mean, just think about what we learned from the
Wildstein and the Baroni records that came back about a month ago and how
that sorts of exploded this whole thing.

Now, you have about 20 -- close to two dozen subpoenas there that are out
there. Now, it`s an open question how many are actually going to be
answered, because you have Bill Stepien, former campaign manager, today
saying he is not going to respect that he is not going to respect the
subpoena.

SHARPTON: What do you read into that? Stepien says he pleads the fifth.
He is not going to respond to the subpoena?

KORNACKI: To me, that`s a tale of two different strategies. I read what
Wildstein is doing as somebody who is angling for a deal. I read what
Stepien is somebody who is bracing for a trial. And as the particular
predicament that Stepien finds himself in is not only has he been
subpoenaed by the legislative committee, that`s the one he is saying he is
not going to provide documents to be, the U.S. attorney has subpoenaed
Chris Christie`s reelection campaign. Bill Stepien was a campaign manager.
So, Bill Stepien has essentially already been subpoenaed by the U.S.
attorney. So he finds himself in a more, I think, precarious position than
the average person who has been subpoenaed by the legislature. And I think
based on this strategy today, this is somebody who is not looking to
cooperate. This is somebody who is bracing himself for a legal fight, a
fight in court I think much more than Wildstein.

SHARPTON: Isn`t it also a precarious position, E.J., that you have Chris
Christie who has to deal with the criminal exposure, the ethical exposure
and the political damage of governor, sitting governor who was being raised
as possibly a presidential candidate. But the other players in this don`t
have to worry about politics. They only are concerned about the
legalities, maybe the ethical. Isn`t that a precarious position for
Christie because they really have less to lose than him in terms of
appearances?

DIONNE: That`s right. I mean, they are already exposed to a lot of
negative comment, including in a couple of cases from Governor Christie
himself.

SHARPTON: And already lost their jobs and their positions.

DIONNE: Right. And so, the real question here, I mean, it`s going to be
where do loyalties lie? And given what has happened between Wildstein and
Christie, it sure appears that Wildstein does not feel strong loyalties to
Christie. How much loyalty will the other characters in the story have?
And if the threats to them, the legal threats to them increase, whatever
loyalty they have start to erode and that always happens on a story like
this.

SHARPTON: Yes. Well, if your job is going as in the case of these, their
only loyalty left, and that`s a good question. The bottom line in this for
me, Steve, what happened? What happened today means what? What is the
bottom line?

KORNACKI: I think it confirms what I`ve been saying, I sort of suspected
about Wildstein`s position relative to all the of other non-Christie
players. And as we talk about this issue of loyalty, Wildstein went into
this with much less built-in loyalty. His loyalty to Christie doesn`t go
deep like the other players in this.

I know people keep linking them as high school classmates or they went to
high school around the same time. They come from the same town. There is
this natural tendency to say they`re old buddies. I`m telling you as
somebody worked for David Wildstein, the Wildstein I knew, the Web site we
ran, this was not about protecting or looking out for Chris Christie. As a
matter of fact when David Wildstein sold the Web site that I worked for, he
sold to it the family that is basically the number one arch-enemy of Chris
Christie, is the Kushner family. And Chris Christie, as U.S. attorney,
sent off Charles Kushner to prison. And this is the family that David
Wildstein sold his media empire to. So, in Christie world, you`re
generally not going to find your way into a position like David Wildstein
did if you have that kind of relationship with the family that is an enemy
with the governor like that. The reason why David Wildstein ended up with
the port authority in that position was because of Bill Baroni, Bill Baroni
being close to Christie.

SHARPTON: But as he therefore the kind of guy that would go up against the
governor? Is he the John Dean, potentially the John Dean?

KORNACKI: He comes with less loyalty, less to lose from a loyalty
standpoint and I could see him more than anybody else in this drama playing
that role, absolutely.

SHARPTON: E.J., what are you looking for next?

DIONNE: Well, I think just as Steve has just suggested, I think what
you`re going to see is a very systematic effort on the part of the Christie
side to really discredit David Wildstein further, to say he is in this to
try to get some kind of deal. He is mad because he didn`t get a lawyer.
So they`re going to try to push him aside and push the explicit and
implicit allegations aside by saying he is in it for himself.

But, if he actually has documents that prove what he says, none of that
matters. I think the other thing, Steve mentioned earlier those
redactions. There is going to be an enormous amount of pressure now to un-
redact those documents if there is such a verb, because whoever is excluded
in those e-mails now becomes even more interesting.

SHARPTON: Well, it`s going to come down to what Mr. Wildstein has and what
value it is to who and we`re going to certainly be following this.

Steve Kornacki, who raised the ante on this story more than anyone I know
and E.J. Dionne, thank you both for your time tonight.

KORNACKI: Thank you.

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: And sure to watch "Up with Steve Kornacki" weekends at 8:00 a.m.
eastern right here on MSNBC.

Coming up, much, much more on the breaking news including Christie`s former
campaign manager pleading the fifth today.

And Chris Christie and his own words, the tale of the tape leading up to
today`s news. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Breaking news tonight in the Chris Christie bridge scandal. One
key player is making an explosive accusation about what Christie knew and
when he knew it. Another is pleading the fifth, refusing to turn over
documents to investigators. What does it all mean for the investigations
looking into the bridge closures? What are prosecutors and lawyers looking
at right now? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with more on the breaking news. A former port
authority official says evidence exists tying Christie to having knowledge
of the lane closures during the period when the lanes were closed. That
directly contradict what`s the governor has said.

The new claim comes from the lawyer for David Wildstein, the man who
lamented the lane closings. Wildstein`s lawyer did not disclose the
evidence. Christie`s office released a statement saying he had absolutely
no prior knowledge of the lane closures before they happened.

Let us bring in former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey and criminal defense
attorney Brian Wice. Thank you both for being here tonight.

KENDALL COFFEY, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Thanks for inviting us.

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Thanks.

SHARPTON: Kendall, Mr. Wildstein attorney says evidence exists tying the
governor to having knowledge of the lane closures. Legally, what could
this mean for the governor?

COFFEY: Well, it could be a bombshell or a bombshell bluff. What we know
is that Wildstein has an extraordinary campaign trying to market himself as
a cooperator, as a potential star witness to the prosecution. And
apparently, his attorney isn`t satisfied that the prosecution is willing to
offer the kind of deal or the kind of interest that Wildstein would want in
order to open up.

But it all comes down to not what we are reading in the papers or what is
being said through the attorney. What really is the evidence? And
Wildstein may have knowledge. He may be able to put the pieces together.
He could be that gold standard cooperator that the government would like to
have, especially if he can take them to some documents and other
corroboration.

But right now all we`ve got is something that is intriguing prosecutors,
not necessarily helping them make a case against Governor Christie.

SHARPTON: Now, Brian, the fact is you have two things. You have Wildstein
who was denied the use of -- well, that they would pay for the attorney,
the port authority and you have his quest for immunity. We don`t know what
the evidence is, and we don`t know what Wildstein wants immunity from. It
seemed to imply there was something unethical or illegal done that
Wildstein is trying to save himself from.

WICE: And I think, Al, that`s the $64,000 question. Was it illegal or was
it unethical? I`m still not convinced at this point necessarily that
bridge gate, as we`ve been calling it, is anything other than jersey
politics as usual with guys who have pretty much wrecked Chris Christie`s
presidential aspirations.

But I think what is critical at this point is Wildstein looking for a deal?
Absolutely. Is his lawyer somebody who has a reputation at fashioning
these kinds of high profile deals? Sure. But we don`t want this to turn
into bad "law & order" episode where the investigative committee or worse
yet Paul Fishman, the U.S. attorney ultimately offers the wrong guy the
deal. You don`t want to buy a pig in a poke. And right now David
Wildstein is suggesting, look, I am the appetizer, but I can ultimately
lead you to a pretty juicy entree, guys.

SHARPTON: That`s the point, Kendall, because we would assume that Mr.
Wildstein`s lawyer would not be doing all this maneuvering unless there was
something that Wildstein did not want to be exposed to. But the question
becomes is Wildstein trying to save himself from something that really does
not -- becomes that detrimental legally to the governor or whoever the
investigators are looking at.

COFFEY: Well, I think there clearly is criminal exposure here. Not
necessarily under the federal law. We have to see how that plays out. But
New Jersey has criminal statutes for official misconduct.

SHARPTON: State law.

COFFEY: If the allegations are proven, somebody is in a lot of trouble,
state law. And I think Wildstein has to be mighty concerned because the
extraordinary efforts to create, in effect, a case in the court of public
opinion complaining about the prosecution not talking to him, not giving
him immunity.

Normally, as we all know, these kinds of deals are worked out quietly.
You`re not running around in front of the press saying why won`t they talk
to me? Why won`t they grant me immunity? What you`re kind of sharing
information and making different offers of what you can prove and
negotiating behind the scenes with prosecution. That`s not happening here,
at least with respect to Wildstein, which tells us for whatever reasons the
prosecution is not ready to give him any kind of immunity.

SHARPTON: Brian, if you were representing Wildstein and you were throwing
out these offers, as Kendall just said that the prosecutors are seemingly
not willing to bite, at least as of yet on giving immunity, what would be
your next step?

WICE: I think the next step, Al, is to let the investigative body in New
Jersey legislature or Paul Fishman in his investigation that he can fill in
the blanks, the pieces of the puzzle. And it`s interesting that you
channeled Watergate with what did the governor know and when did he know it
because I`m having this flashback 40 years ago to John Dean ultimately
being the first piece in the puzzle that brought down a president. If I`m
David Wildstein, I will let whomever I need to let know. I am the man. I
am the guy who knows far more than anybody in this entire imbroglio. And
I`ll tell you the truth. And when this morality tale is over, I could
either give you the governor or Bridget Kelly or the Avon lady. At the end
of the day, I`m the guy you want to talk to. Let`s make this happen.

SHARPTON: What happens at the end of -- how does this end in your
judgment, Kendall? Where does it go from here?

COFFEY: We don`t know, of course, where it`s going to go, because we don`t
know what the evidence is. But there is another impact of what Wildstein
is doing. In addition to trying to get the prosecutors` attention, he is
getting the attention of other lawyers for other potential suspects and
witnesses.

Why is that important? If you`re going to be a cooperator at some point,
you want to be the first one in. And sometimes there is almost a rush to
make the deal with the prosecutors. Because to be the sixth person who
cooperates with the government is a whole lot worse than being number one
or two. That`s another dynamic. Believe me. The other lawyers for other
potential targets are having conversations with their clients right now
about whether or not they need to think about making a deal at some point.

SHARPTON: Brian, what kind of evidence could he bring in? E-mail? I
mean, what could he bring in?

WICE: Well, the subpoena essentially asks all of these folks for any
electronically stored data. E-mails from their office computer, from their
ipads, from their tablets, from their smart phones, phone logs, post-it
notes, text messages, anything that can provide pieces of the puzzle
involving what everybody now believes is an ever expanding investigation
into whether or not Chris Christie and his minions, as Kendall pointed out,
may have violated New Jersey law, if not federal law.

SHARPTON: Now, Kendall, wouldn`t at some point if the investigators
statewide, if the federal prosecutor does not come through with immunity,
wouldn`t then Wildstein be forced to at least publicly then try and infer
or leak what kind of evidence he claims to have? I mean, what does he have
if everybody says we`re not giving you immunity, we`re not convinced?

COFFEY: And the prosecutors may give him immunity months from now. But
apparently they`re not willing to do it right now. They also think that
they`re going to be able to get his records. The Fifth Amendment protects
testimony. It doesn`t really protect records of preexisting information
that already exist. So maybe you don`t have to open up your mouth, but you
generally have to open up your record. And lawyers will, good defense
lawyers will post some objections on a very complicated legal doctrine
under the Fifth Amendment act of production. But sooner or later,
prosecutors think that they can get through that, and that they don`t
really need to make a deal with somebody to get subpoenaed records because
those are records that they already think they`re entitled to have legally.

SHARPTON: Kendall Coffey and Brian Wice, thank you both for your time.
Coming up --

COFFEY: Thanks for having me.

SHARPTON: We`ll have reaction from New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone
and New Jersey state assemblyman whose district was affected.

And we`ll look at Chris Christie`s own words leading up to today`s news.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: 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, and there was no evidence to the contrary until yesterday
that was brought to my attention or anybody else`s attention.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: Just two months ago, Chris Christie was joking about the bridge
scandal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I worked the cones, actually, Matt. Unbeknownst to everybody, I
was actually the guy out there. I was in overalls and a hat. So, I
actually was the guy working the cones out there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: It`s very different now. We`ll hear Christie`s past statements
and what they could mean going forward. And we`ll talk live with a key
member of the New Jersey committee investigating the Christie
administration. That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: I found out after it was over. That was Governor Chris Christie
at a press conference on January 9th. But former Port Authority Official
David Wildstein claims Christie knew about the lane closings at the George
Washington Bridge while they were happening. Wildstein claims Christie
knew about the traffic jam while thousands of drivers were stuck in
gridlock.

Wildstein`s lawyer says, quote, "Evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie
to having knowledge of the lane closures." He also alleges that this was,
quote, "The Christie administration`s order." There is still a lot of
questions about what exactly those statements mean. But we do know that
throughout this scandal, Christie has repeatedly depicted himself as being
out of the loop with staff members who had gone rogue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRISTIE: I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the
people on my team. 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. I was blindsided yesterday morning. We have nothing to
hide. This administration has nothing to hide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: This administration has nothing to hide. Today Christie`s
office released a statement saying he had absolutely no prior knowledge of
the lane closures before they happened.

Joining me now are New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and NBC News
national investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff. Thank you both for
coming on the show.

ASSEMBLYMAN GORDON JOHNSON (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton
for having me.

MICHAEL ISIKOFF, NBC NEWS NATIONAL INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Good to be
here.

SHARPTON: Assemblyman Johnson, let me start with you. What do you make of
these new allegations?

JOHNSON: Well, let me say, Reverend Sharpton, that it`s very troubling, of
course, for the governor to come before the people of the state of New
Jersey and come before the people of America to state that he had no
knowledge of this action that was taken by his inside circle, by his inner
circle. This select committee of investigation that will have more now to
look at as they piece this together. So it goes to credibility. Either he
has it or he doesn`t.

SHARPTON: Now Michael Isikoff, we are looking at this. But we really
don`t even know what we`re looking at. We don`t know what the evidence is.
We don`t know if there is ethical or criminal or just political
implications. And we really don`t know if there is anything here at all.

ISIKOFF: Right. Well, look. I mean, it is a huge development to have
somebody who was a Christie insider, who was a Christie criminal appointee
at the Port Authority who actually went to high school with Chris Christie,
although there some question how closely they knew each other.

SHARPTON: Right.

ISIKOFF: But for him to basically become a turncoat and point the finger
at the governor. That is a huge development. And one reasonable
interpretation is that David Wildstein`s lawyer is trying to get an
immunity deal from the U.S. attorney. And suggesting he`s got a lot here
to say. But when you read the letter closely, it raises a lot more
questions than it answers about exactly what he is saying. He is saying
that Governor Christie had knowledge of the lane closures during the period
they were taking place.

But that`s -- that`s not the central issue. The central issue was cash is
where the lane closures ordered as part of some political vendetta or
political retribution. And David Wildstein is not saying, that just that
the governor knew about the lane closures while they were taking place when
the governor had said he didn`t learn about it until afterwards. Now, the
fact is they were reported in the Bergen record, I believe, during the
time. So he could have learned about them from press clips. We just don`t
know.

But Wildstein is also saying that some of what Governor Christie said about
him during that press conference was inaccurate, and he can prove it.
Well, what it is that he is objecting to Christie made a lot of comments,
mostly judgmental about Wildstein in that press conference. So we don`t
know. But, look, there is no question there is a huge -- this is a huge
development. And I should add one other point here is it`s not clear we`re
going to get the answers any time soon, because Wildstein`s game is that
U.S. attorney investigation. Until he gets immunity, he is not going to
testify.

He is not going to tell in public what it is he has to say. And we just
also learned today Bill Stepien, the former campaign manager who was also
subpoenaed today a letter from his lawyer to the legislative committee
invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and also saying he is not going to turn
over the documents, saying he wants that subpoena for his documents
withdrawn. So, you know, it doesn`t look like we`re going to get a lot of
answers, at least from key players on this any time soon.

SHARPTON: Assemblyman, the reality is that you and the assembly want
answers as soon as possible, and you want to know if what the governor has
represented to the public is in fact true. And I don`t think the interest
is whether or not he misspoke on Wildstein, but whether he misspoke on the
orders given by someone with his knowledge or by him to do the lane closing
or if he had knowledge while the lane closings was going forward, and if
that knowledge included that he knew there was no traffic study. Is that
right?

JOHNSON: Yes. Reverend Sharpton, my concern is the people of the Borough
of Fort Lee and the people who transverse the Washington Bridge for four
days were stuck in a traffic jam for four or five hours. When did the
governor know about it? He says he didn`t know.

SHARPTON: Right.

JOHNSON: Mr. Wildstein alleges that he did know. OK, so my concern is the
people of Fort Lee and the people of New Jersey should know. They should
know who -- from their leadership of this state what he knew at the time
and when he knew it. And that`s why this select committee is so important
to get to those facts. It may take a couple of months. It may take most
of this year, I don`t know. Where in fact it`s going to take this
committee as they investigate. But people of the state of New Jersey and
the people of the Borough of Fort Lee and those folks who traverse the
George Washington Bridge to go to work every day should know what happened.

SHARPTON: No doubt about that. But Michael, the problem you have is
compounded. You have the political, you have the ethical, you have the
legal and what could be politically damaging or devastating as I said
earlier may not be legally damaging or devastating, or it could be
devastating legally for some and not politically for others. So we really
don`t even know what we`re looking at here yet.

ISIKOFF: Right. I guess one takeaway from this is that politically it
makes this a lot harder for Governor Christie to move forward. Certainly
on a national scale. Because look, he already was facing enormous problems
because of this whole affair. But now to know that there are -- that there
is a central witness out there who is making allegations about him, but is
not going to say it in public until he gets a deal from the U.S. attorney
means that this thing, it could drag on. Because until we hear what David
Wildstein has to say, until we see his documents, until it`s all laid out,
Governor Christie is going to be hounded with questions about this
certainly on national scale and in the state as well.

SHARPTON: But that in some ways politically, that`s why I made the
distinction, could be worse. Because let`s say if I`m the governor and
Wildstein`s evidence or what he is referring to does not reach a certain
level, the fact that you can`t deal with that immediately, the fact that we
may have to watch this play out politically could be devastating. And we
could find out down the line it was not nearly as bad as it ends up being
or that we think. He can`t even fight it. I mean, this has to be a real
bad situation for him politically.

ISIKOFF: Right. I mean, this is as bad as it can be on the political
front for Governor Christie. Because it`s hard to see how he gets beyond
this because nobody is going to be satisfied that they`ve gotten the full
story until they hear what David Wildstein has to say.

SHARPTON: And the irony of it is that this was supposed to be a huge
weekend for the governor, the Super Bowl in New Jersey. He just won a big
election. I mean, could he have ever imagined he would be spending Super
Bowl weekend in New Jersey like this? Assemblyman, I guess, it`s almost
unfair to ask you that question, but I will.

GORDON: My response to that is I guess timing is everything.

SHARPTON: All right. I`ll take that answer. Michael, very, very
different than I`m sure we would have thought this weekend would have been
for the governor having the Super Bowl in his home state and having just
won a huge election.

ISIKOFF: And if you watched him the last few days, he was seemingly making
a bid to get beyond this. He was playing the Super Bowl host governor,
making public appearances. And now he has been dealt a really, you know,
this is quite a setback for him. Everybody who sees him, I assume he is
going to the game on Sunday, is going to be thinking about these
allegations when they do.

SHARPTON: Assemblyman Gordon Johnson and Michael Isikoff, thank you both
for being here this evening.

GORDON: Thank you, Reverend Sharpton, for having me.

ISIKOFF: Sure.

SHARPTON: What could today`s news mean politically for Governor Christie
moving forward? Congressman Frank Pallone joins me ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHARPTON: More on the Chris Christie breaking news with Congressman Frank
Pallone, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: We`re back with today`s breaking news. A former Port Authority
official claiming Governor Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge
lane closures while they were happening.

Joining me now is Congressman Frank Pallone, democrat from New Jersey.
Congressman, thanks for being here.

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you.

SHARPTON: What is your reaction to this news?

PALLONE: It`s very serious because Wildstein`s attorney in this letter is
clearly indicating that he believes that the governor knew about the lane
closures when they were happening. And, you know, I mean, I don`t have all
the details in front of me, but there seems to be a clear contradiction
here between what the governor said in that two-hour press conference
versus what this letter is now saying from his lawyer`s assistant.

SHARPTON: Now, the New York star ledger has said that if these claims are
true, Governor Christie should resign. Do you agree?

PALLONE: I think that we have to look into it more. I mean, this is
something for the U.S. attorney. This is something for the state
investigative committees. Because, again, I don`t have, you know, all the
information in front of me. But I don`t think there is any question, Al,
that the Wildstein, you know, the governor`s assistant or protege is now
saying through his attorney that the governor knew.

SHARPTON: Right.

PALLONE: So that`s a much more serious charge.

SHARPTON: But let me ask this question, because I`m hearing what you`re
saying. But let`s say that they find that there is no law broken but that
the governor did know. Do you think politically he should resign from
office even if there was no law broken, but that he had knowledge of this
and that he lied about it?

PALLONE: If it`s clear that the governor was not telling the truth in that
press conference, then I think, you know, this could lead down the road to
what you`re suggesting. If that is clear. If it`s clear that he is not
telling the truth.

SHARPTON: We don`t know. I`m just raising the question. This all could
be nothing.

PALLONE: Yes, I mean, I think if it`s clear that the governor was not
telling the truth, that`s one of the possible consequences. But, you know,
I think we`ve got to look into this morn. But it certainly seems to be --
clearly Wildstein`s attorney was suggesting that the governor was not
telling the truth.

SHARPTON: Now, in terms of the last week, even before this came out, we
saw the governor slide down, nosedive really in the polls around the
question of a presidential run in the Republican primaries. I can only
imagine it can only go further this weekend. Do you think his presidential
ambitions are just about over already?

PALLONE: I mean, that`s my view. Because, look, there is just so much
coming out. As you know, I`ve been very critical in the last week of this
group that was appointed to administer the Sandy funds there is more and
more allegations that the Sandy funds were used for political purposes or
were used in exchange for approvals of development. I mean, all these
things are making it more and more difficult, I think, for Governor
Christie to run.

SHARPTON: Congressman Pallone, thank you so much for your time.

PALLONE: Thank you, Al.

SHARPTON: Where does this investigation go now? That`s next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHARPTON: It`s been a dramatic day of developments in the Chris Christie
Bridge scandal, and Monday could bring even more. State lawmakers have
issued 20 subpoenas in the case, and those subpoenas are due on Monday.
The documents in those subpoenas could bring answers to many unanswered
questions in the case. But let`s stick to the facts, and let`s see if
there is some answers in evidence that we did not get in the letter from
Mr. Wildstein`s attorney today. One thing we do know is thousands of
people were caught in a traffic jam for three to four days in New Jersey on
the busiest bridge in the world. We need to know why. And whoever did it
for whatever reasons needs to be held accountable.

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

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

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

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,