updated 2/7/2014 11:25:35 AM ET 2014-02-07T16:25:35

THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
February 6, 2014

Guests: Martin Robins, Jim Coig, Cheryl Pilate

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Where in the world is Chris Christie?
Well, he is somewhere in Texas tonight, avoiding cameras. And Texas
Republican politicians are avoiding him.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Embattled Governor Chris Christie heads to Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Chris Christie is in Texas today on a fundraising trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On an RGA fundraising tour.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Texas is one of the big ATMs for politics.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA: If we`re taking a close look
at what Chris Christie`s brand of good governance is.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A governor who has his extra duties --

SCHULTZ: That isn`t very pretty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- and scandal is following him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you, a Republican candidate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott
--

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are standing next to Chris Christie.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will not appear with him today in Texas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His troubles will become your troubles.

SCHULTZ: Republican candidates, Republican elected officials --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of these Christie allegations look really bad.

SCHULTZ: -- won`t touch him with a 250 mile pole.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Smart move right now, because so much is in flux.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: At the same time --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner`s comments today on immigration.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: It`s going to be difficult
to move any immigration legislation.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: His Republican caucus cannot trust the president of
the United States --

BOEHNER: There`s widespread doubt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- to follow the law.

BOEHNER: One of the biggest obstacles we face --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a trust issue.

BOEHNER: Is the one of trust.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The idea that President Obama cannot be trusted.

PELOSI: It`s very exasperating to be here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John Boehner would like to see immigration reform
pass.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conference is so divided.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The base is uncomfortable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he just playing to his base?

SCHULTZ: I think what he`s playing is hide the cheese.

BOEHNER: We`ve got a lot of things on our plate.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The nation will reach its debt limit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The American people don`t want that.

BOEHNER: No decisions have been made.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s going to be no quid pro quo on raising the debt
ceiling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is -- this is silly.

PELOSI: Let`s just do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O`DONNELL: The last time the head of the Republican Governors Association
was drowning in scandal, it took just two days of media coverage of that
scandal for him to resign the chairmanship to the Republican Governors
Association. But Chris Christie is no Mark Sanford.

Five years ago, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was caught traveling
secretly to rendezvous with a woman not his wife. Five years later, that
woman is now his fiancee. And the current chairman of the Republican
Governors Association is traveling secretly to raise money for the
Republican Governors Association.

Chris Christie went to Texas today, where he was shunned by the Republican
political establishment. Texas Governor Rick Perry, himself a former
chairman of the Republican Governors Association left it to his
spokesperson to deal with the Christie invasion, saying simply, "Governors
come to our state regularly for a variety of reasons and we`re pleased to
have them here."

Greg Abbott, the Texas attorney general and the all but certain Republican
nominee to succeed Governor Perry, stayed 200 miles away from Christie, who
was in Dallas, while Abbott was in Houston. Normally, Republican
gubernatorial candidates rush to the side of the chairman of the Republican
Governors Association when the chairman comes to their state. If Greg
Abbott becomes the Republican nominee for governor, consider this, he will
be asking the Republican Governors Association for money. He will be
asking Chris Christie for campaign money if, and only if, Chris Christie is
still the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

And what we saw in Texas today indicates that Greg Abbott probably does not
believe that Chris Christie will still be the chairman of the Republican
Governors Association when Greg Abbott needs campaign money from that
chairman. Everything Chris Christie did in Texas today was shrouded in
secrecy, closed to the press, and apparently the same will be true next
week when Christie plans a fundraising trip in Chicago.

According to "The New York Times," Illinois local Republicans said they
remained in the dark about the event`s location, while state Republican
officials have been asked not to talk about Mr. Christie`s trip.

Now, what every big and successful political fundraising event needs is a
political superstar. Someone everyone is excited about seeing, someone
who, when he or she walks into the room, everyone else there believes they
are in the presence of a future president of the United States.

That`s what the Republican Governors Association was bargaining for when
they elected Chris Christie chairman. They wanted someone who all of the
Republican gubernatorial candidates in the country would want to have their
picture taken with. They wanted someone who would excite Republican
campaign investors and convince those campaign investors to pour even more
money into Republican gubernatorial campaigns.

And what Chris Christie wanted was media coverage, and lots of it, of his
political rock star fundraising tours of the United States, like the one in
Texas today. The one in Illinois next week, in states that he would be
campaigning in for president, and Chris Christie wanted even more contacts
with even more Republican campaign investors who would then pour even more
money into his presidential campaign than they pour into the Republican
Governors Association.

And tonight, Republicans are wondering, will Chris Christie ever be able to
do a public event for the Republican Governors Association? Will any
Republican gubernatorial candidate in the country be willing to be seen
with or photographed with Chris Christie?

Republicans have absolutely no doubt that Mark Sanford did the right thing
for them by resigning the chairmanship to the Republican Governors
Association when he ran into problems. And tonight, many Republicans are
nervously wondering how long Chris Christie can or will hang on.

Joining me now, MSNBC senior political analyst David Axelrod, former senior
adviser to President Obama and MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki.

David Axelrod, what are the Democrats hoping for here? Do they like having
a head of a Republican Governors Association who cannot be seen in public
in that function?

DAVID AXELROD, MSNBC SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, obviously, I mean,
there`s a certain merriment about that. But the bigger issue is Christie
himself, I think a lot of Democrats saw him as a viable and perhaps
threatening candidate for president. One of the few on the Republican side
who seemed to have the ability to reach across the aisle and, you know,
coming from a northern state, perhaps a little more moderate than some of
the harder right conservatives. And now, watching the spectacle, you know,
it`s obvious that that is all very much in doubt.

He`s trying to play through, hoping that all these investigations come up
empty, but it`s taking a very long time and it`s crippling for him right
now.

O`DONNELL: Steve Kornacki, very ambitious politicians, or maybe any
politician, do not give up their hopes. They do not resign from powerful
positions. They don`t do that kind of thing without being advised to do
that.

The politician himself or herself is usually the last one to realize how
much trouble they`re in. So the advisers around Christie now become very
interesting in this situation. Is there anyone left around him, has there
ever been anyone around him, who can talk to him in a situation like this
and make the evaluation that staying in the Republican Governors
Association position is not what he should be doing right now.

Is there anyone there who could lead him out the door of that job?

STEVE KORNACKI, "UP" HOST: Well, I assume when you start to look at some
of the big bucks donors to the party, they sort of overlap with what Chris
Christie`s financial base is and would be if he ran for president, if that
sort of class of donor were to start delivering him the message that, hey,
this is costing the Republican Party money that it needs for 2014, and this
is going to cost you money that you need for 2016, this is going to cost
you big, you know, sort of financial friendships that you`re going to need
for 2016, I suppose that could work.

But the flip side of it is, I think is this. And what`s holding him back I
suspect is this. Chris Christie has basically been running for the 2016
Republican nomination since that minute when he said I`m not running in
2012. You can basically look at every step he`s taken politically since
then as a way of positioning himself for 2016. He has functionally been
running for president.

So this is sort of a test of his presidential viability. He`s taken over
this national group, as you say. He`s charged with going around the
country, campaigning for Republican candidates, raising money for them.
This is a test of the party`s sort of openness to him.

So, if at any point in this process, leading the RGA, he is forced to step
back and basically say I cannot perform these duties, then he`s also
admitting, I cannot perform the duties of a presidential candidate. The
same things that would cause him to step down as chairman of the RGA are
the same things that would disqualify him from seeking the presidential
nomination in 2016.

So, I think, his presidential ambitions are so tangled up in the RGA thing,
that to back out of the RGA thing is really to back out of the 2016 thing.
So, I think that`s complicated things to another degree for him.

O`DONNELL: Steve, I agree with every word of that, especially his campaign
started the minute he decided not to run last time.

But look -- I just want to show what this is creating for other
Republicans. You know, Bobby Jindal goes on TV, wants to have a little
chat on CNN. Let`s see how that goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should the governor step down from his Republican
Governors Association chairmanship?

GOV. BOBBY JINDAL (R), LOUISIANA: No, Candy. Here, I think the press
doesn`t quite understand how RGA works. No one governor is more important
than the other.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, what makes that question go away for Republican
governors who go on TV?

AXELROD: Well, I don`t think they will go away. I think the smart answer
is look, these questions will be looked at. He says he wasn`t involved in
it and he ought to be given -- you know, I wouldn`t dance about it.

But one thing that`s interesting is the one sort of small by-product of
this that Christie can perhaps grab on to is he got an invitation to the
CPAC meeting. Finally, right wing Republicans are latching on to him a
little bit because they think that he`s being persecuted by "The New York
Times" and perhaps even MSNBC, and the whole liberal is conspiracy is out
to get him. So, there`s a few people out there.

But I would say that`s cold comfort compared to the situation that he`s in,
which is kind of this Typhoid Mary condition where no one wants to stand
next to him.

O`DONNELL: Prior to what happened to him now, I think one of the most
damaging accounts of his political career exists in John Heilemann and Mark
Halperin`s book about the most recent presidential campaign where they
report very decisively that Chris Christie did not pass the vet to get on
to the vice presidential list for Mitt Romney. They simply threw him off
the list, especially because he wouldn`t comply with some of the
disclosures that they wanted to see. And at Christie headquarters, they
came to the belief in the end that -- I mean, at Romney headquarters, they
came to the belief that if Chris Christie had run for president against
them, they would have destroyed him by what they found in the vet.

With all that in mind, let`s listen to what Mitt Romney has to say about
where Chris Christie finds himself now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I sure do. Chris is a
friend of mine. Chris is a straightforward guy. When he tells you
something, you can count on it. And I`m counting on Chris, and believe
that he -- if he decides to get into national politics, he`ll do very well
indeed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Now, for anyone who didn`t know what Mitt Romney looked like
when he wasn`t telling the exact truth, that`s the look right there.

Steve Kornacki, the guy couldn`t pass Mitt Romney`s vet and there`s Mitt
saying, oh, yes, he`s a straightforward guy.

KORNACKI: I mean, you know, one of the funniest things the last year and a
half after Romney went with Paul Ryan as his running mate has been the sort
of back and forth between the unnamed Romney people and the unnamed
Christie people fighting over oh, no, no, no. It was Christie -- they
wanted Christie on the ticket and Christie didn`t like the deal they were
offering. And the Romney people now putting out the word he couldn`t pass
the vet.

But I think what`s interesting about what Romney just said there, this idea
-- the words Romney`s speaking at least, the idea that, you know, Chris
Christie is a straight shooter. He`s going to give you the real deal.
That was a powerful -- up until, you know, three weeks ago, I would say up
until that January 9 press conference, that was real in terms of people`s
perception of Chris Christie.
It allowed him to -- there were so many situations in New Jersey, so many
potential situations that could have spiraled out of control, the firing of
the prosecutor in Hunterdon County, when he got rid of his education
commissioner. There were so many situations where he got the benefit of
the doubt because people really believed what Mitt Romney was just
expressing there. And after that performance at the January 9th press
conference right now, I just don`t see Chris Christie getting that benefit
of the doubt when any other story comes out.

And I don`t know how he gets that benefit of the doubt back in the future.

O`DONNELL: David Axelrod, thanks for joining us tonight. And say hi to
Chris Christie for me when you see him in Illinois next week.

AXELROD: If I can find him, I will. Yes, OK.

O`DONNELL: And, Steve Kornacki, David Axelrod and I and everyone in
politics tomorrow morning at 8:00 a.m., glued to "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI"
on MSNBC, Saturday morning, I`m sorry, and Sunday morning.

Steve and David, thank you very much for joining us tonight.

KORNACKI: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, the Port Authority was created almost 100 years ago
by dreamers -- dreamers of big things. People who believed that government
could operate honestly and efficiently for the good of the people governed.
But Chris Christie turned the Port Authority into his own political empire
on the Hudson.

Also, why John Boehner says a bill honoring Mother Teresa couldn`t get 218
Republican votes in the House. We will see what Joy Reid and Eugene
Robinson have to say about that.

And in "The Rewrite" tonight, in the last 60 years, think about this, the
last 60 years, there have been 11 presidents of the United States and only
five hosts of "The Tonight Show." showing the rarity of a transition of
power at the desk that Johnny built, as "Time" magazine once called it.
Jay Leno is on tonight`s "Rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Today, Senate Republicans blocked a vote to restore
unemployment benefits to 1.7 million Americans. The procedural votes was
58-40, just two votes short of the 60 that were needed. The benefits would
have been for three months and would have been retroactive through December
28, the date that the benefits expired.

Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte, Susan Collins, Dean Heller and Lisa
Murkowski voted with the Democrats.

Up next, Joy Reid and Eugene Robinson will join me.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I`ll put it in a nutshell, if
you don`t run Chris Christie, Mitt Romney will win the vote and we`ll lose.

I`m now a single issue voter against amnesty. So, Christie is off of my
list.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Even before scandals started swirling around him, Chris
Christie had a problem. The same problem Marco Rubio now has. The Ann
Coulter/Rush Limbaugh wing of Republican Party hates immigration reform
which they call amnesty.

Today, John Boehner delivered them a victory. He will not push immigration
reform this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: I`ve never underestimated the difficulty in moving forward this
year. Frankly, one of the biggest obstacles we face is the one of trust.
The American people, including many of my members, don`t trust that the
reform that we`re talking about will be implemented as it was intended to
be. There`s widespread doubt about whether this administration can be
trusted to enforce our laws, and it`s going to be difficult to move any
immigration legislation until that changes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: It was a thrilling day for the Limbaugh nation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO HOST: People are going nuts here. I keep getting e-
mails and cookie sent me a sound bite because I keep mentioning amnesty
today. I can`t believe it. Amnesty. Rush, rush, rush, Boehner has said
that there won`t be any this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Here`s John Boehner, the day after the 2012 presidential
election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DIANE SAWYER, ABC NEWS: Immigration?

BOEHNER: It`s an important issue that I think ought to be dealt with. I
think a comprehensive approach is long overdue. And I`m confident that the
president, myself, others can find the common ground to take care of this
issue once and for all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: And here is the same John Boehner on "The Tonight Show" two
weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: It takes 218 to pass any bill. I like to describe my job as
trying to get 218 frogs in a wheel barrow long enough to pass a bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, I got you.

BOEHNER: It`s hard to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Today, John Boehner did not say that the crazy jumping frogs in
his wheel barrow are preventing him from legislating immigration reform.
Instead, he, of course, blamed the president of the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOEHNER: We`re going to continue to discus this issue with our members.
But I think the president is going to have to demonstrate to the American
people and to my colleagues that he can be trusted to enforce the law as it
is written.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Joining me now, "Washington Post" columnist Eugene Robinson and
MSNBC contributor Joy Reid, host of the upcoming MSNBC show "The Reid
Report."

Joy, John Boehner says it ain`t the frogs in my wheel barrow. It`s that
president preventing me from doing immigration reform.

JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. You know, and the thing, Lawrence, that
happens is every time the frogs that can do math, right, that understand de
demographics say wait a minute, fellow Republican Party members we`ve got
to do something to stop alienating Latino, we should something on
immigration reform, John Boehner and other members of the sort of the
normals all say, yes, you know what, let`s try to do it. They inched
toward it, and then they get chopped up by right wing talk radio, and
people like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter say, oh, no, no, you`re not
allowed to do. And then they get pulled back down into the barrow by the
other frogs who are saying absolutely don`t do anything.

So, it`s a really hard tension. Marco Rubio stepped out there and showed
what happens when you do. He got slapped down really hard by right wing
talk radio and ended up running away from his own bill.

O`DONNELL: Gene, I heard many Senate majority leaders say, you know, it`s
like herding cats. I have never heard them referred to as frogs. This is
a downgrade, isn`t it? From cat to frog?

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST: I thought it was great. It`s a
great image.

O`DONNELL: It`s so much better. It`s so real and true.

ROBINSON: Yes. That was original and kudos to John Boehner for that. Not
for much more, actually. I mean, and the excuse that went with it that --
well, you know, the president can`t be trusted to enforce immigration laws.
I`m sorry, but deportations are at a record high now.

So it`s not as if he`s not enforcing the border. It`s not as if he isn`t
kicking undocumented people out of the country, which he is doing at record
levels.

O`DONNELL: Joy, what the Republicans will tell you is but look, they
passed the Affordable Care Act, then President Obama unilaterally just
delayed changes to certain provisions of it. Mostly just calendar affect
dates. And they`re saying that`s not enforcing the law as written.

REID: Yes. And there`s always an excuse. And usually the excuse has the
word Obama in it. Unfortunately, that`s kind of what politically John
Boehner and other Republicans have to do. They`re going back to the well
because their base will always accept an explanation for an action that has
to do with President Obama.

But the difficulty for Republicans is that they are really facing
demographic Armageddon. They do at some point have to walk back from this
harsh stance on immigration reform, because it is so alienating. And the
messaging that goes with it also comes from talk radio.

And it is very harsh messaging that to the ear of a lot of Latinos sounds
like the Republicans don`t like them very much. And until they can square
that circle and figure that out, Republicans are going to have a big
problem in presidential years.

O`DONNELL: And speaking of Chris Christie problems, he`s on the wrong side
of this issue.

ROBINSON: Oh, absolutely.

O`DONNELL: For Republicans, for the Limbaugh side and now the Boehner side
of the Republican Party. He signed one of those bills in New Jersey, a
DREAM Act in New Jersey that allows undocumented children in the university
system there to get state level tuition, to play state level tuition.

ROBINSON: Absolutely. He`s on the wrong side. That would be a problem
for him, if he gets to the point where that could become a problem for him.

O`DONNELL: He would be lucky if that was the problem he was guilty of
today.

ROBINSON: Exactly. You know, if not now, when, for the Republican Party
to deal with this issue. Here they`re coming into, in an off-year election
where the last thing they want to do is give Latinos a reason to come out
and vote in large numbers, right? And vote against them and thwart their
plans to take over the Senate. Well, not to keep the House. They`ll
probably do that. But they`ve got a shot at the Senate.

And what could screw that up? Making the electorate look like a
presidential year electorate in states like North Carolina, for example,
where there`s a huge growing Hispanic population. That seems to be what
they`re determined to do.

O`DONNELL: I got a hobby horse, I have to drag out here. Joy, if
Republicans are going to talk about enforcing the letter of the law, 501c4
law which says you must operate exclusively for social welfare. There`s no
Republican who wants that law enforced as it is written. They want every
one of their Republican fundraising campaign entities to be able to operate
as 501c4s in direct violation of the law as written.

REID: Yes, but, of course, Lawrence, that`s fine for them to do that.
Because remember, Obama, right, if you`re fighting Barack Obama, forget
about the letter of the law, right. It should be like 3,500 new charities
that suddenly decided they want to do work that is both charity and
campaigning for Mitt Romney. That`s fine. Right?

The hypocrisy of it is sort of blatant on its face, but it all has to do
with politics and only one person, one human on earth and that is Barack
Obama.

O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson and Joy Reid of "The Reid Report" -- thank you
both very much.

REID: Thanks, Lawrence.

ROBINSON: Congratulations, Joy.

REID: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, you`ve been hearing an awful lot about the Port
Authority of New York and New Jersey these days. And Chris Christie trying
to turn it into his own empire. But there is so much more to know about
the Port Authority and its important history, what it was designed to be.
And what Chris Christie has turned it into. That`s coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There is tension and always has been
between New York and New Jersey on the allocation of resources at the port
authority.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: How important is the port authority? The greatest city in the
Americans would be nothing without its port. In the 19th century, the port
of New York surged past its east coast competitors to become not just the
busiest port in the United States, but the busiest port in the world.
Including rivers and bays, Philadelphia had 37 miles of Waterfront.
Baltimore had 120, Boston, 140, while the port of New York had almost 800
miles of waterfront.

By 1915, the port of New York handled about half of our country`s exports
and imports. And bi-state cooperation between New York and New Jersey had
become crucial to the future of the port. A few years earlier, the
governor of New Jersey, Woodrow Wilson, a more elegant speaker than the
current governor said, the states recognize that a wise cooperation is
imperative in the common interest. But they lack the means, the
instrumentalities that would serve them in their new community of action.

It was in the last year of Woodrow Wilson`s presidency, 1921, that the port
authority of New York and New Jersey was born, and the port had the
instrumentality it needed to continue to thrive. The port authority was
the child of the progressive movement. The primary aim of the progressive
movement was cleaning up government, which was then rife with corruption at
every level. The progressive movement gave us many improvements in
governing including career civil service systems so that government
professional could no longer be fired at the whim of a political regime.
And the port authority was designed on the progressive movement principles,
appointed instead of elected commissioners, overlapping terms. The design,
or should we say, the dream, was to eliminate partisan decision making.
Eliminate or minimize patronage and use sound engineering and economic
analysis in port authority projects.

Eighty-nine years later, here is Chris Christie`s appointed deputy
executive director of the port authority, Bill Baroni, testifying to a
United States state Senate subcommittee chaired by New Jersey`s senator
Frank Lautenberg who asked about the latest increase in the tolls on the
world`s busiest bridge.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. FRANK LAUTENBERG (D), NEW YORK: Whether you like it or not, you don`t
have an easy pass. You`re there at our request and we expect you not to
give us a song and dance but to answer the question specifically. OK? So
I`m asking you, when did the governor get word the past you were going to
boost the --

BILL BARONI, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, Senator, I`m
not going to get into conversations that I have with --

LAUTENBERG: No, you -- no, you`re refusing to answer the question?

BARONI: Senator, I`m not going to --

LAUTENBERG: You`re refusing to answer the question?

BARONI: Senator, I`m not talking about conversations I had --

LAUTENBERG: This isn`t a conversation. Are you running a protection
agency there?

BARONI: Excuse me?

LAUTENBERG: Talk straight about what went on. And I asked you a simple
question and you say you`re not going to discuss it. You have to discuss
it. You`re an important executive at that agency. You work with the
people, whether you think so or not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: The next year, 89-year-old Frank Lautenberg died in office, and
later that same year, Bill Baroni testified about the George Washington
Bridge again.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARONI: Who told him to put the cones out? On September 5th, Mr.
Wildstein requested a one-week study be conducted. And then that began --
b conducted the following week and that began that Monday morning. And
TBT, the bridge folks and the port authority police department began
putting the cones out and as opposed to creating a three-lane special lane
for Fort Lee. It was a one lane special lane.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Bill Baroni was not under oath during that testimony, but the
next time he testifies about the George Washington Bridge, he will be.

Joining me now is Jim Doig, author of "empire on the Hudson" a book about
the history of the port authority. He`s a visiting professor from
Dartmouth College and Martin Robins, a former port authority official and
now with the transportation center at Rutgers University.

Professor Doig, how far have we come from the creators` vision of what the
port authority should be to what we find the port authority to be now in
this age of -- this period now of very clear scandal of the port authority.

JIM DOIG, AUTHOR, EMPIRE ON THE HUDSON: Well, until five or six years ago,
many of the themes that you identified, that is nonpolitical administration
and keeping patronage and short-term narrow politics out of the agency
pretty much existed. It was successful. When Chris Christie became
governor, he had a very different view. He saw the possibility of putting
a fair number of his associates, friends, those who worked on political
campaigns into office. And that finally led to more than 50 patronage
appointees and did change the extent at which point authority was
independent of narrow politics.

O`DONNELL: Let`s listen to something else that Senator Lautenberg said in
that hearing a couple of years ago about how bad things have gotten at the
port authority.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAUTENBERG: There have also been allegations about a controlled political
patronage at the port authority where substantial positions with six-figure
salaries were given to former political bloggers, local mayors and others
with questionable credentials.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: We now know, of course, that political blogger he was referring
to was David Wildstein.

And Martin Robins, you worked at the port authority. It has to be
difficult for you to watch what`s happening to it now.

MARTIN ROBINS, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: It is very difficult. I
hear constantly from acquaintances, former colleagues, retirees how
dispirted they are by the loss of mission and that existed at the port
authority over a many-year period.

O`DONNELL: Professor Doig, have we been relying on basically the good will
and good intentions of the governors of New York and New Jersey? And could
what is happening now have been happening at anytime if we had a governor
in one state or the other or both who wanted to load it up with patronage
jobs, and wanted to use the port authority to his own ends?

DOIG: Well, we did actually have such a governor, governor a, Harry Moore.
He was a New Jersian (ph) in the late `20s and mid `30s. He was twice
governor. He was interested in adding patronage positions, and also in
helping to select the kind of engineering approach that might be used at
the George Washington Bridge.

But then, the commissioners who had a sense of independence, they resisted
him. They blocked his ability to act in that way. And therefore, he had
to back away from that. And that, I think, helped to maintain or reinforce
the independence of the agency.

O`DONNELL: Martin Robins, what would be the two or three changes you would
make now to get the port authority back on track?

ROBINS: Well, the first change I would make is to eliminate the position
of deputy executive director.

O`DONNELL: That`s the one that Bill Baroni had?

ROBINS: Yes. And I think that is a fatal flaw, the way that it has been
established. Now, a deputy executive director per say is not an offensive
position if the position were chosen by the executive director. But
because the deputy executive director is now chosen by the governor of New
Jersey, it creates two separate lines of authority, which makes it
impossible for the executive director, particularly under the circumstances
that we`ve just seen that unfolded last year, it becomes impossible for the
deputy executive -- excuse me, the executive director to manage the agency
as he ought to.

As Patrick Foye testified in December, he said that he could not fire David
Wildstein who worked for Bill Baroni. And that is a stunning admission,
but it is unfortunately a very true state of affair, but it should not be
that way. So that is my number one priority.

O`DONNELL: OK. We only have time for that number one tonight. We`re
running out of time. I`m very sorry.

Jim Doig and Martin Robins, I`ve been looking forward to that conversation
for days. I want to keep it going. Thank you very much for joining us
tonight.

DOIG: It`s been a pleasure being with you.

O`DONNELL: Thank you.

ROBINS: Thanks.

O`DONNELL: Coming up, a state executes prisoners while they are still
waiting for the Supreme Court to respond to their appeals.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: The aging of Jay Leno is next in "the rewrite."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would like to say something. I`m going to start
crying. You`ve always been so kind. And I`m not -- that`s saying a lot in
this business because we like to be mean. There`s not been one time that
you haven`t treated like I had something to offer, even when the film was
horrible and you knew it. You never let me see it in your eyes. I`m so
grateful that I got to be a part of this.

JAY LENO, TV HOST: Well, you are special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: That will not be the last tear shed for the end of the Leno era
on "the tonight show." In the show`s 60-year history, there have only been
five hosts of "the Tonight Show." We have had more than twice the number
of presidents during that same period.

Johnny Carson presided for 30 glorious years at the most important desk in
show business with Jay Leno serving 21 years at the desk that Johnny built
as "Time" magazine called it. It was Jay who made politics a main stay of
"the Tonight Show" monologue.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Political comedy and the way you do it and you`ve been at it
longer than anybody. When you took over "the tonight show" 20 years ago?

LENO: Twenty-two.

O`DONNELL: Twenty-two years ago. Johnny Carson before you did some, you
know? But it would be rare if he would do three political jokes in a
night, very, very rare. You amped it up. You built much more political
comedy into what the monologue. And just in terms of political comedy
mileage over the years, probably no one has done more since you`ve been at
it.

LENO: I don`t know about that. I mean, certainly, Jon Stewart, and all
these guys attributed. They do political shows. My thing is to sort of go
down the center. You start as a comedian, then you`re a humorist then you
are a satirist then you`re out of show business, you know. That`s how it
works. Again humorist is a satirist, if you stay a comedian, you`ll always
work. The others, you get that self-important, you know. I don`t want
people to know how I feel. I don`t care how you feel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: You could see the rest of that interview on our Web site,
thelastword.MSNBC.com. Jay`s final "Tonight Show" monologue will be
tonight.

Let`s take a quick look back, beginning with the first night that Jay
Leno`s name replaced Johnny Carson`s name in the title of the show.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: Live from the NBC studios in Burbank, California, "the Tonight
Show" with Jay Leno.

LENO: It seems the less Perot says, the more popular he gets. This is a
point Dan Quayle has yet to grasp. Don`t say anything.

Very excited about this upcoming election? Gore versus Bush. The thrill
in vanilla, ladies and gentlemen, paper or plastic, what do you want?
Because the big question, who`s going to be the vice presidential nominee
for the Republicans? Now, Elizabeth Dole say she is wants the job, but
(INAUDIBLE). Bob Dole thought he said John McCain or Christine Whitman
might be a good choice. Get the feeling Bob won`t be getting a refill on
that Viagra prescription anytime soon?

And what`s that all about? One day you`re almost president and the next
day you have erectile dysfunction, how does that work? You may be sadder
about leaving office then you thought. Oh, my God! Oh, my God!

Of course, George W. Bush calling himself a compassionate conservative,
really? You know, this guy has fried so many people. Instead of governor,
they should be calling him the colonel.

I have to ask this question, a member of the Senate. You`re under oath.
Did you inhale?

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was telling -- somebody
asked this question. I said that was the point.

LENO: Speaker of the house, Nancy Pelosi in her speech praised Joe Biden
calling him the full package. That`s what you call him. That`s the actual
terms she used, he call him the full package. Now he`s getting phone calls
from Senator Larry Craig. It just won`t stop.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to share
something with you. I do take painting. It`s changed my life. And I
brought a painting for you.

LENO: You did?

BUSH: Yes.

LENO: Did you paint that? Oh, look at that. Look at that. Wow. Look at
that. What an honor that is. Thank you, sir. Wow. I can`t make fun of
him now.

Now, I`ve seen Michelle tease you about your gray hair, a bit of silver in
your hair. Do you tease back?

OBAMA: No.

LENO: No?

OBAMA: No. No. That`s why we`re celebrating our 21st --

LENO: Yes, that`s right. As married 33 years, I know exactly what you`re
saying.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O`DONNELL: Last week the state of Missouri executed an inmate while his
appeal was still pending. His attorney will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE O`DONNELL, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY: He`s got 24 hour a day access
to his attorneys. He`s in contact with them now. He`s having an evening
meal. He`s in a situation where he`s just waiting to hear what happens.
And he`ll be in contact and get that information from his attorneys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O`DONNELL: Herbert Smalls was convicted of the murder of Steven Honickman
(ph) during the robbery of Honickman`s jewelry store in 1991. Honickman`s
wife was also shot during the robbery. She survived. The state of
Missouri was scheduled to execute Herbert Small on Tuesday of last week.
But Supreme Court justice Samuel Alido (ph) issued a 24-hour state while
the full court ruled on two petitions followed by Small`s defense lawyers.

The next day, the Supreme Court vacated the stay and the stay of a lower
court ruling which allowed the state of Missouri to carry out the
execution. Small`s defense attorney filed another appeal just before 10:00
p.m. arguing that the drugs being used in the execution were untested and
could cause pain and suffering.

While still waiting for the Supreme Court decision, the state of Missouri
executed Herbert Smalls just after 10:00 p.m. that same night. Four
minutes after Herbert Small was pronounced dead, the Supreme Court denied
his final appeal.

Joining me now for an exclusive interview is Cheryl Pilate, the defense
attorney for Herbert Smalls.

I have to say, I`m surprised that an excuse would go forward while there
was any form of an appeal pending. Is this something that`s common? Do
you have to have a formal stay of execution in order to delay these things?

CHERYL PILATE, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR HERBERT SMALLS: Well, Lawrence, it
wasn`t simply an appeal or a complaint lodged in any court. There was a
formal application for stay of execution which was filled in the Supreme
Court and had been pending since before the order that removed the stay
that we had in place at that time. So there had been a pending claim for
relief, accompanied by an application for stay that had been pending in the
Supreme Court. There was no period in time in which we did not have a
claim and an application for stay pending.

And so, I think it would be fair to say that we were not only dismayed but
shocked when the execution went forward despite our efforts to communicate
vigorously with the attorneys and we communicated with them repeatedly that
we had pending legal claims and an application for stay on file and they
were well aware of it. And the fact the execution went forward is deeply
troubling to us.

O`DONNELL: But haven`t they done exactly this in other cases prior to
this?

PILATE: They have, indeed, the last two executions prior to my client`s.
And the last one prompted a very critical descending opinion by the judge
of the eighth circuit. And we believed, frankly, that with that dissent
making clear that at least, you know, that judge had come out and said what
he viewed as very improper, we thought the state of Missouri would refrain
from repeating that scenario. And we`ve now seen the last three executions
that while motions or applications for stay have been pending in either the
district court, the eighth circuit court of appeals or the United States
Supreme Court, that despite those pending requests for a stay of execution
that had not been yet acted on, that the state of Missouri went ahead and
executed the prisoner.

And we have been unable to find any other place where this has occurred.
There have been a couple of scattered anecdotes out of other states, but
those of us who do capital work on a regular basis are unaware of any other
state where this has proceed, as we now see, three times in a row.

O`DONNELL: Cheryl Pilate, thank you very much for joining us tonight. And
I know that your job carries with it emotional loads that I don`t think
very many people understand. And I thank you for bur baring those loads.
The constitution needs someone to do it. Thank you very much.

PILATE: Thank you.

O`DONNELL: Chris Hayes is up next.

END

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