THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
February 10, 2014
Guest: John Wisniewski, Amy Adams
CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my
And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
When you take Amtrak on the northeast corridor, when you`re heading
north, the way you know you have reached New Jersey is when you see this
sign. "Trenton makes, the world takes." It probably used to say, "The
world takes, Trenton makes." But obviously, this version is fairly better.
It`s an old Chamber of Commerce slogan designed to market Trenton, New
Jersey, as a manufacturing hub with international aspirations.
But now when you see that sign, it mostly just means that you have
successfully crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania, into New Jersey,
especially into Trenton, which is New Jersey`s state capital. The historic
state capitol building in Trenton is just a hop, skip and a jump from that
"Trenton makes" bridge.
It`s also right there on the banks of the Delaware River bordering
Pennsylvania. New Jersey`s state capitol is on the Delaware River. Not on
the Hudson River. It`s on the other side of the state from New York City.
And so, you have to think about your options and think about the weather
and think about, say, traffic if you want to get from some place like
Trenton, way down on the Pennsylvania border, all the way over and up into
Manhattan. It`s a ways.
The office of the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, told
reporters today that in order to get to the commemorative events at Ground
Zero this past September 11th, Governor Christie traveled to Lower
Manhattan via Jersey City. He went to Jersey City and from there, he took
a ferry into Lower Manhattan. It was 96 degrees that day. So the breeze
on the ferry probably felt great on the over, and, of course, helped avoid
all that bridge and tunnel traffic into Lower Manhattan.
Well, when Governor Christie left the events at Ground Zero on
September 11, he did not return by the same route used to get there.
Instead of taking the ferry back the way he came, Governor Christie`s
office says he flew back to Trenton. He flew back to Trenton by
So think about the geography here for a second. If the governor
traveled the route that his office says he traveled, there`s no legitimate
reason why he should have been anywhere near the gridlock that day that was
caused by the shutdown of access lanes on to the George Washington Bridge
in Fort Lee.
Look at the -- see how much further above ground zero Fort Lee is?
Fort Lee is up there. Trenton is down there. So, there`s no reason why
you would go past Fort Lee if you were going home to Trenton.
This past September 11th was day 3 of the manmade traffic disaster in
Fort Lee. The manmade traffic disaster in Fort Lee that appears to have
been ordered up by Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff and carried
out by David Wildstein at the Port Authority. This is Mr. Wildstein with
Governor Christie on that day, on September 11th, on the third day of the
manmade traffic jam in Fort Lee. They`re there together at the
commemorative events at Ground Zero.
Governor Christie`s office said today that although the governor did
fly back from ground zero that day through Trenton by helicopter and
although he did spend part of the day at Ground Zero with Mr. Wildstein as
these photos show, the governor`s office says today that David Wildstein
didn`t get on the helicopter, himself, David Wildstein did not accompany
Governor Christie on the helicopter ride back to New Jersey, the governor`s
office said today, that David Wildstein has never flown on a helicopter
with Governor Chris Christie.
So, one, is it true? Is it true that Mr. Wildstein did not take that
helicopter ride with Governor Christie during the bridge lane shutdown
after they spent the day together at the 9/11 event?
Number two, whether or not David Wildstein was onboard with Mr.
Christie during that helicopter ride, was this the route back to Trenton
that the governor took? Was this the as the crow flies logical route that
as you can see steers well clear of Fort Lee and the traffic gridlock that
had been bestowed on that town on purpose as some sort of as yet
unexplained political punishment? We do not yet know.
When "The Newark Star Ledger" asked Governor Christie`s office today
if the governor`s helicopter flew over the George Washington Bridge on its
way back from Lower Manhattan to Trenton, the governor`s office would not
comment today, so we don`t know.
But we may be about to find out for sure, anyway, because the New
Jersey legislative committee investigating the bridge shutdown is tonight
sending out 18 new subpoenas and among these 18 new subpoenas is one to the
state police aviation unit which oversees Governor Chris Christie`s travel
"The New York Post," "The Newark Star Ledger" and "The Bergen Record"
all reported today in advance of these subpoenas coming out today that the
records of Governor Christie`s helicopter travel would be demanded by the
legislature in conjunction with the investigation. We do not exactly know
why, but obviously, speculation about the governor potentially doing a fly-
by inspection of the traffic gridlock in Fort Lee while it was under way
led today to some rather lurid headlines. And to some heated anticipation
about who else would be subpoenaed tonight and why.
In addition to this state police aviation unit, here`s what we know
about the new subpoenas that are going out tonight. So, we`ve got that
state police aviation unit, the new subpoenas to the governor`s office, new
subpoenas to the governor`s re-election campaign as well. They were
subpoenaed before. They`ve got new subpoenas now.
There are also four new people inside the governor`s office who are
receiving subpoenas tonight for the first time. One is executive assistant
to Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor`s deputy chief of staff sent that e-
mail that said time for traffic problems in Fort Lee. Bridget Kelly`s
executive assistant has now been subpoenaed, so has the director of
constituent relations in the governor`s office and also the governor`s
office director of operations has been subpoenaed.
Regina Egea, who was director of the authorities unit, but who is now
the governor`s chief of staff, she has been subpoenaed again. This time,
there`s also a subpoena for her senior counsel to the authorities unit.
Over at the Port Authority, there are a whole bunch of new subpoenas
as well. Bill Baroni, who is now resigned from the Port Authority, he`s
been subpoenaed again as have not one, but two of his assistants from the
Port Authority. David Wildstein`s special assistant has also been
subpoenaed at the Port Authority tonight, as has the chief of staff to the
Port Authority executive director. The executive director was, of course,
the one from the New York side who called the bridge lane closures off when
he found out about them and said they were illegal and outrageous.
Also, a deputy director of media relations at the Port Authority has
been subpoenaed, a man named Steve Coleman, whose name you might have seen
in media reports from the Port Authority. Assistant director at the part
of the Port Authority that handles bridges has also been subpoenaed. Also,
one of the Port Authority`s commissioners, who Senator Loretta Weinberg
wrote to for help right after the bridge closure started. A commissioner
named Pat Schuber, he has now been subpoenaed tonight, as has the
institution of the Port Authority, itself, in the form of its custodian of
records for the agency being subpoenaed tonight.
So, that`s 17 new subpoenas being sent out tonight. The last one,
number 18, is maybe how we will get to one of the biggest unanswered
questions in this whole story and the one that`s received the least press
until now. And it`s about this man, Philip Kwon. Philip Kwon was
nominated by Governor Chris Christie to serve on the New Jersey state
Supreme Court. His nomination for the New Jersey state Supreme Court was
rejected by the Democratic-led Senate in New Jersey.
Governor Christie excoriated the Democrats in the Senate for rejecting
Phil Kwon`s nomination but he installed him at the Port Authority as kind
of a really nice consolation prize. Put him in a well-paid job as deputy
general counsel of the Port Authority. Now, the Port Authority has a bunch
of people who work in the general counsel`s office as deputy general
counsels and assistant general counsels.
They have a ton of lawyers at the Port Authority, but for whatever
reason, it was this one, Phil Kwon, the governor`s Supreme Court nominee,
who personally did the prep work for this testimony that you see here.
Phil Kwon is sitting there in the right side of the screen, in the green
This was late November. This is Bill Baroni who has since resigned
from the Port Authority. This is Bill Baroni testifying to the New Jersey
legislature as Phil Kwon looks on, testifying to the legislature at length
about a supposed traffic study. The traffic study was the cover story that
was cooked up to cover up what actually happened to those bridge lanes and
this was Bill Baroni delivering that false cover story to the legislature
in November, and it was Philip Kwon who the "Wall Street Journal" says
spent part of four to five days preparing Bill Baroni to give that
ultimately false testimony.
The Port Authority for their part, they contest that it was that many
days of prep but they do not contest it was Phil Kwon who prepped Bill
Baroni for that testimony which we now know to be false.
Why did Phil Kwon do that? Why was it him specifically assigned to do
it? And did he know it was false testimony that he was preparing Bill
Baroni to give to the legislature? Did he know it was a cover story?
There`s all this focus nationally on Governor Chris Christie, what this
means for his political future, how is he handling the crisis, is he going
to run for president and should he step down as head of the Republican
Governors Association, and his poll numbers, whatever. Right. Fine. I
understand that`s the national interest here, right?
But there really is no reason to put the cart before the horse in this
story. What remains unexplained here is the really basic stuff. Why did
they shut down those bridge lanes and gridlock Fort Lee? It wasn`t a
traffic study. That was a cover story.
So, one, what was the real reason they did it? Two, who was in on it?
And three, who was in on the cover-up? Who knew that the traffic study
story was false and pushed it anyway to try to cover up the real reason
The busiest bridge in the world was used as a weapon to hurt one New
Jersey town on orders that appeared to have come from the governor`s
office. It`s fun to talk about Chris Christie`s poll numbers. What
remains between here and there is the central question of who done it and
why and who helped them try to get away with it? Do we get closer to
answering those questions with this new round of subpoenas tonight?
Now, in addition to the 18 new subpoenas sent out by the legislature
tonight, the committee investigating the scandal also today voted on how to
proceed with regard to the governor`s fired deputy chief of staff, Bridget
Kelly, and his former campaign manager, both of whom have invoked their
Fifth Amendment rights and have refused to hand over documents to the
legislature and have asked that their subpoenas be revoked.
Today, the committee investigating the scandal for the legislature
said, no, we will not revoke subpoenas for both Bridget Kelly and Michael
Stepien, the committee passed motions today declaring the subpoenas were,
quote, "necessary, proper and relevant to the matter under investigation",
declaring that Mr. Stepien and Ms. Kelly`s objections to the subpoenas were
invalid, and compelling them to turn over those documents that were called
for in the subpoenas.
If Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly still do not comply, now that the
legislature has renewed their call for the documents and said the
objections are not valid and they must comply, if Bridget Kelly and Bill
Stepien do not comply, it is likely that they will be held in contempt and
then they will get referred for prosecution. That`s what happened when
David Wildstein invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to not testify to the
legislature. Mr. Wildstein has been referred for prosecution on contempt
charges, as his lawyer continues to seek immunity for him from those and
other charges. He says he will sing like a bird if he gets immunity from
But for Chris Christie`s former campaign manager and his former deputy
chief of staff, it is not just that they are refusing to testify, like
David Wildstein, they are refusing to even hand over documents.
Yes, David Wildstein is refusing to talk, but he also handed over 908
pages of documentation to the committee. That`s how anybody knew about
Bridget Kelly`s role in this whole thing in the first place. That`s how we
knew about the "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail, it was
in David Wildstein`s the 900 pages of documents. He`s been happy to turn
over documents. He doesn`t want to talk.
With Bill Stepien, Bridget Kelly, they don`t want to hand over
So, we`ve got the head of the legislative committee who`s running this
investigation, the head of the committee who issued the 18 subpoenas
tonight. He`s here live next on this show to answer questions.
But it seems like there`s two immediately outstanding new issues
today. One is what`s going to happen to Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly if
they continue to refuse to comply with the subpoenas? What happens next
Secondly, a more political matter that`s maybe because it`s political
a little more sensitive. And that is this. For the first time today, this
investigation into Chris Christie and his administration in New Jersey, the
bridge-gate investigation today for the very first time since it started,
started to break down along partisan lines.
When the assembly voted to continue the investigation, it was a
unanimous vote. All the Republicans and all the Democrats voted to
continue the investigation. When the joint committee was formed to advance
the investigation, the vote to advance the joint investigation was
unanimous. Every Democrat and every Republican in the New Jersey
legislature voted to continue the investigation. That`s why when guys like
Rudy Giuliani were saying this is a partisan witch hunt, it was hard to
take seriously given that every Republican in the legislature voted for it.
But when these votes happened today, essentially moving toward finding
Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien in contempt if they don`t comply with the
subpoenas, when it happened today, it was not unanimous. The vote was
eight Democrats voting yes and all the Republicans on the panel not voting.
All the Republicans abstained and refused to vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
STATE REP. HLLY SCHEPISH (R), NEW JERSEY: With respect to these
motions, understand a lot about it. Only receive the motion as we were in
the room and still have some questions. Not quite sure. Haven`t had the
opportunity to digest a lot of this, and so for the moment, I am abstaining
on all six of the motions.
STATE REP. GREGORY MCGUCKIN (R), NEW JERSEY: Realistically, in the
limited timeframe we`ve had, a very complicated constitutional issues, I`m
just not prepared at this point to make that determination, although I may
at some point reach it, certainly not in the limited timeframe we`ve had to
review this. Again, a very, very complicated constitutional issue and
Fifth Amendment privileges. Quite frankly, it reads like a textbook and a
very well-done brief, but for those reasons, I must abstain also on each of
the six motions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assemblyman Carroll?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abstain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator O`Toole?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abstain.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: All the Republicans on the New Jersey investigative committee
abstained from voting today. Before today, every vote in the legislature
on this matter in both houses of the legislature has been 100 percent
bipartisan and 100 percent unanimous. If that is now breaking down along
partisan lines, if the Republicans are now balking at each new step in the
investigation, what happens next?
The head of the investigation is here next to tell us.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. NIA H. GILL (D), NEW JERSEY: Second motion, I move that
the objections raised by Bridget Anne Kelly in response to the committee`s
January 27th, 204 subpoena, and in response to the modifications to the
subpoena of February 4th, 2014, have been considered by the committee and
are hereby held to be invalid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Invalid. The New Jersey legislative committee investigating
the bridge scandal in that state today held that Governor Chris Christie`s
former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, she of the "time for some
traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail, essentially cannot cite the Fifth
Amendment in order to protect her from the subpoena that she has received
that has asked her to give documents over to that legislative investigating
Given that those objections that she expressed have been ruled invalid
today by the legislature, what happens if Bridget Anne Kelly keeps
resisting the subpoena? Same argument holds for governor Christie`s former
campaign manager. What happens if they keep saying no?
Joining us now is New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He`s co-
chair of the select committee in the legislature.
Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here.
STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Rachel, good to be here.
MADDOW: What is the -- what is the short answer to that long
question, I guess? What happens if they continue -- Mr. Stepien and Miss
Kelly continue to say, no, they`re not going to hand over documents?
WISNIEWSKI: I think there`s legal recourse our counsel will pursue.
I think we`re way ahead of that right now. Right now what we`re going to
is say, we`ve considered your objections. We`ve taken time. We`ve gone
through the analysis. Our counsel has given us an opinion that those
objections don`t stand and we expect compliance. Let`s see what happens
when they get that message first, and then we`ll take it step by step after
But clearly there`s a difference. There`s a difference between
forcing somebody to speak words that they have not ever spoken before in
front of the committee and to provide documents that they previously sent
to somebody by hitting a "send" button.
Other people that provided us documents, they`ve not interposed a
subjection, so the committee considered those objections that they raised
but we feel very comfortable in following the advice of counsel and moving
the way we have.
MADDOW: It was striking today to see all of the Republicans on your
committee abstain from voting on those motions. Again, those motions were
specific to Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly and their Fifth Amendment
claims. Was that a surprise to you? Should we see that as a new partisan
divide opening up in what you`re doing?
WISNIEWSKI: I certainly hope not. This is a committee that`s looking
to get at the facts. Why did Bridget Kelly choose on that August day to
send the e-mail so early in the morning that resulted in the lanes
ultimately being closed?
They`re not Democratic facts. They`re not Republican facts. They`re
just the facts. We want answers to questions.
All the members of the committee were briefed. They got a full
written brief on this issue last week. So, you know, to have the argument
being made today that there wasn`t ample time to consider, I don`t get. My
hope is this is an aberration that we can all work together and get to the
truth because as I said, this just is really about answering questions and
there are no partisan taints to the questions. It either is or it isn`t.
MADDOW: The other thing that the committee has don`t today, and this
is reported in the "Star Ledger," first I know the committee didn`t put out
the names of the people you issued new subpoenas to today. But I have to
ask if there was a partisan divide on the committee in terms of sending out
this new round of subpoenas?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, my understanding after we met in executive session,
that there was an agreement we would wait until all the members, all the
individuals who were named in the new subpoenas had gotten service. We
wanted them to find out by receiving service and not from tonight`s
newscast. And apparently that didn`t happen.
But there wasn`t any strong objections raised about any of the new
subpoenas. And there weren`t any strong objections raised about the last
set of subpoenas.
And so, as I said, this is really about getting answers to questions,
really fundamental questions. How did this happen? Who gave Bridget Kelly
the authorization? What made her think she could do this? Really simple
questions that apparently are becoming a very complicated in answering.
MADDOW: In terms of the list of subpoenas, again, reported tonight
first by the "Star-Ledger," the state aviation -- the Aviation Authority
within the state police which handles the governor`s helicopter travel is a
part of this investigation, a part of the potential data universe out there
that I`ve never considered before.
Can you tell us why they received a subpoena?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think all of these subpoenas are off-chutes of
data that we already had that we continue to analyze and go there, and so,
we sent out the subpoenas we did initially based on an initial review, but
as you gather more data, other questions become obvious that you need to
get answers to. And so what this round of subpoenas simply represent is
the next iteration of questions. And every time we uncover something,
every time we get an answer to a question, we`ve got five more questions
that need to be answered.
So the subpoenas that came out today including the one to the aviation
unit is really to get answers about who knew what when. Who was in the
conversations at what point in time? Who else was with various people when
those conversations were had? And sometimes you have to ask questions of a
lot of people to get very few answers. So, we`re not going to just start
ruling out asking questions before we know what the answers are.
MADDOW: It was that particular subpoena today was described in the
press as having been -- having sprung from a concern that perhaps the
governor did a flyover over the George Washington Bridge during the bridge
shutdown on the day of September 11th, 2013. Do you want to comment on
that speculation in the press?
WISNIEWSKI: I don`t know what the governor did or didn`t do in the
helicopter, but I do think that who conversations are had with at
particular points in time are just as important to the committee as where
the helicopter flew.
So, this is part of a larger effort to piece together a puzzle that
we`re not seeing entirely clearly, but we do know that there was an abuse
of power in an attempt to cover it up. We need to know how far that goes
and who else knew it.
MADDOW: New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the
select committee investigating the bridge lane closures -- I can -- I feel
your path narrowing as you step forward here in terms how careful you are
in answering these questions. But thank you for being willing to keep the
conversations going in explaining this to us.
WISNIEWSKI: I`m not sure it`s narrowing all the time. Sometimes I
see it narrow. Sometimes it gets wider. Each day, it changes.
MADDOW: Yes, one foot in front of the other. Thank you, sir.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: I`ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have and will continue to,
started yesterday, to once again now have personal one-on-one discussions
myself with the remaining members of my senior staff to determine if
there`s any other information that I do not know and need to know in order
to take appropriate action.
I`m going to continue this process. I couldn`t get it all done
yesterday. And so what steps we`ll take after that, if there are concrete
steps beyond what I`ve done today, then we`ll certainly announce them and
talk about them. If, you know, if not, then I`ll just say, listen, I think
we`ve gotten to the bottom of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last month
announcing how he planned to get to the bottom of this whole embarrassing
bridge scandal in his state -- personal one-on-one discussions with
remaining members of my senior staff. If there are concrete steps beyond
what I`ve done today, then we`ll certainly announce them. If not, I`ll
say, listen, I think we`ve gotten to the bottom of this.
A week after Governor Christie described interviewing his staff,
himself personally, his office announced that actually, they were hiring a
big law firm to do a formal internal review. Quote, "Governor Christie
made clear last week that he will conduct an internal review to uncover the
facts surrounding the lane closures at Fort Lee."
Governor Christie`s press office today confirmed for us when they say
Governor Christie made clear he would conduct that internal review, what
they meant was his comments we just played for you here from that January
press conference where he said he`d been talking to his staff one-on-one
and would continue talking to them. They told us today that that was
Governor Christie clearing calling for an internal review.
Didn`t much sound like it, but tonight, whatever else this internal
review means, we do know now that it is not internal because tonight we can
report exclusively that the lawyer hired by Governor Christie to do this
internal review, that lawyer has contacted the attorney for the mayor of
little Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mayor Mark Sokolich. The mayor`s attorney
telling us tonight it was Mayor Sokolich -- the mayor`s telling us tonight
that he received that communication from governor Christie`s lawyer.
It was Mayor Sokolich`s town, of course, that got turned into a
parking lot for four days in September. Governor Christie`s deputy chief
of staff apparently ordered up traffic problems for Fort Lee and a Christie
ally obliged by shutting down the town`s access lanes to the George
It was Mayor Sokolich who pleaded for help from Governor Christie`s
office during the shutdown. Mayor Sokolich asking what on earth he did to
anger someone enough that they would endanger his town by intentionally
creating traffic problems in Fort Lee, so much so that ambulances couldn`t
In his search for why someone would want to do that to him and Fort
Lee, Mayor Sokolich suggested it was perhaps retaliation at him for not
endorsing Governor Christie in his re-election campaign. Governor Christie
has denied that allegation from the mayor.
But tonight, the lawyer for Mayor Sokolich tells us that the attorney
that Governor Christie hired to conduct that internal investigation of his
own office, that Christie attorney has reached outside the governor`s
office to seek an interview with Fort Lee`s mayor. The attorney for Mayor
Sokolich says the request came through this weekend. The mayor`s attorney
did not answer when we asked tonight about how he responded so far to the
request from the Christie lawyer.
But that`s not all. There`s more. We can also report tonight
exclusively that the Christie attorney conducting this internal review has
also written to the town of Fort Lee. Governor Christie`s lawyer filing an
open records request today with the mayor`s office in Fort Lee requesting,
quote, "any and all correspondence going back to August 1st about those
lane closures in September. They`re also requesting any and all documents
back to January 1st about access to those lanes including, quote,
"communications with the Port Authority."
They`re also requesting, quote, "any and all documents having to do
with the issue of endorsing Governor Chris Christie for re-election or
talking to members of his re-election campaign. The Christie lawyers also
requesting any and all documents that the mayor or members of his staff
provided to "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal" or other local
or national, print, Internet or television media since September 1st, more
than a week before the traffic jam, quote, "Regarding any of the above
Governor Christie`s lawyer requests that production of responsive
documents be made as soon as possible. Signed very truly yours, Randy M.
New and fascinating news tonight in this New Jersey story,
specifically about what Governor Christie`s office thinks is an internal
review that suddenly does not look very internal. Yesterday, Shawn Boburg
at "The Bergen Record" broke the news that Governor Christie`s lawyers have
also written to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer concerning that mayor`s
allegation that Christie administration officials threatened to withhold
federal aid money for Sandy relief, unless she supported a private
development in Hoboken. That project has ties to the man who Governor
Christie appointed to be chairman of the Port Authority.
The Christie lawyers asking for documents from Mayor Zimmer, also
asking for an interview with her. Look at the quote from the letter. The
governor`s office takes the allegations recently made by Hoboken Mayor
Zimmer very seriously. For that reason, we have assembled a team here that
includes five former prosecutors and are conducting a thorough review of
the facts pertinent to Mayor Zimmer`s allegations.
And then they request, quote, "complete unredacted documents from the
mayor`s office." Signed, respectfully, Randy M. Mastro.
This internal review of the governor`s office which has now stretched
into the office of the Hoboken mayor appears to not be getting very far yet
at least not in Hoboken. Mayor Zimmer`s attorney replying basically, thank
you, also no thank you.
The response, quote, "We question whether it is appropriate for the
governor`s office in essence to be investigating itself, particularly when
an investigation of the same subject matter is being conducted by the U.S.
attorney`s office. Put another way, we fail to see how the request you`ve
made would further your, quote, `mandate` from the governor`s office to
facilitate cooperation with the investigation when the mayor and city are
already cooperating directly with that investigation."
These letters from Governor Christie`s lawyer to these mayors in Fort
Lee and Hoboken makes for an unexpected development in a story that is
already persistently just plain weird from lots of different answers
angles. But this is a really strange part of the story and it`s an
unexpected turn in the strange part of the story. Part of the reason this
is strange is the way the governor`s office is insisting that he clearly in
that press conference, that day back in January, called for an internal
review, when he described himself as a sad, angry boss continuing to talk
one-on-one with his employees, personally, himself, in order to get to the
bottom of this.
And yet in that same press conference, the governor said he had not
asked his deputy chief of staff why she ordered up traffic problems in Fort
Lee. Said he hadn`t asked her about it and didn`t plan to.
After Governor Christie announced he hired a lawyer, much of the press
was all about the governor bringing in top legal talent to respond to the
bridge-gate scandal. "The Asbury Park Press" headlined the governor`s new
attorney as a legal alligator who`s reported to have wielded a bat for
effect during meetings. Well, now, we have from that same lawyer requests
for interview the with two New Jersey mayors who made allegations against
Governor Christie, a request in the case of the Hoboken mayor that includes
mention of a team of five former federal prosecutors who are taking the
Hoboken mayor`s allegations very seriously.
How did the governor`s internal investigation get from not even asking
Bridget Kelly about why she did what she did, to now mayors around the
state who have questioned Governor Christie getting the opportunity to have
meetings with five former federal prosecutors at a time? This is a strange
turn and a strange part of the story. Where intimidation has been part of
the alleged plot from the beginning, right? Is intimidation also part of
how this scandal resolves from here on out?
Watch this space.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. WILLIAM BARBER, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP PRESIDENT: We say to our
governor and every governor and every legislature and every politician, we
say this to you in love -- don`t you know if you leave the low ground of
extremism and go to the higher ground of justice, if you use your office to
help somebody, then you`re living shall not be in vain.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: More than 80,000 people rallied in Raleigh, North Carolina,
this weekend, protesting the hard right turn in that state under the
Republican legislature and the new Republican Governor Pat McCrory, really
kind of a ginormous number of people -- 80,000 to 100,000 people rallying
this weekend in North Carolina. But that is not the only complication in
Governor Pat McCrory`s life right now. "The Associated Press" got a huge
scoop on North Carolina today, and that story is next.
MADDOW: Way over in the western part of North Carolina, tucked right
underneath Tennessee is the lovely city of Asheville. The 11th largest
city in the state located roughly at the mouth of the French Broad River
and Swannanoa River. Right along Asheville`s stretch of the French Broad
River sits a coal fired power plant. The plant is owned by Duke Energy,
which is headquartered in North Carolina, the single largest electric power
holding company in the country.
Early last year an environmental group in that area started looking
into this site, specifically looking into the huge amounts of coal ash that
are stored at that plant. The group was concerned that the coal ash was
contaminating the local groundwater. So, in January of last year, they
filed a notice of their intent to sue Duke Energy in federal court. Under
the federal Clean Water Act you can do that.
Citizen groups can file lawsuits over environmental right violations,
but there`s a sort of stray thread, maybe, loose, loophole, maybe,
something to worry about. They have to give the state regulators, they
have to give regulators in their state 60 days` notice just in case the
state wants to take action on its own before the citizens case can move
So, this group filed a notice of their intent to sue Duke Energy. And
then on the 58th day after the notice went out, the deadline was 60 days.
On the 58th day, sure enough, North Carolina`s state environmental agency
announced they were going to step in and take action themselves.
The state essentially intervened and said to the citizens group -- no,
we are the state department for the environment. We have the right to step
in here. We`re stepping into your lawsuit and we`re going to become the
plaintiff here. State came in at the last minute and supplanted that
citizen group`s complaint.
Two months later, the same environmental group sent another notice
about possible coal ash contamination at a different Duke Energy plant,
this one near Charlotte. They filed another intent to sue over the
conditions at that plant. Another plant owned by Duke Energy.
And on the 60th day, on the very last day before that lawsuit could go
forward, state regulators, again, stepped in and intervened. We have the
right to step in here, we`re the new plaintiffs here. You`re off the case.
Then this past June, the same environmental group sent another notice
saying they intended to sue, again, over coal ash, allegedly contaminating
a public fishing lake and local drinking water at a Duke Energy plant near
Wilmington, North Carolina, and once again, just like before, state
regulators stepped in on the very last day before the suit could go forward
and say actually, you know what, we got this. We have the right to step in
here. We`re the new plaintiffs. You citizens group can no longer sue,
we`re taking over your case.
After blocking those three potential lawsuits from that environmental
group, in the past year, the state announced that their big action, the
reason that they decided to step in, block this group from doing it, they
were going to do it, was so they could settle. On their own, they decided
to settle the matter by assessing a fine against Duke Energy of a grand
total of $99,000 -- $99,000 fine for a company that`s valued at nearly $50
billion. Three times environmental groups tried to use the Clean Water Act
to see Duke Energy to force them to clean up their coal ash sites in North
Carolina and three times the state government has stepped in at the very
last minute to stop the lawsuit.
Those details came to light in a rather jaw-dropping new report from
"The Associated Press." "The A.P." reporting that at the beginning of last
year, in January 2013, the North Carolina government started stepping in
and blocking these environmental lawsuits against Duke Energy. That same
month, January 2013, is when North Carolina got a brand new Republican
governor, Republican Pat McCrory, who before he became governor spent 28
years working for Duke Energy.
In the year since he has become governor, these environmental groups
raised concern after concern about this one company and its coal ash
problem and every time they`ve essentially been stymied by the new
administration. And then their worst fears were realized. Last week, last
Sunday afternoon, up to 82,000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million
gallons of contaminated water broke free from a 48-inch storm water pipe
that was located at the Dan River power plant in Eden, North Carolina.
That retired plant is owned by Duke Energy. The pipe that ruptured
spewed thousands of tons of toxic sludge which contains lead and arsenic
and mercury and a stew of other toxic chemicals. Enough sludge flowed out
of that pipe to fill up 73 Olympic-sized swimming pools.
The public was not told about the breach until the day after it
happened. The initial reports by both the company responsible, Duke
Energy, and the state regulatory agency, did not accurately relay the scale
of the leak. This it turns out was the third largest coal ash spill the
country has ever seen. The coal ash from this spill kept spewing into the
Dan River for almost a week until this Saturday, this weekend when workers
were finally able to plug the pipe and stop the flow.
Governor Pat McCrory`s first public statement about this huge spill
was not until four days after it happened and then finally he showed up at
the spill site and pounded his chest and touted his record of being so
tough on the energy, crowing that his administration was the first in North
Carolina history to take legal action against a company related to coal ash
-- right, by stepping in and blocking other lawsuits against the company
and settling with the company for basically no money and, importantly, no
promise from Duke Energy to actually fix what they were doing wrong.
This new reporting from the "Associated Press" about the state`s role
in blocking legal action against this industry, against this specific
company, this new reporting raises questions about whether the sort of
accident could have been prevented. One former regulator at the state`s
environmental agency, Amy Adams, a nine-year veteran at the agency resigned
in protest this past November over the direction the agency was taking
since the new administration had been sworn in, saying she was steered away
from issuing violations or fines against polluters once Governor McCrory of
Duke Energy took office.
Joining us now is Amy Adams. She`s the former regional office
supervisor for the division quality at the North Carolina Department of
Environment and Natural Resources. She`s currently North Carolina campaign
coordinator for an environmental non-profit called Appalachian Voices.
Ms. Adams, thank you very much for being with us tonight.
AMY ADAMS, APPALACHIAN VOICES: Thank you for having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: So we have just received news, just within the last few
minutes, received news about the third of those environmental cases that
the McCrory administration intervened in. The first two cases where they
intervened, they settled with Duke Energy for a total of $99,000 over the
two cases. Duke didn`t have to change anything they were doing with regard
to coal ash. The third one was pending. We`ve just heard tonight that
they are going to delay their own settlement with Duke Energy in the wake
of this huge new coal ash disaster in your state.
What`s your reaction to that?
ADAMS: I think that is the most prudent action that I have seen DENR
take since the litigation against these utilities has started. I think
this is a progressive step forward that is typically unusual of Diener.
MADDOW: Could this leak at the Dan River plant have been prevented?
Was it -- was this the sort of thing that was foreseen, that people were
worried about with those lawsuits they were filing?
ADAMS: Yes. This was absolutely 100 percent preventable, Rachel.
What we know is that these coal ash ponds, anytime they`re storing
toxic coal ash in an unlined hole in the ground adjacent to our surface
waters, that there`s a risk to the public. There`s a risk to our drinking
water, the public`s right for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water to
utilize for their recreation and for their personal benefit.
And even though this spill is the outward sign, we saw the outward
sign of the spill in Kingston, Tennessee in 2008, and this is the outward
sign of a catastrophic failure here at the Dan River, these plants, all 14
plants in North Carolina are under lawsuit for contaminating groundwater.
And that`s what the public doesn`t see, is that this groundwater
contamination goes on every single day and while this is new news to your
viewers this is not new news to the folks that are advocates trying to
address this coal ash pollution that the state is facing.
MADDOW: You were involved on the regulatory side of this for nine
years before you resigned last year, citing your changed work experience
under the McCrory administration. Can you tell us what changed, what had
your job been like, what had the regulatory job been like in North Carolina
before Governor McCrory, and how has it changed since him?
ADAMS: Certainly. Before it has always been the mission of DENR to
protect the resources and the public and the public`s right to have clean
air, clean water, a swimmable, recreationable, fishable resources in the
state. When Pat McCrory took office, the first thing he did was he
appointed John Skvarla, and John Skvarla was instrumental in redefining who
DENR customer was.
The customer to me has always been North Carolina`s resources and its
citizens. And he redefined that and said no, from here forward our
customer is going to be the regulatory agent -- or the regulatory industry
-- or the industries that we regulate. So, we shifted way from protecting
the resource and the people from pollution to protecting the polluter and
trying to help them protect both their profit and help them meet compliance
standards through proper -- excuse me. Through --
MADDOW: Through the way they had to manage their waste and other by-
products of what they do.
ADAMS: Absolutely. I`m sorry. I lost you there for a second.
MADDOW: I got you. I understand. Amy Adams, thank you for being
with us. I have a feeling this will not be the last time we talk about
this matter. Thank you very much for being here.
ADAMS: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
MADDOW: Amy Adams is a former office supervisor for the division of
water quality at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural
Resources. And she left there in protest last year.
Again, though, the breaking news tonight is that twice in the last
year, the Department of Natural Resources in North Carolina intervened to
stop a federal lawsuit against Duke Energy. In those cases, they settled
with the company for $99,000 and they didn`t have to make significant
changes to the problem they were getting sued over.
A third one of these was ready to go. A third one of these cases was
ready to go, and a settlement was pending, but in light of the third
largest coal ash disaster in our nation`s history, which has happened on
the Dan River in North Carolina in the past two weeks, they have put that
settlement on hold. That just happened this hour.
Stay with us. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. All right. This is a
You are looking at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri, home of the
football team at the University of Missouri. The big letter "M" that you
see at the north end of the stadium, that`s the "M" for Missouri and it`s
made of individually painted rocks. The whole thing spans nearly 9,000
square feet. According to Missouri lore, the rock M was built by the
university`s 1927 freshman class using leftover rocks from the construction
of the original memorial stadium.
Now, though, as part of tradition every year, incoming freshmen gather
at the stadium and they repaint those rocks white. Rock M is an iconic
thing in college football. It`s been there for more than 85 years. As a
Mizzou football player after your final home game, you`re allowed to take
one of the rocks home with you.
And this year, Mizzou had one of their best football seasons in their
history. They played in the SEC`s championship. They finished the season
ranked as the number 5 team in the nation, and they were led by the player
who they voted to be their team MVP. He`s a Mizzou senior, voted defensive
player of the year in the SEC. He`s a genuine high-ranking NFL prospect
now that he has graduated.
And you probably heard his name today. His name is Michael Sam. Mr.
Sam has come out to the world as gay after coming out to his teammates last
year. And since he is such a good player and is undoubtedly heading to the
NFL, this has led to lots of prognosticating about to what it`s going to
mean for the NFL, what it`s going do mean for men`s sports generally to
have such a prominent openly gay professional athlete.
And today, with the eyes of the sports world all focused on Michael
Sam and his brilliant career at Mizzou, and his uncharted future because of
this brave thing he just did, today this was the scene inside Mizzou`s
See what`s going on there? At the snowy north end of the hollowed
Faurot Field where the temperature did not reach 20 degrees today. Today
it wasn`t just the rock M anymore. It was the rock S-A-M for Michael Sam.
We reached out to the Mizzou athletic department today to confirm the
legitimacy of that picture. They confirm to us that that is the real deal.
Here`s to Mizzou fans and his teammates knowing and never caring.
Here`s to the defying of expectations in a good way. Best new thing in the
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."
Thanks for being with us tonight.
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