updated 3/5/2014 9:40:44 AM ET 2014-03-05T14:40:44

THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
February 27, 2014

Guests: Ted Mann, Darryl Isherwood

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home as well for joining
us this hour.

In the indictment, they show his real name, Tony Mack. Tony Mack which is
an awesome New Jersey politics name in his owned right, right? But Tony
Mack apparently was not a cool enough name. According to the indictment,
at least, his aliases also included Napoleon, the little guy, and Honey
Fitz.

Honey Fitz was duly elected as a Democratic mayor of Trenton, New Jersey in
the year 2010. In the year 2012, the FBI raided his house. The following
day the FBI raided offices at Trenton city hall. And in the fall of that
year, September 2012, Honey Fitz, aka Napoleon, aka the little guy, aka the
mayor, Tony Mack was arrested along with eight other people including the
mayor`s own brother and the charge was corruption.

The feds posed as developers and they offered the mayor a bribe in exchange
for him ok`ing the development of a downtown parking garage in Trenton.
There was no actual planned parking garage and they were not real
developers. It was a sting. But the mayor said yes to the bribe. And in
February, this month, he was convicted of all charges. He is due to be
sentence in the May and could get decades in federal prison based on these
charges and these convictions.

On the day he was convicted on February 7th, the "Associated Press"
provided some helpful contacts for understanding how big of a deal it is
for the mayor of this New Jersey city to be going to jail on federal
corruption charges. And the short answer is, it is not that big a deal at
all, not for New Jersey.

Since 2000, the mayors of Newark, New Jersey, Camden, New Jersey,
Patterson, New Jersey, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Hoboken, Passaic, Asbury
Park, Orange and Hamilton, New Jersey, those mayors have all been convicted
of corruption or pled guilty in corruption cases just since the year 2000,
all of them. And now, you can add Trenton to the list.

You know Cory Booker as a United States senator right now. But before
becoming a United States senator, Cory Booker was not just the mayor of
Newark, New Jersey, the state`s largest city. Cory Booker was the first
mayor of Newark, New Jersey, since 1962 to not be convicted of corruption
charges and to go prison.

Yes, New Jersey is just astonishing. New jersey is a sewer of public
corruption. But since the latest mayor was convicted in New Jersey of
corruption charges, since Honey Fitz Tony Mack got convicted three Fridays
ago in Trenton, what has been astonishing to watch is that corruption case
is that he refuses to leave office. Until yesterday, Trenton had as its
mayor, a man who is three weeks earlier had been convicted of federal
corruption charges and was refused and to stop being the mayor even though
he was convicted.

Trenton had somebody ready to replace him. They assumed that once he was
found guilty, he would resign but Tony Mack refused to resign. It was not
until a superior court judge yesterday ruled he must be stripped of his
office that he finally became not the mayor. He was refusing to go.

You can`t have a convict as your mayor. You cannot have someone who has
just been found guilty of federal corruption charges and is awaiting their
time in federal prison serving as your elected leader. This cannot happen.
This does not happen. Except actually, this does happen in New Jersey.

What just happened in Trenton is not even unprecedented in the state of New
Jersey. A lot of the times that Camden, New Jersey mayor went to jail, he
too had to forcibly thrown out of office by a judge because he too refused
to leave. Refused to stop being mayor even after he was convicted on
federal corruption charges.

In New Jersey, this kind of thing isn`t even unprecedented. It is just
kind of how it goes. Personal point of privilege her for a moment. It is
personal aside. My partner Susan is from New Jersey. She is from Perth
Amboy, born and to be out of ringed. I was trying to explain to her about
the Trenton mayor, the other day trying on explain to her how amazing it
was to me that the convicted mayor of Trenton was still the mayor of
Trenton even after he had been convicted. And Susan looked at me. She
look me right in the eye, just dead eyed and said John Gorka. Which in our
family is shorthand for the John Gorka song, I`m from New Jersey which
explains this whole thing.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

MADDOW: I would adjust if the world ended. God bless you, John Gorka.
I`m from New Jersey. I don`t expect too much.

New jersey is the place where not only does the mayor of Trenton get
convicted. He refuses to leave office after he has been convicted. And
before that the other guy who did that was mayor of Camden after he was
convicted of corruption. And when that mayor did that in Camden, you know
what, he was the third mayor of Camden in 20 years to be indicted on
federal corruption charges.

New Jersey is the place where the new mayor, the new mayor, the new young
fresh face mayor of Hoboken was in office for precisely three weeks before
he agreed to take a bribe in an FBI corruption sting operation and he had
to go to jail.

Plenty of company, when he gets there actually since the previous mayor of
Hoboken was in jail at that time as well, also on corruption charges. New
Jersey is just a toxic mire of public corruption. And it has been for
years. And the people of New Jersey, and particularly the cities of New
Jersey, suffer for the sins of its public officials.

Parts of Camden, New Jersey, are worse off than any other single place in
the United States. I would put parts of Camden up against anywhere else
that we`ve got in this country in terms of trouble. And that`s not because
New Jersey is a poor state.

New jersey is a very well off state. The reason that parts of Camden look
like this is because of governance in New Jersey is rotten. It is a place
where for generations, the business of New Jersey government has not been
governance. It has not been the allocation of public resources to serve
the greater good. The business of governance in New Jersey epically and
for way too long has been the business of people in government helping
themselves. Helping themselves to public resources. People who are in
government using the power that government gives them to steal what ought
to be public resources to use for their own private ends.

And the great political scandal in New Jersey that is afflicting the
presidential hopes of that state`s current governor Chris Christie is not
entirely about that age old New Jersey problem. The bridge scandal is not
(INAUDIBLE) scandal, right? Nobody appears to have walked away with
envelopes stuffed full of cash from those closed access lane on to the
George Washington bridge. At least we haven`t heard about it yet.

The bridge scandal for the Chris Christie administration is about using a
public resource. It is about using the world`s busiest bridge as a weapon
to apparently inflict some sort of petty political vendetta which still has
not been explained, but at least at this point we haven`t seen the profit
motive.

It is the investigation into that scandal, the thousands of pages of
documents that have been handed over and the intense investigative scrutiny
in the legislature and from federal prosecutor and especially from the
media that has uncovered a newly sordid picture of you how governance works
in New Jersey right now. And it is not just in Camden. And it is not just
the Trenton. And it is not just in the bald old days in Hoboken. It is in
the state. It is in the richest agencies of the state.

And yes, going to prison on federal corruption charges is an order of
magnitude different than having New jersey newspapers write about your
blatant complex of interest while you are serving Chris Christie`s men at
the port authority. But the problem of perverted governance in New Jersey
is the same.

We got newly un-redacted documents today from the New Jersey legislature.
These are the same documents that we had earlier. We just have fewer
things blacked out with a sharpie marker.

One of the lines that used to be blacked out but is not anymore is this
one. It is in the middle of a conversation between Bill Baroni and David
Wildstein, two port authority officials who have lost their jobs as a
result of this bridge scandal already. This conversation that they are
having here is after the bridge lane closures, it is in October. They
appear to be discussing a newspaper article that had covered the closure of
those lanes. A newspaper article that ran in early October. We think it
was probably an article from the "Wall Street Journal." That`s what it
seems like from the context.

And in this conversation, Mr. Baroni says, Comella, meaning Maria Comella,
communications staffer for Governor Christie, didn`t think much of the
story, meaning nobody is paying attention to the story we`re talking about.
Mr. Wildstein responded, Bridget, same. Meaning presumably, Bridget Ann
Kelly, the staffer in governor Christie`s office who ordered time for some
traffic problems in Fort Lee. Bridget also agrees that there`s nothing
much to worry about with the press attention to what they did on that
bridge.

But then we get to the line that was previously redacted, but now has been
uncovered. David Wildstein says, so, what does general want? The person
who everybody calls general inside the Christie administration an in New
Jersey political circles is this man, former attorney general David Samson
who Chris Christie appointed to be chairman of the port authority after Mr.
Samson was instrumental and he is getting elected to be governor. After
Mr. Samson headed up Chris Christie`s transition team when took office.

Mr. Samson, General Samson, is also a named partner in a powerful New
Jersey law firm call Wolff Samson. A powerful New Jersey law firm that has
done really, really well for himself since Governor Christie was elected
and gave David Samson that powerful job at that very rich agency.

This is reporting from WNYC, the radio station. This plots the lobbying
income of David Samson`s law firm over the years. You can see it here for
2007, 2008, 2009. Governor Christie ran to become governor and was elected
in 2009. He resumed office in 2010. And yes, look, Wolff Samson starts
doing a lot better Once Chris Christie takes over the state government,
you know, and then he appoints David Samson to be head of the port
authority.

David Samson takes up that role as chairman of the port authority in early
2011. And then look, wow, oh, wow, hey. Wolff Samson is doing really,
really well once he gets that gig. These are the numbers for 2012 as well.

Well, David Samson has been chairman of the port authority. The port
authority has repeatedly taken actions that have financially benefited Mr.
Samson`s clients at his private law firm. So for example, his law firm had
a client that wanted to make more money on its commuter parking lot that it
had in New Jersey. A lot of people commute from New Jersey into New York.
They park their cars at one of these lots and then they take some sort of
transit into the city.

One of the commuter parking lots was owned by this agency. that was run by
this agency. It was owned by the port authority. So port authority owned
the lot and this other agency operated it. The port authority charged rent
on that parking lot. They charged about $900,000 a year rent for that
company to operate a parking lot. So yes, the entity could make a lot of
money off that lot. You charge people $10 a day to park there. And you
got all that as revenue, but they also had to pay rent too. They had to
pay to the port authority and that reduced their profits, of course.

Well, that entity hired David Samson`s law firm to figure out how they
could increase their profits on their parking lots. And then David Samson
at the port authority voted that the rent for that parking lot should no
longer be $900,000 a year. It should be $1 a year. Port authority owns
that parking lot. That mean the rent they were getting was going to a
public agency which means theoretically that money was supposed to go to
the good of the public. Instead though, that money will now be going to
David Samson`s clients. And they in turn will pay his firm to thank them
for having come one this great arrangement for them that save them a
million bucks. So it is a win/win, right, from their perspective at least.

The entity that is running the parking lot saves almost a million dollars
on rent. David Samson`s law firm gets paid handsomely for having saved
their client almost a million dollars a year on the rent. And the only
people that lose is everybody else.

This public asset have now been redirected for that private purpose. When
the "Bergen Record" first reported that story, David Samson was On the
Record of having cast a vote in favor of that deal on the parking lot.
That deal that so directly benefited his own law firm`s client.

After that story was published, David Samson had the port authority
retroactively go back in time and recues him from that vote on the parking
lot after the fact. David Samson did not even bother to try to
retroactively recues himself though on another one of these deals that
follows the exact same contours that makes you feel exactly the same way
about government in New Jersey. And it concerns the town of Harrison, New
Jersey.

So Mr. Samson`s law firm has a client that wants to build luxury housing in
Harrison, New Jersey. And it would really help to sell luxury apartments
in Harrison, New Jersey if there was a nice transit stop nearby where you
could quickly and easily and safely get on the train and go to New York
City. That would really help the property values for that development,
right?

But while representing that developer, for whom the profitability of their
development totally depends on getting a new train station in Harrison.
David Samson as chairman of the port authority voted for a new train
station in Harrison. So I guess that`s what public resources should be
used to do. They should be used to benefit his clients, in his private
practice. And you know, whether or not you want Harrison, New Jersey to
have a new train station by all accounts, Harrison needs a new train
station. How on earth can you take a vote on that matter when your law
firm has a client with a financial stake in the outcome which means you
have a financial stake in the outcome?

We`re from New Jersey. We don`t expect much. Those are just a couple of
the deals that David Samson has been involved with that have turned up
since people started looking hard at the Chris Christie Bridgegate scandal.

There is also, of course, the Hoboken allegations which are being
investigated by several prosecutors in New Jersey where again, David Samson
had a client who was working on a big potentially very lucrative billion
dollar deal in Hoboken, New Jersey. And the mayor of that town said she
came under pressure by members of the Christie administration to green-
light that development for the clients. She said they essentially
threatened her. that if she did not OK that thing for David Damson`s
clients, Hoboken wouldn`t get any relief funds from hurricane Sandy.

Those are public funds for the public interest to meet the public need.
And the mayor`s allegation which is now being investigated by federal
prosecutors in which the Christie administration flatly and staunchly
denies is that those funds were essentially being diverted for a private
purpose to try to make David Samson`s clients make money.

And five people have left or lost their jobs in the bridge lane scandal in
New Jersey thus far. The governor`s campaign manager, two people who
worked in the governor`s office and two people who worked at the port
authority. But do you want to know who still works at the port authority?
David Samson. David Samson is still there, still chairman of that agency,
still casting votes. And as of last night, someone who has the
unquestioning absolute and complete support of New Jersey governor Chris
Christie, no questions asked.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your top port authority appointee, David Samson was the
target of some criticism director Patrick Foye. Foye was asked for the
"New York Daily News" if Samson had the moral authority to leave the
agency, and he flat out said no, but then wouldn`t elaborate on it any
further. Do you still stand by him?

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Strongly, firmly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie speaking last night, not for the first
time. Completely dismissing any suggestion that there might anything
wrong, anything to worry about David Samson. The man he was figured out
how to convert his public position which was given to him by Chris Christie
into a very, very lucrative time in private life -- John Gorka.

While Governor Christie was making that appearance last night on New Jersey
101.5, we got word from the legislative committee investigating the bridge
scandal that they were releasing un-redacted or at least less redacted
versions of the David Wildstein document. And in a bunch of cases, we just
get one line. One new line. So it is kind of a subtle change between what
we used to have in what we have now. You see the un-redacted version here
on the top and the redacted version on the top of the un-redacted version
on the bottom.

Si this is, again, between Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, we get that new
line, what did the general want? Apparently referencing the form he
attorney general David Samson. Here again, here`s another one between Bill
Baroni and David Wildstein. This is right after Bill Baroni immediately
after Bill Baroni gave his false testimony to the legislate you are with
that testimony about a traffic study. Right after that, we get this new
line today that we didn`t used to have. O`Toole statement ready, That`s
apparently a reference to Republican state senator, Kevin O`Toole who did
put out a public statement right after Bill Baroni`s false testimony that
backed up what Mr. Baroni said after that false testimony.

Senator Kevin O`Toole maybe ironically or maybe just weirdly happens to
also be the state senator who the Republicans assigned to be on the
legislative committee investigating Bridgegate even though he himself is,
at least, tangentially involve in the scandal.

We had heard before that there was this reference to Senator O`Toole in the
documents before, but now we can see it. Even though he is on the
committee, the co-chairs of the legislative committee investigating this
issue say that Senator O`Toole may actually face questioning on this issue.
Which would probably mean that he would have to get up off the dais and
then go sit in the witness chair and then come back to the dais later,
weird. Or maybe I just talked to himself like this.

The one totally new thing we got from the redaction, though, is this. This
is what we had before. This is the old thing. At the bottom of this page,
this is where we previously had the messages between Bridget Kelly and
David Wildstein where talking about people who are being delayed on the
bridge because they shut down those lanes to the bridge. And Bridget Kelly
saying is it wrong that I`m smiling? That`s pretty much all we had on the
page before everything else was blocked out.

But now look. Look at the new page. Same page but he have different.
What was redacted on the whole rest page is now evident. And bizarrely,
yes, that is what you think it is. What was redacted on that page includes
a picture of John Boehner, yes. So in this exchange, this part that
they`ve un-redacted, David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly, they ban to a
little about this rabbi in this photo with John Boehner and what they think
of this rabbi. David Wildstein at one point says of the rabbi, he has
officially pissed me off. And Bridget Kelly responds we can`t cause
traffic problems in front of his house, can we? David Wildstein then says
flight to Tel Aviv, mysteriously delayed. Bridget Kelly says, perfect.

So, they`re obviously joking around about this. This is six days after
Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein has the exchange about the time for some
traffic problems in Fort Lee and David Wildstein said, got it. And it is
clear in this exchange six days later about the rabbi with John Boehner
that they`re referencing that earlier idea about what they would do on the
bridge, right? They`re referring to have will ability to cause traffic
problems for people who, I them by using public resources to cause those
private pains.

And also there are things like they`re joking. I mean, there is no
evidence that this particular rabbi ever really did have traffic problems
at his house, wherever it is nor were flights to Tel Aviv, apparently
delayed. But it seems like it is clear that they`re joking.

The rabbi, on his part, says he has no idea what did he to get David
Wildstein so mad at him that he was cursing about it. He has no idea why
he has appeared in these text messages. I personally would love to hear
what John Boehner thinks about him turning up in these text messages but so
far no one has asked him. And if I was face-to-face with him, I`m not sure
I will have the nerve he clearly in h nothing to do with it.

This is mostly just we`re and maybe it goes to the color and to the flavor
of what it is to work in New Jersey politics which is supposed to be a New
Jersey governance. But mostly just seems like it is New Jersey politics.

The big effect here of these redactions is that it may just be a lesson to
all of us to never try to guess what might be under the black magic marker
in redacted documents. I mean, in some ways that has got to be the lesson
here. You can`t see under the sharpie. I mean, who would ever guess that
under the redactions in the bridge scandal documents was a random picture
of a rabbi with John Boehner. You can`t know until you see it. But there
is so much we don`t know here.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your top port authority appointee, David Samson was the
target of some criticism director Patrick Foye. Foye was asked for the
"New York Daily News" if Samson had the moral authority to leave the
agency, and he flat out said no, but then wouldn`t elaborate on it any
further. Do you still stand by him?

CHRISTIE: Strongly, firmly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: New Jersey governor Chris Christie last night saying in no
uncertain terms that he has no problems no, concerns about the form he
attorney general of New Jersey, who he calls General Samson. David Samson
who was the Christie appointed to be chairman of the port authority and who
continue in that role today. David Samson surfaces again today in these
newly un-redacted documents that have been released by the legislature. He
has continued to be the focus some of very critical reporting on his
apparent conflicts of interest as chairman of that multi-billion dollar
agency where Chris Christie has no issues with his performance.

Joining us, Ted Mann. He has been covering the story for "the Wall Street
Journal. "

Mr. Mann, it is nice to see you again. Thanks for being here.

TED MANN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you.

MADDOW: So chairman Samson at the port authority standing his ground.
Governor Christie has repeatedly expressed his steadfast support for him.
Is that surprising and how do you expect that to evolve?

MANN: I don`t think it is surprising for people who have dealt with David
Samson who is competent and throughout this has insisted he knew nothing
about what the people beneath him were doing. And certainly even in his
public appearance of the most recent port authority board meeting where he
said he wasn`t going to be able to talk about this and he apologized on
behalf of the port authority for inconvenience. He really made clear he
wasn`t planning to go anywhere.

MADDOW: Is it within his, is it his decision and Chris Christie`s decision
alone as to whether he goes?

MANN: It is a really good question. I mean, certainly the expectation
within the port authority and I think in the political, you know, capitals
of both states is that if Chris Christie wants him gone, he`s gone. But
certainly, there`s been no sign from either Christie or Samson that they
think he has to go yet. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being
applied on the New York side. Obviously, Pat Foye`s public comments are
part of that. But again, only Foye`s has had anything publicly about
Samson being unfit to lead.

MADDOW: Let me ask you about another item that you`ve been writing about,
another angle on this that you have been writing about, Ted. And that is,
on the day that Bill Baroni delivered his testimony before the legislature
about the lane closures, he texted David Wildstein after (INAUDIBLE)
feedback and David Wildstein responded, PAPD, said all was fine. Do we
know what all was fine? With that, do we know what that means?

MANN: We don`t know what PAPD means there. In Baroni`s testimony he made
reference to Paul Nunziato who is the head of the police union. He said
Nunziato was the first person who had ever mention of traffic lane change
to David Wildstein there. This according to the union came as a surprise
to Paul Nunziato that he was going to be mentioned in this context.

We don`t know there if Wildstein is telling Baroni that the actual head of
the police department approved of this testimony. We don`t know why he
would have been weighing in. We don`t know if it is a reference to Paul
Nunziato. We do know that on the first time through, David Wildstein
blacked that out and that is certainly an area for both the legislate and
probably the federal prosecutors to try to figure out, you know, what the
police involvement was in all this.

MADDOW: And now, of course, Mr. Nunziato has stepped down from that role
with the police department union.

MANN: There are position is that he was handed some day to day operations
to a deputy. He is not really going to elaborate on that but he hasn`t
stepped down. And that he is continuing in his position and we`re not
really clear what any of that means.

MADDOW: You know, people think the story has been covered in a saturating
way. I have to say there are so many basic questions about this that
remain unanswered that had only get fuzzier and fuzzier as we get more. It
is fascinating stuff.

Ted Mann, a (INAUDIBLE) reporter for the "Wall Street Journal." Thank you
very much for being here, Ted. It is good to see you. Thanks.

All right, lots to come tonight including the dangers of throwing away
evidence in a body of water when your evidence floats. Stay with us. Lots
to come tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Note to soon-to-be deposed dictators: as you are being chased out
of your country by angry mobs and determined protesters, if you have an
instinct to try to destroy evidence of what you have done while you are in
power, while you are running away from the mobs and the protesters, try to
make sure friendly dictator, try to make sure as you are flinging that
evidence off the nearest bridge and into the nearest body of water to
destroy it, try to make sure that said evidence does not float. Yes,
problems.

This is a reservoir near the palace that was abandoned in haste by
President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine, when the opposition movement of his
country toppled his government last week after months of protests.
Floating in the reservoir were thousands of documents. Some of them
burned. Some of them partially burned, some of them still tucked safely
inside plastic folders.

But when the president fled with his entourage and the protesters realize
that the presidential house for the first time could literally be opened to
the public, they just opened the doors so everybody could walk in and see
how he lived, some of the people going through rather ornate grounds
noticed that there are all these documents floating in the water. They
skimmed some of them out of there, the ones they could reach. And then
over the weekend, they had divers go in looking to see if there was more at
the bottom of the lake, stuff that had sunk.

They pulled up hundreds of files filled with thousands of documents,
invoices, contracts, all sorts of stuff. Once the documents were fished
out they were separated and laid out to dry. The really lucky documents
got laid out to dry in the very nice sauna in the president`s guest house.

Now, citizens and journalists are going through the documents one by one to
figure out what they`ve got and what these documents can tell them about
the government they just toppled. A lot of what they have been able to
sort out so far has been about the finances of how the ousted president
lived, what he spent, apparently even some public money on at a time when
Ukraine`s economy was in shambles.

This recovered document, for example, shows that he commissioned a roaring
boar decoration for his outdoor shooting range. Apparently, a $93,000 boar
decoration; $17,000 for seven table cloths, must be nice table cloths.
Another one shows a receipt for $12 million in cash from a presidential
representative to some other person. We don`t really know what that`s
about.

There is also seems to be some evidence of the president monitoring
specific journalists and a very personal and very individual level.

Well, now, journalists have been sifting through these documents trying to
see what it was the president tried to burn and then drown as he was
fleeing Kiev. They`ve now launched a Web site called YanukovychLeaks.
Basically, a play on WikiLeaks but named for the deposed president, Viktor
Yanukovych. On the Web site, they`re uploading and cataloguing trying to
annotate all these thousands of documents they`ve recovered so the public
can scroll through and see with their own eyes what their president did.

They`re posting now, they say, as quick as they can. The idea is to post
first they say, and then launch investigations later. Almost 1,600
documents have been posted online and more are expected to be coming soon.

So, this is far from over. The work continues. Meanwhile, there is a
question of whether or not the president who fled the capital and left all
this stuff in the moat behind him, whether he is technically out of power
and what he`s going to do next.

After a few days when nobody said they knew where he was, the
president/former president of Ukraine is reportedly safe and sound in
Russia. The Russian government said they`ve offered him protection.

And from Russia today, Mr. Yanukovych released a statement arguing that he
is still the legitimate president of Ukraine. The protesters that filled
Ukraine`s capitol last week would disagree with that, as would the
Ukrainian parliament which has a new acting president to replace him which
is not the sort of thing do you if you think the old guy is still around.

In Ukraine`s Black Sea region, though, you can see it there in that
peninsula type area adjacent to the Black Sea near Russia, in the Crimea,
which has a Russian-speaking majority, masked gunmen there stormed the
government buildings in Crimea overnight, barricading themselves inside.
And there they`ve raised the Russian flag. Early this morning local police
officers sealed off access to government buildings.

This was the scene during the day. Protesters there taking down the
Ukrainian flag, and hoisting the Russian flag, chanting, "Russia, Russia".
They`re basically calling for the division of the country, calling for
their Russia-oriented side of Ukraine to be made part of Russia by
splitting off from the rest of the country.

And this is all happening a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin
ordered surprise military exercises for 150,000 troops in Russia, including
some bases quite near the Russian/Ukrainian border.

These exercises they say are meant to test the combat readiness of Russian
troops. They are largest ground exercises the Russians have done in years.
But in terms of precedent, you should know that in 2008, Russia launched
exercises of just this sort. And that was just a few days before Russia
went to war with neighboring Georgia.

So, nobody quite knows what will happen here. Nobody quite knows what
Russia will do. And it`s not like one thing happens at a time. I mean,
right now, just in Ukraine, in the West, where Yanukovych fled, he is
wanted for mass murder and they`re touring his house and sorting through
documents he tried to hide. In the East, that`s now where there is chaos
in the streets.

It is an absolutely fluid situation, and a dangerous situation but also a
fascinating one.

Watch this space.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID WILDSTEIN, FORMER AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: On the advice of my counsel, I
assert my right to remain silent under the United States and New Jersey
Constitutions.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: That was former New Jersey Port Authority official, David
Wildstein, the guy who created all of the notorious traffic problems in
Fort Lee, New Jersey.

David Wildstein in January clammed about this whole issue under oath. He
invoked the Fifth Amendment. That earned him a misdemeanor contempt rap in
New Jersey.

And now, he is maybe the central player in this whole thing, who is the
most cooperative with the ongoing investigation. That turns out to be a
really important combination of events and those details are straight
ahead.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MADDOW: Today, these new partially redacted documents related to the New
Jersey bridge scandal were released to the public.

Why did we just get them?

We have these documents a few weeks ago. But it`s today that we`re being
allowed to see more of what was under the black magic marker lines that X`d
out portions of these documents before. On December 6th, David Wildstein
announced that he was resigning as the Port Authority`s director of
interstate capital projects.

Don`t worry that the job title seems meaningless. It is. This was David
Wildstein`s sweet job at the Port Authority, which paid him $150,000 a
year, but the job had no job description. He had no official
responsibilities.

A few days after he resigned that sweet job, Mr. Wildstein was subpoenaed
by the legislature for documents related to the lane closures on the George
Washington Bridge which he had arranged. He was asked to appear before the
legislature on January 9th to answer questions and to turn over those
documents.

Well, he did show up on January 9th. He brought the documents with him.
But he wouldn`t answer questions. He invoked the Fifth Amendment and
refused to answer anything the committee asked him. He wouldn`t even
confirm to the committee that he previously had been employed by the Port
Authority.

David Wildstein was held in contempt that day for refusing to answer the
committee`s questions, but did he hand over about the stuff. He did hand
over about 900 pages of documents.

Of those 900 pages, about 40 pages were partially or fully redacted with a
black magic marker. His lawyer said those redactions were just things that
weren`t relevant to what the committee was investigating. But the
committee did not want to take their word for it. The committee said they
would seek access to the unredacted versions of those documents and they
would get them somehow.

And here`s where it really gets interesting, because a couple weeks after
they held David Wildstein in contempt, which means he`s going to have
defend himself now against a criminal prosecution for being in contempt of
the legislature, a couple weeks after that contempt ruling, David
Wildstein`s former employer, the Port Authority, said they were not going
to be paying David Wildstein`s legal bills related to these proceedings.
David Wildstein would be on his own.

And the only thing I know about David Wildstein`s financial situation is
that he`s been getting paid $150,000 a year for a few years, to work in a
job that has no job description at the Port Authority. So, it`s not like
he is a poorer person. But even if he is very well off, it has to be a
little daunting to know you`re not only being blamed for this scandal and
the governor you`ve known since you were teenager and whom you`ve served
loyally for years is denying he never really knew you.

And not only are you being categorized as a rogue operator who did this
whole thing yourself and you`ve lost your job because of it, but now,
you`re going to handle the legal bills for all of it yourself? It has to
be daunting to know that one of the consequences you`re facing here, which
no one else is facing, is you potentially being personally bankrupted
because of your role in this scheme, which after all you didn`t do alone.

Well, after the Port Authority said they were cutting David Wildstein loose
and making him pay for his own legal defense, Mr. Wildstein sent a letter
to the Port Authority, pleading his case, arguing against their decision to
not fund his legal fees. That same letter which was delivered on the
Friday before New Jersey hosted the Super Bowl, that same letter was the
one that claimed, quote, "evidence exists tying Governor Chris Christie to
having knowledge of the lane closures."

If there was any George Washington Bridge left to burn between Governor
Chris Christie and David Wildstein at that point, I think with that letter,
you can consider that bridge burned.

And now this -- now these unredacted documents. The unredactions of these
documents that David Wildstein had previously carefully censored.

What`s going on here? Why now?

Earlier this month, David Wildstein`s lawyer met with a special counsel,
the former federal prosecutor who is advising the legislature on their
investigation. The two of them sat down with David Wildstein`s documents
and they negotiated line by line, redaction by redaction, what could
legitimately be excluded from the public record because it really wasn`t
relevant and what information should be released.

They worked together line by line to produce the documents that we got
today, including the new information that was previously secret information
that they decided together now is relevant to the investigation that we
didn`t know before.

And that means that David Wildstein is taking at left a baby steps toward
assisting the investigation, at least kind of.

Two of the other people who lost their jobs in the scandal are doing the
opposite. They`re not only not helping, they`re not handing over
documents. They`re not only not helping, they`re not handing over
documents. They have a court date on March 11th to try to argue to a judge
that the Fifth Amendment protects them from having to hand over any
documents.

But their former colleague, David Wildstein, he`s the one who really got
hung out to dry. Not just fired, but blamed and denied and attacked by the
governor he was so loyal to, and now potentially bankrupted in the process.

David Wildstein obviously knows what happened in this scandal. He
organized the lane closures in the first place. He knows what happened.
He knows why it happened. And presumably, he knows everyone who knew about
it and when they knew.

Has David Wildstein now moved from being part of the traffic perpetrator`s
defense to being on the other side? To being on the side of the folks who
are investigating this bridge scandal? And if he has split from the
defense to the other side, what does that mean for the future of this
story?

Joining us now is Darryl Isherwood. He`s a senior political reporter for
the New Jersey news and information Web site, NJ.com.

Mr. Isherwood, thank you for being here.

DARRYL ISHERWOOD, NJ.COM: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: So David Wildstein and his attorney basically gave themselves up
to the special counsel to show all of the unredacted documents and this is
the product of it.

Will this help him in some way?

ISHERWOOD: You know, it might. I think you may have hit it on the head in
the opening when you were talking about the legal bills. He may have been
forced to turn this stuff over anyway. I mean, eventually, if this
committee was going to take him to court to try to get those unredacted
documents, some judge was going to do what they did, I assume, go through
line by line and see what should remain redacted and what had no bearing or
what need to be turned over.

I think he just saved himself -- you know, I`m sure you guys went through
this as well. I didn`t find anything in there. There`s no smoking gun
certainly in what was turned over. It makes David look bad, but David
looked bad anyway. You know, this -- the whole, making fun of the rabbi
and all that stuff.

You know, his reputation is not coming back from this anyway, so I`m not
sure that really hurts him. It saves him having to go to court to fight
this battle if they try to get these redacted documents turned over.

So, I think it`s just easier for him to go through. They turned over, who
knows, maybe on the other side of it, there was some gray area and the
committee said we can go without that one. You know, who knows what the
negotiation looked like?

But I think you`re right, I think it probably just saved h him some
headaches. Maybe it buys him a little goodwill, maybe it wasn`t. But, you
know, it saves him some grief.

MADDOW: The reason he seems so important here is that he knows everything.
If you had to pick one person who you wanted to get the real story from,
this is the guy you would pick.

ISHERWOOD: Absolutely.

MADDOW: He organized it. He knows what Bridget Kelly was talking about
when he says time for traffic problems in Fort Lee. He likely knows
everybody who was in on the discussion.

You know from going way back in New Jersey journalism and New Jersey
politics. If he has been scorned by Chris Christie, scorned by the people
who previously, he worked with, and sort of blamed for this thing to, and
potentially bankrupted for this thing, is he the kind of guy who would hold
a grudge? Who would lash out?

ISHERWOOD: I don`t know that side of him, but yes, I think so. And the
speculation we`ve all sort of had is when Christie threw him under the bus
with the -- I was an athlete and the president of the student class. I
don`t know what David was doing in those days. You know, it was like we
were at different lunch tables, that had to sting a little bit, considering
he was taking the fall for this thing that I`m sure at the time he thought
he was doing on behalf of the governor.

MADDOW: Right.

ISHERWOOD: So I wouldn`t be surprised if that`s part of it. If there`s
something going on here where he`s saying I`m not going down alone for
this. There were other people out there.

MADDOW: And I`m going to go down, then I`m going to make sure that I`m
going to make it worth everybody else`s --

ISHERWOOD: Yes, you know, we kind of joke about it. When he first turned
over the initial documents, it was like a loaded gun aimed at 10 different
people in the city of Trenton. There were random one-offs in there about
Mike Drewniak, about Kevin O`Toole, that, you know, maybe they needed to be
in there, maybe they didn`t. But they were in there. So --

MADDOW: Yes, he seems like a guy who at least know what is he`s doing,
even if we`re not quite sure yet.

Darryl Isherwood, senior political reporter for NJ.com, Darryl -- thank you
for being here. Appreciate it.

ISHERWOOD: Thanks for having me.

MADDOW: All right. Coming up, the Arizona effect in the Deep South of all
places. That story is next.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific
or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not
heard one example in Arizona where a business owner`s religious liberty has
been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended
and negative consequences.

After weighing all of the arguments I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments
ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: The immediate impact of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer`s decision to
veto Arizona Senate Bill 1062 last night was celebrations. Arizona will
not have a new business climate where your gay friends and your straight
friends may be cannot eat at the same restaurant.

And so, people waved flags and people celebrated and the social
conservatives on the right got very mad on Twitter. But while that was
happening last night concerning Arizona, at almost the exact same time,
this was happening in the great state of Georgia.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TV ANCHOR: Just into our newsroom within the past 15 minutes, after
backlash from gay and lesbian groups the so-called "Religious Freedom" bill
appears dead for this year`s legislative session. Members and supporters
of the gay and lesbian community packed into a hearing this week at the
state capitol. A Senate committee has just pulled that bill from the
floor.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW: As Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was deciding to kill her state`s
religious freedom/discrimination bill last night, Georgia Republicans
decided to kill theirs as well.

And earlier this week, you may remember, we told you about a similar bill
that had popped up in Mississippi. That bill was passed unanimously by the
state senate in Mississippi and was headed towards the Mississippi House.
But then last night, a House subcommittee in Mississippi decided to gut
that bill as well. They removed the "you are free to discriminate" parts
of it and left only the part of the bill that would put "In God We Trust"
into the Mississippi state seal.

We`ve now seen similar religious freedom/discrimination bills tabled or
vetoed or deferred or withdrawn in Kansas and Tennessee and Ohio and Utah
and Idaho and Oklahoma and now Arizona and now Georgia and now Mississippi.
Nine states -- nine state governments have been evaluating this type of
legislation. And in a number of them, it was racing through Republican-
dominated legislatures.

But in nine states, all of a sudden, just in the last few days and in some
cases just in the last few hours, those states have either decided that
it`s playing a little too fast and loose with civil liberties or more
likely that they saw the firestorm that was unleashed in Arizona and
decided no thanks, we don`t really want to deal with that.

It`s never over until it`s over for things like this, for this experiment
in conservative governance -- but if these nine states are anything to go
by, nine states in a pattern, it is starting to look like this one is over.

That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.

Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL."

Have a good one.

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

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