ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
March 31, 2014
Guests: Jon Ralston, Don Blankenship, Bob Kincaid
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Steve
Kornacki and I`m in for Chris Hayes tonight.
We begin with news about the man who was identified as a key
independent eyewitness into the investigation of Chris Christie that we saw
last week. That was the investigation that was conducted by lawyers hired
by Chris Christie and purportedly clears Chris Christie while
simultaneously discrediting those who accused his administration of
This man, this witness, from a report, appeared on MSNBC over the
weekend at the suggestion of the Christie administration, then offered on-
air an account I found confusing and self-contradictory, in which I believe
seriously calls into question the credibility of the report that would rely
on him as a key witness.
Matt Doherty, that`s the man we`re talking about. He`s the Democratic
mayor of Belmar, New Jersey. It`s a shore town ravaged by hurricane Sandy.
If you watched my show yesterday morning, you saw my interview with
him. He reached out to us again with another statement, something that
only raises more questions, something we will get to in just a minute.
But, first, we want to start with background on who Matt Doherty is
and why he is so crucial to the credibility of Christie`s internal
investigation. Doherty features prominently in the report that was issued
last week by Randy Mastro. Again, that`s the lawyer whose firm was hired
by the Christie administration to conduct that internal investigation into
the various scandals that are now swirling.
Now, since that report was issued last Thursday, since Christie held
his lengthy press conference on Friday, since then most of the media
coverage is focused on the George Washington Bridge lane closures.
But Doherty`s a key figure in the other Christie administration
scandal. It`s the one involving allegations by the mayor of Hoboken, Dawn
Zimmer. Allegations that two top officials from the administration
suggested to her that her city`s level of Sandy recovery funding was
contingent on her approval of a large development project in her city, a
development project represented by the law firm of one of Christie`s
closest confidants, David Samson. Until last Friday, was also chairman of
the Port Authority.
There`s an active federal investigation into Zimmer`s allegations
that`s under way and much of the Mastro report, a report issued by the law
firm that conducted the internal investigation for Christie, much of that
report is devoted to bluntly challenging Dawn Zimmer`s story. Here`s how
Mastro, himself, characterized Zimmer last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RANDY MASTRO, HEAD OF INTERNAL CHRISTIE INVESTIGATION: We find that
Mayor Zimmer`s allegations that members of the Christie administration
delivered a message from the governor to her threatening Hoboken`s Sandy
aid unless she supported a private development project are not only
unsubstantiated, they are demonstrably false in material respects.
Mayor Zimmer`s subjective perceptions do not match the objective
reality reflected in the hard evidence that we uncovered during our
investigation. In fact, they are contradicted by contemporaneous
documents, witness accounts, and her own prior statements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Dawn Zimmer fired back after that saying, quote, "Randy
Mastro could have written his report the day he was hired, saved taxpayers
the millions of dollars in fees he billed in generating this one-sided
whitewash of serious misconduct by the Christie administration."
Now, this is where Matt Doherty comes in. Mastro`s report devotes an
entire section to him under the heading, quote, "an independent eyewitness
contradicts Mayor Zimmer`s account." Specifically, Doherty was present
when Zimmer had a conversation in May of 2013 with a member of Christie`s
cabinet. That`s a man named Richard Constable who runs the Department of
Community Affairs. The occasion was a televised town hall at Monmouth
University to discuss Sandy recovery. Zimmer and Constable were seated
next to each other at that event.
Now, Zimmer alleges that before the program began, she had a
conversation which Constable suggested to her that Hoboken would receive
the Sandy funds she was seeking if she approved that big development
project -- project that was proposed by something known as the Rockefeller
Zimmer shared with us and then with federal prosecutors a
contemporaneous diary entry that describes what she says happened. Quote,
"We are miked up with other panelists all around us and probably the sound
team is listening and he says, I hear you against the Rockefeller project.
I reply, I am not against the Rockefeller project. In fact, I want more
commercial development in Hoboken. Oh, really? Everyone in the statehouse
believes you are against it. The buzz is that you are against it. If you
move that forward, money would start flowing to you, he tells me."
That`s from her diary. Constable has vehemently denied her charges.
The Mastro report sides with him and sides against Dawn Zimmer.
Sitting on that same stage with Zimmer and Constable on that night was
Matt Doherty. He is the independent eyewitness the Mastro report relies
on, one who supposedly undermines Zimmer`s allegation.
Mastro report says that, quote, "Mayor Doherty heard the conversation
between Mayor Zimmer and Commissioner Constable and was with them on stage
before the start of the show and throughout the broadcast."
And Doherty was, quote, "well-positioned to hear the conversation
between Mayor Zimmer and Commissioner Constable. He was at the end of the
first row and therefore not speaking with anyone else while Mayor Zimmer
spoke with Commissioner Constable. Mayor Doherty said he never heard
Commissioner Constable say anything to Mayor Zimmer in words or substance
along the lines of Mayor Zimmer`s allegation."
It continues, "Mayor Doherty said that he did no hear Commissioner
Constable say anything about quid quo pros or make threats to anyone.
Mayor Doherty observed that Mayor Zimmer may have been associating the
subjects in her own mind but that`s not what Constable said."
So, the report concludes that Doherty, quote, "simply appears to be
telling the truth as he recalls it. And his recollection corroborates
Commissioner Constable, not Mayor Zimmer."
Now, here`s the problem -- when Zimmer first made her allegations back
in January, a reporter for the "Asbury Park Press" who knew that Doherty
had been present at the town hall meeting asked if he heard the
conversation, and he told that reporter that he hadn`t. He also said that
he recalled sitting between Zimmer and Constable on stage. That is a
recollection that is incorrect. As you can see, he was seated a bit off to
Now, none of this, the "Asbury Park Press" story or inaccuracy of
Doherty`s memory, none of that is mentioned in the Mastro report, by the
way. But Doherty is so central to the report`s conclusion that when we
invited Constable to appear on my show over the weekend, his office
declined but then immediately helped us arrange an interview with Doherty
instead, which we did.
We had one basic question we wanted an answer to. Did you hear the
whole conversation between them or not?
Well, we`re still trying to figure out what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The report is stating here that Mayor Doherty heard the
conversation. The report is relying on you as an independent eyewitness
who heard the conversation and can conclusively say this did not come up.
Can you conclusively say this did not come up or are there parts of the
conversation you did not hear?
MAYOR MATT DOHERTY (D), BELMAR, NJ: There may have been parts of the
conversation I did not hear. What I can tell you for sure is, what I did
hear was about hazard mitigation. I never heard Commissioner Constable any
way issue a threat or any quid pro quo. I did not hear Commissioner
Constable in any way, shape or form threaten Mayor Zimmer. Absolutely not.
KORNACKI: Right. And you`re saying you heard -- you`re confident you
heard the conversation?
DOHERTY: I`m confident I heard that conversation.
KORNACKI: She`s making this up?
DOHERTY: Did I hear every word of the conversation? I don`t know.
Could he have whispered it? I guess.
KORNACKI: You observed to investigators that Mayor Zimmer may have
been associating subjects in her own mind. So, you`re suggesting she`s --
DOHERTY: No, no --
KORNACKI: It`s what you told investigators.
DOHERTY: Right, right. What I said -- they said, do you think she`s
lying? I said, I don`t believe she`s lying. I think that she felt -- I
think she felt threatened, absolutely. Dawn Zimmer is not a liar. Dawn
Zimmer is an outstanding mayor.
KORNACKI: You`re saying you heard nothing about a quid pro quo. You
saw nothing in his tone that was threatening. You saw nothing in the
exchange that seemed hostile? You believe she felt threatened?
DOHERTY: Right. Yes, I take dawn Zimmer for her word. I`m just
saying when I was --
KORNACKI: But she`s making up what constable said?
DOHERTY: I`m just saying I never heard what she alleges Richard
KORNACKI: OK. You never heard it and you heard the entire
DOHERTY: And I heard their conversation.
KORNACKI: The entire conversation?
DOHERTY: Their conversation about hazard mitigation. If somehow
there was something else that they were whispering, but they weren`t, maybe
I didn`t hear part of it. But for what they were talking about, no, there
was no quid quo pro, there were no threats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So here`s what I heard from Matt Doherty yesterday. He
said he never heard anything like what Zimmer is alleging but also said
it`s possible he didn`t hear the whole conversation. Then he said he
thinks he does hear it all but also dawn Zimmer isn`t fabricating anything,
even though he didn`t hear Constable say anything she alleges he said.
And then, finally, he said that he guesses it`s possible he missed
part of the conversation if they were whispering, then he quickly adds they
This is the man the Mastro report is relying on to discredit a major
part of Dawn Zimmer`s allegations against the Christie administration. A
man who back in January said he hadn`t heard Zimmer`s conversation with
Constable, who didn`t accurately remember where he was sitting on stage,
but who the Mastro report now touts as a key eyewitness, as the key
eyewitness who discredits what Dawn Zimmer is saying about Richard
If you`re not confused enough, we got this e-mail this morning from
Doherty saying he wanted to clear up things, quote, "If there was any
confusion," he says, "to be clear, regarding the conversation I heard
between Mayor Zimmer and Commissioner Constable on the stage at Monmouth
University, I did not hear Commissioner Constable threaten or use any
language that implied a quid pro quo. Conversation I heard between the two
of them focused on hazard mitigation in Hoboken, Mayor Zimmer did most of
the talking and Commissioner Constable most of the listening. In addition,
it`s my opinion any threat or quid pro quo would be strikingly opposite to
Commissioner Constable`s character as I know it. It`s also my own opinion
that Mayor Zimmer is an excellent mayor for Hoboken and someone I believe
is honest and truthful."
Again, did he or did he not hear the entire conversation? The
accuracy of the Mastro report rests on that question. Matt Doherty doesn`t
seem like he wants to answer it clearly.
Joining me to discuss why this is a crucial point is MSNBC contributor
Brian Murphy. He`s an assistant professor of U.S. political history at
Baruch College and he`s a former managing editor at politicsnj.com.
Thanks for joining us, Brian.
BRIAN MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks for having me on.
KORNACKI: So, look, at the end of all of that yesterday, at the end
of the final question, I asked, I had to sum it up for viewers. He led me
to a point where I thought he had narrowed the possibility of him missing
the conversation to such a theoretical point that he was saying he was sure
he heard it because he said there may have been -- he started by saying,
"There may have been parts I hadn`t heard." But then he says, "If somehow,
there was something else they were whispering, but they weren`t."
KORNACKI: He seemed to eliminate the one possibility they weren`t
saying it. I said, OK, so he surely heard it. He e-mails me this thing
today. What do you make of this?
MURPHY: I think it would be helpful if at this point the Christie
administration would allow or ask Randy Mastro to release all of the
transcripts of all the interviews that he conducted to see the sources and
methods used to put together this report. I mean, it would be interesting
to know since the statement has become contradictory, and he said right on
your show, he said -- well, if I heard something, you know, a bombshell, I
would remember it.
Well, sure. Right, that`s the deal with bombshells. If he hears
something outrageous, you`re going to remember it. It doesn`t mean that
you heard everything.
KORNACKI: I wasn`t clear what he was trying to accomplish because he
allowed at the very beginning, he said there may have been parts of the
conversation that I didn`t hear.
KORNACKI: And every time I tried to follow up on that and say, OK, so
you`re basically saying you didn`t get the whole conversation, he reduced
the likelihood that that happened. He narrowed it and narrowed it. I`m
saying to myself, so this guy has gone from in January telling a reporter,
you know, I didn`t hear anything. And then getting wrong where he was
sitting on the stage. He gets that wrong in January.
Then he remembers it and then he gives this very increasingly, as the
interview went on, confident assessment. This is the key eyewitness that
this report is citing to say, Dawn Zimmer`s full of it.
MURPHY: This is -- Randy Mastro was picked by Chris Christie to be
Chris Christie`s lawyer to produce a report that, you know, by all
reasonable accounts was going to, at the end of the day, exonerate Chris
How you got from "A" to "Z" was the question mark. But the end point
was never really in a tremendous amount of doubt. So, it would be really
interesting to know how did he remember the details of this event. Was he
told by Randy Mastro and Mastro`s associates this is how it went down?
Which is coaching a witness.
Because at this point, he`s being offered as a kind of defense
witness. This isn`t a --
KORNACKI: To make that point, yes, he was -- we called Constable,
cabinet secretary in Clinton -- Clinton? Excuse me. Christie`s office.
And we said, do you want to come on? Said, no. They basically helped
arrange us to get in touch with Matt Doherty.
MURPHY: That`s right. He offered up this independent Democrat. He
doesn`t want to call Dawn Zimmer a liar.
MURPHY: And the fact of the -- you know, he couldn`t have heard. If
he isn`t sitting between them, he couldn`t have heard -- it isn`t possible
that he could have -- that he could rule out anything --
KORNACKI: Everything he says, I don`t believe she`s fabricating
KORNACKI: So if he`s as confident as he says, they may have been
whispering but they weren`t. He`s pretty confident.
MURPHY: He`d like to have it both ways. What you saw in the
interview is a guy trying hard to walk this line where he supports what`s
in the report, he supports Dawn Zimmer, he supports Chris Christie and
Richard Constable and he`s sitting on your show. Thank God he wasn`t on
for the full hour because if that had just gone on forever and ever, who
knows what -- and the e-mail he sent to you just kind of reiterates the
same confusion he showed on air.
KORNACKI: So, broaden this out because this is, you know, one
allegation from Dawn Zimmer against one of these people. But this is the
way that this was presented in the report versus the way that he appeared
on our show yesterday. What does that say about the report more generally
MURPHY: I think the suggestion in the report, what we`ve been finding
as we go through it in general is that they`ve picked and chosen what facts
they want to have bubble up in the narrative, and even in some of the
exhibit documents they`ve included in there, there are things that
contradict what`s in the actual narrative of the report. So, you know, if
it`s a public document, if, you know, I think the million-dollar figure is
probably a lowball. If it`s -- no matter how much it costs at the end of
the day, this is being paid for with taxpayer dollars.
All the parts of this should be public and it would be helpful and
responsible at this point for them to just release everything. Let
everybody see how this was done, how the interviews were conducted, who was
interviewed. We don`t even know who was interviewed.
There`s no reason that it shouldn`t be public because public moneys
are being spent on this report and there`s not really any excuse for that
to not be out there.
KORNACKI: All right. MSNBC contributor Brian Murphy -- thanks for
joining us tonight.
MURPHY: Thanks for having me.
KORNACKI: Coming up next, sometimes what happens in Vegas doesn`t
stay in Vegas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: We all get known and
characterized for how we speak, maybe me more than some others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was especially true for Governor Christie over the
weekend. What he said and the fallout, that`s ahead.
KORNACKI: Coming up, remember the Upper Big Branch mine disaster in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Fourteen months after the worst U.S. mining disaster in 40
years, government investigators today said mine operator Massey Energy had
been misleading safety inspectors. Just last month, the governor of
special investigators said company negligence likely caused the explosion.
Meanwhile, former CEO Don Blankenship has refused to talk to investigators.
He retired last year with an $86 million package, while the company offered
each of the miners` families $3 million.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now, there`s a new film that`s funded by former Massey
Energy CEO Don Blankenship that he says tells the truth about what really
happened. He`s going to be here to talk about it. That`s ahead.
KORNACKI: After Chris Christie`s press conference on Friday, his
first since addressing the George Washington Bridge scandal back in
January, he made a stop to watch college basketball later that night then
hopped on a plane bound for Las Vegas to continue with his comeback tour of
In Las Vegas where he gave a speech on Saturday to the Republican
Jewish coalition talking briefly about a recent trip he had taken to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: I took helicopter ride from the occupied territories,
across, and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand
the military risk that Israel faces every day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Obviously, that anecdote was intended to let the hundreds
of donors the Republican Jewish coalition know they had nothing to worry
about when it came to Christie sharing strong attitudes toward Israel,
especially Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino magnate who briefly
made Newt Gingrich a competitive presidential candidate a couple years ago
by donating $20 million to an outside group that was supporting his
According to nj.com, Adelson entered the room and sat front and center
six minutes into Christie`s speech. That means he was there when Christie
used the phrase "occupied territories" to describe land where Palestinians
live and which Israeli soldiers have a strong military presence.
Now, according to "Politico", Christie was confronted by the president
of the Zionist Organization of America, to which Adelson is a major donor,
about his use of the term. Christie then met with Adelson privately and as
"Politico" points out, clarified in the strongest terms possible his
remarks were not meant to be a statement of policy. He was sorry for any
confusion that came across as a result of the misstatement.
To fully understand the 2016 Republican primary process is to
understand why it`s been dubbed by some the, quote, "Sheldon primary."
This past weekend, Adelson whizzed around on a motorized scooter, often
trailed by GOP operatives and politicians eager to lavish him with praise
and gratitude, including folks like Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Ohio
Governor John Kasich, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. All this leaving a
former strategist for George W. Bush to look at it this way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it`s ridiculous these candidates for
president are trumping out to Las Vegas to kiss the ring of a billionaire
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Well, joining me now is Nevada political journalist, Jon
Ralston. He`s the host of "Ralston Reports."
And so, Jon, maybe it`s ridiculous, but, look, the guy obviously has
more money than any other Republican donor and looms large over the race.
I guess the first question is, you know, you know him. You`ve
reported on him extensively. When it comes to what he`s looking for in a
candidate, issues-wise, what would you say is Sheldon Adelson`s priority
list? What are the issues he`s most concerned about?
JON RALSTON, NEVADA POLITICAL JOURNALIST: Well, I think there are
three really that stand out. Number one by far is the one you were just
talking about which is Israel, which is why Christie got into a little bit
of trouble there then essentially had to go apologize in a private meeting
with Sheldon Adelson. He also cares a lot about online gaming. It`s his
latest crusade. He`s very much against that which Christie also, by the
way, has embraced in New Jersey, but Adelson is spending a lot of money,
he`s hired former politicians like George Pataki and Blanche Lincoln to
head up a front group on that.
The third issue is the issue of unions. He`s fought the culinary
union, the most powerful union here in Nevada for many, many years. I`m
sure that`s why a guy like Scott Walker is right in his wheelhouse.
KORNACKI: Yes, see, that`s really interesting because there`s been
all this talk in the weeks leading up to this that Adelson learned his
lesson from the Newt Gingrich thing in 2012. This time he wanted to back a
more electable candidate.
You looked at Christie before these scandals maybe as that electable
candidate. But then, as you mentioned, on Israel, he stepped it in terms
of Adelson`s views this weekend. You have the online gaming thing.
But then, more sort of basic question was raised. I thought this was
interesting. Ari Fleischer, the former Bush spokesman, he`s close to
Sheldon Adelson, he was quoted in "Politico" today essentially saying
Sheldon Adelson is not always going to back the best candidate.
He said, "If you think people like Sheldon or George Soros or Tom
Steyer are going to be influenced by the thinking of others, you don`t know
the mindset of highly successful entrepreneurial individuals. At the end
of the day, these individuals are going to do what they think is the best
thing to do. It may not necessarily be reflective of the good of the
Has Sheldon Adelson learned anything from 2012 in Newt Gingrich?
RALSTON: I think that most people misunderstand what happened with
Gingrich. That was -- that goes back to 1995, when Gingrich was speaker
and Adelson and he developed a relationship over the issue we were just
talking about, Israel. It was a deeply personal commitment he had to
I think -- people will not believe this, but Sheldon Adelson was naive
about what would happen once he gave all that money to that group helping
Newt Gingrich and change the dynamic in South Carolina. He didn`t expect
to become a focal point. Well, if he didn`t expect to become a focus of
national media attention back then, think what`s going to happen in 2016
when he says he`s going to spend a lot more money and when it won`t be
personal. Now he wants to back someone who will win.
I have to tell you, I talked to somebody very close to Sheldon Adelson
who said he met with all these guys while they were out here. There was no
Let`s face it. Look what the date is. It`s March 31st of 2014. This
guy could change his mind six, eight times before he decides who to back.
I`ll tell you another thing. I don`t think he`s going to back someone
who is out of Washington. I think he likes these governors. I think he
actually likes Christie.
By the way, up until that occupied territories unforced error,
Christie probably had that room enraptured more than any of the other
KORNACKI: Yes, that`s what I was going to ask you about. So,
Christie, the timing of the report being released, the press conference, he
wanted to go out there and say, I`ve been vindicated.
So, you know, just kind of quickly -- take us through how he was
received out there. You said he had the audience captivated. What were
they talking about sort of, you know, behind the scenes with him?
RALSTON: Well, it`s interesting because Christie spoke last in the
morning. As you mentioned, he stayed up late, went to the two NCAA games
and got on a plane very early. He was obviously tired by the time he got
to Las Vegas, gave a speech about 11:15. He was the last speech of the
He was the most anticipated speech. He was by far the most
comfortable of any of them up there. His style clearly was well-received
by the audience.
He was even asked a question, by the way, about bridge-gate in which
he was asked what lessons has he learned? He took it without any sign of
being upset about it at all. Said he learned to be more questioning, gave
the usual answers you`ve heard.
The crowd really liked him. It was only -- I`d say it was half and
half. Half thought he did a great job. The other half were saying, what,
did he just say occupy territories?
KORNACKI: I guess that`s a danger of a trip to Sheldon Adelson land.
Jon Ralston, he`s the host of "Ralston Reports", thank you for joining
And coming up, Obamacare looks like it could be a big success story
for the White House. So, of course, the right is doing everything it can
to knock it down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Obamacare signups hit a new high. Wait until
you hear how the White House hit that number. Did the administration
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That would be illegal, wouldn`t it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Misinformation campaign, next.
KORNACKI: Today, on deadline day: The Affordable Care Act`s
insurance exchanges is poised to hit seven million enrollees. It`s a
number that looked inconceivable just six months ago. That was when the
Web site was having all those embarrassing launch problems.
The influx of up to 1.5 million visitors by noon on the federal health
care exchange led to a brief lag in its ability to handle new applications,
but that was quickly resolved, according to CNBC.
According to "The L.A. Times," Obamacare has spurred the largest
expansion in health coverage in America in half-a-century. At least 9.5
million previously uninsured people have gained coverage. Now, some have
done so through marketplaces, others through private insurance and others
And for the first time, in a major national poll, support for the law
exceeds opposition. The latest "Washington Post"/ABC News poll finding
that 49 percent support the Affordable Care Act and 48 percent still oppose
The most stunning number from today is seven million. That`s the
number of enrollees the Congressional Budget Office had estimated for this
stage of enrollment, a number that often seemed very far out of reach. But
now, with about six million enrolled before today -- excuse me, about six
million enrolled before today, seven million is a very real possibility.
I`m sorry. I`m having teleprompter problems I have never had before.
I`m going to get it back together here. Anyone who at least registers
for health care by midnight will have until April 15 to complete the
process. So after a Supreme Court battle which ultimately upheld the
constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, after a government shutdown
designed to gut the law, after 50 votes in the House of Representatives to
repeal the law, after 25 states had either refused to expand Medicaid or
are still debating it, after states like Florida tried to get in the way of
the navigators who are helping people to sign up on the exchanges, after
all of that and more, Republicans and FOX News hosts were left to question,
without any hard evidence, the credibility of those enrollment numbers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": They still have no numbers
for how many people have paid for coverage, how many so-called young
invincibles have signed up, nor how many people who signed up who were
Senator Barrasso, given that, how much does this six million number
SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: I don`t think it means anything,
Chris. The -- I think they`re cooking the books on this. People want to
know the answers to that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And FOX News resorted to making graphics that tried to
portray six million enrollees as actually only about a third of the
enrollment goal of seven million. Check that out.
Anyway, joining me now is my MSNBC colleague Karen Finney. She`s the
host of "DISRUPT."
Thanks for joining us, Karen.
And I guess my first question after stumbling my way through that is,
as if Obamacare is going to have coverage for teleprompter reading lesson,
but probably not. I think I`m on my own for that.
KORNACKI: But, OK, so, look, we`re talking about a milestone that a
month, two, three months ago nobody thought we were going to hit. This is
-- clearly, the headlines are good for Obamacare. The headlines are good
for the administration.
I can`t help but think, though, since five years ago, when this was
working its way through Congress, to enactment, through a couple of
elections, I keep hearing we finally reached that milestone where people
are going to start saying, yes, I like this law, I`m feeling the benefits,
I`m seeing that it`s working.
And, sure, it`s 49 percent support right now, but that point seems
elusive. When is that point going to actually get here, you think?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I think we`re actually getting
there, because if you take a look at the Kaiser poll from last week, there
was some pretty interesting stuff going on in the numbers which showed that
people are tired of the fight over the Affordable Care Act, and they just
want to, you know, fix what needs to be fixed, and let`s move on to other
But one of the most interesting things is that there`s still a large
percentage of people who don`t know much about the Affordable Care Act.
And, obviously, just as you showed in the intro, there`s so much
misinformation out there and so much money has been spent against the
information, the correct information on the Affordable Care Act.
I actually think that tells us that there is a pretty wide berth,
frankly, and a wide number of people to still sign up and get the correct
information and to then see a change in opinion. And I got to say, so far,
from what we`re hearing, the people who`ve signed up are pretty happy.
KORNACKI: So, I mean, that brings us to the question that if that
change you`re talking about starts to take hold now, I mean, 2014,
obviously we`re talking about an election year, we`re talking about a
midterm election year, though.
KORNACKI: And story of modern politics is, this is supposed to be a
bad year for Democrats because of turnout. And you got Republicans who are
already saying, hey, look, we`re running on anti-Obamacare. We`re going to
do the same thing we did in 2010.
And just realistically, again, given that turnout trend, if this is a
good year for Republicans at the polls, if this is a bad year for
Democrats, and if Republicans run on the anti-Obamacare message, even if
this thing is working, what does that mean for the future of the law?
FINNEY: Well, look, I think what it means, and what people ought to
be very clear about, is, if the Democrats lose the Senate, it means we`re
going to spend a lot more time toward the end of the -- the rest of the
Obama term with -- I think it`s up to 54 votes in the House now against --
to repeal Obamacare.
So I think we would look forward -- we should be prepared for a lot
more of that. But I have got to say something, Steve. Democrats should be
ashamed to run away from this. I mean, I worked in the Clinton
administration, and Bill Clinton tried to get this done, Hillary Clinton
tried to get this done.
And I remember people who -- I had a friend who was like waiting to
have a knee surgery, waiting for health care to pass. And now it`s passed
and it`s done. And it may not be perfect, but it can be fixed. And I
think running away from it is a real shame and I think it is a losing
strategy for Democrats.
I think they need to flip the script on this one and run on it and be
very positive about what`s been delivered for the country.
KORNACKI: You know, the other thing I wonder too, I guess is, look,
we call it Obamacare now, and the administration`s, you know, embraced the
But, obviously, Barack Obama`s going to be out of office come January
2017. We presume this law will still be around, will be even more in
effect then than it is now. I wonder just when the name Obama is detached
from it with the end of his administration if the political polarization
that`s driven so much the opposition to it, maybe is that the moment when
it really kind of melts away?
FINNEY: It might be.
You know, our colleague Perry Bacon from TheGrio actually did research
in Kentucky and found that when you talk to people about, you know,
Obamacare, it was a different conversation than when you talked about the
expansion of health care reform, right?
So I think that has certainly been part of the demonization of the
program, and it shouldn`t be. And I think the administration tried to
embrace it as a way to say, OK, fine, Obamacare, we will call it that.
And hopefully -- the problem has been, though, Steve, as you know,
that that stops people from understanding what`s actually in it, right?
They hear that, and it kind of stops them cold in their tracks almost. And
so, hopefully, yes, at some point, that will end.
And, frankly, also remember, the Republicans are now looking at a
point where they`re having -- they`re going to have to make an argument for
taking something away from people. And they`re going to have to make an
argument for, what are you going to replace it with? And I do think that
starts to shift the conversation as well.
KORNACKI: Yes, and maybe that`s when people find out what Obamacare
is, when they say, we`re taking this thing away from you. Oh, that`s
Obamacare? I want to keep that.
KORNACKI: Well, anyway, Karen Finney, thanks for joining us tonight.
KORNACKI: You can catch her show "DISRUPT" weekends at 4:00 p.m. here
We will be right back.
KORNACKI: It was the worst mine disaster in 40 years, 29 out of 31
miners killed after an explosion ripped through the Upper Big Branch Mine
in West Virginia on April 5, 2010.
The mine had been cited for 124 safety violations that year alone.
Numerous reports found that the corporate culture of the company behind the
mine, Massey Energy, was a root cause of the tragedy.
Tonight, nearly four years after the disaster, the man in charge of
Massey at the time, CEO Don Blankenship, had his own theories about what
happened. And he will be here in person next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Catastrophic explosion
deep underground, and the loss of life is staggering. A lot of questions
are being asked about this mining company. Massey Energy is well-known in
the industry. So is its outspoken CEO.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don Blankenship is probably the most politically
powerful character in West Virginia right now. He is a throwback to the
old coal barons of the 19th century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: On April 5, 2010, an explosion at West Virginia`s Upper Big
Branch mine killed 29 miners in what was the worst coal mining accident in
the United States since 1970.
A scathing investigation released the following year by the Mine
Safety and Health Administration found that the mine`s owner, Massey
Energy, and the Massey subsidiary that ran the mine were largely
responsible for the tragedy, finding they engaged in multiple examples of
systemic, intentional and aggressive efforts to avoid compliance with
safety and health standards and allowed conditions to exist that set the
stage for a catastrophic mine explosion.
Last year, a Massey executive was sentenced to 42 months in jail for -
- quote -- "being part of a corporate conspiracy to evade surprise mine
safety inspections by giving advance warning to miners underground."
The U.S. attorney for the Seventh District of West Virginia, Booth
Goodwin, told ALL IN that the investigation into practices at Massey is --
quote -- "very much ongoing and is one of highest, if not the highest
priority of this office."
The Upper Big Branch explosion was not the first time miners were
killed at a Massey facility. The company and its chief officer faced a
lawsuit from the widows of two miners at the Massey-owned mine in 2006 who
cited a memo the CEO sent to mine superintendents telling them to ignore
requests to do anything other than run coal, including building ventilation
controls called overcasts designed to keep mines safe.
The author of that memo was Don Blankenship, the former Massey CEO who
has long loomed long in West Virginia. Blankenship was known for fighting
unions inside mines. And he bankrolled a successful effort to topple a
He`s railed against regulators and what he calls people of the far-
left communist persuasion. He argues that climate change is a hoax
designed to line the pockets of those pushing cleaner forms of energy.
Today, nearly four years after the Upper Big Branch mine disaster, Don
Blankenship has released a documentary that he says tells the truth about
Blankenship disputes the official finding that the explosion was
caused by a methane explosion that led to a massive coal dust explosion,
which would have been contained or prevented if Massey and its subsidiary
had followed basic safety procedures.
Don Blankenship, the former chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, is
here, and he joins me now.
Thanks for joining us tonight.
So we`re coming up on the anniversary. You have this new documentary.
It`s coming out. Why did you release it? And sort of in layman`s terms
here, because not everybody sort of knows methane and natural gas, these
sorts of things, but in layman`s terms, what is the main argument you`re
trying to advance with this documentary?
DON BLANKENSHIP, FORMER CHAIRMAN, PRESIDENT & CEO, MASSEY ENERGY:
Mostly, it`s to refute most of what you just said.
You know, the company did a very good job at the mine. MSHA was in
the mine, as the documentary says, every day. And, basically, the mine
blew up because of a natural gas inundation, which now people realized.
And it will happen again if something`s not done about it. So, people need
to go to ubbneveragain.com and take a look at the documentary and see for
KORNACKI: Now, I guess the issue I would take with that is there have
been three different reports that have been authored about this -- about
the disaster. One was a federal report. One was a state report. One was
an independent report that was commissioned by Joe Manchin, who was the
governor of West Virginia at the time.
All three of those reports reached the same conclusion. And "The
Charleston Daily Mail," newspaper in West Virginia, reported -- sort of
summarized those three reports, saying that poor ventilation, dangerous
amounts of coal dust, and a corporate atmosphere that valued profit over
safety, that`s what those reports concluded was the root cause of this
You`re saying, no, it`s natural gas. Why should we believe you over
what three reports are saying?
BLANKENSHIP: Well, simply put, because the chemistry says it was
natural gas. And all those reports, they ignore fact.
MSHA, which is the government`s own samples, show it was natural gas,
contained ethane -- ethane and propane. So, all those...
KORNACKI: Can I ask, so why -- they`re ignoring it, you`re saying.
Why would they be ignoring it? Why would all three of these, these
federal, state, independent, why would they all be ignoring it?
BLANKENSHIP: Well, you told some of those reasons, in the fact that I
have been very politically involved, I don`t believe in climate change
being manmade, and a whole host of other reasons.
But the bottom line is that it is natural gas. The mine exploded
because of natural gas. It could happen again. And there are a lot of
things that MSHA is doing today that`s making miners unsafe. And,
basically, you have an opportunity to help us make the mines safer tonight,
if it`s not just a personal attack, but a focus on what really happened at
KORNACKI: Well, I`m not trying to make a personal attack here, but I
have some more questions, because we`re now at a point here where there
have been three sort of high-ranking Massey officials who have faced
federal criminal convictions because of this.
One of them was a man named David Hughart. And in the -- I have it
here. So, this is the plea hearing last year. OK? And what he was
convicted of was basically giving a heads-up to miners when safety
inspectors were coming so that they could then quickly clean up safety
violations and not be detected. That`s what he was convicted of.
And he was asked in this plea hearing by the judge whether those
warnings were part of company policy. And he said that they were ordered
by the chief executive officer, which would be you.
So, was that a policy? Is this correct, what he said in this court
hearing? Is that a policy that you instituted, to warn, to give a heads-up
and say, hey, the inspectors are coming?
BLANKENSHIP: Here was an individual that I fired for the same thing
he was arrested for. He was fired for stealing and for using drugs.
And they tagged on this thing about notification of inspectors, which
is a complete falsehood as far as I`m aware. But the bottom line is, the
mine exploded because of natural gas. The truth needs to be out there.
And it`s worse than that. It`s other things, like changing the way things
are done underground, reducing ventilation, taking away belt air, turning
off miners` scrubbers, creating an environment that`s unsafe for the
And the government is doing that partially out of ignorance and
partially just because of the power they have. And if something`s not done
about it, it`s not going to matter about Dave Hughart or these other
KORNACKI: Well, I tell you, Joe Manchin, who`s known -- the senator
from West Virginia now, the governor when this happened -- he`s known
nationally as a friend of the coal industry.
And he`s featured actually in this documentary. But he put out a
statement today making clear, now that he knows who was behind the
documentary, he wants nothing to do with it.
I want to read this statement and get your response. This is from Joe
Manchin. This is unusually strong terms from a U.S. senator.
He says: "Adroit Films, the propaganda firm behind this shameful
documentary, never disclosed to me the intent of this film. They lied to
my face and told me this documentary was focused on mine safety, an issue I
have been committed to since the Farmington Mine disaster that killed my
uncle and 77 miners. Had I known the film was in any way associated with
Don Blankenship, I would have never agreed to the interview.
"I am not only livid that I was lied to, but I am even more enraged
that Don Blankenship would manipulate a tragedy to promote himself and his
own agenda. I am going to pursue every legal recourse available against
Adroit`s despicable tactics. The most tragic part of all of this is that
the families of these miners are forced to suffer yet again at the hands of
Now, that`s an extremely strong statement from a United States senator
Can I get your response? Did you mislead Joe Manchin? Did he know
that this film was being made by you?
BLANKENSHIP: Now, I didn`t talk personally to Joe Manchin.
But, again, Joe Manchin didn`t say anything in there that is going to
save any coal miners` lives or make it safer or healthier for them. All
he`s doing is spewing the same thing, type of rhetoric that they spew for a
long time to camouflage the truth that the mine blew up because of natural
They can talk all they want to about the things he`s speaking about
there. The documentary didn`t have as a purpose making Senator Manchin
happy. It didn`t have as a purpose to blast anyone. It basically had as a
purpose to make miners safer.
KORNACKI: But was there some kind of attempt here to get Joe Manchin
in, to make it look more credible, to have a U.S. senator in it?
BLANKENSHIP: Adroit Films did it. And what kind of conversation they
had with Senator Manchin, I don`t know. I funded the documentary. I
wasn`t present when Senator Manchin was spoken to.
KORNACKI: All right, Don Blankenship is going to stay with us.
And coming up, we`re going to be joined by someone who has a different
view on coal mining.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: Don Blankenship, the man directly blamed for this tragic
accident, believes that he has always done his best to live up to his
responsibility for miner safety.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And joining me now is Bob Kincaid. He`s radio broadcaster
on the Head On Radio Network in West Virginia and the co-founder of the
Appalachian Community Health Emergency Campaign.
Still with me here in New York is Don Blankenship, the former chairman
and CEO of Massey Energy.
Bob, I will start with you. You heard the last segment. Don is
making this case that we have had this federal investigation, the state
investigation, this independent investigation. He says they all ignored
the root cause of this disaster; the root cause had to do with natural gas.
Just get your response to what you heard in the last segment.
BOB KINCAID, HEAD ON RADIO NETWORK: Steve, I not only heard what Mr.
Blankenship had to say. I also watched his film.
And while the first several minutes of it are the typical pro-coal
propaganda that we`re used to here in the Appalachian sacrifice zone, the
fact of the matter is, this isn`t a search for truth, nearly so much as it
is Mr. Blankenship`s personal search for an alibi.
At least, that`s the way I saw it, in light of the fact of -- in light
of what the U.S. attorney has been doing thus far.
KORNACKI: Well, personal search for an alibi? I will give you a
chance to respond to that, Don.
BLANKENSHIP: I think anybody that knows the law would think no one
would do this that was looking for an alibi. To be outspoken about what
really happened, most people would recommend against it. So, it`s just the
The bottom line is, the mine blew up because of natural gas. The
government had taken a lot of air off the face. Even today, they`re
turning continuous miner scrubbers off, which makes no sense to any of the
It`s ridiculous, what`s going on. And it`s unfortunate that the media
won`t look at the truth for themselves. I mean, if there`s ethane in the
gas, if there`s propane in the gas, it`s natural gas. If it`s natural gas,
why don`t -- why doesn`t the media at least acknowledge it was natural gas
and then we will go from there?
KORNACKI: Well, so, Bob, back in West Virginia, we`re approaching the
anniversary. I think it`s, you know, next week now.
What -- the timing of this, for Don Blankenship to be releasing this
documentary, and making -- making a case that goes against the three
reports that are out there, are you hearing anything in the community,
anything from the families? You know, are they anxious to see this
documentary, to hear this version of events? Or is this rubbing them the
KINCAID: Steve, this is a crying shame, is what it is.
The fact of the matter is, old wounds are being reopened, and at least
a couple of families are more than a little bit upset about this that I
have been able to hear of thus far.
The fact of the matter is, what Mr. Blankenship says about all the
methane, the natural gas, the film is full of speculation about that. But
there`s nothing in the 51 minutes that I watched that`s even remotely
concrete. The people whose families suffered through this, who have
suffered as a result of Mr. Blankenship, well, frankly, they don`t deserve
to be dragged through this all over again.
Mr. Blankenship`s record speaks for itself. He has a trail of death
and destruction behind him at Upper Big Branch, at Aracoma, as you
mentioned. He has scores of violations. It`s the way he ran his business.
And, ultimately, even people who didn`t work for him, didn`t work
around him, but merely lived in communities near his operations are
suffering, feeling a health crisis that`s expanding all over Appalachia as
KORNACKI: All right.
And I -- we`re running out of time here, but, Don, after that, I want
to give you 30 seconds to get the last word in here.
BLANKENSHIP: Well, I think what I`m trying to do is prevent other
families from suffering. And that is what is going to happen if the
government doesn`t quit running roughshod over the coal mines and give
people with expertise the opportunity to run their mines.
And it`s -- it`s insane to continue the policies that MSHA is taking
Bob Kincaid from the Appalachian Community Health Emergency Campaign,
and Don Blankenship, former chairman and CEO of Massey Energy, thank you
both for joining us.
That`s ALL IN for this evening.
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