THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
April 7, 2014
Guests: Frank Rich, Lisa Brennan
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for staying with
us for the next hour.
We`ve got a big show tonight. We`ve got a bunch of new reporting
tonight. Frank Rich is here in person, which is great. We`ve got an
incredible story out of Oklahoma.
This is going to be a big show tonight. Thank you for being here.
But we start tonight with these guys. From the very beginning, from
the very first moment that he became a national figure -- the guy next to
Mitch McConnell there, Senator Scott Brown, from the very first moment that
he became a national figure, it was clear there was something a little off
about him. It was clear from the very beginning of his first ever
nationally televised victory speech before he got to his prepared remarks,
it was clear there was something a little weird about this guy, because
this part of his victory speech, this was definitely not in his prepared
remarks, but there he went.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT BROWN (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: I want to thank Ayla and
Arianna for their help as well. And just in case anyone who`s watching
throughout the country they`re both available.
No, no, no. No. Only kidding, only kidding. Only kidding, only
kidding. Arianna`s definitely not available. But Ayla is.
This is Arianna. This is Ayla.
I can see I`m going to get in trouble when I get home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So creepy from the very beginning.
But, you know, Scott Brown did become a U.S. senator-elect that night
back in January, 2010. And once he became a senator, he kept up a rather
rigorous pace of cringe-worthy statements and sometimes just plain being
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
BROWN: Each and every day that I`ve been a United States senator,
I`ve been either discussing issues, meeting on issues, in secret meetings
with kings and queens and prime ministers and business leaders and military
leaders, talking, voting, working on issues every single day.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Scott Brown saying he has been meeting with kings and queens,
secret meetings, he says, with kings and queens. Scott Brown`s office
later clarified that he had not actually had any secret meetings with kings
Senator Scott Brown also was not allowed to see secret unreleased
photos of Osama bin Laden`s body after he had been killed by Navy SEALs,
but Scott Brown apparently thought he had seen those pictures.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I`ve seen the picture. He`s definitely dead. And if there`s
any conspiracy theories out there, you should put them to rest, OK?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Scott Brown had just seen the same hoax pictures on the
Internet that everybody saw on Twitter that day. Where else a lot of
people thought they were a hoax, Scott Brown thought they were real.
The thing about Scott Brown embarrassing himself as a United States
senator is that it was all unforced. It was kind of the fingerprint of
Scott Brown embarrassing himself. It`s not like he would say embarrassing
or wrong stuff in response to difficult questions or being pressed and
backed into a corner on a complicated issue, he would just volunteer this
fake, embarrassing, made-up stuff all the time.
Like some people stub their toe. Scott Brown stubbed his tongue, all
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I can name a litany of Democratic sponsor bills that I`ve
done that never would have passed had it been for me, and the president had
called me and vice president calls me and then Secretary Clinton calls,
asking for my vote all the time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Scott Brown as a senator just would make this stuff up. It`s
totally unforced error. I mean, he just decides to swagger in that
interview about how Hillary Clinton calls and asks him for the vote all the
time. Hillary Clinton is constantly calling me, he says.
Well, when the "Boston Globe" fact checked him the senator`s office
conceded, no, Hillary Clinton was not calling Scott Brown all the time. In
fact he had spoken by phone with Hillary Clinton twice over the course of
his senate career and not at all in the past year before he said, yes,
Hillary Clinton is calling me all the time.
Scott Brown got into the United States senate courtesy of a low
turnout special election held in January, 2010, and that election did end
up being a herald of the huge year that the Republican Party had nationwide
in 2010. Scott Brown was the first Republican who won that year, in a year
when Republicans went on to win everywhere. And because of that, he was a
real nationwide hero to the Republican Party.
But Scott Brown did have to run again to try to hold on to that Senate
seat in 2012. And Scott Brown campaigning for office meant more of Scott
Brown talking in public, which meant more bewildering inexplicable
weirdness for him. First, he tried to raise money by saying that I, me,
Rachel Maddow, was the person running against him for his Senate seat.
That was really weird.
Then when it turned out that his real opponent was a person named
Elizabeth Warren, he decided to run against Elizabeth Warren on the basis
of her ethnic background. He made it central to his campaign against her
to mock her for being part Native American.
And I know it does not sound possible when I put it that way, but that
really is how Scott Brown ran against Elizabeth Warren. He made fun of her
for being part Native American, saying that he could tell by looking at her
that he just didn`t think she was.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: She had an opportunity actually to make a decision throughout
her career when she applied to Penn and Harvard, she checked the box
claiming she was a Native American. You know, clearly she`s not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Actually she is. But Scott Brown said that he could tell
that she`s not Native American just by looking at her with his special
Scott Brown x-ray ethnic vision.
This was a rally from that 2012 U.S. Senate campaign. Scott Brown
staffers and Republican Party operatives doing fake Indian war whoop sounds
and the tomahawk chop gesture to make fun of Elizabeth Warren for being
Native American, which she is.
So, yes, Scott Brown lost. He lost that seat by a lot. He got
But he still tried to be a national political figure since then. He
did some sort of stunt trips to Iowa, as if he was going to run for
president. He also kept up a major profile in social media. The most
well-known thing he`s ever done on social media is probably his night of
incoherent and occasionally belligerent tweeting, picking fights with
people, misspelling stuff and capping it off with this immortal tweet
The senator later explained that "bqhatevwr" should not be attributed
to him, it was his pants. He said he just put his phone in his pocket and
his pocket started tweeting that stuff, it wasn`t him. Bqhatevwr.
Scott Brown has kept tweeting and a few months ago he changed his
Twitter handle as he started to flirt more and more obviously with the
prospect of getting back into the United States Senate by moving to a
different state and running from there instead. As he started to make more
and more noises about running for the seat occupied by Jeanne Shaheen in
New Hampshire, though, it did get awkward that all of his tweets about New
Hampshire and Jeanne Shaheen were coming from his twitter account which was
Scott Brown Massachusetts.
So he had to change his Twitter account to Senator Scott Brown. That,
however, has not stopped a continuing pattern of the former senator getting
confused about where he is, where he is running for office now and some of
the basics about the state he now wants to call home, which is called New
Democrats have very much enjoyed, for example, circulating pictures of
his famous Scott Brown truck still having Massachusetts license plates,
even after he claimed to have moved north. The Democratic PAC American
Bridge sent a tracker to follow him around so they could get him on tape
having signature unforced Scott Brown moments of confusion about even
simple questions like where it is he`s running for office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: When I`ve heard from the Republicans up here is thankful I`ve
been around for a year helping them raise money, helping them raise
awareness as to the issues that are affecting not only people here in
Massachusetts -- in New Hampshire, but also in Massachusetts obviously and
Maine. I`ve been to Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut. I`ve
been all over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I`ve been all over. Where am I now? Where am I running?
You could hear in the middle there that his phone went off. It made
me wonder if maybe the former senator was distracted by the tweeter machine
bingbonging in his pocket, because sometimes his pocket bingbongs on his
Twitter machine without him.
Probably the greatest moment of Scott Brown`s New Hampshire Senate
career so far has been this moment at a Republican fund-raiser in New
Hampshire where he did kind of a Scott Brown riff on the motto of the state
of New Hampshire.
Now, odds are you don`t know what the motto is of your state. I mean,
maybe if you live in Alaska and you`re watching this, you know that your
awesome state motto is "North to the future." That`s kind of a famous one.
But really that`s your best hope.
Really the only state motto that everybody not only in that state but
around the country knows, the only state motto that everybody knows, if you
know nothing else about New Hampshire, you know their state motto. You
know that the New Hampshire state motto is "Live free or die," right? It`s
on the license plates for New Hampshire.
I know Scott Brown has Massachusetts plates on his truck, but you see
New Hampshire license plates and they say right there "Live free or die."
It`s the only thing that everybody knows about that state. Scott Brown,
take it away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So there is a rule for government. And when it works, it
works well, when it`s helping people. But when it`s trying to push its
will on the freedoms and democracy that we have and the ability for us to
lead our lives as we so choose, live free and die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Live free and die. What is it again? Live free and die?
So, it could just be die and live free?
Scott Brown had a hard time as a senator. He had a hard time as an
incumbent senator, losing his seat. And now, he`s having a hard time as a
candidate trying to get back into somebody else`s seat in the Senate.
And you know, the national press still loves Scott Brown. He`s been
able to count on that all along. Even when they try to help him out,
though, Scott Brown still screws it up.
"The Associated Press" recently went up to go see Scott Brown
campaigning for this new Senate seat in New Hampshire. They wanted to tell
a big national story about his comeback effort. Look, now, he`s running in
a different state.
So they`re there to cover him, give him national press for this effort
in New Hampshire. "The A.P." reporter asks him about moving to New
Hampshire, whether it`s a problem for his candidacy that he didn`t live in
the state until five minutes ago. This is his on the record answer to "The
Associated Press". Quote, "Do I have the best credentials? Probably not
because, you know, whatever," end quote.
Do not say whatever. And, no, you do not have the best credentials.
But Scott Brown is running. He has put outward that he is going to
make his official announcement this week that he`s running for Senate in
New Hampshire and he has filed his official paperwork. But because he`s
Scott Brown he had to screw that up. Senator Brown filed his official
paperwork to get into the Senate race but he forgot to list what party he
was applying to run in. Just didn`t check any box. Ah, whatever.
Scott Brown is amazing. And Scott Brown is a little bit of a mess as
a candidate. But a lot of the things that make Scott Brown so amazing,
it`s small stuff.
The biggest problem Scott Brown has is the big stuff about Scott
Brown. The reason he became a national political hero for the Republican
Party is not just because he as a Republican won a Senate seat in blue,
blue Massachusetts. The reason he became such a hero is that Scott Brown
was the first big election for the Republican Party after Obamacare passed.
And his big political success has always represented to the Republican
Party the electoral bounty that Republicans could reap anywhere in the
country, even in Massachusetts, by running against Obamacare. They could
even win in a state that blue, as long as they ran against Obamacare.
Obamacare, Republicans looked at Scott Brown and they decided it.
Obamacare was the best thing that ever happened to the Republican Party. I
mean, the country may look at Scott Brown and think Cosmo centerfold.
Mitch McConnell, though, looks at Scott Brown and thinks Obamacare. Run on
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Senator McConnell, how was Scott Brown received at the
Republican lunch today?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, we`d love to have Scott
back. We`re happy that he`s running for the Senate. He`s an old friend of
ours. And no one`s election victory was more a symbol of public objection
to Obamacare like Scott Brown`s special election in January of 2010.
So, an appropriate candidate in a year in which Obamacare is likely to
be the biggest issue in the fall election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Obamacare is not going to be the biggest issue in the fall
election. Not anymore. And that only became clear this past week when
Obamacare unexpectedly hit the 7 million enrollment number and the White
House got to do their big victory lap over that.
And then two days later, they announced oh, actually another 3 million
people got health insurance under Obamacare on Medicaid. And then, today,
the Gallup organization posted its polling showing that the number of
uninsured people in this country has dropped to its lowest point in years,
and it looks like it`s going to keep dropping further because of Obamacare.
The whole premise of Republicans running against Obamacare is that
Obamacare was going to be such a failure. As it continued to fail,
Republicans could convert that failure of the policy to their own political
capital. Well, now, Obamacare is not failing. And that has absolutely
rattled the cage of every Republican who is running for re-election this
year who was planning for running for re-election by running against
Obamacare, telling their constituents how terrible Obamacare is, how it
doesn`t work and how a vote for the Republican candidate would help get
away -- would help do away with it.
That can`t happen in a lot of places in the country now, and all of
those cages rattled this past week when the data came out, right? The data
came out about Obamacare succeeding. All of those cages rattled.
This week, the week that Scott Brown was preparing to pop out of the
cake as the Obamacare guy now running with 100 percent more New Hampshire.
Live free and die, whatever, right?
Scott Brown was a terribly embarrassing senator, he has always been a
terribly embarrassing candidate, but this is a truly terrible and
embarrassing time to be announcing that you are running for office in the
northeast of all places when the only not funny thing that people know
about you is that you are against health reform, which we`ve just learned
is actually working.
He has to launch this week? This weekend, "The Associated Press" ran
an article that proves that deflation of Obamacare as a Republican
political issue more than anything else so far since the law passed. Very
quietly, about 10 days ago, Republican members of the Congress slipped into
a bill a little fix to Obamacare, a little fix to the Affordable Care Act.
It`s not a very exciting change to the law. It basically makes it
easier for people to get insurance through the exchanges if they work at a
small business. This is not one of those defund Obamacare things. It`s
not one of their repeal Obamacare things like the House Republicans have
done more than 50 times.
This was the opposite. This was a small technical fix to make it
easier for people to use Obamacare to get health insurance. It was a
constructive little change. And the Republicans did it. And this is how
they passed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The question is will the House suspend the rules
and pass the bill HR-4302. Those in favor will say aye. Those opposed no.
In the opinion of the chair, two-thirds being in the affirmative, the rules
are suspended, the bill is passed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That was the whole vote. Ayes, aye. No? No. OK, it
That was the whole vote. They did not do a roll call. People did not
vote one by one with a yes or no next to their name, they did it on a voice
vote so there was no record of how anybody voted on it. They just called
it passed and President Obama signed that into law last week.
"The Associated Press" wrote it up this weekend effectively just
letting people know that the Republicans for all their talk about Obamacare
being the end of the world and how much they`re against it, the Republicans
are now quietly, very quietly recognizing that it is in fact in our
national health care policy now and there are small ways to make it better
so that more people can get health insurance using the law.
Republicans doing that in a way that they hoped no one would notice.
And that is the first evidence of something we knew was coming, which is
that Obamacare has stopped being just political kryptonite. It is not just
something that you yell in a crowded theater to try to panic people in a
political context. It is now just boring health policy. That people might
actually want some of.
Obamacare is a political rallying cry is starting to end now.
Obamacare as a policy issue that affects people`s lives, that`s the new
political reality, so much so that even ole Mr. Whatever Scott Brown, Mr.
"I am against Obamacare", Mr. Scott Brown himself apparently does not even
know what to say now when he is asked in New Hampshire about whether or not
the state ought to expand health insurance access under Obamacare.
Scott Brown, Mr. "I`m against Obamacare," the man who personifies
running against Obamacare for the Republican Party now that he is running
for office right now cannot even answer basic questions about what the
state he is running in should do about Obamacare. He cannot answer the
question, because expanding health insurance in New Hampshire probably at
some level makes sense for New Hampshire. But that is Obamacare, and being
against Obamacare is the one thing people are supposed to know about Scott
Brown that does not make them laugh out loud. Poor Scott Brown, live free
Frank Rich joins us next. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`ve said before, I
will always work with anyone who`s willing to make this law work even
better. But the debate over repealing this law is over. The Affordable
Care Act is here to stay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The same day that President Obama announced that 7 million
people had signed up for health insurance under Obamacare, he said the law
was here to stay, but he would work with anyone to make it better if they
wanted to be constructive about it. That same day President Obama signed a
fix that does in fact sort of make the law better, at least easier to use.
And that`s because Republicans, Republicans had very, very quietly passed
that constructive little fix to the law and sent it to him for signing.
And that may be a Republican political scandal to Republicans, but it
may also in the broader sense be the surest proof yet that Obamacare as a
political issue is running out of steam. As a political rallying cry, it
may be over. Maybe it`s now just boring health policy.
Joining us now is Frank Rich, writer at large for "New York Magazine".
Mr. Rich, it is a pleasure to see you. Thanks for being here.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to see you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Is Obamacare starting to die as a political issue? Is it
becoming just policy now?
RICH: I think it is becoming just policy. I think that as a
political issue, it`s still an issue in the midterms only because it`s a
proxy for Republicans to rally their base because they hate anything with
the name Obama in it.
RICH: So they don`t need Obamacare, they just have to say the word
Obama to get the sort of white, older base that is the Republican base that
turns up in midterms out. But they have -- they`re not for anything really
except being against Obama and Obamacare. It seems to me that Obamacare
could be an issue for the Democrats by starting to say, you want -- young
people, do you want to lose the coverage you`re getting on your parents`
policy? Do you want to lose the policies you`ve gotten?
MADDOW: Well, these numbers from Gallup saying that the number of
people without insurance in this country is dropping at a historic pace.
The Republican like sort of faux substantive critique is too many people
are losing their health insurance under this law. More people are losing
it than gaining it, sort of feels like that will be the last attempt they
can make to attack it in terms of its policy impact. The horror stories
are falling apart, right?
RICH: Right. And also, they don`t have the count anymore. They
don`t have a Web site as a prop and they don`t have, oh, are we going to
get to 7 million. That`s over. That was easy to understand stuff.
Everyone understands a Web site that`s messed up. They don`t have that
Now they have actually insured people. Keep in mind, facts are not
necessarily required for them to keep doing -- you know, being against it,
but the truth is the Democrats can just turn the tables on them. Look at
the Ryan budget, which besides calling for the repeal once again of
Obamacare and those goodies if you will that people now have from the law,
you know, turning Medicare into whatever, premium support or something
that`s obviously going to really hurt Medicare.
So, Democrats have do you want to take away medical care from young
and old, from the newly insured and those who thought they had a secure
MADDOW: Right. It is striking to me in political terms to see Scott
Brown -- I mean, it`s always striking in political terms to see Scott
Brown, but he essentially was conjured from the dust of the Obamacare
hubbub, right? Like there`s no reason that Scott Brown would exist as a
national political figure, he`s hilarious, were it not for him being able
to embody at that particular moment the sort of angry spirit of being
Now that he is running again, seeing him, Mr. Anti-Obamacare, having
no idea what to say when he`s asked an Obamacare question about New
Hampshire, it just sort of felt to me like, OK, the gig is up.
RICH: The gig is up. Yes, he is the litmus test from the beginning
of the shellacking, from the whole Tea Party movement having some success.
It`s literally like the air going out of a balloon. I mean, he can`t even
figure out what state he`s running from, so he has -- I guess the kings and
queens that he faux conferred with will get him up to speed on foreign
policy so he`ll have some stand on Syria or the Middle East negotiations.
But that was kind of -- it`s a great litmus test of how the winds have
changed and he is being blown sort of into oblivion it looks like.
MADDOW: It`s the one policy issue that people associate with him.
It`s the one thing he`s always known how to talk about and he`s bewildered
On the Democratic side of this, I think that the Democrats sense, I
don`t have any insider information on it but I feel like watching the
administration, they sense as the air is going out of the balloon on
Obamacare, so Mitch McConnell looks ridiculous when he says this is going
to be a one issue Obamacare election in the fall. That doesn`t seem true
anymore. That vacuum, I think the Democrats are trying to fill with
populist economic stuff like in particular the minimum wage.
Democrats often try to pivot to populist economic stuff. They use the
minimum wage all over the country whenever they can. They know it drives
turnout. They know it`s good for them.
Do you see that the Democrats are doing that in a skilled way? Do you
think that could potentially could become a bigger issue for them or is
this just basic playbook stuff for them?
RICH: I think it`s basic playbook stuff. I mean, we`ll see, we don`t
really know yet. But I think turnout is such a difficult and tricky issue
for the Democrats without a presidential candidate on the ticket.
They`ve got to get young voters and minority voters who typically
don`t turn up in midterms whereas the Republican base does excited. So,
minimum wage is one thing. I think a Ryan budget eliminating Pell grants
as well as Obamacare and hurting Medicare is another. They`ve got to get
their group out.
So I think it can`t just be one thing, it`s going to have to be a menu
of things, but they have a great opening because the Obamacare debate, what
can you do with it? There`s nothing to debate. It is the law of the land.
It`s not going to be repealed.
And Republicans have to -- Republicans who have gone through this
dodge, we`ll keep the things you like, pre-existing conditions, that`s
nonsense too and can be knocked down in a second. So they could be on the
MADDOW: We are -- I mean we`re seven months out from the 2014
elections, but knowing that Republicans were just planning on running
around Obamacare, I`m waiting to see what they`re going to cook up anymore
and they should let Scott Brown know pretty quick what he`s supposed to be
RICH: Back to Benghazi and kings and queens can tell him what to say
MADDOW: Whatever. Frank Rich, "New York Magazine" writer at large --
thank you very much, Frank. It`s nice to see you.
RICH: Thanks. Nice to see you.
MADDOW: All right. Some big news breaking today in the federal
investigation of the Chris Christie investigation administration in New
Plus, we got a story out of Oklahoma that will curl your hair.
Lots more to come tonight. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the attorneys general for New Jersey, New York
and the United States were all to agree to clothe Mr. Wildstein with
immunity, I think you`d find yourselves in a far different position with
respect to information he could provide.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s your job. We just want answers to our
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Understood.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Understood. That was January.
The lawyer for David Wildstein, the man who operationally organized
the great Fort Lee of 2014 which may have sunk the 2016 presidential
aspirations of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, in January, David
Wildstein`s lawyer said if Mr. Wildstein could just get immunity from
prosecution, David Wildstein would sing like a bird. He would tell all he
knows about what happened in the Christie administration in regard to that
Well, it appears that that may have just happened, and that story is
MADDOW: A federal prosecutor, the U.S. attorney for the southern
district of New York is this man. His name is Preet Bharara, and he`s a
very busy person and a very successful prosecutor. Last week, his office
helped secure a more than $5 billion settlement, billion with a B, against
a company called Anadarko Petroleum. That`s the most any company has ever
paid for spill toxic waste in this country. We`re going to have more on
that coming up actually.
But that multibillion dollar settlement, that was just Preet Bharara`s
office last week. The week before that, Preet Bharara`s office won a
conviction against Osama bin Laden`s son-in-law and spokesman. The
attorney general of the United States came to New York City to congratulate
Mr. Bharara on that landmark conviction and to point out that, yes, we can
successfully and safely prosecute terrorists in the United States. See,
Preet Bharara did it in New York City.
Preet Bharara has also become known for targeting Wall Street law
breaking. Of the 80 insider trading cases his office has brought, they
have won exactly 80 times, so he`s 80-0 on insider trading. But perhaps
nothing has been more fun/depressing about watching him in action than
reading about the public corruption cases brought by Bharara`s office.
Because he prosecutes the southern district of New York state and New
York state offers a bountiful harvest if what you`re looking to reap is
scalps of corrupt politicians, he`s had very juicy days before the cameras.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PREET BHARARA, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: The complaint
sets forth three bribery schemes involving cash payments of tens of
thousands of dollars to elected officials and party leaders. Every New
Yorker should be disheartened and dismayed by the sad state of affairs in
this great state. From time to time the question arises how common is
corruption in New York?
I can tell you based on the cases that we have brought and continue to
bring, it seems downright pervasive. After the string of public corruption
scandals that we continue to expose, many may understandably fear that
there is no vote that is not for sale, no office without a price and no
official clean of corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York is
good at his job and he is the highest profile and one of the most prolific
federal prosecutors in the whole country.
And I point that out today because according to some new reporting,
Preet Bharara`s office has officially joined the investigation into the
Chris Christie scandal in New Jersey. The Web site "Main Justice" is
citing three sources and saying that he`s cooperating with New Jersey`s
U.S. attorney specifically on aspects of the Chris Christie scandal that
involve this man, David Samson, at the Port Authority.
Mr. Samson is a former New Jersey attorney general. He`s one of
Governor Christie`s top political allies. He`s the man who Governor
Christie installed in the top job at the Port Authority.
David Samson has, of course, been a central figure in the bridgegate
scandal. This as yet unexplained scheme to gridlock a small New Jersey
town by closing access lanes onto the George Washington Bridge apparently
on orders from a top level staffer in Governor Christie`s office. David
Samson has a role in that scandal.
Those most directly involved in it described him as helping to
retaliate against other people at the Port Authority who were working to
undermine the scheme and reopen the bridge lanes. Mr. Samson also appears
to have reacted to news of the bridge lanes being shut down by attacking
the people who exposed it rather than being at all upset that it happened
in the first place.
But then in the course of reporters looking in the bridge scandal, out
came these stories one after another about David Samson`s own apparent
conflicts of interest as head of the Port Authority. Did he use his
position as chairman of the Port Authority, this public agency, to try to
make more money for his private law firm or to help his private law firm`s
Well, according to this new reporting at "Main Justice", Preet
Bharara`s office is working with the U.S. attorney in New Jersey to try to
answer that question about David Samson and the Port Authority.
So that is new piece of information number one. The top prosecutor in
New York, Preet Bharara, according to this new reporting, is now involved
in investigating Chris Christie ally and appointee David Samson at the Port
New piece of office number two also broken by "Main Justice", is about
the scope and progress of the New Jersey U.S. attorney`s investigation into
the bridge scandal. We learned Friday night from ABC News that Governor
Christie`s spokesman Michael Drewniak was called to testify before a
federal grand jury investigating the bridge scandal. Mr. Drewniak`s lawyer
confirms that the spokesman did testify under oath to the federal grand
jury on Friday.
Then, late last night just before midnight, "Main Justice" reporter
Lisa Brennan reported that two other Christie officials have also met with
federal prosecutors in New Jersey. They are Charlie McKenna, Governor
Christie`s former chief counsel, and also David Wildstein. That David
David Wildstein has refused to testify to the state legislature. His
lawyer has said publicly that he has more information to offer about the
scandal broadly and about the governor`s alleged role in it specifically,
but before now, we had no indication that David Wildstein had ever actually
talked to anyone. He was asking for immunity but he wasn`t talking.
David Wildstein is one of the two people at the very core of this
scandal. He`s the one who replied "got it" to the e-mail sent by Bridget
Kelly when she wrote "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee."
Mr. Wildstein said "got it" in response to that e-mail and he`s the
one who seems to have carried out that order which originated from Governor
Christie`s office. Again, David Wildstein`s lawyer said publicly and
repeatedly that David Wildstein has a lot of information to share about
this scandal and he will share it willingly if he is promised immunity.
Well, now, according to this new reporting, David Wildstein apparently
has been talking. He has been, quote, "camped at the U.S. attorney`s
office in Newark for the last week."
To be clear, as far as we know this is not David Wildstein testifying
before the grand jury the way the governor`s spokesman had to. This would
seem to be David Wildstein talking privately to prosecutors in some
extended way over a period of days. We don`t know if that means he`s
cooperating with federal prosecutors, but we do know that he was refusing
to talk about if he didn`t get immunity. We don`t know if he has received
that immunity from prosecutors, but he does at least appear to be in
conversation with them.
Either that or maybe he`s working an extended catering gig in their
offices or something. Why else would he be there for days on end?
The other new and interesting piece of information reported today by
"Main Justice" is that apparently, the U.S. attorney in New Jersey, Paul
Fishman, has also just added a bunch of new staff to the three original
staff lawyers who he had assigned to investigate this case.
So it`s been kind of a big news cycle here. ABC breaks the news that
the federal grand jury is now taking testimony from witnesses.
Then, "Main Justice" breaks a bunch of other details in this story. A
second U.S. attorney having his public corruption unit look into David
Samson and the Port Authority. Christie`s former chief counsel has spoken
with federal prosecutors. David Wildstein is apparently talking to federal
prosecutors, raising the prospect that he has been given the immunity he
has been asking for and has, therefore, started singing.
And now, the details that the federal prosecutor in New Jersey is
staffing up, increasing the number of investigators on the case.
It`s on, apparently. It`s on, and it`s much more on than we ever knew
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you aware of when the grand jury actually
began hearing testimony in this matter?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no information about that. As I said,
we`re here because we were subpoenaed to be here today and we`re here
because we were required to cooperate and that`s what we`re doing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does Mike have any information about Governor
Christie`s personal knowledge or direct role --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not going to comment about anything with
respect to that. We`re here, we`re here to answer questions and that`s
what Michael did today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, his spokesman, Michael
Drewniak, spoke to a federal criminal grand jury in the bridge scandal on
Friday. That news was broken by ABC News.
Joining us now is reporter Lisa Brennan. She`s a contributor to "Main
Justice". She`s reported on Chris Christie since his time as a U.S.
attorney in New Jersey. Just before midnight last night, Ms. Brennan broke
the news that David Wildstein has been meeting with the U.S. attorney`s
office in New Jersey about the scandal.
Ms. Brennan, congratulations on this scoop. Thanks for being here.
LISA BRENNAN, "MAIN JUSTICE" CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: So, you`ve reported that David Wildstein spent time camped
out in Newark last week at the federal prosecutor`s offices. Does that
necessarily mean that he is cooperating with them? Should we -- is that
reason to believe that he`s been granted the immunity that he was seeking?
BRENNAN: There is reason to think that might be the case because his
lawyer said that that would be the way that he would talk about the case.
But I think so you can sort of jump to that conclusion. We don`t know
We know that he has a ton of information to provide. Clearly, they`re
interested in calling witnesses now before the grand jury. And so they
want to get his information in order to be able to question other people
and decide who else they want to call.
MADDOW: Do we have any indication -- Michael Drewniak`s lawyer
confirmed that Mr. Drewniak has testified before the grand jury. We don`t
have confirmation that anybody else has actually testified before the grand
BRENNAN: No. No, we don`t.
BRENNAN: And I`ve been told that there`s no reason to think that
Michael Drewniak is the first.
MADDOW: Interesting. OK.
BRENNAN: By someone who would know.
MADDOW: You`ve also reported that governor Christie`s former chief
counsel, Charlie McKenna, a very important person in the administration, he
met extensively with the U.S. attorney`s office. That was back in January?
BRENNAN: Yes, January 20th, the week of the 20th.
MADDOW: Is there -- I guess there`s nothing that we can infer from
the fact that he met with them other than he has had some sort of
conversation with them. Is there any reason to believe that he may be
cooperating with the probe?
BRENNAN: Well, you could think that that might be a possibility.
He`s got a lawyer who was a former prosecutor and it`s very good lawyering
to get in front of a case right away.
So, from his point of view he didn`t want to get buried by the traffic
study cover-up. He doesn`t -- you know, he just was asked to investigate
it by the governor. So he`s trying to figure out where the prosecutors are
headed so that he can plan his own strategy.
MADDOW: How big of a deal is it that the U.S. attorney in Manhattan
has started working, as you`ve reported, on its own inquiry into the Port
Authority side of this, potentially the David Samson alleged conflict of
interest at the Port Authority. Why would two different federal
prosecutors be looking at what is in the big picture sort of the same
BRENNAN: Well, I think they have -- since the port is a sprawling bi-
state agency and the lane closures affected all sorts of people in New
Jersey and heading into the city to go to work or whatever, they feel like
they need to have information on this. And Paul Fishman has been quiet
about the scope of what he`s looking at.
So I think SDNY, their public corruption unit opened up a case because
they felt like they need to know, especially with Samson and his conflicts,
exactly what was going on, because they do have jurisdiction. And some of
it sounded quite serious.
MADDOW: Lisa Brennan, thank you very much for helping us understand
this. Lisa is a contributor to "Main Justice", which broke three
successive scoops on this story in a very quick amount of time. Thank you
very much for being here.
BRENNAN: You`re welcome, Rachel.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: Right in the middle of the state of Oklahoma, there`s a small
town called Crescent. Crescent, Oklahoma`s a town of about 1,000 people.
It`s not too far north of Oklahoma City.
In the mid-1960s, Crescent, Oklahoma became a nationally important
place because of the then booming American nuclear industry. And the
Oklahoma-based oil and gas company called Kerr-McGee decided to open up a
brand new facility in Crescent, Oklahoma, in 1965 that would build nuclear
fuel rods out of uranium and plutonium. These were fuel rods that were
going to be used in nuclear reactors all over the country.
Well, one of the local residents who took a job at that new facility
in Crescent was a 26-year-old named Karen Silkwood. She worked as a lab
tech, processing plutonium for use in nuclear fuel rods.
Karen Silkwood was also a union rep and she started raising safety
concerns about what was happening in the plant -- accidents, safety
standards, workers potentially being poisoned by the radioactive material
they were working with. Karen Silkwood was on her way to meet with a
reporter for "The New York Times" to talk about those concerns at the plant
when she died on the way to that meeting. She died in a one-car crash.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In November 1974, Karen Silkwood died when her
car ran off this highway and struck a culvert wall 25 miles north of
Oklahoma City. Silkwood had been on her way to tell a reporter about what
she believed were serious violations of safety standards at the Kerr-McGee
plutonium plant where she worked. The plant is now closed.
As a union activist, Silkwood had charged workers were being
contaminated by plutonium, a radioactive, cancer-causing substance used to
fuel nuclear reactors. A few weeks before she died, Silkwood herself had
been contaminated. Nervous about her condition, she had taken sedatives.
Local authorities ruled the drugs may have caused her to fall asleep
at the wheel the night of her accident. But some people believe Silkwood
may have been deliberately run off the road.
After more than a dozen investigations no criminal charges were
brought in the case, and Kerr-McGee was cleared of most of the safety
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Despite the suspicions around her death, the company that ran
that plant, Kerr-McGee, was never implicated in Karen Silkwood`s death.
But her family and her co-workers took up her cause. She became
basically a folk hero for people standing up to powerful interests,
standing up for employees in dangerous situations, standing up for people
trying to reform the nuclear industry. Meryl Streep and Cher starred in a
really excellent movie about Karen Silkwood that a lot of people remember.
In the wake of the car crash and the allegations that Karen Silkwood
had evidence to expose unsafe working conditions at the plant, Kerr-McGee
did end up shutting down the plant in Crescent, Oklahoma. But what they
left behind was contamination on a huge scale. It turns out that for
years, Kerr-McGee had been burying on site the radioactive waste that was
being generated by the plant.
A decade after the plant was shut down Oklahoma officials were still
finding contamination levels at the site that were 400 times higher than
federal drinking water standards would allow. But for decades, the plant
just sat there, as litigation against Kerr-McGee wound its way through the
Until late last week, when Kerr-McGee`s new parent company, the mega
oil company Anadarko was officially held liable for the contamination at
that plant in Crescent, Oklahoma, along with thousands of other sites
across the country that were polluted by Kerr-McGee over a period of
decades. It`s being billed by the Department of Justice as the largest
settlement in an environmental contamination case ever, bigger even than
the BP oil spill settlement a few years ago.
Anadarko will now be forced to pay out more than $5 billion, the
majority of which will go toward cleaning up thousands of sites where they
buried or dumped nuclear waste or failed to secure toxic sites in places
like Oklahoma and Mississippi and New Jersey and the Navajo Nation
territory, all these sites all over the country. Two percent of that
settlement was announced last week has been earmarked specifically to go to
that site in Crescent, Oklahoma, to finally clean up what Kerr-McGee left
behind sitting there in 1975.
The U.S. attorney, Preet Bharara, in announcing this new settlement
said, quote, "If you`re responsible for 85 years of poisoning the earth,
then you are responsible for cleaning it up."
Five billion dollars is in fact a whole lot of money, the largest
environmental settlement. But look at this. Look what happened to
Anadarko`s stock price when this huge settlement deal with the government
was announced. It went up?
Yes. Anadarko shares soared. They went up 14 percent on the news
that they`re going to have it pay $5 billion in this settlement. And
that`s because they think it could have been a whole lot worse.
In December, a federal judge had suggested that a fair settlement in
this huge case could be as high as $14 billion. So the fact that it was
only a mere $5 billion, that sent the energy industry into celebration
mode. Five billion dollars? That`s the cost of doing business.
Anadarko`s a $51 billion company. So this fine to them is almost a
rounding error. On the same day they were ordered to pay that $5 billion
fine, investors poured $6 billion back into the company`s stock. They made
money on the deal.
Only in the oil and chemical industry can getting slapped with a $5
billion fine, the largest fine ever in the history of the republic, only in
that industry can that result in a great day for your bottom line. It pays
to be the most profitable industry the world has ever known.
Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL".
Have a great night.
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