UP with STEVE KORNACKI
April 20, 2014
Guests: Basil Smickle, Pia Carusone, Blake Zeff, Dahlia Lithwick, Haley
Adams, Raul Reyes, Adam Green, Jon Bramnick, Mike Acocella, Lis Smith, Lisa
Brennan, Brian Thompson
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Striking back at the NRA.
We have a lot of news to get to this Easter morning including evidence of a
new interview conducted by the Christie administration`s legal team after
the Mastro report was released. It`s an interview that we believe came
about because of something that happened on this show. It`s also a word
out of South Korea at this hour that more bodies have been recovered from
that passenger ferry which capsized with hundreds of people on board.
Confirmed death toll is now above 50 people. Divers have finally been able
to find the way inside the sunken vessel. The death toll is expected to
rise dramatically with around 250 people still missing. We`ll have more
updates this morning as details become available there.
But we begin this morning with one of the most prominent and one of the
richest voices seeking to change the nation`s gun laws almost all by
himself. In what is only his fourth month in office, the new mayor of New
York City was making headlines this week whether these retro-looking
electronic buggies would someday replace horse drawn carriages in Central
Park. But the bigger news this week was being made by his predecessor, by
the former mayor of New York. Michael Bloomberg may not have been - having
official role in politics anymore, but he now has lots of time and he still
has plenty of money to contribute to causes that he cares about. And the
former mayor told the "New York Times" on Tuesday that he is set to pour
$50 million into efforts to promote stricter gun safety laws this year. In
case you missed that, that`s $50 million from one man on one issue, kind of
becoming a pattern in politics these days. His goal is to outdo the
powerful National Rifle Association, which right now spends about $20
million a year on its political outreach.
Bloomberg has already sunk a good deal of cash into his efforts. In 2012
his Super PAC Independence USA spent more than $10 million on candidates
who supported gun safety, gay rights, education reform. That included
astounding $3 million in one California house race, where he helped
Democratic challenger Gloria Negrete McLeod oust incumbent Democrat Joe
Baca, mainly because Baca had an "a" rating from the NRA. Bloomberg
described his multimillion dollar said he is just getting his feet wet.
His new push unites the two advocacy groups he funded while Mayor into one
of the large grassroots effort, Mayors against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand
Action are now working together under the umbrella group every town for gun
safety. Former mayor says the new effort will focus specifically on
extending background checks and will campaign at a state and national
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BLOOMBLERG: This is not a battle of dollars. This is a battle for
the hearts and minds of America so that we can protect our children,
protect innocent people. If you take a look at the number of people who
use illegal guns to commit suicide, the number of people that are killed
every year, we`re the only civilized country in the world that has this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Yes, the public is with Bloomberg, at least to a point. Polls
continue to show overwhelming across the board support for background
checks. If you take a step asking and ask a more philosophical question,
do you think we need more strict gun laws or less strict? Opinion becomes
a little more divided on that. A poll back in December found a slight
majority of Americans saying more strict. Other polls have shown that it`s
even tighter than that. And in politics it`s the most passionate mobilized
constituency that has the biggest impact, which is where the biggest edge
for the gun crowd has long come from. Gun rights backers are more likely
to give money to groups working on gun policy. We also contact their
public officials more, so to turn this around, Bloomberg is looking to win
support from a pivotal constituency, women. Here`s the founder of Moms
Demand Action, and now board member of Every Town for Gun Safety, Shannon
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHANNON WATTS, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOUNDER: Right now women vote on
abortion, health care and jobs. We want that to be gun violence
prevention, gun violence prevention, gun violence prevention.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: It`s women who generally win or lose elections for Democrats.
In the group`s new video already seen by more than a million and a half
people was targeted squarely at mothers. Bloomberg has made it clear that
anyone, Democrats or Republicans who oppose stricter gun laws will be
targeted by his new group.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLOOMBERG: And what we have to do is convince those in both the parties
who are running that this is what the American public wants, and when they
get through their ply mares and they come to a general election, they`re
going to have to be right on guns.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, just last year Bloomberg showed his willingness to go after
Democrats when his group ran a TV add targeting Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor
for voting against expanded background checks. His group announced
targeting five Democrats and ten Republicans including names like Heidi
Heitkamp of North Dakota, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North
Carolina. Mark Pryor returned the favor with an ad of his own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D) ARKANSAS: It`s running ads against me because I oppose
President Obama`s gun control legislation. Nothing in the Obama plan would
have prevented tragedies like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson, or even Jonesboro.
I`m committed to finding real solutions to gun violence while protecting
our Second Amendment rights. I`m Mark Pryor, and I approved this message
because no one from New York or Washington tells me what to do. I listen
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And while Bloomberg is going all in it, his push for expanded
background checks, many wonder how much sway the billionaire and New York
City mayor or former mayor can have across the more conservative parts of
the country? His push to ban big sodas and transfats has been roundly
mocked by conservatives. And they have another field day with this gem
that he gave "The New York Times" on Tuesday when he said pointing to his
work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, Bloomberg said with a
grin, "I`m telling you if there`s a god, when I got to heaven I`m not
stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my
place in heaven. It`s not even close." Not exactly a statement to
humility to endear himself to wavering swing voters or maybe St. Peter as
Last year Bloomberg spent $12 million in ads in the lead up to the Senate
vote on the (INAUDIBLE) to the gun background checks bill, but he had
little to show for it. It failed in the Senate and it didn`t come to a
vote in the House. Right now President Obama can`t get his pick for
Surgeon General confirmed because his nominees expressed support for gun
safety measures. If you look ahead to the midterm elections, "New York
Times" reported this week that gun giveaways are cropping up across the
country as a popular tool for conservative candidates running for election
this year. South Carolina State Senator Lee Bright is challenging Senator
Lindsey Graham in the Republican primary down there, and he`s given away
two guns including an AR-15. Georgia Congressman Paul Brown, who`s vying
for the Republican Senate nomination there offered a choice of a colt
assault rifle or a handgun. Raffles like these have drawn thousands of
entries, scooping up coveted voter information like emails and phone
numbers along the way.
So, the question is can Bloomberg`s millions help energize voters and
supporters of stricter gun control in the same way? Can an infusion of $50
million and the focus on grassroots mobilization rival the nearly 150-year-
old NRA? Here to discuss whether a billionaire can change the course of
gun control politics in America, we have Basil Smikle Jr. He is a
Democratic strategist and a professor at Columbia University, MSNBC
contributor and former congressman from Pennsylvania Patrick Murphy, a
Democrat. Blake Zeff, he`s the columnist and politics editor at Salon.com
and Pia Carusone, she`s the executive director at Americans for Responsible
Solutions, a gun safety group founded by former Congresswoman Gabby
Giffords who was tragically wounded by a gunman in 2011.
So Pia, I guess I`ll start with you, because you are sort of -- you`re
right in the middle of the same fight that this new sort of joint, you
know, Bloomberg Mothers Demand Action group, this merged group. He says,
you know, $50 million, we want to do grassroots, we want to go after
Democrats and Republicans. Background checks is the main issue here. What
do you make of the announcement this week? Are you optimistic about this?
Is this a good sign?
PIA CARUSONE, AMERICANS FOR RESPONSIBLE SOLUTIONS: Absolutely. I mean the
part of the problem here is that you mentioned the NRA spends about $20
million a year on politics, but they have about a $200 million annual
budget. So, we`re talking big, big corporate money from them. They`re
able to attract corporate donations from folks in the gun industry. So
we`re really actually short on cash. This $50 million commitment is
superb. We need a lot to start to make a difference on this. One of it is
KORNACKI: Well, yeah, so what do you want to see the money go to? Because
I`m looking at -- we showed and we talked earlier about the ads that he was
running, that his group was running early last year when background checks
were an issue in the Senate.
KORNACKI: They went after Mark Pryor, they went after some Democrats, got
a little push back from like Harry Reid saying how dare you do this. At
the end of the day they didn`t get the background checks bill through. We
were talking about this on the show yesterday. Mark Pryor suddenly looks
like he`s doing OK when it comes to re-election. I don`t think he even
hurt these senators deliver any kind of message to them. So, where do you
want to see that $50 million spent?
CARUSONE: Well, I mean, you know, part of the problem also is that the NRA
has been very good at manipulating this conversation. And frankly, as the
president said a year ago, the day that they mentioned vote failed, they`ve
lied, literally lied to the American people about what was in that bill and
what the consequences would be had it passed. So, I think when it comes to
the politics of it, you`re dealing with conflicting voices. And the truth
is somewhere in between. But look, we want the money to be spent on
political ads, on organizing. Our group is doing the same. We`ve already
raised more than the NRA spent last cycle in their politics. So, there`s
money in this for the first time on the side of common sense, responsible
solutions to the obvious tragedy of gun violence in this country.
KORNACKI: Basil, you wrote about this on Thursday on the "New York Times"
site. You said "High incumbency rates and aggressive gerrymandering have
insulated many House members from this issue. Focus on local legislative
and mayoral races can influence state legislatures to tighten gun laws."
That`s your advice. So you`re almost saying bypass Congress? You`ve got
to go state and local?
BASIL SMIKLE JR., POLITICAL STRATEGIST: Well, I don`t think you should
bypass is altogether, but remember, there is some extraordinarily high
incumbency rates. It`s just really difficult to unseat an incumbent.
There are some notable exceptions, especially when you are talking about
single issue candidates that generally don`t win, but someone like a
Carolyn McCarthy here in New York, you know, she - her, I think brother and
husband were impacted by the shooter on the Long Island railroad. And she
unseated an incumbent who voted against gun control laws. So there are
some exceptions. But I also think if you`re talking about transporting
guns from Virginia to New York, for example, you can impact some of the
state legislative races that can tighten some in-state gun laws. So, it`s
not just focusing on Congress. My advice is also focus on some of those
local legislative races.
KORNACKI: You mentioned the story of Carolyn McCarthy, she`s retiring from
Congress this year. It`s been close to 20 years. She got in there because
of the Long Island railroad massacre in December of 1993. And it was
around that time that there actually was the last real gun control push in
this country, the Brady Bill, five-day waiting period came through around
that time, the assault weapon ban Bill Clinton came through around that
time. And when I was think of his back around that time there was - there
were incidents like that that sort of animated the discussion, but there
was also a very high crime rate in this country.
When you took a poll back then, you asked the people what`s the top
question facing the country, crime would be number one and number two. If
you ask about violent crime right now, it comes way down in polls. And I
can`t help but think that`s part of what - We`ll have these horrible
incidents at Newtown, and for a week people say, why don`t we do something
about this? But because the overall crime rate isn`t that high, the
momentum for the issue maybe isn`t there as much.
FMR. REP. PATRICK MURPHY, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Momentum, Steve. When you
look at every day there`s 33 Americans that are killed by gun deaths. And
by 2015, next year, young people will be killed by gun deaths that will be
the number one killer of young Americans, and even more than car crashes.
So, when you look at the younger generation who are showing the political
courage. You look at generation progress, they just started the fight for
the 33. The 33 markings (ph) code every day. And Bloomberg is brilliant.
He`s like a bulldog on a bone on this issue, because he`s saying, no, Pia
mentioned earlier, assault weapon ban. I cosponsored the assault weapon
ban, OK? But that only kills - I shouldn`t say only, but it kills 400
people a year. Over 31,000 people a year are killed by handguns, whether
it`s suicide or a violent crime. And that`s where Bloomberg is focusing
like a bulldog on a bone.
Going after background checks, to limit handguns going in the wrong hands.
KORNACKI: So, what`s the - Blake, what`s the - as we said, there was
limited success last year when it came to Bloomberg`s group. There was
also, we should mention there was this sort of a litmus test of gun control
politics in a swing state out in Colorado last year. Two recalls of
Democratic state senators in Colorado got a lot of national attention. It
was a surprise. Bloomberg`s group came out and tried to help these people.
They both were defeated. One was the state senate president out there.
They were both recalled because of gun control. You know, he`d seen to be
going after Mark Pryor and other Senate Democrats, seems to have backed
off. It doesn`t seem to have hurt them. What do you think strategically,
you know, what can they do differently to have a different result?
BLAKE ZEFF, SALON.COM: Yeah, I think there are two things. One is, you
know, I was talking with one of the top strategists from the Brady campaign
back in the `90s who helped get the big gun safety package back then, and
he was saying that given where we are now you have almost half of
households in America that have firearms in the home. And you need to stop
getting out of this framework, anti-gun and pro-gun. And this one of the
things, I think, Pia`s group does a really good job. We have to reach out
to gun owners. The vast overwhelming majority of them do not mind getting
a background check, do not want these military style rifles. These are
people who can be allies in the cause. And if you stop getting out of that
frame, you know, some people even say stop calling it gun control, talk
about gun safety reform. This frame of anti-gun and pro-gun only benefits
the NRA. So, sort of getting out of that frame is one way to do it. The
other way to do it, but I think, you know, this is something that Michael
Bloomberg has always sort of had this romantic fantasy that the great ill
in society is partisanship. And so, he loves to claim that every -- on
every issue both parties are equally to blame. Republicans are bad,
Democrats are bad, I`m going to go after both. Well, let`s be honest here.
If we end up with a Republican Senate in the United States Senate, that`s
not going to be very good for his cause. So, if he goes after a Democratic
incumbent like Mark Pryor and doesn`t have a better alternative, and you
end up with a Republican who`s worse on the issue, that may be pretty
counterproductive. So, I think what he needs to .
KORNACKI: Go from an A-rating to an A+ rating.
ZEFF: That might not be the best - of his time, but if he is going to go
after people in Democratic primaries, great, if you have an alternative,
KORNACKI: Let`s - Patrick wants to get in, and we`ve got to squeeze a
break in here. I want to pick up this conversation about what exactly
Bloomberg is doing here. Some more of the things he said this week. This
is a very interesting interview he gave this week. We`ll read some more
from that and talk about it when we come back.
KORNACKI: So, Blake was just making a couple of points there about the
strategy he thinks Mike Bloomberg`s new group should be taking. And
Patrick, I know, you wanted to say something?
FMR. REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Yeah, I was going to say, you
know, we can criticize the Senate for not having the political courage to
do the right thing about a year ago. But at least it came up for a vote in
the Senate. The Republicans control the House. They didn`t even bring
this up for a vote. So, there`s a major difference between the two parties
when we talk about gun safety. But I will say again, I`m excited the fact
that Bloomberg and the groups are focusing on the background checks,
Because that would be the number one basically effort we could do to reduce
KORNACKI: Yeah, it`s the most attainable, but I want to - I also want to
pick up on a point that Blake was making about, you know, trying to find
common ground here with gun owners and not make this be seen as a threat to
them. And I think we want to show one thing. This is another quote from
this Bloomberg "New York Times" article this week where he says, I don`t
know what your perception is of our reputation and mine. The name
Bloomberg around the country," Bloomberg told "The New York Times" He
continued explaining that wherever he goes people tell him you`re a rock
star. People yelling out of cabs, hey, way to go.
And Jamelle Bouie who was on that show a lot, was writing at the "Slate"
about why he thinks Bloomberg is a terrible front man for this campaign,
maybe for these exact reasons. He said, "Put simply, Bloomberg is
sabotaging himself by stepping up as the public face of this effort.
Otherwise receptive Americans may recoil at supporting a figure who
represents the nanny state authoritarianism of wealthy New York City
elites." And what Jamelle was talking about, was traveling to political
events - Republican events last year like down in Virginia, seeing Rand
Paul show up, hold up the Big Gulp in front of these Republican crowd -
it`d be like Mayor Bloomberg wants to take this away and wants to take my
gun away, too. And it`s just the idea that Bloomberg had - if you want to
bring gun owners on board, they see Mike Bloomberg, they run for the hills.
SMIKLE: Yeah, I mean the thing about Bill Gates, Bill Gates has put a
tremendous amount of his own money into funding education programs, health
care programs in the United States and across the world. He`s the public
face, but we know that he has a major operation behind that. And I think
as Pia was - we were talking a few minutes ago, having a big operation and
some significant organization on the ground sort of insulates both Mayor
Bloomberg and the policy here from those kinds of attacks. You don`t want
to make it seem like it`s elitist. You don`t want to make it seem like
it`s just an urban problem. And you have to be mindful of the fact that
there are a lot of people across the country that feel that gun ownership
is cultural. It`s part of what they consider to be American authenticity.
And I think If Bloomberg and the staff that`s working on this could
understand that, you would be more successful.
KORNACKI: Oh, it`s what makes - a lot of people in Arkansas think, hey,
this is why we`re Arkansas and this is why they`re New York City. And we
played that Mark Pryor ad. Who`s like, I`m not listening to the guy from
New York City, I`m listening to Arkansas. And it seems an effective
CARUSONE: Well, you know, the poll that you showed earlier in the last
segment talking about the specific policy proposals having higher support
than a generic notion of gun control, right? That`s because we have a
trust issue. I mean, you know, we have a group of Americans, gun owners,
who look at the leadership in this country, the president, the speaker of
the House, Mayor Bloomberg, all great people, former speaker of the House,
I should say who are not gun owners and who don`t understand gun culture.
And when you see them trying to, you know, push policies that would, you
know, regulate or restrict in any way, they get nervous. So that`s kind of
why former Congresswoman Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly are in this fight.
Because they are gun owners. Gabby is a blue dog her whole career, very
moderate from Republican district in Arizona, you know, they get it. So
that`s sort of what we are trying to do - organizing the gun owners and
KORNACKI: Do you agree that Bloomberg is saying here, look, the goal here
is background checks. Do you share that as your main goal?
CARUSONE: Yeah. I mean, there`s no one sort of perfect answer to solve
the gun violence problem in this country. But background checks is the
simplest, easiest thing we can do today. It already happens around the
country. Background checks are occurring in every state today.
KORNACKI: So, how big - I mean because the counter to that I hear a lot
is, like, you know, and it`s a rationalization for people voting against
it, but they say it wouldn`t have prevented Newtown. I wouldn`t have
KORNACKI: So, how much would it actually accomplish? Or would it just be
more like, hey, we got something on guns through, we proved it could
happen, and it opens the door for doing more.
CARUSONE: Well, it`s, I mean - - look, so you bring up Columbine. Today
is the 15-year anniversary of the Columbine shooting. The way that
happened is those two men couldn`t pass a background check because they
were under 18. So they had a friend who was over 18 go and try and buy the
gun and was successful buying it. So, there is always more we can do to
strengthen that system. But yes, I mean it`s not going to solve every
shooting, but does that - is that a reason not to do it? I mean roughly 60
percent of gun sales happen through a background check. 40 percent don`t.
40 percent happen completely anonymously or without any check at all. And
that means that folks that have intent to do harm or are suffering from
really dangerous mental illnesses have access. So, why we - it`s why can`t
we solve that? I mean I understand the debate gets harder when you start
to talk about which guns should be allowed, and how many bullets. That
gets tough. And we need to have an environment where we can all have that
conversation in a more trusting way. Because right now it`s one side
screaming at the other. And what`s lost is the middle of this country, and
that`s actually where most people are on this issue.
MURHY: And if I could just jump in, that`s why Gabby Giffords is such an
important figure. Gabby and I came into Congress together. We`re both gun
owners, I`m still gun owner. But the fact that this effort now, this $50
million push is targeting mothers. So, if I have someone like Gabby
Giffords and her husband who is a veteran, saying listen, we`re gun owners,
we are not trying to take away your guns, but there are common sense
solutions we could find and if Washington isn`t going to have the parochial
carriage to do the right thing, we need to stand up as a country, because
it is a disgrace that 33 Americans are killed every single day.
KORNACKI: So, Blake, where -- look at the 2014 landscape. Is there
anywhere we can look this year and say, hey this is going to be a test of
ZEFF: It`s a little soon, I think, for that. Because the organization is
just starting. And I would defer a little bit to Pia for specific targets.
But one thing I think is going to be really key in terms of deciding how
successful it`s going to be, is how well these groups work together. So,
it`s great that we have, you know, that we have former member of Congress
as a potential face of this. And we have the resources of Michael
Bloomberg. We have many other gun safety reform groups with their own
agendas. If we can get them all on the same page, that`s going to be
really critical. Because one example, they are not the same issue, but in
New York state they were trying to get marriage equality for several years.
So many different groups working across purposes. And what they finally
did was they all came together under one umbrella group and basically said
this is going to be our strategy this year, this is how we`re going to do
it. We`re all going to speak with one voice and this is how we are going
to get it done. You have got very well-meaning people in the gun safety
reform movement who all want to get the same thing done. It`s all matter
of speaking with one voice and really consolidating all the resources.
MURPHY: Enduring, but also accountability. Because look, Bloomberg - Joe
Baca is not a member of Congress because of Mike Bloomberg, and he`s with
Democrats. And he made people accountable. And that`s what the NRA does
every single time. Listen, I voted -- I`m a Second Amendment guy, and I
voted sometimes what I thought was right for - D.C. gun rights and stuff
like that. I still got an "f" from the NRA, even though I`m a vet, I`m a
gun owner. I was with them on some issues. But when it came to background
checks and the assault weapon ban, I wasn`t. So that made me - what they
call me - an enemy of the state basically.
KORNACKI: That gets to what Basil was writing about with sort of the
gerrymandering nature of these districts. There are a few districts like
Baca where you`re exposed in the Democratic primary if you`re pro NRA and
you are not going to pay a price for being sort of pro-gun in the general
election, but in a lot of cases, you saw it more with Arkansas, where it`s
a tough question. If you are a gun control supporter, and you want to go
after, you know, Pryor in the primary, you are going to face a very hostile
general election. That`s something to - that`s a long-term problem. I
want to thank Blake Zeff with Salon, Pia Carusone from the group Americans
for Responsible Solutions, MSNBC contributor Patrick Murphy "Taking the
Hill" air next Sunday. At 1 p.m. He`s the host of that. Thank you all
for joining us this morning.
And up next, the showdown over the next hypothetical nominee to the Supreme
Court. And later, out of all of the 75 interview memos released this week
by the law firm that conducted the internal investigation into Chris
Christie, exactly one of them involves a change that was made after the
report`s released. And we believe that change has something to do with
something that was said on this show. The details are still ahead.
KORNACKI: In just the last month, the Senate has voted to confirm nine of
President Obama`s nominees for federal judgeships. This might be the first
time you`re hearing about it because confirmations like these have become
kind of routine. And that is also a new phenomenon. The smooth routine
judicial confirmations. It`s the result of something that Senate Democrats
did last year while Republicans howled. It was last year that Harry Reid
partially detonated the so-called nuclear option. He and Democrats changed
the Senate rules to effectively ban the minority party from blocking votes
on federal judges for appointees to the executive branch jobs. With the
Republicans in the minority in the Senate and blockading a whole series of
critical nominees, the move back then made tactical sense. And you can see
the results that it`s producing now. But what happens if Republicans win
back the Senate this November and become the majority party? What happens
if they once again have the power to keep every presidential nominee,
judicial or otherwise from getting a vote? If, say, Stephen Breyer or Ruth
Bader Ginsburg decide to retire from the Supreme Court in 2015, do you
think Mitch McConnell is going to allow a vote on just about - on just any
nominee that President Obama picks?
As "New York Magazine`s" Jonathan Chait pointed out this week, Elena Kagan
had incredibly strong bipartisan support and still only five Republican
senators actually voted for her. And three of those senators are no longer
in office. So, when you thought about the high stakes of the 2014 midterm
elections, have you been factoring in the Supreme Court? I`m joined now by
Dahlia Lithwick, she is legal correspondent for "Slate" who joins us from
Richmond, Virginia this morning. Dahlia, thanks for taking the time and
getting up this morning. And I have been thinking about this question a
lot lately. Because we tend to think about the politics to Supreme Court
nominations with presidential elections, which party wins the White House,
OK, that`s the party that gets to pick the nominees. But I`m wondering
when you look at how the Republicans were handling judicial nominees right
up until this filibuster rules change last fall and the prospect of
Republicans winning back the Senate next year, could you see a scenario if
sometime in 2015 or 2016 there`s a Supreme Court opening, Republicans are
controlling the Senate, what`s that going to mean for a Barack Obama
Supreme Court nominee then?
DAHLIA LITHWICK, SLATE: I think it`s so interesting, Steve, that in
segment you just did was about this intensity gap about guns, because it
maps perfectly on to this conversation as well, which is that there is such
a profound intensity gap about the Supreme Court, you know, don`t forget
Republicans have been at war with the Supreme Court since the Nixon era.
You know, this was the Meese project, was to change the courts. And, you
know, I think that that progressives on the other hand tend to sort of hit
the snooze button on the courts between one confirmation hearing and the
next. We don`t really think about it. So there is this enormous disparity
in how much we care. And we really saw that play out, as you said, with
the utter obstruction of Obama judges until the filibuster reform. But we
have seen it play out in just the explicit, explicit language, with which
GOP members talked about, oh, we are not going to put someone on the D.C.
Circuit court of Appeals, right, that`s the next - considered the next
highest court under the Supreme Court. We are not going to put someone on
there, because then the court would be liberal. And they`re quite open
about the project. And I think progressives have been very, very slow to
understand the intensity, with which the GOP has not just focused on the
court, but in fact, I think George W. Bush changed the court and I think
progressives have not really looked at what that means, as you say, going
KORNACKI: Yeah, and you mentioned the D.C. circuit, and that was the fight
last year, Republicans basically inventing this argument that it was too
big, didn`t need any more judges. And under the old Senate rules, they
were keeping anybody from getting confirmed to that. If you take that
example and extrapolate it to 2015, 2016, maybe a Supreme Court fight, it
raises the question should there be talk right now of one of the - you
know, Breyer or Ginsburg thinking about retiring now with Republicans in a
decent position to maybe take back the Senate this fall?
LITHWICK: Well, there`s always that talk. And there`s certainly - it`s
interesting, it tends to target Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 81, not so much
Stephen Breyer. And every couple of months someone writes a very earnest
piece saying with all due respect, Justice Ginsburg, you`re old, please
step down so that Obama can fill your seat now before this gets ugly. So,
I think that there is that talk. It`s generally met, including by myself,
with a, hey, she knows what she`s doing. Don`t force her to sit down. It
a little bit smacks of ageism and sexism. But I think it is certainly the
case that Obama is going to find it - you know, if you consider how it has
been impossible, with control of the Senate, and even, you know, after
filibuster reform, and with Obama as the president, it`s been so hard for
him to fill these judicial vacancies. You know, we still have 14 judicial
emergencies where we have a nominee waiting for confirmation. So, this has
been an all -out crisis at points, and yet still, I think, there is just no
intensity, no public will behind the idea that we are going to get these
judges on the bench because if we don`t, if Obama loses or if, as you say,
the Senate changes hands, we are not going to get, you know, progressive
judges on the courts. And you hear crickets when we have that conversation
on the left. Because I think there`s just a sense that, you know, there
are too many other issues that rank above judicial vacancies.
KORNACKI: Yeah, I know I think that`s - I think this is an issue that
needs a lot more attention, because we think about the clock ticking down
to January 20 of 2017, but really it could be January 2015, if Republicans
are the majority party in the Senate in 2015 and they behave they were as
the minority party. That means if you are President Obama, you better get
those executive branch nominees, you better get those judicial nominees you
want through. You better get them through now because there`s no guarantee
in January 2015 that`s going to be the case. Anyway, my thanks to Slate`s
Dahlia Lithwick for getting up this morning, coming on this show. I really
And coming up, Hillary Clinton supporters strive to win over a key voting
bloc, the same group of voters that helped Barack Obama derail her in 2008.
And later, reading the fine print in the memos of the Mastro report. Why
did the Christie administration internal investigators go back and re-
interview a key witness after that report was released. We think it might
be because of reporting they saw on this show. Stay with us.
KORNACKI: The Hillary Clinton story that sucked up all the oxygen this
week was her daughter, Chelsea`s announcement that she is expecting her
first child. This is obviously enormous news in any impending
grandparent`s life. And we certainly with the Clintons all the best on
that. But the far more critical headline for Hillary Clinton`s political
future this week is how a pro Hillary Super PAC is taking steps to court a
key voting bloc that helped Barack Obama win the White House in 2008. The
folks at Ready for Hillary are actively plotting out a strategic road map
to woo young voters. They`ve made no attempt to hide the fact that they`re
sticking to the Obama 2008 campaign handbook. They`ve even hired away
former Obama campaign youth vote coordinator Rachel Schneider to help
target voters age 16 to 30. And Mother Jones reported this week that Ready
for Hillary, that`s the grassroots Super PAC, is already storming college
campuses in an effort to recruit an army of millennial volunteers who could
be called up for duty come next fall if and when the former secretary of
state decides to run for president. This isn`t the first time Hillary
Clinton has exhibited a shrewd ability to communicate with young people.
She not only was quick to recognize the power of a clever Internet meme,
she not only met with the two guys who created the Tumblr texts from
Hillary, she even adopted the iconic imagery for her own Twitter account.
As we`ve talked about on this show before, at this stage of the 2008
presidential cycle, Barack Obama had not yet entered the field, so
organizing early among college students and young adults would seem to be a
smart, strategic move. And recent polling suggests this crucial voting
bloc is still up for grabs in 2016. A "Washington Post" ABC News poll from
January had a huge number of 18 to 39-year-olds, 62 percent of them
weighing in with favorable impressions of Hillary Clinton. But more
recently, young voters surveyed by NBC News showed a drop in youth support
for Hillary from 60 percent approval in 2009 to 42 percent in March. So,
go figure that one out. We`re still a year away from the official start of
the next presidential campaign season, Hillary Clinton already enjoys a
seemingly unprecedented lead over her Democratic competitors. This
outreach campaign is able to get young voters on her side, will there be
any stopping her once the voting actually begins? Back at the table we
have strategist Basil Smickle Jr. who was a onetime aide to then Senator
Hillary Clinton, Haley ADAMS is here, she`s the founder of Yale University
students for Hillary. Her group is associated with the Ready for Hillary
Super PAC. We also have Raul Reyes, he is the columnist with "USA Today."
And Adam Green is in Washington, he is the co-founder of the Progressive
Change Campaign Committee. Haley, I will start with you. You are part of
what we just talked about. You are part of this effort to mobilize a youth
army for a potential Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. What is that that
you`re doing right now? What is that that you` are hoping to achieve?
HALEY ADAMS, YALE STUDENTS FOR HILLARY: I`ve been working with students
since the beginning of this year to really garner the enthusiasm that
exists for Hillary Clinton and channel that into a progressive movement.
There is so much enthusiasm on campuses throughout the United States. Now
there`s over 33 groups throughout the country that are geared solely
towards encouraging Hillary Clinton to run. And Ready for Hillary provides
the support and the training necessary to make sure that these campus
groups are able to be successful. But the campus groups really have the
freedom to take on whatever shape they might want.
KORNACKI: So, you are training potentially a campaign army. That`s what -
also, you are talking about this - where is this enthusiasm coming from?
What is behind the enthusiasm, because we can look back to - you know, she
run for president before? She ran for president in 2008. I can look back
at the stats from the Iowa caucuses that year. They lost the Iowa caucuses
because she lost the young vote. 57 percent of people under 30 there, they
were - one fifth of the electorate, 57 percent went for Obama. So, now
you`re talking about this big youth enthusiasm for Hillary. Where is it
ADAMS: I think Hillary has become - so, people my age have always
recognized that Hillary is an incredibly impressive individual. She`s a
force to be reckoned with. But as of late people have also come to realize
that she`s someone they want to know. That she`s someone they relate to.
I mean she tweets funny things, she takes selfies with Meryl Streep, she
writes letters to comedians. These are all things that people of my age
can relate to. And beyond just kind of this - for lack of more millennial
- less millennial term, she`s cool. She also stands for the things that
people my age care for. She stands for immigration reform, she stands for
access to affordable college, she stands for the things that people my age
will go out and vote for.
KORNACKI: Raul, I look back to 2008, though, I guess I could look at a lot
of those issues in 2008 and say she checked off the boxes, too, back then.
RAUL REYES, USA TODAY: Right.
KORNACKI: I guess maybe was it - it was the war, the vote for the war,
maybe was that the reason in 2008, she couldn`t tap into this.
REYES: I don`t think it was so much that. I would counter, but when I
look back to 2008, I don`t think that so much that Hillary lost the youth
vote as much as she did not fight for it. That was something that Barack
Obama -- he had a fantastic ground organization with college campuses at
that grassroots level where you need people who have passion, you need
people who have enthusiasm and time to go around knocking on door and
canvassing. That`s college students, that`s young people. And he had
that. Hillary did not -- she did not that time fight for that vote. And I
think, you know, when we look at Millennials - and by the way, I`m so glad
Haley is here. Because often we talk about them and they`re not in the
discussion. It`s that - you know, the Pew center did a big study of the
Millennials, and one of the major takeaways is that they are a group of
people, they are not checked into traditional institutions, such as the
Democratic Party. However, they`re heavily networked with their friends.
So, the strategy that she`s using this time with Facebook, Twitter, and
engaging young people, that is going to be very effective. And we also
have to remember, the Millennials are the most diverse generation in
history. 43 percent nonwhite. And when you - when you go to any
appearance by Hillary and you look at the audience where you see Latinos,
LGBT, African-Americans, and what I have noticed so much, when I`ve seen
the audience for Hillary Clinton, you see women who bring their mothers and
their daughter. This type of multigenerational appeal. Other candidates
do not have that.
KORNACKI: I can say - I`m almost a millennial.
KORNACKI: I think the cutoff was 1980. So, I`m going to give myself, you
know, honorary millennial status. But Adam Green, I want to get you into
this. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee. So, you`re hearing the
ground swell of youth support for Hillary. I mean look, she`s running --
you take a poll of Democratic Party, she`s running at 60, 70 percent right
now. I guess that means across the board she`s doing really well. But
particularly among young voters, that would be a marked departure from what
happened in the Democratic primaries in 2008. Are you seeing the same
thing and do you think she deserves that kind of support from millennials?
ADAM GREEN, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Well, I think we can
all stipulate to two things from the start. One is that Hillary Clinton
enters this race as the big front-runner. And the second is that there`s a
series of things that she could do or not do that would make her life
easier or harder as she tries to capture the nomination. One of those
might be actively fighting for the youth vote. I would put my finger on
another which relates to the youth vote, which is taking actual issue
positions that are progressive. I was struck by the fact that Haley said
that they want to foster a progressive movement on the ground at college
campuses. And, you know, I think we are one of the few groups in America
that has actually poll tested Elizabeth Warren`s economic populous message
in red states, blue states and purple states to see how popular it is. And
whether it`s making college massively more affordable for people like Haley
and her peers, starting with the down payment of getting students the same
low interest rates as the big banks get to Wall Street reform and
accountability to that our grandparents and our veterans need better Social
Security benefits, not worse, all of these things are two to one, three to
one popular in Texas, Kentucky, red states, purple states like Colorado and
Iowa. And my hope for Hillary Clinton is that she makes life easy for
people like Haley by actually embracing a lot of these economic populist
ideas, not being well known for giving $200,000 speeches to Goldman Sachs.
KORNACKI: So, OK, so, Adam is laying out a number of issues there that
animate a pretty significant chunk of progressive base of the Democratic
Party, and that`s the base that will be voting in these primaries in 2016,
so I want to talk about some of those issues he just put out there, and how
Hillary is sort of positioned on them. And if there is room there for
somebody else, especially when it comes to Millennials. We have to fit a
break in. We would be back right after this.
KORNACKI: All right, so Basil, Adam Green was just raising a point there,
too, that I wonder about sometimes as well. When you look at the energy in
the progressive movement today, you look at the energy behind Elizabeth
Warren talking about questions like income inequality. Some of it gets
back to, you know, an indictment of some of the things that happened in the
Bill Clinton years as president. And I wonder -- I look at the polls that
show Hillary way out there. And I look at that energy and I say, you know,
does that leave some wiggle room for somebody to say, hey, you know, you
haven`t really gotten the full Hillary Clinton story here.
SMICKLE: Well, I don`t think we should be dismissive of Hillary`s liberal
credentials or progressive credentials. I mean we were talking - She was
talking about - did you say a word?
SMICKLE: She was talking about health care at a time when it wasn`t
necessarily popular until Barack Obama came and created Obamacare. But if
you talk about issues that are affecting Haley and her generation, who had
student loans and credit card debt, I think she will be talking about those
things. And frankly, when we go back to whether or not she actually fought
for the youth vote, look, she lost the caucuses. I think the strategy was
different at that time. The parties were different at that time. So, when
she lost Iowa, the whole narrative around that campaign had changed. It`s
KORNACKI: Social media was different.
SMICKLE: With the diminished role of party politics. It is a very
individualized campaign strategy that`s directly targeting voters through
social media. So, I think she`ll have the ability to talk directly to
voters of Haley`s generation or my generation and older in a way that she
wasn`t able to do before.
KORNACKI: Well, and Haley, is part of this, you know, in 2008, there was
the potential to make history one way or the other. First woman president,
first African-American president. In 2016 there`s still the potential to
make the first woman president, to make history there. Is that part of the
excitement for the Hillary movement?
ADAMS: Undoubtedly so. I mean the idea of electing the first female
president is exciting for everyone. And there`s a lot of enthusiasm around
Hillary, but not solely for that. Hillary being a female who supports
women`s rights. It is important for Millennials, because not only women
voters of my age care about women`s rights, but men voters of my age care
about women`s rights, but they recognize it`s the way of the future. And
it - to have a candidate who supports that, and has been outspoken about
those issues, it`s very important.
REYES: Steve, you know, to Adam`s point that Hillary perhaps has not been
as progressive as some people may have wanted her to be. Now, when she`s
speaking at college campuses, she`s talking about student debt, she`s
talking about the very difficult job market that this generation faces.
So, I think she is, you know, making much more of an effort to relate on
that level. And I don`t -- because Elizabeth Warren so far has said she`s
not running, I think it`s - you know, we`re getting to speculation
comparing her to Elizabeth Warren, but compared to any of the possible
Republican challengers, many of whom are younger than Hillary, and they`re
already floating those comparisons that they`re younger and fresher who has
the young ideas? Who has the modern ideas? Who relates to young people in
a contemporary way, that`s Hillary?
KORNACKI: And Adam Green, we`ve got 20 seconds, but I just want to give
you the last word on this. I`ll let you respond on what you have heard.
GREEN: Look, I think that we have seen overtime that Hillary has the
ability to evolve. Her position on gay marriage has evolved. But again,
it`s a red flag for some people that she gives $200,000 speeches to Goldman
Sachs. Will she be able to address one of the big issues - which is
corporate power? And a corporate takeover of both political parties. If
she stands up to them, I think she will the nomination. I don`t think
there will be anybody who can (INAUDIBLE) her. But I hope that she
understands that and again, makes people like Haley`s life easy by adopting
popular economic populist ideas.
KORNACKI: OK. My thanks to Adam Green with the Progressive Change
Campaign Committee, Raul Reyes from "USA Today," political strategist Basil
Smickle Jr. and Haley Adams from the Yale Students for Hillary group, the
only millennial on the panel.
KORNACKI: I`m not going to say ..
KORNACKI: Still ahead, the mysterious footnote to one of the memos of the
Mastro report the Christi administration`s internal investigation. We will
tell you why it had us checking our calendars and our archives. That`s
KORNACKI: Now, it`s been three weeks since Governor Chris Christie hoped
to turn the page on the Bridgegate scandal by releasing his
administration`s own internal report. So, why did his team of
investigators feel the need to go back and re-interview one of the key
witnesses almost two weeks later? After the report`s release? And why
would that new interview happen just after that witness appeared as a guest
on this show? We`ll break it down for you right after this.
KORNACKI: It`s been another big week of developments in the Chris Christie
investigation. And we include in that the news of our own discovery from
the Mastro report memos that a key witness was re-interviewed nearly two
weeks after the report was released, and days after appearing on this show.
Full details of that in just a moment. But first, transcripts released
today show the confusion on board that South Korean ferry in the final
moments before it sank. One crew member said the passengers could not
board the life boats because the ship had already listed too much. The
official say divers have recovered more than a dozen bodies today, putting
the official death toll over 50 now. And that number is expected to rise
dramatically with around 250 people still missing. We will have more
updates as news becomes available right here on MSNBC.
And now, about that New Jersey news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: You`re saying you heard the entire conversation between Dawn
Zimmer and Richard Constable.
MAYOR MATT DOHERTY, (D) BELMAR, NJ: I heard the part about them talking
regarding the hazard mitigation.
KORNACKI: Were there words exchanged between them that you couldn`t hear?
DOHERTY: I don`t think so. No.
KORNACKI: You never heard - and you heard the entire conversation.
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 the part of it, but from what they were talking about, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: You remember that guy? His name is Matt Doherty, and he is the
Democratic Mayor for Belmar, New Jersey. It`s a small town on the shore
that was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy. We invited Matt Doherty on the show a
few weeks ago because he plays a key role in the Mastro report. It`s the
report that was prepared by a law firm hired by Chris Christie`s office and
it purports to exonerate the governor in the Bridgegate scandal. And it
was a very confusing interview. And now, this week, we have new
information that only raises more questions. We will get to that in a
minute. But o give you a refresher, Matt Doherty emerged in the Mastro
report as a key player in the other scandal that`s plaguing the Christie
administration, not the closure of the George Washington Bridge access
lanes, but the allegations from Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer that the Christie
administration had linked her city Sandy aid to approval of a major
commercial development project. Mastro report touts Doherty as "an
independent eyewitness who undermines one of Mayor Zimmer`s key claims."
Now at issue here is Zimmer`s allegation that one of Christie`s cabinet
secretaries, his name is Richard Constable, he is the commissioner of the
Department of Community Affairs, that he suggested to her that there was a
linkage between her city Sandy aid and that proposed development project.
It was known as the Rockefeller group project. Zimmer and Constable had
sat next to each other at onstage - the televised town hall event at
Monmouth University in May of last year. And it was there, on that stage,
just before the broadcast started, that Zimmer claims she had this exchange
with Constable. "We are miked up with other panelists all around us. And
probably the sound team is listening. And he says I hear you are against
the Rockefeller project. I reply, I`m not against the Rockefeller project.
In fact I want more commercial development in Hoboken. Oh, really?
Everyone in the state house believes you are against it. The buzz is that
you are against it. If you move that forward, the money would start
flowing to you, he tells me."
That`s from a contemporaneous diary entry that Zimmer shared with us when
she first made her allegations on this program on January 18th. She then
shared with the United States attorney for New Jersey. And Commissioner
Constable firmly denies Zimmer`s characterization of that conversation.
And the Mastro report claims that Zimmer`s version of events "is blown out
of the water by Matt Doherty because, the report says, Doherty was also on
stage with Zimmer and Constable that night and he heard their conversation
and that nothing like what Zimmer is alleging was spoken." The report
continues, "Mayor Doherty said that he never heard Commissioner Constable
say anything to Mayor Zimmer in words or substance along the lines of Mayor
Zimmer`s allegation." And this, "Mayor Doherty said that he did not hear
Commissioner Constable say anything about quid pro quos or make any threats
to anyone. Mayor Doherty observed that Mayor Zimmer may have been
associating the subjects in her own mind, but that is not what Constable
And so, the Mastro 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, we saw a problem with this. Because back in January, when Zimmer
first made her allegations, a reporter who knew that Doherty had been on
that stage that night asked him about it. And Doherty told the reporter
that he didn`t remember the conversation and he also said that he
remembered sitting in between Zimmer and Constable. And you can plainly
see from the picture that Doherty`s memory was wrong there. He was sitting
off to the side, to the left of Zimmer, not between them. So we wondered,
given that Doherty had initially not remembered the conversation and given
that he was wrong about where he was sitting, how could he be as confident
as the Mastro report suggested he was that he`d heard the conversation?
And so we asked him over and over, one basic questions: did you hear the
entire conversation? And his replies were, a little hard to follow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Did you hear the whole conversation or not?
DOHERTY: I heard their conversation.
KORNACKI: The entire conversation.
DOHERTY: The conversation that was about the hazard mitigation.
KORNACKI: But was there more to the conversation that you didn`t hear?
DOHERTY: All I can talk about is what I did hear.
KORNACKI: The parts of the conversation that you did not hear.
DOHERTY: There may have been parts of the conversation I didn`t hear.
KORNACKI: You are confident you heard the conversation?
DOHERTY: I`m confident I heard that conversation.
KORNACKI: So, she`s making this up?
DOHERTY: Now, did I hear every word of the conversation? I don`t know.
Could he have whispered it? I guess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: By the end of that interview, Doherty seemed to have windowed
down the possibility that he missed any of the Zimmer Constable
conversation to such a minute theoretical level that I said on the air that
he was saying that he`d heard the entire conversation. And he was
confident that what Zimmer says happened didn`t happen. But here`s the
thing: the very next morning Doherty emailed us apologizing, "if there was
any confusion as a result of our interview, I can only speak about what I
heard, he wrote in that email to me. And, quote, "to be very clear,
regarding the conversation that I heard between Mayor Zimmer and
Commissioner Constable on the stage at Monmouth University, I didn`t hear
Commissioner Constable threaten or use any language that implied a quid pro
quo. The conversation I heard between the two of them focused on hazard
mitigation in Hoboken. And Mayor Zimmer did most of the talking.
Commissioner Constable did most of the listening. In addition, it is my
opinion that any threat or quid pro quo would be strikingly opposite to
Commissioner Constable`s character as I know it. It is also my own opinion
that Mayor Zimmer is an excellent mayor for Hoboken and someone who I
believe is honest and truthful. If there was any other part of their
conversation that night I did not hear, obviously, I have no knowledge of
it. That`s what he wrote to us. And so now, it seems like Mayor Doherty
was reopening the possibility that he missed part of the conversation.
That what Zimmer alleged actually could have happened.
As we pointed out, at the time Doherty came on our show at the suggestion
of Richard Constable`s office. When we reached out to them to invite
Constable on, they replied that he wasn`t available, but they then offered
to help us arrange an interview with Doherty instead. So, that`s where we
left things at the end of last month. This key witness in the Mastro
report. A Democratic mayor who`s been friendly with the Christie
administration telling us that he doesn`t think that Dawn Zimmer is lying
about her conversation with Richard Constable, but also that nothing like
she says was said was actually said. Like I said, it left us confused.
And now we have learned some more information that only raises more doubt
about Mastro`s report and how Doherty is used in it.
I speak as Mastro`s firm gave in to heavy pressure this week and released
memos outlining the 75 interviews they conducted for their report. And a
few things jumped out at us. One is this. Mastro`s team interview with
the man named Ralph LaRossa. He runs New Jersey`s largest gas and electric
utility company, and he was also on stage at Monmouth University that
night. That is him sitting right behind Dawn Zimmer. So, it turns out he
was actually interviewed by Christie`s lawyers as well. And quoting from
the memo, LaRossa responded that he did not hear the alleged conversation
between Mayor Zimmer and Commissioner Constable. And then there`s this
memo from an interview with Patrick Murray, he`s a political scientist and
polling expert at Monmouth University. And he was sitting on stage, too.
Sitting right there on the other side of Constable. He was as close to the
conversation as Doherty. The memo says that "Murray recalled the
Commissioner Constable and Mayor Zimmer were engaged in conversation before
the live town hall began. But Murray didn`t recall anything specific about
So, that`s two other people who were on the stage sitting basically as
close to Zimmer and Constable as Doherty was and neither one of them
apparently heard what was said between them. And there is this: when
Doherty was on our show, he kept telling us that what he heard was Zimmer
and Constable talking about hazard mitigation, about plans to prevent
future flooding disasters in Hoboken. And when I asked him to describe in
detail what he`d heard, this is what he told me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, the only thing you heard with her talking about hazard
mitigation. What else did you hear? If you heard the whole conversation,
how else did it go?
DOHERTY: I heard her talking about hazard mitigation, expressing her views
on it. Again, she does a great job advocating for her town, just like
other mayors do. And him listening to it, and kind of trying to direct
where to go, just like when I talked to him prior to going up on stage
about hazard mitigation, and explaining to me what, you know, here`s how
the money is supposed to come in. And at the end of the day, hazard
mitigation is not even to go through the Department of Community Affairs.
It`s through another entity altogether.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But look at the memo from the Mastro team`s interview with
Constable. Constable told them that his conversation with Zimmer lasted,
quote, "about one minute or so" and that it consisted of quote, "making
pleasantries with her" and that "at some point" Constable recalled that
Mayor Zimmer said something about moving forward with the Rockefeller
project. Constable believed she used the word Rockefeller, but was not
sure. In response, Constable recalls generally saying something to the
effect that he did not think she was in favor of commercial development.
Constable recalled generally that Mayor Zimmer responded that she was in
favor of commercial development in Hoboken. So, according to the Constable
interview, the conversation wasn`t just about hazard mitigation. And, in
fact, there are some broad similarities between Constable`s recollection
and what Zimmer recorded in her diary. Remember, what she wrote in her
diary. She told Constable she was for more commercial development in
Hoboken and that he replied that the buzz at the state house was that she
was against it. And remember also Zimmer is not alleging that Constable
made a direct threat or that he tried to intimidate her with his tone. She
is alleging that they had a conversation, in which he relayed what he was
hearing at the state house and suggested that if she moved forward with the
Rockefeller project she begin getting the Sandy money she wanted. That
doesn`t have to be a threat. That could have been Constable trying to
offer friendly advice, just based on what he was hearing at the state
So, we know that Constable told Mastro`s team that development was a part
of his conversation with Zimmer. What he called a one-minute conversation
with Zimmer. We know that two people sitting very close to Zimmer and
Constable at that event didn`t hear that conversation. And we know that a
third person who was sitting close by, Matt Doherty first said that he
didn`t hear the conversation, and also incorrectly remembered where he was
sitting on the stage, but then later said that he did hear the conversation
and suggested on our show that the discussion had been about flood
mitigation. And that is the key independent witness who the Mastro report
relies on to discredit what Dawn Zimmer has said about her conversation
with Richard Constable.
By the way, in the Mastro team`s memo about its interview with Doherty, it
notes that "Doherty explained that Constable and Zimmer had indeed
discussed both economic development and Hoboken`s multimillion dollar
hazard mitigation proposal. It also points out that Doherty was
interviewed by Mastro team four times. On January 28th, February 13th,
March 24th and April 8th. That last date, April 8th, was one week after
Doherty appeared on this show. And 12 days after the release of the Mastro
report. Out of all 75 of the interview memos released this week by Randy
Mastro`s law firm, exactly one of them involved the change that was made
after the Mastro report was released late last month. And that change has
to do with someone who was on this show just a few weeks ago. We`ll have
all the details a little later.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So we had the report in the "Wall Street Journal" yesterday
saying six new subpoenas from your committee next week. Is that accurate?
JOHN WISNIEWSKI, (D) NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY: Well, we have been talking for
the last couple of weeks since we last met, about bringing individuals in
for testimony before the committee. We have gotten to that point where
we`ve assessed enough material that we can start asking questions to
witnesses. And we`ve lined up potentially four individuals that we think
we`re going to bring in so I can foresee there being four subpoenas going
out to individuals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was John Wisniewski, he`s the co-chair of the New Jersey
state legislative committee investigating the George Washington Bridge lane
closures which have snared Governor Chris Christie`s administration for the
last few months. Breaking the news on our air yesterday, that four new
subpoenas are potentially going out this week to four new figures as their
investigation continues. And cochairman was emphatic that there work has
to continue, but that apparently isn`t what some of the other members of
the investigative committee want. On Wednesday, "The Star-Ledger" reported
that the Republicans on the committee are becoming restless. "If you want
a bipartisan investigation, then you need to communicate with members of
the committee," Republican Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick said.
"All of the Republican members have indicated to me over and over again
that Chairman Wisniewski does not do that." Bramnick continued, "My
concern is, and the conservative members is, we don`t want the public
thinking this is a bipartisan committee when reality, it`s John
Wisniewski`s committee." That`s what Bramnick said.
Here to discuss the possibility of more subpoenas, where this committee is
going, we have that Assembly Leader Jon Bramnick, veteran of New Jersey -
Jon Bramnick, veteran New Jersey assemblyman and a veteran New Jersey
reporter, I conflated those two together, WNBC`s Brian Thompson, Nick
Acocella, he`s the writer, editor and publisher of Politifax New Jersey, a
political institution in the state. And Lis Smith, a democratic consultant
who worked on New Jersey Governor - former New Jersey Governor Jon
Corzine`s 2009 campaign. Now works for the Democratic Governors
Associations. So, assemblyman, I will start with you, since you sort of
kicked up this storm this week. Basically we read your quote, and you`re
talking about potentially having a walkout here. Having the Republicans
leave this committee. Is that a real possibility and why? Explain that .
JON BRAMNICK, (R) NEW JERSEY ASSEMBLY: Absolutely. John Wisniewski comes
on your show and says we have lined up witnesses. There`s been absolutely
no discussion with any Republican members about lining up witnesses. That
proves my point. Now he`s becoming a prosecutor. He`s issuing subpoenas
on his own. That`s dangerous for, I think, the future of New Jersey
politics. He`s the former state chairman. Now he lines up Mike DuHaime,
Mike DuHaime is probably the class of New Jersey in terms of a political
strategist. He now has to live with this fact that one person, the former
state chairman is mentioning him as a potential witness. And you know what
the public hears when they hear subpoena? They immediately think the
person did something bad. This is getting - in my point of view, if you`re
not going to include Republicans, don`t call it bipartisan. Come on shows
and now it`s things on shows. In the committee .
KORNACKI: He`s - he`s - but he`s not here with us, but this is what he
said yesterday. He`s saying he did consult with you guys. Now, just play
what he said. You can respond to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: He said he`s now going to consult.
WISNIEWSKI: So, I could foresee there being four subpoenas going out to
individuals. We want to consult with the members of the committee first to
make sure they understand who we`re bringing in. We had that generic
conversation last time we met when we met in executive session. So, this
is not a surprise or news to anybody on the committee. But we do want to
firm up exactly what the plans are for who is coming before us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: He`s saying you guys .
BRAMNICK: We just want to consult.
KORNACKI: But he`s saying you also - he says it is not a surprise because
you got the broad outlines of this and executives .
BRAMNICK: It`s a surprise coming from him because he`s done everything
unilaterally. My concern is this. What`s the standard now in New Jersey
to subpoena someone? You know, when you have a prosecutor doing this, they
understand the seriousness of serving a subpoena. Are you telling me that
politicians in New Jersey are now going to control who gets subpoena ..
KORNACKI: I, I ..
BRAMNICK: I`m terribly worried.
KORNACKI: The push back I would give you on that is quite simply this, if
this is all John Wisniewski`s show, then you`re crediting John Wisniewski
with subpoenaing David Wildstein, Bill Baroni and all these other guys in
the first place, and the only reason this has become a story is because
John Wisniewski put those subpoenas out there, this would have gone away,
and we never would have heard of that if it hadn`t been for those
subpoenas? Isn`t that right?
BRAMNICK: I give you credit where credit is due. Once you .
KORNACKI: So, sometimes these subpoenas work.
BRAMNICK: Well, let`s start from the beginning. There was one e-mail from
Bridget Kelly. No evidence that the governor knew anything. Now John
Wisniewski has taken that in my judgment and gone to the point where I`m
seriously concerned that he`s become a prosecutor. Yes, there was some
good work. Now you have to be measured and you have to be reasonable. You
have to be fair. And that`s what we`re really concerned about.
KORNACKI: I want to get Lis in here.
LIS SMITH, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Let me jump in as the Democrat here. I
mean I think if the Republicans try to pull out here, it will look like a
continuation of the whitewash that we saw with the joke that was Randy
Mastro`s report. And I think the release of all the raw materials from the
Mastro report confirmed that Christie`s governor`s office was functionally
operating as a political office. It was the worst of a mixture of keystone
cops and Tammany Hall. And so, my questions to you, that I think are
really important would be, don`t you think that the people of New Jersey
deserve to know really what was behind this list of 117 mayors? And if the
governor knew about it? And two, especially, don`t you think that the
citizens of New Jersey and, you know, the people that you represent, people
in Westfield, don`t they deserve to know if the services that they receive
were affected or diminished somehow because of this hit list of 117 mayors?
These are new questions. This goes beyond Bridgegate. This is - that was
just the tip of the iceberg.
BRAMNICK: We want John Wisniewski and the other members to sign a
confidentiality agreement, that before you go on MSNBC and before you go
public with anything, first discuss with - have a vote, maybe an eight to
four vote, we`re happy to lose the vote, but let`s have the discussion
before it becomes prosecutor on television, not - and people think he`s a
prosecutor, not a politician.
KORNACKI: What`s Brian, I mean you`re reporting on this from Trenton.
What is your sense of what is going on with the committee right now?
BRIAN THOMPSON, WNBC: I think there`s no question that there is
divisiveness existing between the Republicans and Democrats. The
Republicans have no choice, but to join the committee when it was started.
I mean the memos, the email from Bridget Kelly, "time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee" was absolutely a smoking gun.
KORNACKI: It was a unanimous vote in the legislature.
THOMPSON: And it was a unanimous vote, too. But there was some push back
through that process, nonetheless. And when they got to the vote, the
Republicans were trying to qualify it a little bit. Trying to suggest,
well, we don`t know where it`s going to go, how it`s going to be done.
That was heard. And yet then they still had to vote in favor. But
unanimously, both in the Senate and the assembly. I think what you`re
hearing from the minority leader here, Mr. Bramnick is a frustration with a
process, but I think from what I -- from what I know of this process,
there`s no question this has to go to the next stage. And the next stage
is to interview some of these people who were involved in parts of this.
We know, for example, from my sourcing, that among the people that the
Democrats would like to interview are some of the people at the Port
Authority who had relations or dealings of some sort with David Samson. I
know we are going to talk about Samson later. But that`s just one aspect
of it. They want to find out more also from the governor`s office. How
did it work? How did this office of intergovernmental relations become
such a political operation that now it`s been abolished by the governor
himself based on the Mastro report?
KORNACKI: And how do you - so, Nick, what Brian is outlining there, and
what the subpoenas have produced so far, how do you achieve that without
NICK ACOCELLA, POLITIFAX: I have no problem with the committee proceeding
with its work. I don`t think the Republicans should walk out. But I don`t
make the decision. I would caution that the single worst thing that could
happen in my opinion is if we do what some of the Republicans are saying,
let`s move on to reform the Port Authority. That God help us when
reformers take over. God helped us.
ACOCELLA: The Port Authority is bad enough. Leave it alone. As for
politics in the front office, I`m really shocked. The - I would point out
that the three governors I can think of who served only one term did not do
politics out of the front office and probably should have.
KORNACKI: Taking the politics out of politics sometimes.
ACOCELLA: Taking the politics out ..
ACOCELLA: And taking the chocolate out of hot chocolate.
KORNACKI: So we will - we`ve got to squeeze one break in here, but I do
want to talk a little bit more about what`s going to happen next week. You
know, the subpoenas are going to come out. What are the Republicans going
to do? Who is going to be subpoenaed? Where is this going? We`ll pick
that up right after this.
KORNACKI: So, we have, you know, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick here, the
Republican leader from the assembly, and I want to ask you, so what`s going
to happen? We had John Wisniewski on our show yesterday, saying, he thinks
four subpoenas this week, you`re all back in Trenton this week. He says,
here are the four subpoenas we want to send out - what - Are you as
Republicans walking off?
BRAMNICK: That`s my point. We don`t know. He announces it here. What
should happen is what Governor Kean did when he ran the 9/11 Commission.
John Wisniewski should be on television with somebody like Michael Patrick
Carroll. It should show the public .
THOMPSON: The Republican members.
BRAMNICK: Exactly. We should show the public we`re working together. We
may disagree, he may outvote us, but we should do it in such a way, which
shows class the way Governor Kean did it. My biggest concern is .
KORNACKI: I just need to stop just to clarify something. We`ve had like
assemblywoman Schepisi on this show before. She`s also on the committee.
And she said she doesn`t think that the committee should be issuing any
more subpoenas. She think that the committee should be talking about
reforming the Port Authority, and that`s it. So, there is a very basic
BRAMNICK: We should start working on reform on the Port Authority.
Everyone agrees on that.
KORNACKI: This ballot (ph) doesn`t agree on that. I know that.
BRAMNICK: You have to reform this bi-state agencies, you know. They are
dysfunctional, everyone knows that. But let`s go back to Holly Schepisi.
I have spoken to her - I`ve spoken to other members, they all agree we
would like to continue to work on this. But we don`t want to learn
everything through your show.
SMITH: But I guess I don`t see.
KORNACKI: Maybe I disagree with that.
SMITH: I don`t see how you can reform the Port Authority, I don`t see how
you can reform New Jersey state government without doing more of an
investigation here. And I think some of this that falls outside of the
legal purview of the U.S. attorney - probably some of the stuff isn`t
illegal, but people deserve to know about it and look .
BRAMNICK: What are we looking to find out? There`s no question - there`s
not one person - not one person who`s made an allegation that this governor
knew about the lane closures before they closed. Not one.
KORNACKI: No, no.
BRAMNICK: Not one!
KORNACKI: No, no.
SMITH: But this goes beyond the lane closures.
SMITH: This is about the hit list of 117 mayors and how it affected the
services that were delivered to the people, those 117 mayors representing
BRAMNICK: You can call it a hit list. But it`s my years in politics .
SMITH: A loyalty list. A black list.
BRAMNICK: They know this. There are people you like, and people you don`t
like. You want to call it a hit list, that`s fine. Unfortunately, that`s
the nature of politics nationally and in New Jersey. That will never
SMITH: Make one more point. I think that`s the problem with New Jersey.
That`s why New Jersey has been a laughing stock for decades.
BRAMNICK: I agree. We should change politics in New Jersey.
SMITH: When I worked for Jon Corzine, I remember, Chris Christie saying
I`m going to run so that New Jersey is no longer the laughing stock of the
nation when it comes to our political system and government. And guess
what, he made it more of the laughing stock.
THOMPSON: But you know, very quickly, though, the point that Jon makes is
you can`t end - and Nick did, too, you can`t take politics out of the
system. It just isn`t possible. I mean you have this - OK, so he`s
disbanded the office that was responsible for the hit list, whatever you
want to call it.
BRAMNICK: And you think it`s going to stop it?
THOMPSON: It`s just - all you`re doing is moving those responsibilities to
another office. What`s a big deal!
KORNACKI: Every governor and every politician knows who is on the team and
BRAMNICK: But I tell you why - the reason we`re here, though, is Chris
Christie came to Trenton, he was tough. No one disagrees with that.
Trenton is a tough place. He made incredible reforms. And the reason I`m
making this point is this is clearly a backlash. I don`t think John
Wisniewski or anyone else, any Democrat or even on this show would be that
interested if he wasn`t such a -- I think a strong leader, others think too
tough a leader.
But this is a backlash.
KORNACKI: Yeah, but I mean there`s - I could say, look, he -- this was
also a governor who at one point ridiculed the press for asking questions
about this. At a second point, absolutely assured the press and the public
that nobody in the senior staff knew about this. And for instance, you
mentioned the name Mike DuHaime at the start of this show. We did a little
bit on Mike DuHaime yesterday. It turns out that Mike DuHaime just hours
before Chris Christie made that assurance to the whole world, Mike DuHaime,
who is on the phone with him, according to this Mastro report constantly,
Mike DuHaime is on the phone with David Wildstein. And David Wildstein
tells him 100 percent certain, that there`s email evidence that Bridget
Kelly knew about this beforehand. Now, former federal prosecutor, Chris
Christie, a former U.S. attorney is not going to hear about that, is not
going to pause before going out and making that emphatic statement that he
made, that to me raises questions. Is not - you know, to me, it`s not
about hey, did he know about this way ahead of time? Did he hatch the
plan? It`s about did he - was he willfully ignorant in trying to run out
ACOCELLA: Or maybe - or maybe - or maybe he took the word of somebody he
had worked with closely and trusted. I`m just guessing. See, my problem
with all of this is, we guess. About everything. About everything. That
committee can keep doing what it wants. We don`t know anything.
BRAMNICK: While you`re guessing you`re hurting reputations.
KORNACKI: But the subpoenas have taught us, we learned quite a bit from .
BRAMNICK: But as you speculate, you damage people`s personalities.
People`s reputations. And that is distressing, disconcerting, it`s
problematic for the future. We have to be careful. You throw these names
out there, and people think they`re guilty of something. I still don`t
understand the allegations against Mike DuHaime.
KORNACKI: It`s not really - it`s not an allegation. It just simply that
he was talking to the report, the Mastro report documents that he was
talking to David Wildstein, he was talking to Bill Baroni and he was
talking to Bill Stepien regularly, and that he was, by the report`s own
definition, constantly talking to Chris Christie and, in fact, received a
warning, an hour before Christie gave this press conference, that David
Wildstein knew with 100 percent certainty that Bridget Kelly had this memo.
The question it raises to me is not what did Mike DuHaime do wrong, the
question to me is what did Mike DuHaime do next? Did he call Christie?
Did he call somebody in Christie`s office? That`s the question I want to
know. The report doesn`t answer it. A subpoena wouldn`t.
SMITH: Right. So, let`s not speculate, let`s investigate. And you know,
no one knows better about throwing out names to tarnish people`s
reputations than U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Look at what he did to Joe
Doria. Look at what he did to Bob Menendez.
ACOCELLA: He was not U.S. attorney when Joe Doria .
SMITH: Oh, right, but he .
ACOCELLA: He was not the U.S. attorney.
SMITH: We all know that he had a very heavy hand in that U.S. attorney`s
ACOCELLA: Well .
SMITH: There`s well reports .
ACOCELLA: Now you`re accusing him of something.
KORNACKI: Chris Christie - Christie had left when the Menendez thing
happened, Christie was absolutely there.
ACOCELLA: Menendez thing yes.
KORNACKI: The Doria thing, people are still debating. But I think we -
there`s a lot of agreement on what happened to Doria was wrong.
BRAMNICK: Between Cyrusman`s (ph) investigation and Fishman`s
investigation, we are going to get a lot of answers. I have no doubt about
that. But let`s keep politicians away from destroying reputations during
that period of time.
THOMPSON: One problem I have with that is U.S. attorney, state attorney
investigations always leave a lot of stuff unseen.
KORNACKI: Yeah. Sunlight can be a good thing as well. Well, listen, we
are going to talk about the -- the criminal aspect of this, the criminal
investigation aspect of this, that`s the second part, Fishman, Cyrus (ph),
the D.A. is now involved. We are going to pick that up. I want to thank
New Jersey Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, Democratic consultant Lis Smith for a
lively discussion here. And another resignation, newly revealed subpoenas,
these are investigations at the Port Authority. That is straight ahead.
KORNACKI: Fewer than 24 hours from now the Port Authority`s new oversight
committee will convene with testimony from outside experts on what it needs
to do to reform in the face of the scandal. So, the committee was formed
specifically because of Bridgegate. And it`s in addition to ongoing state
and federal investigations. Not all of the outside experts that will be
testifying tomorrow have been kind to the Port Authority. And certain Port
Authority officials have expressed the same feelings back. At the most
recent meeting of the Port Authority, the last month, then Chairman David
Samson`s Governor Chris Christie`s top appointee at the agency said
"chafed" at the suggestion that a panel of former Port Authority officials
and perhaps, critics of the agency should be summoned to discuss how to
improve operations. This came after Samson had praised the oversight
committee at its creation at the Port Authority`s February meeting, just
one month earlier.
This was the meeting where Samson offered his first and so far only public
comments on the lane closures in Fort Lee and the alleged conflicts of
interest that were swirling around his public office and private law firm
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SAMSON, THEN -PORT AUTHORITY CHAIRMAN: While I would like to comment
more specifically about some of the outstanding issues, I recognize that
there are established efforts to examine the events that occurred. I defer
to these procedures. And I trust that when the facts unfold, and they will
unfold, the public will have a complete picture.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Mr. Samson declined to participate in one of those established
efforts that was the Christie administration`s internal review which came
to a close last month. And the other members of his law firm, Wolf and
Samson were also not have made available for that investigation, nor were
members of the Port Authority interviewed as part of it. They weren`t even
asked. The day after the release of that report, which recommended reforms
be instituted at the Port Authority, Samson resigned as chairman with
Christie announcing the news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) NEW JERSEY: He believes that the best way to start
a new era at the Port Authority is with new leadership. In line with that
belief, David tendered his resignation to me this afternoon, effective
KORNACKI: That was March 28th, only three weeks ago. And there have been
more resignations at the Port Authority since then. This week Asbury Park
Press confirmed that Anthony Sartor resigned from the Port Authority after
15 years on the commission. Sartor`s impending resignation was first
reported by the "Wall Street Journal" late last week, which was included in
an article about the latest investigation into the Port Authority.
This time from the Manhattan district attorney`s office, looking at
conflicts of interest on the New Jersey side of the Port`s operations. As
a recent Asbury Park Press investigation noted Sartor recused himself or
did not vote 36 times out of 85 motions during the past year because of
potential conflicts of interest, the most of any commissioner according to
meeting minutes. But as of right now we only know of one person in
particular who the Manhattan district attorney wants to know about, the
legal news website main justice reported this week that records of David
Samson`s chief assistant at the Port Authority, Patrick O`Reilly have been
subpoenaed by the Manhattan D.A.`s office. O`Reilly was brought into the
Port from Samson`s law firm in 2011, and a former Port Authority official
who was not familiar with the subpoena told main justice that, quote,
"O`Reilly met daily" in an off limits war room at the Port Authority `s
Park Avenue South headquarters in Manhattan with two other Christie allies,
Bill Baroni and David Wildstein. We`ve reached out to Sartor and O`Reilly
and David Samson`s spokesperson declined to comment to us on these stories
and turned down an invitation to appear on a program, but with the
Manhattan D.A. looking into his top assistant`s activities at the Port,
Governor Christie`s downplaying of David Samson`s significance these last
few months may be severely challenged.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: The role of the chairman of the Port Authority is not an
operational role, his role is a policy role. And so, I wouldn`t expect
that David would be involved in any kind of day-to-day operational issue
like a traffic study.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: I want to bring in Lisa Brennan, she`s a veteran court house
reporter now with main justice who broke the story about Patrick O`Reilly.
And Brian Thompson with WNBC is still with us, and so is Nick Acocella of
Politifax, New Jersey. And so, Lisa, I`ll start with you, look, the name
Patrick O`Reilly, a new name to everybody who`s been following us, close to
David Samson, tell us who Patrick O`Reilly is, what his role is, and what
your understanding is of why he would have attracted attention from the
Manhattan district attorney?
LISA BRENNAN, MAIN JUSTICE: First of all, the Manhattan district attorney
probably has a source for this specific information about Patrick O`Reilly
and the way, in which he communicated with David Samson, so they have a
good source. And Patrick O`Reilly is a young guy. He`s probably now in
his mid-30s. And he got his start in New Jersey politics back under Jim
McGreevey. And he was brought into, I think, serve as an assistant to
McGreevey`s chief of staff, Jamie Fox. And Jamie moved to New Jersey
Transit and I think he was also a commissioner of Transportation, and
Patrick O`Reilly went with him. And O`Reilly got a very high-powered job
at New Jersey Transit. And he stayed in that role while he was going to
Seton Hall Law School. And he became a lawyer. And then after he got out
of law school, he went to work at Wolf and Samson.
KORNACKI: So, you mentioned a few - you mentioned New Jersey transit. And
New Jersey Transit actually plays a role in - there was a New Jersey
Transit -- a deal that New Jersey transit struck without the mayor of
Hoboken knowing where this - this New Jersey transit would have a new
station at this proposed Rockefeller development site in Hoboken. And you
reported here that then the subpoenas asked specifics and apparently
informed questions about Samson`s orders to O`Reilly, and my reading of
your report is - it seems to suggest that that might be what they`re
looking at here?
BRENNAN: Yes. And I think also that also that O`Reilly had knowledge of
what was going on with Pulaski Skyway funding, and a number of other
projects. And what - the way the subpoena makes it sound, is that O`Reilly
was given very specific orders from Samson, on the day Samson couldn`t be
in the room with them. And he was to call certain people, and not certain
other people at firms and companies. And then he would go out and do that.
And Hoboken, because of his ties with New Jersey transit, it -- there`s
nothing that points to a direct thing that he did, a specific thing. But
he was connected to all different sides of the operation. He was connected
- he worked at a firm with Lori Griffa, who is pushing hard to get .
KORNACKI: She`s at Wolf and Samson.
KORNACKI: David Samson`s law firm. Well, Brian, I mean when the governor
did his most recent press conference and he announced the resignation of
David Samson, as the chairman of the Port Authority, he really downplayed
the role that David Samson played at the Port, almost making it sound like
he was a figurehead. To read Lisa`s report suggests - a little more
involvement in that.
THOMPSON: And we`ve known David Samson`s role was much more operational
than just policy, from other sourcing over this past couple of months as
this thing has unfolded, which raises the questions about the governor`s
ability to judge his own people. Certainly he wasn`t able to judge Bill
Baroni and all of the political appointees, the dozens of political
appointees that he put into the Port Authority. Or at least if you believe
the Mastro report he wasn`t able to do that. He wasn`t able to judge what
Bill Stepien, his former deputy chief of staff, campaign manager and his
successor, Bridget Kelly, he wasn`t able to judge what they were doing.
And for him to defend David Samson, who he has always said David Samson was
his mentor and considers him, you know, close like that, for him to defend
that when all the evidence points to David Samson absolutely being an
operational type of person. All of the evidence points that way. You
know, the governor was fooled again.
KORNACKI: Well, that`s -- yeah. And that`s the question, too. We learned
from these memos I think that there was at least one occasion, on January
8TH when the Bridget Kelly email came out that the governor convened an
emergency meeting at (INAUDIBLE), and this is the governor`s, you know,
mansion, near Trenton. And David Samson was there. And apparently at that
time, according to - he pulled them aside and basically said have you had
anything to do with this. But other than that, you know, he didn`t sit
down, Samson did not sit down for this Mastro investigation. He has not
spoken publicly except for that one time. So, we`ve got to squeeze a break
in here. But I want to talk a little bit more about David Samson and talk
about the other part of this this resignation of Sartor, another
interesting development this week. We`re going to finish up with that
right after this.
KORNACKI: So we`re talking about as the Manhattan district attorney who is
now getting involved in the investigation, which was a criminal -
potentially criminal side of the investigation. The U.S. attorney also
looking into it. Nick, I wonder, you know, we`re talking about David
Samson here. Governor - obviously very close to Governor Christie.
KORNACKI: Christie has continued to defend his honor. Well, accepting,
you know, his resignation. We haven`t heard from David Samson. David
Samson didn`t participate in Chris Christie`s internal investigation. Now
we have the news at least as reporting about, you know, sort of his eyes
and ears and operation he did from day-to-day and at the Port Authority,
attracting attention from (INAUDIBLE). It seems to me the risk here for
Governor Christie is just - this given how close Samson is to him .
ACOCELLA: A couple of things. Isn`t that what you do with an executive
assistant? Isn`t that exactly what an executive assistant`s job is, to be
your eyes and years and everything that`s going on? But put that aside.
The governor`s problem, it seems to me, and it`s a political problem
because I don`t think he has any other kind of problem on this, is that
he`s damned if he does and he`s damned if he doesn`t. He`s a fool if he
didn`t know if it was going on. And he`s a nave if he did. And you can`t
win that battle. When the choices are fool or nave, you`ve lost the
KORNACKI: And the thing I`ve been wondering all the time, is there a thing
in between where he sort of willfully, you know, so if you say, OK, he
didn`t know from the very beginning, but he`s a former U.S. attorney. He`s
a former federal prosecutor. He knows how he can pick up the trail on
something pretty easily. And we`ve got in in these Mastro memos, in the
Mastro reports, you`ve got him being told a few different times, you know,
as we just say, DuHaime telling him, hey, Bridget Kelly, Bridget Kelly,
ACOCELLA: But you know what, Steve, the narrative is now being made if you
read enough of these articles. The narrative is now being made that
Governor Christie has had this long standing political ambition. Nothing
wrong with that. If you don`t have ambition you don`t get to be a
successful politician. That has to be stated right away. But that he`s
had this long standing political ambition and that the U.S. Attorney`s post
was a steppingstone.
ACOCELLA: This is for a guy who was never really a prosecutor in his legal
training or his legal experience. As a matter of fact, he was running for
freeholder in Morris County. One election, he ran for assemblyman and
didn`t win. Lost election as a freeholder. And then, you know, the stars
aligned and he became the U.S. attorney. But not because he had a
reputation as a great defense lawyer or a former federal prosecutor or
anything like that. So, when we talk about what he should have known as a
former U.S. attorney or maybe should have expected as a former U.S.
attorney, you have to keep in mind that this is a guy who has had a
political roadmap in front of him for years here.
KORNACKI: It`s true. I guess the thing, that when I say that, and maybe I
should say not as a former U.S. attorney but just maybe as somebody with
common sense, the thing that I keep thinking back to is as all of this is
playing out in December, and he is hearing from DuHaime, we know that, he
is hearing from - OK, maybe he is thinking about, maybe the people in the
administration are thinking about January 15TH. Because on January 15th
the new legislature was set to convene, and everybody`s expectation was
that that handle that was issuing the subpoenas and asking those questions
was going to go away and this whole thing was going to go away. So, if you
can be willfully ignorant for a month, no problem.
ACOCELLA: Actually, I don`t think it was ever going to go away. Once the
story broke, I don`t think it was ever, ever going to go away. It may not
have been done through a legislative committee, it may not have been done
politically. A number of other ways this could have happened. And it just
-- I think if that`s true, then it was terribly naive.
KORNACKI: All right, well, that will be the last word here. We`ll be
right back after this.
KORNACKI: All right, we are out of time for today, but I want to thank my
guests. Nick Acocella, Lisa Tomson - Lisa - Brian Thompson and Lisa Nelson
(sic), some great discussion this morning.
Thank you for that and thank you for joining us at home. Melissa Harris-
Perry is next.
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