'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Thursday, September 18th, 2014
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THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW
September 18, 2014
Guest: Dave Helling; Matt Wells, John Wisniewski
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man. And thanks
to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.
As Chris said all eyes are on Scotland right now. The polls there closed
about four hours ago at 10:00 p.m. local time which was 5:00 p.m. on the
east coast of the United States. Only the very first returns are in. We
don`t know the exactly when a full result will come in but the count is
under way right now. It`s expected to go all night overnight in Scotland.
We`ll have live coverage from Edinburgh tonight including some of what the
coverage looks like on Scottish television tonight which is fascinating.
We have got that coming up ahead. We will be updating you on the poll
results as they come in from Scotland. So that`s happening.
Also, the NBC station here in New York tonight broke some big news about
the federal criminal investigation that has dogged New Jersey Republican
governor Chris Christie for nearly a year now. WNBC`s Jonathan Dienst
reporting late tonight that while federal prosecutors in New Jersey
continue to investigate the shutdown of lanes onto the George Washington
bridge last year, as some still unexplained act of political retribution,
federal officials tell WNBC tonight that those investigations thus farce
have found no evidence that governor Chris Christie personally had advance
knowledge of the shutdown plot nor have they found evidence that he took
part in the plot personally.
Again, the investigation continues. But that is the first substantive leak
from the federal criminal investigation of the bridge shutdown in New
Jersey. The U.S. attorney`s office in New Jersey has been incredibly
tight-lipped. That`s the first reporting we`ve had from that. We are
going to have more that story coming up in just a few minutes including
governor Christie`s own reaction to that leak tonight from just a few
moments ago. So that`s coming up.
There`s also news tonight out of Washington, news that prompted this
perfect headline from the Huffington Post late today. Congress ashamed of
Congress. Members of Congress willing to go On the Record to "Huffington
Post" today about how embarrassed they are by their own institution and
what it did today as Congress makes a surprise and sudden decision today to
bale, to leave. They decided today to bale on all their remaining workdays
between now and mid-November. They just gave themselves every day off work
from now until a week after the election. So they made the surprise
announcement today they`re canceling all this work for the next seven weeks
and then they ran for the exits. While leaving one really important thing
President Obama changing up his schedule late tonight to make this
statement about Congress on short notice. We`ve got more on that including
excerpts from the president`s late address tonight. That`s all ahead on
what has been a pretty amazing day in the news today.
Any one of those things happening this afternoon and tonight would have
made today a really big news day, right? But then not only are all those
things happening all at once. In addition to all of them at 6:00 p.m.
eastern time tonight, the Supreme Court in the great state of Kansas
decided they wanted to make some big national news, as well, news that
frankly has turned on its head the national expectations for control of the
United States Senate.
Now, what`s been going on in the Kansas United States Senate race so far
has basically been this big national surprise, right, that in such a deep
red state, in the state where Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 21 points a
state that hasn`t sent anybody other than a Republican to the United States
Senate since 1932, it has been a shock to the national Republican party and
to a certain extent to the whole political system that an incumbent
Republican senator in the state of Kansas has been in trouble this year.
Incumbent Republican senator Pat Roberts it turns out is having the race of
his life to try and keep his seat in the Senate right now. Pat Roberts is
not the most popular Senate in the world. His numbers are not great at
home. He did have to fend off a pesky tea party challenge in his primary
But up until a couple of weeks ago, it looked like those problems were
behind him and he is going to be able to hold on to his seat in the general
election mostly because of this, this dynamic. He had the great fortune of
running in a three-way race.
So people who want to vote for Pat Roberts can vote for Pat Roberts. But
people who want to vote against him, they were splitting their vote between
the democratic candidate and a well financed pretty popular independent
That dynamic, that vote splitting among opponents is how Pat Roberts was
going to limp to reelection in Kansas this year. That`s how they were
going to keep that seat in safe Republican hands and help the Republican
party on its way to try to take over control of the U.S. Senate this year.
That whole thing changed two weeks ago on September 3rd when that three-way
race became a two-way race because this guy, the Democratic candidate who
had been running, he got persuaded that he should drop out. And if you
take away that vote splitting phenomenon, if it turns out there`s only one
major candidate in the race against Pat Roberts instead of two, then the
polling looks like Pat Roberts is going to lose his seat. Maybe the most
Republican state in the country arguably but they`re about to lose their
Republican Senate seat.
And that was born out in the polling before the democrat actually made the
decision to drop out. It has been born out in the polling ever since he
dropped out September 3rd and that polling has caused the national
Republican party to hit it the panic button on this race.
They flew in Washington campaign staff to replace the long-time local
staffers for Pat Roberts. They started running ads in the race. They got
the NRA roped into the race for the first time. And they started paying
very close attention to one weird sort of undercover dynamic in Kansas. So
this is the polling that shows Pat Roberts losing to the independent
candidate Greg Orman, right? A couple different polls same result in both
But what Kansas Republicans started noticing and have now grasped on to
with all their might is that even though the democratic candidate has
withdrawn, the Democrat is no longer running, if you put his name back on
the ballot and make people think that there`s a Democrat still running in
the race, well that bamboozles voters enough that maybe Pat Roberts has a
And so the day after the Democrat withdrew from the this race and had his
name taken off the candidate list, his name taken off the ballot, the
following day the Kansas Republican secretary of state, the crusading
conservative hero Kris Kobach put the guy`s name back on the ballot. It`s
more convenient to have the democrat on there and so the Democrats on
And that led to today`s ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court at 6:00 p.m.
eastern time, 5:00 p.m. local time in Kansas. And what this ruling has set
off tonight is kind of crazy. It`s like an outlaw wild west by any means
necessary kind of situation right now in Kansas. It`s nuts. It`s like
remember the brooks brothers riot in Florida during the 2000 recount? It`s
like that except it`s the one guy rioting. It`s just Republican secretary
of state Kris Kobach.
Look at this. At 5:00 p.m. local time in Kansas, close of business on the
deadline, that`s when they handed down the ruling. The reason today was
the deadline for the ruling is because tomorrow the ballots have to be
printed in Kansas. So says Kris Kobach, so says the Kansas secretary of
state, Republican Kris Kobach, he told the court that that`s the deadline.
He explained in his court filings by law Kansas`s ballots have to be sent
out to members of the armed forces serving overseas. They have to be sent
out by Saturday which is the day after tomorrow in order to get them sent
out on time by law. That means the ballot has to be finalized by September
18th, 2014. That`s today. Has to have the final list by today because
they`ve got to print tomorrow because they got to send them out on
Saturday. That`s the law. So says secretary of state Kris Kobach. That`s
what he told the court.
So when the Supreme Court ruled today, they were right up against that
deadline. And what they ruled is that Kris Kobach does have to take that
democratic guy`s name off the ballot. That guy properly withdrew from the
race no matter how much of Kansas Republicans want there to be a Democrat
on the ballot, that guy withdrew properly. Kris Kobach trying to force him
to stay on the ballot is not within Kansas law. So ordered by the Supreme
Court of that state.
Now, of course, Kansas Republicans desperately want there to be a democrat
on the ballot, right, to hopefully siphon votes away from the independent
guy who is challenging Pat Roberts. That dynamic having three people on
the ballot that looks like the only way Roberts could hold on to his seat
at this point.
But we`re at the deadline. I mean, if the ballots have to be finalizes
today because they have to be printed tomorrow, there`s really no chance
that that could happen after this ruling today, right? Kris Kobach had
been making noise about trying to force the Democrats to put another name
on the ballot even if their initial candidate was allowed to withdraw. But
if the ballots are being printed tomorrow, there`s no time for that. There
is no time for the Democrats to do that. There`s no way that Kris Kobach
can force the Democrats to pick somebody overnight? Quick, convene a
convention. Because the court ruled today at the close of business at 5:00
p.m., on the deadline.
The matter pretty much looks settled. It`s going to be Pat Roberts against
the independent guy Greg Orman on the ballot. And just so you know, the
polling right now if the election were held today makes it look like Pat
Roberts in that dynamic would lose his seat.
But after the court handed down this ruling today at 5:00 p.m. local time,
6:00 p.m. east coast time that is when things really got weird because at a
press conference following the ruling today, Kris Kobach announced that
actually it turns out tomorrow`s not the deadline. Who said it was the
Despite everything he told the court, despite this law that he is citing
about when you have to get ballots out to overseas service members, Kris
Kobach is now saying the deadlines when I told the court those were the
deadlines, he`s now directing the Kansas state Democratic Party that they
have to pick another name to put on the ballot so it can go back to being a
And he has decided to push all the deadlines back. He said he is giving
them eight days to make this decision because those old deadlines, I made
those up. Now he says he`s not going to print the ballots till the 27th of
September and he says that will give them plenty enough time to pick
somebody else so this can go back to being a three-way race. Amazing.
So what happened to the deadlines that he told the court were so hard and
fast and determined by law? I mean on the military ballot`s is he now
saying Kansas is going to have people in the military vote on a totally
different ballot for a totally different candidates than everybody else is
voting on in the state? Really? I mean, is this as desperate as it looks
by Kansas Republicans. This really kind of looks like a by any means
necessary radical move here.
And to that end, what happens if the Democrats just say no here? If they
say no, Kris Kobach, we`re not going to pick somebody for that line on the
ballot. This is not just a United States Senate race which itself is a big
deal. This potentially is the United States Senate race that decides who
controls the United States Senate and it`s total chaos right now.
It has become the most important Senate race in the country at least right
now and it is complete chaos, just insane.
Joining us now is Dave Helling political reporter for the "Kansas City
Star." He is been following the story right from the start.
Dave, every time we talk, I congratulate you how much fun this race has
been to cover. And then it gets crazier.
DAVE HELLING, POLITICAL REPORTER, KANSAS CITY STAR: Yes. We don`t get any
days off covering politics in Kansas unlike Congress, Rachel.
MADDOW: The way that -- yes, another seven weeks off at their own
HELLING: You bet.
MADDOW: The way I sum this up in terms of the order of those events, the
way that Kris Kobach responded to this Supreme Court ruling and the
changing of those deadlines an everything, am I summarizing that
HELLING: Well, fairly closely. It`s a federal law that requires there
ballot printing Rachel, because the national government has some interest
in getting the ballots to the military overseas and Kris Kobach said
tonight that he has been given a waiver by the justice department so they
can wait another week.
Whether that week will change the fundamentals is not clear at all. You
talk to Democrats and Republicans. You`re exactly right. It isn`t clear
how a, Kris Kobach can order a political party to do anything. He`s just
the secretary of state. And b, how they would do it. You know, would they
meet in a convention? Would it be just party chairs by county how it would
work? It does seem like a pretty desperate move at the end. But you know,
he`s not ready to give up yet. He`s very convinced that there needs to be
a democrat on the November ballot in Kansas. And so he made the
announcement that he did.
MADDOW: So two questions following on that. One, is there any indication
of what the Kansas Democrats will do? Is there a chance they just won`t go
along with this? And two, is some of this still due to be decided in
court? Is this going back to the Kansas Supreme Court or going to be
litigated in any other way?
HELLING: We`ll see. Kobach said this evening that if the Kansas Democrats
don`t respond by his deadline, he will examine his legal options. We
reached out to the Kansas Democratic Party tonight. They have no intention
of nominating anybody. They`re very critical of Kris Kobach. He cannot be
trusted they said. You know, Kris Kobach has his own race for secretary of
state which is also very close. So I do get the sense that Kris is trying
to pursue whatever last-minute options he might have, but I think virtually
everyone in Kansas now understands that this race is Greg Orman and Pat
Roberts going forward.
MADDOW: It`s fascinating. And the fact that Kobach is on the ballot, as
well, I mean, I saw recent polling from PPP in Kansas. They were polling
obviously on the Senate race. But they also polled on what Kansans think
about how Kris Kobach is handling this. And you know, he does have his own
race. It`s a really close race. The Democrat has a chance of knocking him
off for secretary of state. He`s underwater by tens of points in terms of
how people view his handling of this. Is he in a position where he doesn`t
care about public opinion? This is so desperate he needs to do it anyway
or is he susceptible to that sort of criticism?
HELLING: You know, if you know Kris Kobach, he doesn`t -- I mean, he plays
to the crowd but he doesn`t always listen to the crowd. I mean, he sort of
blazes his own trail. And there is a segment of the Republican party in
Kansas and across the country that loves this kind of thing from Kris
Kobach. I think that`s why he pursues it to a certain degree.
But you didn`t know that -- what you didn`t note in your introduction, but
your viewers should know, is that this opinion today from the Kansas
Supreme Court was unanimous or at least there were no dissenting opinions
filed. It was per curium which Bush versus Gore people will remember of
the court. And so even the Republicans on the Supreme Court arguably went
along with this decision against Kris Kobach. That`s why I say you get the
sense even some Republicans are saying let`s give up, let`s just now focus
on the race was Greg Orman and you will find Republicans, Rachel, frankly
who say this helps us focus now on Greg Orman. That we can now turn our
attention to one candidate to really make him the issue and this decision
in some ways clarifies the campaign for the next six weeks.
MADDOW: Dave Helling political reporter for the "Kansas City Star." I
keep thinking it`s not going to be as exciting the next time we talk but
who knows. Looking forward to talking to you next twist. Thanks a lot.
HELLING: You bet.
MADDOW: All right. As you can tell, there`s a ton of news going on. The
world is soon going to find out if Scotland has voted to become an
independent country. That`s just one part of it. We are going to have
live reports from Edinburgh.
There`s major breaking news about Chris Christie and the George Washington
Plus, Congress did something today I`m still choking on. Please stay with
MADDOW: So hey, as of tomorrow, Congress is going to be doing one thing it
is really, really good at, and that is the thing that is not done in
Washington anywhere near the capitol. Congress made amazing surprise
decision today, one I`m still choking on a little and I don`t feel I`m
choking up because it makes me feel emotional. I mean I`m choking on it
like I`m gagging. That story is coming up.
MADDOW: Between 1814 and 1905, this was Sweden Norway. All one place.
Much to the chagrin of Norway it turns out. In 1905, Norway said to heck
with that and they seceded from Sweden. And now, instead of being one big
Scandinavian country, they are two still sort of big but separate
In 1863, similarly, what had been Virginia instead became West Virginia and
Virginia. One big thing devolved into two smaller but separate states. In
2006 -- Serbia and Montenegro were like hey, we`re going to drop the and.
We`re actually Serbia and Montenegro three different words don`t capitalize
the a. We`re two different countries.
In 1993, same deal with Slovakia and the Czech Republic when they decided
they were each going to go their own way and instead make Czechoslovakia
something that people just say all the time now by mistake.
Breakups happen. And tonight we`re waiting to see if it`s going to happen
to our best and closest ally in the world, the United Kingdom. This is a
live shot of ballots being counted tonight in Ingliston, in Scotland which
is just outside of Edinburgh, just after 2:20 in the morning there.
Voters in Scotland today participated in a countrywide referendum on
independence. There`s one very simple on their one beautifully simple
ballot. This is the ballot. Look. Should Scotland be an independent
country? Yes or No. If the vote is yes, ha means the UK will go from
being like this to instead being like this. Losing essentially a third of
their land mass and over eight percent of their population and all of their
The polls heading into tonight`s vote were too close to call but maybe
leaning toward a no vote in the last round of polling. About 97 percent of
the electorate registered to voting in this referendum, according to the
University of (INAUDIBLE) in Britain, the highest ever turnout in a
referendum anywhere in the world when it wasn`t against the law to not vote
in the referendum. The highest was when Quebec voted on independence from
Canada back in 1995. The Quebec independent vote got over 93 percent
turnout in the referendum. So that`s the record that Scotland is trying to
beat tonight. They might do it although the early returns suggest probably
The polls in Scotland were open for 15 hours today from 7:00 in the morning
till 10:00 at night. They closed 10:00 local time which is 5:00 p.m. here
on the east coast. The votes get counted in each of the 32 local
authorities one by one across the country. So there`s a decentralized
collection of ballots in Scotland. And that is easy in some places but
hard in others.
For example, it was apparently a bit of a challenge tonight in places like
the Shetland Islands way up there on the top of your screen and also some
of the western islands way out there on the west part of your screen.
There was heavy fog today. That threatened to disrupt a chartered plane
that was supposed to pick up ballots from the western islands and fly them
to their local authority counting center in a place called Stornaway (ph).
Should the fog be so heavy to disrupt that flight, they made a plan b.
They are going to transport the ballots to Stornaway (ph) instead by way of
a shellfish boat.
The fishing boat is slower than the plane obviously. But there`s also the
fact if the mist is really too misty, maybe even the boat would be slowed
down by that. So there`s any number of reasons that could have delayed
some of the more far flung Scottish votes tonight. In terms of the early
returns, the first results so far two out of the 32 local authorities have
announced their vote counts, not just their turnout but how people voted.
If you add the two of those local authorities together, they`re reporting
42.2 percent in favor of the referendum to secede while 57.8 percent where
is voting against.
Early returns in at least 13 of the local authorities report the just voter
turnout so far. So voter turnout in the mid to upper is sort of within the
normal. Just over 90 percent in at least two others. But we`re still
awaiting further results. That which meant that there are a lot of folks
in Scotland who is not going to be getting very much sleep tonight
including lots of local reporters who are hard at work with up to the
minute updates throughout the night. They`re saying to expect the results
to be announced sometime around breakfast which depending on what time they
eat breakfast we`re expecting sometime in the couple of hours after
midnight tonight here in New York.
Joining us now is Alastair Jamieson and he is a reporter with NBC News. He
is in Edinburgh tonight along with the Matt Wells, assistance U.S. editor
for "the Guardian" who is here with us in the studio. Thank you both for
Alastair, I want to start with you. Edinburgh right now, if you can give
us a sense what it`s been like there tonight and what the early results are
telling people about the overall polling.
ALASTAIR JAMIESON, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Absolutely. As you said, Rachel,
with a turnout that high, it just goes to show the intensity of the debate
that`s taken place and the real passion with which Scots have voted for
either side. And with opinion polls really suggesting the vote could go
either way even at this stage, neither side to really making any confident
prediction about how they`re going to perform.
Those twos early results, although they`re interesting, don`t really give
us a full picture. We`ll have to wait till bigger cities declare their
results later on such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Those results expected
maybe two or three hours from now.
Now, what is clear perhaps, is that the most recent polls of the last
couple of days giving a slight edge to the no campaign to keep the United
Kingdom but really it`s within the margin of error. So neither side
willing yet to jump and say either concede defeat or say they have likely
And this is where all the results from around the country are being fed in
and there`s a real intense atmosphere here tonight. Really, Britain is
really just holding its breath for the outcome of this result because it is
entirely possible, entirely possible, even at this late stage, that there
could be a vote to split apart from the United Kingdom. And that is such a
significant constitutional change for Britain.
MADDOW: Alastair in, terms of the sort of late turn toward no that which
we saw indicated in some of the very last polls in which people I think
anecdotally are starting to use as part of their analysis for what we`ve
seen thus far even if it is relatively premature to extrapolate in the two
But in terms of the late surge on the no side if there`s been one, is that
because of new arguments being made or new energy on the no side or is that
simply the emergence of people who weren`t very vocal about their
preferences deciding to turn out to vote even if they hadn`t been
expressing themselves local little about it before doing so?
JAMIESON: I think it`s definitely the latter, Rachel. The thing is, if
you`re promoting the yes campaign, you have a very positive and exciting
message, one of opportunity of what things could be like. And you`re
painting a picture of a country that could be liberated from Westminster
government and make its own decisions. And that`s a very engaging message
and one that found a lot of favor.
And it`s been difficult I think for the no campaign the better together
pro-UK campaign really to find a message that is exciting and sonorous
passion. And really, that hasn`t happened until the last week or so when
we found opinion polls that put the sides medication and neck. And I think
a lot of people, they woke up to the very real possibility that eight yes
vote could win. And that really has got , I think, a lot more people out
And although there really hasn`t been much in the way of new substantial
campaign developments in terms of new information or new argument, it
certainly has got people energized and has brought more people out. And I
think you`ve seen that reflected in the massive, massive turnout.
MADDOW: Alastair Jamieson for NBC News in Edinburgh tonight. Alastair,
thank you. I appreciate you being there for us.
I want to bring in Matt Wells assistant U.S. editor for "the Guardian."
Matt, do you agree with Alastair that there`s no reason to extrapolate from
those two early results from two local authorities of the 32, that that`s
not necessarily indicative of way things are going to go?
MATT WELLS, ASSISTANT U.S. EDITOR, THE GUARDIAN: Well, it`s -- those are
the compulsory health warning that we put on all these results. But you
know, it is all we got to go. So we might, as well do extrapolation.
And there are two -- the two results that we`ve got so far, one of them is
from (INAUDIBLE) island in the north of Scotland and that went very much as
expected very hard in favor of the union. But completely unexpected was
Clackmannanshire in the middle of Scotland, very small county, only 9.9
percent of the vote but 54, almost 54 percent for no and just 46 percent
The yes campaign were really hoping to get Clackmannanshire. It was number
one on their list of areas they should get if they were going to win the
whole country. They didn`t get it. So the no campaign is jubilant and the
yes campaign not very happy at this moment.
Still early stages. It could go either way yet but it`s not looking good
if you add that with the latest polling, you go poll of people who actually
voted today, not quite an exit poll but it was a poll of people who went
into polling stations and exited. So you could still -- you, very nearly
an exit poll, they just went back to their panel of people they have
previously polled after they voted and that was 54-46 too so the same as
Clackmannanshire. So it really isn`t looking good for the yes campaign as
we speak right now.
MADDOW: And in terms of the dynamic changing over time, we saw this panic
in Westminster, all this panic in the British government in the UK over
some polling results that suggested a lot of momentum on the yes side. And
eventually, it is essentially it felt like they were blindsided by the fact
that yes was doing we after it hadn`t done well leading up to that. Is
there anything you can tell us about why the momentum may have shifted back
in the no campaign`s direction if in fact it did.
WELLS: So that poll that you mentioned two weeks ago for the "Sunday
Times" newspaper in London which gave it for 51 percent for the yes
MADDOW: That is right.
WELLS: Yes. That sent London into a total panic. They rounded up
all the spare kitchen sinks in London and threw them at Scotland in the
past two weeks. They announced that -- Well, the government in London
announced that a program of reform and deep further devolution of powers to
Scotland would be undertaken immediately after a no vote. So, that is what
we will hear tomorrow, Friday, if the results go the way we expect.
There is expected to be announcement in London that further powers
will be significantly devolved to the Scottish parliament. A consultation
will get underway in November. A bill will be published by Burns Night, a
national day in Scotland, on the 31st of January.
That has got all of England`s MPs into something of a tizzy. Because
if you grant more powers to the Scottish parliament, what does that mean
for the rest of England? Should it be set up a kind of federal system in
WELLS: So, constitutional catechism and chaos is on the cards
MADDOW: Whichever either way, and it defends if the catechism is tonight
or the catechism is in January.
WELLS: You got them.
MADDOW: Fascinating. Matt Wells, Assistant U.S. Editor for "The
Guardian." Thanks for helping us understand this tonight.
WELLS: My pleasure.
MADDOW: This is going to be fun to watch. It is one of those huge
news nights that is before we got on the air and is going to keep getting
bigger overnight. Stay with us.
MADDOW: It has been a big news day already on top of everything else. We
also have some late breaking news out of New Jersey to bring you. It is a
big update of the ongoing investigation of the forced lane closures that
happened this time last year on the busiest bridge in the world.
And what, if anything, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey had to
do with this now very famous e-mail. Time for some traffic problems in
Fort Lee. There is a big development in that story tonight. That is
coming up next with the man who has been leading the investigation since
the beginning. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Yes. It is that kind of day. There is yet more breaking news to
report tonight. It is just one of those days in the news. And, tonight`s
breaking news from New Jersey concerns the ongoing investigation swirling
around Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. It was almost one
year ago exactly that aides to Governor Christie for reasons still unknown
orchestrated a massive traffic disaster at the world`s busiest bridge.
Starting the first day of school last September, members of Governor
Christie`s inner circle planned and executed a week-long shut down of
access lanes heading onto the George Washington Bridge. That shutdown,
gridlocked the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, caused a four-day long traffic
nightmare on the New Jersey side of that bridge.
Eventually, it launched a blizzard of investigations into who decided
to cause that traffic jam and why. The who as far as we know turned out to
be a pair of Chris Christie officials, his Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget
Kelly and a Christie appointed Port Authority Official named David
Wildstein. Those two at least are known to have conspired to create that
traffic jam on purpose.
But there have remained a few key questions. Why did they do it?
Who else was involved? Who else knew they were doing it? And, did someone
above them order it? Because he is the Governor and because this
apparently emanated from his office, there is the question of specifically
whether Chris Christie knew anything about it, whether he ordered it as
some sort of political payback scheme.
In this picture, you can see Governor Christie during that shutdown
last year, standing and chatting with David Wildstein, one of his aides who
ordered the shutdown. Governor Christie as first mocked to the idea that
his administration had caused this thing. Then he was forced to
acknowledge that, "Yes. They did cause it." Then he apologized for the
incident and said he felt betrayed. Then he fired his top aide who was
directly involved in it.
Since then, since Governor Christie came out and expressed public
contrition for the actions of his administration, there have been these
ongoing investigations to try to find out if something criminal happened
here. One of those investigations has been the inquiry conducted by the
New Jersey State legislature, special bipartisan committee tasked with
figuring out what happened here and why.
That investigation has been going on for months now and it has not
yet wrapped up its work. The other investigation that has been on going is
the investigation from federal prosecutors and from the U.S. Attorney`s
office in the state of New Jersey. The U.S. attorney in New Jersey is a
man named Paul Fishman.
Paul Fishman`s office has been investigating this bridge scandal
since January. And, other than confirming that they are investigating, the
U.S. Attorney`s office there has not confirmed much else. They have been
really tight-lipped about where that investigation stands. That kind of a
no leak office.
Earlier this year, we did learn that federal investigators have been
taking testimony from top Chris Christie aides including his chief
spokesman, but we learned that by staking out the courthouse, right? Local
reporters staking out the courthouse really has been the only real means of
getting information about what is going on.
Tonight, though, the first leak. Tonight, there has been a
development in what has been an investigation that before now was
essentially leak free for months. The development tonight is that somebody
is now leaking. Somebody is leaking the news specifically that New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie is basically off the hook in federal criminal
investigation. Our NBC Affiliate in New York, WNBC broke the news earlier
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WNBC MALE CORRESPONDENT: Federal sources briefed on the
criminal investigation say prosecutors and the FBI have found no evidence
Governor Christie knew or had played any role in the plan to shut down
traffic lanes approaching the George Washington Bridge.
Officials caution the investigation being led by U.S. Attorney Paul
Fishman is not yet complete, but we are told that the federal investigation
on going since January simply put has turned up nothing to indicate the
Governor had any involvement in Bridgegate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, again, federal sources now leaking word that Governor
Christie has essentially been cleared of wrongdoing in that investigation.
There is no confirmation of that by the U.S. Attorney`s office. Governor
Christie`s office is not commenting on it formally, yet. But, federal
sources are now putting out word that the Governor, himself, had nothing to
do with the bridge scandal, nothing to see here.
We spoke with the U.S. Attorney`s Office in New Jersey tonight. They
told us in no uncertain terms, quote, "The investigation is not over," end
quote. They tend to speak in sentences that short. But, Governor
Christie, as he is tried many times in recent months is trying right now to
put a book end on this scandal.
Earlier today he publicly called out the state legislature for their
on going investigation into this matter telling them at a press conference
today, quote, "Wrap up your work." And, then tonight, the Governor for the
first time in three months appeared on a local radio call-in program in New
Jersey, where he was perfectly positioned to comment on this new reporting
Governor Christie said tonight on the radio, quote, "This is a report
that comes as no shock to me. I am not surprised by it" and then he again
criticized the legislative investigation into this incident that is being
headed up by Democratic State Assemblyman John Wisniewski.
Joining us now is Democratic State Assemblyman, John Wisniewski, the
chair of the New Jersey legislative panel that is investigating this.
Congressman - Assemblyman Wisniewski, thank you very much for being with
us. Appreciate you being here.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI, (D) NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: So, first, your reaction tonight to this reporting from WNBC
that federal investigators have so far found no evidence that Governor
Christie had any knowledge of or played any role in the bridge shutdown.
What do you make of that reporting?
WISNIEWSKI: Well, it could be true or it could not be true. We noticed
that we have federal investigators saying that but then Mr. Fishman`s
office when contacted had no comment. Look, the fact is that this is not
an investigation into Chris Christie.
This is an investigation into why these lanes were shut down; who
authorized the lanes to be shut down, because I do not think anybody
believes that Bridget Kelly on her own decided one morning that it would be
a fun thing to do to shut these lanes down.
So, we need to get answers to some very basic questions. Who gave
her the authorization and what did they hope to accomplish? Because only
by knowing those answers, we will be able to make sure it cannot happen
MADDOW: The other key player in all of this implicated thus far is former
Port Authority Official David Wildstein. He is alleged in writing through
his attorney that in his words, quote, "Evidence exists tying Governor
Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures." That has been his
contention since he got nailed for his role in this, basically.
We reached out to David Wildstein`s attorney tonight to get his
reaction. We have not heard back yet. But has your committee been able to
essentially substantiate that allegation from David Wildstein? Have you
been able to figure out what that evidence might be that he is saying
WISNIEWSKI: There is a lot of e-mails out there, Rachel. There are
documents that we have not yet gotten from this administration, because
they are relying on executive privilege as a basis to not turn them over to
the committee. So, it could very well be in documents that they are
withholding, that there is more proof that would make some conclusive
determinations. We do not know that yet.
And, do not forget, we also have this shifting timeline of when the
Governor knew what he knew. So we know that on December 13th, he said that
he knew nothing about this; but we do know that literally the day before,
he had meetings with his senior aides about this very issue.
MADDOW: I want to play a clip for you if I can, just because it is
specifically about you.
MADDOW: Governor Christie addressed you personally, went after you
personally in a press conference that he held on this matter earlier today
about what you have been able to turn up so far in your investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Unfortunately, Assemblyman
Wisniewski is attempting to just keep his name in the newspaper. We have
fully cooperated -- absolutely fully cooperated with him and I am really
growing tired of him.
You know, I have known all along that this is a partisan pursuit, an
absolutely partisan pursuit. And, the leaking that is being done by about
the legislative committee is just further evidence of the fact that this is
a partisan pursuit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Governor Christie saying about you today, "I am really
growing tired of him," accusing you of running a partisan pursuit and I
guess I got to ask for your response to that.
WISNIEWSKI: I am crushed. The reality is, is that this is a legislative
inquiry. And, I understand why republicans are unhappy about it. It is
embarrassing. It makes the Governor look bad. It makes the Republican
Party look bad. So, certainly they are going to try to characterize this
as a partisan pursuit.
This is an abuse of power that started on his watch. The fact that
he is claiming to have been fully cooperative just does not meet with the
facts on their relying on executive privilege to withhold documents. I
mean, if the Governor truly believes that there is no culpability here and
take the Governor at his word, so, what is he afraid of? Why does not he
turn all the documents over and stop parsing words and holding back
MADDOW: Democratic State Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chair of the
legislative panel looking into Bridgegate in the state legislature there.
Thanks for your time tonight, sir. It is nice to see you.
WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. Again, the breaking news tonight WNBC in New York
reporting that sources say the federal investigation into the Bridgegate
scandal in New Jersey has as yet turned up no evidence tying Mr. Christie
to -- Governor Christie to knowledge of or playing any role in the bridge
That is the first leak of really any kind from the federal
prosecutors looking into this in New Jersey, as yet unconfirmed by the U.S.
Attorney`s office, but that is news. Lots more ahead. Stay with us.
MADDOW: So, we are looking live at footage from Edinburgh, Scotland right
now, where the votes in Scotland`s independence referendum are currently
being counted. Polls closed in Scotland at 10:00 P.M. local time, which is
about five hours ago, almost five hours ago. Right now, almost 3:00 A.M.
local time, we are beginning to get some results.
Voters in the Shetland Islands were expected to vote no. They
appeared to be doing that by 36 percent yes to 64 percent no. That is the
most recent results we have just got in. In the Orkney Islands, way up
north, voters again were expected to vote no there. And, they appeared to
be doing that by 33 percent yes to 67 percent no. No has a big two to one
lead there in the Orkney Island.
And, then this was the first local authority to report its results.
Clackmannanshire voters there had been expected to vote yes for
independence. This had lead to a lot of pessimism on the yes for
independence side tonight when this was the first result that came in.
Again, it is a small local authority. There are not very many people
there. A very small proportion of the population, but this is a place that
was expected to vote yes.
And, tonight, the no vote there came in ahead, 53 to 46. So, there
are 32 local authorities altogether, who are going to report results.
Those are the first three out of the 32 that are due to report. They are
not the biggest in terms of population by any means. Those are just the
first three. Do not extrapolate like you do not in American elections
either. But, this is fascinating to watch as this comes in. We will keep
you posted as this develops. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: Today, our strikes against these terrorists continue.
We are taking out their terrorists. We are destroying their vehicles and
equipment and stockpiles, and we salute our dedicated pilots and crews, who
are carrying out these missions with great courage and skill. As demander
in chief, I could not be more proud of their service.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: President Obama making a statement just a couple of hours
ago, changing up his schedule today to make those remarks, praising U.S.
military pilots flying air raids in Iraq, thanking congress as well for
passing an amendment today to OK the administration`s plan to arm and train
rebels fighting the Syrian government and who hopefully can be persuaded to
fight ISIS, too, while they are at it.
The senate voted for that by about 78 to 22 today. The house passed
the same thing yesterday. And, tonight President Obama said thank you to
congress for that. The CIA is already training rebels in Syria, but the
expanded effort that congress just approved will start some time in the
next three months or so.
And, in completely unrelated news, the United States military
continues to wage a war against ISIS. Centcom today announced U.S. air
strike number 176 against ISIS targets in Iraq. Congress is yet to say
anything about that use of force by the U.S. Military in Iraq, let alone
the 1,600 American troops who have been deployed back to Iraq to take part
in that fight.
Congress has not weighed in on that at all. And, then today, they
left. The house announced today, surprise, that they are calling in sick
for the next two months. They were supposed to be back at work tomorrow,
but they canceled that day of work tomorrow.
Then they canceled all the rest of their days at work for the rest of
this month. Then they canceled all the days they were going to work next
month in October. And, now they are not planning on coming back to work
until after they run for election in November plus another week after that.
To be clear, they just took five weeks off for all of August and the
beginning of September. Since their five-week vacation, they have worked a
grand total of two four-day weeks. And, now, today they made the surprise
announcement that they are giving themselves the next 54 days in a row off
work. Because it is not like there is anything going on they ought to be
interested in, right?
Air strikes started August 8. They have been going on for five weeks
now. They are about to extend into Syria. The President announced a 40-
nation coalition involved in this effort. He announced tonight that France
is going to start dropping bombs in Iraq alongside our pilots who are
There is a war under way already, which congress has not said
anything about. And, today, they decided that war will apparently continue
for another two months while they go home and take two more months off
work. The house announced it first, then the senate followed suit. They
1,600 U.S. Military families have gotten the call. They have had
their loved ones deployed to Iraq. They are flying those missions right
now, but congress is heading home for another seven-week break, because
they cannot be bothered to think about that right now. They have got more
important business to attend to. They have got to get re-elected, because
that is the most important thing they do, right?
There is a reason the American public finds this congress repellent.
There is a reason why this congress has the lowest approval ratings in the
history of congress and the spectrum of all major institutions in our
country. There is a reason congress -- this congress, repulses the people
of the United States.
But, a decision like this today stretches the bounds of even the low
standards of decency that they have sunk to already. Amazing. That is for
us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it is time for the "Last
Word." Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ari.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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