Meet the Press   |  March 30, 2014

Report Exonerates Christie, But Can He Rebound?

Following the release of a report clearing N.J. Gov. Chris Christie of wrongdoing in the bridge scandal, can he make a comeback? Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and New Jersey State Sen. Loretta Weinberg discuss.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and now to the bridge scandal and the presidential hopes of new jersey governor chris christie . after the release of findings from an investigation that he ordered on himself, christie is going on the offense. to try to rescue his political future.

>> the dysfunction in washington, is no longer being emulated around the world. it is being mocked around the world.

>> the speech of a politician in political purgatory, chris christie in las vegas this weekend with other white house hopefuls looking for the support of some key major republican donors including sheldon adelson , the gop's super donor who gave more than $90 million in his attempt to stop barack obama 's re-election in 2012 . but after the bridgegate scandal, can the new jersey governor revive the broad support that led him to be tabbed as an early front-runner for the republican nomination? our most recent polling suggests he might have a tough time. our last nbc news " wall street journal " poll found his personal rating at just 17 positive, 32% negative. that was a drop from his already bad poll numbers in january days after the scandal became national news. it's a far cry from those halcyon days of 2013 when days before his landslide re-election, he had a 2 - 1 positive rating. now republicans have a more negative view, 29% negative, 23% positive. still he is battling and this week decided he wanted out of purgatory. he sat for a network tv interview on thursday after the release of his own investigation that concluded he didn't know anything about the bridge plot. at a press conference on friday, his bravado was back, even attacking reporters.

>> i don't know whether you can't take notes or you're not listening.

>> christine, stop. you have to get the facts right if you're going to ask me a question.

>> i'm joined by rudy giuliani . he's the former republican mayor of new york city appears on behalf of governor christie . he's in palm beach , florida. with me in the studio is loretta weinberg , democratic senate majority leader of new jersey and co-chair of the committee investigating the governor. mr. mayor, you're a former u.s. attorney . if somebody came to you with an investigation that came to a conclusion like the one that christie 's investigation did but it did not interview the five most important players in the investigation including bridget kelly , bill stepien, bill baroni , all these people all involved in it, would you accept that as a complete investigation as a former u.s. attorney ?

>> no, no, i would not accept it a a an complete investigation but i would accept it for what it's worth. in other words, i would go through it in great detail because it can give you a tremendous amount of information. so far, no one has gotten to interview those people including the joint committee . this report has gone as far par as anybody can go. it can give you very valuable information. for example, what kelly , stepien and these people were saying at the time to other witnesses. all of which is in the report. i happen to have read the report can be extremely important evidence. actually, i found sometimes the things they say back then, that witnesses say back at the time the event is going on are far more credible than they might say to investigators later when they're looking for indemnification. so no, it's not a final or complete report. but nor should it be tossed aside as not having extremely valuable information.

>> the governor's lawyer called it vindication. i take it you don't think you should use those words?

>> well, i would say it's a vindication of the position that the governor didn't know beforehand and didn't order it about as clear as you can get it barring these two or three witnesses who might have something different to say now than they said then. based on what they were saying back then with witnesses who were interviewed, it is a vindication of the fact that the governor didn't know beforehand and didn't order it.

>> in order to give this investigation a little more credibility, should gibson dunn the law firm that conducted it release the full transcript of the interview they did with governor christie ?

>> that's up to them. i mean, i don't know how much more it contains.

>> i'm asking you. do you think it would be better for governor christie if that were public?

>> i think the more that's made public, the better it is. and the more they share with the joint committee and obviously, they're going to give everything to the u.s. attorney . i would consider that to be the most important part. are they giving everything to the u.s. attorney .

>> let me ask you about chris christie 's political future. here's a guy in 2013 , had he sort of three big trademarks. he was seen as a competent guy, a straight shooter and had bipartisan credentials. you saw the poll number. he's lost the bipartisan credentials. now there's a question on on either competency or credibility. either he was out of the loop when this happened which is his contention or he's not been straight with us. how does he get this back to make him viable again?

>> well, he's going to have to answer both those questions. i think this report is a good step in that direction. it doesn't get you there. you didn't point out the fact that this report was done by a regular sistered democrat, randy mastro someone who took on the teamsters union and cleaned up new york from the mafia under threat of death several times. he happened to work for me at the time. so i know it. he's got a guy doing this report who's not about to do a whitewash. that isn't in his character, not somebody who took on the mafia under threat of death. i think this is a pretty strong report. it is not conclusive. no one claims it is, but it's a good step in the right direction.

>> i've got to ask you about one part of the report. there seemed to be gratuitous mentions of bridget kelly and her personal life in there. do you think it ended up undermining the credibility of the report?

>> i think the mention of it as i kolt tell seemed relevant to the fact that the two people might not be communicating. i'm not sure that would have been mentioned but for the fact there's an issue as to whether stepien.

>> it got all of little personal.

>> and whether they were communicating with each other.

>> it got awfully personal.

>> yeah, but they had to explain why they weren't communicating. if they didn't explain why they weren't communicating, people who want to criticize the report would say why wouldn't they be communicating. they knew each other. these two people, i don't want to mention what the facts are. they apparently were having a fight and weren't talking to each other. if i were doing that investigation, i'd have to give an explanation of that. otherwise, you'd all start attacking me. one final point. had he not done this investigation, had he not done this investigation, he'd have been accused of closing his eyes to this. every single situation in which a chief executive is put under this kind of scrutiny, they order a report like this so they can get the facts. that's a responsible thing to do. now we'll have to see if it stands the test of time.

>> rudy giuliani , thank you very much. now joining me is for the other side of this is loretta weinberg . senator, you're obviously part of this investigation. at what point are you going to step -- what's it going for you to take to accept governor christie 's side of the sorry?

>> i'm willing to accept his side of the story all the way along as soon as we get all of the information, as soon as we get a chance to question all the people we would like to question and as soon as we get all the documents. you know, i'm glad.

>> what are you missing? tell me what you're missing

>> first of all we're missing the list of 70 people that were interviewed in this so-called report. we're missing all the transcripts. not only of this interview with the governor but his interview with all 70 of the so-called witnesses. and i'd like to know for a report, first of all, i'm glad to hear mr. giuliani said it wasn't conclusive. it's the governor who is saying it's conclusive. and for a report that was supposed to be so conclusive, footnoted, et cetera , how did they know who broke up a personal relationship ? that gratuitous sexist language in that report is infuriating, and anybody who put their name on that report should be ashamed of themselves.

>> i guess i'm going to ask you though, you've been spending a lot of time on this. we know what governor christie 's denial is. there has been no evidence to suggest that his denial is false. have you found any evidence to suggest this?

>> we have not yet gotten all the evidence. we are waiting for a court decision concerning certain witnesses that are pleading the fifth. and one of the things i do know is that this incident was known on september 13th when the executive director of the port authority reversed it. let me just point out just to show you the level of mr. mastro's report, i wrote a letter.

>> mastro the attorney that wrote the report on behalf of governor christie ?

>> exactly. thank you. i wrote a letter to the -- to a commissioner in the port authority on september 19th asking questions. and i copied the governor on that letter. and i copied mr. samson who resigned as soon as the report came out, the former chair of the port authority of new york and new jersey . mr. mastro depicts that in the report as senator weinberg wrote a letter to the port authority . completely omits the fact that very plainly on the letter says

>> do you think he ever read that letter?

>> well, he mentions it in the report. apparently it's part of the file. but these are the kinds of omissions even just calling what really happened as a lane realignment. that's how he refers to it. it's a choice of words that were meant to give an impression that i think is inappropriate and i would hope that we get a list of all 70 witnesses and all the transcripts and present that to our committee.

>> let me ask you this. if governor christie said tomorrow he would come before your committee, go under oath and this is the evidence and there's no other evidence to prove that he knew anything, would that satisfy you?

>> yes.

>> would you say this investigation is over?

>> if governor christie comes before our committee under oath and brings all these documents with him, i'd be more than satisfied.

>> and then you would feel as if okay, i've gotten everything i can get out of him. this investigation is over or their investigation as far as chris christie is concerned is over?

>> it would depend upon what we hear from the governor and if that leads us any place else. but personally, speaking for myself as the co-chair of the committee as one member, if the governor came before us under oath with all of the documents and all of these transcripts, i think everybody on the committee would be happy.

>> all right. loretta weinberg , state senator there, part of the joint committee looking into this entire bridge mess. thanks for