The Reid Report   |  March 27, 2014

Internal Bridgegate review released

Joy Reid has the latest on the controversy surrounding the release of the internal review of the Bridgegate scandal, which has “cleared” Chris Christie’s name. MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki joins The Reid Report to give his input into the bridge scandal.

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

>>> happy thursday, reiders. welcome to the reid report for thursday, march 27th . we're getting our first look at the report. governor chris christie 's office says clears him in the george washington bridge scandal.

>> no evidence that anyone in the governor's office besides bridget kelly knew of this idea in advance or played any role in the decision or the implementation of it. so, yes, our mindings today are a vindication of governor christie , and what he said all along that he had no knowledge of this lane realignment beforehand and no involvement in that decision.

>> you know what's awesome? when you find yourself in the middle of a swirling controversy. and everyone's asking questions like what did you know and when did you know it? so you promise a full and thorough investigation, because that's what the people of your state deserve. and then you hire your hand-picked law firm to do it. and you send the million-dollar legal bill to the taxpayers. the internal review begins, your office makes good on its pledge for full cooperation. everyone who still works for you is asked to sit down for an interview. when the report comes out, you're magically cleared of all wro wrongdoing. governor chris christie , explain.

>> bill stepien, bridget kelly , were they interviewed for this investigation?

>> no. bridget kelly , bill stepien, bill baroni , david wildstein, dawn zimmer , the mayor all refused to be interviewed.

>> so bridget kelly , bill stepien, bill baroni , david wildstein, that's most of the key players in bridgegate. how does that work exactly? democrats not surprisingly are slamming this so-called complete report, saying it's anything but complete. steve kornacki is the host of "up with steve kornacki" weekend mornings here on msnbc. he's also a former new jersey reporter and has been breaking news left and right on this story for months. he also previously worked for david wildstein, one of the key players in the bridgegate saga. you know everything there is to know about bridgegate.

>> i was not interviewed for this report either.

>> let's start with the report from the law firm . start by telling us what is the relationship between this law firm and the christie administration?

>> this law firm has also been hired, retained by christie to represent his administration, or help his administration as it deals with a federal investigation. as the u.s. attorney for new jersey looks into the allegations from dawn zimmer and looks into the controversy from the george washington bridge lane closure, this law firm was already hired by christie to cooperate with that investigation and also potentially to cooperate with the state legislative committee. so simultaneously, this law firm is charged with basically representing christie and investigating him.

>> but they're saying listen, we went through and we talked, but not to the major players in the investigation. explain.

>> again, we're calling it a report finding. but honestly, the best way to look it this -- and i would stipulate, going through now most of it, i still haven't gotten through all of it, it may all be true. but this is basically a defense. this is the defense that christie 's legal team is offering, that christie himself is offering to the allegations that were made by dawn zimmer and to the suggestions of impropriety when it comes to the lane closures. i mean, this reads like -- here, i'll give you one example. there is so much, like, loaded language . it does not sound like an independent report. here they are talking about, they are relaying a conversation that david wildstein had with the spokesman for the governor. a conversation in december. they said wildstein says he did not act alone, identifying kelly and stepien as others who knew in claiming he had e-mails to prove it. a public event during the lane realignment, and then they say a reference that the governor does not recall and even if actually made would not have registered with the governor in any event because he would not have considered it to be memorable. this is not -- they have a bunch of citations, a bunch of footnotes in here. there's no footnote. they're giving the credit for not knowing. they're giving the credit -- of course, he wouldn't be able to remember. if this was an independent investigation truly, there would be skepticism. they would not just take this at christie 's word. it would be christie claims -- they talk to christie about this, they would say this is what the governor claims. if they couldn't substantiate it, they would say we couldn't substantiate it. instead, this is loaded language that makes wildstein come out in a most negative possible light. that's throughout this whole report.

>> i think that's probably what -- it does read sort of like a defense. this reads like sort of the opening statement of the defense, right? and what's interesting, to your point, is that they essentially lay all of this at the feet of bridget kelly and bill stepien without ever talking to them, and when something comes up where it is wildstein's word against christie 's, without having talked to wildstein, they simply give the benefit of the doubt to the governor and say he's completely clear.

>> yeah. interestingly, stepien comes up in here, but is not -- they are really coming down and pinning this on two people. that's david wildstein and bridget kelly . i don't have in front of me -- i wish i had the exact wording. but one of the most astounding things to me, it strongly suggests that bridget kelly -- it says that bridget kelly and bill stepien had a personal relationship . nobody's ever aired this publicly, but if you call around and talk to people around trenton, it was sort of -- this was common knowledge and supposedly it's true and everybody knows it, but nobody talks about it. so they are putting it in public with this thing. but they suggest that her state of mind in august, it might have been part of her motivation for orchestrating the lane cover-ups. basically suggest in their language that stepien cut off the relationship with her, this might have affected her state of mind . this is when she started communicating with david wildstein. almost like they're saying she wanted to somehow impress bill stepien or something by pulling this off after he broke up with her. it's an amazing -- the insinuation in here --

>> it's just an insinuation, because they say straight out that they have no motive. they come right out in the opening sort of sentences in the report and say we don't have a motive. but let's just imply a motive. another thing i want to get to is there is these insinuations about dawn zimmer , the allegations that she was essentially bullied by christie . i do want to read you a statement from the mayor on the report really quickly. it says randy master could have written his report the day he was hired and saved the taxpayers the millions dollars in fees he billed in generated this one-sided whitewash of serious misconduct by the christie administration. mastro's conclusion that there was nothing to the threat that was made to me that hoboken would not get sandy relief money it needs and deserves unless i supported the rockefeller group project was surprisingly predicted. it includes the damaging fact that after the lieutenant governor made the threat to me in the parking lot, she got in her car and told an aid that i was not playing ball. this reinforces the soundness of the decision i made not to cooperate with mr. mastro's so-called investigation, and to do so would have only lent credibility to an effort that unfortunately for the taxpayers of new jersey has no credibility or legitimacy. this is another piece of the puzzle. this is somebody who didn't cooperate, but she's saying, essentially, it's one-sided. should we expect more people to come out and defend themselves based on basically being blamed for this without being interviewed?

>> sure, but blame is so narrowly cast in this thing. even stepien comes off -- you read this and you're saying he didn't seem to do too much. baroni doesn't come off like he did -- they really pin this just on kelly . if you look at david wildstein, any of these principal players -- well, there's somebody else who can and in some cases has already talked to them. that's the u.s. attorney for new jersey. we know that dawn zimmer has talked to the u.s. attorney . we know the people around her have talked to the u.s. soern attorney. we know they've turned over documents to the u.s. attorney that they did not give over to christie investigation. it's the u.s. attorney , ultimately, all the interviews, we couldn't get to this and that, that is not an issue for the u.s. attorney . we know the u.s. attorney is looking into this. so i read this as this is the defense. if the u.s. attorney is asking the christie administration any questions, this is the answer. this is our defense.

>> so the next question, i think the obvious question after that is so far bridget kelly and david wildstein have not necessarily been that cooperative in terms of the larger investigation. this seems like an incentive to seek a deal.

>> yes, well, the other thing is -- so yes, bridget kelly and david wildstein have not been that cooperative. there's a passage in here that basically says because she's invoking her fifth amendment rights and trying to withhold these documents from the committee, it suggests she has something -- it suggests that she has some issues trying to cover up. that's essentially what they're saying in one part of this report. interestingly, they only say that about her. they don't say it about bill stepien, who is also simultaneously asserting his fifth amendment right not to turn over documents.

>> if you're choosing a couple of people to make the fall guy , choose wisely. whatever it is that they know, or whatever it is they've got, they've now been essentially blamed. it's a party of two now. it's two against the rest. and i guess they better hope they don't decide to start talking.

>> that's the thing. one of the mysteries in this has been -- one of the mysteries has been a month or two ago, david wildstein's lawyer put out that letter to the port authority where he said that evidence exists that christie knew about the closures at the time. this apparently is their -- this idea that --

>> the response.

>> when they're saying there was apparently a conversation that wildstein served and christie would not remember, that's their response to that apparently. that's what they're saying, that they seem to be suggesting that's what wildstein is referring to.

>> the saga continues. i think that there's going to be an escalation here. i would not be surprised if suddenly loose lips begin to emerge among the two people getting blamed. steve kornacki, thank you so much. i'm quite sure there will be much more on "up with steve kornacki." you guys have got to watch that. it's must-see tv every saturday, sunday morning at 8:00 a.m . eastern right here on msnbc.