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All In With Chris Hayes, Thursday, January 9th, 2014

Read the transcript from the Thursday show

January 9, 2014

Guests: Gordon Johnson, Linda Stender, Barbara Buono, Sam Seder, Ben Domenech

CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, from New York. I`m Chris

Two New Jersey officials have been fired and the governor of that
state is now in full-on defense mode. As the George Washington Bridge
political retribution scandal continues to gain momentum.

A total of four people have now lost their jobs as Governor Christie
announced today in an epic press conference that he has fired his deputy
chiefs of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, the author of the now infamous e-mail
reading "time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee."

And one of Governor Christie`s most trusted advisers, campaign manager
Bill Stepien, whose e-mail called the mayor of Ft. Lee an idiot, was fired
as a consultant on the Republican Governors Association and instructed not
to submit his name for state party chairman.

The firings come on a day when the U.S. attorney has announced the
opening of a federal investigation and key Christie appointee at the center
of the scandal pled the Fifth in front of the New Jersey House Committee
and we will get to all of that.

But before we do, Governor Christie gave the performance of his life
today. Once apologizing and portraying himself as the victim, all in an
effort to prove he has nothing left to hide, but there is so, so much we
still do not know.



HAYES (voice-over): Today in New Jersey, Chris Christie put on a
marathon performance, ripped straight from a "West Wing" script.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I should do a "until they drop" press conference
on the nuclear accident. Answer every reporter`s question. Stay at the
microphone until I bore them to death.

HAYES: During a press conference that lasted 108 minutes, the world
got a chance to see how Chris Christie is dealing with the scandal that
could end his career in politics.

For one thing, Chris Christie is stunned.

CHRISTIE: I`m stunned.

HAYES: He is embarrassed.

CHRISTIE: It`s embarrassing.

HAYES: He`s also humiliated.

CHRISTIE: I am embarrassed and humiliated.

HAYES: Because he has been betrayed.

CHRISTIE: A person close to me betrayed me, betrayed me.

HAYES: And so, therefore, he`s angry.

CHRISTIE: What I read yesterday makes me angry.

HAYES: But then, again, maybe he`s just sorting some stuff out.

CHRISTIE: I don`t know what the stages of grief are in exact order.

HAYES: Yes, today, we found out, in spite of videotaped evidence that
would lead us to think otherwise --

CHRISTIE: Are you -- are you stupid?

HAYES: Chris Christie is no bully.

CHRISTIE: Because I am who I am, but I am not a bully.

HAYES: But the biggest takeaway from Chris Christie`s event today is
that New Jersey`s governor is sad.

CHRISTIE: And you can only imagine, as I was standing there in my
bedroom with my iPad looking at that how incredibly sad and betrayed I

HAYES: Chris Christie is, like, really, seriously legit sad.

CHRISTIE: But I am a very sad person today. It just makes me sad.
But I got to tell you the truth, I`m sad. I`m a sad guy standing here

HAYES: It was an effort to take some responsibility while showing he
has nothing to hide and that he was as shocked about all of this as we

But after an hour and a half of answers, I`ve got more questions than
I did this morning.

First, when did you find out about the e-mails?

CHRISTIE: I was done with my workout yesterday morning and got a call
from my communications director at about 8:50, 8:55 informing me of this
story that had just broken on the "The Bergen Record" Web site.

HAYES: But later in a moment of unguarded honesty, Christie admits
something different.

CHRISTIE: I haven`t had a lot of sleep the last two nights, and I`ve
been doing a lot of soul searching. I`m sick over this.

HAYES: So, Governor Christie, was it two sleepless nights or one?

CHRISTIE: If you`re asking me over the last 48 ours or last 36 hours,
I`ve done some soul searching, you bet I have.

HAYES: Next, why do you still think that there was a traffic study?

CHRISTIE: There may have been a traffic study. Whether there was a
traffic study or not, I don`t know.

HAYES: To be clear, there was no traffic study. Remember, this all
started when your then-deputy chief of staff e-mailed "Time for some
traffic problems in Ft. Lee."

To be clear, the executive director of the Port Authority testified
that there was no such study.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not aware of any traffic study. I don`t know
why it was done.

HAYES: Another Port Authority official said he has never participated
in any study like this before.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My exact words is, this will not end well.

HAYES: That is because, once more, for those like the governor who
are slow to understand, there was no traffic study.

CHRISTIE: I don`t know what makes a legitimate traffic study. I
probably wouldn`t know a traffic study if I tripped over it.

HAYES: You don`t just create traffic to study it.

CHRISTIE: This could go back to the nuance of what really constitutes
a traffic study or not.

HAYES: Only traffic study that happened was, what will happen to
traffic in Ft. Lee when the governor`s cronies punish the mayor?

Next, what was David Samson`s involvement? David Samson is another
Christie appointee implicated in the e-mails who somehow escaped the ax.
In an e-mail to Bridget Kelly, Christie appointee David Wildstein wrote,
`The New York side gave Ft. Lee back all three lanes this morning. We`re
appropriately going nuts. Samson helping us to retaliate."

CHRISTIE: I`m convinced he had absolutely no knowledge of this.

HAYES: Why would Wildstein be lying about Samson`s involvement in a
private e-mail he never thought would see the light of day? And why are so
many people on your staff lying to you?

CHRISTIE: What did I do wrong to have these folks think it was OK to
lie to me?

HAYES: That`s a good question.

And finally, perhaps most importantly, if the people around you did
this, what else have they been up to?

REPORTER: How confident are you that this tactic, bullying tactic,
this revenge, retribution tactic, did not go off beyond this -- or are you?

CHRISTIE: I`m smart enough now after this experience, not to go out
there and certify that unequivocally, OK?


HAYES: Joining me, Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE
KORNACKI", veteran of New Jersey political reporting, one-time employee of
David Wildstein, who is at the center of this whole thing. I should say
that for disclosure`s sake.

OK. There are so many questions from the governor`s performance
today. Here`s the first one I want to start with. That e-mail, that first
e-mail that gets the ball rolling, "Time for some traffic problems in Ft.

Let`s say you believe the governor. He has no idea. Wouldn`t you be
curious, like, how did that happen? How did that e-mail lead to this?
What was the prologue to that whole situation?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Right. I think realistically the sort of
the best -- Christie wants you to believe he was completely in the dark on
everything until yesterday on the treadmill, whatever exactly it was, the
gym, wherever it was he found out about this.

OK. Realistically speaking the best-case scenario for Christie goes
something like this. He figured it out in his head at some point over the
last couple of months. All the questions from the news media percolated as
this story kind of grew. He`s a relatively smart guy. It`s hard to stare
at this and not kind of put two and two together, at least be suspicious.

But what he might have figured this version of events would go is that
he could run the clock out on this. Because one of the key dates on this
was next Tuesday when the current legislative session expires and when a
subpoena authority of the current legislature expires with it -- it`s a
long sort of internal New Jersey politics story.

But the incoming speaker of the state assembly in New Jersey is a
product of this alliance that Chris Christie has with some Democrats, some
sort of pro-Christie Democrats. There was some thought the incoming
speaker would not extend suspend the subpoena authority until this week.

HAYES: What`s perfect, that gets to the core of this whole thing
because the entire core of the Christie appeal, right, of the Christie
mystique is I bring people together, I`ve got Democrats for Christie,
Christie-crats, right?

I`m the only person who can make this state function because I`ve got
these Democrats and we can work together, and while Washington is broken.

And what this does, it shows what the predicate was for that kind of
cooperation which is that if you stepped out of line, you got traffic for
four days in your town.

KORNACKI: Right. The other thing is, like, we have -- one of the --
there are many unresolved questions from today. I think one of them is
very much, was -- it`s been reported this is about an endorsement. They
were seeking an endorsement from a Democratic mayor and he denied the
endorsement. I`m not convinced that`s the case.

HAYES: Totally agree.

KORNACKI: I think there`s a lot of other possibilities.

HAYES: Yes, let`s bring in New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson,
majority (INAUDIBLE) also of Ft. Lee, if I`m not mistaken.


HAYES: Part of your district.


HAYES: The one thing you got the ma mayor of Ft. Lee and governor
basically agreeing on at this point is the early reporting which is the
assumption that the mayor of Ft. Lee didn`t endorse Chris Christie and this
was retribution for that -- both the mayor seems to not think that`s the
case and the governor seems to not think that`s case.

So, what the heck was he being punished for?

JOHNSON: You know, I don`t know. I don`t know. I just find it very
hard to believe that Ms. Kelly, the deputy chief of staff, working in the
governor`s shadow, in his office, in the front office, didn`t -- just did
this --

HAYES: Freelance?

JOHNSON: Well, you know, they say it`s a rogue operation, I think is
the term was used. I can`t believe she would do something without some
type of direction from someone in that office.

HAYES: Do you think the governor lied today?

JOHNSON: I think that what he said today, I have more questions. I
mean, I think he had to know something about this. All right? I mean,
it`s his office. It`s his inner circle.

HAYES: As someone who works in New Jersey politics and elected
official in that state, has to deal with the governor and his staff on
various things. You`ve gotten the sense up until now that this guy is
pretty checked out, staff is basically doing most things, bring him stuff
to sign and that`s it?

JOHNSON: The governor runs a very tight operation. Very strict.
Very militaristic.

You know, I`ve had commissioners that when I request to see them,
they`ll have to call him before they`ll meet with us in the legislative
branch. So, that`s just one example.

HAYES: Restate that sentence.


HAYES: These are commissioners in what capacity?

JOHNSON: Department heads.

HAYES: OK, department head. You want to sit down with a department
head --


JOHNSON: They have to go through him before they`ll speak --

HAYES: So before a commissioner will meet with a member of the state
legislature, to work out some issue, it`s that -- something like that gets

JOHNSON: Very tight operation. Yes. Yes.

That`s why I cannot believe that this young lady, Ms. Kelly, who is
the deputy chief of staff in the governor`s office, in the front office
would do this without some type of directions from someone.

HAYES: Which brings us back to the other person fired today who was,
I think, had much more authority, much closer to the governor.

Steve, you know the characters at issue here. Bill Stepien, how close
was he to Governor Christie?

KORNACKI: Bill Stepien was his campaign manager in 2009. I think the
interesting thing about what Bill Stepien was doing before he was the
campaign manager and why I would say it`s possible this is not about an
endorsement. There may be other factors here we don`t now about.

Bill Stepien`s job in the governor`s office was, roughly speaking, to
be his sort of political enforcer in the state. There`s sort of an
official position in the governor`s office where you`re, ethically, there`s
an ethical way to do this. Basically his job was to look around the state
and deal with the municipalities, to deal with the mayors, to deal with the

So, it`s entirely plausible to me, that`s by the way, a position
Bridget Kelly moved into. He moved on and ran the campaign. And she was
probably in the administration --

HAYES: This is far of the administration that says, I`m the governor,
all right? And I`ve got folks who are on my side and I`ve got folks who
aren`t on my side. There`s someone in my office who goes to the side and
say, what can I help you with? And people on my side, how can I screw you?

KORNACKI: Yes, I mean, yes, no legally speaking, but, I mean --

HAYES: We should say there`s a degree of that that is present in all
politics. Right? There`s a certain base-level degree of that that is not,
like, closing four lanes of traffic to destroy a town`s traffic system,
right? I mean, there`s ways you say you help your allies.

KORNACKI: Cooperative relationships are some people and hostile
relationships --


HAYES: The question is where this kind of behavior is falling on this
spectrum. That was Bill Stepien`s job and he was running the came pain.

KORNACKI: And he was running the campaign and then Bridget Kelly was
into this position in the governor`s office he had bed before. Bridget
Kelly was brought into the governor`s office, most reporting suggests.
When I knew Bridget Kelly, she was chief of staff to a relatively sort of
mild mannered assemblyman from Bergen County. And I`m thinking --

HAYES: She`s come a long way.

KORNACKI: I cannot reconcile the Bridget Kelly I knew from those days
with the Bridget Kelly --

HAYES: Time for traffic in Ft. Lee?

JOHNSON: Beyond that, there`s board of commissioners at the Port
Authority nominated by the governor and put in place by the Senate,
confirmed by the Senate. These people didn`t tell the governor that
Weinberg and I attended the meetings, complaining about the traffic issues
in Ft. Lee, about these stoppages?

HAYES: Yes, no one told him. I mean, here`s --

JOHNSON: November 13th, we`re there. December 4th, we`re there.
Loretta Weinberg and I attended these meetings. John Wisniewski was there
also, complaining to them about this traffic -- this traffic tie-up, this
traffic chaos in Ft. Lee, why did it exist? One of these folks picked up
the phone and called the governor`s office and said, hey, we had some
legislators here. I just don`t get it.

HAYES: Do you think it is, knowing a bit about the players involved,
is it plausible to you that no one`s communicating this to Christie at any

KORNACKI: Yes, in a way, it is, and in a way it speaks to the culture
that`s sort of created around this administration because this
administration, Christie administration, relative to other recent
governorships in New Jersey has been a lot more aggressive and a lot more
hands-on when it comes to getting involved in local politics.

HAYES: Yes. I hear that everywhere.

KORNACKI: And you hear this from -- talk to Republicans in New Jersey
privately because there`s been, you know, one of the things, Christie`s
popularity has made it difficult for people to speak up, and Republicans
and even Democrats in New Jersey.

But if you talk to Republicans in New Jersey, people who are not
drinking the Christie Kool-Aid every day, they will tell you stories at
granular, municipal levels saying something in the local press or taking
action on the municipal council. Hearing from somebody high up in his
administration, hearing from the governor, himself.

This is something that did not happen with Jon Corzine. He wouldn`t
have happened even with Jim McGreevy, who`s super obsessed with this stuff.

I mean, it`s uniquely hyper local focus, the politics in the Christie

HAYES: And you think that tone is set such that it`s plausible that
people operating under him could think -- well, this is how we do business,
what we do without saying, hey, boss, what do you think of us causing a
traffic jam for four days in Ft. Lee for no reason?

KORNACKI: I asked a Republican today, this morning, I said I haven`t
heard many Republicans come out to defend Christie, why is it? And he
said, it`s because on one level, we`re surprised to see a man this
politically smart to get in a situation like this.

On the other hand, we don`t know what to say, because you know what?
Political payback operations, that`s the M.O. of this administration.
We`re not shock.


New Jersey Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, and Steve Kornacki, host of "UP
WITH STEVE KORNACKI" on the weekends, you`re definitely going to want to
watch that this weekend, Saturday and Sunday.

Coming up, today`s press conference was only one ring of the political




WISNIEWSKI: And most recently, where were you employed?

WILDSTEIN: On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully assert my
right to remain silent under the United States and New Jersey


HAYES: The first Christie appointee to be hauled before a New Jersey
House committee clams up. More on that, straight ahead.



HAYES: I have to read this to you and get your response to it,
because it was one of most vicious little jabs in there. After following
an article about the traffic jam, we have David Wildstein who since
resigned saying, "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian."

Got a response to that?

MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NJ: David Wildstein deserves an
ass-kicking, OK? Sorry. There, I said it.


HAYES: Oh, he said it, all right. But when David Wildstein, himself,
had to face questions today about the scandal, what did he have to say?
That is ahead.



CHRISTIE: Later today, I`m going to be going to Ft. Lee. I`m asked
to meet with the mayor to apologize to him personally face to face, and
also to apologize to the people of Ft. Lee in their town. People of those
communities for four days were impacted in a callous and different way, and
I`m going to go and apologize for that.


HAYES: That was Chris Christie at his press conference this morning,
vowing to personally apologize to the people of Ft. Lee, following
bombshell revelations that a senior Christie staffer ordered the lane
closure that turned Ft. Lee into a parking lot for four days.

In order to punish Ft. Lee`s mayor for -- well, frankly, it`s not
clear why he was being punished. That mayor, Mark Sokolich, who appeared
on this program last night and will be on Rachel`s show later, which you`ll
want to see said early this afternoon he did not want Christie to only to
his town, saying the visit would mark yet another disruption for Ft. Lee.


SOKOLICH: I would ask the governor, Ft. Lee can be granted one
request, one request through all of this. We would ask that he delay his
visit here today.


HAYES: Christie, perhaps not surprisingly, went anyway. Dodging
dozens of news crews on his way to a meeting with Sokolich, that Christie
later described as warm and productive.

But the most consequential action in the bridge-gate scandal today
happened not in Ft. Lee and not at Chris Christie`s press conference, but
in a conference room in Trenton at a previously scheduled hearing by the
state assembly committee that`s investigating the scandal. It is the
committee that subpoenaed the incriminating messages that forced Christie`s
hand and had him out there apologizing today.

The same committee is chaired by John Wisniewski, who Christie was
saying this about just last month when asked about the investigation.


CHRISTIE: Listen, just because John Wisniewski is obsessed with this
and Loretta Weinberg, it just shows you they have nothing to do.


HAYES: Nothing to do. What are they doing? Obsessed.

Testifying before the committee today was the guy you see right there,
the one and only David Wildstein. You`re hearing his name a lot because he
is the guy who probably knows more about what actually happened than

Wildstein went to high school with Chris Christie and Christie signed
off on Wildstein being hired to a high-ranking job at the Port Authority.
The one time Republican mayor resigned over the scandal last month.
Wildstein is the man responsible for perhaps the most shockingly callous
comment revealed about the traffic disaster he helped orchestrate. This
message dismissing Ft. Lee kids being stuck in traffic on their first day
of school, "They are the children of Buono voters," a reference to Barbara
Buono, Christie`s Democratic opponent in the governor`s race who will join
us here a little later.

The committee had a lot of questions for David Wildstein today as one
might expect. Wildstein declined to answer almost all of them.


WILDSTEIN: On the advice of my counsel, I respectfully assert my
right to remain silent under the United States and New Jersey

On the advice of counsel, I, again, assert my right to remain silent.

The same answer.

The same answer, sir.

Same answer, sir.

It`s the same answer, sir.


HAYES: You get the idea.

The committee found Wildstein in contempt, plans to refer the charge
to a county prosecutor. Members vow this is not the end of their
investigation. In fact, they say they are just getting started.

Joining me now, New Jersey assemblywoman, Linda Stender, vice chair of
the Transportation Committee, committee before which he appeared today.

So what`s your reaction to David Wildstein`s pleading the Fifth today?

we knew that there was concern that he was trying to protect himself
against criminal charges and that every time he declined to answer, it
opened up the flood gate for more questions.

And at the end, all we were left with were -- was the knowledge that
he didn`t want to answer any of our questions because he was afraid he
would incriminate himself.

HAYES: We have some of the documents that have been subpoenaed. I
think -- are there a lot more? That is my understanding. There are more
in the documents than we have seen.

STENDER: Yes, there were 900 pages from Wildstein. Another 900 from
Bill Baroni. The documents that were being referred to today are probably
the highlights in terms of having the most unanswered questions. There was
so much information it was redacted. There are so many inconsistencies.

HAYES: Can I ask you about the redactions? There`s a few pages you
see, we`re showing them right there, I remember one that stuck out to me,
entirely redacted. The last line is, who does he think he is, Captain
America? It`s unclear who`s talking about whom.

What is the deal with redact? Why are there redactions? This is not
national security. Why was it redacted?

STENDER: It was done by the attorney. It was done by the Port
Authority, apparently.

At the end of the committee meeting, there was a conversation between
John Wisniewski and the attorney. We do expect to have better resolution
on that because they need to come back and explain why information was

HAYES: So, you don`t know why it was redacted.

STENDER: We don`t know why it was redacted other than the fact they
felt it wasn`t useful or of import or pertaining to the subpoena. But when
you can`t tell who the exchanges were from, who they were between, that`s
information we need to know. We need to know who else were on that
distribution list. We need to know who specifically they were talking
about when they made references to other people we believe were in the
administration and close to Chris Christie.

HAYES: What is the next step, then, for this investigation?

STENDER: We will have to have a new subpoena issued. I believe that
we will do that at the beginning of our new session. The new session for
the legislature starts as of the 14th of January, next week. After we`re
all sworn in.

And I believe that we will all be in support of continuing this
investigation because this is a snowball effect.

HAYES: Right.

STENDER: Every time we ask a question, we don`t get an answer,
there`s another tens questions. We need to have the answers. That`s our
job to gather that information.

HAYES: So, my sense for you is that you -- you`re not willing to just
take the governor`s word. This didn`t go to him. There were just some
people. They were up to no good. All done.

STENDER: I absolutely two not take the governor`s word on this. I
have no confidence whatsoever that this is as simple and plain as he wanted
to make it seem, because clearly the man is very -- he`s very practiced.
He`s -- if anything else, he`s a good showman. And he clearly wants to
make this go away, but I don`t think that that`s what happened at this
point. I think that the flood gates have opened on this investigation.

HAYES: Yes, and my sense is, if people were cowed before by the
governor`s popularity or his political power, that`s not operative as much
anymore. There`s sufficient appetite to get to the bottom of this.

STENDER: That`s right. One of the things the governor said prior to
today was this is all about politics. I clearly believe it is all
politics, about the abuse of political power.

HAYES: New Jersey Assemblywoman Linda Stender, thank you so much for
your time tonight.

STENDER: Thank you.

HAYES: Former gubernatorial candidate Barbara Buono joins me ahead.
Stick around.


HAYES: Of all the many, many, many things Governor Chris Christie said in
his marathon nearly two-hour press conference today, this statement may
have been the most dubious.


GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: And so I am extraordinarily
disappointed by this, but this is the exception. It is not the rule of
what`s happened over the last four years in this administration.


HAYES: That is definitely not what the people in New Jersey politics say.
I`ve spoken with them as a reporter off the record and they paint the
picture of a very vindictive operation under Christie where everyone,
Democrats and Republicans are scared of being punished for stepping out of
line or crossing the governor. But you don`t have to take my word for it.

Here`s a little known paper called "The New York Times," ran a piece
from Christmas eve, called "Stories Add Up as Bully Image Trails Christie"
in which the reporter writes about the fate of those who have disagreed
with Christie. Quote, "A former governor who is stripped of police
security at public events, a Rutgers professor who lost state financing for
cherished programs and a state senator whose candidate for judgeship
suddenly stalled."

You don`t have to take the "Time`s" word for it, either. Go back to
the same e-mails that were revealed and you`ll see that Christie`s aides
and Port Authority staff talked about ignoring messages from Mayor Mark
Sokolich of Fort Lee, New Jersey, when he called to report the traffic jam
on the George Washington Bridge.

"Did he call him back?" radio silence." His name comes right after
Mayor Fulop." Who is Mayor Fulop? Mayor Fulop is Steve Fulop, a rising
star in the Democratic Party and mayor of Jersey City. Fulop who like
Sokolich says he`s a victim of Christie`s bullying because he voted for
Barbara Buono, the Democrat in Christie`s re-election bid last fall.

According to Fulop, "On the day last year that he told Christie`s
political team he would not back the governor, several high ranking state
officials and cabinet members called to cancel meetings that Christie`s
administration organized."

Fulop also claims New Jersey`s Senate President Steven Sweeney, a
Democrat but a big Christie ally killed a pension bill in the statehouse
that would have saved Jersey City $4 million a year. And this, the guy who
said, quote, "There`s a culture in Trenton of being punitive, being petty."

Trenton, New Jersey, of course, where the Governor`s Office is
located. In response to these allegations from Fulop about bullying and
retribution, Christie had this to say.


CHRISTIE: I don`t know about specific meetings or what`s going on, but
certainly, you know, I will look into all of those things, but the fact is
that what Mayor Fulop knows is when we agree with him from a policy
perspective, we`ll work with him. When we disagree with him, we`ll express
those disagreements. Sometimes that will mean friction.


HAYES: As soon as Christie finished speaking, this is the statement Mayor
Fulop, himself, put out, which reads in part, "Governor Christie`s comments
today on my relationship with the state are a gross misrepresentation of
the facts."

Joining me now, one of the foremost experts on the operations of Governor
Chris Christie`s political machine, New Jersey state senator, former
gubernatorial Democratic candidate, Barbara Buono. Thank you so much for


HAYES: Well, first I just have to ask, this must be a strange week for you
because you spent the campaign, you sat at this desk right here,
interviewed you during the campaign. We talked about your campaign several
times throughout the campaign. Basically saying this guy has everybody
spooked. That no one wants to cross him in the state of New Jersey. All
these Democrats were endorsing him, scratch the surface a little bit. Why
are they endorsing him? Then we get the e-mails.

BUONO: I tried to tell you.

HAYES: What was your response?

BUONO: Well, you know, back in September when we first heard about this
lane closures, I knew what happened. You know, in my heart of hearts, I
know it was this poor mayor who happened to vote his conscience and support
me, and this governor has a history of being retaliatory and seeking

When he was first sworn into office in 2010, I was the majority leader,
number two in the Senate. I actually said something about him in the press
that he declared a fiscal state of emergency. I said, what is he declaring
Marshal Law?

Do you know he never met with me since then even though I was the number
two person in the stat in leadership meetings? That`s the kind of thing.
He`s very thin skinned. He gets offended very easily and he holds a

HAYES: What did you hear as you were going around trying to build support
for your campaign, which was I think history will show a campaign that was
not supported by the Democratic Party up and down from Washington, D.C.,
National Democratic Party, Institutional Democratic Party in the state of
New Jersey. What did you hear from Democrats about how what the
relationship to Christie was like?

BUONO: Well, very often it arose in the context of fundraising. I would
call up people, lobbyists, people who worked in New Jersey and try and
raise money. There was a real culture of fear. Honestly, I`ve never seen
anything like it in my 20 years in the legislature.

HAYES: Stop for a second. Do you really mean that?

BUONO: I do.

HAYES: We know how New Jersey politics operate. People say, this is
Jersey, you`re really saying the culture of fear over people, fear of
retribution was worse than anything you`ve seen in 20 years?

BUONO: I`ve never seen anything like it. Let me give you an example.
Time after time I tried to raise money from people and they`d say, look,
this guy wants to hurt people. I`ll give you up to the $300 threshold
where it`s not a public record, but I won`t give you above that --

HAYES: Because I don`t want my name on an enemy`s list.

BUONO: Exactly. So I was relegated to raising money in $300 increments
quite a bit. People were afraid he would seek retribution. We`ve seen it.

HAYES: Do you think there are more Fort Lees?

BUONO: Well, that`s a very good question. And the fact of the matter is
we would not have even known about Fort Lee if Patrick Foy, a New York
official appointed by Governor Cuomo didn`t come forward. We would never
have known. That`s why I called on the U.S. Attorney`s Office to
investigate it, to see if, in fact, there are other places in New Jersey
that were similarly affected.

HAYES: This is a really good point because the reason that this scandal
blew up, the reason they were caught red handed is that the Port Authority
is a bi-state entity.

BUONO: Right.

HAYES: And the New York side of the entity, New York appointees wouldn`t
play along with the charade, right? They say, I don`t know what the
traffic study is, what the heck is going on? It does make you wonder if
there are other shenanigans happening throughout New Jersey where everyone
is under the umbrella of fear. What`s there?

BUONO: Chris Christie said he was sorry. Sorry he got caught. That`s why
he is sorry. If he were truly, truly sorry he would have come forward a
hundred days ago when it was unearthed. No, what he did, he resorted to
his showmanship, made jokes, said I was the guy moving the cones. It
wasn`t until this intrepid reporter, thank you, was able to be so tough and
unrelenting in seeking out requests, getting open public records,
documentation and e-mails. Chris Christie had to face the music today.

HAYES: New Jersey State Senator Barbara Buono, thank you.

BUONO: Thank you.

HAYES: More on the political ramifications, ahead.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor Chris Christie hit by a scandal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Calls at this hour for the feds to step in, investigate
the explosive e-mails that show Christie`s aides closing highway lanes on
America`s busiest bridge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Governor Christie know they were ordered as a form
of political retribution by some of his top appointees?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will it stop his presidential ambition?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How much has it hampered his White House prospects?


HAYES: Chris Christie had a really bad few days as he told us today, but
his political enemies are having a hell of a week. He has no shortage of
them. We`ll talk about who`s celebrating the governor`s implosion, next.


HAYES: So here is the problem with building your entire political
reputation and basing all of your political power on being a combative
domineering at times vindictive jerk. While you might be able to reign for
a time by way of spreading fear, when you inevitably at some point find
yourself in need of allies, they`re going to have mighty hard to find.

And that is the lesson Chris Christie is learning right about now as he
grapples with mounting evidence that his own top deputies deliberately
created a massive traffic jam on the world`s busiest bridge as political
retribution. The support system seems somewhat lacking. Can`t count on
the New Jersey Democratic Party, which has successfully (inaudible) to come
to his aid.

The National Conservative Movement which he`s had a contentious
relationship with isn`t exactly rushing to his defense either. "Red
State`s" Erick Erickson headlined his piece on the affair "the politics of
a-holes" and wrote, quote, "I`m ambivalent on his run for the presidency.
I don`t see him getting far for the very reasons underlying this issue. He
and his staff operate as divas."

Conservative talk show host, Steve Deace tweeted, quote, "Am I terrible
person if I want to get out of the way and let the liberal media destroy
Chris Christie 2016 for me?"

South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, saying, "The bridge
scandal reinforces a narrative that`s troublesome about the guy. He`s kind
of a bully." Graham would later walk those comments back. Kentucky
senator, Tea Party hero and longtime Christie nemesis, Rand Paul had this
to add.


SENATOR RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I know how angry I am when I`m in traffic
and always wondering, who did this to me?


HAYES: But even as Chris Christie`s political obituary is being written by
"Politico" far and wide, Chris Christie, himself, doesn`t seem to
understand quite of the magnitude of this scandal.


CHRISTIE: I`m enormously flattered that folks would talk to me in their
party as someone who they think could be a candidate for president. I`m
absolutely nowhere near beginning that consideration process.


HAYES: That was today, today. During the press conference Christie
convened to try to explain the breathtaking political payback scheme that
was apparently engineered from inside his own administration. It is this
context with a massive abuse of power scandal exploding around him that
Chris Christie says he is, gosh, flattered.

Because Chris Christie is still convinced the Republicans think he might be
their guy in 2016. Joining me now, political consultant, Tara Dowdell, who
worked for New Jersey Governor Jim Macgriby and for the Port Authority, Sam
Seder, host of the online podcast "Majority Report," co-host of the "Ring
of Fire" radio show and Ben Domenech, publisher of the "Federalist," and
senior fellow at the heartland Institute.

Ben, I get the sense, I`ve been very interested to watch conservatives not
rally around Christie. Usually nothing makes conservatives rally around
someone faster than when the liberal media has their cross hairs on him.
That has not been the case so far.

BEN DOMENECH, "THE FEDERALIST": Well, you know, I am glad that the media
has finally found on abuse of power scandal they really care about. Let`s
be serious here. This really wouldn`t matter if Chris Christie was the
governor of New Mexico or governor of New Hampshire. He is the frontrunner
in 2016 and he is on the border of your fair city in terms of the media
capital of the country.

And that is bringing all this attention to bear on him right now. And I
think a lot of conservatives look at Christie with skepticism. They see a
guy who`s basically got to where he is because of his number one asset
being his personality. The way that he can sort of come in and throw his
weight around as the phrase might go.

I think that from my perspective, in terms of charting what this means for
his 2016 hopes. It`s way early to sort of talk about those sorts of
issues. Guys have recovered from a lot more than just this.

HAYES: That is true. Is he toast? Is he toast?

SAM SEDER, HOST, "MAJORITY REPORT": I mean, from my perspective, look, I
don`t know that he`s really the presumptive frontrunner except for with a
fairly narrow constituency of beltway media types.

HAYES: Right.

SEDER: I mean, this is why this hurts more because this strikes right at
the narrative that they have supposedly supported about this guy. He`s a
straight talker. He`s competent. He`s almost a technocrat in the way he
does things. He may be a little bit brusque. Here`s a guy who admitted to
having staff for five years, lied to his face. He never questioned them
about any of it. This is what he wants us to believe. It`s absurd. It`s

TARA DOWDELL, POLITICAL CONSULTANT: To piggyback on that point about him
saying staff has misled him. What`s interesting about that, does Chris
Christie seem like the type to you who would allow a staff to mislead him
consistently over the years? If you look at his former education
commissioner who applied for the race to the top funding, which is the
federal education funding and did not get it, Chris Christie served him up,
threw him under the bus and said he misled him when the application was
found to be incomplete.

And Brett is on the record saying, no, no, no, I told him, I gave him the
information he need. I did not mislead him. Fast forward. You asked
earlier about were there any other Fort Lees? We look no further than
across the river to Jersey City. In Jersey City Mayor Fulop said today an
hour after he declined to endorse Chris Christie, every single commissioner
with whom he had a meeting with him canceled that meeting.

HAYES: There`s an interesting ideological part of this, Ben, that gets
conservatives going. In some ways it`s the worst example of big government
gone awry. Here`s this big, you know, bi-state agency that, like, it is
the most paranoid fear, right, about the power of the state being misused
is exactly this kind of thing and for no reason. A citizen gets screwed
over because someone in a position of power uses the tools of government to
pursue this kind of thing.

DOMENECH: This is as perfect an argument on the local level as you can
find against the kind of powerful government agencies we`ve seen misuse
power in the past. That`s something true of both parties.

HAYES: The Port Authority. It`s going to be a primary campaign of 2016
for the Republican Party.

DOMENECH: I think the problem here really for Christie is this goes to the
essential narrative that we have about whether he can export his brand of
politics in 2016.

HAYES: Yes, exactly.

DOMENECH: The instant -- first time that you have a run-in with staff in
Iowa over, you know, organizing an event or something like that, the jokes
are going to come out about bridges and everything else that goes with
that. I think that this is really the problem when you build an entire
career out of the kind of brash personality that he has and, frankly, you
know, the reason that he`s governor of New Jersey is in part because of the
scandals that happened under Corzine, the kind of thing he was supposed to
clean up when he got into office.

HAYES: I want to talk about who is celebrating today because there are
people celebrating. Jon Stewart had a funny, if slightly obscene joke
about this I won`t repeat, but more on that ahead.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you ever for even a brief moment entertain the idea
that perhaps you should resign?

CHRISTIE: God, no. No. Brian, I mean, you know, listen, I know you`re
asking. I am -- you know, I am -- I heard him over here, I`m back. That`s
a crazy question, man.


HAYES: We`re back. I`m here with Tara Dowdell, Sam Seder, and Ben
Domenech. Sam, he -- so I watched this thing today and basically I was
thinking, well, there are two possibilities here. He really is telling the
truth or he is just going all in and thinks he can get away with it.

SEDER: He`s going all in. The interest thing about that clip you just
played is that`s almost identical. If you would have put that side by side
with his response to the idea that somebody took out a political vendetta
is ridiculous, that`s a joke, how can you ask that question? Look, he was
-- he had to swing for the fences because that`s his style.

He could not sort of bunt here. And, you know, the notion that he`s
setting this up is, like, I have passed the test of leadership. The test
of leadership is to be lied by your staffers for so long, never question
anything about them. But then when you`re faced with the subpoena
documents to fire them. He`s diluted or selling a --

HAYES: The other thing he said something else about the situation.
There`s one e-mail showing he -- one little bit of information that`s
confirmed that he did talk to someone and that he`s completely -- he`s out
there. I thought, I was thinking to myself as I was watching, I was like,
well, would he be that stupid to set himself up that way? I remember
watching Anthony Weiner for a week tell everyone it was completely

SEDER: You have no choice.

HAYES: Politicians do crazy stuff.

SEDER: Deny, deny, deny.

DOWDELL: Well, Chris Christie in New Jersey has been getting away with so
much for so long. People say, he wouldn`t be that stupid. No, he would be
that arrogant. Typically when people get away with a lot, it only
emboldens them. Chris Christie is very easily emboldened.

HAYES: Ben, who is celebrating the most today or the last two days as they
watch this unfold?

DOMENECH: Other than the Obama Justice Department? People celebrating the
most are those candidates for 2016 who are the most donor friendly. The
people who actually matter right now within the Republican 2016 primary is
the donor class. It`s the money. OK? And so candidates like Marco Rubio,
candidates like Scott Walker I think are the ones who stand the most likely
to benefit from something like this, where donors will look at Christie and
second guess their decision, maybe get a little skittish about endorsing
someone this early or backing someone to the hilt.

HAYES: I actually read this in the "Federalist," which you published, the
money primary is really important. As Sam was saying, in the same way his
base has been kind of the beltway media and his base in the Republican
Party has really been kind of like hedge fund guys in New York, right?
Right, Ben? That`s where a lot of these, quote, "base support is."

DOMENECH: Exactly. That`s -- I think it`s actually just going to lead us
to a situation where 2016 is all the more open for Republicans in terms of
the field. You`re not going to have as big of an investment to back
Christie early on and clear the path really for him. I think you`ll see
more competition because of this.

I think, frankly, that`s a good thing and will be interesting to see how
Christie responds to this in the future, rather than a personality-driven
candidate. He has to be someone we can trust on this and can`t be a lick
of evidence he`s been at all, you know, trying to hide the truth going on

SEDER: Yes, Ben`s just given the best-case scenario for Christie. You
have hedge funders who believe he was not as good of a bet as three days
ago. We`re going to have all sorts of investigations. It`s quite possible
you have the New Jersey U.S. attorneys looking into this. There`s also
maybe jurisdiction on the New York side. You know, the southern district
U.S. attorneys who might also want to look into this.

You`re going to have hearings, I think, probably in the Senate maybe, the
U.S. Senate. But you`re also, you know, you`re also going to see civil
litigation. That redacted stuff is going to come out in discovery because
there`s a 91-year-old woman who passed away and the EMT people are saying
it`s because of their response time.

HAYES: There`s a class action suit filed tonight. The family of that
woman who passed away said they do not hold Christie responsible. They
think it was her time to go. Just to get that on the record. Tara
Dowdell, Sam Seder, and Ben Domenech, thank you all for your time tonight.

That is ALL IN for this evening. The "Rachel Maddow Show" starts now. I`m
ending early, like last night I can race upstairs and watch.


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