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PoliticsNation, Friday, January 17th, 2014

Read the transcript from the Friday show

January 17, 2014

Guests: John Wisniewski, Nia Gill, E.J. Dionne, Melissa Harris-Perry, Angela Rye


And thanks to you for tuning in. Tonight`s lead, the investigation widens.
We`re tracking major developments in the Chris Christie bridge scandal.
All day we`ve been learning details of the subpoenas sent to top Christie
aides in what has been a dramatic expansion of this case.

Investigators from the New Jersey assembly and Senate are trying to learn
why lanes to the George Washington Bridge were shut down for four days in
September, and what efforts were made to conceal those closings. What is
striking is how close the subpoenas are to the governor himself.

They include top aides in his office, chief of staff O`Dowd, chief counsel
McKenna, spokesman Drewniak, and communications director Camella. Also top
Christie appointees at the port authority, chairman David Samson`s,
Christie`s political godfather, and David -- and Bill Baroni, who resigned
in December at the campaign office, we see former top political adviser
Bill Stepien subpoenaed, and many other aides.

What do they all have in common? They are all close to Governor Christie,
bringing these subpoenas to the highest level of the administration.

Also, late today, NBC news learned a subpoena has been served on a
representative of Bridget Kelly, the former deputy chief of staff, who
wrote the e-mail, time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.

Although, 17 subpoenas are going out for individuals and three are for
organizations, including the office of the governor, the word is direct and
broad. The subpoenas are asking for documents related to the lane closure
going back to September of 2012, a full year before the lanes closed on the
bridge. They demand all books, papers, condolence, other documents and
materials and electronic records and data related to the lane closings and
they demand delivery in two weeks. That`s on February 3rd.

The subpoenas ask for documents, no testimony yet. But sources say it`s
only a matter of time before many of these officials will be asked to
testify in public and under oath about their knowledge of the lane closings
and efforts to conceal it after the fact.

Joining me now is NBC news national investigative correspondent Michael

Michael, thank you for being here today.

with you.

SHARPTON: Today, subpoenas go beyond just the lane closings. They call
for documents related to, quote, "any other matter raising concerns about
abuse of government power or an attempt to conceal an abusive government

This is a broad investigation, isn`t it, Michael?

ISIKOFF: Yes, it is. And the key phrase there is attempt to conceal,
because that gets to the -- what investigators or what New Jersey lawmakers
believe is the cover-up here. The traffic -- who caused the traffic jams
and why is still obviously a mystery. We do know that David Wildstein is a
key figure in that and had those communications with Bridget Kelly back in
August. But it`s the months that after that that the weeks and months
after that that really is what is so politically perilous for governor
Christie here because --

SHARPTON: What do you mean? What would be perilous about that time frame?

ISIKOFF: Well, because there is extensive e-mails and text messages
showing that as these traffic jams created this political uproar, state
lawmakers, local officials were demanding answers as to why these lane
closures took place, what was going on, and the pushback from the Christie
appointees on the port authority, and then the governor`s office was it was
a traffic study. Well, we now know from the Senate commerce committee
yesterday there is zero evidence that such a traffic study was taking

So why did they maintain the cover story of the traffic study? What did
people close to the governor know about that? And did they ask questions
as to what was really going on? And why did they maintain the story? That
the Governor himself, you know remember, he had that news conference in
December, and he ridiculed the whole idea that there was some legitimate
story here, pretending, with some sarcasm, that he personally put down the
cones, causing those lane closures, sort of dismissing the whole thing.

Well, you know, it comes down to who knew what, when. That`s what is going
to be so dangerous for the governor`s office.

SHARPTON: Let me ask you, Michael, were you surprised at how broad the
subpoenas were? I mean, they have brought in Schar from Illinois, who is a
tough prosecutor, Reid Schar. Were you surprised at Schar coming in and
how broad the subpoenas are?

ISIKOFF: Yes, I was. Because initially Wisniewski, who heads the probe,
was only talking about limited subpoenas to Kelly and Stepien, Bridget
Kelly and Bill Stepien, the former campaign manager. And then Reid Schar,
the prosecutor who put Rod Blagojevich in jail in Illinois comes in, looks
at this and says no, a wide net has to be cast here. And we end up with
these 20 subpoenas going back, by the way, to September of 2012. More than
a year before these lane closures took place.

And, you know, the numbers of people who got the subpoenas, their names
we`re just learning today who had not surfaced publicly before who received
subpoenas, we`re not quite sure why, but it does look like they`ve got
evidence that has not been made public that suggests that there was a -- at
least they want to look at a much broader net than we had initially

SHARPTON: Michael Isikoff, we`ll be watching this. This is broad. And
this going forward. Thank you for your time tonight.

ISIKOFF: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Now joining me now is the man Michael referred to, New Jersey
assemblyman Democrat John Wisniewski. He has been leading the assembly`s
investigation from the start.

Thank you for coming on the show tonight, Assemblyman.

ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Thanks for having me back on.
I appreciate it.

SHARPTON: Assemblyman, 20 subpoenas for a lot of documents. Why are you
casting such a wide net?

WISNIEWSKI: We have so many questions. And we`re not really sure where
the answer lies. And the important thing is we try and get to the heart of
this as quickly as possible.

The question that remains is why Bridget Kelly thought she was empowered to
send an e-mail to close lanes in Fort Lee. It`s clear that she didn`t come
up with the idea on her own and it`s clear that someone else had to work
with her. And so, when you look at all of the names that come up in all of
the documents we have received so far, you see a lot of possibilities. No
clear answers. And the subpoenas we`re sending doesn`t mean that anybody
in that list has done anything wrong. But we want to get information so we
can get to the bottom of this.

SHARPTON: Now, you asked for documents going back to September of 2012.
Why that date? Why going back so far?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, you know, the interesting thing we learned is when we
did the subpoena to David Wildstein initially, we asked for documents from
August 1st forward. And when we looked at those documents, we saw there
were communications that seemed to be a continuation of something that
happened before then. So we recognize that this goes back further. We
thought one year was an appropriate period of time to go back.

SHARPTON: Now, you know this week the assembly announced the hiring of a
big legal name to his counsel.


SHARPTON: As your counsel.


SHARPTON: And he is advising your committee on the investigation, Reid
Schar who we just discussed with Michael Isikoff. Why such a big name?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, this has become very complicated. You know, this
started out as a very simple investigation into the operations of the port
authority. And we followed it piece by piece through the lane closures and
we wound up finding ourselves in the governor`s office. Not because we
wanted to, but because that`s where the governor`s people led us. But
because of the complexity now, because there are so many other
investigations, the office of inspector general and others, we wanted to
make sure that we were doing it right, that we were respecting boundaries,
and that we were doing it efficiently and that`s what Reid Schar is going
to do.

SHARPTON: Now Assemblyman, when the governor first addressed the scandal
last week, he pledged his full cooperation. Listen to this.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Listen, I have absolutely nothing to
hide. And I`ve not given any instruction to anyone yet. But my
instruction to everybody will be to cooperate and answer questions.


SHARPTON: Now, this week, his language seemed to change. Listen to this.


CHRISTIE: I`m the governor. And I`m ultimately responsible for all that
happens on my watch, both good and bad. And without a doubt, we will
cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of
trust does not happen again.


SHARPTON: Now, now he is saying all appropriate inquiries. I mean, do you
see that as a change in what he is saying, and is yours appropriate? And
who decides who is appropriate?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, ours is appropriate. It`s authorized by statute and our
constitution that the assembly can look into issues such as this. I`m
concerned about the choice of words, but I would prefer to hope that
because the governor both times said cooperate, that he will cooperate. I
think he`ll be judged by his actions.

SHARPTON: Now, he has also brought in also on his side a high-powered
attorney, Randy Mastro. So, it looks like they`re digging in to prepare
for a fight if you have a high power powered attorney, he has one. Are you
ready for a fight? If this gets down to a real dig-in fight, are you and
your committee prepared for that?

WISNIEWSKI: We`re prepared to do what is necessary to get at the truth.
The Governor says he wants to cooperate. He wants to get to the answers,
so do we. We have the same mission, essentially. I don`t think it needs
to come to a fight. I think we can work to get to the truth.

I think really the ball is in the governor`s court. If he wants to get the
answers as to why Bridget Kelly did this, then all he needs to do is
cooperate with the investigation so we can all get an answer and we can
move on.

SHARPTON: If they come in and plead the fifth, as David Wildstein did.


SHARPTON: Are you prepared to hold people in contempt? Are you prepared
to really be firm and hard in these interrogations?

WISNIEWSKI: We`re going to firmly pursue this investigation. We`re going
to fight to make sure that we get what we`re entitled to as an assembly
committee. We`re going to hope for cooperation. We`re going to take the
governor at his word, and we`ll judge the outcome by what he does.

And like I said before, this is in the governor`s court. He can cooperate.
We can get through this quickly, and we can all move on. But if there is
going to be a resistance to what the assembly is doing, that is just going
to protract this and raise suspicions as to why is the governor resisting
providing information, he himself said he wanted to provide.

SHARPTON: Give me a sense of the timing. You have given them two weeks to
bring the documents, then what?

WISNIEWSKI: Well, you know, when we sent the first subpoenas out, we got
thousands of pages back. And it took staff quite a while to go through.
Now we have 20 subpoenas. I don`t have a good idea on how many documents
we`ll get, but there will be quite a few. There will be a week or two or
three in which staff reviews the documents. And then likely after that
we`ll make decisions as to who we want to hear testimony from.

SHARPTON: Big, big, big investigation. We`ll be watching.

Assemblyman John Wisniewski, we thank you for your time tonight.

WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Have a good weekend.

WISNIEWSKI: Thank you.

SHARPTON: Coming up, ready to break his silence. The man at the center of
the scandal with all the secrets is asking for immunity. This is about to
get interesting.

Plus, Obama derangement syndrome strikes again. Did Rand Paul really say


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The danger to majority rule, to him sort of
thinking well the majority voted for me, now I`m the majority, I can do
whatever I want and that there are no rules that restrain me, that`s what
gave us Jim Crow.


SHARPTON: Plus, a major victory in the fight against right-wing voter
suppression today. You got to hear about this.

And a big day for the first lady and the champ. Big show on Friday. Stay
with us.


SHARPTON: The man with all the secrets is ready to break his silence. He
is asking for immunity. Today my colleague Steve Kornacki who knows him
well will be joining me next.


SHARPTON: Is the man with the secrets ready to break his silence? He is
David Wildstein, the Christie appointee, who directed those lane closures.
Who got that e-mail, time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, and
responded, got it. But Wildstein appeared before the state assembly last
week, he took the fifth, refusing to talk. But late in the hearing, his
lawyer said this.


ALAN ZEGAS, DAVID WILDSTEIN`S ATTORNEY: If the attorneys general for New
Jersey, New York, and the United States were all to agree to clothe Mr.
Wildstein with an immunity, I think that you would find yourselves in a far
different position represent with respect to information he can provide.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s your job. We just want answers to your

ZEGAS: Understood. I`m suggesting a way you can get there.


SHARPTON: Today, Wildstein`s lawyer made the same assertion to Associated
Press. If he has immunity from the relevant entities, he`ll talk.

Could the man at the center of this story be ready to talk, or is this
seasoned political player working another angle?

Joining me now is Steve Kornacki.

Steve, thanks for coming on the show.


SHARPTON: Now, you worked for David Wildstein when he ran a nonpartisan
political Web site in New Jersey. And I was struck with what you said
about him on your show. Listen.


KORNACKI: I can also tell you this. I worked for him for three years,
from 2002 to 2005. Of all the people involved in this, I think he is the
sharpest. I think he is the savviest, and I think he is by far the most
strategic thinker. He doesn`t do anything without thinking ahead, without
considering the possible outcomes and planning for contingencies. I think
that is worth keeping in mind as this story plays out.


SHARPTON: Now given what you said, what do you think is going on with this
talk of immunity? What is that really all about?

KORNACKI: It struck me, you know, last week when his lawyers at that
hearing and then what you have the Associated Press today, it strikes me as
so interesting because at the same time these statements are being made you
have Bridget Kelly, you know, former deputy chief of staff to Governor
Christie who has basically sent word through an "the New York Times,"
through an article in "The New York Times" that she has no interest in, you
know, causing any more damage here for the governor. She is very
embarrassed by the damage she has caused for the governor. It speaks to
the difference between somebody like Bridget Kelly who still seems very
protective of Governor Christie and a guy like Wildstein as I tried to
portray on the show, they`re commonly portrayed in the media as the long-
time friends going back to high school. He`s what had this long protective

SHARPTON: He and the governor.

KORNACKI: And that`s not true. Of course they go back to their childhood
together, Livingston, New Jersey. But they really haven`t been that close
through the years. They weren`t that close in high school. What Christie
was saying in his press conference was true.

SHARPTON: But he was an appointee of Christie at the port authority.

KORNACKI: Right. But the key to remember is that he didn`t say I want to
put Wildstein at the port authority. It was that Christie put a guy named
Bill Baroni at the port authority. Bill Baroni very good friends with
David Wildstein. Now, Bill Baroni told the administration, I want to bring
in, now that you`re putting me here, I want to bring in David Wildstein.
And they said OK, you can bring in David Wildstein. Sure he is an
appointee of Chris Christie, but he is a close friend of Baroni and that
was the point of entry at the port authority.

SHARPTON: All right, well, there are two things on that. One, what struck
me is the language of the lawyer. He didn`t just say we want immunity in
case we inadvertently say something that can hurt him. He almost implied
he has something to say.


SHARPTON: He went very clearly saying, well, you`ll get what you want if
he gets immunity. Like yes, I know you want answers. And the inference
there was a little more than you usually hear with lawyers.

But secondly, if in fact Wildstein is not as close as it has been projected
to the governor, even though they went to school together, then that`s all
the more reason to question whether he has this great loyalty to the
governor if they really weren`t that close.

KORNACKI: Well, that`s my point. I mean, when I listen to and I read that
story about Bridget Kelly and how much loyalty she still now a week later
feels, and I watch the comments from David Wildstein`s lawyer and I just
know my own experience with David Wildstein, it wasn`t that he had like an
adversarial relationship where our sight when we wrote for that adversarial
relationship with Chris Christie. But he certainly, you know, was not
going out of his way. In my view, we`ve got to enhance, we`ve got to
protect Chris Christie. You know, I think, quite the opposite.

So I just look at it as David Wildstein is in a tough situation here,
potentially has a lot of valuable information. When you look at the e-
mails and the texts that were released through these subpoenas, he left a
lot of tantalizing hints in there about hey, was there a meeting between
Chris Christie and David Samson, the chairman of the port authority a week
before the time for some traffic in Fort Lee e-mail came out from Bridget
Kelly. He seems to suggest he has some knowledge of that.

SHARPTON: And this came from Wildstein`s document.


SHARPTON: Which is suggestive of more which really makes the assembly even
digs deeper into these meetings and --

KORNACKI: All the questions that have been raised in the last week and a
lot of the subpoenas that are now flying around are the result of little
hints that were left in Wildstein`s, in what came out from Wildstein. So
now, let`s see, if you have got, you know, two dozen subpoenas out there
and they get answered and they get answered in the detail that Wildstein
provided, maybe that answers this thing in a way that you don`t have to
give anybody immunity. But if these people start, you know, are as loyal
to Chris Christie as Bridget Kelly is indicating she is going to be, maybe
you need somebody like David Wildstein who is willing to talk, willing to
provide answer and that might be what they`re looking for.

SHARPTON: Do you think that Wildstein, who you said on that tape I played,
thinks two or three steps ahead, has already calculated that he has certain
options he better exercise now before others do, or he feels he has nothing
to worry about because clearly somebody has something to worry about,
whether it`s the governor`s involvement or not, somebody ordered that
bridge closed, which is clearly is a wrong thing to do if not an illegal

KORNACKI: You know, I think everybody has something to worry about here.
It`s a question about how much are they going to put their own loyalty to
Governor Christie and loyalty to his political future and protecting him
above the opportunity potentially to save themselves. And I just look at
David Wildstein, and he really stands out at this point as a person at this
point who seems most likely to look for some kind of a deal.

SHARPTON: Steve Kornacki, you have been amazing on this story. Thanks for
being here.

KORNACKI: Happy to be here.

SHARPTON: And you don`t want to miss "Up with Steve Kornacki" tomorrow.
He`s got an exclusive with the Hoboken, New Jersey, mayor ad they will
break news.

Ahead, is one of Governor Christie`s allies now serving on the committee
investigating the bridge scandal?

Plus, president Obama invokes Dr. King while calling for changes at the
national security agency today.

And the first lady and Mohammed Ali have reason, both of them, to

I`ll explain. Stay with us.


SHARPTON: The debate over national security and civil liberties has been
raging since Edward Snowden leaked classified documents about controversial
policies this summer. Today, President Obama delivered a much anticipated
speech outlining new reforms to the NSA collective phone data will now be
moved out of the government`s control and access to it must be approved by
an intelligence court.


important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our
leadership in the world while upholding the civil liberties and privacy
protections that our ideals and our constitution require.

The challenge is getting the details right, and that is not simple. In
fact, during the course of our review, I`ve often reminded myself, I would
not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents like Dr.
King who were spied upon by their own government. The world expects us to
stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and
write and form relationships freely because individual freedom is the
wellspring of human progress.


SHARPTON: The struggle to balance security and liberty has been one that
has defined America since its founding. The debate about that will
continue, as it must in our democracy.


SHARPTON: With 20s subpoenas today, the investigation into the Christie
investigation is widening. But already there are real questions about
whether Governor Christie will cooperate fully.

Joining me is New Jersey State Senator Nia Gill. She is on the Senate
Committee investigating the bridge scandal. Thank you for being here.

STATE SEN. NIA GILL (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you for having me.

SHARPTON: Senator, Governor Christie says his administration is fully
cooperating with appropriate inquiries. What is your reaction to that?

GILL: My reaction is that the Senate investigation committee and the
assembly committee is certainly an appropriate investigatory body. I think
that the governor attempted to limit his participation and cooperation in
an investigation as we go forward.

SHARPTON: Now, Senator, I wanted to bring in E.J. Dionne and Melissa
Harris-Perry. Let me start with you, E.J. E.J., Governor Christie tried
getting back to ordinary business this week. But this investigation only
seems to be getting hotter. And hotter. Doesn`t it seem that way to you?

E.J. DIONNE, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. I think that the governor now
has a real damage control problem. Let`s put aside the question of what we
find out in the end about what he knew or didn`t know, because once this
process starts, it`s hard to turn off the story, which he would love to do.
The subpoenas went out. That`s a story. They`re will be responses to the
subpoenas. If people sort of try to resist them, that`s a story. If they
produce information that pushes, gives us more of a sense of what happened,
that`s a story. If the governor cooperates, decides not to cooperate,
that`s a story.

So, something he does not want out there at a time when Republican
activists, Republican fundraisers, Republican politicians are beginning to
make judgments about the next presidential election, having all these
opportunities to have this story grow, that`s just not what Chris Christie
wants right now.

SHARPTON: Now, Melissa, you know, the governor said this week, this about
his staff last week. Let`s go to last week first. Listen to what he said
about his staffers.


GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There is nobody on my staff who had
any knowledge of this issue until after the issue was already done.


SHARPTON: But from e-mails, we know at least six different officials with
connections to the governor knew about the bridge traffic when it was
happening. They all got subpoenas today, Bridget Anne Kelly, deputy chief
of staff. Christina Rinna, director of Department of Relations. Evan Jay
Ridley (ph), Governor Christie aide, Bill Stepien, campaign manager.
Regina Egea, incoming chief-of-staff, Michael Drewniak, Christie`s
spokesperson. The e-mail is clearly say, while it was going on, they knew,
which is clearly contradicting what the governor said.

know, it`s interesting listening first to state senator and then to E.J.
about this. There really are two separate issues that the governor is
facing. One is really what the people of New Jersey through their
representatives will be concerned about. And that is what actually
happened, was there actual wrongdoing, and was any of that wrongdoing
illegal, and was any of it at the feet of the governor, right? And those
are the very specific things that ultimately can`t be decided yet, but will
be decided in the context of this process.

But as E.J. points out, almost certainly happening alongside that process,
but almost irrelevant to it at this point is the politics and particularly
the kind of visual politics that are occurring now. Because this governor
who was being upheld as the Republican who could win in a blue state, who
was, you know, seen as the guy who stood for his people and embraced the
president, even during a difficult partisan presidential campaign, this
person is now recast as someone who clearly appears to be willing to either
himself use or set a tone where his aides are willing to use their office
to abuse those who are political opponents.

SHARPTON: But isn`t that, Senator, part of the concern, not getting into
the evidence and all that you have to see? But isn`t that the concern when
Melissa talks about he wanted to prove he could win a blue state, isn`t it
a concern raised by some to your committee that he wanted so much to do
this that they punished Democrats that were not willing to help him do
that. And now we`re hearing allegations from other mayors. Because even
if one is to believe this was done for some kind of revenge or some kind of
punishment, they would be doing it on behalf of someone, and that someone
would have to be the governor.

GILL: Well, you know what really sticks out for me is the involvement of

SHARPTON: Samson, the chairman of --

GILL: The Port Authority.


GILL: The former attorney general. I cannot imagine that he was involved
in closing down three lanes on the George Washington Bridge in order to get
retribution against a democratic mayor because he didn`t endorse Chris
Christie. I think as we move forward we`re going to find there is a wider
discussion and other things that may have implications here that have not
yet been uncovered.

PERRY: Something more nefarious?

SHARPTON: Such as?

GILL: Oh, I won`t say nefarious, but I will simply say things that may be
more complicated that we`re not focusing on. And that`s why it is so
important with respect to the committee and we have subpoenaed the
documents, but I think there is another story to be told as to what other
interests may have been interested in the retaliation.

SHARPTON: Now, in looking forward of the interests as you so eloquently
put it, may have been interested in this, will the fact that there is such
a wide net of subpoenas also help look into other possible interests that
we may not be looking into yet in the media?

GILL: I think, yes. And I`m a practicing attorney. I`ve been an attorney
for 29 years. And so you know that in these investigations, and I was with
the racial profiling investigation.

SHARPTON: Yes, I remember.

GILL: In New Jersey. And we worked together on that.

SHARPTON: Yes. In full disclosure, we did.

GILL: In full disclosure, we worked together on that. And so how they
evolve is very important as to where they`re going. So I think there is
this other level that we need to take a look at in a very focused,
deliberative and effective and efficient manner. And I think we would be
somewhat interested in what those findings may be.

SHARPTON: E.J., Michael Isikoff used the term politically perilous. Do
you agree with that?

DIONNE: I do. I think when I go back to the news conference, the one
thing that I thought Christie left on the table is why he didn`t have more
curiosity, more urgency about getting to the bottom of this right at the
beginning, or at least when those resignations happened. And the notion
that he just didn`t ask any questions at all until the smoking gun of that
e-mail emerged, that`s really -- that is just mysterious to me. And so I
think that the notion that they are digging deeper like this, it`s really
going to test, tell us more what Christie knew and when.

And I agree with the senator that there are lots of theories about why this
happened, but there is great uncertainty. Is it to get at the mayor, as
Steve Kornacki said? Is it about that big development in For Lee? Is it
as Rachel Maddow said about judges? We don`t know the full extent of what
caused them to do this. And so I do think that`s one of the reasons that
the reach of the subpoenas is so broad.

SHARPTON: All right. I`m going to have to leave it there. New Jersey
state senator democrat Nia Gill, and we`re certainly going to have you back

GILL: Thank you very much.

SHARPTON: Good to see you, Senator.

GILL: Good to see you.

SHARPTON: Melissa Harris-Perry and E.J. Dionne. Thank you and have a good

DIONNE: Good to be with you.

SHARPTON: We don`t know. It may be all of the above, E.J. Don`t forget
to catch Melissa Harris-Perry weekends at 10:00 a.m. Eastern, right here on

Up next, Rush Limbaugh says the president is a dictator. Get this, because
his American flag is too big.

Plus, Senator Rand Paul invokes Jim Crow in attacking the president.

And this 94-year-old woman voted in every election since 1960, but a
radical ID law stopped that streak. Today a huge victory for her and
against voter suppression. It`s a hot one, and it`s coming up.


SHARPTON: While all the attention has been focused on Governor Christie
this week, the right wing has been going crazy. Case in point, Senator
Rand Paul. Last night he had this to say about the president`s governing


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The danger to majority rule, to him sort of
thinking well, the majority voted for me. Now I`m the majority. I can do
whatever I want and there are no rules that restrain me, that`s what gave
us Jim Crow.


SHARPTON: The president`s idea of government is what gave us Jim Crow?
Jim Crow? Did Senator Paul think we forgot that he told Rachel Maddow he
wanted to modify anti-discrimination laws? He is about the last person who
should be invoking Jim Crow in his arguments. But it gets the newly
revived line from the right that President Obama ignores the constitution,
that he tyrannical, a dictator. Just listen to the right wing from this
week alone.


RUSH LIMBAUGH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Now, he might have a pen, and he
might have a phone. But what he does not have is the constitutional power
to run this country like a dictator.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Rush Limbaugh says that the president doesn`t have the
power to run the country like a dictator. Is that what the president is
doing with executive order or something else?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I am deeply troubled by the president`s use of his
executive authority.

MARK LEVIN, HOST, "THE MARK LEVIN SHOW": What the Republicans should do is
boycott the state of the union. Say we have a lawless president doing
lawless things.

LIMBAUGH: Did you happen to see the size of those flags behind Obama?
Those flags are getting bigger and bigger and bigger every speech he makes.
And you know it`s what dictators do.


SHARPTON: The president`s flags are getting bigger? So he is a dictator?
That`s a pretty small argument.

Joining me now is Angela Rye. Thanks for coming on the show tonight.


SHARPTON: Angela, is this all the right has, accusing the president of
being a dictator?

RYE: And big flags, Rev. Can you imagine what you can do with a big flag?
You know what is really troubling to me is the comparison that Rand Paul
made to the Jim Crow south.


RYE: The fact that this gentleman, like you said, that went on Rachel
Maddow show and actually defended the segregation at one point, the same
guy that surprisingly, though, the GOP used to open up their African-
American outreach office and then --

SHARPTON: In Detroit.

RYE: Yes, in Detroit, in Motown, and then also you have this same guy who
went to Howard University and said hey, everybody, did you know the NAACP
was Republicans and, you know, darn near gets booed off the stage because
who are you to go and tell Howard University about history? It`s almost as
troubling, Rev, as that argument that we often see in our twitter feeds
from some of the very strange and speaking of deranged GOP talkers that
say, well, hey, the Democrats are the party of Ku Klux Klan. Well, all of
these things were made and, you know, propelled into our nation`s history
by people. And these are people that were very troubled and did some very
scary things. But our president? Come on, he is hardly near what we`re
talking about.

SHARPTON: Well, let`s deal with the issue for those that may not
understand. If President Obama is a dictator, then what are we going to
say about past GOP presidents? He has a look at their first term executive
orders. Past GOP presidents, first term executive orders. Ronald Reagan
his first term had 213 executive orders he signed. George H.W. Bush had
166. George W. Bush had 173. But President Obama, he had just 147. So
are these guys dictators and better at it and more invasive of what we
would call the constitutional rights of Citizens than he has been?

RYE: No, Rev. What you have there is they agreed with those executive
orders. So they`re vastly different. I was looking earlier at a "New
York" magazine post that actually came out a year ago today and before
Newtown, President Obama had issued the fewest number of executive orders
over a hundred years.


RYE: So, this is really amazing here that he`s used his power -- his
constitutional, authorized power, right, this is a former constitutional
law professor. So he is not just traipsing across the constitution and
abusing its power. He is using the power of the pen, as Rush Limbaugh
said, to ensure that he is offering guidance to governance, to folks that
report to him in these agencies, and that is not an abuse of power by any

SHARPTON: Well, I can say one thing, Angela. They don`t quit, and neither
do we. That`s why we are all --

RYE: No, sir.

SHARPTON: That`s why we all going to keep punching away.

RYE: Absolutely.

SHARPTON: Angela Rye, thanks for coming on the show tonight.

RYE: Thank you, Rev.

SHARPTON: Vivian Applewhite is 94, and she can vote again. Today`s
victory for her and for the right to vote. That`s next.


SHARPTON: Today a major victory for voting rights. A judge in
Pennsylvania said the state`s voter ID laws is unconstitutional, writing,
quote, "Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election. The
voter ID law does not further this goal." The lawsuit was filed by 94-
year-old Philadelphia resident Viviette Applewhite. She voted in every
election since 1960 and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She
appeared on this show two years ago.


don`t want Obama in there. So I think they`re trying to do something to
keep the black people from having the right to vote.


SHARPTON: But Governor Tom Corbett and other Republicans defended the law,
saying it was a reasonable way to stop voter fraud, even though state
officials said in court documents there have been, quote, "no
investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania."
No investigations for in-person voter fraud. So what was really behind the
law? The Pennsylvania house majority leader let the cat out of the bag.


to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.


SHARPTON: That didn`t work, because a judge temporarily blocked the law in
2012, and it won`t work this year, thanks to today`s ruling. But that
doesn`t mean the fight is over. There are still ten states that have
strict voter ID laws, and more than half of those laws were signed into law
in republican-controlled states after President Obama was elected in 2008.
We must continue to fight voter suppression laws across this country, and
we will. You can count on that. In the meantime, congratulations to Ms.


SHARPTON: Finally tonight, Happy 50th Birthday to First Lady Michelle
Obama. She is the amazing advocate for our children`s health, working to
reverse childhood obesity. The self-proclaimed mom in chief to her kids.
The White House celebrated by tweeting this adorable photo of Michelle
Obama as a child. And she has weathered unprecedented vitriol from the
right with dignity, grace, and of course that winning smile. She is 50
years young today, and we`re a better nation for it. And from the first
lady to the champ, happy 72nd to the greatest boxing legend Muhammad Ali.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Who do y`all think the champ is?


SHARPTON: One of the most mesmerizing figures the sport of boxing has ever
seen there is so much to celebrate him for. It was his wit, his smile, his
determination, and his generosity to others. But on this day, especially
we celebrate Ali for his greatness outside of the ring. At the height of
his career, Ali gave it all up, standing for a principle, refusing to
enlist into the U.S. military because of his religious beliefs and
opposition to the Vietnam War.


MUHAMMAD ALI, FORMER PROFESSIONAL BOXER: My conscience won`t let me go
shoot my brother or some darker people, or some poor, hungry people in the
mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They didn`t rob me
of my nationality? How can I shoot them poor people? Just take me to


SHARPTON: The epitome of standing for something bigger than himself. Ali
was banned for four years only to come back and become champion again.
Still, his fight for religious freedom, racial justice, and ultimate
defiance that may be lost by others. It may be his most lasting legacy.
Happy birthday to the champ. I`ve known many people in my journey, many
that were famous. Many that were lauded and applauded, but I`ve only known
a few that I would call great.

And I certainly think Mrs. Obama has approached greatness. I certainly
think there are others I have met, two or three that have approached
greatness. But the greatest is the man that I saw with my own eyes as a
youngster who let me become close to him. I used to hang out with him when
he would come to town. He put it all on the line, never knowing what the
results would be. The greatest is he that gives up the most. He will in
turn receive the most. Happy birthday, champ. You stood up. We`ll never
forget it.

Thanks for watching. I`m Al Sharpton. Have a great weekend. "HARDBALL"
starts right now.


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