UP with STEVE KORNACKI
February 22, 2014
Guests: Ed Brannigan, Brian Thompson, Brian Murphy, Holly Schepisi, Frank
Pallone, Hakeem Jeffries, John Fugelsang, Kate Nocera
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: What we have dug up in the 2,000-page Ft.
Lee document --
KORNACKI: We`re going to look at where the focus of the investigation into
the George Washington Bridge lane closures turned this week, but to get
there, we`re going to have to start this morning`s show three years ago.
In the spring of 2011, that`s when unruly scenes like these were common in
Trenton, New Jersey.
The public employees from across the state descending on the capital to
fight a massive overhaul of New Jersey`s pension system that Chris Christie
was pushing through the legislature. The reforms the governor championed
and ultimately signed were aimed at trimming the state`s liability by $120
billion over the next 30 years.
The demands from public employees were substantial, a ban on collective
bargaining on health care for four years, an increase in employee
contributions to health care costs, and increase in employment pension
payments, and end cost of living increases for retirees. Christie called
all of these essential reforms and he got his way.
It`s the open secret of New Jersey politics. The Democrats may control the
legislature, but there`s a group of Democratic bosses with whom Christie is
cultivated symbiotic relationships. And legislatures loyal to those bosses
came through with the key cross partisan votes to pass Christie`s landmark
pension overhaul bill.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY: It is an important moment for the
state of New Jersey, for its citizens, its taxpayers, and New Jersey has
once again become a model for America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: But public employee unions up and down the state were irate, one
group in particular, law enforcement. There are four major unions
representing police officers in New Jersey and Christie pursued all of them
in his 2009 campaign for governor. He met with their leaders. He sought
He event sent this letter to rank and file officers swearing up and down
that any claim that Governor Christie would mess with their pensions was,
quote, "absolutely untrue. It is a 100 percent lie. Your pension will be
protected when I am elected governor." So, when Christie actually did sign
that pension overall into law, it vindicated the cries of betrayal that
police unions had been sounding for months.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- tell the residents of New Jersey that all is well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s a liar!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liar!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And now, let`s move to 2013. It`s Christie`s re-election year.
His response to superstorm Sandy has sent his approval ratings soaring.
He`s going to win re-election, everyone knows this, but he doesn`t just
want to win. By his own admission, Christie wants the run up the score.
He wants to dazzle the national media, the national Republicans with an eye
bulging victory margin in a blue state.
He wants to show how uniquely electable he would be as a Republican in
2016. Christie wants to line up support from people and groups who aren`t
traditionally aligned with his party. Groups like, say, police unions.
But this is a big problem for Christie, because the police unions have not
forgotten the letter he sent them. The promises he made them in 2009 and
the reality of what he did to them in 2011.
So, here was Ed Brannigan, the president of the New Jersey Fraternal Order
of Police, throwing his union support to Democrat, Barbara Buono last
March, quote, "In 2008, the candidate Chris Christie sat across the table
from me and promised he would not touch our pensions," Brannigan said.
"And then right out of the gate was one of the first things he did. He
lied. He reduced our pensions and benefits including eliminating our cost
of living wages."
And here was the New Jersey Superior Officers Association which had
actually endorsed Christie in 2009 also pointing to the pension overhaul
and also endorsing Buono. "He has vilified public workers," Lt. Jeffrey
Smith (ph) said. "He`s created this public perception that all of the
state pensions are part of one big system, but the problem with one is not
necessarily the problem with ours."
And here was the state PBA, the Police Benevolent Association, refusing to
endorse either candidate, castigating Christie for his pension record, but
also acknowledging that, quote, "It seems that the Democratic Party is
going into this race halfhearted. Dozens of local and some senior
Democrats have endorsed Governor Christie to date. Private sector waver
unions have all but abandoned Buono for governor, too."
So, the PBA knew Buono was going to lose, but it still wouldn`t give
Christie what he wanted, an endorsement for employee`s union that could be
touted as further proof for this unique broad appeal. And then, along came
the other union that represents New Jersey officers, the Port Authority
Police Benevolent Association, the Port Authority PBA, the union for the
cops at the Port Authority.
And before we go any further, here`s a bit of vital context as NJ
Spotlight`s Mark Magyar reported this week, "Because the port authority is
a by state agency, its officers were not and are not subject to any of
those pension changes that Christie pushed through in 2011. In fact, their
contracts look a lot different than the contracts of most cops in New
Jersey." As Magyar detailed, Port Authority cops don`t have to contribute
a dime to their health care costs.
They enjoy generous pensions, and at their most senior levels, they earn 57
percent more than members of the New Jersey state police force. Once more,
Magyar recounted how Christie went out of his way to ensure that Port
Authority police officers and not New York City police officers would be
assigned to Patrol One World Trade. That`s the replacement for the twin
towers in Lower Manhattan.
The Port Authority PBA`s role grew on Christie`s watch which helps explain
why the union and the president came through with that public endorsement
that Christie campaign was so eager to get.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He stood shoulder to shoulder with me and my members on
all of our security issues. We think he`s a strong leader.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: So, that`s the background for the news of the past week. The
major police unions in New Jersey remain angry at Christie over the pension
law he signed, with one exception, the Port Authority police. Now, let`s
pick off where we left off last Sunday when we reported on this show that
we had discovered the identity of the Port Authority police lieutenant who
was present with David Wildstein in the first morning of the George
Washington Bridge lane closures back in September.
A police lieutenant who then drove around Wildstein who was the Christie
appointee who oversaw the closures to survey the mounting traffic chaos,
and the police officer who texted with Wildstein for at least the first two
mornings of the closures.
The identity of that Port Authority police lieutenant, Thomas Chip
Michaels, was noteworthy because of his family`s long term ties to Governor
Christie`s family and because Chip Michaels` brother, Jeff Michaels, is a
top Republican power player in Trenton, one who grew up with Governor
Christie, helped in his campaigns and has a reputation in Trenton for
almost peerless access to the governor.
We reached out to Chip Michaels, Jeff Michaels into the governor`s office
with the series of questions but only received this short statement from
Christie`s office that, quote, "The governor has never had any
conversations with either Jeff or Chip Michaels on this topic," meaning the
lane closures. But that report that we aired last week turned attention
toward Lieutenant Michaels and the Port Authority police force and the
process raising many new questions.
First, there`s the matter of Lieutenant Michaels. The day after our story
ran, Port Authority executive director, Pat Foye, ordered an internal
review of Michaels` actions. The Port Authority spokesman saying that,
quote, "his status is under review." We also told you last week that on
the first morning of the closures, Michaels texted Wildstein with this
message, quote, "I may have idea to make this better."
It was a mystery of what that meant. Was Michaels an innocent horrified
police officer trying to find a way to ease the mounting traffic chaos or
was he telling Wildstein that he had an idea to improve the plan to jam up
Ft. Lee with traffic? Well, some clues emerged this week. On Wednesday, a
text exchanged from that same first morning of the shutdown came to light,
an exchange that took place just after Michaels told Wildstein he had an
idea to make this better.
Quote, "Suggest we send westbound traffic from Hudson Terrs to Center Ave
entrance." Chip Michaels texted to Keith Bendul who was the chief of
police in Ft. Lee, "PATD," meaning Port Authority Police Department,
"covers Lamone Ave. Thoughts?"
Now, take a look at this on the map, because the effect of what Michaels
was proposing is illustrated here. It would have sent local westbound
traffic straight into the traffic nightmare being created by the lane
closure making that logjam even worse. Bendul, the chief of police in Ft.
Lee texted back to Michaels with a different proposal.
"Just open up all the lanes that had been closed," he said. That exchange
was part of a series of documents released by the borough of Ft. Lee on
Wednesday. In handwritten notes that also came out, Bendul, the chief of
police, indicates that Michaels told him that morning, that first morning
of the shutdown that it was all part of a test aimed at improving movement
on the main I-95 thorough fair that leads the bridge and that the test was
going to last for a month.
That`s not all. Bendul told us in two separate phone interviews that
Lieutenant Michaels was the first Port Authority official he reached when
the lane closures went into effect. So, maybe why Loretta Weinberg, one of
the co-chairs of the joint legislative committee that`s investigating the
closures called Michaels quote, "a person of interest" on Wednesday and
suggested he might be subpoenaed.
It`s important to note that there`s still no clear evidence that Michaels
was operationally involved in planning or carrying out the shutdown scheme,
but there are even more questions now about what he saw, who he spoke with,
and what if anything he knew before and during those closures. We also
reminded you last Sunday about a letter that the mayor of Ft. Lee, Mark
Sokolich, had sent to Bill Baroni, Governor Christie`s other point man at
the port on the third day of the closures.
Quote, "Port Authority police officers," the mayor alleged in that letter,
"are advising commuters in response to their complaints that this recent
traffic debacle is the result of a decision that I, as the mayor, recently
made." And there is no evidence that Lieutenant Chip Michaels was one of
those officers, but shortly after we aired that report, Bergen (ph) record
tracked down some commuters who were trapped in that Ft. Lee nightmare in
And a number of them corroborated the mayor`s story. Take the story of
Robert Michael (ph) who is sitting in endless traffic in what anyone open
access lane to the bridge during the evening rush hour on September 9th.
As the record reported it, the commuter, Robert Michael, was sought out by
"I didn`t motion him, to him and rolled down my window," recalled Michael
in an interview last week. "He kind of motioned to me. Are you
frustrated," Michaels said the officer asked. "What`s going on?" Michael
replied. "Call the mayor`s office to complain," Michael said the officer
responded. That`s from the Bergen (ph) record.
So now, the question is shifting. It`s not just whether Lt. Chip Michaels
was involved, it`s whether there was a concerted effort by members of the
Port Authority Police Department to make Mayor Sokolich pay the political
price for the traffic jam that Governor Christie`s team ordered up and
whether that effort might have come from the top of the Port Authority
Police`s leadership, the leadership that provided Christie with his only
major law enforcement endorsement in 2013 and that has received
extraordinary help from the governor in securing lucrative work for its
Here again is Paul Nunziato, the president of the Port Authority PBA. His
name actually came up in the bridge story months ago. Bill Baroni,
Christie`s other point man at the port, provided what is now widely
regarded as bogus testimony about the nature of the lane closures. In this
shaky footage of that testimony, though, Baroni specifically cited Nunziato
as an inspiration for the closures.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI, (D) NJ ASSEMBLY MEMBER: So, why September? This has
existed for years. Why now? Why September? What transpired to have
somebody say, you know, we ought to look at having less lanes for Ft. Lee?
BILL BARONI, THE PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: Well, as I said in my opening
remarks, at some point in late July, members of the Port Authority police
spoke to David Wildstein. So, it was triggered by a conversation in late
WISNIEWSKI: Who were these police officers that raised the issue that we
ought to look at this?
BARONI: The leadership of the Port Authority police.
BARONI: Paul Nunziato, the president of the Port Authority PBA. Mike
DeFillipis, the delegate who worked at the George Washington Bridge"
WISNIEWSKI: So, the head of the Port Authority PBA raised this as an
BARONI: That`s correct.
KORNACKI: At that time, Paul Nunziato didn`t reject that characterization.
He actually volunteered that he had suggested the idea to David Wildstein
at breakfast. And Nunziato issued a statement saying that if anyone
thought the lane closures had been -- had been some sort of vindictive
scheme and if anyone believed his union had been on it, quote, "Then, I
would suggest that we`re going to find Jimmy Hoffa`s body on the Leona
Helmsley property in Fort Lee."
Well, that statement was before the Bridget Kelly`s infamous "time for some
traffic problems for Fort Lee" e-mail surfaced, before the vindictive
nature of the lane closures became apparent for all the world. And since
then, Paul Nunziato has changed his tune.
This is the statement he gave us this week, quote, "The Port Authority
Benevolent Association Incorporated will cooperate with all investigations
into lane closures at the George Washington Bridge. The Port Authority PBA
will have no further comment on investigation developments or media
But when he was subpoenaed by the joint legislative committee, originally,
Nunziato responded that he had no relevant documents to share. And now,
there`s this. Late Thursday night, "The New York Times" reported that
Nunziato had told his members that he would be stepping down from his day
to day role with the union to be replaced by one of his deputies.
On Friday, though, Nunziato muddied the waters a bit with this letter
released to our show, quote, "I am president of the PBA and continue to be
fully responsible for operating this organization under the bylaws of the
association. Press reports to the contrary represent mischaracterizations
of a briefing given by first vice president Robert Morris to the
association`s executive board. In accordance with the bylaws, I have
requested Mr. Morris to take a more active role in aspects of the office`s
day-to-day operation. Beyond that, these press reports are inaccurate."
So, what is Paul Nunziato`s exact role with the union right now? Was he
for this past few months just trying to be a good soldier for an
administration that`s been good to him and good to his union? Did he have
anything to do with those Port Authority cops who apparently went out of
their way to tell motors to blame Mayor Mark Sokolich for the closures?
Just what role exactly did Paul Nunziato and his officers play in the
closure of those lanes back in September?
Since we first reported on Lieutenant Chip Michaels last Sunday, that`s
where the investigation is headed and we`ll have more on it and we`ll talk
about it with our first guest, the head of a major New Jersey Police Union
KORNACKI: So, we just reported on the possible role that the Port
Authority police may have played in the George Washington Bridge lane
closures. Now, I want to bring in Ed Brannigan. He`s the president of the
New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police, and before that, had a
distinguished 31-year career in the Newark Police Department. Thanks for
So, we showed some of the words you had for Gov. Christie in 2011 when this
pension overall went through in New Jersey. I guess, if you could just
start by describing for people the Chris Christie you and other members of
the law enforcement community met in 2009 when he made those promises to
you versus the kind of relationship you and law enforcement in New Jersey
have with him today.
ED BRANNIGAN, NJ FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: We met with him -- actually it
was in 2008 when he was a can date for governor. And, he come in and met
with my executive board and my legislative committee looking for an
endorsement. He sat across the table from me. And I faxed you a letter
that he came out with addressing law enforcement officers that he would not
touch our pensions.
And he told us at the table he wouldn`t touch our pensions, our benefits,
and that he respects us. Being the United States attorney, he knows more
about law enforcement and what we do day in and day out and he would never
touch it. And, like I said, right out of the gate, he went -- attacked our
benefits, our pensions. He lowered our pensions down to 60 percent, 65
percent. It was at 65-70. He increased our health benefits copay up to 30
He put a cap on salary increases at two percent. And, you don`t have to be
a mathematician to know that we`re behind the eight ball on that. You`re
not going to get ahead. And most importantly, he took away our COLAs. And
KORNACKI: The cost of living.
BRANNIGAN: The cost of living. Now, the cost of living is a fact of life.
It goes up every day. You`re not going to stop it. It`s always there, but
he took that away from us. We have police officers, firemen that retired
in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s that really weren`t making a lot of money
back then and look forward to get in that COLA to try to make ends meet and
now that`s gone.
So, he definitely lied about everything. And he really doesn`t have a
relationship with the law enforcement community in New Jersey.
KORNACKI: That`s the point I want to pick up on, because the story of --
in 2009, it was a very close race for governor in New Jersey and he was
looking for all the help he could get. In 2013, it was a very different
story for Chris Christie. The campaign was, by his own admission, trying
to run up the score. They wanted to win over all of these sort of non-
traditionally Republican groups.
And it looks like when it came to police unions, with you guys, with the
other major police unions in the state, that was just an absolute non-
starter. You were never going to endorse him in 2013.
BRANNIGAN: Never. Not only the police unions but the fire unions also.
He was not getting our endorsement. As a matter of fact, at our conference
in Atlantic City, with over 300 delegates, we were given a legislative
report on where we stand legislatively in New Jersey and all of the
negative legislation that came out of the governor`s office. It was a
spontaneous endorsement for Barbara Buono.
Motion was made on the floor and that was unanimous endorsement for her,
which didn`t even follow our procedures at the time. We don`t go about
endorsements that way, but it was the membership speaking that they wanted
nothing to do with him and they want --
KORNACKI: So, despite that, despite the fact the overwhelming, you know,
majority of unions representing law enforcement in New Jersey had the
attitude you`re describing, the Port Authority PBA came out and endorsed
Chris Christie. And as we said, they -- all of these pension changes
you`re talking about didn`t affect them. What was your reaction when the
Port Authority PBA made that decision?
BRANNIGAN: Shocked. When that hit the newspapers, it was the first I knew
about it. I made a couple of phone calls. I called Tony Wieners, the
president of the PBA. He asked him what the deal was there and why is this
happening? And, you know, they`re an independent agency, so he has no
control over them and what they do. I talked with the professional
firefighters. Everybody was stunned that they endorsed Chris Christie.
KORNACKI: When you look at, as we described, you know, their union in
Chris Christie`s time as governor, the size has actually increased. He
guaranteed these new jobs for them at ground zero. They`re exempt from all
of the changes that he forced on, you guys. Does this seem sort of like
they cut their own deal with him?
BRANNIGAN: Well, what I`m reading lately is that, you know, there are
1,500-man force and they`re now up to 1,700, and by years end, they said
they`re going to be at 2,000. That`s a 500-man increase in the police
department. I mean, there are police departments in New Jersey that would
love to have an increase in their departments. Throughout New Jersey,
they`re laying off cops, they`re losing cops through attrition.
Newark police alone, there are still over 100 police officers that have
been laid off that haven`t been brought back on the job. We`d love to get
500 cops in Newark. Newark is down to a thousand police officers where
they should be at 1,400. So, it`s a little surprising when you read that
in the newspaper that they`re being increased up to 2,000 police officers.
KORNACKI: Yes. It`s a tail of two cities when it comes to how one police
union was treated versus how all of the others were and then you see that
that one police union is very helpful to Chris Christie certainly in his
campaign, gave him that endorsement that he was looking for.
BRANNIGAN: And I think I should pointed out before, they don`t pay into
their medical benefits and pensions. Totally different system than that we
have in New Jersey.
KORNACKI: OK. I want to thank my guest today, Ed Brannigan, with New
Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, thank you for joining us, and we`ll bring
in the panel to talk about this after this.
KORNACKI: We`ve been talking about Governor Christie`s deep ties with the
Port Authority police union and what role the Port Authority police may
have played in the George Washington bridge lane closures.
Now to discuss this, we have Democratic congressman, Frank Palone, from New
Jersey, WNBC television reporter, Brian Thompson, who`s been covering New
Jersey for the station for years, Republican State Assemblywoman Holly
Schepisi who`s a member of the joint special investigative committee on the
bridge scandal, and Brian Murphy, he`s a reporter who is working with us
extensively on the New Jersey coverage and he`s also professor at Baruch
So, Brian, I`ll start with you because it struck me this week, this whole
question of Paul Nunziato and the Port Authority police union has kind of
been staring us in the face for the last few months, and at least, I`ve
been guilty of not giving it as much coverage as it maybe deserves. And I
think it hasn`t gotten to the level of scrutiny maybe it deserved until
But it seems that, ultimately, the question here is, you have Nunziato
saying, hey, I gave the idea to Wildstein back in August. You have Baroni
testifying, granted --
BRIAN THOMPSON, WNBC REPORTER: Right.
KORNACKI: Do we look at this as a case of Nunziato was being a good
soldier because, look, his union got an awful lot of good things from this
administration? And so, hey, they said, play along with us on this. Or is
there reason to believe that maybe Nunziato had an ax to grind with mark
Sokolich and got the administration to go along with this because they
wanted to be --
THOMPSON: He was the puppet master in effect. We don`t know. And I have
to say, I tried reaching out to Nunziato a few weeks ago and got nowhere.
So, then, I went to a friend of mine who has, let`s just say, he has direct
access to Nunziato and he told me last night, Brian, this is all being
misconstrued. And, this actually breaking a little news here.
He tells me that Nunziato was actually talking about a different study,
about a different portion of the GW Bridge that happened a year earlier.
And I`m saying, but that doesn`t comport with what he said last fall, with
what we know, so far, with what Baroni said. He said, "Brian, I`m telling
you, it`s the wrong thing." And I said, "but wait a minute," and then he
hung up on me.
THOMPSON: And, and, I have to tell you this.
THOMPSON: He tells me that he had been talking to Nunziato last night and
that Nunziato said you can tell Brian this.
KORNACKI: And then hang up the phone on him.
KORNACKI: I mean, this is very interesting because now what he`s told you
is OK, apparently, when I, Nunziato took credit for the idea of the traffic
study, it was a different traffic study.
KORNACKI: But that doesn`t change --
THOMPSON: But that`s not what he said.
KORNACKI: Right. It doesn`t change the fact that he also -- he mocked and
ridiculed anybody who thought that the Baroni -- the one Baroni was talking
about had any vindictive of quality to it. And Baroni explicitly said the
one that he was there to testify about was Nunziato`s idea.
KORNACKI: So, and that`s when he hung up the phone.
THOMPSON: So, after throwing Ft. Lee under the bus with his statement
after that news conference in October and with what we`ve heard Baroni say,
now he`s backing up the bus.
KORNACKI: Nunziato, it`s very hard to figure out. There was this report
in the "The New York Times" Friday morning that he had told the union or
indicated to his union that he would step aside, day to day he was going to
be stepping back, a deputy would be taking over. Then he disputed that
with us, although, he did say that one of his deputies is going to be
assuming more day to day control. So, there`s a lot of --
BRIAN MURPHY, BARUCH COLLEGE: He`s stepping aside but not stepping down.
I mean, the bigger question here is why is a police officer -- he`s not in
the command structure of the Port Authority Police Department. Why is that
the police officer is having a meeting with the director and suggesting
changes to the traffic patterns or suggesting changes about traffic studies
or involved in any of the policy making apparatus of the Port Authority
MURPHY: Why is this person accorded this level of influence on the
operations of these agents?
HOLLY SCHEPISI, (R) NJ ASSEMBLYWOMAN: Yes. I don`t think it`s fair to
necessarily say that he instigated it. There are text messages and
correspondence, but we`re not talking about somebody who`s been on the
force for two or three years. This is somebody who is a 15-year veteran
who was brought into this based upon what we`ve seen.
KORNACKI: Are you talking about Nunziato or Chip Michaels?
SCHEPISI: You were talking about Chip Michaels.
MURPHY: I was talking about Nunziato.
SCHEPISI: Oh, Nunziato. OK.
SCHEPISI: I thought you were talking about Chip.
MURPHY: No. He was a lieutenant.
SCHEPISI: -- made sense for him to participate with Nunziato, I mean, if
what you`re saying is correct. I think it`s plausible that -- look, there
are thousands of pages of documents that we have reviewed, thus far. In
the thousands of pages of documents, other than the couple of things that
have been leaked to the press, everything points to a very large population
of people who actually honestly and truly believed that they were
participating in traffic studies. And, there was a multitude of documents
and e-mail traffic and back and forth with a lot of different people who
all legitimately believed that they were working on a traffic study.
May have been a very poorly executed traffic study, but I don`t think that,
you know, it necessarily leads to that something untoward occurred.
REP. FRANK PALLONE, (D) NEW JERSEY: Well, I mean, I just don`t agree. I
mean, the issue here is abuse of power. And I think it`s what you`re
saying. In other words, what is this like, some sort of private security
force here? I mean, you have a chain of command. What is Chip Michaels
doing, you know, accompanying Wildstein? Why is he making the suggestions
You know, why are there suggestions that somehow the Port Authority police
are sending messages to the crowd that this is the mayor of Ft. Lee who did
this? I mean, this is like some kind of private security force in some
kind of, you know, totalitarian state or something. This isn`t the way the
police force is supposed to operate. There`s supposed to be a chain of
Why are they involved? Why are particular people who are friends of the
governor, you know, actually accompanying Wildstein and making suggestions?
I don`t buy it. I mean, I think this is really important that you uncover
this. I think this is another example of abuse of power with this little
codery of the governor and his friends increasingly involved in Bridgegate
and it`s very disconcerting.
KORNACKI: Well, there`s a lot to try to sort through here. We say broadly
speaking the Port Authority police. There`s individual questions about
Nunziato. There`s individual questions about Chip Michaels and about
others. So, we`ll try to understand that and unpack a little bit further.
We`ve got to squeeze a break in here, but we`ll pick it right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: All of us are from New Jersey. And so, you know what that
means. What that means is, if you give it, you are getting it right back.
And that`s the way we work things here, all right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s Chris Christie at his town hall meeting earlier this
week. Maybe sending a little signal that, hey, if you want to ask me some
questions about Bridgegate, you got to be ready for an aggressive answer
from him. He did not get any questions about Bridgegate as it turned out
at that town hall.
But I want to pick up on a point, Assemblywoman, that you were making,
talking about the distinction here between people who are sort of
unwittingly participating in this versus the people who knew this was sort
of a vindictive operation aimed at Mark Sokolich. I mean, it seems from
the evidence that we have that`s available that Bridgett Kelly, "time for
some traffic in Ft. Lee," pretty explicitly knows she`s ordering up a mess
David Wildstein with the message "got it" seems to understand. Nunziato
sending some very conflicting signals right now. And then, there`s the
question of, as we say, you know, Chip Michaels, we can interpret it a
number different way. It is noteworthy, I think, when you look at the
suggestions that he was sending out. He was sending out a suggestion that
would have sent people right into this mess.
Again, that`s not definitive evidence in any way. But when you look and
this say, you know, relatively small group, is that the group that you see
or do you see more people that could be involved?
SCHEPISI: First off, I mean, I don`t know if Chip Michaels is involved or
not. We have not had Chip Michaels before us --
KORNACKI: Do you want him subpoenaed, by the way?
SCHEPISI: Subpoenaed or brought in. He may be somebody that we need to
speak to. We`ve subpoenaed pretty much everybody under the sun at this
point. I think we have over 30 subpoenas that are currently pending. My
issue with the way that we`ve been handling is why hadn`t we subpoenaed
Mark Sokolich? Why hadn`t we brought in the chief from Ft Lee?
If we truly were trying to get to factually what occurred here, those would
have been two of the most logical people to have been brought in from the
get-go, to sit down -- and if you don`t want to subpoena, at least, bring
in, at least sit down, at least understand -- not from the press, but if
we`re doing a legitimate investigation as to what transpired, those would
have been two of the first people that we should have brought in and
actually spoke to.
With respect to Mr. Michaels, I think it`s so tenuous saying that because
he grew up and went to high school and graduated seven years past Governor
Christie and they have this relationship that somehow, some way, he did
something nefarious, I think that`s a little bit silly. I mean, it`s akin
to saying that somebody who`s a production plant manager for Coca-Cola is
going to call the CEO in the middle of a board meeting to say that the
production plant just shut down for an hour.
KORNACKI: The one thing I would say to that is, look, yes, they grew up
seven years apart, but from all of the public statements from Jeff Michaels
and from what Chip Michaels said in the "Star Ledger" interrview, these
were families and brothers who were pretty close and who apparently stayed
in touch sort of over a lifetime to the point that he`s coaching Chris
Christie`s kid in hockey just a couple of years ago.
And his brother, as you know in Trenton, his brother, Jeff Michaels, the
reputation of Jeff Michaels is this is a guy who has Chris Christie`s ear.
So, if you are a port authority police lieutenant and you`re watching
innocently this debacle play out, this horrible traffic study that`s tying
up the town and you can`t figure it out, I`m not saying the responsibility
is absolutely on you, but you do have a pathway to get this information to
the governor. It`s not that`s unreasonable.
SCHEPISI: And as Congressman Pallone had said, there`s a chain of command.
So, why in God`s name would you pick up the phone and call the governor at
the state of New Jersey to report a traffic issue.
KORNACKI: No, but I think what I`m saying is this is a story that played
out for months, and Chris Christie, somebody he`s described as a friend at
least a couple of years ago is going further and further out on the limb to
tell the public and to tell the world that there`s nothing to see her, that
there`s no story here. And if you`re Chip Michaels, I do wonder at a
certain point, do you call your brother and say, hey, you might want to
tell the governor I saw something a little different?
THOMPSON: For the record it has to be said that the governor did put out a
statement that he has never had any conversation --
KORNACKI: Right. Yes.
THOMPSON: -- with Chip Michaels or with Jeff Michaels, his brother, the
lobbyist, about the bridge scandal. That just has to be put on the record.
And congressman, I`m sorry.
PALLONE: I mean, the point I`m trying to make is you have this little
codery, this little group that`s very close to the governor, you know, from
Livingston (ph), Wildstein, now, Chip Michaels. And it`s just a real
problem, in my opinion, that, you know, these people that are close to the
governor, the ones that are involved with the closing of these traffic
And again, what is the chain of command? Why is Chip Michaels being called
on to do this? And why are some of these other police officers telling the
-- saying that the mayor of Ft. Lee is the one responsible for this one.
There`s no reason to believe that. You just get the impression that, you
know, this is a little group of people that are conspiring, and perhaps,
working together to try to cover things up.
And again, to me, it smacks of some kind of private security force. This
is the Port Authority police. Where`s the chain of command? Why are these
particular people that are friends with the governor involved in this
escapade? To me, it smells.
MURPHY: Well, the thing that`s interesting to me is that from our
reporting on this, from the conversation I had with the chief in Ft. Lee,
from a conversation, there was arranged so that I could find out, decode
his handwritten notes that were released by the borough earlier this week.
Chip Michaels seems like the only person who knows that this is supposed to
last a month.
KORNACKI: He tells the chief of police in Ft. Lee, this is a one month
MURPHY: But this is going to last for a month. As far as we can tell, so
far, there are that many -- really found many people at the Port Authority
who seem to be aware of that because the bridge managers and the managers
of the traffic -- whatever they`re doing with the traffic study, the data
collection, they`re being told on a day-to-day basis, David Wildstein said
this is going to go on for another day, right?
That`s on Tuesday. Wednesday, David Wildstein says this is going on for
another day. Thursday, Wildstein says another day. Chip Michaels is there
on Monday morning, Monday morning telling the chief this is a month long
exercise to try to relieve the traffic on Interstate 95.
KORNACKI: And try to imagine, by the way, the stories we heard from four
days of traffic if that had actually continued for a month --
KORNACKI: We have to squeeze a quick break in, but you`ll be first up when
we come back.
KORNACKI: All right. Assemblywoman, I rudely cut you off. But please,
what were you going to say?
SCHEPISI: With respect to some of the relationships, I mean, it`s no
different than trying to speculate. Each of you have publicly admitted
that, you know, you worked for Wildstein. So, I mean, it`s almost akin to
saying, well, it`s been great for ratings for MSNBC all of the stuff that
has come out of this so somehow, some way, you guys were involved.
I mean, we just have to be careful as to, you know, how far out we go to
speculate as to what people`s intentions were and that they weren`t merely
doing their jobs. There`s --
KORNACKI: I totally agree and that`s one of my experiences covering
politics in New Jersey and not just, you know, working for David Wildstein,
although, I didn`t know who was David Wildstein at the time. But it is
such an insular world where you can be in the northern part of the state
and they all know the people down, you know, in South Jersey, and you know,
they`re on a first name basis with each other. So, I understand that part
of it. There`s a lot of room for coincidence just in New Jersey politics
But one of the things that jumps out at me, and I think Brian, you`ve seen
this -- in looking at these documents, one of the things that jumps out of
me is the skepticism that becomes apparent from the professionals at the
bridge when they`re told about what David Wildstein`s plans are. They
refer to it at one point, you know, with the -- with the test as it seems
to be a sarcastic way of referring to it.
It seems like they`re the professionals in these documents seem at times to
be winking at each other like, yes, we know this was not on the up and up.
So, it seems like what strikes me reading these documents is there was a
chain of command that people were afraid to breach, but at the same time,
there was a recognition of, hey, we`ve never seen a real traffic test
that`s like this before.
MURPHY: Well, in some ways, I mean, I keep carrying this around. These
are those notes that are marked up from Baroni`s testimony, which I think
the subpoenas are trying to figure out whose handwriting this is, right?
Who helped with the edits on this? You can see that in this testimony,
it`s sort of edited to make it seem like the Ft. Lee lane allocation is
unfair, right? And this is how statistics can sometime lie.
In the Pat Foye e-mails that are in the subpoenaed documents, you see that
he asked what`s the percentage of traffic that goes through those three Ft.
Lee lanes. It`s 25 percent. Roughly 25 percent. What`s the percentage
that`s going in during the lane closure? It`s 25 percent. It doesn`t
change. It`s not what Baroni said, right? It`s not the 4.5 percent of the
users of the bridge or Ft. Lee, therefore, the Ft. Lee only lanes are only
given the 4.5 percent of the users.
It`s 25 percent, right? By that measure, it`s a perfectly reasonable
allocation of resources. But you can see how that -- those numbers are
being cooked up to reach a certain conclusion that is expected of --
THOMPSON: And this is what -- both the congressman and the assemblywoman
were getting at. We are talking about a conspiracy. What we don`t know is
how many people conspired and that`s your job. That`s the job of the
federal investigators and that`s our job collectively as a media. You
know, you have three investigations going on right now, those three
And, when you have conspiracy, conspiracy is two or -- you`re the lawyer
and I think you are too, aren`t you, congressman?
THOMPSON: A conspiracy is two or more people getting together to plan
something that in effect is illegal, possibly illegal, in this case, or
whatever their motivation may be. What we have here with this conspiracy
is all of the degrees of separation that you mentioned, all of the
relationships that you talked about, congressman, and we have to run them
down. The committee does, the feds do, we do.
There are going to be a lot of blind, blind alleys on this way, dead ends,
holes that just don`t go anywhere. And some that have just a little
trickle that go in and it raises other questions. That`s what we`re going
through right now.
KORNACKI: So, congressman, as you look at all of these different
investigative mechanisms that are in place right now, how confident are you
-- I mean, for instance, one of the stories playing out this week is that
Bridgett Kelly and Bill Stepien, both of whom in that initial batch of e-
mails from David Wildstein featured, you know, prominently, both have been
trashed by Governor Christie.
They are refusing -- you know, they are fighting the subpoenas from
legislative committee. There`s a question of how long that fight could
drag out. There`s a question of whether the U.S. Attorney is interested in
talking to and cutting deals with any of them. How confident are you --
they seem like particularly crucial witnesses to me. How confident are you
that we will be able to get to the bottom of this?
PALLONE: Well, I think we will. And, obviously, you`re helping get to the
bottom of it. But look, conspiracy, the law, I mean, the thing that
bothers me about all of this is this -- again, is this abuse of power. In
other words, look, you know, we have the lanes being closed for obviously
no reason other than, you know, some political motivation.
We have Chris Michaels hanging around Wildstein, obviously aware of it in
some fashion. And I have no idea why he`s chosen other than he`s a friend
of the governor. We had Mayor Zimron (ph) saying that, you know, Sandy
money wasn`t coming to her town because she wouldn`t approve a development
project. There`s just too much going on here on behalf of the Christie
administration that shows that they`re not looking at the public interest
and they`re being political about what they do.
This is just a terrible thing. I mean, it`s shocking. And the more it
goes on, the more it convinces me that this abuse of power was rampant in
the Christie administration and stuff has got to be done to stop it. I
mean, hopefully the investigation, itself, and the media are stopping it to
some extent, I think.
But I mean, let`s not lose sight of the fact that, you know, these people
have a responsibility to do things that are good for the public and that`s
not what`s happening here.
KORNACKI: All right. We have to take one more quick break right after
this. We`ll be back.
KORNACKI: We are totally and completely out of time. So, all I have time
for is to thank our guests for today, Congressman Frank Pallone, WNBCs
Brian Thompson, Republican State Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, and reporter
and professor, Brian Murphy.
President Obama is delivering on his state of the union promise to work
around the gridlock in Washington.
KORNACKI: How often do presidents deliver on the proposals they lay out in
their state of the union address? Well, the record is mixed with more than
an hour`s worth of policy`s proposals that require the support of both
chambers of Congress, the speech is tend to be more wish list than to-do
But in his State of the Union this year, President Obama promised to make
2012 a year of action, to act with or without Congress, as he said. And so
far, Obama has been delivering on that promise. In the past month, Obama
has signed a flurry of executive actions and directed his cabinet to issue
a series of new regulations, advancing new policies that don`t require the
approval of Congress.
On Tuesday, he rolled out his latest order.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re going to double the
distance our cars and light trucks can go on a gallon of gas by 2025.
We`re going to double it.
Today, I`m directing the secretary of transportation, Anthony Fox, who is
right there, former mayor of Charlotte, and Gina McCarthy, the
administrator of EPA, two outstanding public servants.
Their charge, their goal is to develop fuel economy standards for heavy
duty trucks that will take us well into the next decade just like our cars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And he also reminded the crowd of some of the other directed
he`s issued in recent weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`ve acted to require federal contractors to pay their employees of
fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour. I`ve ordered an across-the-board
reform of job training programs so we can train workers with the skills
that employers actually need. I directed the treasure secretary to create
something we`re calling myRA. It`s a new way to help working Americans
start saving for retirement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Now, presidents have always used their executive authority, of
most a lot more man the current administration, or the last, if you look at
the chart right there. But what we`re seeing could be the beginning of a
redefinition of how a president works around an immovable Congress,
remaking of the office for a new era of deep partisan polarization.
"Wall Street Journal" columnist Gerald Seib wrote about this transformation
this week, explaining, quote, "The old pattern of exercising presidential
power by proposing programs, cajoling Congress into passing them and then
setting up a government apparatus to implement them may be giving way to a
new pattern in which a president uses the White House as a platform to
focus national attention on an issue and to mobilize forces outside
Washington to devote time and resources to address it.
The gaping political gulf that`s formed between Republicans and Democrats
has made it increasingly difficult to build bipartisan consensus in
LBJ`s arm-twisting, Ronald Reagan`s alliance with conservative House
Democrats, those working relationships with Congress are largely in the
rearview mirror. Political parties are no longer diverse coalitions, right
for cross party collaboration. They are now ideologically pure
institutions, unless you`re in the same party as the other guy, it`s now a
lot harder to find common ground.
That`s why President Obama praised the house Democrats at their annual
retreat. It was for a modest accomplishment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: The fact that we were able to pass a clean debt limit is just one
example of why when you guys are unified, you guys stick together, this
country is better off and I could not be more thankful and more
appreciative and prouder of what you`re doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Sounds like Obama could not be prouder of House Democrats for
getting Republicans to agree to allow the United States of America to pay
its bills. Of course, these days, getting Republicans to do just that is a
big accomplishment but it epitomizes the new era of gridlock we find
This week, "The Washington Post" reported that Republicans have no plans to
pursue big legislative goals this year. Its ranks are divided and they see
no possibility for legislating with Democrats.
It`s that reality that led John Boehner ally, Republican Congressman Devin
Nunes of California, to say this, quote, "We don`t have 218 votes in the
House for the big issues so what else are we going to do. It`s over. It`s
finished after the debt ceiling." He`s an elected member of Congress, a
member close to the House Republican leadership throwing in the towel in
2014 not even two months into the year."
Obama blasted Republicans for their do-nothing agenda in his off camera
speech to Democratic governors assembled in Washington on Thursday. And he
said, quote, "We`ve got a Congress that refers to say no rather than yes
right now. They don`t have an affirmative agenda. Their main strategy is
just to do nothing to see if they can falsely give people a sense that
somehow the policies that we`re trying to pursue aren`t working for them."
House Democrats meanwhile seem resigned to their bleak fate. And "The
Washington Post" reports that the Democratic caucus is still backing Nancy
Pelosi in their leadership, even though House Democrats that had less than
stellar electoral performance over the past four years, they got wiped out
in 2010, they didn`t take back the House in 2012, and there is little
expectation that they`ll retake the chamber in November.
But Democrats are not calling on Pelosi to step aside because they
recognize the limits they face, the limits of an electoral map with very
few true swing districts left.
Congressman Jim Himes, he`s a member of the Democrat Congressional Campaign
Committee, he told "The Post", quote, "There is absolutely no talk even
after three or four drinks about is our leadership not doing the right
thing. There`s an awful lot of confidence in leadership." At times
basically saying that no one could get House Democrats out of this hole
that they`re in. It`s the cold hard reality of the congressional map.
So, Democrats and Republicans in Congress coming to terms with the limits
of what they can and can`t accomplish, the president moving forward with
his agenda on his own. Is this becoming the new normal for American
We`ll have a table to discuss all of this. We have Kate Nocera. She`s a
Capitol Hill reporter for BuzzFeed.com. MSNBC contributor Patrick Murphy,
getting a head start on the pastries there, a former Democratic congressman
from Pennsylvania, John Fugelsang, a political comedian and liberal
commentator, and congressman from New York, Democrat Hakim Jeffries.
And, Congressman, I`ll start with you because the president here is being
very proactive right now in reminding people what he is able to do to work
around Congress. He`s really trying to counter the idea that Washington is
just gridlocked and nothing is possible. But I wonder as a member of
Congress how does that make you feel that -- I`m sure there`s a lot on your
agenda that you share with the president but you`re dealing with a
Republican majority in the House that has nothing no common with you
How does it make you feel that it`s up to the president to make these
REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), NEW YORK: Well, I think there`s two realities
that we confront. First, there`s gridlock and then there`s Republicanism
gone wild. So, gridlock is just, you know, the reality of divided
government. And it will make things such as increasing the minimum wage
comprehensive, immigration reform difficult to accomplish. But that`s not
inconsistent with anything we`ve seen throughout our time here in America
when you have a divided government situation.
Republicanism gone wild is a very different phenomenon. It brought us
sequestration notwithstanding the fact that the economists say said it
would cost the economy 750,000 jobs. It brought a government shutdown,
notwithstanding the fact that that resulted in $24 billion in lost economic
productivity. It`s brought us the failure to renew unemployment
compensation largely for the long term unemployed. Notwithstanding the
fact that independent economists say they`ll cost 200,000 jobs that last
throughout the year.
So we`ve seen affirmative things done by this Republican house to hurt the
American economy. Fortunately, in terms of that aspect of what we`ve been
dealing with, with the debt ceiling increase recently brought to bear,
perhaps we`ve gone beyond that moment. And then we just have to confront
whether we`ll be able to deal with some of these big picture issues which
will result in having to put pressure from the American people on Congress
to act or else he`ll have to face the electoral congress.
KORNACKI: That last point there, or else they`ll have to face the
electoral consequences, that`s what I wonder about, Patrick, because if
you`re Republicans, if you`re the Republican leadership in the House, for
instance and you`re looking at, you know -- you`re looking at the
sequester, you`re looking at all of the drama of 2011, you`re looking at
the failure to do anything on immigration, all of the things that Democrats
charge Republicans with standing in the way of, of never offering a repair
to health care. The electoral consequence so far that we can see is the
Republican candidate for president can`t win, President Obama is able to
get reelected by 5 millions, Democrats are able to, with the assist of very
flawed candidates to well in the Senate races, but there was no breaking
through majority for the Republicans in House.
And as long as Republicans have control over the House, it rea really
severely impedes what is possible for a Democrat administration.
PATRICK MURPHY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. And let`s give the leadership,
the House Democratic leadership, they did pick up seats, though, in the
last presidential year. But I will say, Steve, it comes down to this self-
They are so worried about the Tea Party and getting primaried and now with
redistricting on top of that, they don`t want to do anything. They don`t
want to go out on a limb. They don`t want to put the country first.
So, that`s why you have issues, Steve, like immigration which would be a
win-win for Republicans. One as far as a policy ground, it will, within
the first 20 years, knock off $1 trillion to the national debt by growing
our economy, $1 trillion, and two, it is politically backed by the U.S.
Chamber of Commerce. It`s their number one priority which is the major
funder of Republicans.
With a policy and a political win they still won`t do it. Why? Because
they are so worried about the Tea Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
KATE NOCERA, BUZZFEED: But I also think that you talk about gerrymandered
districts, I mean, this -- their constituents are -- they`re doing exactly
what their constituents want them to do, especially in the House and the
House of Representatives.
I mean, Representative Jeffries is doing what his constituents in a liberal
district want him to do. If you look at something like Labrador in a
conservative district, he`s doing exactly --
MURPHY: But real quick -- that`s what`s wrong, though, because we should
just have robots in office.
NOCERA: Right or wrong, but that`s the situation, yes.
MURPHY: You`re supposed to be there as a U.S. members of Congress to
represent the best interest of the country and your constituents.
NOCERA: The people that you represent, who elected you.
MURPHY: But sometimes, as Abraham Lincoln said, leadership is not doing
what people want you to do. It`s leading them where they ought to be. And
we should lead the people of America on immigration reform, on
infrastructure, and these things won`t happen because they`re afraid of
their own shadow and that`s why their poll ratings are in the tank and
they`ll stay that way.
KORNACKI: But I mean, it`s true, though. But they don`t care about
leadership. They care about keeping their jobs.
KORNACKI: The approval ratings in their districts though don`t seem to go
down. And the way --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
KORNACKI: -- as we talk about the presidential election, you know, we have
the Electoral College, so it`s not exactly, you know, most votes win except
in 2000. That`s basically what happens. But when you look at the House,
increasingly, there`s this story of how the Democratic base is more and
more concentrated in metropolitan areas. So, you have a lot of Democrat
districts where the Democrat wins 80 percent of the voters.
The Republican vote is actually spread out a little more. So there are
more districts that are Republican friendly. The Republican will only get
60 percent, so that the 80 percent the Democrat gets. But that adds up to
-- you know, I wouldn`t say a permanent Republican majority, but a
Republican majority that`s very hard for Democrats to break through, even
when the Republicans are on the wrong side of these issues in national
JOHN FUGELSANG, COMEDIAN: Well, you can`t gerrymander yourself into a
better place in the history books. It`s an honor being here with these
folks on the panel. I feel like Ringo, I`m just left to be here.
But the fact is, blaming Obama for the slow recovery is like John Wilkes-
Booth blaming Lincoln for missing the end of the play. It`s not going to
hurt a lot of Southern congressmen to oppose any immigration reform. You
can`t win the White House with 70 percent of the Latino vote.
However, if you`re in a district down South, you don`t necessarily care
about winning the White House. You care about keeping your job. So,
killing the immigration reform, as popular though it might be, it`s going
to help you. It`s not leadership. It`s keeping your job long enough until
the lobbyist job offer comes in.
KORNACKI: Well, there was some news this week actually, some news late
this week about President Obama and this year`s budget and a concession he
was willing to make last year, concessions he`s been willing to make for a
few years that he no longer talk about that concession and what that says
about the future of his presidency.
We`ll pick that up when we come back.
KORNACKI: So the big news late this week was that President Obama -- word
leaked that when President Obama submits his budget for 2014 in a few
weeks. It is not going to include a proposal that it included last year.
And it`s this thing called chained CPI. It`s sort of the way of
recalculating the benefits formula for Social Security, doing it in a more
stingy way. It would save some money.
It`s a concept that came up in 2011 when President Obama was pursuing the
grand bargain with Republicans. Everybody told me that he put it in his
budget last year, not because he actually thought Republicans were going to
meet him halfway but because he wanted to illustrate to the American people
that, hey, look, I`m willing to meet the Republicans halfway and they are
totally unwilling to meet me there.
Congressman, is that your understanding of what he was trying to do? And
if that is what he was trying to do, do you think he accomplished that? Do
you think people understand things differently because of it?
JEFFRIES: Well, you know, it was an important step in the right direction
in terms of learning from the history.
The reality is that when the president and the congressional Democrats
remain unified, we saw this around the debt ceiling and we saw this around
the government shutdown, we prevail because the American people are with
us. We`re speaking with one voice, we`re right now on policy and we were
The president has consistently extended an olive branch to the Republican
Party and congressional Republicans and they consistently slapped it away,
indicated no willingness to work with him even when it`s in the best
interest of the American people and those that they represent.
So, last year, the president submits the budget with an olive branch as it
relates to the Social Security reform, progressive Democrats such as myself
weren`t supportive of it, but it was designed to try and create a climate
where perhaps a grand bargain or common ground could be reached, and there
was no more mention on the Republican side, no interest whatsoever. And
so, I think moving forward with this year`s budget, the president has taken
the proper step, which is to present his ideas in a bold, clear eyed
fashion and we can make our case to the American people.
KORNACKI: Go ahead.
NOCERA: There wasn`t just no interest. The chairman of the National
Republican Campaign Committee went out on TV and said, the president and
Democrats want to cut Social Security.
KORNACKI: That`s right.
NOCERA: That`s what happened.
NOCERA: And so that was the immediate reaction from Republicans and
Democrats were just like, OK. What?
KORNACKI: Which is basically what we saw this week, because the president
-- this announcement comes, the president is not going to put chained CPI
in the budget and the Republicans excoriate him for that, and they say,
he`s not going to deal with serious debt crisis because he`s not putting
anytime there. Then they reveal one of the things they want to run against
in 2014 are the Medicare cuts from the Affordable Care Act.
MURPHY: That was in their budget, by the way.
MURPHY: It`s politics. And I`m glad that the president is doing this and
I`m sure you agree with me, because you don`t start negotiations by meeting
people halfway. You say this is where I am, this is my vision and that`s
what he`s going to do this March, in a couple of weeks. We put forth that
budget. Now, let`s see if the Republicans -- obviously we know where they
are. Let`s see if they come to the table. My guess though is not.
You heard the earlier comments. Immigration reform, they talk the game
we`re going to get it done, the Senate passed this almost a year ago.
We`re waiting on the House.
The House is not going to take this up, although, you know, I am hopeful --
I just told that John Boehner, the speaker, got a place in Florida this
week. Maybe he says I`ll pass this and this is how I`m going to get beat,
and this is my legacy. I`ll finally do one good thing for the country by
passing immigration reform.
FUGELSANG: He`s too tan for Florida.
The thing is -- if you`re just bluffing, why not put defense cuts on the
table, if you don`t really mean it. Why not do something that could really
inspire people because I`m thrilled about chained CPI not happening because
promising to cut Social Security to fix a deficit is like invading Iraq
because you were attacked by 16 Saudis. I mean, it wasn`t popular, it`s a
lose-lose for the Democrats.
You`re exactly right, the GOP squeeze some capital out of it, by saying, oh
they`re going to take your Social Security away. But that`s a real
problem. I mean, I`m much more concerned about Social Security being taken
KORNACKI: Except that -- I mean, there were a number of Republicans
conservative voices who were saying, especially early last year, I can`t
remember the names, I`d go dig them up. I wish I`d prepare better for this
segment, who were saying, like, look, the president can demonstrate it`s
serious about compromise with a simple term, chained CPI.
I`m paraphrasing. I remember, this is my head, somebody said. So the
design was, OK, look, I`ll call your bluff. I`ll put it on the table and
the American people will see you`re not interested in compromise the way I
Did the American people see that? Did anybody take the lesson from last
JEFFRIES: No. Here`s the problem. We`ve seen it time and time again --
when the president proposes something, if it`s a Republican idea, the
Republicans are all of the sudden against it. Even in the context of the
Affordable Care Act, it`s a market base strategy originally introduced into
the public domain by the Heritage Foundation, of all people, put into
effect by the Republican governor of Massachusetts.
FUGELSANG: And upheld by Republican Supreme Court. So, consistently,
we`ve seen the pattern.
I think the American people do blame Congress and Republican obstructionism
for what`s occurred. But one of the political realities that we face is a
gerrymandered map coming out of 2010 elections designed to lock-in
Republican extremism even when that`s against the tied of public opinion.
More than a million Americans voted for congressional Democratic candidates
in the House, of course, in the 2012 elections, and yet, we`re still 17
KORNACKI: No, and like I said also, the population distribution thing I`m
talking about, too, I think is another factor. But just put this up --
this was a memo from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor that was obtained by
NBC News. It was written to the House GOP conference on the subject of the
"President Obama has provided new clarity on what constitute imperial
presidency, declaring that he has a pen and a phone. He has acted to
effectively rewrite the laws of the United States. The House will consider
a number of bills the week of March 10th designed to restore the balance of
power created by our Founders and require the president faithfully execute
our nation`s laws."
So, there`s that. And there are also indications from Republicans that
another major thing they will pursue is more repeal votes on Obamacare, as
they work towards this replacement.
Remember, in 2010, it was repeal and replace. That was the mantra. We
still have not gotten to replacement part.
So, it just says to me, we had some quotes in the Senate for this, that
Republicans basically think, look, we`re in a decent -- House Republicans
at least -- we`re in a decent political position, we want to run out the
clock on 2014 by what, bashing Obamacare and bashing the executive order.
FUGELSANG: The congressman is right. You can`t replace it with a
Republican when it is the Republican plan.
The liberal plan was single payer. The Democrat plan was public option.
He gave them their own plan and now they hate it.
NOCERA: It will be interesting to see what exactly is brought to the floor
in the next year. I know that a number of House conservatives, sort of
more Tea Party members of Congress, are really going to push to do, you
know, serious entitlement reform, entitlement cuts, welfare reform.
I was talking to Raul Labrador last week, did a full a story on him and he
says if we don`t have this -- like their mind-set is that if we don`t have
this bold vision, we`re going to lose seats in the House. And now, the
leadership and more vulnerable Republicans in Congress, they don`t want to
do that. They don`t want to be going on record in the next few months.
MURPHY: Kate, if I could -- but I know they talk a good game, but they
don`t do it. Just like -- I`m not trying to keep bringing up immigration
reform but let me bring it up.
NOCERA: One more time.
MURPHY: They say we can`t do that because we don`t trust Obama to secure
the borders. President Obama has deported more undocumented workers in any
MURPHY: Right. And look at simple things like background checks after
Newtown, when those first graders were murdered in their seats, 90 percent
of America for that, they won`t do it. Minimum wage increase, last time it
passed was six years ago, 80 percent of America is for that. John Boehner
says I`ll commit suicide before I vote --
KORNACKI: This brings me to a question we will pick it up after the break.
No disrespect intended to the congressman sitting at the table, but I want
to ask -- what is the point of being in Congress at this time with these
realities? We will ask that when we come back.
KORNACKI: So I said I was going to pose a question to Hakeem Jeffries
about what`s the point of being in Congress. Well, it makes me think of
that is Democrats succeeded President Obama when he spoke to House
Democrats recently. He praised them for sticking together to do what, to
keep Republicans from defaulting on the debt ceiling.
In terms of advancing sort of proactive an agenda, we`ve been sitting here
talking for a while now about how intractable the Republicans are. So, the
prospects of getting any sort of major legislation through seem not that
Here`s John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Kentucky, who was asked about the
pending retirement of one of his Democratic colleague last week by Kate
Nocera. He said, "I was talking to one member who is retiring and I said,
do you feel good about it? And he said, `I really do. I just got to the
point where it wasn`t worth it. It`s pretty stressful. Everybody is aware
the system is broken and that becomes stressful.`"
I don`t know how long that guy had been in office. Probably longer than
But, Congressman, do you feel that at all?
JEFFRIES: Well, listen, it`s still an honor and a privilege to serve in
the Congress. We are facing sort of unprecedented obstruction from the Tea
Party dominated Republican caucus in the House of Representatives.
But notwithstanding that reality, over the last 14 months, we`ve seen at
least five separate incidents in major areas where the hashtag rule has
been violated and big picture ideas have been passed into law. It began
with a fiscal cliff agreement, overwhelming Democratic support, limited
Republican support passed out in the House of Representatives.
The Superstorm Sandy relief package a few weeks later in January of 2013,
then in February, the Violence Against Women Act over the objection of hard
right conservatives in the House of Representatives. And then at the end
of December, last year, we saw a budget agreement that rolled back some of
the sequestration cuts, limited Republican support, overwhelming Democratic
support. And then most recently earlier this month, with the clean debt
ceiling, that obviously would have been catastrophic.
So, in five areas, we`ve actually seen the hashtag rule violated, which
gives myself and others hope, as long as Democrats continue to remain
unified under leader Pelosi perhaps, we can tackle the big picture issues
because they have been tackled in the past.
MURPHY: I served two terms. My first term was under the last few years of
the Bush administration. My second term, first years of Obama.
When the fiscal crisis happened, when people couldn`t get home loans or car
loans, when it went in the tank Wall Street, it was George Bush and Hank
Paulson that came into Congress and said, we need to come together, we need
to put the country first.
I had my folks said, you just won your first race by 0.6 percent. It`s
your first reelection. Don`t screw this up. It`s your first reelection
two months later. Vote no against this.
I know policy but just -- and I was like, no, I`m going to do the right
thing. And we did some things to make taxpayers get their money back first
But the Democrats for the most part stepped up for the country and put it
first. You don`t see it right now. You didn`t see it in the stimulus.
Hakeem, you weren`t there. So, I`m not trying to (INAUDIBLE).
But you don`t see it with gun reform, you don`t see it with background
checks, you don`t see it with immigration. It`s crazy. That`s why the
system is broken.
And John Yarmuth who you quoted there, we came into Congress together when
we both won in `06. They are disgusted down there because there`s folks
that aren`t willing to put the country first, and they`re not willing to
provide their leadership and make the compromises.
That`s why I`m glad President Obama is not playing the reindeer games that
happened in the past. He`s saying, this is my vision. Let`s now -- if
you`re serious, let me see yours and let`s come together.
KORNACKI: So, what`s going to happen here? He`s not going to put chained
CPI on the table. He`s not going to put these concessions that Republicans
at some point had said they want on the table anymore. He`s going to put
the budget that he wants on the table. Apparently, it`s going to include
$56 billion in more spending, I guess it would be offset by cuts elsewhere.
He`s looking for closures from loopholes.
But realistically, you know, he can say no to compromising within chained
CPI with Republicans, but realistically, can the president get through any
budget that`s remotely similar to what he wants?
FUGELSANG: That`s why Ronald Reagan is wrong. The scariest words in
English language were, I`m from the government and I`m here to not help.
And if we were sane we would be talking about military cuts but then we
would only have a military as big as China, Russia and England combined. I
think if the president is smart, he will start talking about these
loopholes and sort of forcing his Republican counterparts to defend these
loopholes which would make life more comfortable for the richest among us,
because that`s who they`re serving right now.
And the only way to drive a wedge in that party is to let the social
conservative know these guys are fighting for Wall Street, and you can`t
stand up for Main Street when you`re on your knees for Wall Street.
JEFFRIES: And it does appear that the president is doing that. He`s going
to propose $56 billion in additional spending and it appears that he will
pay for it largely by closing corporate loopholes, oil and gas industry,
other loopholes, that are really unacceptable to the American people.
Let`s go out and have this debate and force the Republicans to defend what
really is an untenable position.
NOCERA: But that`s exactly what the budget is u. It is a debate over
Democratic values versus Republican values.
And the president`s budget -- I mean, correct me if I`m wrong -- hasn`t
really gotten anywhere in the last couple of years. It is sort of a vision
of what he wants and what he would like the see, similarly with the
Republicans when they put forward their budget.
I mean the fights that -- the big fights over the budget, the Ryan-Murray,
that`s done, right? Like we are in campaign mode, the things to avoid a
government shutdown and avoid a default are behind us.
So, now, all it is about presenting visions of which party do you want to
KORNACKI: That`s the thing. When I listen to Congressman Jeffries list
off some of the truly significant accomplishments in the last few years,
one thing that does occur to me is fiscal cliff. It was an unavoidable
deadline -- debt ceiling, unavoidable deadline.
NOCERA: We`re dealing with deadlines right now.
KORNACKI: So, outside of the total crisis deadline mentality, this budget
doesn`t seem to fall into that.
Any way, I hate to end on a depressing note.
My thanks to Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, for coming in this morning. The
Sochi Olympic games are wrapping up.
We are back. So that is this -- I`m reading this all wrong. That is the
other game, "Up Against the Clock." It returns. You heard it. You
remember it. It is coming back, next.
KORNACKI: Patrick Murphy is a familiar face on this network -- MSNBC
contributor, Iraq veteran and former congressman. In fact, another
installment of his show "Taking the Hill" is airing tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.
But back in 1999, Patrick Murphy was looking to add a very different
accomplishment to his list of achievements.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB BARKER, GAME SHOW HOST: And Patrick Murphy, come on down.
Patrick, give me your bid.
BARKER: Nine-o-one. Well, I`m checking your bar. You`re a warrant
MURPHY: No, I`m a first lieutenant.
BARKER: There, yes. I thought there was a dark line in the center but
there`s not. You`re a first lieutenant.
MURPHY: Yes, sir.
BARKER: You had not read about being an officer and a gentleman, have you?
You bid that $1 over Carol. He`s blushing. He`s blushing.
The actual retail price is $598, the winner is George.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That`s Patrick Murphy getting razzed by Bob Barker and coming up
short as a constant on "The Price is Right."
Well, Patrick will get another shot at contestants` row today when he comes
down, along with two other contestants to play our weekly current events
quiz show "Up Against the Clock." It`s back. Stay tuned. It`s next.
ANNOUNCER: Live from Studio 3A in Rockefeller Center USA, it`s time for
"Up Against the Clock."
From Northampton, Massachusetts, hometown to former President Calvin
Coolidge, say hello to Kate Nocera.
He was the most feared security guard at Philadelphia`s Veteran`s Stadium,
the late great home field of the Phillies and the Eagles, please welcome
former Congressman Patrick Murphy.
And he`s the pride of Stony Brook, New York, of the beautiful north shore
of Long Island. Let`s hear it for John Fugelsang.
And now the host of "Up Against the Clock", Steve Kornacki.
KORNACKI: Thank you, Jim Cutler (ph). Thank you, studio audience. And
thank you at home for tuning in.
Don`t adjust your television. It is "Up Against the Clock." And we are
back. It`s been a few weeks.
But the rules and the heart pounding excitement remain the same. We have
three rounds of play, 100 seconds each. Questions will be harder as we go
along. Contestants can ring in at any time but they`ll be penalized for a
wrong answer and there are, of course, instant bonuses scattered throughout
I should point out this will be the final game of "Up Against the Clock"
before our tournament of champions. So, the field is almost set. But any
one of these three contestants could break into the field today.
So, before we get started, as always, I`ll remind our live studio audience
to please remain absolutely silent. No outbursts while the contestants are
And with that, I will ask you contestants, are you ready?
NOCERA: Ready. Let`s go.
KORNACKI: Good enough. Put 100 seconds on the clock. We`ll start with
the 100 point round and it begins now.
A one-time presidential hopeful, this House member said this week that she
thinks many voters -- John.
FUGELSANG: American`s sweetheart, Michelle Bachmann.
KORNACKI: Michelle Bachmann thinks that voters aren`t ready for a female
president. Hundred points for John.
A hundred-point question -- this isn`t bridge-gate but this governor in
2016 -- Kate.
NOCERA: Scott Walker.
KORNACKI: Scott Walker is facing scrutiny after emails were released from
his office this week. That`s correct.
A hundred-point question. After reading from it on the Senate floor during
his 21 -- Patrick.
MURPHY: Senator Cruz.
NOCERA: Green eggs and ham.
KORNACKI: Green eggs and ham, Ted Cruz signed a copy of this children`s
book for $1,000 for an auction this week. That`s correct.
Moving fast here -- 100-point question, a nuclear physicist -- Kate.
NOCERA: Rush Holt.
KORNACKI: This New Jersey congressman will retire from the House this term
-- Rush Holt is correct.
Kate, this is a 100 point instant bonus. No risk here.
Holt and Congressman Bill Foster are the only two physicists in Congress.
Foster represents a district in what Midwest state?
KORNACKI: Incorrect. It`s Illinois. No points for Patrick but he`s
right. Illinois. Also, no need to ring in but it`s fun.
A hundred toss up question. Vice President Joe Biden will make an
appearance on this premier episode of this NBC show --
NOCERA: Seth Meyers.
KORNACKI: Kate, we`ll need more specific, please. We have a chance here.
NOCERA: "Late Night with Set Meyers".
KORNACKI: "Late Night with Set Meyers" is correct. A hundred points for
A hundred-point question, Facebook bought the instant messaging app --
KORNACKI: Incorrect. I`ll finish the question.
Facebook bought the instant messaging app WhatsApp for $16 billion on
Wednesday that is 16 times the amount that Facebook -- John.
KORNACKI: That Facebook paid for Instagram two years ago. That`s correct,
hundred points for John.
That ends the round. Kate with 300 points, Patrick with minus 100, John
with 200. A lot of action in that round. That was fun.
We`ll move to more serious stuff here. We double the value. A little
harder. The 200 point round here, 200-point question.
We`re going to put 100 seconds back on the clock and with this we go.
Michelle Obama traveled to New York this week -- Patrick.
MURPHY: Jimmy Fallon show, if "The Tonight Show".
KORNACKI: Incorrect. Michelle Obama traveled to New York this week to
celebrate the 4th anniversary of her Let`s Move campaign and appear on the
"Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon telling American to do more of this --
NOCERA: Eat vegetables? Eat more vegetables?
KORNACKI: Incorrect. The correct answer is drink water. She came to New
York to tell people to drink water.
Two hundred point question. During a speech on Wednesday, former President
George W. Bush said this presidential perk is the one that he misses most
from his time in office.
FUGELSANG: We`re watching "House of Cards".
KORNACKI: There`s the crickets. We`ll call time. He misses Air Force
Former President Bill Clinton will appear on Tuesday in a senate campaign
stop -- Kate.
NOCERA: Alison Lundergan Grimes. He will appear to campaign stop for
Alison Grimes. That`s direct. This is an instant bonus question, Kate.
For 200 points, when Bill Clinton became the last Democrat candidate to
carry Kentucky in a presidential race 1996, he was joined at a pre-election
rally in the state by what then-University of Kentucky basketball coach?
NOCERA: Oh my God, I know this. Jim Calipari.
KORNACKI: I`m so sorry. It was John Calipari. Very close.
NOCERA: The UMass coach.
KORNACKI: Yes, refused to loss. They took the banners down.
Two-hundred point question. President Obama apologized this week for
saying that pursuing a skilled trade career would probably make you more
money that if you got a degree in this?
We`ll actual time. It`s art history. That`s the end of the round.
Kate, moving to 300 points in that round. Patrick at minus 300, John
falling to zero but you`ll all within one question of each over because
this is the PhD level. This is the 300-point round.
This is where the champions are crowned. And remember, a really high score
in this game could put you in the tournament of champions.
This is the last chance for a new qualifier. The final round, 100 seconds
on the clock, the 300-point round begins now. This Republican senator
testified that his state capital this week in favor of a proposal to
restore voting right to convicted felons.
Time. It`s Rand Paul.
Three-point question, the legislature in the state passed a controversial
bill this week that opponents argue would legalize -- Kate.
KORNACKI: Arizona would legalize religious discrimination.
Three-point question. This Oscar winning actor is slated to testify before
the Senate Foreign Relations Committee next Wednesday about the protects of
peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo-- Patrick.
MURPHY: George Clooney.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. Any guesses?
Time. It`s Ben Affleck.
Three hundred points -- while he sits on an anti-trust subcommittee, this
senator recused himself this week from the Time Warner Cable/Comcast
purchase -- Kate.
NOCERA: Chuck Schumer.
KORNACKI: Chuck Schumer recused himself because his brother is an attorney
in the deal.
Three hundred-point question, this 86-year-old former Democrat of Louisiana
and ex-convict announced this week that -- John.
KORNACKI: Edwards, Edwin Edwards is correct.
Three-point question, a 101-year-old man Joe Newman is seeking a
congressional seat in Florida this year. Who is the oldest current members
MURPHY: North Carolina. Cole.
KORNACKI: Incorrect. Kate?
NOCERA: Ralph Hall.
KORNACKI: Ralph Hall of Texas is correct.
Instant bonus question, Kate, Paul is one of two World War II veterans
currently serving in Congress. Name the other.
NOCERA: Charlie Rangel?
KORNACKI: Incorrect. It`s John Dingell. No penalty though.
Three-point question. This state has just released a specialty license
plate to benefit the Sons of Confederates featuring a prominent Confederate
KORNACKI: Incorrect. It`s Georgia. That`s the end of the round. That`s
the end of the game.
The final score, Kate Nocera with an impressive 1,200 points. Patrick,
negative 1,200 and John with 300.
FUGELSANG: I bet on Kate.
KORNACKI: Kate, I will tell you that may be enough. I`m not sure. It may
be enough to put you in the tournament of champions. Our selection show is
going to air next Saturday. So you`ll find out then.
But until then you do have a prize package that Bill Wolf is about to tell
ANNOUNCER: As our champion, you`ll have your name printed in an exquisite
sharpie on the coveted "Up Against the Clock" gold cup, and you`ll get to
take the trophy home with you and show it off to friends, family, and local
school children for exactly one week.
You`ll also receive an appearance this coming week on MSNBC`s "THE CYCLE",
airing weekdays at 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
You`ll also get to play at our bonus round for today`s grand prize of $50
gift certificates to Rutt`s Hut in Clifton, New Jersey. Serving up the
best franks in the greater meadowlands area. The relish is on us.
Back to you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right. There`s that delicious prize package. Here is your
question for the Rutt`s Hutt gift certificate. Closing ceremonies for the
2014 Sochi Winter Olympics will air tomorrow night.
Name the city and country for the next Winter Olympics in 2018?
NOCERA: The city, too? I know it is in South Korea, Seoul.
KORNACKI: We need the city.
KORNACKI: Seoul is incorrect. It`s Pyongyang, South Korea.
I`m sorry. No Rutt`s Hut gift certificate.
Thank you all though for playing today. No one leaves us empty handed.
Everyone gets the home edition of "Up Against the Clock", fun for the whole
family. One more way you can bring the excitement of "Up Against the
Clock" in your living room.
So, thanks to everyone at home for playing along. Kate, we will see if
you`re in the tournament of champions, find out next week.
Tune in for the real show, the conclusion of the real show, right after
KORNACKI: All right. Just a few final moments to find out what our guests
know that they didn`t know when the week began.
We`ll start with you, John.
FUGELSANG: I found out that Arizona, the only state who has a governor
serving on an outpatient basis, is trying to make it illegal to be gay in
the name of being Christian. And what kind of anti-Christian bigot would
stop me being an anti-gay bigot? The only problem is Christ himself, the
lead character of your book, never said a damn thing about gay people.
None of you all follow Leviticus.
So, really, you have to face the facts that you`re not being Christian by
discriminating against gay people, because being gay is natural, hating gay
is a lifestyle choice.
KORNACKI: And that is something to watch for next week. Will Jan Brewer
sign that bill?
Kate, the new champion of "Up Against the Clock", congratulations. What
did you learn this week?
NOCERA: I learned that I don`t like "House of Cards" that much and that it
was actually a choice and I could stop watching it, I didn`t have to binge
watch and waste 13 hours of my life finishing it.
KORNACKI: How will you ever follow the Twitter conversations?
NOCERA: I don`t know. I don`t have to get (INAUDIBLE) out of it.
KORNACKI: Tune in tomorrow, because we are going to be talking about that
show. I have a few thoughts about it in the past.
Patrick, your first game show appearance since price is right.
MURPHY: Fifteen years later, redemption is not mine.
MURPHY: Also on a serious note, military families are on food stamps more
than any time in the nation`s history, $104 million a year last year. Food
stamps, and these are military commissaries, on military posts, gone up 300
percent since 2007, and we wonder why there`s 22 veterans committing
suicide every day.
KORNACKI: We should know, Patrick, your show "Taking the Hill" is tomorrow
at 1:00 on MSNBC.
I want to thank all of today`s guests, John Fugelsang, Kate Nocera, former
Congressman Patrick Murphy -- thank you for joining us today.
And thank you for joining us at home.
Tomorrow, an update on the Hoboken story we brought you last month. We`ll
look at how Chris Christie`s own internal investigation is going, if he is
asking the same questions of everyone.
But coming up next is Melissa Harris-Perry with guest host Joy Reid. He`s
got a look at what the U.S. role is in the world as revolutions play out in
the streets of country after country. That and the civil rights movement
of today, the things that have changed, the things that haven`t.
Stick around. Joy Reid is next.
And we will see you here tomorrow at 8:00. Thanks for getting UP.
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