The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/13/14
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. That is special edition of “ALL
I`d like to thank Maria Shriver for being here with us tonight.
For more information, you can download for free at shriverreport.com.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening. Happy Monday.
And thanks to you at home for joining us.
The largest city in the state of New Jersey is Newark, New Jersey.
Until recently, of course, the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, was a man you
might have heard of, Cory Booker. Cory Booker now is no longer the mayor
of Newark because he`s a United States senator now – one of the highest
profile Democrats in the country.
There are not that many people who have jumped from mayor to U.S.
senator, but Cory Booker did that. And the city he jumped from is New
The second largest city in New Jersey is Jersey City. And Jersey
City, too, is starting to become known for its rising star of a Democratic
mayor. His name is Steven Fulop. He is 36 years old. His parents were
immigrants to this country. He grew up working in their deli in Newark.
He worked hard. He went to college. He got himself a great job after
college, working on Wall Street. He was working at Goldman Sachs.
But then in 2002, he gave it all up to enlist in the Marine Corps. He
signed up and shipped off to Iraq. When he came back, he ran again – he
ran an against-the-odds campaign for city council in Jersey City and he
beat the incumbent and he got himself a seat on the city council. Then
this past year, Steven Fulop ran an against-the-odds campaign for mayor of
Jersey City and, he, again, beat the incumbent.
Part of what makes Steven Fulop seem like a rising star, part of what
makes him a high profile local politician, from whom big things are
expected, is that Jersey City like Newark is famously corrupt. Jersey City
is where Frank Hague ran the mayor`s office for 30 years.
When Frank Hague left office in Jersey City in 1947, he was living in
a private suite in the plaza hotel. His net worth was estimated to be
roughly $10 million in non-inflation adjusted dollars from the `40s. And
he had somehow amassed that huge fortune while earning a salary of only
$8,500 a year as the mayor of Jersey City and having no other known legal
source of income.
Fast forward to Jersey City nowadays and, oh, there`s the New Jersey
City mayor, excuse me, there`s the Jersey City mayor who Steven Fulop
unseated last year. That`s him naked on his front porch in Jersey City.
When reporters asked the naked mayor what he was doing outside naked
seemingly drunk on his porch, he told reporters, quote, “I wish I recall.
I wish I recall how I got back out there, but I don`t.”
That was the mayor of New Jersey`s second largest city before Steven
Fulop took his job. Before Cory Booker, you might remember, the mayor of
New Jersey`s largest city was a mayor named Sharp James. Sharp James
shortly thereafter became known as federal inmate number 28791-050 when he
wrapped up his 20 years in office as Newark`s mayor by starting a two-year
stint in federal prison for fraud.
Part of how guys like Cory Booker and Steven Fulop become rising stars
in politics is because of their own stories and their own skills and their
own performance in office. But, honestly, a big part of it, too, is that
they just represent relief. Relief from the unrelentingly terrible
corruption and abominable behavior by politicians that has been the
hallmark of the great state of New Jersey since the days of old boss Frank
Hague and real gangsters of Boardwalk Empire.
Today, the story of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the
apparently politically motivated shutdown of lanes on to the George
Washington Bridge took a turn into Jersey City, when the city clerk`s
office in Jersey City responded to an Open Public Records Act request and
released these documents. They`re documents concerning that rising star
mayor of Jersey City, Steven Fulop, and the question of whether he and his
city were treated to their own version of what Fort Lee got, in terms of
political retaliation and retribution from the Christie administration.
So, Steven Fulop is elected mayor of Jersey City, ousting the guy who
was naked on his porch. That took place Tuesday, May 14th, last year. The
night that Steven Fulop won that race, apparently, Governor Christie phoned
Mr. Fulop to congratulate him on his victory. We know that today because
of this text message to Mayor Fulop from – Mayor-elect Fulop at that point
– from Bill Baroni, one of Governor Chris Christie`s closest allies.
The text says, “Needless to say, congratulations on a tremendous job.
I know the governor reached out last night to relay his congratulations.
Let me know if we can help set up any meetings for you in Trenton as you
enter transition with relevant commissioners, agency heads, et cetera.”
The just-elected mayor responds, “Thanks so much. I`m excited to start the
work as mayor and move Jersey City forward.” et cetera, et cetera.
So, that happens in May when Steven Fulop is first elected mayor. The
day he`s elected, Chris Christie calls him that night. The next day, he
gets a follow-up text from the governor`s right-hand man at the Port
Authority. Right in it`s all good. Smiles, everyone. Smiles.
That was May 14th and May 15th. By the next month, by June, those
offers of help to the new mayor in Jersey City are not just platitudes.
Not just being nice. Not just polite anymore. They are going into motion.
The new mayor`s due to be sworn in on July 1st. Governor Christie is
planning on speaking at his swearing in. And the governor`s office gets in
touch, again, ahead of the swearing in. How can we help? What can we do
for you in Jersey City to make your mayoralty and your transition period a
You want to know who from the governor`s office specifically gets in
touch with Jersey City? Yes, her, Bridget Kelly. Chris Christie`s deputy
chief of staff. The one who before the end of the summer would be ordering
up traffic Armageddon for the little town of Fort Lee.
Well, this e-mail from June 20th is from Mayor Fulop`s office to
Bridget Kelly. “Hi, Bridget. It was great connecting with you this
morning. I thought I had my hands full with three kids, impressed that you
have four. I spoke with Steven”, meaning the mayor, “about your mayor day
program and I think it`s a great idea.”
E-mail continues, “There are so many complexities with local and state
governments that a seamless transition can only benefit everyone. Again,
Bridget, thank you for the conversation and the support.”
That e-mail goes out from Mayor Fulop`s office on a Thursday night,
about 9:30 on a Thursday night. Within 25 minutes, Bridget Kelly and Chris
Christie`s office has written back already, CC-ing the mayor directly,
“Thanks, Veronica, I`m looking forward to working with you. And
congratulation, mayor-elect. What an exciting time for you and for the
city. We`re looking forward to working closely with you and your
And then she gives this big, long list of high level state cabinet
officers and state staffers? Who she`s offering to bring to Jersey City to
meet with the new mayor. The state commissioner of transportation, the
state treasurer, the guy who`s heading up post-Hurricane Sandy recovery
efforts for the whole state, the commissioner who handles all local
government issues, the head of the economic development authority for the
whole state. They`re all going to come to Jersey City to meet with the new
Starting late that Thursday night, and over the course of the next
week, Bridget Kelly arranges to bring all of those high-powered state
officials to Jersey City to meet with the new mayor, to try to make things
work for that city as he starts a new post-naked mayor era in corruption
beleaguered Jersey City.
They pick a day, July 23rd. They pick a location, city hall in Jersey
City. The governor`s office sends over a schedule of how the meetings are
going to run all day long. Then, they get back in touch to add more
meetings to the day, to make it an even bigger Jersey City let-us-help-you
Bill Baroni weighs in again in another friendly text message to the
mayor. “I know the governor is sending quite a contingent of his cabinet
up to you on the 23rd. Let us know how we can continue to work closely
A week out from the meeting, inside the mayor`s office, they are
preparing for their big day with all these high-ranking state officials.
They`re planning for who`s going to be there. They`re ordering lunch for
And then disaster strikes.
As of July 16th, we know the mayor`s – from the mayor`s yes, please,
do order lunch e-mails – we know as of July 16th that the meetings are
still on. As of July 16th.
But on July 18th, two days later, that`s when the new mayor, Steven
Fulop, says he told the Christie administration he wasn`t going to be
endorsing Governor Christie for re-election. Publicly, he kept his cards
close to the vest, but he says privately it was the 18th. He told them –
he told them that Governor Christie was not going to get his endorsement,
on July 18th.
Look what happened on July 18th. “Dear Mr. Mayor, within the past
hour, I have received phone calls from the chief of staff and treasurer`s
office and from transportation commissioner, himself, and the local
government services commissioner, himself, and from the guy who`s heading
up recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy in the state. I`ve heard from all
of them.” Within an hour of the mayor telling the office he wouldn`t
endorse Chris Christie, they all called Jersey City to cancel, personally.
That was on a Thursday, at the end of the day. The mayor`s scheduler
telling him the only meetings left were with the economic development
authority and Bill Baroni, with the governor`s right hand man at the Port
Authority. By the next morning, by Friday morning, scratch that, Bill
Baroni has called to cancel, too. Quote, “The only one left for the 23rd
is now the Economic Development Office.”
But then by Monday morning, that one`s canceled, too. No explanation
was given. I will remove it from the calendar.
Poof. One wrong political turn. One wrong turn. Not endorsing Chris
Christie. And the state`s effusive efforts to help the second largest city
in the state just go up in a puff of smoke, with all the subtlety of a
The mayor in Jersey City tries, he asks his staff to please try to
reschedule. He says, quote, “Try to reschedule. See what they say.” The
mayor, himself, writes back to his friendly text message buddy, Bill
Baroni, to try to reschedule. He waits 2 1/2 weeks and writes again to
Bill Baroni to try to reschedule.
Then, he gets a Port Authority official to help him reschedule with
Bill Baroni. Then he writes to a new official just taking office at the
Port Authority to meet with her about Jersey City. She`s new. Maybe she
doesn`t know about this black ball on the second largest city in the state.
Initially, he gets a positive response from the new official at the
Port Authority, but then, like all the rest, nothing. No response. Radio
Remember during the bridge shutdown when Governor Christie`s staff and
appointees were gleeful over how they weren`t responding to the
increasingly panicked and urgent messages from For Lee`s mayor?
Did the mayor get a call back after he left that urgent message?
David Wildstein responded that the mayor of Fort Lee would not be getting
his calls returned. Do you remember how he said it. He said, quote,
“Radio silence.” His name comes right after Mayor Fulop – Mayor Steven
Fulop from Jersey City.
We now know what became of Mayor Fulop. You live in Jersey City,
you`re worried about your town`s recovery from Sandy there, maybe the
effect of it on your business and your family. Well, your town was going
to get some personalized attention to help with those matters,
But now, no. Screw you, Jersey City. Fend for yourself. Your mayor
didn`t kiss the ring. Now the town will pay.
And it goes to pattern, right? As the investigations into the bridge
scandal continue, the Jersey City saga that had been alleged in the past
but that was proven today by the release of these e-mails, it shows at work
Governor Chris Christie`s patented technique for governing his state. At
the very least, it shows that political retribution is part in parcel of
how Governor Christie rules, which means do not believe his spin on these
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: This is not the tone that I`ve
set over the last four years in this building. It`s not the environment
I`ve worked so hard to achieve. This is the exception. It is not the rule
of what`s happened over the last four years in this administration. It is
not the way this administration has conducted itself over the last four
years. And not the way it will conduct itself over the next four.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We`ll see about the next four. The assemblyman leading the
investigation into the bridge scandal in the legislature did raise the
possibility of Chris Christie being impeached, when he was asked about it
on CBS this weekend.
But in terms of the last four years of the Christie administration,
political payback and retribution really does seem to be how Chris Christie
has covered. The mayor of Jersey City and the way his city was frozen out.
It`s the city of Hoboken which, of course, devastated by Hurricane Sandy,
80 percent of Hoboken under water after Hurricane Sandy.
The mayor of Hoboken now says an invitation to the state capital to
meet with Governor Christie, talk about sandy recovery funds turned into a
discussion with the governor and his campaign manager about whether or not
the mayor of Hoboken was going to endorse Governor Christie for re-
election. Her answer to the governor was no. And then down the line,
Hoboken turns out received less than 1 percent of the funds that that town
asked for from the state for flood mitigation after Hoboken was, again, 80
percent under water in that storm.
Now, were those two things related? There`s no smoking gun e-mail
chain that has turned up yet in the Hoboken case to link the endorsement to
the failed requests for help to the state. But it fits the same pattern.
And proving that pattern in the way the Governor Chris Christie has behaved
as governor, proving the pattern is relevant to the bridge scandal. It
makes plausible to what very recently felt like it was way too insane to be
From our earliest coverage, I was open about the fact this felt like a
plot line that was rejected from the “Sopranos” for being too cartoonishly
gangster. Lanes on the busiest bridge in the country would be shut down on
purpose in order to purposely gridlock a town for almost a whole week as
political payback against the town`s mayor for not endorsing for re-
election a governor of the opposing party who was going to win re-election
anyway by a big double-digit margin.
It has seemed insane that anyone in politics would be that petty and
vindictive and that mean spirited to use this bridge for that kind of small
But we now know that Chris Christie`s office did just that. And we
now know, thanks to these e-mails today, that at least to a certain extent,
that was their M.O. for dealing with at least some of the other local
officials and local city matters across the state of New Jersey.
Still, though, something is still not right. Something still is
missing about the bridge scandal. And that is, to be frank, a lack of any
proof whatsoever, any pointed suggestion, even, that the Fort Lee mayor not
endorsing Governor Chris Christie was, in fact, the reason the bridge lanes
were shut down.
I mean, the mayor has posited maybe that it was and the press has
posited that maybe it could be the case. But, you know, the timing on the
Jersey City retribution thing makes the tie to the endorsement there
basically ironclad. I mean, those meetings had been all systems go. No
hint of any problems, in the works for months. It was within an hour of
the non-endorsement, boom, it was all off. That one seems very clear in
There`s no such timely causative connection with Fort Lee. The mayor
of Fort Lee says, “Not only was he not pressured intensity to give Governor
Christie his endorsement”. He says the request came one day last spring
then he never heard about it again.
Well, the order to shut down the Fort Lee lanes on to that bridge came
in mid-August. That order was about the lack of endorsement back in the
spring. Why did the order not come until August?
There were other things going on in New Jersey politics around August,
around the time the call came from the governor`s office to shut down those
bridge lanes. The governor gave a furious press conference the night
before the order was given, calling the Senate Democrats animals over their
treatment of his judicial nominees. Could that have been the cause? The
leader of the Senate Democrats has Fort Lee in her district.
MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki is an experienced New Jersey reporter who knows
a lot of the principles involved in this scandal. He`s pointing to this
giant billion-dollar development in Fort Lee which is being built basically
right at the spot where those Fort Lee access lanes feed on to the George
Washington Bridge. Could those lanes have been shut down to mess with that
What is not yet explained in this scandal is why it happened. With
all the blanket wall-to-wall coverage we are seeing of this scandal across
the country right now, not enough of the coverage points out that what is
assumed to be the central reason it all happened hasn`t been proven.
There`s not a shred of evidence out of those 2,000-plus pages that were
released from the legislature that suggests that that was why it happened.
The central question of this is still unresolved. What did Fort Lee
do to cause Chris Christie`s appointees and staffers to rain down this week
of hell on that little town? What was it? And who was so offended by
whatever Fort Lee did that they ordered this kind of over the top
Was it really just the deputy chief of staff acting on her own?
Really? Does anyone believe that?
No one will know who was in on this decision and who pulled the
trigger until we know why the trigger was pulled. Today, the state
legislature made a huge announcement about the prospects of figuring that
out. The subpoena authority that has led to the release of all the
documents thus far is due to expire in the legislature tomorrow. The
incoming speaker of the assembly announced today that the assembly will
meet this week to re-up that subpoena authority. They will assign, in
fact, a new super committee to keep the investigation going.
They will add a special counsel to that committee to beef up its
investigatory powers. And crucially, they will keep Assemblyman John
Wisniewski in charge of the inquiry, which is a good sign for the direction
of the inquiry because what has been driving his investigation, at least as
far as he`s concerned, the way he explains it is the question of why.
We still have no idea why the Christie administration did what they
did to Fort Lee. We know they did do it, which, itself, certainly appears
to be a crime. We know that they have played vengeful politics before and
that this kind of politics is the way the governor has conducted himself in
But as to whether or not Governor Chris Christie, himself, is
implicated in whatever crimes may have been committed here or any other
senior staffers in his administration, that is a question that can only be
answered once we know why.
And to that point, Steve Kornacki is here next with something really
interesting that he has just dug up. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NJ: We are in the middle of a
billion, I said a billion-dollar redevelopment on a piece of property
that`s laid fallow for over 45 years right at the foot of the bridge. You
know, there were some theorists and there were some speculators that
suggested that, you know, maybe you guys are progressing too quickly.
Maybe you`re too successful in Fort Lee.
We`re the gateway community to the state of New Jersey. We`re in the
middle of a billion-dollar redevelopment. You know, I expressed that to
the governor, too. We are in a very, very vulnerable state here. We`re in
the middle of this billion-dollar redevelopment.
We`ve done phenomenal things in Fort Lee. And that truly is the
tragedy here because we`re in the middle of a renaissance. We`re in the
middle of a billion-dollar redevelopment.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee, New Jersey, last week naming
a billion-dollar development in his town as a key factor in what we called
a renaissance in Fort Lee. Also sort of worrying out loud that that
rebirth could be jeopardized by the kind of political retribution that the
Chris Christie administration exacted on his town and also sort of worrying
in a way if maybe that billion-dollar development perched right next to
those access lanes to the bridge that got shut down, worrying if maybe the
billion-dollar development is part of what got the Christie administration
so mad in the first place.
Could that be the secret motive that will ultimately help solve this
mystery? Is that the why that leads to the “who” in this big whodunit?
Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, host of “UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI”
here on MSNBC, and a veteran of New Jersey political wars.
Steve, thanks very much.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Sure.
MADDOW: Tell me about Fort Lee`s billion-dollar redevelopment project
and why you think it might have been a motive for the shutdown.
KORNACKI: Well – I mean, first of all, there are not many billion-
dollar redevelopment projects in New Jersey. This is the biggest
redevelopment in the history of Fort Lee and this is a parcel of land, this
is probably one of – if not the most coveted parcels of real estate in the
entire state of New Jersey.
Look at its location. The map on the screen right there.
KORNACKI: That is the foot of the George Washington Bridge. That`s
the gateway from New Jersey into New York. That has been empty land. That
land has been empty for half a century.
There`s this tortured history with this land – 40 years ago there was
a mayor of Fort Lee who was approached by mobbed up developers. They said
that here`s $400,000 if you want it, and we`ll build a high-rise here.
MADDOW: We`ll give you personally a half –
KORNACKI: The Jersey way. Except, he said no. He wore a wire. They
went to jail. The land sat vacant for 50 years.
Along comes Mayor Mark Sokolich. Mayor Mark Sokolich, who makes his
defining mission as mayor and in politics, because he says repeatedly “I
don`t want to be anything more than the mayor of Fort Lee.” His defining
mission is to take that parcel of land, redevelop it and have a renaissance
for Fort Lee.
So, it is a massive project. That land is split into two parts. The
first part is going to be two 47-story residential towers.
KORNACKI: Yes. The financing for that is in place. It`s done. The
first one`s up. The second one is on the way. They`re supposed to open to
residents later this year.
The second part is this thing called Hudson Lights, the second part of
that parcel. The financing for that was supposed to be finished in early
or middle 2013. It then got delayed. It got delayed in the summer months.
It got delayed because they couldn`t quite nail down the financing.
They finally announced on September 16th, 2013, that the financing was
back on track for this. The significance of the date, September 16th,
2013, is it is the first business day after –
MADDOW: After the shutdown. Yes.
KORNACKI: After the New York side intervenes, says you`re probably
breaking state and federal laws. They re-open the lanes.
Financing, for something like – you know, financing for any project,
especially a billion-dollar redevelopment project is very fragile. And the
value of that land, and the value of that project is completely and totally
linked to the access to the George Washington Bridge, the fact that you`re
a resident, if you`re a tenant, if you`re parking in a lot, going to one of
the restaurants. Anybody who`s going to have anything to do with this
massive billion-dollar redevelopment project, the selling point – if
you`re a developer, if you`re putting money into it, if you`re going to
live there, the selling point is those roads, you can get on them and be on
the bridge in a few minutes.
MADDOW: I was looking at the all architects` renderings today of this
project, that you start talking about it on your show this week. And from
all the architects` renderings, you can see the access lanes where the
redevelopment is going to be. It`s critically a part of the whole idea of
the location of this place and why you might want to live there is those
KORNACKI: And there`s – borough at Fort Lee commissioned a traffic
study as it`s going through the process of, you know, the approval process.
They commissioned a traffic study. The traffic study explicitly concluded
that one of the – that anybody who, any tenant here would have speedy
access at rush hour, their peak travel times. Speedy access to the George
Washington Bridge. That conclusion was used in a brochure that one of the
developers put out like basically a brochure for, hey, you want to come be
a part of this?
One of the top selling points on the brochure was the proximity to the
George Washington Bridge.
MADDOW: OK. Is there any evidence or reason to believe the Christie
administration would be opposed to this project on its merits? Would like
to gum up the works?
Or is just knowing that this project is so important to Mark Sokolich
reason enough to see it as a potential target if you wanted to hurt the
mayor for some other reason?
KORNACKI: Yes. It does tell us a couple things. One is how
disingenuous Christie is when he sits there and said, I wouldn`t know the
mayor of Fort Lee, I couldn`t pick him out of a lineup. This is a mayor of
a town of 35,000 people, and yes, there`s 566 municipalities in New Jersey.
Of those 566 municipalities in New Jersey, tell me how many of them have
mayors sitting on tom of $1 billion redevelopment plans.
KORNACKI: That is a hugely significant economically and politically
point. So Christie and his administration have been on top of all the
redevelopment in the state, they knew who Mark Sokolich. They knew what
the project is. This project sits at the foot of the George Washington
Bridge they have oversight over thanks to the port authority.
The second thing, Christie when he was initially joking about this
whole thing trying to laugh off the whole scandal back in early December,
remember, he talked about I was putting the traffic cones up.
The next thing out of his mouth after he talked about the traffic
cones was, you know what, I heard Fort Lee has three special access lanes,
there special access lanes, and I don`t think it`s fair. Now, that`s, by
the way, that`s not accurate because those lanes are not just for the
people of Fort Lee. But they`re overwhelmingly –
MADDOW: But he said, yes, it really gets me sauced that Fort Lee gets
special treatments with the lanes.
KORNACKI: That is clearly disingenuous. It`s the kind of things you
see politicians do. It`s superficially appealing. Yes, Fort Lee shouldn`t
have special access. How come only Fort Lee? If you know anything about
traffic patterns in North Jersey, you know this is where all of the towns
around Fort Lee.
There`s a superhighway coming in. You`re not going to have to go sit
on the highway. If you`re a resident around there, use the access lanes.
That`s what it`s for.
So, the next thing that comes out of Chris Christie`s mouth at the
press conference after saying Fort Lee gets the special lanes, I have asked
David Samson to look into whether they should keep having them or should
have only one. David Samson, the chairman of the Port Authority.
In the released e-mails and text messages from David Wildstein, one of
the Christie appointees at the Port Authority, he released text messages
suggesting there was a meeting between Chris Christie and David Samson one
week before the “Time for some traffic in Fort Lee” e-mail went out back in
August. He suggests that.
Again, so that`s – speculative and everything here, but there are a
lot of interesting, you know, pieces and parts.
MADDOW: Nice redevelopment plan you got here, Mayor. It`d be ashamed
if something happened to it. Yes, this is one of those things where
learning about the players involved lets you learn what is important to
them, learning what is important to them learns – teaches you what
motivates them which allows you to follow the chain of both decisions but
Steve, I know I don`t have to tell you to stay on this, because
obviously you will. But thank you for helping us.
KORNACKI: No, thank you.
MADDOW: Appreciate it.
We`re going to post a link to the architects` renderings for this site
at Maddow Blog tonight so you can check them out for yourself. It`s quite
remarkable when you realize that they`re featuring the access lanes to the
bridge that got shut down as much as they`re featuring, like, their atrium.
Steve Kornacki is host of “UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI”, weekend mornings
All right. As if the news were not mysterious enough right now, just
what exactly is under these black marks? And who did not want the world to
see whatever it is? And how did we figure out what some of it is, anyway?
MADDOW: When the New Jersey legislature dumped the documents they
subpoenaed thus far in the bridge scandal this past Friday afternoon, a
nice chunk of those 2,040 pages they released looked like this. If they
really are about to hand out a bunch more subpoenas in New Jersey – quick,
buy stock in sharpie markers, because they`re using them by the boatload to
self-redact their subpoenaed documents in New Jersey right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A point of frustration for the committee is that
there are numerous documents that are redacted, and for those listening,
there`s marker or black pen taken to obscure some of the language in some
of the documents.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The redactions occurred either because the
material redacted was from a date outside of the realm of dates sought by
the subpoena of this committee, or did not deal with the subject matter of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The person who seems to have been responsible for most of the
black line redactions in the documents that were dumped on Friday as
explained by his lawyer there just a moment ago is David Wildstein, an ally
of Governor Chris Christie who was appointed to the Port Authority.
But for all the things Mr. Wildstein seems to be good at, he does not
seem to be an expert redactor. You might remember one of the more
inflammatory text message conversations that Mr. Wildstein submitted to the
committee, Mr. Wildstein texted to somebody that the Fort Lee mayor is very
upset about the traffic. And the anonymous person responds, “Is it wrong
that I`m smiling?” To which Mr. Wildstein responds, “No, no, it`s not
wrong that you`re smiling.”
Now, we really can`t tell who the person was texting with Mr.
Wildstein there because Mr. Wildstein blacked out the words to tell us who
was the smiling person. Therefore, just leaving the world to guess.
But he messed up when he did it and didn`t black out the words
everywhere. Ryan Lizza at the “New Yorker” points out he submitted two of
versions of that same text message conversations, the “is it wrong that I`m
There was one version which appears to come from sort of the phone
company which was partially redacted to protect the identity of whoever it
was that was smiling. But if you flip backwards a few pages in the
exhibits that were released on Friday, voila, you find parts of the same
text message conversation – except these were parts that were submitted
not apparently from the phone company, but as a screen shot from a cell
phone. And it shows part of that same conversation taking place between
David Wildstein and, mystery solved, other person who we now know is
Bridget Kelly – the former deputy chief of staff to Governor Chris
Christie – who was smiling at the plight of the upset mayor. Whoops!
What else did David Wildstein successfully redact all by himself?
Well, the attorney for the New Jersey state assembly`s transportation me
says the committee would like to know what those redactions are. The newly
reconstituted investigatory body in the legislature says they will pursue
un-redacted versions of all those documents that we all saw on Friday.
The committee was not humored, either, when Mr. Wildstein figuratively
redacted his in-person testimony last week when he refused to answer most
of the questions that were asked at the hearing. The committee voted to
hold Mr. Wildstein in contempt. And today, John Wisniewski referred those
contempt charges to the Mercer County prosecutor Joseph Bocchini in New
As we wait to hear more truth from David Wildstein about the
conspiracy to cause traffic problems in Fort Lee, there`s today a fresh
problem for his old boss, Governor Christie – a problem that is not
connected to the traffic jam scandal. What do you think?
Stay with us.
MADDOW: In 2009, Michelle Brown was the assistant U.S. attorney in
the state of New Jersey. She was forced to resign from that position after
it came out her boss, the U.S. attorney, lent her nearly $50,000. Her boss
was the U.S. attorney in New Jersey in 2009, a man named Chris Christie.
And he was running for governor at the time. When concerns were raised
about Ms. Brown`s conflicts of interest between doing her job and assisting
in Chris Christie`s political aspirations, plus the $50,000 loan from her
boss – well, Michelle Brown resigned.
Chris Christie obviously was unscathed by this scandal. He maintained
that the personal loan was just a friend doing a friend a favor.
Now, normally this is the place where you say something about how
brutal and unfair and not decent it is to remove the person from the job
who got the loan but not the person who gave it, right?
In this case, though, don`t feel so bad, because, yes, Michelle Brown
got forced out of the prosecutor`s office but Chris Christie took care of
her by making her a top aide, paying her $140,000 a year. And then he
appointed her to head New Jersey`s Economic Development Authority, a job
that pays $225,000 a year. So, she got a nice soft landing.
But it was there at the Economic Development Agency that Michelle
Brown, Chris Christie`s friend and colleague, led a team that made the
controversial decision last year to go with the stronger than the storm ad
campaign in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. The general theme of those ads
is that New Jersey and the Jersey Shore specifically are open for business.
And also incidentally, the governor and his family are an adorable part of
why New Jersey is so strong.
The stronger than the storm ads were paid for with Sandy relief funds.
And, yes, of course it was important to advertise New Jersey`s recovery to
perspective tourists and consumers.
But those ads did also feature Chris Christie personally being awesome
while he happened to be running for re-election at the time. And that is a
different message from a generic “come spend your dollars in New Jersey.”
The controversy about the stronger than the storm ads kept on through
the summer when it was reported the specific ad campaign that they did cost
$2 million more than a competing possibility that wasn`t chosen by the
Economic Development Agency. That agency apparently chose to spend $2
million more of Sandy relief money in order to get the version of the ads
that would star the governor.
That did not sit well with, for one, New Jersey Democratic Congressman
Frank Pallone. He said at the time the whole thing stunk. He sent a
scathing letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in
August, demanding an investigation into the selection process for that ad
campaign and, quote, “The appropriateness of the governor appearing in a
taxpayer-funded advertisement in an election year.”
Coincidence or not, given the current news, the Feds have now have
gotten back to Congressman Frank Pallone to say they are going to do the
investigation. They are going to investigate.
Now, of course, opening an inquiry into something like this is not the
same by finding wrongdoing by the governor or his administration. Not by a
long shot. It`s totally possible that HUD will come in and do the audit
and I`ll just end up dotting the I`s and crossing the T`s, or dotting the
T`s and cross the I`s, we will soon see.
Either way, there are a lot of investigation swirling around the
governor`s office right now and it has to feel like quite a lot of
pressure. I mean, on top of the brand new investigation into the ads just
announced today by the Feds, you also, federally, have the U.S. Senate
Transportation Committee asking questions about the lane closures on the
George Washington Bridge. After starting that inquiry, they now say they
will hold off at least for the moment while New Jersey`s new U.S. attorney
also looks into the lane closures and whether any federal laws are broken.
At the same time, we`re not sure where things stand in terms of state
law, because while there is a very clear state statute governing the misuse
of public assets for private or political purposes – well, the governor`s
appointee to be the new attorney general of New Jersey was due to have his
confirmation tomorrow. But since he was Governor Christie`s chief of staff
when the whole bridge thing happened, not only is his confirmation hearing
delayed, we do not know for certain who will be the next attorney general
or when we will know the answer to that question.
Plus, the New Jersey legislature announced today that they`re creating
a special investigatory committee which will have subpoena power in all
likelihood and which also have a special outside counsel. Also, the New
Jersey Senate says they`re going to do their own supercommittee, that they
expect to have subpoena authority as well.
What does this all mean in terms of how this thing gets investigated?
As these multiple investigations proceed at the state level and at the
federal level on now two different issues, who defers to who? Who releases
documents to the public? Who makes decisions about that as it happens?
And if there are more developments, if this becomes a criminal matter,
would that end up superseding any of these political investigations inside
of the assembly and the Senate?
Joining us now is John Reitmeyer. He`s a statehouse reporter for “The
Record” of Bergen County.
Mr. Reitmeyer, thanks very much for being here.
JOHN REITMEYER, THE RECORD: You`re welcome. Thanks were having me.
MADDOW: Lots of overlapping investigations happening now. What`s
your sense of the hierarchy and who leads?
REITMEYER: That`s a good question. There`s some talk eventually the
assembly committee could coordinate with the Senate committee we just
learned about today and maybe there would be some super, super committee
that would join forces to look into this. Right, obviously, Assemblyman
Wisniewski and the assembly is taking the lead. And when they reauthorize
the subpoenas later this week, he`ll, again, be in charge.
Joining now is Senator Loretta Weinberg in the state senate. She`s
going to start her own probe using a special Senate committee. That will
also likely have special counsel to assist her and they`re going to go in
their own direction.
I talked to her earlier today and I said, what about these competing
parallel committees? Would it be better if you all got on the same page?
She said – well, you know, that would be her preference, but maybe the
fact they`ll be working together, separately but together, may be able to
generate some more information than just if there were only one committee.
MADDOW: From the history of Loretta Weinberg as a political figure in
New Jersey and what you know about how she operates as the top Democrat in
the Senate, and from what she plans to do here, do you have any sense of a
different style that she might take on this matter? Or a different line of
inquiry she might open?
REITMEYER: I think that`s a really good question. One thing to keep
in mind, she`s not a member of the assembly committee, but she has been
involved, working with Assemblyman Wisniewski. And when this all started,
the original subpoena issue, the subpoenas actually started prior to the
George Washington Bridge issue. They started when the assembly committee
began investigating a toll hike a few years ago and how it was all enacted
– public hearings were all held on one day. It was quickly ushered
through. Now, it`s very expensive to cross the Hudson River.
That – the assembly started with that well before the George
Washington Bridge controversy erupted and Senator Weinberg sent a letter to
an official at the Port Authority. They talked about subpoenas and I think
they put their heads together and Assemblyman Wisniewski said, hey, I
already have subpoenas.
The reason that`s key is those subpoenas expire tomorrow afternoon
when a new legislative session is sworn in. So, now, when we have the new
session, they can broaden the scope of the subpoenas. Initially, it was
just the Port Authority. We`ll see how they write them. It`s possible
they can broaden the scope. It won`t just be the Assembly Transportation
Committee but now this supercommittee in the assembly.
In the Senate, they write all – they start from ground, you know,
from the floor and they can just do it however they like to.
MADDOW: That is a fascinating and substantive point about the remit,
potential remit of the subpoenas because the thing that we learned with the
subpoena power that they got is the order didn`t start in the Port
Authority. It came from governor`s deputy chief of staff, at least appears
And so, if you were only able to subpoena documents within the Port
Authority or pertaining directly to them, you miss where it started. Now,
maybe they can get to where it start.
MADDOW: I can`t believe this story. I can`t believe I`ve talked
about this story this much and it all makes me want to talk about it more.
It`s fascinating stuff.
John Reitmeyer, statehouse reporter for “The Record” of Bergen County,
your reporting and the work of your paper on this in general has been a
national service. Thank you.
REITMEYER: Appreciate that. Thank you.
MADDOW: All right. We`ll be right back.
MADDOW: There`s more to come tonight on the Chris Christie bridge
scandal. This continues to be the biggest political story in the country
right now. But last Thursday morning at around 8:15 a.m., officials in
West Virginia`s Department of Environmental Protection started getting
complaints from local residents about a strong licorice smell coming from a
facility along the Elk River in Charleston, West Virginia.
Three hours after those calls started coming in at around 11:15
Thursday morning, state investigators arrived at the scene and they
discovered that a chemical was leaking from the bottom of a storage tank at
that riverside facility. The company that owns the storage tank hadn`t
reported the leak but it was clear to the version on scene that something
was leaking. That something was a chemical commonly used in the processing
The faulty storage tank was leaking that chemical right into the Elk
River, which serves as the main water supply for much of that part of West
Virginia. That leaking storage tank on the banks of the Elk River ended up
contaminating the drinking water for about 300,000 residents in nine
different counties. More than 15 percent of the whole population of West
Virginia was affected by this.
What`s unfolded in West Virginia over the last four days has just been
a total disaster. Residents instructed not to use their tap water for
anything that wasn`t flushing toilets or putting out fires.
Local hospitals forced to ration their water use. Local officials
setting up water distribution centers around the area to get clean water to
local residents using the National Guard and their water buffalo tank
distribution systems. It`s just been a mess.
And it was not until late Friday night, after a day and a half of
silence, that the president of the company responsible for this disaster
finally faced local reporters. And when he did, it was amazing. Please
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY SOUTHERN, FREEDOM INDUSTRIES PRESIDENT: Hey, guys, it has been
an extremely long day. I`m having a hard trouble talking at the moment. I
would appreciate it if we could wrap this thing up. I will –
REPORTER: We have a lot – we actually have a lot of questions. It`s
been a long day for a lot of people who don`t have water.
Are there no systems in place to alert you of a leak at your facility
other than a smell?
SOUTHERN: At this moment in time, I think that`s all we have time
for. So thanks for coming. Thanks for your time.
REPORTER: Whoa, whoa, whoa!
REPORTER: We have more questions. Hey, hey, hey. We`re not done.
SOUTHERN: You`re not done.
REPORTER: We`re not done. No. Anyone else have any other questions?
REPORTER: How did the hole get in the bottom of the storage tank?
How was the material able to get out of the storage tank at all?
SOUTHERN: OK. So it`s a steel storage tank. We don`t know the
answer to that. That`s one of the things that we`re trying to determine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Whoa, whoa, whoa! We`re not done. Oh, you`re not done?
No idea how a hole ended up in the bottom of the steel tank, says the
chemical company executive ostentatiously sipping from his bottle of
Aquafina. See, he`s got water. What are you guys complaining about? It`s
been a long day.
Today, after days of instructing the residents not to drink the water
local officials in West Virginia started lifting the do not use order in
phases. We`re now four days on from this disaster. There are still more
questions than answers at this point. We`ll have more on this story over
the course of the week. Watch this space.
MADDOW: Big day tomorrow. First day of the session for the New
Jersey state legislature, which means not only will the new leadership get
sworn in, including the new super committee to investigate Governor Chris
Christie`s bridge scandal, but Governor Chris Christie will also deliver
his annual State of the State Address tomorrow, 3:00 p.m. – surely the
most eagerly awaited one ever in the history of the great state of New
Three o`clock, Trenton, tomorrow. Watch it here on MSNBC.
Now, time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Have a great night.
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