The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/29/14
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC GUEST HOST: Good evening to you, Chris. Thanks for
that. Thanks to you at home for joining us. For the next hour, Rachel has
the night off. There is a really big developing story that`s happening in
the world of politics tonight. It involves the number three Republican in
the House of Representatives, in the speech that he gave back in the year
2002. It`s a speech that`s just resurfaced in a big way. And this is a
story that, as we speak, is starting to rock the political world. We`re
going to have much, much more on that in just a moment. But we begin
tonight with what is the top story across the world again tonight. It is
now 9:00 a.m. in the morning right now off the coast of Indonesia. And
that is where the search operation is now set to resume for the AirAsia jet
that disappeared there early Sunday morning.
This is the start of the third day of the search for the airbus liner
that`s carrying 162 people in total. Now, so far, there has not been any
confirmed siting of the plane. Now, any confirmed siting of any wreckage
from the plane, although one Indonesian search crew reportedly spotted some
oil slicks. They`re now testing those slicks to find out if they contain
Authorities` ships and 15 aircraft are combing the islands of Borneo, Java
and Sumatra in the Java Sea, around the last known location of the plane.
Search teams from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Australia are all
aiding in the search effort. And overnight, Indonesian authorities
suspended the air and sea search leaving some ships in the search zone
overnight. They are set to restart that search today.
We are also learning today that Indonesian officials are now widening the
search zone to other islands in the Java Sea. Singapore is expected to
contribute a ship with submarine capability. France and China are also
reportedly set to join the search. And South Korea is going to be sending
surveillance equipment. We are also learning that the Indonesian
government is now requesting assistance from the United States in its
search effort. According to the Pentagon, the U.S. could provide air
surface and subsurface search assets. We`re told the details of that
request are now being worked out. But a defense official tells NBC News
tonight that the USS Sampson has a destroyer currently positioned in the
South China Sea, that that destroyer will be making its way to the search
zone to help in the effort to find the missing Air Asia flight.
Now, all of this comes after early today when the head of the Indonesian
agency in charge of search and rescue for the missing jet said that he
believed the aircraft was “at the bottom of the sea” and that their country
lacks the adequate equipment to conduct an under-water search.
Meanwhile, the family and friends of the missing passengers have been
gathering at the airport where the flight took off in Surabaya, Indonesia,
checking the flight`s manifest and waiting for the latest news about the
search for their loved ones. And later in the day today, the vice
president of Indonesia spoke at a press conference saying that the search
operation could still be characterized as a rescue operation, but also
lowering expectations that any survivors will be found alive saying, “We
realize that we have to be prepared for the worst.”
AirAsia Flight 8501 vanished early Sunday from the radar screens at around
5:35 a.m. local time. The flight took off. It was bound for Singapore.
Then, about 42 minutes after taking off from Surabaya, Indonesia, it
disappeared. The weather along the jet`s flight path was said to be very
cloudy and very stormy. Weather monitoring services reported a number of
thunderstorms and lightning strikes along the way.
While weather is now suspected to be a factor in the jet`s disappearance,
an official with the Indonesian transportation ministry leading the search
says that background checks are being carried out on all passengers, as
part of a standard procedure, they say.
Still, it is unclear what exactly happened to the AirAsia jet. Here is
what we think we know as of right now.
Shortly before contract was lost with the jet, this was around 6:12 a.m.
local time on Sundays; shortly after that, the pilot asked air traffic
control in Jakarta for permission to turn left to avoid bad weather. The
permission was then granted, the plane turned seven miles to its left.
This according to “Jakarta Post.” The pilot then requested to climb from
32,000 feet to 38,000 feet. This according to Indonesia`s Ministry of
Transportation. Then a few minutes after that, they agreed to allow the
jet to increase its altitude to 34,000 feet, not the 38,000 feet that had
been requested, and that full approval was denied because another AirAsia
flight was flying above at 38,000 feet. So, by the time that permission
was granted, they relayed to the jet, this around 6:14 a.m. local time,
there reportedly was no reply from the cockpit. The jet was last
reportedly seen on radar around 17:00 a.m., 6:17 a.m. local time.
The plane didn`t send any distress calls before it disappeared from the
radar. Somewhere between the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Experts say,
the speed the jet was flying, will also play a role in their investigation.
Radar suggests the plane was flying at a low speed. According to experts,
a slow speed combined with a high altitude could cause an airplane to
Right now investigators are out there trying to locate debris from the
crash and then work backwards by following the current and final wreckage
of the plane. Now, all of this comes at the end of what has been a
disastrous year for Malaysian-based airlines
In addition to the Malaysia Airlines jet, it was lost over the Indian
Ocean, traveling from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur back in March. This year,
MH-370, and that jet, by the way, has yet to be found. In addition to that
this summer, in July, it was a Malaysia Airlines jet that was shot down
over Eastern Ukraine killing 298 people on board. Both of those planes
were Boeing 777s. This plane, the one we`re now talking about, was an
AirAsia, airbus 8320. It should also be noted that until this Sunday,
AirAsia has had an otherwise impeccable safety record without a single
fatal accident in more than a decade that it`s been operating.
Still, so many questions tonight surrounding the disappearance of this jet.
Joining us now from Singapore is Sri Jegarajah, CNBC`s Asia correspondence.
So, Sri, it`s a new day over there, day three of the search is starting.
Can you tell us what exactly is going to be happening over there today?
SRI JEGARAJAH, CNBC CORRESPONDENT, SINGAPORE: Well, search and rescue
operations continue as they happen doing for the past three days now.
Steve, and what we do know is that the international coalition involved in
the search effort is expanding, and that includes some very powerful
nations, the U.S. Southern Fleet has confirmed to us that the USS Sampson,
an Arleigh-Burke class-guided missile destroyer, will be dispatched to the
search site. It`s in the western Pacific, currently, on exercise, and it
will reach the search zone in later on today. Later on this Tuesday, local
time. So, that`s good news. Because it does involve two main assets on
board. And they are helicopters. So, it should help expand the breadth
and the scope of the search operation.
We also know that the Chinese will be involved in the search and rescue
operations - has been dispatched aircraft well. Plus, South Korea will be
helping in the existence, as well for the search and rescue operation. So
a number of very powerful and the technologically savvy countries are
involved here. The Indonesians are taking points. They are the lead
investigators here and lined with international protocol. So far, nothing
substantive, nothing material, nothing concrete that can be traced back to
accuse that 8501. What we did get yesterday were a number of, to be frank
with you, confusing messages from the Indonesian side.
The rescue chief of the BASARNAS, the lead agency off Indonesia said that
one of the theses, that one of the hypothesis that they`re working on is
that the plane may have crushed into the sea, into the Java Sea, and it`s
now at the bottom of the sea. That`s not - evidence to really back up that
claim, so very premature to make that kind of speculation on what has to
wonder whether if something got lost in translation there. Anyway, what
President Joko Widodo has said, is that for the Indonesian cycle will rest
until the plane is found, until wreckage of - is found, the search
operations are continuing. The good news, is that there is no shortage of
international good will, and assets that are being brought there to assess
the Indonesians. Plus, the Singaporeans are involved as is Malaysia and
KORNACKI: All right, Sri Jegarajah, CNBC`s Asia correspondent joining us
live from Singapore. Really appreciate the time this morning. Thanks for
Now, let`s bring in Greg Feith, he`s the former senior air safety
investigator with the NTSB. Greg, thanks for joining us tonight. So, the
headline here as they start the new day is help is on the way. China is
involved, the Americans are apparently getting involved. Realistically,
you`ve been through things like this before. Realistically, what is the
timetable we are looking at here to find an answer? To find out what that
GREG FEITH, FMR. NTSB INVESTIGATOR: Steve, a lot of it, it depends on the
weather. You can have a lot of assets there, especially airborne assets
with helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. But if the weather doesn`t
cooperate, then you can`t utilize those assets and now you`re stuck with
just using surface assets like the ships. So, hopefully the weather - I
know it`s going to get bad, it was supposed to go down. But that will
clear out, hopefully and they can get all of the assets on station and
expand the search zone.
They are including both land and sea. There is some belief that they are -
this airplane may have gone down on land. If it had, if the airplane had
crashed on land, then we would expect at least an emergency locator
transmitter to have triggered. That system is in electronic box. That if
it goes into the water, it`s like any other electronic piece of equipment,
it will short out and not work. And the signal is - by the water. But if
it crashes on land, then we have a good, strong signal that`s bounced off a
satellite and they can actually home in on it. But since we don`t have
that. I think the presumption, especially by the Indonesians that it`s in
KORNACKI: In the water. OK. So, now we all think that - reference to
this for so many people is MH-370, is what happened back in March. And we
all know sort of the circumstances that have made that. So, what we is
still unresolved at this point, you know, where that plane is. What are
the key differences between the kind of operation we are talking about
right now versus then? Is this one much more feasible in terms of locating
FEITH: Absolutely. I think we learned a lot of lessons from MH-370, we`ve
had a lot of high-technology, very sophisticated equipment. Unfortunately,
it was timing. It took so long to get all of these resources on station.
Unlike now, where everybody has come together in a very short period of
time, we have a multinational group, not only providing ships on the ocean,
but, of course, airborne assets. They`re out there searching. And the
good thing is about the Java Sea that it`s not as deep as the Indian Ocean.
So we`re talking hundreds of feet, not thousands of feet to look for debris
and wreckage. And if we can find it, we don`t necessarily have to use ROV
or remote-operated vehicles to gather the wreckage and get the CVR and the
FDR, the cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorder. But we can actually
send divers down there. But the key here is trying to find the wreckage
and then trace it back from the surface to where that debris field might
KORNACKI: And in terms of trying to piece together what happened here, I
mean, whether we keep hearing about weather, we keep hearing about maybe it
was moving at a slow speed, it was too high, that can cause issues for it.
As you tried to piece this together, what are some of the key clues that
you`re looking at?
FEITH: I think the first clue is what did the pilots know even before they
took off? How were they briefed? How did they analyze the weather that
they knew they were going to have to, at least encounter during their route
of flight to Singapore. And then, as they approach this line of
thunderstorms that apparently built up very rapidly, but still over a
period of time, how did they evaluate it? What were they using? Onboard
weather radar? How were they making decisions to deviate? Why did they
decide to climb? Was it because they heard other pilots on the frequency
say it`s better at higher altitudes? Or did they think that they could
over - at least fly over parts of this thunderstorm? Those are the kinds
of questions that can be answered, in part, by the investigators while you
we`re still searching for wreckage. Because they can go to the airline.
They can talk to the dispatchers. They can talk to the airline. How did
you train your pilots to read weather radar? How do they understand the
weather? So all of that can still keep the investigative progress moving
forward rather than stagnate waiting for wreckage.
KORNACKI: OK, Greg Feith, former investigator with the NTSB. Thanks for
your time tonight.
FEITH: You are welcome.
KORNACKI: We appreciate. And we have a lot more ahead in the show
tonight, including a story that is sending shockwaves through the political
world as we speak. It involves one of the top-ranking Republicans in the
U.S. House and a roomful of white supremacists. This is an amazing
developing story, all the details, next.
KORNACKI: A quick news update from abroad now. A health care worker who
recently returned from Sierra Leone has now been diagnosed with Ebola and
is being treated in Glasgow, Scotland. Scottish authorities have announced
the woman is thought to have contact with only one person since arriving in
the city. But that all passengers from her flight are being traced. And
she will soon be moved to a specialized facility in north London. We`re
going to keep you posted on any further developments in this story. So,
please, stay with us.
KORNACKI: We mentioned this at the top of the show. There is a story
developing in Washington tonight, a potentially big story involving the
third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives at a speech that
he apparently gave in front of a white supremacists organization 12 years
ago. Steve Scalise is a Republican congressman from Louisiana. He was
elected to the House in a special election back in 2008. And after that, he
quickly established himself as one of this party`s leading conservative
voices on Capitol Hill.
And then earlier this year, when Majority Leader Eric Cantor`s shocking
downfall set off a chain reaction, earlier this year, Scalise was elected
by his Republican colleagues to be the new House majority whip, that is the
third highest position with just two rungs from House speaker. What just
about nobody knew about Scalise before today, though, is this. In May of
2002, when he was still a member of the Louisiana state legislature, he was
the featured speaker at a workshop that was hosted by a group called the
European American Unity and Rights Organization. And that group was
founded by David Duke. He`s a one-time grand wizard of the Nights of the
Ku Klux Klan. Duke made national headlines nearly 1990s when he beat up
Louisiana sitting governor, Buddy Roemer, to win a place in the state`s
gubernatorial runoff election. He ran as a Republican that year, but his
overtly racist history prompted many of his party`s leaders including then
president George H.W. Bush to denounce him. And Duke was ultimately
defeated in that erection and after waging another unsuccessful campaign,
he launched the European American Unity and Rights organization. And that
group held a workshop for about 50 of its national leaders back in May of
2002 in a best Western hotel in the suburbs of New Orleans. And that is
the event that Steve Scalise was invited to and spoke at. The purpose of
that workshop “We are training and recruiting people to run for office,
lobby their elected officials and put together community-based
organizations.” That is what the group`s national director said at the
time of that workshop.
Now, all of this came to light today after a Louisiana blogger named Lamar
White Jr. discovered an old post from a member of the Website called Storm
Front. Storm Front is probably the most prominent white supremacy site on
the Internet. Now, in that post, that anonymous Storm Front user says that
he or she attended the conference in question in 2002 and that “the meeting
was productive locally as State Representative Steve Scalise discussed ways
to oversee gross mismanagement of tax revenue or slush funds that have
little or no accountability. The Storm Front user added “Representative
Scalise brought into sharp focus the dire circumstances pervasive in many
important, under-funded needs of the community at the expensive graft
within the Housing and the Urban Development Fund, an apparent giveaway to
a selective group based on race.”
It`s important to know that this is the account of one anonymous user of a
white supremacist Web site. As yet, no video or transcript of Scalise`s
remarks from 2002 has surfaced. And to be clear, Scalise`s office
acknowledged today that he did speak to David Duke`s group in 2002, but
they are adamant that Scalise was unaware of the racist nature of the
organization at the time of that speech. This is the statement that his
office put out late this afternoon. “Throughout his career in public
service, Mr. Scalise has spoken to hundreds of different groups with a
broad range of viewpoints. In every case, he was building support for his
polices, not the other way around. In 2002, he made himself available to
anyone who wanted to hear his proposal to eliminate slush funds that wasted
millions of taxpayer dollars, as well as his opposition to a proposed
increase on middle class families. He has never been affiliated with the
important group in question. The hate-fueled ignorance and intolerance
that group projects is in stark contradiction to what Mr. Scalise believes
and practices as a father, a husband and a devoted Catholic.”
And now tonight, just hours later, Scalise himself is speaking out in an
exclusive new interview with his home town newspaper. He says, in part -
“I didn`t know who all of these groups were, and I detest any kind of hate
group. For anyone to suggest that I was involved with a group like that is
insulting and ludicrous. Mr. Scalise continued, “I don`t have any records
from back in 2002, but when people called me and asked me to speak to
groups, I went and spoke to groups.” Now, to add further context here, in
2002, Steve Scalise was an ambitious state representative who was traveling
extensively to tout his fiscally conservative credentials, but as a state
representative, as opposed to a member of Congress like he is today, he
didn`t necessarily have anyone closely vetting every invitation he
received. This is from “The Washington Post” Robert Costa who has been
reporting on this story today. “Other Scalise allies who requested
anonymity to speak candidly, argued that Scalise was poorly staffed during
the period. When he was busy touring the state promoting his efforts to
curb state spending.
However, it should also be noted that the workshop that Scalise spoke at,
did stir some real controversy at the time. That same weekend that it was
held, May 16th to May 19th 2002, that same weekend, the Chicago Cubs minor
league baseball team, the Iowa Cubs, were schedule to be in town to play
the New Orleans Zephyrs. And the Cubs were booked to stay at the Best
Western in nearby Metairie, Louisiana. But when they found out that David
Duke`s group was also going to be using that hotel for its workshop, the
entire team, which included 30 players and coaches, six of them African
American, all of them pulled out. “I`m glad we are staying away from it,”
the team sitting coach said at the time. I wouldn`t have been comfortable
And on top of that, the European American Unity and Rights Organization,
that`s David Duke`s group, was not exactly a stranger to the headlines back
in those days. It had been active, for instance, in opposing efforts to
remove the Confederate Flag from South Carolina`s state capitol, a major
battle just over a decade ago. And just three years before Scalise spoke
to David Duke`s group, Duke had come within 3700 votes, that`s just three
percentage points of making a runoff for a seat in Congress.
And that year, 1999, another person considered a contender for that House
seat was Steve Scalise. And “Roll Call” this evening dug out the interview
they did with Scalise back in 1999, in which they asked him about
potentially going up against David Duke in a Republican primary. “State
Representative Steve Scalise said he embraced as many of the same
conservative views as Duke, but is far more viable.” “The novelty of David
Duke has worn off,” said Scalise, “The voters in this district are smart
enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only
believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected.:
Also of note here. The year that Scalise spoke to this group, the year
that Scalise spoke to David Duke`s group, that year was 2002. And that was
the same year that Mississippi`s Trent Lock who was days away from becoming
the new majority leader of the U.S. Senate, delivered these remarks at the
100TH birthday party for Strom Thurmond who`d been a 1948 presidential
nominee of a segregationist breakaway political party.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TRENT LOTT, (R) MISSISSIPPI: When Strom Thurmond ran for president,
we voted for him. We`re proud of him.
LOTT: And if the rest of the country would have followed our lead, we
wouldn`t have had all of these problems over all of these years, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Those remarks from Trent Lott prompted top Republicans,
including George W. Bush`s White House to push Lott out of his leadership
post. Tonight, Scalise`s fellow Republican leaders are said to be
monitoring this unfolding situation carefully while Scalise`s allies mount
a defense. This from one of his former aides, again, according to Robert
Costa, “Steve is a highly devout catholic. It is unbelievable to me that
he would knowingly speak to a group that hates his religion.”
But not every Republican is closing ranks behind Scalise. Erick Erickson,
one of the most prominent conservative bloggers asking incredulously
tonight, how do you show up at a David Duke event and not know what it is?
Again, there are no videos or pictures that have yet surfaced from the
White supremacist event that Steve Scalise spoke at. His office and he
himself tonight maintains that he had no idea what this group is all about
and he delivered - what he delivered his speech, speech they said was a
standard speech about budget issues and fiscal conservatism.
We`ve reached out to his office today, but have not - have yet to hear back
ourselves. David Duke tells “The Huffington Post” meanwhile this evening
that he doesn`t remember speaking to Scalise before or after that 2002
conference, which Duke himself was not technically at. He was at another
location in Europe that was related to the same conference. Duke also
called Scalise “a fine family man and a good person,” though he`s perhaps
not the person Scalise wants to be hearing praise from right now.
The new congress is said to be sworn in next week. With Steve Scalise in
the number three position in his party`s leadership. The question as this
story develops, are his fellow Republicans prepared to accept this
explanation and to stand by him. Hold that thought because we`ll be right
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA), MAJORITY WHIP: We`ve got a really strong team.
Team that`s very representative of our entire conference, which shows that
our conference wants to move forward even stronger so that we can even do a
better job of addressing those problems facing the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: That was Republican congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana, and
that was back in June when he was elevated to the leadership of the House
Republican Conference. House Republicans made Scalise the number three
Republican in the House after Eric Cantor lost his seat in a shocking
primary upset. And today, just six months after that, Congressman Scalise
finds himself embroiled in controversy, reports that he gave a speech to a
white supremacist group back in 2002 when he was a state legislator.
Joining us now is Frank Thorp, NBC News Capitol Hill producer.
Frank, thanks for joining us tonight.
So, let`s start with the bottom line. We have all of these reports out
there that the Republican leaders in the House, I guess the two leaders
above Scalise at least are monitoring the situation closely. What are they
looking for here? What should we be looking for here next in this story?
FRANK THORP, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL PRODUCER: I think they`re trying to
figure out what the reaction is to this in the general media. You know,
right now, Scalise has come out and did this interview with a local New
Orleans newspaper. They want to see if that actually moves the needle at
Scalise, I mean, his defense here is that he went and did this speech and
that this speech was more just about boilerplate issues, about opposing a
tax hike. And what Scalise has going for him is the situation, which is
different than what happened with Trent Lott, is the fact that we don`t
have the transcript of what Scalise said, we don`t have video of what
Scalise said. And if this does turn out that this was just a pretty
boilerplate speech about tax increases, you know, it`s a lot different than
what Trent Lott said he was supporting what Strum Thurman was doing –
KORNACKI: I guess, though, Frank, we were in that post-Erick Erickson, the
conservative blogger put up saying, how could you not know it`s David
Duke`s event? I guess to put this in some context, you know, we`re saying
this conference occurred in 2002, just three years before that, Duke had
come within three-points of making it to a runoff for a congressional seat
in Louisiana. He made the gubernatorial runoff. He`d beaten a sitting
governor ten years earlier. This was a guy who definitely had a
conservative political constituency in Louisiana.
Is it plausible that somebody like Scalise, an up and coming political
figure in Louisiana, very ambitious, courting a conservative audience,
wouldn`t know who Duke was involved with?
THORP: Well, I don`t think he says that he doesn`t know or he didn`t know
who Duke was. I think – I mean, I think that there definitely are some
questions about whether or not he knew what this organization was. I mean,
he clearly who Duke was. And he admitted that much in his interview with
the New Orleans newspaper.
I just think that it comes to whether or not he knew what – who this
organization was when he went and spoke to them. And that might go down to
what his defense is here, poor staff work. If he only did have one staff
work who is being shuttled from event to event, he wasn`t necessarily sure
what groups he was speaking to. Grant it, that is necessarily an excuse
because you probably should know who you`re speaking with.
But, I mean, I don`t think that there`s any question he knew who David Duke
was. I think the question is he knew what this organization stood for when
he went and spoke with them.
KORNACKI: When it comes down to John Boehner, the House speaker,
obviously, he could – his ultimate – where he comes down to this
ultimately could have a lot to do with how this story plays out. Do we
have a read on Boehner, a sense of Boehner when it comes to balancing maybe
personal loyalties that he feels to members wanting to give them the
benefit of the doubt, maybe he has personal feelings at all for Scalise
here versus bottom line damage for his party saying, hey, look, this is a
bad headline? We don`t want to be associated with this?
Do we know how he strikes that balance?
THORP: Well, you know, I mean, he has a pretty killer line when it comes
down to ethics violations and things that are questionable ethically. I
think that he`s very loyal to his team. And, you know, that comes down to
rank and file members or members of his own leadership team.
I think that right now, it`s kind of a difficult situation for him because
he has Congressman Grimm who might be stepping down as soon as tomorrow or
the next day because he was – he pled guilty to the felony tax evasion
charges, and then, this.
So, I mean, he`s kind of tumbling in to the 114th Congress, in a situation
that he was trying to avoid. He wanted to get in the 114th Congress with
this new, larger majority starting with an ambitious legislative plan to
get a Republican Congress to send bills to the White House.
And, you know, this is a stumbling block for that. But I think that he`ll
probably see how this plays out. He`ll talk to Scalise, get a gauge as to
whether or not he feels like he can trust that Scalise didn`t know about
this organization when he went and spoke to him. It`s a different – at
the moment, it seems like a different situation than somebody like Grimm
who has pled guilty to a felony.
OK. NBC News Capitol Hill producer, Frank Thorp, really appreciate the
time tonight. Thanks for that.
THORP: Thank you.
KORNACKI: And still ahead, this is sort of the time of year for big news
dumps, when you get all of the news out that you don`t necessarily want
anyone else to see and there`s just a doozy of a news dump. We`ll have
that story for you next.
KORNACKI: Late on a Christmas night in the classic example of catching
people still sleeping off the holiday days, General George Washington
crossed the Delaware River with 2,400 colonial soldiers. They rousted
British forces from their bunks in Trenton, New Jersey, and then they
routed them in an hour and a half of battle.
Christmas is the season for sneaking things by. And, now, a couple
centuries after that, we`ve got a new holiday sneak for you. This time,
it`s a political one.
On Saturday, two days after Christmas, the governors of both New York and
New Jersey each spiked a bill that had been passed by their state
legislatures. These joint bills would have reformed the government agency
that controls ports and airports and tunnels and bridges in both New York
and New Jersey, including the world`s busiest bridge, where members of New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s staff appeared to have created an enormous
traffic jam on purpose for political reasons. That`s the George Washington
Now, the agency that controls that bridge and many others is a sprawling,
opaque, bi-state labyrinths. Lawmakers from both parties in both states
want to reform the agency in the wake of all the bad press it`s taken in
the last year. But to do that, they needed the approval of both governors.
And on Saturday, on one of the quietest news days of the year, both of
those governors decided to say no. Those bills have passed unanimously.
They had passed without a single dissenting vote. It`s the rarest of
political events. Democrats and Republicans from two neighboring states
coming together to support the same plans to perform the same agency.
But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, and Chris Christie, a
Republican, announced that they would be vetoing the bills. The governors
saying they are all for reform and transparency, just not the reform and
transparency that was approved unanimously by lawmakers of their states.
The local press noted that Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie each
remained under federal scrutiny. In Christie`s case, regarding that
traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge. In Cuomo`s case, it`s related
to an anti-corruption commission that he created and then disbanded under
questionable circumstances. The two governors are known to have a rather
unusual – or rather bipartisan and a very behind-the-scenes alliance with
One former legislator told “The New York Times”, quote, “real reform gets
buried on Christmas weekend. But scandal gets talked about forever.”
KORNACKI: We are T-minus two days until the beginning of the year 2015.
But before the ball drops, before the party starts, before people start
breaking their resolutions, there`s still a lot of work that has to be done
to ensure that New York City`s 1 million plus expected revelers aren`t
disappointed by some kind of a glitch.
So, last week, they began testing the 2015 light up sign. But we can say
they had mixed results for that, as you can see there. This past weekend,
was spent attaching more than 2,600 crystals to the city`s New Year`s Eve
ball. And this morning, the city ran its confetti test with an assist from
the cast of Broadway`s Aladdin.
Of course, this all sounds very enticing for New Year`s Eve, although I`m
going to be sticking to my plan of staying home, maybe having a drink and
definitely going to bed early.
KORNACKI: Today was a graduation day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do hereby pledge and declare to uphold the
Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the state of New
York to faithfully discharge my duties as a police officer of the New York
City Police Department.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Eight hundred and eighty-four new police officers officially
joined the largest police force in the country today. There are almost
35,000 police officers in the New York City police department and for these
884 new officers who graduated today, and who will be assigned to precincts
throughout New York City starting today, it`s got to be an especially
difficult time to start their new jobs.
For example, when the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, got up to
speak at today`s graduation ceremony and to congratulate the new cops, he
was greeted by some of them with boos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s now my pleasure to introduce the mayor of New
York, Honorable Bill de Blasio.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Thank you.
DE BLASIO: Congratulations, officers. It is an honor to call you
You will confront all the problems that plague society, problems that you
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You did!
DE BLSIO: You`ll confront poverty, you`ll confront mental illness –
DE BLASIO: – illegal guns and a still too-divided society. All of these
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: This came just two days after this happened back on Saturday,
when hundreds of New York City police officers turned their backs on the
mayor while he spoke at the funeral for one of the two slain police
officers who were ambushed and killed on their patrol car a week and a half
ago in Brooklyn.
Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were shot in that attacked. Their
assassin then ran to a subway station and shot and killed himself on a
platform. He did this just after threatening to kill police on social
media. He took a bus to New York City from outside Baltimore to do just
When those officers were killed, the head of the New York`s police union
condemned the mayor, condemned the mayor, condemned Bill de Blasio, and
essentially said that it was de Blasio`s embrace of the protesters who took
the New York City streets in the wake of a grand jury`s decision not to
indict an officer in a chokehold of Eric Garner, and also comments that de
Blasio made about warning his biracial son about his interactions with
police. The police union chief basically saying that that created the
groundwork that led to that tragedy.
The night that Officers Ramos and Liu were killed, the police union chief
said that, quote, “the blood starts on the steps of city hall.” And there
is deep tension, even animosity between members of the New York City police
and de Blasio and it goes back a lot farther than all of this.
But with all of these recent events, this come flooding out into the open.
Officer Ramos was buried this past weekend. Officer Liu`s funeral is going
to be held this coming weekend. His family announced today that the
viewing ceremony will be held on Saturday in Brooklyn, with the funeral to
be held on Sunday.
Thousands of people turned out to mourn Officer Ramos. Thousands more are
sure to turn out for Officer Liu.
So, are we going to see this again? Are we going to see the police turning
their backs on their own mayor at a funeral for one of their own? In just
the past few hours, the mayor`s office has announced that De Blasio will
meet with senior NYPD leadership, as well as the heads of the major police
unions in the city.
Can there be any reconciliation here? Why is this relationship so broken
in the first place? Is it possible that it`s broken for good?
Joining us now is former NYPD captain and Brooklyn borough president, Eric
Adams. Mr. Adams, thanks for joining us tonight. Really appreciate it.
ERIC ADAMS, FORMER NYPD CAPTAIN/BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT: Thank you.
KORNACKI: So, this idea of tension between the mayor and tension between
the police, in a way, this is nothing new in New York. This is nothing new
in cities across the country. But this feels very different to me when you
have a tragedy like this in this visceral of a reaction from the police.
What is different this time?
ADAMS: Well, I think so. And I believe that, you know, any time you have
an officer, it`s one thing to lose your life while in the commission of a
crime. That`s a horrific way to die.
But when police officers are assassinated, then the tension, the passion,
the pain is increased because it is an assault on what we hold dear, and
that`s public safety.
KORNACKI: Well, I wonder, you have such an interesting background in this
because you`ve been on the law enforcement side. You`ve been on the
political side. You`re more on the political side right now.
But, when you have these tensions now that we`re talking about between the
mayor and the police, I wonder if you can – if you can see both sides of
this in the way that maybe other people can`t. So, from the stand point of
mayor, having been in law enforcement, can you look at the mayor`s actions,
his pronouncements, some of the things that the police have been pointing
to in the last few days, can you look at that and say, Mr. Mayor, there`s
something maybe you haven`t seen here, there`s something maybe you`re not
Is there something you think maybe the mayor is missing?
ADAMS: No, not guilty at all. When you put on that blue uniform,
something that I wore and I really truly enjoy my law enforcement career,
when you put on that uniform, you move away from politics. You hear
comments that play out in the media, but you ignore that. You listen for
the calls of service on your radio.
And there was one rule that we always followed in law enforcement, when an
officer falls in the line of duty, you don`t protest at his funeral and you
don`t display any form of protest while you`re in uniform.
That is unprecedented. And I hope that never happens again because it
really tarnished the badge –
KORNACKI: So, where – where is it coming from? I mean, you know the
culture of the police in the city. Obviously, having been there, where is
it coming from? I mean, obviously, it`s an incredible tragedy here. But
to link it to the mayor in this way, where is it coming from?
ADAMS: It`s a combination of things. It`s a perfect storm. You`re
dealing with a police department that the previous mayor did not address
any of the contractual concerns. They did not have a contract throughout
that entire run.
You`re dealing with the protesters in the streets. Some of them were on
the peripheral. They used terrible statements against the police that were
not really representative –
KORNACKI: Was de Blasio, it terms of his posture towards the protest, the
more extreme elements of the protesters, was de Blasio interview express
sufficient outrage about that? Was he too friendly towards them, given
that some of the more extreme things that were said?
ADAMS: No, I thought he handed it well. We did not want a Ferguson in New
York City. We had protesters who voiced their righteous concern about
police rainstorm without any violence, outside of these small numbers, the
assault of the two officers on the Brooklyn Bridge. But for the most part,
we saw a multi-ethnic group of protesters voicing their complaints without
being destructive and constructive. And we really need to focus on what
happened during that time.
KORNACKI: What – we say there`s another funeral coming up. The mayor
obviously speaking at that graduation ceremony today having some
difficulties there – in terms of the response from the crowd. Looking
forward to the next week, what would you say to the mayor? Mr. Mayor, how
should he handle the next week?
ADAMS: And I think that`s what we need to focus on. He did not have
difficulties. You had several thousand people at the ceremony, and you
heard one person yell out an inappropriate term.
KORNACKI: Well, he yelled it out, and then there was applause after that.
It sounded like that he was expressing –
ADAMS: We don`t know in they were applauding to the mayor`s comments about
what these officers are going to become.
But the beauty of what we saw on the floor were those young recruits. They
showed discipline. They sent a message that many of the senior police
officers need to show. They understood. They were coming into a
profession where you must be like the women in justice with the blindfold
on, not get caught up in the politics. Protect the people of the city of
New York. That is what it`s about.
I remember going through my days in that academy, sitting on that floor and
remembering how proud I was. That`s what they want to remember.
KORNACKI: OK. Former NYPD captain, current Brooklyn borough president,
Eric Adams, appreciate the time tonight. Thank you very much.
ADAMS: Thank you.
KORNACKI: And we`ll be right back.
KORNACKI: We have some breaking news to report tonight. Just within the
last hour, “The New York Daily News” and “The Washington Post” are both
reporting that Republican Congressman Michael Grimm from New York will
resign his seat in Congress.
Congressman Grimm pled guilty last week to one count of felony tax fraud.
He pled guilty to that count, but then to the surprise of everyone, he said
that he would not be resigning his seat in Congress. He said that he
wanted to stay, which meant that Republicans in Congress were facing the
prospect of coming back from vacation, starting a new Congress in the New
Year with big new majorities only to have the first thing on their agenda
be to deal with Michael Grimm.
There`s almost no precedent in the history of Congress, the entire
Congress, to have to vote to force out a member. It`s happens but it`s
extremely rare. It happened with Jim Traficant back in 2001 and 2002, more
than 10 years ago now.
But tonight, according to “The New York Daily News” and “The Washington
Post”, Congressman Michael Grimm will, in fact, resign his seat. He will
not serve in Congress as a convicted felon. That means that the governor
of New York will have to call a special election to fill that House seat.
The date of that election is obviously not yet set.
Grimm, it should be noted, represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn
here in New York. This is actually considered a very competitive
congressional district. It was, before Grimm, represented by a Democrat
for a term in the House. This is a seat that both parties will be
aggressively targeting in any special election and Congressman Grimm will
be sentenced in June.
But for now, a late Christmas present to the Republican leadership as
Congressman Michael Grimm will voluntarily give up his seat in the House,
saving his party from having to make some very embarrassing decisions right
at the start of the Congress next year.
This news, of course, comes on the same night that another top Republican
in the House, though, finds himself in some hot water. This is the number
three Republican in the House of Representatives. We talked about it
earlier in the show. Steve Scalise gave a speech back in 2002 to a group
with ties to white supremacist David Duke.
The Scalise situation now, if this Grimm report is true, the Scalise
situation now figures to become the new major headache to Republican
leaders, as they head into the new Congress. Again, Scalise himself giving
an interview tonight to his own home paper down in New Orleans, stressing
that when he delivered that speech in 2002 to a white supremacist group run
by David Duke that he says he had no idea of the group`s racist ties, no
ideas of its ties to David Duke, that he was simply delivering his standard
speech on taxes, on budget issues.
Scalise, of course, back in 2002, was an ambitious state representative, a
state legislator in Louisiana, clearly had his eye set on higher office,
but at the same time did not have the kind of support staff and support
structure that he does have now as a member of Congress. This is part of
Scalise`s defense as its emerging tonight from the congressman, from his
office, from his allies, to claim that Scalise simply, something like this
could have split through the cracks back in 2002. That he could have –
but invited to a speech like this, simply agreed to go, simply given his
standard stump speech, not knowing of the group`s ties.
At the same time, some skepticism being voiced by conservative leaders
tonight, including as we said earlier on the program tonight, Erick
Erickson, a leading conservative blogger, writing tonight incredulously
about the idea that Steve Scalise might have not known about this group`s
ties to David Duke.
David Duke, of course, was a major figure in Louisiana and nationally in
the immediate run-up to that 2002 speech. It was just about ten years
before that, in 1991 that Duke nearly was elected governor of Louisiana.
He beat a sitting governor in a jungle primary and then lost to Edwin
Edwards in run off.
And then three years before that speech in 2002 – in 1999, I should say,
David Duke ran for Congress, finishing just 3,700 short of making runoff,
winner of that election, ended up being David Vitter. David Vitter now a
Republican senator from Louisiana. David Duke losing to him by just 3,700
votes in that jungle primary back in 2002.
So, obviously this story was Steve Scalise, the new headache for
Republicans as they prepare to take over all of Capitol Hill officially
next week. One we will be following certainly in the hours and days to
That does it for us tonight, though. We will see you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD”. Filling in for Lawrence tonight is Ari
Good evening to you, Ari.
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