Chris Christie Bridge-gate scandal recap. TRANSCRIPT: 4/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC HOST, MSNBC HOST: And that is all for this evening.
“THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” starts now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Ali. That was a fascinating
segment. Those are really good guests on this subject. That was best
discussion I`ve heard on this in a really long time.
VELSHI: Thank you, friend. You have a great weekend and great – we got
another day. Just have a great night.
MADDOW: I`m planning on having a good weekend. Don`t worry.
VELSHI: This is where my mind is. Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thanks, Ali.
And thank you at home for joining us this hour. Happy to have you with us.
We`re going to start with something tonight that`s a little bit off the
beaten path, but there`s a good reason for it. Trust me. It starts with
former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie who you may have noticed has
become sort of an odd figure in politics these days, particularly in
Republican politics these days, in this era of the Trump presidency.
Chris Christie, of course, was thought of as being a strong contender for
the Republican nomination in 2012, but he decided not to run in 2012. He
did make a go for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but
nothing really seemed to come together for him that year. He sputtered out
earlier than people thought he would.
He got only 2 percent of the vote in Iowa in 2016. He came in sixth place
in New Hampshire, which is where he`d really been giving it his all. But
just became clear pretty fast that there was no Republican appetite in 2016
for what he had to offer.
And then, interesting decision, Chris Christie saw the writing on the wall
earlier than the rest of the Republican presidential contenders did. And
as he dropped out of the race, again, early on, he endorsed Donald Trump
and that was at a time when no prominent Republicans were fixing their cart
to that particular horse. I mean, at the time, Chris Christie plighted his
trough with Donald Trump, he was alone.
I mean, the closest Trump had to some other high profile endorsement at
that time was failed 2008 presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani admitting
publicly that, yes, OK, he`d admit it, he sometimes spoke to Trump by
phone. I mean, even Rudy Giuliani was not willing to endorse that guy at
that point in 2016, but Christie came right out and did. And it was an
unusual decision. And everybody assumed that maybe some of the political
logic there was that Christie was gunning for the attorney general gig, or
maybe even the vice president gig, or some other huge role in the Trump
administration in the unlikely event that Donald Trump would win the
Ultimately, Christie did get put in charge of building the Trump transition
team, but only as long as they thought he wouldn`t – they thought they
wouldn`t actually need it. They put Chris Christie in charge of the Trump
transition in May 2016, only six months before the election happen. Once
Trump actually won the election and really did need a transition team, they
took that job away from Chris Christie. They threw all his work out the
window and actually became sort of a triumphant Steve Bannon/Jared Kushner
anecdote from the Trump campaign.
That time right after they won when they fired Chris Christie and literally
threw away, threw in the trash can, all the materials and all the planning
that Christie had done to plan for the transition of power and setting up
the new administration. He`d been doing the work on the transition for six
months. As soon as they got in there, they fired him and got rid of all of
Oh, Chris Christie explicitly warned us against Mike Flynn being national
security adviser. Christie says he wouldn`t let General Flynn into the
White House, let alone give him a job. Well, neener, neener, we`ll show
that Chris Christie, we`ll swear in Mike Flynn as national security
adviser. Yes, what could possibly go wrong?
And would Christie, himself, get a top-tier job in the new Trump
administration? Nope. No thanks. Thanks for that early brave
endorsement, though. Thanks for all your work that we reveled in telling
the press that we threw out. Thanks for everything. Bye.
Chris Christie does have a TV contract. He did write a book that says not
one negative word about Donald Trump. In some other settings, he`s
occasionally mildly critical of the administration.
But it`s interesting, mostly he is just unattached. This guy who was, you
know, definitely going to be a top-tier contender in 2012 had he run, who
was in the top tier of national serious Republican politics for a decade,
right, now he`s like this little floating free radical out there who nobody
has any link to. In a way that really is odd in this era.
But if there`s one thing that most explains why that is, why that worked
out that way, it may be Bridgegate. Do you remember Bridgegate? I know it
was years ago.
But it turns out there is now a really interesting twist, right at the end
here. And you probably remember the basics of the story, right? Some of
the first newspaper ink that was devoted to Bridgegate came in the form of
a local traffic column in the “Bergen Record” in New Jersey.
It was September 13th, 2013. The local traffic columnist wrote up a weird
and unusually terrible week for commuters who were trying to drive from New
Jersey to New York. This was the photo that ran with the story. And you
can see if you look closely, see there`s a guy there standing in the middle
of the traffic right next to the cones. It`s not like he`s a cop or
anybody official. He`s just a dude in khakis and a blue shirt standing to
the side of his own car just trying to figure out what it was that had
completely stopped traffic getting onto the nation`s most heavily
trafficked bridge, the George Washington Bridge, from the New Jersey town
of Ft. Lee toward New York City.
The traffic was so stopped you could park and get out of your car. The
traffic was so stopped, it was completely stopped, not moving at all, for
hours and hours and hours. That column about the traffic jam on the bridge
in Ft. Lee, that ran on a Friday, but actually, the traffic had been like
that all week long.
It had started on that Monday. It went on day after day that week. It not
only stopped traffic onto the bridge, that traffic jam for traffic getting
onto the bridge, it gridlocked all of the surface streets in the town of
Ft. Lee, New Jersey, in that whole town. With hundreds of cars backed up
onto that town`s streets, all of them for hours with nowhere to go, not
just during rush hour, but hours beyond. Coming and going.
And it was more than just a nuisance or a quirk. EMS response times
ballooned as a result of that weird unusual and unnatural traffic.
Paramedics were delayed in reaching an unconscious 91-year-old woman. That
woman later died of cardiac arrest at the hospital. Emergency responders
were late emergency responders were late in getting to the home of a person
who called 911 complaining of chest pains because of standstill traffic on
Route 46 East in Ft. Lee, New Jersey, traffic that was a result of the
backup at the bridge.
Among the people caught in the massive traffic jam were police who were
assigned to look for a 4-year-old boy who had gone missing. That traffic
jam had started on a Monday. That Monday was also the first day of school
that year. And so on day one of the school year, school buses were late
getting thousands of kids to school for their first day at school. And
that was Monday and then it went on like that all week with no relief
Now, this might have been an unfortunate story about an inexplicable
unusually bad traffic jam were it not for the fact it became clear pretty
quickly that it was manmade and apparently deliberately manmade.
The Port Authority, which runs the bridge, put out a statement saying that
the whole mess did not happen organically, it was the result of a traffic
study. Problem was, local officials who would be in a position to know if
that were true said they weren`t buying that, they don`t think that`s what
actually happened. The police chief, for example, told the “Bergen
Record,” quote, “It`s not true.”
When the mayor of Ft. Lee was asked about the situation, he responded by
saying, quote, “I asked the port authority for an explanation but they
haven`t responded. I thought we had a good relationship. Now I`m
beginning to wonder if there`s something I did wrong. Am I being sent some
sort of message?”
“The Bergen Record” and other New Jersey media outlets and later obtained a
flood of evidence showing that, in fact, this looked very much like the
mayor of Ft. Lee, New Jersey, was being sent some kind of message. That
evidence included an email sent by Governor Christie`s deputy chief of
staff, Bridget Anne Kelly, on August 13th, 2013, about a month before the
That email was sent by Bridget Kelly to one of Governor Chris Christie`s
top guys at the Port Authority, a guy named David Wildstein. David
Wildstein was the Christie appointee who initially issued that bogus
explanation that some sort of traffic study was to blame for the gridlock.
Wildstein was the same Christie appointee who gave the orders to close
those lanes onto that bridge which caused the gridlock. Wildstein was the
same political appointee we later learned had given specific instructions
to bridge employees not to warn the local police or the town of Ft. Lee
what was about to hit them in terms of this traffic Armageddon.
But that email sent is to him by Christie`s deputy chief of staff, Bridget
Kelly, on August 13th, about a month before the lane closures said, quote,
“Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee.” David Wildstein responded,
About three weeks later on September 6th, David Wildstein called one of the
Port Authority`s directors to inform him that that coming Monday, these
lane closures would take place on the bridge. That guy from the port
authority said that was a very unusual call because traffic disruptions on
major facilities like the George Washington Bridge, those things are
typically planned years in advance. You wouldn`t get notified, hey, this
is going to happen on Monday.
The George Washington Bridge manager says Wildstein instructed him not to
tell anyone about it, not even Ft. Lee police.
When David Wildstein received information in response, when he was told in
response that this was going to be a disaster, this was going be a
catastrophe, he shrugged off those warnings. He said we should go ahead.
The warnings, of course, turned out to be spot-on because as designed, when
the traffic lanes onto that bridge got shut down, everything in Ft. Lee,
New Jersey, went straight to heck.
As the chaos was taking hold, the mayor of Ft. Lee started pleading by
phone, by text, by email. He was contacting Bill Baroni, who was David
Wildstein`s boss at the Port Authority. He was another Chris Christie
The mayor of Ft. Lee and other officials were complaining about really
serious stuff. They`re complaining about ambulances being delayed and
trying to get to people who are having heart attacks. I mean, email showed
that the mayor and others were purposely met with, quote, “radio silence.”
David Wildstein forwarded a complaint from the Ft. Lee mayor to Bridget
Anne Kelly over at Chris Christie`s office. The mayor said he was
frustrated that school buses couldn`t get kids to their first day of
school. Bridget Kelly`s response, quote, “Is it wrong that I`m smiling?”
Wildstein`s response, “No, no, it`s not wrong that you`re smiling.” Kelly,
“I feel badly about the kids, I guess.” David Wildstein responds, “They
are the children of Buono voters.” Meaning Barbara Buono, who is the
Democratic candidate who was running against Chris Christie for governor
when he ran for re-election that year.
I mean, privately, all these messages were being sent back and forth about
causing problems in that town of Ft. Lee, about greeting their panicked
cries for help with radio silence, about the pleasure these Christie
staffers and appointees were taking in the pain they were causing, the
children of Democratic voters. That was what was happening privately.
Publicly, the message was, oh, this is just a traffic study, is it causing
trouble? Hmm? I mean, two months later in November of that year, Bill
Baroni, Christie`s top appointee at the port authority, David Wildstein`s
boss, he ended up testifying before the state assembly in New Jersey.
It was a two-hour performance. He tried to sell the legislature this cover
story of what had really happened with the bridge. He tried to sell them
that it had been a traffic study even though that was a made-up cover
Now, throughout all of this, Governor Christie and his top spokesman,
Michael Drewniak, they repeatedly said that Governor Christie didn`t bother
with decisions as trivial as traffic jams. The governor, himself, even
joked about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THEN-GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones, actually.
Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in
overalls and a hat so, I wasn`t – I actually was the guy working the cones
out there. You really are not serious with that question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After that, though, things started to unravel pretty quickly. A
few days after Christie joked that he was the one out there working the
cones, David Wildstein submitted his resignation from the Port Authority.
A week after David Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority, Christie`s
other even more senior appointee there, Bill Baroni, he also quit. And
then those emails came out, including the one calling for some traffic
problems in Ft. Lee, at which point Governor Christie stopped joking around
about it and got serious.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: This morning, I`ve terminated the employment of Bridget Kelly,
effective immediately. I terminated her employment because she lied to me.
I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the email came
out, and so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied
because it was so obvious that she had. And I`m, quite frankly, not
interested in the explanation at the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: “I`m not interested in the explanation.” but, you know, she sure
as heck must have concocted this whole thing herself.
During that same press conference, reporters pushed hard, right, asking
questions as to whether this really was what it was starting to look like,
whether this was really the governor`s staff and appointees shutting down
access to this huge bridge, the busiest bridge in the country, purposely
gridlocking a whole town for days and days and days, just to punish the Ft.
Lee mayor, Mark Sokolich, for his grave political crime of refusing to
endorse Chris Christie in his re-election effort.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: As I`ve said to you all many times before, Mayor Sokolich was
never on my radar screen. I don`t remember meeting Mayor Sokolich until I
saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn`t have been able to pick
him out of a lineup.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: I wouldn`t have been able to pick him out of a lineup. Might I
suggest he`s the one who should be in the lineup?
Even if you accept that the governor might not have been able to pick the
Ft. Lee mayor out of a lineup, his staff definitely could. Mayor Sokolich
later told reporters he`d been courted for two years to endorse Chris
Christie for re-election, heading into that November 2013 election, the
Christie team was not just trying to get Christie to win, that was
basically a foregone conclusion in New Jersey politics at that time.
They were trying to run up the score, trying to get him as big an overall
number in the election as possible and specifically, they wanted to get him
as much crossover Democratic support as possible because they thought that
would set him up well for a national presidential run in 2016. Wouldn`t
that be a great story to tell?
Part of that strategy was to get mayors of New Jersey towns, particularly
Democratic mayors, to publicly throw their support behind Chris Christie.
Well, ahead of the bridge lane shutdown, Mayor Sokolich said a member of
the governor`s office of intergovernmental affairs, a young guy named Matt
Mowers would repeatedly meet with him and tell him about other Democrats
who are endorsing Chris Christie.
Quote: “On at least three occasions, Mayor Sokolich said Mowers brought up
the subject of Sokolich`s possible endorsement.” So, clearly, he was – he
was on their radar and definitely on their radar during the lane closures
with Wildstein insisting anything from the mayor complaining about what was
happening to his town, any complaints should be greeted with, quote, “radio
But beyond that, behind the scenes, everybody really seemed to be having a
hoot at the mayor`s expense. A few days after the closures, David
Wildstein sent a press report about the traffic jam to Bill Stepien, who
was Chris Christie`s campaign manager at the time for his re-election
Mr. Stepien read and wrote back, quote: It`s fine. The mayor`s an idiot.
Wildstein emailed Bill Stepien that, quote: It will be a tough November for
this little Serbian, an apparent reference to Mayor Sokolich, even though
he`s not Serbian. He`s of Croatian descent, and that`s a sort of thing
that people tend to mind, getting those screwed up.
Just days after the bridge lane shutdown, Christie`s spokesman Michael
Drewniak was fielding inquiries from reporters. When the Christie
appointees at the port authority started to freak out to the press about
it, we got more evidence how they felt about this whole thing. David
Wildstein texted Bill Baroni: Hey, “The Wall Street Journal” called my cell
phone.” Bill Baroni responds, “Jesus.” Less than a minute later, “call
Drewniak”, call Governor Christie`s spokesman.
In the whole sea of emails and texts that were eventually uncovered in the
scandal, we learned the governor`s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, the
governor`s campaign manager, Bill Stepien, the governor`s deputy chief of
staff, Bridget Kelly, his top two appointees at the Port Authority, that`s
David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, another direct aide of the governor, Matt
Mowers, his director of government of relations, Christina Renna, the
governor`s then chief of staff, Kevin O`Dowd, they were all at least
somewhat in the loop on this crisis while it was still under way and
And yet, here was Christie in December.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: There was nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this issue
until after the issue was already done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Months later, Governor Christie`s office would commission their
own million-dollar internal report to investigate the Bridgegate matter,
get to the bottom of it. Taxpayers would pay. He`d have one of Rudy`s
best friends do it.
That report had a very similar through line from the governor`s press
conference from back in January. I said December, but January. The one
where he said that he had fired Bridget Kelly and he was not interested in
any of her explanations. That internal report commissioned by Christie`s
office was mostly greeted as a laughingstock in part because it`s so
emphatically cleared Governor Christie of anything and everything you could
have used it to recommend him for sainthood to the Vatican.
It was also greeted as a laughingstock, frankly, because the report, I kid
you not, went out of its way to blame the bridge scandal without
explanation on purported difficulties in Bridget Kelly`s love life which
I`m sure these guys enjoyed detailing in that report. But the relevance to
the governor`s scandal involving the bridge was quite hard to see.
A New Jersey legislative committee also investigated. They decided they
couldn`t decide. They said they couldn`t find conclusive evidence either
way as to whether Christie knew about the lane closures in advance.
A third investigation was a federal criminal investigation brought by the
U.S. attorney in New Jersey. That investigation did not charge Governor
Christie, but it wasn`t exactly kind to him. In that investigation, David
Wildstein pled guilty. He agreed to testify against Bill Baroni and
Baroni and Kelly were indicted. Federal prosecutors, again, weren`t
charging Christie at that trial but they started the trial with what “The
New York Times” called an unexpected and startling opening statement. It
they acknowledged right off the bat on the outside of the trial that
Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey knew three of his top officials were
involved in a plan to shut down lanes leading to the George Washington
Bridge as it was happening and that the closings were intended to punish a
local mayor for declining to support him.
I mean, look at that page 1 headline in “The New York Times.” Chris
Christie knew about bridge lane closings as they happened, U.S. asserts.
Prosecutors say, Christie knew after the bridge plot as it happened.
Prosecutors say David Wildstein and Bill Baroni had bragged to Governor
Christie about the lane closings at a Memorial Service on 9/11. We had
previously seen a photo of the three of them sort of yakking it up on
September 11th at the World Trade Center. That was the third day of the
During Wildstein`s testimony, he said that he and Baroni were boasting to
Governor Christie about how the lane closures had been done to mess with
Mayor Sokolich in Ft. Lee, and how the mayor`s call and texts were being
deliberately ignored. Now, Baroni contested that on the stand, but Baroni
was convicted at trial.
Bridget Kelly was also convicted at trial. She testified for her part that
she believed that the lane closures were part of a legitimate traffic
study. And she testified she told Christie about the plan on August 12th,
a day before she sent that email calling for some traffic problems in Ft.
Lee. She testified she told Christie in advance the closures would cause
tremendous traffic problems for Ft. Lee.
She says Christie approved it, anyway. She says she talked to Christie
about the lane closures twice while they were under way and one of those
times she passed along Mayor Sokolich had asked whether the traffic
problems were brought about as some sort of form of government retribution.
Now, I should tell you we reached out to Governor Christie for this story.
He did not respond to us directly. He did issue a statement yesterday
saying, quote: As I have said before, I had no knowledge of this scheme
prior to or during these lane realignments and had no role in authorizing
them. No credible evidence was ever presented to contradict that fact.
Anything said to the contrary is simply untrue.
He sent that statement generally yesterday, he sent it to us specifically
Ahead of their sentencing, after Baroni and Kelly were convicted,
prosecutors argued that neither Bill Baroni nor Bridget Kelly should be
shown leniency because neither of them had been fully truthful on the
Well, now, we`re learning how this ends. It turns out getting some twists
in the plot at the very end. Bill Baroni got sentenced to 18 months behind
bars in federal prison. He reported to prison earlier this month to start
serving his sentence.
Just yesterday, Bridget Anne Kelly was sentenced as well. She was
sentenced to 13 months. She is appealing her conviction to the U.S.
And it is striking that all of the people apparently tangled up in this
mess, of all of them, only two of them are going to prison. But what`s
even more striking is that some of them are not just avoiding prison,
they`re really thriving in the Trump era. Bill Stepien, Chris Christie`s
campaign manager, his name came up hundreds of times at the Bridgegate
He ran the overall effort for Christie`s re-election effort to get all the
Democratic mayors to endorse Christie. Wildstein testified that he told
Bill Stepien all about the plan for Ft. Lee and the bridge and why they
were doing it and even he told him about the whole traffic study cover
story. He says he told Stepien about it all in advance.
Christie cut ties with Bill Stepien when the scandal broke open. Bill
Stepien`s doing great now. He was appointed White House political director
for President Trump. He`s now moved on to become a senior figure in the
Trump re-election campaign.
Matt Mowers, the guy who repeatedly pursued the Ft. Lee mayor`s endorsement
until the mayor didn`t bite and then he had to be punished, Matt Mowers
ended up at the Trump State Department. He`s now starting a consulting
company and also plans to be working on the president`s re-election effort.
Ex-Governor Chris Christie, well, you know, he`s floating around out there,
doing OK. That said, this scandal has stuck to him a little bit like a
little tippy (ph) on the shoe heel.
But Bridget Kelly, she got sentenced yesterday. She`s now about to report
to federal prison unless the president, himself, or the Supreme Court
intervenes in her case. And now, she says there`s something that you
should know about this whole fiasco that you definitely haven`t heard about
before, something that has not been any part of this news story before.
But Bridget Kelly was just sentenced to federal prison yesterday. She`s
here tonight in studio and will join us here live. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIDGET ANNE KELLY, FORMER AIDE TO GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE: The fact that I am
here in place of others from the Christie administration and the governor,
himself, does not prove my guilt. It only proves that justice is not
blind. During the seven-week trial, over and over, we heard the names of
many of the governor`s closest associates, and we repeatedly heard the name
of Governor Chris Christie. How did all these men escape justice?
Chris Christie was allowed, without rebuttal from anyone, to say out of one
side of his mouth that I was a low-level staffer, a woman only good enough
to plan menus and invite people to events. Then say out of the other side
of his mouth that I was somehow powerful to shut down the George Washington
Bridge. There is only one person, only one, and he was powerful enough to
approve this act.
Just because someone has the title of governor doesn`t give them the right
to mislead others. It`s dishonorable. And it only shows that person for
the coward he is.
You need to know that I will not remain quiet any longer. Mr. Christie,
you are a bully and the days of you calling me a liar and destroying my
life are over. The truth will be heard, and for the former governor, that
truth will be inescapable regardless of lucrative television deals or even
future campaigns. I plan to make sure of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Bridget Anne Kelly speaking on the courthouse steps after
receiving a prison sentence yesterday in federal court for her role in the
Bridgegate scandal that A, was a sensation a few years ago, B, was a crime,
C, is going to result in her and Bill Baroni serving prison time, and D, it
is something that arguably ended the political career of one of the most
ambitious and savvy Republican politicians of his generation, New Jersey
Governor Chris Christie.
As Bridget Kelly gets ready to start serving her federal prison sentence,
here`s something new to know about how that all went down. We covered the
story extensively around the time that it was unfolding. This is a part of
it that I never knew before today. The day the bridge scandal really broke
wide open in the press and it, honestly, became clear that people were
going to go to jail for this thing, was the day the news broke that Bridget
Kelly had sent this email: Time for some traffic problems in Ft. Lee.
On the same morning that story broke, on that morning, Bridget Kelly,
governor`s deputy chief of staff, she was told to not come to work. She
says that evening she got a phone call from someone that told her that he
would be her new lawyer. Now, Kelly did not name that attorney in court,
but she`s now willing to say it was this man, Walter Timpone. Now, we have
no way to independently verify that it was, indeed, Mr. Timpone that called
Bridget Kelly at home that night. But we`ll talk to her about that in just
But you should that Walter Timpone was somebody very well-known to Governor
Christie. Timpone was a former federal prosecutor. He was a prominent
attorney at a law firm with deep ties to Governor Christie. The managing
partner at Timpone`s firms had served on Governor Christie`s transition
team. In 2010, Chris Christie appointed Walter Timpone to be a
commissioner on the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
And on January 8th, when this story broke open, this lawyer from within the
Christie orbit called Bridget Anne Kelly unsolicited to offer to be her
lawyer in the then exploding Bridgegate scandal which all of a sudden
looked like it was very clearly going to be a criminal matter and not just
a political scandal. Now, she said during her testimony that he told her
in that call that he was, quote, told to contact her.
She also testified that he told her that, quote, a job would be found for
me, I didn`t have to worry about anything and it would be OK. Bridget
Kelly says she greeted that call with relief.
She then proceeded as if this was going to be her new lawyer. She told her
attorney every detail about the case. You know, whew, finally somebody I
can give all this stuff to. And then lo and behold, she says he quickly
turned around and told her he wasn`t going to be her lawyer after all.
But this was after she had given him everything she had to offer related to
this scandal. Everything she had to say about this scandal. Everything
she planned to use in her defense. Everything that she might be able to
testify to when it came to anybody else involved in this scandal. He got
all of that from her and then he bailed and told her that he wouldn`t be
her lawyer after all.
Little over two weeks after his initial phone call to her, he told “The
Star Ledger”, quote, I am out. I have a conflict with the Election Law
Enforcement Commission which would prohibit me from voting on anything
involving a senator, assemblyman, or host of others which would close down
the LLC, so I`m gone.
Wouldn`t he know about that kind of a conflict before he called Bridget
Kelly in the first place? You would think so.
In any case, you should also know that Governor Chris Christie later
appointed that same lawyer, Walter Timpone, to the New Jersey State Supreme
Court. At his swearing in ceremony, Christie said that Wally Timpone had,
quote, been an extraordinarily good friend, and in the business that I`m
in, having an extraordinary friend is a gift.
Mr. Timpone later responded by saying, quote, the governor has been a loyal
friend for 15 years. I just really, really like knowing him.
We reached out to now-New Jersey State Supreme Court Justice Timpone. He
had no comment for us. We also reached out to Governor Christie who did
not comment to us on this aspect of the story.
And honestly, you know, who knows what happened here? All of these details
might be absolutely coincidental. But it goes to show you that sometimes
stories like this just don`t end with all the small fries going to jail and
all the big fish moving on happily. Sometimes these stories keep telling
new parts of themselves right to the end and even beyond.
Joining us here in the studio is Bridget Anne Kelly. She was deputy chief
of staff to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. She was just sentenced
yesterday to 13 months in federal prison for her role in the Bridgegate
I should tell you, she`s appealing her conviction to the U.S. Supreme
Ms. Kelly, thanks for joining us tonight. Thanks for being with us.
KELLY: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: I know it takes – I know it takes courage to come out and talk at
this point in your life. I don`t really know where to start. Let me just
ask you first how you are.
KELLY: I think I`m in shock. It`s been a really long 5-1/2 years –
KELLY: – from going –from going to the initial days of not knowing to
what was going to happen to then the investigation to then being indicted
and then the trial and then being convicted and then being sentenced for
the first time.
You know, these are things I never thought in my life I would have to
experience and more importantly, I have four children that had to
experience them with me.
KELLY: You know, I can handle a lot of things, but when your life`s on the
front page of most major newspapers and you can`t go to the grocery store
without somebody saying something positive or negative, it was tough. And
it was, really, as hard as it was on me, watching my children go through it
has been the hardest.
MADDOW: In terms of that news coverage, I`ve been a big part of that. I
covered the whole scandal way more aggressively than anybody else –
KELLY: I know that.
MADDOW: – on TV news. And I`m happy that we did it. I don`t have any
regrets about our coverage.
And I think that we elucidated a lot of stuff about the story –
MADDOW: – as it was unfolding.
Have to ask you if there`s – now that we`re here, if there`s any aspects
of the way I reported on the story over the years, even the way I explained
it tonight, that you disagree with or you want to take me to task on?
KELLY: No. When I just met you, I said you`ve done your homework. I
mean, you really – which is great. I mean, it`s – for me, I didn`t watch
a lot of it, you or anyone else just because it wasn`t healthy for me.
KELLY: I was living it. And trying to make our life as normal as possible
in a very abnormal time.
You know, a couple things that the Mastro report just was not a million
dollars, was $11 million.
MADDOW: Eleven million.
KELLY: Eleven, or just shy of $11 million. But it`s a lot of money.
MADDOW: Taxpayer money.
KELLY: Correct. To basically shame me. It was a year before the #MeToo
Movement, but if it fell under that, it is absolutely that. What they did
to me with that report is sinful. Unfortunately, you know, nobody took
I mean, there was – I know you covered this at one point, just because I
was then angry, you know, when it was, I believe that, you know, the email
– I know the email came out January 8th. That report, I believe, was
issued March 24th. That`s a really fast investigation.
KELLY: Of what?
KELLY: You know, there was no notes to show for it and whatnot. So that
would be the only, you know, thing to me that I think it`s important the
amount of money that was spent on that. It was – it was absurd.
MADDOW: And the – I mean, aside from what really seemed like extraneous
prurient detail accusing you of complicity in the scandal, specifically
because of things going on in your personal life, which I alluded to was –
I mean, it`s part of the reason nobody took that report seriously.
The other reason nobody took it seriously is because it sung the praises of
Governor Christie and didn`t just exonerate him, like, literally went out
of its way to praise him during the conduct of this thing.
You said since your sentencing, that there is only one person who could
have approved this scheme with the bridge, the only person in a position to
do that was governor Christie, himself. He has repeatedly denied that he
had any prior knowledge of the lane closures. He gave us a statement
tonight saying he had no role in authorizing the lane closures, and there`s
no credible evidence otherwise.
What credible evidence do you have to refute him on that?
KELLY: It`s conversations. I mean, we had – I let him know – so David
Wildstein and the governor go way back. You know, I think high school, 15
years, you know, they were 15 years old when they met. I`m not sure if
they`re the same age or within a year or two of each other.
So, that relationship between the governor and David Wildstein, you know,
exceeded my relationship with either one of them.
MADDOW: And Wildstein was one who came up with this whole for the bridge.
KELLY: Correct. I will be clear. As much as my email: Time for traffic
problems in Ft. Lee, as bad as that looks, if I use the word, traffic
study, which is exactly what I believed it to be, I wouldn`t be sitting
here. I wouldn`t be going to jail in, you know, a couple of months.
David had said there was going to be major traffic as a result of this
study. The logic David gave to me, and I live in New Jersey, obviously,
and take the bridge often, he explained that the 12 lanes, three were for 5
percent of the traffic coming from Ft. Lee, and 9 were for 95 percent of
So, as you mentioned in your beginning, was that making sure Governor
Christie did well in November with large numbers from all over the state of
New Jersey was important. And I knew that. That was just everybody in the
office knew that.
But David was explaining that 95 percent of the North Jersey commuters are
going to move faster over the bridge. And that Chris Christie could have
an event with Governor Cuomo to tout the success of the study and do it
right before the election and show, look at this, look at what I did.
So, because everything was around making Governor Christie look better in
KELLY: – you know, that`s how this all evolved. And everything that was
done was about Christie looking good in everyone`s eyes.
MADDOW: Regardless of the exact phrasing of your email –
MADDOW: – you clearly knew this was going to destroy Ft. Lee. That this
was going to gridlock Ft. Lee.
KELLY: I – no. I knew there was going to be problems. I didn`t know it
was going to destroy Ft. Lee. Absolutely not.
MADDOW: What about the emails you`re expressing, oh, is it bad that I`m
smiling hearing about the school buses being stuck? I mean, clearly, you
were aware in advance that there was going to be problems –
MADDOW: – caused by what you were doing. Then you expressed some glee
about the consequences of what you did.
KELLY: So the Port Authority existed in the Christie administration almost
as its own entity. It was its own – I mean, I don`t want to use the word,
patronage pit, but that`s essentially what it was. But it was a political
arm of the governor`s office.
And I know they`re trying to clean it up now, but at the time, it was used
as a political machine. So, whatever moneys they had to go into
communities, they`d make sure it was going in there. So, the Port
Authority was allowed to kind of do what they wanted.
It was David Samson, Bill, and David Wildstein and they kind of –
MADDOW: All appointees of Christie.
KELLY: All appointees of Christie`s. And the way that – I know you`ve
broken this down over time. The way the Port Authority works, the governor
of New York gets the executive director appointee, New Jersey gets the
deputy and chairman of the Port Authority.
KELLY: So there were three Christie people at the Port Authority, it was
kind of carte blanche. I mean, it really was, they –
MADDOW: You knew what you were doing was going to hurt Ft. Lee.
KELLY: I knew there was going to be traffic problems.
MADDOW: Why did you express glee about the –
KELLY: It wasn`t, so –
MADDOW: That I`m smiling? I mean –
KELLY: I understand. On its face, and if I could rewrite these, I
MADDOW: I`m not asking you for why you got in trouble for them.
MADDOW: I`m asking you –
KELLY: I was validating David. So I worked in a world full of men and
they were very strong and very intimidating men.
David liked to be right. And he had said, this was going to cause traffic
problems, this was going to be an issue and I validated him.
Honestly, Rachel, if I could go back and rewrite those things, tone and
tenor can`t be told in a text message. And I – it`s one of my biggest
MADDOW: I want to talk to you more about what you said today and the last
24 hours about Governor Christie, also about this interesting new sequence
of events we`re talking about with this New Jersey Supreme Court justice.
Thanks for being with us.
KELLY: Thank you.
MADDOW: Bridget Anne Kelly is our guest. We`ll be back with her right
MADDOW: We`re back with Bridget Anne Kelly. She was deputy chief of staff
to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie at the time of the Bridgegate
scandal. She`s just been sentenced to federal prison for her role in that
scandal. She`s appealing her conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bridget, thank you for staying with us.
KELLY: Thank you.
MADDOW: So you have now recounted a story in which a lawyer approached you
as this scandal was really breaking open. Your email, “Time for some
traffic problems in Ft. Lee,” is in every headline, every newspaper in the
country. You get a call from a lawyer that night who says he can represent
As far as I understand this, correct me if I`m wrong, you share all the
relevant details of your case, you share basically what you have to say
about the Bridgegate matter and then two weeks later, he says, thanks, but
I`m not going to represent you anymore, I have a conflict and you never
hear from him again.
KELLY: So if I could just kind of –
KELLY: – explain a little more how that happened.
So, on January 8th, the email came out. I was driving to work. I was told
not to come into work. I had to reach – I reached out to all my superiors
trying to figure out, like, what`s happening, this is insane.
KELLY: Like, it just – nothing was making sense because conversations
prior to that, you know, everything`s going to be fine, you`re good, don`t
worry about it.
So things weren`t playing out the way I had been told they were expected
to. So, I didn`t go to work that day but I couldn`t go home, and because
my house was covered with media. I mean, it was – it was horrible.
MADDOW: You were national news everywhere in the country.
KELLY: Yes. Yes. And so – not fun.
And so I went to my parents` and their house, their whole street was
covered. So I called my aunt, I said I need to come to your house, I need
to go somewhere, and I was shaking. I mean, I was petrified.
I go to my aunt`s and my phone`s ringing off the hook with all sorts of
stuff and my email address, by the way, is on national news,
firstname.lastname@example.org. So, I was getting horrible emails and whatnot.
So I get a message from – I wasn`t answering the phone, obviously, because
all these numbers. It was 973 Morristown number.
I listened to the message and it was, Bridget, this is Wally Timpone: I was
told to give you a call, I`m an attorney. There`s some people worried
about you. We want to make sure you`re OK. Please give me a call.
So, it was early afternoon. So, I, you know, go downstairs. I said to my
mom and dad, because I`m at my aunt`s house now, the kids, we got them home
from school and everything. I said, oh, I said, an attorney just called me
– because I don`t know if I need a criminal attorney, I`ve never – I`ve
never – I don`t know.
And so, he said he was a criminal defense attorney. And – or defense
attorney. And I said to my mom, you know, he said on the message that
people are worried about me and he was told to give me a call. She goes,
uh-huh. You know, just – mother`s intuition.
And so I called – so he must have – he left another message. I finally
called him back and he told me that he had spoken to Michelle Brown, who
was one of the governor`s closest associates and that she and others were
worried about me and knew I was going to need an attorney. And he`d like
to help me out.
And so I was like, oh, OK, this is great. I mean, I didn`t know. So I
went and met with him a day or two later, I was – he negotiated the whole
– I wanted to resign because I just – I thought that I should be afforded
MADDOW: Right, rather than be fired. Yes.
KELLY: Because that was embarrassing, they wouldn`t let me resign.
So, on the morning of the 9th, I knew that then brand-new chief counsel
Chris Perino and Paul Matey who`s now on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals,
they called and told me I was terminated and I was not to – you know, I
had to turn off my phone, all that kind of stuff, turn everything in.
So, then, Wally said, why don`t we meet the following day. So, I think
that was a Thursday and – or perhaps it was a Friday. It was a Friday.
So I go down to Newark and I meet him. And my brother came with me.
My brother said you know, if you were kind of told to give my sister a
call, how do we know you have her best interests? Promise you I do, I do.
I also said to Wally, the first time we spoke, I said I Googled you and
you`re on the Election Law Enforcement Commission. If we have to appear
before the legislative committee, how can you represent me?
MADDOW: You raised the issue of potential –
KELLY: The first time. I worked in the legislature. I know what ELEC is.
KELLY: I don`t know how anyone could go appear in front of the very people
you`re looking at their ELEC reports to see where their money came in, but
you`re going to represent me. He said, no problem. Don`t worry about it.
So, I didn`t worry about it.
But my brother comes with me the first day, asks that question, you know,
attorney/client privilege. Assured us we were going to be, I was going to
I was hesitant though because my mom you know, you have that in the back of
your head. And so I didn`t tell him everything. I told him a lot but not
So, I met with him a second time because I`m still also petrified. I have
no idea what`s happening. No one`s talking to me, no one`s calling me
back, friends, people that I used the word friend for.
I go down another time to see him in his Morristown office and my father
said one more time. How do we know? We met with almost all the firm, all
the partners. How do we know you have Bridget`s best interests? Don`t
worry, she`s going to be OK, she`s going to be fine.
At that the point, I moved to the beach to a friend`s house because I
couldn`t go anywhere and I wasn`t safe and it was horrible. A couple days
later, I get – I don`t know if I read it online or I got an e-mail or a
call from him and he said, I`m out. You know, I have this conflict with
I said, wait, what do you mean? In the meantime, somebody saw it in the
press and my ex-husband called me and said, listen, I have this firm. That
is who I –
MADDOW: So, but you had raised with him the issue of the conflict that he
KELLY: I did, the first time we spoke.
MADDOW: And in the interim, you met with him and talked about your case
and told him about your defense plans.
KELLY: Well, I didn`t. I was developing. I was telling him parts of what
I – you know, what he was asking. But I was telling him, yes, I was
downloading to him.
MADDOW: Why weren`t you able to name him during the trial?
KELLY: I tried.
MADDOW: What do you mean.
KELLY: I mean, I told the story during the trial but every so often you
get objected to and then it`s sustained. And then –
MADDOW: And now Chris Christie named him to be a New Jersey Supreme Court
MADDOW: Bridget Kelly, former deputy chief of staff to New Jersey Governor
Chris Christie – you are still in the throes of this. And I appreciate
you being here. I covered this within an inch of its life, including your
role in this.
And I understand why you were convicted and I also understand why you`re
fighting it. But your decision to keep talking about and elucidate the
other parts of this is brave. Thank you for doing it here.
KELLY: Thank you for letting me.
MADDOW: Good luck.
KELLY: Take care. Thank you so much.
All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us.
MADDOW: An unexpected last minute fight has broken out between federal
prosecutors and lawyers for Maria Butina who pled guilty in December to
acting as a Russian agent in the U.S. while she was networking with the NRA
and other American conservative circles. The fight that`s broken out is
about a declaration from the former assistant director of the
counterintelligence division at the FBI. He`s a 20-year veteran of the
FBI, a guy named Robert Anderson. He`s a well-known figure in the world of
counterintelligence and FBI.
Maria Butina`s lawyer say his declaration what she did and what she`s pled
to shouldn`t be allowed to be part of her sentencing tomorrow. And it`s
not hard to see why they don`t want the judge considering this when the
judge hands down Butina`s sentence.
Here`s a little sample of what Anderson has to say. Quote: As part of its
larger efforts to the target the U.S., Russia has engaged and continues to
engage in spot-and-assess operations. A spot-and-assess operation is as
intelligence operation that seeks to identify individuals who could
potentially be recruited as an intelligence asset or source at a later
date. In my expert opinion, Butina`s activities in the U.S. from 2015 to
2017 fit the classic pattern of a spot-and-assess operation.
Butina collected information about numerous American citizens who she
believed had access to and influence was senior levels of the U.S.
government. Butina compiled information about these individuals in reports
that were sent back to a high ranking Russian government official. In my
expert opinion, Butina provided the Russian federation with information
that skilled intelligence officers can exploit for years and that may cause
significant damage to the United States.
That declaration`s description of the counterintelligence threat to the
United States from the kinds of operations that Russia has been running in
this country targeting politically connected people in this country – I
mean, that is hair raising in part because of what it says about the
contacts that Maria Butina made through the NRA and in conservative and
Republican circles, right? But it`s also directly relevant to all of the
surreptitious contacts that Russian officials and Russian figures made with
the Trump campaign and with the Trump transition and the Trump
So this declaration about the kinds of harm that can come to the United
States when Russia builds those kinds of relationships with people
associated with U.S. politics particularly when there are surreptitious
relationships, that is stark stuff at this point given we`re seven days out
from the redacted Mueller report.
Well, the fight over whether or not that document could be admitted in
court was resolved today. That declaration from the former top
counterintelligence official at the FBI will be admissible for her
sentencing. That means it`s possible that we might see that FBI expert
actually testify at her sentencing in open court tomorrow. But Butina`s
sentencing hearing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. in federal district court
tomorrow in D.C. It should be worth watching.
That does it for us tonight. See you again tomorrow.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL”.
Good evening, Lawrence.
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protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced,
distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the
prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter
or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the