Chris Christie Bridge-gate scandal recap. TRANSCRIPT: 4/25/19, The Rachel Maddow Show.

Guests:
Bridget Anne Kelly
Transcript:

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

presidency. 

 

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

his work. 

 

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

whatsoever. 

 

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

bridge closures. 

 

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,

“Got it.”

 

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

appointee. 

 

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

story. 

 

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

silence”. 

 

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

effort. 

 

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

immediately thereafter. 

 

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

Bridget Kelly. 

 

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

lane closures. 

 

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

today. 

 

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

stand. 

 

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.

Supreme Court. 

 

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

trial. 

 

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. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(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

a moment. 

 

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

scandal. 

 

I should tell you, she`s appealing her conviction to the U.S. Supreme

Court. 

 

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 –

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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 –

 

KELLY:  Absolutely. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

 

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

notes. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

KELLY:  Of what? 

 

MADDOW:  Yes. 

 

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

the traffic. 

 

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

2013 –

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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 –

 

KELLY:  Absolutely. 

 

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 –

 

KELLY:  Right. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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

absolutely would. 

 

MADDOW:  I`m not asking you for why you got in trouble for them. 

 

KELLY:  No. 

 

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

regrets, obviously. 

 

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

after this.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

you. 

 

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 –

 

MADDOW:  Please?

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh. 

 

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,

bridgetannekelly@yahoo.com.  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

that opportunity. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Uh-huh.

 

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

be OK.

 

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

everything. 

 

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

ELEC. 

 

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

later – 

 

(CROSSTALK)

 

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

justice. 

 

KELLY:  Correct. 

 

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. 

 

MADDOW:  Thanks.

 

All right.  We`ll be right back.  Stay with us. 

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

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

administration. 

 

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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