The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/08/14

Guests: John Wisniewski, Shawn Boburg

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you. I`m excited to do this show this hour, Chris. We`ve been waiting for this day for a long time. This is going to be amazing. Thank you. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. That`s very nice of Chris to say, but I do have to say, I think the show is going to be kind of a doozy, because of the story we`ve been covering from the beginning, before anybody else in the country was covering it, and the national media has just become a very big story. All right. This is the local traffic column in "The Bergen Record" newspaper. It is a column only about driving in and around New Jersey. By geographic necessity, a lot of the ink in this column is devoted to the daily battle of trying to be a commuter who travels from New Jersey into New York City. On September 13th, which is a Friday, that local traffic column wrote up a really weird and unusually terrible week from trying to drive from New Jersey into New York. This was the photo that they ran to accompany their article. And if you look closely, you can see there`s a guy standing in the middle of the traffic. And, he`s not like a cop or something. He`s in khakis and a little blue shirt. This is a guy who had gotten out of his car to try to figure out what it was that had completely stopped traffic getting on to the nation`s most heavily trafficked bridge, the George Washington Bridge, from the New Jersey town of Ft. Lee. That column about the traffic jam on the bridge in Fort Lee, that ran on a Friday. But traffic had been like that all week. It started on Monday. It went for days. It only stopped the traffic on to the bridge, that traffic jam gridlocked all the surface streets in the town of Fort Lee, in the whole town, with hundreds of cars backed up on to that town`s streets for hours, during rush hour, coming and going. It was epic. It lasted for days. It turns out that traffic jam was created on purpose, which, you know, they knew right from the start, from that column on that first day. Quote, "The Port Authority, which runs the bridge, cut the number of tollbooths from three to one on the big span." "The Bergen Record" asked, "Why would the Port Authority purposely quadruple commuting times for some of the people who live closest to one of the nation`s busiest bridges?" Good question, "Bergen Record" traffic columnist, John Cichowski. Good question. And at this point on the Friday of the week that this traffic jam happened, at this points this still was a local story about a traffic jam, but the point at which it stopped being a local story about a traffic jam, and started being a story about why Chris Christie is probably never going to be president of the United States is when this happened. When the Port Authority which runs the bridge, put out a statement saying, the week long traffic jam that gridlocks the town of Fort Lee, that traffic jam was because of a secret traffic study. As soon as they said that, and the traffic columnist called around and asked for comment from local officials on that statement, the police chief in Fort Lee and the mayor in Fort Lee immediately called bullpucky on that claim. Quoting the police chief, quote, "It`s not true." Quoting the mayor, quote, "I asked the port 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?" Yes, Mr. Mayor. Yes, it turns out you were being sent a message. Traffic jams are not news. I mean, they`re small amounts of news. But they`re not national news, right? Traffic jams caused by poorly organized traffic studies are not big news stories. But if the state of New Jersey is being run in such a way, that control of interstate assets is being manipulated on purpose to punish specific towns and even specific individuals for political reasons, then that really is news, because that is public corruption. That`s public corruption and the abuse of public office potentially on a criminal scale. And all along, ever since that "Bergen Record" traffic columnist started asking questions about what otherwise looked like a weird local news story, Governor Chris Christie has been saying, there`s nothing to see here, there`s no news here, it certainly has nothing to do with him. Today, it turns out, today we got the evidence, that the order to do this thing, the order to gridlock the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, and shut down those lanes on that bridge, came straight from Governor Christie`s office. The statement from the Port Authority claiming the shutdown was part of a traffic study, that came on day four of the traffic shutdown, on Thursday of that week. It was written by one of Governor Christie`s top appointees at the Port Authority. The Port Authority who runs the bridge. It was written by David Wildstein. The same Chris Christie appointee who wrote the bogus cover-up explanation that it was the traffic study, David Wildstein, he is the same Chris Christie political appointee who gave the order to close those lanes on the bridge. He`s the one who gave that order at the Port Authority. He`s the man who gave specific instructions to bridge officials to not warn the local police, and not warn the town of Fort Lee about what was about to hit them. Other internal e-mails that have been made public also show that the Port Authority knew, they were advised explicitly that shutting down those lanes on the bridge would cause the whole town of Fort Lee to be gridlocked in a backlog of hundreds of stuck cars. But they did it anyway, or rather, we now know, that is explicitly why they did it. That wasn`t a bug. That was a feature, that`s what they were going for. We now know that because partially redacted e-mails and text message transcripts were published today first by "The Bergen Record," and then by everyone. And those transcripts and e-mails show that Governor Christie`s appointee to the Port Authority, the guy who ordered the bridge closure, David Wildstein, he didn`t come up with that idea on his own. It turns it came from Governor Christie`s office, directly. Boom! Look, this is an e-mail from Governor Christie`s office, an email from Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff telling David Wildstein at the Port Authority, explicitly, quote, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." The response from David Wildstein at the Port Authority, quote, "Got it". And so, it was done, the lanes were ordered shut down. Fort Lee was not warned. Fort Lee police were not warned. Among the people caught in the ensuing traffic jam for hours were police assigned to look for a missing 4-year-old girl. It was the first day of school. School buses were late getting thousands of kids to school. And it went on all week. And, of course, Port Lee went nuts. As the mayor explained to the "Bergen Record," I`ve asked the Port Authority for an explanation but they haven`t responded. And the new emails released today show that Governor Christie`s office knew that Fort Lee was going nuts, and they knew that Fort Lee officials were getting no response. The governor`s deputy chief of staff inquiring whether that mayor was getting his calls returned. The apparently gleeful response from Governor Christie`s appointee at the Port Authority, quote, "radio silence". David Wildstein then forwarded the actual complaints from the Fort Lee mayor. The mayor explaining that school buses can`t get kids to school for the first day of classes. The response, quote, "Is it wrong that I am smiling?" David Wildstein responds, no, no, it`s not wrong that you`re smiling. "I feel badly about the kids. I guess." David Wildstein responds, quote, "They are the children of Buono voters," meaning, Barbara Buono. Barbara Buono, the Democratic candidate who ran against Chris Christie for governor when he ran for re-election this past year. Do not worry about the harm we are deliberately causing the children of this community because that community has Democratic voters and you know what? A Democratic mayor. So, we`ll make them pay. So, the traffic study excuse that was invented to explain what happened, that was made up. The traffic jam was deliberately created on orders from the governor`s office directly. It was recognized as something that would cause harm. It was intended to cause harm. It was recognized that it was causing harm and that local officials were complaining about that harm. It was recognized in real-time and celebrated those officials were getting no explanation for what was happening to them. And we know it was motivated by partisan politics, because Governor Christie`s employees discussed it in those terms. We do not know what caused Governor Christie`s office to unleash this hell on the town of Fort Lee. It`s previously been suggested that the mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse Governor Christie`s bid for re- election at the time when the governor was specifically looking for those endorsements from Democratic local officials. Was the mayor`s refusal to provide that endorsement the reason the governor`s office ordered up some traffic problems in Fort Lee? We still do not know that. We also do not know if Governor Christie himself instructed his staff to do this, or if it was a freelance effort to punish a Democratic town, an effort that was run out of Chris Christie`s office and through his top staff and his top political appointees, but without his knowledge. The release a statement to that effect today, saying, quote, "What I`ve seen today for the first time is unacceptable. I am outraged and deeply saddened to learn, that not only was I misled by a member of my staff, but this completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge." "One thing is clear," he says, "this type of behavior is unacceptable and I will not tolerate it because the people of New Jersey deserve better. This behavior is not representative of me or my administration in anyway and people will be held responsible for their actions." That represents a change for Governor Christie, who had previously responded to questioning about this scandal by mocking reporters who even dared to ask him about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones actually on that. Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in the overalls and the hat, so I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question? What happened? No, I haven`t. Listen, just because John Wisniewski is obsessed with this, and Loretta Weinberg, it just shows you they really have nothing to do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Loretta Weinberg and John Wisniewski is actually the way it`s pronounced, are New Jersey legislators who have been investigating this scandal since it first broke. Chris Christie has denounced them by name, as only looking into it because they have nothing to do. He`s denied that anyone in his office had any knowledge of the shutdown whatsoever. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I`ve spoken to everybody on my staff and asked anybody around here and my campaign manager if they knew anything more about this that we didn`t already know, they told me no. And so I -- you know, the chief of staff and the chief council assured me that they feel comfortable that they have all the information we need to have. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And now, it turns out the whole thing was ordered from within his office and at least one of his top staffers had updates throughout on the planning for the shutdown, on it`s effect, on the town`s complaints and on the town not getting any response to its complaints. Governor Christie`s campaign manager, who we mentioned there specifically, the campaign manager was one of the people advising the guy who ordered the shutdown on how to react to the press coverage of the scandal once it broke into the open, that campaign manager, Bill Stepien has just this week been named the chairman of the Republican Party for the whole state of New Jersey. After this bombshell release of documents this morning, "The Bergen Record" followed up this afternoon with the darkest turn in the story yet. The first day of the manmade, politically motivated traffic disaster that was ordered by Governor Christie`s office, the first day was Monday September 9th. On Tuesday, September 10th, the emergency medical services coordinator for Fort Lee wrote to the mayor to explain what this traffic disaster meant for first responders in Fort Lee. Quoting from "The Record`s" report tonight, on September 9th, the first day of the traffic paralysis, EMS crews took seven to nine minutes to arrive at the scene of a vehicle accident where four people were injured, when the response time in normal circumstances should have been less than four minutes. It also took responders seven minutes to reach an unconscious 91-year- old woman who died of cardiac arrest to the hospital. Although he did not say her death was directly caused by the delays, the EMS coordinator told the mayor that paramedics were delayed in responding to the woman`s case due to the heavy traffic in Fort Lee. The paramedics had to meet the ambulance on route to the hospital instead of on the scene where the woman collapsed. The woman did later die. Emergency responders were also late in getting to a third medical emergency the first morning of the lane closures. The EMS coordinator said he himself took more than an hour as the first responder to arrive at a building where a person had called 911 complaining of chest pains. The delay was because of the standstill traffic on route 46 east in Fort Lee, which, of course, was caused by the deliberate traffic disaster that was ordered by Chris Christie`s office as some kind of political retaliation as yet unexplained. So far, Chris Christie has accepted the resignation of his longtime friend and political appointee, David Wildstein, who ordered the bridge shutdown. He accepted the resignation of another one of his appointees to the Port Authority, who was involved in the shutdown, and who apparently lied to the state assembly by telling them the whole thing was caused by this mysterious traffic study. The governor`s top appointee to the Port Authority is also named in the e-mails released today, as helping the governor`s office retaliate in some way, when New York officials sought to mitigate the impact of what Chris Christie`s office was trying to orchestrate for Fort Lee. So, is that the next resignation? His top appointee to the Port Authority? What happens to his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, who works in his office, who apparently gave the order directly to do this to Fort Lee, what happens to the governor`s spokesman who`s mentioned in the e-mails and text messages today as being involved in managing the exit of David Wildstein, and crafting a thankful statements for Governor Christie, praising David Wildstein as a tireless advocate for New Jersey`s interests. What happens to the governor`s spokesman now? What happens to the chairman of the political party now, who was involved in crafting this whole response, and just this week, got promoted to run the Republican Party in the state of New Jersey and who`s advising the national Republican Governor`s Association, since Chris Christie runs that thing now and he`s obviously going to run for president. In New Jersey`s largest paper today, in "The Newark Star Ledger", a blistering editorial lays out the stakes. Quote, "This was an outrageous misuse of public resources, a reckless endangerment of the public and apparently a massive lie. Governor Christie`s attempts to laugh this off now appeared to be dishonest, that we can`t be sure that he personally knew about the correspondents of one of his top aides. Still, Christie bears responsibility either way, if it turns out he did know, he`s obviously lying, and unfit for office, let alone a 2016 presidential run. And even if he did not know, his officials are liars, if Chris Christie cannot control them, how can we trust him as a potential future leader of our country?" We have been covering this story from the beginning. We cover the story before anybody else in the national news covered it, even though we got teased a lot for paying so much attention to a local traffic jam. Well, now, this local traffic jam is starting to look like the most important story in the country about Republican presidential politics. The assembly man who has been leading the investigation into this incident and who has been attacked mercilessly by Governor Christie for doing so is going to join us here exclusively, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Our exclusive interview with the man who is leading the investigation into the Chris Christie bridge scandal is right here live, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: The documents that have been published are both shocking and outrageous. They show government at its worst. Among other things, they call into serious question the honesty of this governor and his staff. As a result of what has been revealed today, this governor has a lot of explaining to do. There`s two possibilities, I mean, either he doesn`t know what`s going on in his front office or that there`s lying going on. We were concerned for your continued employment at the Port Authority if you said something outside of the chain of command? ROBERT DURANDO, GENERAL MANAGER: I respect the chain of command. WISNIEWSKI: That`s not an answer to the question. The question is, you just expressed to me you do have a certain amount of discretion when it comes to requests made to you about the bridge, but in this particular case, you chose not to exercise that discretion. My question to you is, is the reason you chose not to exercise that discretion because you feared for your employment? DURANDO: I was concerned about what Mr. Wildstein`s reaction would be if I did not follow his directive. WISNIEWSKI: As to whether it`s political retribution, look, it`s either gross incompetence on the management of the nation`s busiest bridge, or it`s political incompetence by people who thought they could get away with something like this in broad daylight. Either way, it stinks. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The New Jersey assembly man who has been at the center of the investigation of the scandal from the beginning is Democrat John Wisniewski. As chairman of the state transportation committee, he`s had the subpoena power to compel testimony and to compel the release of documents in this case. Those documents include the e-mails released today in which Governor Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff e-mailed David Wildstein, a Christie political appointee at the Port Authority and tells him that it`s, quote, "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Mr. Wildstein responds to that e-mail by saying, quote, "Got it." Tomorrow, David Wildstein is scheduled to testify under oath. He`s scheduled to appear before Assemblyman Wisniewski`s committee to explain what exactly happened here. Mr. Wildstein today filed a lawsuit trying to quash that subpoena so he doesn`t have to appear. One of the ways his lawsuit is trying to get him out of testifying tomorrow is that he`s challenging the validity of the signature of Assemblyman Wisniewski on the subpoena itself, which is in the technical sense, what you call a reach. Joining us now for the interview tonight is Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He`s chairman of the New Jersey State Assembly Transportation Committee. Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. WISNIEWSKI: Rachel, thank you for having me on. MADDOW: As far as you know, is David Wildstein going to have to testify to your committee tomorrow? WISNIEWSKI: I don`t believe the court`s going to give him any relief. It`s outside the court`s jurisdiction. It`s a separation of powers issue. We have the ability to issue subpoenas under our rules, under the state constitution. And we have a validly issued subpoena and he should show up and testify. MADDOW: Today, these 22 pages of e-mails and text messages between the Christie administration and Port Authority executives were released. What do you think the public should take away from those documents? What do you think is the bottom line of what was revealed? WISNIEWSKI: Well, what was revealed was, what we`ve all suspected but not had proof, that this was a political operation. It became clear by what was released and the other documents that I`ve seen, that there was no valid governmental reason. This was purely a political operation. And it came out of the governor`s office. After it came out of the governor`s office, and it was put into effect, there was an effort to try to concoct a rationale for doing it, and then an effort to diminish anybody`s credibility who dared challenge or question it. It`s government at its worst. I mean, for everybody who thinks government can`t be trusted, Chris Christie gave everybody 10 more reasons to believe that, and for everybody who wants to see government do the right thing, it`s a very frustrating day. MADDOW: One of the things we saw as the public for the first time today in these 22 pages that were released were the heavy redactions. Now, that wasn`t you and your committee redacting those lines. Who redacted that? The Port Authority? WISNIEWSKI: Well, we don`t know. Those documents -- most of the redactions in documents we received came from the documents supplied by Mr. Wildstein`s attorney. There was some redactions in documents supplied by Mr. Baroni`s attorney. So, of the 20 some that you`re talking about, I`m not sure where they came from, but what`s frustrating is there`s no explanation, as to why they are redacted. Are they claiming privilege? Are they claiming some type of exception to providing them under subpoena? We don`t know. We`ve asked that question. We`ve asked that question. We`ve received no answer. With the 22 pages released, we have heard that hundreds of pages have been turned over. As somebody trying to report this story, I get nudgey about reporting partially released documents. Should we expect that those hundreds of pages will be released to the public? Is there any reason to hold them back. And should we see these 22 pages as representative of what you have learned? Are we going to get the rest of it? WISNIEWSKI: There`s thousands of pages of documents, and Mr. Wildstein`s commission, for instance, is 907 pages. Mr. Baroni`s almost at the similar number. And what we want to do is have this hearing tomorrow, and provide Mr. Wildstein an opportunity under oath to answer questions. There`s an August 13 e-mail about trying to create traffic problems in Fort Lee. He says in a very tryst response, got it. Well, you won`t know what that means unless you`ve had a conversation about this topic beforehand. Who did he have that conversation with, was there a meeting? Who was involved in that meeting? Was there a discussion as to the rationale? Those are questions we need to ask and get answers to. But I think that at the conclusion of tomorrow`s hearing, there will be more documents made available to the public and ultimately the goal of the committee is to share all of this information with the public, because they ought to know what happened here, and they ought to be able to make their own judgment. But this is very embarrassing for government and this is very frustrating because it`s an abuse of power, where people who were entrusted with enormous power, and used it for partisan political purposes that border on petty and childish. MADDOW: In terms of the governor himself, he has released a statement saying in a million different ways it wasn`t me, it wasn`t me, it wasn`t me, saying that people who did this will be held responsible. He -- it was unsanctioned conduct. He knew nothing about it. First of all, what`s your reaction to that? And second of all, do you intend to rebuff the governor? Do you have evidence that suggests that he did know or it did go further into his office that has been disclosed thus far? WISNIEWSKI: Well, we know it`s in his office. We know it`s in Bridget Kelly. She wrote e-mails, not only to start it, but to monitor it, and then to engage in the rationalization as to why it took place, there are also e-mails from other members of the governor`s administration. Michael Zuniak (ph), the governor`s chief spokesperson is on some of these emails. The governor`s campaign manager, there`s references to the governor`s chief counsel, and other folks in the governor`s office. What were they involved with? There`s references to Port Authority chairman David Sampson. And so, we need to understand how this came about. There was a meeting between the governor and chairman Samson right before the August 13 email, was that a meeting in which this plot was discussed or talked about. There`s lots of information that`s now coming my way by people who are observing this and saying, you ought to ask this question, you ought to check this out. So, the hearing tomorrow would provide an invaluable opportunity to get to the bottom of it. If Mr. Wildstein wants to come in and clear his name, it`s an opportunity for him to come in and explain exactly how this happened. MADDOW: Let me also just ask you. You remit at the transportation committee is clear because of what was released today, there are some political leaders in New Jersey, at least two state senators who are calling for the U.S. attorney, to potentially convene a federal grand jury to look into criminal charges being filed here. Do you have anything to say about that? WISNEIWSKI: Clearly, public assets were used for a political purpose, to exact retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee, to do improper things. That seems to me to be a violation of law. Pat Floyd, the executive director of the Fort Authority, in his scathing e-mail of September 13th, said violations of not only state but federal law have occurred. A prosecutor ought to look at these allegations and they ought to decide whether a law has been broken. MADDOW: A federal prosecutor, or state prosecutor? WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think a federal prosecutor, because clearly, we have to question whether there will be an opportunity to get a fair hearing when the New Jersey prosecutors are appointed by the governor. MADDOW: Assemblyman John Wisniewski, chairman of the Assembly Transportation Committee, which is investigating this matter -- thank you for your time tonight. Tomorrow is going to be a very busy day. Please stay in touch. WISNIEWSKI: I will. Thank you very much. MADDOW: All right. Do you subscribe to your local paper, do you pay for access to their Web site to deliver you the paper at your house? Think about it? Without local papers, where would we be? In the weeks leading up to today`s explosion in the New Jersey, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie repeatedly admonished reporters that there was nothing to see here, nobody on his staff had anything to do with this and reporters should be embarrassed for even asking about it. God bless local reporters. The local news media in New Jersey in this case for not believing that, for not being intimidated and for sticking with this story. The reporter who`s work today uncorked this whole huge news day and changed the entire landscape of national Republican politics by doing so joins us, coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, it turns out there`s a lot going on in the news today, the Republican governor of the state of Utah told 1,300 newly married couples in his state today that the state of Utah will not recognize their marriages in any way, while the state continues its appeal against same sex marriage rights all the way up to the Supreme Court. The governor of Utah does not have the power to un-marry those 1,300 couples, this is as close as he can get. In Virginia today, that special election that may determine which party controls the state Senate in Virginia, that special election is the very definition of too close to call, the Democrat in the race is ahead by just 10 votes, 10. It turns out the polar vortex is part of the problem in this race. One island in Accomack County, Virginia, has not been able to submit its votes for counting yet because no vote can get to the island because the water around the island is frozen solid. And apparently, there`s no bridge. Either Accomack County is going to have to wait for a thaw in order to count those votes and potentially decide the race, or they`re going to need a bigger boat. In all likelihood, there is going to be a recount in that race no matter what. Also today in Virginia, Republican Governor Bob McDonnell gave his outgoing state of the state speech in which he apologized overtly to Virginia lawmakers for the gift scandal, the ethics and corruption scandal that overshadowed his one term in office, and that has left hanging the question of whether and when he will be criminally indicted in connection with that case. Also today, it is three years today since Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and very nearly killed in Tucson, Arizona, by a mentally ill gunman armed with semiautomatic pistol and high capacity ammunition magazines. The congresswoman wrote an op-ed in "The New York Times" today, a very moving I think, likening the long haul struggle to reform the nation`s gun laws to her own long struggle to recover from her physical injuries encountered in that assassination attempt. Today is also the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson declaring a war on poverty in his state of the Union Address in 1964. President Obama is due to give a major address on poverty tomorrow in which he will announce tightly targeted promises zones, to try to increase economic opportunity and five locations across the country. House Republicans today also held a press conference on the subject of poverty in which the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee said, we should stop paying unemployment benefits all together because war on poverty, that`s his proposed solution. So, there`s lots going on in today`s news, that`s all before you get to New Jersey. And you definitely do want to get to New Jersey in today`s news, because this story that broke wide open today, broke in such a way that it may spike Chris Christie`s hopes of being the Republican nominee for president someday. Today`s news from New Jersey did not come out of the blue. We have covered Governor Christie`s trouble with this story on the show. We were the first national media outlet to cover the story on TV at all. Our Web site was the first national media outlet to cover the story extensively in print. And as the story has broken wide open tonight, the show that precedes ours on this network, on MSNBC, Chris Hayes` show, just scored a blockbuster interview with the mayor of Fort Lee, the mayor of the town who is at the center of this tale of political retaliation. Watch what happened when Chris got him tonight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) HAYES: It seems from the texts that we got our hands on today that you yourself didn`t want to believe it was possible that this was just political punishment for refusing to endorse the governor. MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH (D), FORT LEE, NJ: Chris, if you know me for 30 seconds, you know there`s not an ounce of venom in my system. I don`t think, and I try to find the best in people. So, I automatically -- my own instincts automatically just dismiss the prospect that this is political retribution, who would close down lanes to the busiest bridge in the world to get to me. First of all, I never viewed myself as being that important. The governor himself said that I`m not on his radar, nor am I in his rolodex. So, I`m thinking, how could this possibly be? But now reading the e-mails and the texts we see today, it certainly is the case, I`m embarrassed for those people. HAYES: I have to read this to you and get your response to it, because it was one of the most vicious little jabs in there. After following an article about the traffic jam, we`ve had David Wildstein who since resigned saying, "It will be a tough November for this little Serbian." Got a response to that? SOKOLICH: David Wildstein deserves a ass-kicking, OK? Sorry, there I said it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For the record, the mayor of Fort Lee is not Serbian, he`s Croatian. But Chris Christie`s political appointee at the Port Authority did refer to him as, quote, "this little Serbian," in e-mails with Governor Chris Christie`s campaign manager, the man who has just been appointed to be the head of the New Jersey Republican Party. Not Serbian, Croatian, but still. More ahead, including with Steve Kornacki. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: To prep for the show every day, me and everybody who works on the show here, we read a lot of stories from small local newspapers, we read all the national stuff too, but we really depend on local papers and local websites and local news bloggers and reporters for news that is not yet national news. Like, for example, the Wendy Davis filibuster this summer. The one that kept thousands of people awake long into the night watching the Texas Senate on the Internet. Without the "Texas Tribune" hooking up that video feed and having their reporter tweeting the play by play, the Wendy Davis filibuster might never have become national news and she might not be running for governor. Or when South Carolina`s then-Governor Mark Sanford famously went missing and then got caught trying to tell people he was hiking the Appalachian trail when really he was canoodling with his Argentinian mistress. Governor Sanford admitted the truth only after he was met at the airport getting off a flight from Argentina by a local reporter for the newspaper, "The State." Well, then, it was this summer in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where a local Republican challenged the residency of a student who was trying to run for local office. That story has huge implications for voting rights across North Carolina and across the country. And the local newspaper, "The Elizabeth City Daily Advance" reported that story that way, and that`s how we found out about it. Any time you see a story on national TV that starts in a small town, odds are that story began with local reporters who would not give up and who reported it right and aggressively, even though it always stirs stuff up on their hometown beat. And so, it is with today`s bombshell news about the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and the world`s busiest bridge and the manufactured traffic jam that choked the little town of Fort Lee. That story started with a local newspaper, "The Record" of Bergen County where they had a few questions that needed answering, even when powerful people mocked them for asking. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I worked the cones, actually, on that. Unbeknownst to everybody, I was actually the guy out there. I was in overalls and a hat, so I wasn`t -- but I actually was the guy working the cones out there. You really are not serious with that question. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: They were serious, and it slowly turns out the local story about a mysterious traffic jam into national news. Local reporters made that possible and we in the national press owe them credit for opening this most amazing can of worms, without them and their persistence in the face of stiff resistance, the nation might never have heard the words, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." "Got it." Without them, it would have been another traffic jam story. Now, it`s anything but that. Joining us now is Shawn Boburg. He`s reporter for "The Bergen Record", where they broke the story in September and where they have continued breaking news about it all day today. Mr. Boburg, thanks very much for coming on the show. SHAWN BOBURG, THE BERGEN RECORD: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Why did you pick up on this story in the first place? And what kept you going with it, when the governor was mocking you for even asking questions about it? BOBURG: Sure. Well, as you know, the official line in the beginning was that this was a traffic study, but the more we asked questions the more things didn`t measure up if it was something so innocuous. For example, for months, the Port Authority refused to release details on the traffic study or explain how it came about. The initial clue was that there was no notice to local officials, including police, emergency vehicles and that was a deviation from what you would see in a standard traffic study that affects the world`s busiest bridge. MADDOW: Your paper posted a story tonight detailing effects of the traffic jam on emergency responders based on a letter that was sent from the head of the emergency medical response to the mayor of Fort Lee, based on a letter that was reportedly sent from the head of the emergency medical response to the mayor of Fort Lee, explaining some pretty scary stuff about lengthened response times and people who had some serious medical consequences at the time potentially. And I`m obviously not asking for your sources. But how did you get that story? How have you been able to get documents throughout this story that haven`t been otherwise publicly available? BOBURG: Sure. Well, we`ve been relentless in requesting public documents. And I think the story you`re referring to came from public records out of Fort Lee, and certainly, previously, we had reported that the mayor complained during this week of traffic jams, directly to Christie`s appointee at the Port Authority that the traffic was obstructing emergency vehicles. Tonight, we`re hearing of specific cases that were involved, a 91-year-old woman who had a medical emergency and ultimately died. It`s unclear whether that was related to the delay. But what these stories show and they`re based on public records out of Fort Lee is that there were some human stakes here with the traffic jam. And as we probably heard several times, that the story mushroomed from one about traffic cones to something that had implications far greater, both in political terms and the stakes for our readership, Fort Lee commuters and other people who used the bridge every day to get to work. MADDOW: Your paper today, you first posted 22 pages out of thousands of pages that government officials have turned over to the assembly under subpoena related to this scandal, I am wary and very curious as to how those 22 pages were chosen and whether or not there`s anything in the other thousands of pages that nobody else has seen that might either contradict that information, or give us a bigger picture of it. Have you seen the rest of those documents? Do you have any sense of what might be in the rest of these documents or how those 22 pages should be contextualized? BOBURG: No, and it`s a good question. One we`re going to be pursuing. We want to review every document in the spirit of getting to the bottom of this independently. There are a lot of political undertones to this on both sides. So, I agree with you, full disclosure of all the documents and critical review of what they contain is the only way to get to the bottom of the story, and the broader context. MADDOW: Shawn, I just have to ask you one last thing that I`ve been curious about for a long time and that is when you wrote a profile of one of the men at the center of the case, David Wildstein, he apparently did not like the profile, and one of the things he did in response is that he bought your name as a Web site. He bought I just checked it out tonight, and still, when you put in that URL it directs to the "Star Ledger", to a rival newspaper to your paper. Obviously, a dig at you and he still owns your name in that way. That`s petty and probably not the most important thing in the world. I don`t know if you had plans for But do you feel like you`re a personal target for having been out ahead of this story? BOBURG: No, I mean, not at all. I`m not that thin skinned. To some degree, even though this is a regional paper, I`m in the public sphere as well, anyone has a right to that name. And by itself, it wouldn`t be newsworthy. There were other names that he bought that made that story more important and, you know, I don`t -- I`m not important enough yet to desire the rights to or having plans for it. MADDOW: Well, now, I`ve got big plans for it, just because you said that, see if I can pick it up for you. Shawn Boburg, reporter for "The Record" of Bergen County, who originally broke this incredible story out of New Jersey today -- congratulations on your work thus far. Please stay in touch. BOBURG: Thank you so much. MADDOW: Thanks, Shawn. All right. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie could hardly have been more dismissive of the news reports and the political investigations into the great Fort Lee traffic jam of 2013, until the moment when the story could no longer be dismissed -- a brief history of Chris Christie`s trip down a lovely long river in Egypt, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: One of the guys at heart of all this, the guy who ordered the lanes close, the guy who Democrats say was trying to punish that mayor who didn`t endorse Christie -- well, I know that guy. His name is David Wildstein and he`s played a big role in my professional life. I used to work for him. He gave me my first big break. You could say that I owe my career to him. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: MSNBC`s Steve Kornacki, incredibly, has a really, really close connection to the guy -- the key guy at the center of the Chris Christie scandal that blew wide open today. And Steve joins us live next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I know you guys are obsessed about this. I`m not. I`m really not. It`s just -- it`s not that big a deal. Just because press runs around and writes about it both here and nationally, I know why that is and so do you. Let`s not pretend that it`s because of the gravity of the issue. It`s because I am a national figure. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you convinced at this point that you know all there is to know about whatever happened there? CHRISTIE: Yes. Listen, I`ve asked my staff to give me a full briefing. They`ve told me everything that we know. And none of it makes sense, Eric. It`s all about politics. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" here on MSNBC. Steve is all versed in Jersey politics as they come. Steve worked for a nonpartisan Jersey political Web site that was owned by David Wildstein, from 2002 to 2005, although he didn`t know it at the time because David Wildstein operated the site under a political pseudonym. It`s so hard to start. Where do you start with all this? KORNACKI: I could take 50 minutes and tell you right. MADDOW: Well, you did on our show. KORNACKI: I did on your show before. So, hopefully, people remember that. MADDOW: Steve, let me just ask you -- what do you think is the most important revelation from today and how much bigger is the story today than it was yesterday? KORNACKI: I mean, that biggest single revelation obviously is that that this extends into the governor`s office, that you have emails with the deputy chief of staff. And so, now, you can`t just say this was two rogue people at the Port Authority. This is now in the governor`s office. The reason it`s so significant, besides the just PR value of it, is there`s an issue of timing here, which had to do with the subpoena power of the state assembly in New Jersey which is to expire next Tuesday. MADDOW: Yes. KORNACKI: Because the legislative is due to expire next Tuesday. And for a variety of very complicated sort of -- the only in New Jersey reasons, there was reason to believe until really today that subpoena power by the incoming assembly speaker might not be extended. MADDOW: Which might end the investigation. KORNACKI: Exactly. I believe that`s what the Christie people were hoping for. That would be sort of the end of it, because the incoming speaker is a Democrat. But one of the stories about New Jersey politics you have to keep in mind is that Christie at least until now has had an alliance with some of major Democratic power brokers in the state. And this incoming speaker is the product of that alliance. So, there`s reason to believe before today that incoming speaker might say, I`m not going to extend it. Now, you have no choice. MADDOW: The Christie administration I think test that comes up next is whether or not Chris Christie can find it within himself to say publicly, you know what, Mr. New Assembly Speaker, you ought to keep the subpoena power, you need to let them have it, because we need to get to the bottom of this because I`m as outraged as anybody about this. This makes us all look terrible. But Fort Lee never should -- I mean, is he capable of that? KORNACKI: From a PR standpoint, there are so many things that Chris Christie should do, but the question that hangs over all of this is what did he know and when did he know it, because every action that he takes right now, if it`s firing this person, firing that person, if -- and I don`t know -- but if Chris Christie did know, if he had some knowledge. If there`s more documents out thereto that could definitively link Chris Christie, that every person he ticks off or throws overboard right now has a reason to come at -- MADDOW: Reason to pop-up. David Wildstein is fighting the attempt to testify tomorrow, the effort to make him testify under subpoena. He`s in fact, filed a lawsuit in order to that, if he is compelled to testify under oath. Is that a potentially a big development tomorrow? KORNACKI: It would be fascinating to watch. I mean, I think the fact that he`s fighting this tells me I`m not expecting there to be, you know, if he does testify I`m not expecting there to be any bombshells from his testimony. But again my suspicion is that fighting the subpoena has to do with trying to run that clock out to the end of the session, which that`s not going to happen there. MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI", weekend mornings here on MSNBC, Steve, this has been -- it`s a real asset to us here to have you to talk to about this. Thanks for helping. KORNACKI: Thanks. It`s a little weird. MADDOW: Very weird. Very, very weird. That does it for us tonight. We will see you a gain tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END