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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/14/14

Guests: John Wisniewski, Loretta Weinberg, Frank Rich

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Tearing the latex mask off. All political consulting is a racket. CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: It is a racket. MADDOW: Prepare for the ceiling to fall in. HAYES: Who are we kidding? MADDOW: Thanks, man. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This is awkward. This is a photo taken on 9/11. It was taken this past September 11th, 2013, at the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. This photo was published today in this morning`s "Wall Street Journal." Now, one of the ambient things about the New Jersey bridge scandal that has always been particularly disgusting about this scandal is the fact that the bridge shutdown happened on the week of September 11th. I mean, if there are dirty tricks going on in politics somewhere, even in the New York City area, it`s not like everybody expects September 11th to be an armistice day for politics or anything. But gridlocking a town in northern New Jersey and portions of the George Washington Bridge on September 11th was particularly nasty. Not only for people in New Jersey who might have wanted to use the bridge to get to 9/11 commemorative events. This was, after all, a very hard hit area of the country. But also because, frankly, the bridge, itself, is seen as a potential terrorist target. It`s not just a landmark. It is the busiest bridge in the world. And on the anniversary of 9/11, you worry, right? The mayor of Fort Lee told "The New York Times" this week that while the bridge lanes were closed, quote, "his blood pressure rose two ticks each day." But he says it, quote, "went up twice that on September 11th, specifically." But the reason this photo, which was taken on September 11th, during the traffic jam, the reason this photo is particularly awkward for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is because the guy he`s interacting with in this photo, the guy in the dark coat and the white shirt and the red tie is David Wildstein, the Chris Christie administration political appointee to the Port Authority who personally organized the shutdown of the bridge lanes. When the governor`s deputy chief of staff ordered, quote, time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, it was David Wildstein who responded, "Got it," and it was then David Wildstein at the Port Authority secretly organized the traffic engineers, maintenance department and bridge general manager and everybody else who had to be in on it to get those lanes shut down. And then he swore them all to secrecy in terms of not letting anybody in Fort Lee know what was about to hit them. David Wildstein was calling the Fort Lee mayor that little Serbian. It was David Wildstein the guy who said don`t feel bad for the children who are stuck in those traffic jams, in the first day, in the first week of school in Fort Lee because, quote, "Those are the children of Buono voters," Buono being the Democratic candidate who was running against Chris Christie. That was David Wildstein who ordered radio silence as a response to complaints from the mayor and from other Fort Lee officials, even when what they were complaining about was delayed ambulances trying to get to injured people and people who were having heart attacks. That`s David Wildstein, and that`s David Wildstein with Chris Christie during the bridge shutdown on September 11th. And for a governor who is desperately trying to distance himself from this scandal, trying to say he had nothing to do with it, I mean, it is awkward enough for there now to be photographic evidence he was with the guy who shut down the bridge while the bridge was shut down. It`s even worse than that for Governor Christie, because of the governor`s insistent, even over the top efforts to try to deny any connection with David Wildstein, try to deny personal history, any past association, even any real current familiarity with the guy who he is seen talking to right there. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) friend David Wildstein? GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Let me clear something up, OK, about my childhood friend, David Wildstein. It is true that I met David in 1977 in high school. He`s a year older than me. David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. I mean, I had a high school in Livingston, a three-year high school that had 1,800 students in a 3-year high school in the late `70s, early 1980s. I knew who David Wildstein was. I met him on the Tom Kean for governor campaign in 1977. He was a youth volunteer. So was I. Really after that time I completely lost touch with David. We didn`t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don`t know what David was doing during that period of time. I have had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time, a long time, well before the election. You know, I could probably count on one hand the number of conversations I`ve had with David since he worked at the Port Authority. I did not interact with David. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I did not interact with David. During the traffic jam, there is the governor interacting with David. Couple of months before the traffic jam, there, again, is the governor interacting with David. This is in June at another Port Authority event. In case you`re interested, the guy on the right, that`s David Samson, the Port Authority chairman. And the guy on the left, that`s Bill Baroni, the other guy who had to resign along with David Wildstein. But in the middle there, that is our hero Governor Chris Christie and, again, David Wildstein. The governor says he can count on one hand the number of times he`s interacted with David Wildstein since Mr. Wildstein was hired at the Port Authority back in 2010. Well, if Christie has the expected number of fingers, that would mean it only happened five times and, hey, there happens to be photographs available of two of those five times including one taken during the shutdown on September 11th. There`s something else going on, too, that does not jibe with how the governor has explained this scandal and his knowledge of it and his role in it. The day after this picture was taken of Chris Christie and David Wildstein together during the traffic jam on September 11th, the day after that, that was a Thursday, the day -- that was a Wednesday. The day after that was a Thursday which is while the shutdown was still going on. On Thursday, the day after that photo was taken, Thursday, this e-mail was sent between two people who work in governor Christie`s office, between two of his top staffers. Christina Genovese Reena. She`s the director of departmental relations for the state in New Jersey. I know, it`s obscure. A lot of people have job titles like that in New Jersey, it can be confusing. In this case, what it means is that she worked in the governor`s office and she reported to Bridget Kelly, who`s the governor`s deputy chief of staff who we now know is the person who ordered time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee to which David Wildstein responded, "Got it." So, during the shutdown, while it was still happening before the executive director of the authority intervened and forced them to stop doing what they were doing, Fort Lee was into its fourth day of gridlock because of this manmade shutdown. On that fourth day, on Thursday, Christina Renna wrote to Bridget Kelly this e-mail about the Fort Lee traffic disaster and the mayor of Fort Lee. "Dear Bridget: This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich. The mayor is extremely upset about the reduction of toll lanes from three to one. Not only is it causing horrendous traffic backup in town, but first responders are having a terrible time maneuvering the traffic because the backup is so severe. The mayor told Evan that he has no idea why Port Authority decided to do this but there is a feeling in tow that it is government retribution for something. He simply can`t understand why that would be the case, however, because he`s always been so supportive of the governor. Evan told the fine mayor, he was unaware that the toll lanes were closed but would see what he could find out." This is an e-mail during the bridge shutdown. It`s to Bridget Kelly who ordered the bridge shutdown. It is from Christina Renna who worked in the governor`s office. The Evan who was referenced in the e-mail we think is probably Evan Jay Ridley, who also worked in the governor`s office. Nobody seems to know what his exact job title is other than aide to the governor. Public payroll information shows that he worked in the governor`s office as an aide and gets paid $52,000 a year. Other than that, all we know is that he works in the governor`s office. All of them do. And that means that during the shutdown, three people who work in the governor`s office are e-mailing about the ongoing bridge lane shutdown and the disaster that it`s causing and the allegation that it is politically motivated. There is no discussion whatsoever about there being some traffic study which the governor says was the prevailing belief about what was happening with that bridge. And this was contemporaneous to the problem. This wasn`t long after the fact when there`s some newspaper article about it, in retrospect, that alerted everybody the fact that there had been some problem that`s now resolved. This was during the event. And that means that the governor has absolutely and blatantly not told the truth about what was going on in his office. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: What about the cover-up piece of this? CHRISTIE: Yes, well, that`s your characterization, not mine. But there`s nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this issue until after the issue was already done. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not true. Here`s the other part of this that makes no sense. Against the governor`s description of what happened here. And why nobody should believe that he was involved. Remember, Governor Christie`s defense, in part, is that this sort of thing, the shutdown of the bridge couldn`t have been done to punish the mayor of Fort Lee, because Governor Christie says he didn`t even know who the mayor of Fort Lee was. He couldn`t pick him out of a lineup. This guy was not on his radar. Pick your metaphor for I don`t know the guy. Governor Christie has insisted on him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: The other part of this that just shocks me is, as I said to you all many times before, Mayor Sokolich was never on my radar screen. I don`t remember ever 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. REPORTER: Did anyone say to you, the mayor of Fort Lee, he`s going with your opponent? CHRISTIE: He never -- his name was never mentioned to me. His position was never mentioned to me. I never heard the Fort Lee mayor`s name, Mark Sokolich, his name until all this stuff happened. So he was not on my radar screen at all. Plenty of other mayors were. I don`t know this guy. I mean, I don`t know this guy. I mean, I don`t know this guy. But I`m telling you, until yesterday when I saw his picture on TV, I wouldn`t - - if he walked in a room, I wouldn`t have been able to pick him out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s a big part of the governor`s defense. I`ve never heard of this guy. Nobody`s ever heard of this guy. Why would anybody bother to try to hurt this guy who nobody`s heard of in his town and nobody`s ever heard of? Right? But then look at the first line of this e-mail sent from two of the governor`s top staffers, while the shutdown was still under way. Look. "This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich," not Evan received a all from a mayor named Mark Sokolich from Fort Lee or from the mayor of Fort Lee, a man named Mark Sokolich. No, "This afternoon, Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich." No further explanation needed. And then look at this, in the same e-mail, it came from a number he was not familiar with that was actually a secretary who patched the mayor through to Evan. That`s the way the e-mail too Bridget Kelly starts. Essentially saying, hey, don`t be mad. Right? I`m really story to tell you evan took a call from mayor you know who. And then the closing line of the e-mail is this. "Evan told the fine mayor he was unaware the toll lanes were closed but see what he could find out." Now undoubtedly, Mayor Sokolich is a fine mayor. He`s very fine. I`m no expert. Fine. Why the snark, right? The fine -- why the fine mayor snark here? If this is some anonymous mayor who nobody in the governor`s office has ever heard of, why the implicit apology for having taken his call? Oh, Evan didn`t recognize the number. That`s the only reason he took it. The number was a secretary`s number. Implicitly, otherwise he would have known not to take the call. And in closing, this back handed fine mayor, like ah, this jerk complaining about the first responders not being able to get to people having heart attacks. The governor`s top staff were discussing the shutdown -- the effect of it, allegations of political retribution and the mayor of Fort Lee in provocative terms while the shutdown was still happening. Despite Governor Christie`s denials, it seems like something was going on between the governor`s office and that specific mayor. That specific man, lots of people who work directly for governor Christie and who work in the governor`s office and who are in the governor`s inner circle were in discussions about that shutdown while it was happening. Obviously, Bridget Kelly, the governor`s deputy chief of staff, the one who said, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Now, we also know Christina Renna, governor`s department of departmental relations who send sent the e-mail about the mayor to Bridget Kelly while the shutdown was still happening. We also know involved in the e-mail one of the governor`s aides, Evan J. Ridley. We also know the governor`s campaign manager, Bill Stepien. A few days after the shutdown, he wrote to David Wildstein, quote, "The mayor is an idiot," talking about the mayor of Fort Lee." Regina Egea, who was the director of the authorities unit. So, on Christie`s staff when the shutdown happened and next in line to be his chief of staff after the one that he had before is promoted to attorney general. The morning that the toll lanes were opened up again, she got sent the angry letter from the Port Authority executive director who reacted with fury when he figured out what was going on, saying he, quote, "believed the hasty and ill-advised decision violates federal law and the laws of both states." The governor`s soon to be chief of staff, Regina Egea, got that e-mail sent to her marked with high importance on the last morning of the shutdown as the lanes were finally being re-opened. The mayor`s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, just days after the shutdown, he`s fielding inquiries from reporters starting to call about it. When the Christie appointees at the Port Authority start to freak out about the press, this is how it goes. David Wildstein texts Bill Baroni, hey, "The Wall Street Journal" called my cell phone. Bill Baroni responds, "Jesus". Less than a minute later, "Call Drewniak." Call Drewniak, Governor Christie`s spokesman. The governor`s spokesman, the governor`s campaign manager, the governor`s chief of staff, his top two appointees at the Port Authority, an aide to the governor, governor`s new chief of staff, director of departmental relations, they`re all in the loop on this crisis while it`s still under way and immediately thereafter. (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: That is not true. Provably not true. Today, remarkably, the gods of timing blessed us with this. Governor Christie had to give his state of the state address in New Jersey today because it is the start of a new legislative session. His very first words in the state of the state address were about the scandal, even though he never described it directly. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: The last week has certainly tested this administration. Mistakes were clearly made. And as a result, we let down the people we`re entrusted to serve. I know our citizens serve deserve better, much better. I`m the governor. I`m ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch, both good and bad. Now, without a doubt, we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again. I also want to assure the people of New Jersey today that what has occurred does not define us or our state. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not to be blunt, but nobody thinks that shutting down that bridge as an act of political retaliation is something that defines the people of New Jersey. Nobody I know from New Jersey did that, except maybe Chris Christie, or at least the people who work for Chris Christie. This is an opposite of an "I feel your pain" moment. This is a "don`t you feel my pain" moment? I want to assure you this doesn`t define us? Nobody is worried about it defining anybody except you. We`ll see. Substantively, what the governor said there about the ongoing investigation into this matter may end up being important. What he said specifically, I`ll quote him directly was, quote, "We will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure this breach of trust does not happen again." Well, in order to make sure this does not happen again, we still need to know what happened here in the first place and why it happened and who did it. Whether or not the governor thinks that is an appropriate inquiry or not, that`s what he said, "We`ll cooperate with all appropriate inquiries," whether or not he thinks that inquiry is appropriate, it happening -- in an ongoing way in terms of a potential criminal investigation being looked into by the federal prosecutor in New Jersey but also aggressively in the New Jersey state legislature, both in the senate and in the assembly. Tomorrow, they`re going to convene to define and vote for the remit and the powers of these new investigative committees that they are putting on this scandal. Heading into that new phase of the investigation that starts tomorrow is the uncomfortable fact for Governor Chris Christie that his own assertions thus far about what he knew when, and who he was in contact with, and who was involved in his direct staff, all of those assertions are looking pretty wobbly at this point. New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, who`s at the front of this investigation and will continue to be so, joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I`m the governor. And I`m ultimately responsible for all that happens on my watch, both good and bad. Now, without a doubt, we will cooperate with all appropriate inquiries to ensure that this breach of trust does not happen again. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us now is New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He`s chairman of the investigation committee which is leading this in New Jersey thus far. Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for being here. ASSEMBLYMAN JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Rachel, good to be here. MADDOW: Governor Christie said today he would cooperate with all appropriate inquiries. Is that a change in attitude toward your investigation from the governor, or is that consistent with what he has said in the past? WISNIEWSKI: Well, he didn`t use the word "appropriate" when he made his apology the other day. And today he chose to use the word "appropriate." I certainly hope he considers the assembly committee an appropriate authority because we do consider ourselves that. That`s our job. And we`re going to be asking questions, and we`d expect his cooperation. If he went through the troubles of saying those words the other day and then again today, they ought to mean something. MADDOW: The assembly started its new session today. On Thursday, you`ll be convening, as I understand it, to make some votes and make some decisions about exactly what`s going to happen with the new committee that you`re going to be heading including the involvement of a special counsel. What`s going to happen on Thursday and what happens after that? WISNIEWSKI: We`re going to adopt a resolution. We`re going to create this new committee. This started in the Transportation Committee because we`re looking at the Port Authority and became much bigger an took us right into the governor`s office. And so, now, this investigation is more than just about the Port Authority. It`s about an abuse of power and attempt to conceal that abuse. It was appropriate to make the committee a little broader, widen its jurisdiction and also to bring in assistance to help us because the issues have become much more complicated. Instead of looking just simply at one agency and talking to the people in the agency, we`re now talking potentially into the governor`s office about people who work for the governor and other state agencies and so we wanted to make sure that we had the right type of legal counsel to make sure we`re making the right decisions, issuing our subpoenas in the correct fashion, making sure we`re not doing anything that would in some way unintentionally harm the investigation. MADDOW: This appointment of a special counsel seems like an important part of taking it to this next level that you`re about to start on Thursday. Can you tell us anything about who`s being considered for the special counsel job? And is it -- is their role limited to that kind of advice that you described there or would it have anything to with any potential prosecutions that might emerge out of the investigation? WISNIEWSKI: The assembly is not a prosecution agency. We`re a legislative body. So their role is not one of being a prosecutor. But what we are looking at are law firms and individuals who have the type of experience, who know about running investigations. People who have been involved, for instance, working in the U.S. attorney`s office or other federal investigative agencies, to make sure that we have the right type of guidance so that we make sure we`re making the right decisions. MADDOW: In terms of what`s going to happen next, obviously in the documentation that was released at the end of last week, a lot of people in the governor`s top-tier staff are mentioned directly in those e-mails. Those of us guessing where you`re going next are expecting subpoenas from people like Bridget Anne Kelly. Can you tell us if that`s the next step? WISNIEWSKI: There are going it to be subpoenas as early as Thursday. After the assembly meet, the committee meets then we`ll issue those subpoenas. And there are going to be subpoenas into the governor`s office. There`s going to be a lot of subpoenas. I don`t want to surprise people by telling them tonight. They`re going to be coming. And we`re going to be looking at figuring out where the chain of e-mails came from. I mean, you`ve pointed out, others have pointed out, you don`t get an e-mail "it`s time for traffic problems in Fort Lee" unless there was some discussion beforehand. Somebody higher than you made you believe you had the authority. Right now, we don`t know who that is. We`d like to find out. The way to find out is look at the documents that Bridget Kelly may have had, that Bill Stepien may have had. Did this come from the state Republican Party? Was the Republican Party of New Jersey directing operations of at least one person in the governor`s office? That would be stunning if proven. MADDOW: Have there been any orders to either the governor`s office or to the Republican Party or groups or individuals who may be involved, telling them not to destroy e-mails and communications related to this matter? I mean, I`m thinking if I was one of the staffers who got my name mentioned in one of the e-mails without orders not to do so, I`d be burning my hard drives. WISNIEWSKI: I understand that. And that`s one of the things -- one of the reasons we`re bringing on special counsel to make sure we have the right kind of advice and those type of notices go out to all potential targets of our investigation. This is going to be a lot larger than it had been. And we`re going to be looking at all of the relevant and realistic leads to find where all these questions go to. MADDOW: In terms of the senate also looking into this. Senator Loretta Weinberg is going to be with us in just a moment talking about the Senate now taking up their own committee which will also have subpoena power. They`re also pursuing it on that side of the legislature. Is that a competing body? Do you expect you guys will work in a way that dovetails? WISNIEWSKI: Well, I hope we can collaborate and work together. Senator Weinberg and I have been working jointly, even though it`s in an unofficial capacity. It`s an assembly committee investigation. I`ve included her every step of the way as we`ve gone through the investigation. I`d like to continue that process as we move forward. MADDOW: All right. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the chairman of the Transportation Committee, soon to be heading up the assembly`s supercommittee on this investigation in New Jersey -- thank you for your time tonight. As always, please keep us posted. WISNIEWSKI: I will, Rachel. MADDOW: Still moving fast. All right. Lots more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We`ve got more on the New Jersey bridge scandal and some other news coming up. The excellent Frank Rich is here tonight. But there`s also some late breaking news tonight out of the very red state of Oklahoma. A federal district court judge in Oklahoma tonight has ruled that that state`s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional under federal law. The judge calling it, quote, "an arbitrary irrational exclusion of just one class of Oklahoma citizens from a governmental benefit." Last month, when a similar ruling struck down the marriage ban in Utah, the collective response nationally was basically, oh my God, Utah! Utah is the reddest state in the nation. Not true, as it turns out. I mean, Utah is a really, really, really red state. Really red. But, you know, what`s redder than Utah? Oklahoma. And now as of tonight, these are the two most recent states to have their gay marriage bans struck down in the courts. The Oklahoma ruling did not allow couples to start getting married in Oklahoma right away tonight, the way it worked in Utah, but the Oklahoma ban is struck down now, pending appeal. As we learn more, we will let you know. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. LOUIS GREENWALD (D-NJ), MAJORITY LEADER: We know everybody`s fascinated by bridge-gate. I know that the reality is that I think we`d all like to go to the last chapter of the book and read what is the conclusion here. That`s not responsible. There needs to be a methodical and systemic approach to this. STATE REP. VINCENT PRIETO (D-NJ), ASSEMBLY SPEAKER: This has become more than a transportation issue. It`s now gone beyond that, and I want to ensure that we give all the tools and resources to this committee to actually be able to leave no stone unturned. STATE SEN. STEPHEN SWEENEY (D-NJ), SENATE PRESIDENT: We need to be thorough. We need to have every question answered. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That last person speaking there was the New Jersey senate president speaking today. Right after governor Chris Christie`s awkwardly timed State of the State address. So far, it`s the state assembly taking the lead on this investigation in part because they happen to have subpoena authority left over from a different investigation into the Port Authority. But on Thursday, not only will the assembly expand its investigation and extend its subpoena power. On Thursday, the state senate will also be launching its own investigating committee which will also have subpoena power. Senate committee will be headed by the Democratic majority leader Loretta Weinberg, who has been on this issue since the very beginning, who has been going to Port Authority meetings since the crisis, trying to figure out what went wrong here and who represents a district that includes Fort Lee, New Jersey. New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, thanks very much for being here. STATE SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Governor Christie addressed the controversy at the beginning of his State of the State speech today, saying he will cooperate but essentially he wants to move on. As you`re taking this new leadership role investigating this, what do you want from the governor? WEINBERG: The truth. We would like the gaps in the story filled in. I don`t think anybody in New Jersey politics, anybody who has any peripheral knowledge of this thinks that Bridget Anne Kelly sat in her office one day and said, I`m going to create a traffic jam in Fort Lee. That came in the context of something, in the context of some reason for doing it. You know, this is part of a pattern of an environment of retribution, of calling people names. But this was carried to a point of, you know, I`ve described it really as a vicious act. We put thousands and thousands of people in jeopardy. You think they were little kids, kindergarteners and first graders going to school on the first day caught in traffic jams. It`s the week of the 9/11 observance. Apparently, from what we`ve seen in some of the press reports today, the governor and two of the main characters in this drama, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni, spent some part of 9/11 together at an observance. Perhaps they never whispered to him, gee, there`s something going on in Fort Lee? The mayor is upset, the people are upset. There`s a major traffic jam? Nobody ever exchanged any words? What I want from the governor is what I think the people of New Jersey want and deserve. MADDOW: As you -- WEINBERG: And that is the truth. MADDOW: As you are starting this new investigation, obviously you have worked closely with and seem to have a good relationship with Assemblyman Wisniewski who has been running this investigation on the assembly side. Now, you will both with running parallel investigations. How do you expect to use that to maximum benefit and not get in each other way`s way? WEINBERG: Well, we haven`t gotten in each other`s way thus far. MADDOW: Yes. WEINBERG: When I started going to the Port Authority meetings, I actually brought up with them, if, since you`re not forthcoming, I`m going to ask for subpoena power, and having forgotten that the assembly transportation committee, as you well pointed out, had subpoena power from a prior -- it actually came from the toll hikes. So, when Assemblyman Wisniewski and I talked about this, he said, I have subpoena power. I said, use it, let`s get moving and see what the new legislative session brings. I hope -- I have full confidence that we are going to coordinate. We`ll try to coordinate our schedules, our witness subpoenas. And I talked to leadership about that today, leadership in both houses. And I look forward to continuing working with him and to really be an asset to each other. MADDOW: In terms of coordinating the subpoenas, does that mean we should expect a different subpoena list in terms of subpoena targets from your committee and from his? WEINBERG: No, because I think we have many of the same people are involved. MADDOW: Right. WEINBERG: But perhaps dividing up how we`re going to use the subpoenas, what days we call people, that sort of thing. MADDOW: New Jersey Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg who has been involved in this from the very beginning and about to take a big new leadership role here -- thank you for your time tonight. Please stay in touch about this. WEINBERG: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Apparently even when an administration is knee deep in scandal, there`s always still time for name calling. "New York" magazine`s Frank Rich joins us straight ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is the Meldahl Locks and Dam along the Ohio River, about 30 miles east of Cincinnati. It`s apparently great fishing in the Meldahl pool at this point in the Ohio River. It`s clean. There are a lot of different fish there. A lot of people fly fish there. At least it used to be good fishing there. One of the rivers that spills into the Ohio River is the Elk River in West Virginia. The Elk River, of course, is nationally famous now because its home to the massive chemical leak that contaminated the drinking water 300,000 people in nine West Virginia counties. The Elk River flows into the Kanawha River and flows into the Ohio River and it`s all just downstream. Well, some West Virginia residents are finally starting to get their water back on off a five day do-not-use order. Their chemical spill is no longer West Virginia`s own. A 60-mile chemical plume of contaminated water that started in the Elk River in West Virginia is now starting to drift downstream into Ohio and Kentucky and is drifting toward Indiana. Today, the Ohio River water valley sanitation commission reported that the chemical spill has reached the Meldahl Locks and Dam. The chemical licoricey smell is now in Ohio and it is still moving. As the slurry closed in on Cincinnati, Ohio`s third largest city, the mayor there is preparing to shut down the city`s water valves along the Ohio River tonight for 48 hours, starts tonight. Trying to keep what happened in West Virginia from happening in Cincinnati, too. A federal investigation into this ongoing disaster is now under way. Members of Congress have started calling for a regulatory hearing to figure out how this could have happened. But you know who`s not calling for a regulatory hearing? The most prominent member of Congress whose district includes parts of greater Cincinnati. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I am entirely confident that there are ample regulations already on the books to protect the health and safety of the American people. Somebody ought to be held accountable here. What we try to do is look at those regulations that we think are cumbersome, are over the top, and that are costing our economy jobs. That`s where our focus continues to be. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: House Speaker John Boehner being asked about the spill today. He represents the Cincinnati suburbs where the water valves on the Ohio River are being shut tonight to try to protect that city from a 60-mile chemical plume that is about to hit them. But he says he is confident that there are ample regulations to protect American people in instances like this -- probably in his estimation, too many regulations if you really think about it. That chemical storage facility that leaked this chemical into the Elk River, it had not been inspected in decades. Turns out, West Virginia law doesn`t require inspections for chemical storage facilities, at all. If you are making chemicals, yes, sure, then you get inspected. If you`re storing them in West Virginia like these guys were, go nuts, you`re on your own. One local official telling "Charleston Gazette" today there was no local planning at all for a spill at this facility. Quote, "That`s just something that`s kind of fallen by the wayside", he said. And so, it took five days to get the water back on for some of the people in West Virginia, and hundreds of people reported getting sick from that chemical. And now the water is almost back on in Charleston. But that chemical plume that crippled that part of West Virginia is now on its way downstream to Ohio and to Kentucky and to Indiana. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: One of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s challenges in escaping the scandal of the intentional punitive 2013 traffic jam in Fort Lee, New Jersey, is that as incredible and over the top as this thing seems, messing with the busiest bridge in the world to punish a small town mayor, as crazy as that is, the Chris Christie and his administration have a long record of behaving that way -- of using over the top retribution to settle even tiny political scores. There was the Rutgers professor who made the mistake of siding with the Democrats over the Republicans on their redistricting maps. Chris Christie line item vetoed the funding for the professor`s program at Rutgers in retribution. There was the former Governor Richard Codey who blocked a couple of Chris Christie nominees. The governor responded by stripping Mr. Codey of his state trooper protection, which is something that all former governors have always had in New Jersey. And then on the same day, he fired Mr. Codey`s cousin and he fired one of Mr. Codey`s former staffers who were both working for state agencies. He did all of that on the same day. Message received? In Jersey City, in the second largest city in New Jersey, a day-long slate of meetings with state officials and Chris Christie cabinet officials, up to and including the state treasurer, a day-long schedule, painstakingly pieced together over the course of weeks and months by the governor`s office to try to help out Jersey City and its newly elected mayor, that whole plan, every single one of those meetings, canceled as soon as that mayor said he was not going to endorse Chris Christie in his re-election bid. This is what they do. This is what governing means if Chris Christie is the governor in charge of where you live, which is part of why the otherwise ridiculous, impossible to believe bridge scandal has not gone away. Well, in the midst of that ongoing bridge scandal, the e-mails showing what happened in Jersey City, that retribution and the documentation about it, those e-mails were released yesterday by Jersey City in response to an opens record request. Today, in the midst of the bridge scandal, on the day that Governor Christie had to give his state of the state address, today, Governor Christie`s office responded to those Jersey City documents. And this honestly, this is my favorite development in the story all day long. This may tell you whether or not Chris Christie survives this scandal and outlives this crisis. Look at how his spokesman responded. Again, these e-mails show clearly that as soon as the endorsement message went to the governor`s office, all of that help for Jersey City was outer loop yanked immediately. And in most cases it was within the hour that the mayor said he would not endorse. They yanked all the meetings. But when Governor Chris Christie`s spokesman responded to that today, he offered no explanation. No alternate explanation whatsoever for what happened here. Did you, in fact, yank all that help you had previously been offering for New Jersey`s second largest city for not endorsing the governor for re- election? Did you do that? This was the governor spokesman`s response today. Quote, "Mayor Fulop`s words and actions must be viewed through the lens of partisan politics, and his attempt to advance his own personal agenda." When in doubt attack! Even when you`re caught, attack! Even when you`re caught dead to rights in print doing exactly what you said you would never do -- attack, attack, attack, attack, attack, attack. God, I love this story. Joining us now is Frank Rich, "New York" magazine writer-at-large. Frank, thanks for being here. FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Great to be here, as always. MADDOW: In the big picture, does it help or hurt Governor Christie that the behavior in this scandal, shutting down the bridge, right, is almost too outrageous to believe? That what is now proven to have happened here is almost unbelievable. Does that help him in a way? RICH: I don`t think it does, because the pattern that you mentioned, there`s such a pattern of other stuff beyond the so-called bridge-gate that you know it`s going to come up in the wash. It`s going to come out in the wash. One thing that`s been sort of forgotten in all of this is that Mitt Romney vetted this guy to be his vice presidential running mate. There was a lot of pressure on Romney from the Eastern establishment to use him. He was a favorite of Rupert Murdoch`s, of Roger Ailes. And he didn`t, because he saw something in that vetting process that made him, and let`s face it, Romney did a lot of reckless things during his campaign, back away from this guy. So I feel probably we`re going to find that the George Washington Bridge is just sort of a loss leader for whatever else is going to turn up. MADDOW: It will be interesting to see if there are criminal charges here, and those criminal charges might have to be state charges and that brings the issue of who will bring the state charges. This will be fascinating to see. But if this takes a take a turn towards the criminal, and it seems like the alleged behavior, or documented behavior that is alleged to have been directed for political reasons, it seems pretty clear that someone is going to have to be prosecuted. If that ends up taking Chris Christie off the table politically entirely, will the message here just be, Chris Christie turns out he was a bad egg? Or will it be a message about this kind of governing more broadly? RICH: Well, probably it will be about this kind of governing more broadly. And look, we had an example on this side of the river with Giuliani, that he tolerated Bernie Kerik, who ultimately went to jail. He recommended him to the biggest security job in the United States at a time -- MADDOW: Homeland Security secretary, that`s right. RICH: Because he was a crony, it was covered up. He had a pad above Ground Zero. After 9/11, Kerik did. So it always comes out badly. It`s interesting to me that Giuliani was one of the few Republicans who rushed to Christie`s defense over the weekend. But this kind of -- you know, there`s always a comeuppance. Go back to Tammany Hall. Go back to Jimmy Walker, mayor of New York. Go back to things have happened in many states in the country. This kind of thing usually explodes in the end. MADDOW: I find this saga in New Jersey to be fascinating, even totally independent of Chris Christie`s presidential hopes. And he does clearly want to run for president. He does seem like, at least before all this happened, the Republican other than Rand Paul most likely to run for president. But a lot of national discussion about it, as the national press sort of picked it up belatedly has been asserting kind of breezily that Chris Christie was not just going to run, but that he was the likely nominee. That both doesn`t seem important to this scandal, but I also am not sure that I believe that. Do you think that`s true? RICH: I never believed it. I felt that the Republican base loathes him. His positions, it may seem strange to us, but are actually to the left of the current Republican Party on gun control, on immigration reform. He embraced Barack Obama after Sandy. MADDOW: Literally. RICH: Literally. MADDOW: The hug, the toxic hug. RICH: The toxic hug. And if you listen to right wing media, not FOX which is in Christie`s camp. But if you listen to the, you know, the radio shock jocks and all of them during the Republican convention after Christie spoke, they don`t like him. He`s not invited to conservative groups to speak. They like Rand Paul better, they like Ted Cruz better. So I never understood, no matter how much support he got from what`s left of sort of moderate conservative Northeastern establishment Republican support, how he was going to win the nomination of that party. MADDOW: So maybe it is fitting that Giuliani was out as his surrogate this past weekend defending him because he`s sort of playing the Giuliani role that Giuliani played in 2008 where all the media assumed he would be the nominee and when actual Republican voters came face to face with him, they had no interest. RICH: That`s right. Remember, it was going to be a Rudy-Hillary race. MADDOW: That`s right. The Murdoch-FOX connection I think is very interesting, because even when the northeastern elites like somebody and the base doesn`t, that`s a different dynamic than when FOX News likes somebody and the base doesn`t. Do you see evidence of Murdoch and Ailes and FOX News more broadly sticking by Christie and trying to help him through this process? Will that make a difference? RICH: Well, it was an interesting split. I think there is some evidence on FOX News, Bill O`Reilly and others. And that reflects Roger Ailes. But "The New York Post" turned savage last week on Christie. And "The Wall Street Journal" reporting on Christie has become pretty aggressive. So I`m not so sure they`re 100 percent, whatever FOX News says about it. MADDOW: When I was reading through the thousands of pages that came out in the exhibits on Friday. It kept saying "Wall Street Journal" reporter Ted Mann, "Wall Street Journal" reporter Ted Mann, "Wall Street Journal" reporter Ted Mann, just throughout the documents, doggedly pursuing the story. I couldn`t help but think how uncomfortable that must have been in the editorial department of "The Wall Street Journal," let alone the masthead. Frank Rich, "New York" magazine writer at large, thanks for your time tonight. I know you`re busy with tons of veep stuff and every else right now. Frank, it`s nice to have you here. RICH: Nice to be here. MADDOW: All right. That does it again for us tonight. We`re going to see you again tomorrow night. I`ve got to tell you, what`s happening right now is that this scandal in New Jersey is broadening into a bigger problem that is affecting state Republican parties. The National Republican Party has just made a decision based on that. And we`re going to have that report for you tomorrow night. Stay with us. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END