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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 01/16/14

Guests: Lou Greenwald

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Thank you very much, Chris. If I ever had to be on time, I`m not sure what I would do. So, I don`t want to start this system where there`s like accountability for that, OK? CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: All right. Fair deal. MADDOW: I don`t care. All right. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Boy, there`s a lot going on. Right now at this hour, across the state of New Jersey, the players in the Chris Christie bridge-lane shutdown scandal are waiting for a knock at the door. Right now. We do not know exactly who is being served with subpoenas tonight. The state assembly said today that they will not release the names of the people who they are subpoenaing until those people have been served. They`ve been individually, personally handed their subpoenas in print in person. Once that happens, though, once that I been served, we are expecting to get their names, the list of names. We`re told to expect new subpoenas for roughly 17 individuals in the state of New Jersey tonight and three entities. And by entities, that means organizations. We`re told to expect that that may mean political organizations or campaigns. We`re told that they are about to get served tonight as well as those individual people. Now, why would political organizations get subpoenas in this sandal? Well, when the governor`s deputy chief of staff apparently ordered, quote, "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, if, in fact, those traffic problems in Fort Lee were ordered up for political reasons, if Fort Lee was purposely gridlocked as a way of trying to hurt someone politically or as a way of trying to help someone politically, then it makes sense that political campaigns, political organizations, maybe even political parties might be getting a knock on the door tonight as well in New Jersey, along with everybody else from the governor`s staff or the Port Authority, who we know was involved. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: As you saw, the committee met today and adopted its operational resolution, and -- which gave the chair the ability to issue subpoenas. We discussed an executive session the names and the organizations that will be receiving those subpoenas. I know the question you all have is, so, who`s getting them? We`re not going to tell you. The reason is, is that -- and I`ve said this before, I don`t think it`s fair for people to find out because of your reporting that they`re going to receive a subpoena. We`d like to get them served first and as soon as the subpoenas are served, we`ll make it known who the individuals were and make the text of the subpoena available to all of you. There are about 20 subpoenas. They are to individuals and organizations and I`ll answer your questions. REPORTER: Can you tell us how many individuals and how many (INAUDIBLE)? WISNIEWSKI: I`ll give you a rough breakdown. I think it`s about 17 individuals and about three organizations. Yes, sure? REPORTER: Can you say anything about where people are located? Presumably inside the Port Authority, inside the governor`s office? WISNIEWSKI: I don`t want to get too specific. I mean, they`re all in New Jersey. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: One legislative source involved with the assembly`s investigation tells NBC News that the assembly had originally planned just to subpoena Bridget Anne Kelly, Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff who ordered the shutdown, and Bill Stepien who is the governor`s campaign manager for his reelection effort. You`ll recall that he turns up in internal e-mails that have been released thus far, calling the mayor of Fort Lee, quote, "an idiot". Governor Christie has already fired both of these people who you see on their screen here, and scuttled Bill Stepien`s appointment to become the new head of the Republican Party in New Jersey. And apparently, the initial plan from the assembly, though, was just to subpoena those two people. Now, though, the assembly is getting some expert advice from the former federal prosecutor who put Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich in prison for corruption. That gentleman there, Reid Schar, is now the special counsel who`s assisting the assembly in its investigation. And a source involved in that investigation tonight tells NBC News that it was the advice of the new special counsel that caused the assembly to lengthen its subpoena list from just two, from just :Bridget Anne Kelly and Bill Stepien, to instead the 17 people and three entities of some kind who are getting served their papers tonight. The source telling NBC`s Michael Isikoff, quote, "That`s what happens when you talk to somebody who knows how to do one of these investigations," end quote. So, by the end of the hour tonight, by the end of the night, we may know who is on that long list of subpoenas from the assembly. As of right now we do not know and we are trying to find out. We do, however, have a different subpoena list, and it`s also new. We do today have the subpoena list from the New Jersey state senate. They have issued their first three subpoenas, or at least announce what they will be. And it turns out it`s a really interesting short list. Number one on the list is David Sampson. David Sampson headed up Chris Christie`s transition team when Chris Christie first became governor of New Jersey. Here he is with Governor Christie last June. The other two people in this picture are David Wildstein, who orchestrated the shutdown of the bridge that gridlocked Fort Lee. Also, Bill Baroni who lied to the state assembly about it and told them it was for a traffic study. Both of those men seen there with Governor Christie have already resigned because of the scandal. David Samson has not and says he will not. David Samson is the head of the Port Authority. He`s the chairman. He was appointed to that job by Chris Christie, as Chris Christie`s top political appointee. We`ve reported on this show about how some of David Samson`s behavior surrounding the shutdown remains unexplained and in some cases, a little bit odd. Probably the most odd is the contrast in David Samson`s public behavior concerning this traffic disaster, the one in Fort Lee, which we now know was man-made and apparently engineered for political purposes, the contrast between his behavior surrounding that shutdown and a similar traffic disaster that happened on another bridge back in 2011 on Easter Sunday. That traffic jam was also caused by the Port Authority by a shortage of toll takers in that case. But there does not seem to be any indication that one was done on purpose. That it was politically motivated. Well, when that traffic disaster happened on Easter Sunday 2011, David Samson, as Port Authority chairman, was publicly furious about it and very vocal, telling the press, quote, "We consider this unacceptable. We`ve got Mother`s Day coming up. We`ve got Memorial Day coming up. We`ve got the Fourth of July. It is unthinkable we would have these problems." David Samson has a history of being really vocal and really mad when the Port Authority causes traffic jams. But on this one in Fort Lee, that lasted for more than four days, it was the first week of school, it included the anniversary of 9/11, this one, he made no public comment, no demands for apology, no visible anger whatsoever. Internally, the only thing that made him mad about the Fort Lee disaster was that somebody blew the whistle on it, that the executive director of the agency talked. David Samson wrote to his vice chairman with what he says was confirmed evidence of executive director Pat Foye being the leak, stirring up trouble, he said. He`s playing in traffic, made a big mistake. The architect of the bridge shutdown, David Wildstein, also at one point brags to Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff that David Sampson is, quote, helping to retaliate against the forces that got Fort Lee`s bridge lanes opened back up again on the fifth day of what had been that disaster. So, David Samson, essentially a political godfather to Chris Christie, former attorney general of the state of New Jersey, partner in one of the most powerful and connected law firms in the state of New Jersey, he is being subpoenaed tonight from the New Jersey state senate. That`s one. The second one of their subpoenas is going to Regina Egea, who was Chris Christie`s incoming chief of staff and who was his director overseeing authorities, like the Port Authority, at the time of the bridge shutdown. The morning that the lanes were finally opening up again, she got sent the angry letter from the Port Authority executive director that said he was going to get those lanes opened up again. And that said he, quote, "believe this hasty and ill-advised decision violates federal laws and the laws of both states." Regina Egea, Governor Christie`s soon-to-be chief of staff was sent that letter marked "high importance" on the last morning of the shutdown. She too has just been subpoenaed by the New Jersey state senate. That`s two of the three. But then there`s the third one which is the -- as far as I`m concerned, at least before tonight, before I started figuring it out, seemed to be the total wild card. It`s this guy, who before this, was an unfamiliar character in this play. His name is Pat Schuber -- William Pat Schuber. He`s one of the commissioners that Chris Christie appointed to the Port Authority. He has not been high profile player in the story until now, until he was the third of three subpoenas from the Senate tonight, until he got subpoenaed alongside the former New Jersey attorney general and the governor`s incoming chief of staff. Pat Schuber used to be the mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, which looks like Bogota, but it`s New Jersey. So, it`s Bogota, like Bogota. Mr. Schuber then went on to become the county executive in the country where Fort Lee, New Jersey, is located. Do you remember that weird detail about David Wildstein? The weird detail about how the guy who ordered the bridge shutdown used to be an anonymous blogger? Remember this? Before Chris Christie became governor and David Wildstein got himself appointed to that sweet job at the Port Authority that paid him 150 grand and it had no job description. Before that, David Wildstein`s job had been running a New Jersey politics blog for years, but he did it anonymously. Nobody knew who he was. He blogged under a pseudonym that was Wally Edge. Well, here`s Wall Edge, aka, David Wildstein, aka, the guy who shut down the bridge, touting Pat Schuber in 2009 as somebody who would be a great choice for gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie to pick as his running mate. Ha. Interesting, Chris Christie did not pick Pat Schuber to be his lieutenant governor candidate, but he did pick him to be a commissioner of the Port Authority. And when little Fort Lee this past fall, found itself gridlocked to death. By the shutdown of those lanes on the George Washington Bridge, the state center who represents Fort Lee picked that commissioner, picked the guy who was the county executive for that county, as the commissioner that she wanted to complain to. She picked him as the person she was going to ask for help in figuring out what had gone wrong and hurt Fort Lee, New Jersey, and Bergen County, New Jersey, so badly. She wrote to him, "Dear Commissioner Schuber, I am at a loss for words regarding the authority`s sudden change in the traffic flow patterns to the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee. Reducing the number of lanes during peak time has caused significant hardship for many in the area. I`m disappointed by the authority`s response. But on a personal level, I`m disappointed in your lack of advocacy. On behalf of the residents of Bergen County, when you were confirmed before the Senate you stated both privately and publicly that you were going to be the voice for Bergen County residents to the authority. Sadly, at least based on your public actions, this does not appear to me to be the case." Blistering letter, blistering letter from an old political foe. Loretta Weinberg had run against him and he had won. But still, even though he`s a Republican, even though they had fought for that job, she voted for him when he came up to the senate, and she wrote to him for help when Bergen County need help and needed explanation. Senator Weinberg sent that blistering letter. She said she got a call back from commissioner Schuber saying he`d look into what happened and then he`d get back to her, but that was it. She never heard back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE SEN. LORETTA WEINBERG (D), NEW JERSEY: Personal comment, Commissioner Schuber, I also voted on your nomination, with great pride, on the fact that you were going to speak out and speak up for Bergen County residents. You gave me a promise that you will get to the bottom of this. And I`m still waiting. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was in November at a Port Authority meeting. You said you would look into it. You said you would get back to me, I`m still waiting. That was November. As of last week, Senator Weinberg was still trying to get an answer out of this guy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WEINBERG: I wrote a personal letter in mid-September to Commissioner Pat Schuber who I voted for. I wrote to Pat Schuber. He`s a former county executive of Bergen County. So, I knew that he knew Bergen County. He knew the implications of the bridge. When he received my letter in mid-September, he did call me. And he said, I don`t know anything about this, but I`m going to get to the bottom of it. Well, I still haven`t heard from Pat Schuber. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I still haven`t heard from Pat Schuber. He said he would figure it out and get back to her back in September. She still hadn`t heard by November, still hadn`t heard by last week. And so, now, tonight, subpoena. Now by law, he will be getting back to her and to the New Jersey state senate. This is really interesting now. This is what else we do know. It turns out that while Senator Weinberg was waiting for a response from Pat Schuber, he did draft a response to her -- or rather, he had one drafted. He had a written response to the senator`s questions about the bridge shutdown, drafted for him by the guy who shut down the bridge. What? What on earth was David Wildstein doing drafting the commissioner`s response to questions about shutting down the bridge? David Wildstein wasn`t a communications guy. He wasn`t like legislative affairs or some such nonsense at the Port Authority. He was the guy with no job description, whose title said he was in charge of interstate capital projects and who happens to be the guy who secretly shut down those bridge lanes on orders from Governor`s Chris Christie`s office. Why would a commissioner of the Port Authority ask that guy specifically to draft his written response when a member of the New Jersey Senate started asking questions about what happened? Why him? Did everybody know who the guy was who shut down the bridge? Did everybody know to shut up? Shut up about it and just let that guy handle the questions? I mean, if the cover story is that nobody knew anything, then how did everybody know to call David Wildstein on this matter? Ultimately, Pat Schuber decided not to send David Wildstein`s draft response to Loretta Weinberg or anything else by way of explanation, and so, Loretta Weinberg is still waiting for her answers. But now, armed with subpoena authority, she is about to get them. Today, Bridget Anne Kelly, who is the person who appears to have ordered the shutdown from the governor`s office, she said that she has secured legal counsel for herself, hiring a prominent New Jersey law firm to represent her in these matters. Today, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also secured legal representation for himself, hiring a former deputy U.S. attorney who specializes in organized crime. Meanwhile, the governor himself is reportedly still planning to travel to Florida tomorrow where he will be doing fund raising events for candidates including Florida Governor Rick Scott. On this trip, though, conspicuously, Governor Christie will not make a single joint public appearance with Rick Scott. And in fact, Governor Christie will not make a single appearance on this trip to Florida that is open to the public at all. This is going to be closed-doors only. Joining us now is Assemblyman Lou Greenwald. He`s the majority leader in the New Jersey state assembly, which means he is the top Democrat in the assembly. He`s also a member of the newly created select committee on investigations. Mr. Majority Leader, thank you for being here. STATE REP. LOU GREENWALD (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you for having me. MADDOW: "The Bergen Record", I have to ask you this tonight, because this is late breaking. Actually, they`re reporting tonight based on a single source that the subpoenas issued by your committee today include Bridget Anne Kelly and the governor`s spokesman Michael Drewniak and campaign manager Bill Stepien. Can you elaborate on that at all or tell us if that reporting is accurate? GREENWALD: Well, I can tell you lone source is not accurate based on what I heard the first 15 minutes of your show. And the assembly committee that we formed and the leadership group, Speaker Vinny Prieto was on your show yesterday, myself and the chairman, John Wisniewski, had a list much longer than three people. MADDOW: OK. GREENWALD: We have used our special counsel, though, to determine who else should be added to that list, maybe some of these organizations as well that you referenced earlier and you heard the chairman speak about in your show earlier on your show today. And the reality is, it`s as important who you subpoena and the order in which they receive the subpoenas and when they come in to testify, to make sure this investigation is done properly and methodically. And in a deliberate way that at the same time, our goal is to do this in swift fashion, not to drag this on longer than necessary. MADDOW: So everybody has an interest in figuring out the scope of the interest, who may be implicated or who can give useful information, at least who you believe can give useful information. But as far as you`re concerned, we got to wait until there`s a formal announcement. There`s no reason to speculate on this. GREENWALD: You know, Rachel, I think the viewers, unfortunately because of past actions of U.S. attorneys like Chris Christie when they were there, the subpoena was almost used as a hammer of criminal indictment. And the reality is, as a lawyer, subpoenas are an investigative tool for discovery. The people we`ve sent these subpoenas to, they may not have done anything wrong. We don`t know if they have not done anything wrong. We`re not saying they`ve done anything wrong. But we want to find out what they know, because we know one thing for sure, there was an egregious abuse of power, unlike anything that I`ve seen in my 18 years in the state legislature. We want to know how deep that abuse was and ultimately what was the root of that abuse of power. We believe by going through this process in a methodical fashion and systematic fashion, we will find that answer. MADDOW: I asked Assemblyman Wisniewski this question as well and he didn`t have an answer for me on it. I wonder with your background as a lawyer -- he`s a lawyer too, but maybe you have a different perspective on it. That is, about the issue of destruction of documents and destruction of e-mail chains and text messages and things like that, in the way that this has unfolded, and we have been reporting on this since back in December. It sort trickled out and then became a flood. If I were one of the people who had been involved in this in any way, particularly if I had something damning or something that was going to get my boss in trouble, I would have burned my hard drives, I would have thrown everything away, I would have done anything I could to destroy evidence at this point. Are you confident that that hasn`t happened? And do you have sort of the forensic power to unearth that stuff if people did try to destroy documents? GREENWALD: Well, I can tell you from my background in dealing with certain people who have been involved in situations like that, from an investigatory standpoint, short of them throwing it in the Hudson River and us not finding it, we`d be able to piece that back together. So people that think they`re going to destroy evidence, I would urge them -- I would urge them beyond anything that I could think of not to do so. It`s the cover-up that gets you in trouble far more than any involvement you think you have in this. And the reality is, if someone has some knowledge that they know, I would encourage them to reach out to the committee. Someone is out there and they think they know something or they have an e-mail that was sent to them, or they were copied on the e-mail, but they didn`t have any involvement with this, they should come forward and start to share that information, because the more we know, the sooner we know it, the better it will be for New Jersey and the better it will be for this whole investigation. MADDOW: The remit of the investigation and the assembly, it`s a two- year horizon in terms of the authority of the committee. I don`t know if anybody expects it to go on for two years. Are you worried about that getting in the way of the other work the legislature needs to do, but also the prospect that some of these investigations might get in the way of each other. Senate has got their investigation. They`ve announced some of their subpoenas. The assembly is obviously moving forward in a similar way. U.S. attorney has opened an inquiry but not an investigation at this point. The Port Authority inspector general is looking into this. There`s been interesting on the federal government. Are you worried about overlapping -- too many cooks in the kitchen? GREENWALD: There are a lot of people asking questions, obviously. So that`s a sign that people want to know. The two-year cycle, let`s touch on that briefly. The two-year cycle is because our elected office is for two years. We just went it and had our reorganization and the new legislative body took place this Tuesday. So, we`ve covered it for two years. We certainly hope and we certainly don`t believe that this will take two years. The concern of the overlap is why we spent the time, speaker and myself and Chairman Wisniewski really searching for the right law firm, and we believe in Reid Schar. We have an outstanding attorney that we believe is the best in the country, that will help coordinate these investigations with the other questioning bodies, and also make sure we don`t trample upon any investigation being done by the U.S. attorney`s office or the attorney general`s office in New Jersey themselves. Our goal will believe to work hand in hand with the Senate. We do it all the time. We do it during the budget cycle. The most important thing we do is obviously prepare the budget. We have two budget committees, one in the Senate, one in the assembly. They interview the same commissioners, talk to the same people, they hear from the same residents and advocacy groups in the state of New Jersey, and we work in conjuncture in order to put a budget together for the state of New Jersey. I don`t think this will be different. The reality is, from the state assembly stand point, much like you, we`ve been working on this for months. We were in a process of hiring an attorney last week and through the weekend. It was only in the beginning of this week that the Senate indicated they were going to move forward with an investigative review of this. We welcome them to that conversation and we look forward to working with them hand in hand. MADDOW: Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, who`s the New Jersey assembly majority leader, top Democrat in the assembly -- thank you for helping us understand this. And as this moves forward, both in your leadership role and on this committee specifically, I hope you`ll keep us apprised. GREENWALD: Be happy to. Thank you for having me tonight. MADDOW: Sure. Thanks. All right, turns out that Rudy Giuliani fits into this whole thing in a really unexpected way. Seriously. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie today traveled to Manahawkin, New Jersey. Manahawkin is so teeny tiny that it`s not even really officially a town. Officially speaking, Manahawkin is a census designated place on the Jersey shore. Governor Christie went there today to meet with people whose lives are still turned upside down after Hurricane Sandy. He meant to make the trip on January 8th, but that day, "The Bergen Record" published 22 pages of email showing the tendrils of the bridgegate scandal reached into the governor`s administration and Mr. Christie canceled all his public appearances that day, including the one in Manahawkin. Today, though, he finally was able to reschedule that visit. So, on the one hand, this is Governor Christie getting back to governor business as usual. On the other hand, Governor Christie said something today that was really, really, really unusual. Unusual. Very unusual for him. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You asked me, and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years. (APPLAUSE) And no one, I can assure you, ever told me or anybody on my team that it was going to be easy. Hadn`t been up to this point. And there`s all kinds of challenges, as you know that come every day, out of nowhere, to test you. But I want to assure the people of New Jersey of one thing -- I was born here, I was raised here, I`m raising my family here, and this is where I intend to spend the rest of my life. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not at all the way that Governor Chris Christie has talked recently about his immediate, next few years` plans. Not at all. And now, I`m not prepared to say definitively tonight that Chris Christie just announced he`s not running for president, but compare what he said today with the way he usually talks about this thing, and it kind of seems today like Chris Christie announced he is not going to run for president in 2016, because this is the way he used to talk about it. This was on October 8th. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I am not going to declare tonight, Christine, for you or for anybody else, that I am or I`m not running for president. I don`t think anybody in America or the state of New Jersey expects anybody three years away to tell them what they`re going to do. Life`s too long, Christie, I will make those decisions until I have to. I can walk and chew gum at the same time, Christine. I can do this job and also deal with my future. And that`s exactly what I will do. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Governor Christie during a debate for his re- election effort, refusing to say definitely that he would fill out his time as governor. This was Mr. Christie a week before the election. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you win, are you committed to serving out your full term? CHRISTIE: I`m committed to being the best governor New Jersey could have for as long as I could possibly do. But, you know, George, neither one of us have a crystal ball and know what`s going to happen in the future. I`ll do this job as long as aggressively as I possibly can. And my current intention is to spend four years, but we`ll see what happens, George. You never know what life`s going to bring you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: My current intention is to serve out my term, but we`ll see what happens, never know. Chris Christie was so confident he was going to be re-elected that even while he was debating his opponent for re-election, even the week before voters went to the polls and he`s on national TV, he was so confident he was going to win, that he was still willing to announce, as he was asking people to vote for him for governor, that he might not actually do the job of governor that the people were voting him in for. But then, New Jersey voted him in. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)] CHRISTIE: I`m the governor of New Jersey. That`s my job. And that`s what I ask for for four more years and that`s what I intend to do. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All four years? CHRISTIE: Listen, who knows? I don`t know. I`m going to continue to do my job and finish the job. But everybody who is trying to figure out what life is going to bring you few years from now, I didn`t expect to be sitting here four years ago, George. So, nobody can make those predictions. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: All four years? Who knows? I don`t know, nobody can make those prediction. That was the week after the election. Now, what he`s saying is totally different. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: You asked me, and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Then he went on to say, I was born here, I was raised here, I`m raising my family here, and this is where I intend to spend the rest of my life. So that`s one thing to note. Chris Christie may have said today that he`s not running for president. And he may have said it definitively for the first time ever. That`s one thing to know. Here`s another thing, though. Do you remember how in 2012 before Rick Perry got into the race for president, it kind of seemed like he was going to be the guy to beat? Before he got into the race, he was the theoretical favorite in the Republican primaries in 2012, until he actually started running and then kersplat. The guy who played that role in 2008 was Rudy Giuliani. Everybody in the media thought that Rudy Giuliani was, I guess, the prohibitive favorite to win the nomination in 2008. But then Rudy Giuliani actually started running and it`s kind of like that moment in "Men in Black" when they`re scouting out the guy who looks like the alien at the news stand in New York City and then the alien starts talking and it`s not the guy who looks like the alien. Oh, it turns out it`s the dog. Yes, Rudy Giuliani`s campaign was so bizarre and completely unexpectedly dysfunctional, not only did he not win, he was the laughingstock of the 2008 Republican presidential primary. Rudy Giuliani`s campaign have the genius idea that he should just not compete in Iowa. He should also not compete in New Hampshire. He should also not compete in South Carolina. He was going to skip all that. He was frankly above all those little states. They weren`t his kind of states. Now, he was going to go straight to Florida and just start winning then. Start winning then, four weeks into the nominating process. Absolute, total failure. Credit for that genius strategy that turned Rudy Giuliani from the favorite to the laughingstock because of his stop political strategist, Mike DuHaime. After that, he went on to become the top political strategist to Chris Christie in his run for reelection. In the disastrous Giuliani campaign in 2008, his national field director was a man named Bill Stepien. Bill Stepien went on to become the campaign manager for Chris Christie in his run for re-election. The deputy communications chief from the disastrous Rudy Giuliani campaign in 2008 was a woman named Maria Comella. She became the communications chief for Chris Christie in his run for re-election. And now, today, Chris Christie has announced the name of the lawyer who will help him organize his response into the myriad inquiries into this bridge scandal that seems to be sinking his second term. He`s chosen as his attorney a man who was deputy to Rudy Giuliani in the U.S. attorneys` office. And when Rudy Giuliani went on to become mayor of New York City, Randy Mastro became Mr. Giuliani`s deputy mayor. If you do want to run for president, following the Rudy Giuliani path is a really weird way to do it. But Chris Christie made clear he`s trying to follow the Rudy Giuliani path out of this scandal. He may have just announced that his presidential aspirations are over in the meantime. Steve Kornacki joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: You asked me, and I accepted the task of leading this state for eight years, not four years. (APPLAUSE) And no one, I can assure you, ever told me or anybody on my team that it was going to be easy. Hadn`t been up to this point. And there`s all kinds of challenges, as you know that come every day, out of nowhere, to test you. But I want to assure the people of New Jersey of one thing -- I was born here, I was raised here, I`m raising my family here, and this is where I intend to spend the rest of my life. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie today telling his New Jersey constituents on the shore that he`s a Jersey guy, presidential aspirations be darned. He pledges to spend the rest of his life in New Jersey, of which Washington, D.C. is not an enclave. This is totally new verbiage from Chris Christie on this subject today. Today also happens to be the day he announced the hiring of his new legal representation on the bridge gate scandal. He`s hired a former deputy mayor to New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Joining us now is Steve Kornacki, the host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" her e on MSNBC. Steve has covered New Jersey politics for years, including time spent working for David Wildstein, the guy who shut down the bridge at a nonpartisan Jersey political blog. Steve, thanks for being here. STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Sure. MADDOW: Getting any sleep? KORNACKI: Not yet. Hopefully it`s not showing. MADDOW: We can sleep when we`re dead. KORNACKI: Right. MADDOW: Governor Christie just hired a top law firm to help with the investigation. Is this an important part of him building his defenses, both legal and political? Or should this just be seen as a normal part of the process? Are reading anything to it? KORNACKI: No, I think this is significant. This is a serious criminal defense attorney we`re talking about here. When I talked to a couple of Democrats in the legislature today who are a little bit fearful of where they see this playing out. They see a potential here where Christie is able to exploit the fact there are two dueling committees that are now looking into this in the legislature. You have the assembly committee, you have the state senate committee. And, again, I`m not the legal expert, I`m only telling you what the legislators themselves are telling me. Their concern is there could be an opening there for Christie to buy some time, and for the administration to buy sometime by taking this to court, by fighting the subpoenas in court and basically saying, look, the assembly is subpoenaing documents from this person. The senate is subpoenaing the same person. Excuse me. The same documents, the legislature needs to get its act together and act as one here, instead of wasting -- in many cases, you might have people who are being defended with taxpayer money. They might make a complaint about that. We shouldn`t be wasting taxpayer money on two dueling investigation. So there`s some fear that Christie could buy himself some time by the existence of two separate panels. The other piece that comes into it, is what is the U.S. attorney going to do. The U.S. attorney from New Jersey is appointed -- a Democratic appointed U.S. attorney general. Again, if you talk to a lot of Democrats in New Jersey, privately, they think highly of him as a professional politician. They do not think that a major public corruption case is the kind of thing he has much of an appetite for. MADDOW: Really? KORNACKI: Chris Christie is the U.S. attorney before, made his entire career on. He couldn`t do enough of these things. Paul Fishman has handled his office in a much more low key way. Doesn`t have as much -- not shown certainly kind of appetite that kind of prosecution that Chris Christie has. Quite frankly if you talk to Democrats who are more cynical, they say, if this goes to the U.S. attorney, we`re not sure how much is going to come out of it. (INAUDIBLE) is in the U.S. attorneys office, you still have people who predate the current U.S. attorney and were there when Chris Christie was there. So, there`s a lot of I think a lot of concern talking to Democrats. MADDOW: So, basically, if the U.S. attorney is complicated or unlikely to get involved -- a lot of people say it would be easier to bring state charges, instead of federal. Although federal conspiracy charges seems to be the obvious choice here. But in any case, if it`s not the U.S. attorney, that makes the legislature and their investigation more important and if it has a structural weakness that could be exploited, that could -- KORNACKI: Or it`s exploited, if they can exploit, and maybe reluctantly, the U.S. attorney is almost forced to come in and take the case, if the U.S. attorney takes the case, it essentially would shut down the legislative panels. MADDOW: The number of subpoenas, not the names was released today. "The Bergen Record" is reporting tonight that Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor`s spokesman, Michael Drewniak, the campaign manager, Bill Stepien, are among the 17 individuals who are subpoenaed. We know that David Samson, Regina Egea and previously sort of unmentioned Port Authority commissioner named Schuber, are going to be subpoenaed by the Senate. Does that emerging list of names make sense to you in terms of where this goes? KORNACKI: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, you`re looking at names that have popped up in some cases only one or two times in the documents that have come out. But like Regina Egea, this is a perfect example to me, because I think she really only popped up once or twice, but it was a key moment where she pops up. MADDOW: That`s right. KORNACKI: Because the moment is, September 13th, at the height of the closure when Pat Foye in the New York side basically says you guys are breaking federal and state laws. He sends that e-mail to Bill Baroni, Christie`s point guy at the Port Authority. And Bill Baroni sends it three hours later, marks priority high to Regina Egea in the governor`s office, right now his pick to be chief of staff. So you subpoena her records and if you actually get those records, you find out, what did she do at 10:44 in the morning on September 13th in the governor`s office, when she finds this information? Does she write to somebody about it? Does she forward it to somebody else? Those are the kinds of questions we can get answers to. MADDOW: Steve Kornacki, host of "UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI" here on MSNBC, and the hardest working guy in the building on this story -- Steve, thanks very much. KORNACKI: Thank you. MADDOW: We appreciate it. All right. We`ve got lots more to come tonight on this story and on something unrelated and spooky that is happening in Washington as we speak. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: I want to make it clear. I didn`t want to be in the governor`s office looking at who sent e-mails. The e-mails that we got because we were looking at the Port Authority led us there. And so, it would be really a dereliction of our responsibility if now that we know somebody in the governor`s office sent an e-mail to close lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge and we walk away from it because somebody says, well, that would be partisan. It wouldn`t be doing our job. It would be negligent. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There`s more to come on that story tonight, including an important part of that story that may be breaking overnight tonight. But also in Washington tonight, some unexpected progress in which Democrats and Republicans join together to tell prominent Tea Party groups to leave them alone. That was surprising. There`s also a big mystery in what Democrats and Republicans are doing in Washington tonight. It was the scoop today on the front page of "The Washington Post." that mystery, still unresolved, is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Late last year, stories started popping around in a ping-pong ball of the lottery machine also known as America`s conservative media. The particular ping-pong ball in question was labeled "President Obama plans to close the U.S. embassy at the Vatican". Oh, the outrage! The conservative "Washington Times" newspaper was on it. Obama`s call to close Vatican embassy is slap in the face to Roman Catholics! The mostly just wacky conservative Web site "World Net Daily" accused President Obama of insulting Catholics with this embassy shutdown. The story made it all the way from the fringe to what is supposed to be the center of the Republican mainstream when Jeb Bush decided to join in the frenzy tweeting, quote, "Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare." Of course, like all ping-pong balls, this story was mostly air and easily destroyed under the weight of even minute further inspection. President Obama was not trying to close the embassy to the Vatican. He was trying to move it closer to the Vatican. To the same compound that houses our much larger embassy to Italy. And whether or not Jeb Bush was aware of this fact, the embassy consolidation plan for the Vatican was an idea that was first introduced by the Bush administration in 2008. The State Department says the move would not only improve security, it would also save us more than $1 million a year. And in part because the new location would be a bit closer to the actual Vatican than the old embassy, the Vatican liked the idea, too. But when you put something apolitical, bipartisan, noncontroversial and fiscally conservative like that into the conservative media machine, it naturally comes out as satanic volcano sacrifice to the atheistic idols of communism or whatever. The story was a fantasy from the start. It was easily debunked with about 20 seconds of Googling as long as you were willing to read Google search results from outside the conservative media. It was a completely made-up fake scandal. And now, it`s in the budget. What? Republicans have put their collectively ill-informed foot down now and they have banned the embassy move from happening. Seriously. Tucked into the massive $1.1 trillion spending bill is a provision that bans anything from happening to the Vatican embassy. It stays as is. You want to know what else the new spending bill bans. It bans the anti-poverty activist group ACORN. The new budget includes four separate provisions blocking any funding to ACORN. If you`re keeping score at home, ACORN has not existed for four years now. But it will not get any federal funding. Suffice to say, the new spending bill includes a lot of nonsense, generated from the comment section of the conspiratorial YouTube clips about Kenya. But there is one very consequential and controversial bit of business that did make it into the 1,582-page spending bill. And "The Washington Post" had an exclusive on it today. According to "The Post", sneaked into a classified annex of this giant bill is a secret provision that would block President Obama`s plan to shift control of the drone program, to shift control of the U.S. armed unmanned drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. And in his big historic speech last week on the war on terror, President Obama open talked about the drone program for the first time. And what he announced in the big landmark speech was to start to shift control of the drone program from the super secret, literally covert CIA to the Defense Department, which can be quite secretive, but which has an arguably more straightforward route to congressional and therefore public oversight. It sounds like a technical thing, but that would be a really important shift. I kind of wrote a whole book about how important that kind of shift would be. But that planned shift announced by the president last year is reportedly not happening. The secret measure in the federal budget plan restricts the use of any funding to transfer drones or the authority to carry out drone strikes from the CIA to the Pentagon. That`s according to officials who spoke on condition of anonymity, because nobody is authorized to publicly comment on this legislation because it`s the classified part of the bill. Who included the measure? Well, the secret, anonymous officials say it mostly likely came from members of the House and Senate appropriations committees but we don`t know for sure because no one is officially talking about it. White House, no comment. CIA, no comment. Pentagon, no comment. So, it is very unclear how this is all going to play out. But this is an important issue. And even when this unresolved and un-debated -- the bill cleared the House last night and just a few hours ago tonight, it also cleared the Senate, 72-26. So the bill now goes to the president`s desk for his sign-off including that provision that will keep our lethal drone program as opaque as possible, both to us and to Congress that is supposed to oversee it. At least that`s the status for now. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The big D.C. event tomorrow, 11:00 a.m., speech by President Obama inside the great hall of the U.S. Justice Department. This will be President Obama`s first trip to the Justice Department as president. He will be there to announce a slew of changes to the way we conduct surveillance in this country, specifically changes to the way the NSA operates. That announcement was obviously spurred by the Edward Snowden disclosures that started last June, but also by a continuing stream of reporting since then, including most recently the disclosure by "The New York Times" yesterday that the NSA has apparently devised a way to put radio transmitters into computers of their choosing around the world, even if those computers aren`t online. Last month, President Obama`s surveillance review board came up with a long list of recommendations on how to reform surveillance. Tomorrow, President Obama is going to announce which of those recommendations he`s ready to adopt, which he rejects, and which he is turfing over to Congress to fight about forever. So, that`s the big Washington event tomorrow. The other big political event in the country tomorrow, though, is that tomorrow may be unveil the subpoenas day in New Jersey. Today, we learned that one of the special committees investigating the Chris Christie bridge scandal in the New Jersey legislature has issued 20 different subpoenas as part of their investigation, 17 individuals and three organizations. We expected that we might hear today who exactly got those subpoenas but it now looks like it`s going to break either overnight tonight or early tomorrow, in terms of when we find out the names. And then what? Now it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END