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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/03/14

Guests: Matt Katz, John Wisniewski

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: That is "ALL IN" for this evening. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man. Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We start tonight with some breaking news out of the state of New Jersey. First, Bridget Anne Kelly, until recently New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly is invoking the Fifth Amendment and is refusing to testify or hand over documents in response to the subpoena she has received from the New Jersey legislature. Bridget Anne Kelly is the person who sent this e-mail, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" to a Chris Christie ally at the Port Authority who then does appear to have arranged for some huge traffic problems in Fort Lee last September by shutting down that community`s access lanes to the world`s busiest bridge, the George Washington Bridge. Once those bridge lanes in Fort Lee were shut down, it appears also to have been Bridget Kelly who exchanged these text messages with that same person at the Port Authority who arranged the shutdown. Upon hearing that kids cannot get to school because the lanes being shut down and the town`s mayor is complaining about that, Ms. Kelly apparently replies by text, quote, "Is it wrong that I`m smiling?" David Wildstein at the Port Authority responds "no" -- to which Bridget Kelly says, "I feel badly about the kids", and then one minute later, "I guess." To which David Wildstein responds, "They are the children of Buono voters." Meaning don`t feel bad, their parents are going to vote Democratic. David Wildstein has already pleaded the Fifth in testimony before the New Jersey legislature related to this scandal. Now, the other person in that text message conversation, Bridget Kelly, the "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly tonight has also just invoked her Fifth Amendment rights. Bridget Anne Kelly`s lawyers saying tonight she will not hand over documentation that the legislature has demanded from her in their subpoena. So, that is one piece of breaking news tonight in this story. The other breaking news in this story tonight, which has just happened, is that New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie has, tonight, finally answered questions about the bridge scandal. The governor addressed the scandal directly tonight in an "ask the governor" radio interview. I`ll play you what he said tonight in just a moment. But in terms of the context here, consider that Governor Christie has not been talking about this subject in public really ostentatiously. He has been, of course, the object of much discussion, but he, himself, has refused to take any questions on this scandal since his big two-hour press conference back at the beginning of last month. That two-hour press conference was January 9th. He took questions there, but that was it. On the 14th, he had to appear publicly again to give his state of the state address. He said nothing new of substance on the matter and, of course, he did not take questions. Two days later on the 16th of January, he did a Superstorm Sandy recovery event in Manahawkin but he took no questions from the press at that event. The following weekend, he did a Republican Governors Association tour in Florida to raise money for Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida. Chris Christie on that Florida trip made no appearances that were open to the public, and he did not take questions from the press. Then, on the 21st of last month, that was his inauguration day, so, yes, has to be out in public again, but no mention of the scandal and no questions from the press. Last week, the governor surfaced again at Howard Stern`s birthday party of all places, and there were plenty of reporters there and a lot of reporters shouted questions at him about the bridge scandal, but the governor did not answer them. And, of course, around the Super Bowl this weekend, the governor made lots of public appearances, but, again, no answering any questions about the scandal even when he was asked directly. Since that big press conference at the beginning of last month, when he said this whole thing made him very sad and he called his former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, stupid and a liar, since then, Governor Christie has made no public comments on this matter. Governor Christie has refused to answer questions about the bridge closure -- until tonight. Tonight, he spoke about it for the first time in 25 days. This is on New Jersey Live 101.5 Radio tonight. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Let`s make one thing clear right off the bat which I think is the most important issue. And the most important issue is, did I know anything about the plan to close these lanes? Did I authorize it? Did I know about it? Did I approve it? Did I have any knowledge of it beforehand? And the answer is still the same. It`s unequivocally, no. And, in fact, no one`s ever accused me of that. Here`s what I`m curious about, Eric. What I`m curious about is what happened here, and that`s why I`ve authorized an internal investigation, as I talked about on January 9th. RADIO HOST: Uh-huh. CHRISTIE: And we`ve hired a law firm to come in and do that internal investigation. They`re working very hard, they`re working diligently. I can`t wait for them to be finished so I can get the full story here. RADIO HOST: And this is the internal investigation of your staff to determine who may have known -- CHRISTIE: Right. RADIO HOST: -- what. CHRISTIE: To get into the situation. I mean, we`re going to try to get as much information as we possibly can by interviewing folks and reviewing documents that are in our possession. We have access to. And then they`re going to give a report. And so that`s what I`m really anxious to find out about. RADIO HOST: Is there a timeline on that? CHRISTIE: My timeline to them is as quickly as possible. RADIO HOST: Because you made it clear during that press conference if you find out anybody else on your staff lied, that there are going to be repercussions. CHRISTIE: They`ll be fired. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie tonight, speaking tonight answering questions about the bridge closure that affected Fort Lee, New Jersey, so egregiously last September. As you just heard there, the governor adamantly and unequivocally denying that he had any advance knowledge of the plan to close those access lanes to the bridge. His exact words there, "Did I know anything about the plan to close lanes? Did I authorize it? Did I know about it? Did I approve it? Did I have knowledge of it beforehand? And he answer is unequivocally, no." The governor making that denial, the same time kind of hinting that maybe this whole thing is being blown out of proportion, right? Also not totally letting go of that whole traffic study excuse. This was interesting. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: Let`s remember something for everybody out there. We did not close the lanes to the bridge. All the lanes of the bridge were open. These were three toll booths that are dedicated just to Fort Lee, and that two of those lanes were closed apparently to do a traffic study to see if there was really a need for all those three lanes. That`s what I was told at the time. That`s what we were told at the time by Port Authority staff. That`s what we were told -- that`s what the legislature was told when Senator Baroni went and testified before the legislature in November. That`s what we`ve been told all along until some of these e-mails came out on January 8th of this year that indicated that there were some, you know, political overtones to this as well. So as I said at the time of January 9th when I did my press conference, I still don`t know whether there was a traffic study that morphed into -- RADIO HOST: You still don`t know at this point whether there was a traffic study? CHRISTIE: Well, what I`m saying, Eric, did this start as a traffic study that morphed into some political shenanigans, or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Or was there no traffic study? Governor Christie still not sure if there was a traffic study, even in describing what happened January 8th when the e-mails came out with his deputy chief of staff saying "time for traffic problems in Fort Lee," he just describes that as political overtones as well, as well as the traffic study. At the same time that the governor was doing this interview tonight, the news broke about his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, invoking the Fifth Amendment and refusing to comply with the subpoena she has been sent by the legislature. That news about her invoking the Fifth Amendment broke during the governor`s radio interview tonight, and in that interview he was asked about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RADIO HOST: "The Star Ledger" is just reporting now the lawyer for Kelly is citing her Fifth Amendment rights and she will not hand over subpoenaed documents to the legislative committee. What does that tell you? CHRISTIE: You know, listen, it doesn`t tell me anything. I know everything I needed to know from a point of employment for Bridget Kelly when she didn`t tell me the truth. And I fired her. And what I`ve said as to all these people are that have lawyers now is that I hope they would share information with us, but I also understand that people have rights, and they`re going to exercise those rights as they see fit and as their lawyers advise them to do so. I would hope they would share any information they have that would let me get to the bottom of it. But on the other hand, they have constitutional rights like everybody else, and if they`re going to exercise them, there`s nothing I can do about that, Eric. But we`re certainly going to be asking and have asked for information from folks and if folks give it to us, great, and if they don`t, because they say they`re exercising their constitutional rights, I don`t think any of us can be critical of someone for exercising their constitutional rights. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie responding to news tonight that his former deputy chief of staff who he says he fired over this matter has invoked her Fifth Amendment rights and will not comply with the testimony, with the request for testimony and documentation from the New Jersey legislature. It should also be noted that when Governor Christie fired Bridget Anne Kelly, he made a point of saying at this January press conference that he did not ask her, when he fired her, he did not ask her why she sent that e- mail ordering the bridge closure. We don`t know why the governor did not ask her when she had the chance. But now, she`s not talking to anybody. Governor Christie said his office, the office of the governor of New Jersey, has started turning over its own documents to the assembly in response to their subpoena. And this is the third piece of breaking news tonight, the governor confirmed also that his office has received a subpoena from the federal authorities, from the U.S. attorney investigating the bridge closure. We had suspected that it was possible that the governor`s office had also been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors, by the U.S. attorney looking into whether or not this was a potential criminal violation. We had suspected on Friday that that might be the case. The governor confirmed for it tonight, confirmed that tonight. And so, now, we know it`s true. Of course, today was deadline day for the subpoenas from the legislature. Everybody subpoenaed by the New Jersey legislature, 18 people and 2 entities including the governor`s office, they had until tonight at 5:00 p.m. Eastern to comply with their subpoenas and to submit to the New Jersey legislative committee thousands of pages of documents and records and in some cases cell phones and BlackBerrys. Those documents have started pouring in to the New Jersey legislature, although many of the people who were subpoenaed have apparently asked for an extension. We don`t know exactly who has asked for an extension, who`s asked for more time, but we know that Governor Christie`s re-election campaign is an entity that has asked for an extension. We also know the head of the re-election campaign, Governor Christie`s now fired campaign manager Bill Stepien is also invoking his Fifth Amendment rights and announced he will not comply with the subpoena that went to him personally. Mr. Stepien is also invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination, refusing to hand over documents and records. That announcement by Bill Stepien happened late in the day on Friday. Friday was also, of course, when we got that vaguely worded sort of cryptic letter from the attorney for David Wildstein, the Port Authority official who`s at the center of the lane closings, the one who seems to have actually arranged them. "The New York Times" got ahold of this letter in which Mr. Wildstein`s attorney mostly makes the case to a lawyer at the Port Authority that the Port Authority should pay Mr. Wildstein`s legal fees. But also in this letter Mr. Wildstein`s attorney wrote a strange passive tense sentence that brought front-page headlines across the country. Quote, "Evidence exists as well tying Governor Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures during the period when the lanes were closed contrary to what the governor stated publicly in a two-hour press conference." That happened on Friday and then the weekend, it got even weirder. What happened this weekend that made it, go splash cold water on your face and read the newspaper again bizarre time this weekend was the way that Governor Christie`s office responded privately, pseudo-privately, to that allegation from David Wildstein`s lawyer. I mean, publicly, of course, we knew Friday night they responded with a statement about how everything Mr. Wildstein said actually exonerated Governor Christie, corroborated what he said all along. It was a strange reaction, publicly, but not that notable in terms of its substance. Privately, though, it was a whole different story. On Saturday, was first to publish an e-mail that they say Governor Christie`s office sent to, quote, "friends and allies." This was so weird I actually had to wonder if I was getting punked when I first saw it. I couldn`t believe this was a real thing. But nobody`s contesting the accuracy of this. Or the legitimacy of this as something that actually originated in the governor`s office. So I think we have to believe that it is real. In this e-mail, Governor Christie`s office takes issue with "The New York Times`" reporting from Friday. And then they go full bore into an attack on David Wildstein. Number four on the list of five things Governor Christie`s office wants you to know about David Wildstein is, quote, "In David Wildstein`s past, people in newspaper accounts have described him as tumultuous and someone who made moves that were not productive." And then here are the top two bullet points proving that David Wildstein has a checkered past. Quote, "As a 16-year-old, David Wildstein sued over a local school board election." And, quote, "He was publicly accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior." Governor Christie`s office goes on to say that in addition to being deceptive to his social studies teacher, David Wildstein also had a "controversial tenure as mayor of Livingston, New Jersey." Bottom line, Governor Christie`s office say, "David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein." It is not at one level all that weird that there`s oppo research now trying to discredit David Wildstein, right? That`s sort of politics. David Wildstein used to be a Chris Christie ally. That relationship has definitely soured. So, now, Chris Christie`s office is trying to discredit him. It`s kind of icky, right? But that`s politics. Doing so, though, by bringing up what his high school social studies teacher said about him -- makes this seem so strange it almost feels fake. Apparently it`s not fake. Not to mention it`s a total about-face from Governor Christie`s office on the topic of Wildstein`s character. I mean, here they are saying this guy can`t be trusted, he`ll do anything, say anything, he`s deceptive. He`s always been deceptive, back since social studies. Back since he was a teenager. Don`t believe anything David Wildstein says. Don`t trust that guy as far as you can throw him. OK. But why did you give him this six-figure job? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I know David, and, you know, I knew that Bill Baroni wanted to hire David to come to the Port Authority and I gave him my permission for him to do it, but that was Bill`s hire. He asked for permission, I gave my permission for him to hire David. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I gave my permission for my top appointee at the Port Authority to bring on David Wildstein -- David Wildstein who I`ve also known since high school as a total liar. David Wildstein was paid more than $150,000 a year for doing that job at the Port Authority, and the job he was hired for did not exist before he got it and it had no job description. They created the job for him. The Port Authority has no resume on file for Mr. Wildstein which means he didn`t exactly have to apply and jump through hoops in order to get it. When asked why David Wildstein had this $150,000 a year job with no job description and no resume on file at the Port Authority, Governor Christie`s spokesman defended the decision to hire Mr. Wildstein. Look, David Wildstein, quote, "is there in that job because he`s well suited to the task of playing a role in reforming the Port Authority in accordance with the governor`s goals." Commenting on Wildstein`s unpopularity among some officials within the agency, Governor Christie`s spokesman said "if he`s not liked for that role and if he`s accused of being zealous in that regard, then we plead guilty." Governor Christie`s office saying David Wildstein was perfect for the job at the Port Authority. If people don`t like them, that`s their problem. He`s carrying everything out at the Port Authority in accordance with the governor`s goals. That was in December. Now in February, it is David Wildstein will do and say anything. Always been an untrustworthy character. Governor Christie`s position on who David Wildstein is has been a moving target. That long press conference back in January, Governor Christie insisted he had no contact with David Wildstein in a long time. Said he hadn`t seen David Wildstein since well before the election. Yet there`s all these pictures of them together during the bridge closure, and even before. When David Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority, Governor Christie`s office called him a tireless advocate for the state. When the governor`s office got flak for hiring Mr. Wildstein for that job, they said he deserved that job, said he was perfect for that job. Now, Governor Christie`s office is saying the social studies teacher called him deceptive. He`ll do and say anything. This story has been getting bigger for a long time. It`s never taken a more dramatic turn for the weird before today, though. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: What the people of New Jersey need to know is two things about this, one more time. First, I had nothing to do with this. No knowledge, no authorization, no planning, nothing to do with this before this decision was made to close these lanes by the Port Authority. Secondly, while I`m disappointed by what happened here, I am determined to fix it. I told people all the time in this job, I can`t promise you that we`re going to be perfect. What I can promise you is we`re going to do our best. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie making his first public comments on the bridge scandal tonight since his initial press conference on the matter nearly a month ago. That interview was live tonight as more breaking news in this story broke. Third figure in the scandal has invoked the Fifth Amendment and will not comply with the subpoena on the issue, following his campaign manager and a high school friend, beyond Bill Stepien and David Wildstein. Now, the third person invoking the amendment is the governor`s former deputy chief of staff who appears to have ordered up some traffic problems for Fort Lee from the governor`s office. Joining us now is reporter Matt Katz, who covers New Jersey for WNYC Radio. Matt, thanks very much for being with us. Nice to have you here. MATT KATZ, WNYC REPORTER: Sure, Rachel. MADDOW: So, strong denials from the governor on this radio interview tonight. It`s his first time answering live questions from a live human really on this matter since January 9th. What did he say tonight that we didn`t necessarily know before? KATZ: Yes, there were three things I picked up. First, he was more curious about why this happened or presented himself as being more curious about what happened here than he seemed to me at that press conference a few weeks ago. We`re going to do an investigation, I want to know ASAP what my investigators find out, and I want to know what caused it. He sort of dismissed those questions at the press conference. I thought that was interesting. Also, his tone was totally different from the e-mails that we`ve been getting and seeing from Christie`s people and supporters. They`ve been, you know, attacking Wildstein personally, as you talked about. There was another dossier on "The New York Times" that surfaced today that his people released where they really like took apart their story about this on Friday, to hide clips of the reporter who wrote the story, really, point- by-point went after them. This was not an angry Chris Christie tonight. He was still somewhat on the defensive which I thought was interesting. So, you`re seeing him present a somewhat contrite, a little bit on the defensive where his people more subtly and behind the scenes are going on the offense. And I wonder if that`s a tone we`re going to continue to see for a while, or if that`s going to shift a bit at some point. MADDOW: Matt, I want to ask you about part of that other tone we`re seeing, part of that aggression. I have to say, I`m not saying it for a fact, I found it to be really, really strange reading that e-mail from the governor`s office reportedly sent to friends and allies about David Wildstein, attacking David Wildstein`s credibility in ways that are really embarrassing when you put them up next to all the publicly glowing things that Governor Christie has said about David Wildstein in the past and the way they`re palpably evidently close. But also invoking things his social studies teacher in his high school said about him and his behavior as a 16-year-old to try to cast out on his veracity, it`s not that I don`t expect them to go after somebody like David Wildstein. I guess I expected them to do it in a way that was less laughable. Is this -- are they unexpectedly bad at this? I don`t understand. KATZ: They`re usually good at attacking people. MADDOW: Yes. KATZ: This was based mostly on one profile that was written about David Wildstein about a year and a half ago. The issue with David Wildstein, I mean, this is a guy who didn`t have anything underneath his picture in his high school yearbook. People have clubs and write quotes. I mean, he had nothing. He was not an anonymous blogger that nobody, even his employees, didn`t know who he was for eight years. So, this is somebody who there`s not a lot of information about, right? So maybe they were forced to go back to high school and, you know, build a character sketch of them that would be unflattering. And, you know, this is sort of the way they operate. I mean, they are extremely effusive in their praise of people that they are propping up, nominees, political allies. But if you get on their wrong side, they`re going to, you know, bring out the knives. And that`s what we`re seeing here. But, you know, to be honest, Wildstein is also bringing out the knives. I mean, Wildstein embarrassed the governor the Friday before his big Super Bowl weekend. So there`s probably -- there`s a little bit of anger on both sides I think. MADDOW: WNYC`s Matt Katz -- Matt, thank you very much for your time tonight. I really appreciate it. KATZ: Sure, Rachel. MADDOW: You know, mom always used to say, if you don`t have anything mean to say about someone that doesn`t involved you going back and talking about how they behave in high school, then you don`t actually have anything mean to say to anybody at all. Actually, my mother never said anything like that. All right. There`s the alleged misdeed, then there`s also the alleged and apparent cover-up. "Wall Street Journal" had a big scoop on the cover- up side of this, this morning, and I`ll explain that coming up. We`ve also got John Wisniewski here within the next few minutes. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: I am confident based upon our conversations with them that they had no prior knowledge nor involvement in this situation. REPORTER: What about -- what about the cover up piece of this? CHRISTIE: Yes, well, that`s your characterization, not mine. But there was nobody on my staff who had any knowledge of this issue until after the issue was already done. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Nobody on my staff had any knowledge of this issue until it was already done. That was an untrue statement from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. We know it`s untrue because of this e-mail which was sent between two people on Governor Christie`s staff while the bridge lane shutdown was still under way. See, the date there is September 12th, that was Thursday of that lane. That`s while those lanes on the George Washington Bridge were still shut down. This e-mail is from Christina Genovese Renna, and it is to Bridget Anne Kelly. Bridget Kelly is, of course, was Governor Chris Christie`s deputy chief of staff. Christina Renna, the person who sent the email was New Jersey`s director of departmental relations. And while the bridge lane shutdown was under way, these two Christie staffers were e-mailing about it in the governor`s office. So, when Governor Christie said no one on his staff knew about this thing until it was over and done with, that e-mail from September 12th proves that that assertion from the governor is not true. Now, the person who sent that e-mail has resigned. She is now the fifth Chris Christie staffer or appointee or close ally who has resigned or been fired since the bridge lane scandal broke. The first two people to resign were Bill Baroni and David Wildstein. You see Mr. Baroni there, the circle on the left. You see Wildstein next to Christie there. Wildstein and Baroni have both resigned. Bill Baroni was Governor Christie`s number two appointee at the Port Authority. He resigned in December as did David Wildstein. David Wildstein is a person Bill Baroni brought with him to the Port Authority and hired him there with Mr. Christie`s permission. Here`s another angle on them in a different context. There we are, Bill Baroni on the left. Very happy. Mr. Wildstein there in the sunglasses and striped tie talking with Governor Christie. These two men were the first two Christie appointees/allies to resign during the course of this scandal. They were number one and number two. The third person to lose his job in this scandal was Bill Stepien, Chris Christie`s two-time campaign manager, who was about to become the head of the New Jersey Republican Party and who was widely expected to be the campaign manager for Governor Christie if he mounted a bid for president in 2016. Bill Stepien was the third person to lose his job during this scandal. Then, the following morning after Bill Stepien lost his job, Bridget Kelly lost hers. She was fired by Governor Christie a day after the e-mail surfaced, which she wrote, "Time for traffic problems in Fort Lee." So, those are the first four Christie allies or staffers that have left or lost their jobs since the scandal started. As of today, we now have number five, Christina Genovese Renna. She reported to Bridgette Kelly in the governor`s office. It was her e-mail that proved that Governor Christie didn`t tell the truth when he said his staff knew nothing about it during the lane closures. She has now released a statement through her lawyer saying that she resigned her position effective this past Friday. In the statement, Ms. Renna professed her continuing respect and admiration for the governor. She said nothing about the ongoing scandal being a cause for her leaving. She said, instead, she`d been considering leaving the governor`s office anyway for a long time since maybe back to the election but decided she would go now. She decided specifically that her last day would be the day that David Wildstein made the allegation that Governor Christie knew about the lane closures on the bridge while they were still under way. The governor denies that, but his staff definitely did know. And that e-mail from September 12th from Christina Renna not only proves it, it now raises some important questions. Look at the e-mail. "Dear Bridget, this afternoon Evan" who we think is a gubernatorial aide named Evan Ridley, "Evan received a call from Mayor Sokolich. It came from a number he was not familiar with." It was actual lay secretary who patched the mayor through to Evan. Quote, "The mayor is extremely upset of the reduction of toll lanes from three to one. First responders are having a terrible time maneuvering the traffic because the backup is so severe." Quote, "The mayor told Evan that he has no idea why the Port Authority decided to do this but it`s a feeling in town that it is government retribution for something. Even told the fine mayor he was unaware the toll lanes were closed but he would see what he could find out." So, first, it starts right off with an explanation, almost an apologetic explanation for why the mayor`s call got through to someone in the governor`s office, right, almost as if the governor`s office was screening calls to make sure they didn`t talk to him and it was only because Evan didn`t recognize the particular number that the call from the mayor of Fort Lee actually got through. Also, it`s clear that the governor`s staff knows who this Mayor Sokolich is. They don`t call him the mayor of Fort Lee. They don`t call him Mayor Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee. No introduction necessary. He`s just Mayor Sokolich. They know who they`re talking about. And apparently, Mayor Sokolich is familiar enough to the governor`s staff they expect to recognize his phone number when he calls. Which is weird, right? Because part of Governor Christie`s defense in this whole scandal is that neither he nor his staff really had any idea who this Sokolich guy was. This guy who they tell me is the mayor of Fort Lee. Who`s he? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: 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 and certainly never did in that context. I`m sure I met him at some point at an event in Bergen County. But I have to tell you, until I saw his picture last night on television, I wouldn`t have been able to pick him out of a lineup. I never heard the Fort Lee mayor`s name, Mark Sokolich, his name, until all this stuff happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not the impression conveyed by the governor`s staff in their in-house e-mail. Why was the governor`s staff focused on Mayor Sokolich during the time of the lane closures? Why were they snarking about him being a fine mayor? Why, when they were writing about the accidental contact with the fine mayor of Fort Lee during the bridge lane shutdown? Why were the top two staffers of Governor Christie using personal Gmail and Yahoo! accounts in order to have that correspondence? This was in the middle of an afternoon on a Thursday, on a weekday. Why were they e-mailing on their personal accounts instead of their work accounts? Governor Christie said something that was not true when he said none of his staff knew this was under way while it was under way. We know it was not true because of this e-mail from Christina Renna. Christina Renna has now resigned her job in the governor`s office with an explanation that made no mention of this scandal or her role in it. Governor Christie`s office has had no comment on her resignation as of yet. But you know what, she is still under subpoena. Hold that thought. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Two major untrue statements have been exposed as untrue. Since the bridge scandal broke open in New Jersey. The first one we just discussed which is the governor`s statement that nobody on his staff knew anything about the bridge lanes being shut down while day were shut down. We know that was a false statement in part because of an e-mail about the shutdown sent during the shutdown between two of his staffers. It was an e-mail about a third Christie staffer taking a phone call from the Fort Lee mayor on that matter. The author of that e- mail, New Jersey`s director of departmental regulations, as I just mentioned resigned from the governor`s office effective this past Friday. That`s one. The other big untruth that has been exposed as a lie since this scandal broke open is the two hours of testimony before the New Jersey legislature which said that those lanes on that bridge were closed because of a traffic study. The New Jersey official who told that elaborate false story to the legislature is Bill Baroni, Governor Chris Christie`s number two appointee at the Port Authority, himself a former New Jersey state senator. Bill Baroni was not under oath when he gave that testimony. But still, you`re not supposed to tell lies to the legislature. And the executive director of the Port Authority was under oath before the legislature when he testified that the whole traffic study story was a bunch of hog wash. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) STATE REP. LINDA STENDER (D), NEW JERSEY: You know that there`s been a lot of speculation these lane closures were done for political purpose because of issues with the mayor in Fort Lee. And when you`ve had these conversations with Wildstein, did he make any reference to his decision having to have political purpose? PAT FOYE, PORT AUTHORITY: So, Vice Chair, just to be clear, I`ve had no conversations with Wildstein. I`ve spoken with deputy executive director Bill Baroni and the answer to your question is no. STENDER: And, so you accepted that their statement, their -- their rationale that they put people at risk and spent money and created tremendous upheaval solely for the purpose of a traffic study? FOYE: I don`t. STENDER: You don`t? Why do you think they did it? FOYE: I`m not aware of any traffic study. I don`t know why it was done. STENDER: Thank you. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s the executive director of the Port Authority saying, yes, this traffic study thing they keep talking about, I am not aware of any traffic study. He`s the head of the agency. So two questions: number one, what`s going to happen to Bill Baroni? He`s already resigned. He received at least one subpoena from the state legislature which he was due to respond to today unless he got an extension. Is Bill Baroni paying for his own legal representation or is the Port Authority going to represent him legally or pay his legal bills? Because the Port Authority is not paying the legal bills of the other official from that agency who resigned because of this scandal. Both Bill Baroni and David Wildstein asked the Port Authority to pay for their legal representation. The answer to David Wildstein was no. And the Port Authority reportedly has just not answered Bill Baroni`s request yet. It was in David Wildstein`s letter on Friday asking the Port Authority to reconsider that decision that we got what has turned into basically the next big development in this story. David Wildstein`s lawyer writes to the Port Authority, quote, "The person counseling Mr. Baroni for his appearance before the transportation committee was an attorney working under you at the Port Authority. The counseling as I understand it was conducted over a period of four to five days and Mr. Wildstein was present for much of it." Hmm. It`s one thing for a false story to have been concocted and sold as a cover-up for why those bridge lanes were actually shut down, right? It would be one thing if the two guys who resigned in this scandal could be blamed alone for having cooked up that cover story, themselves, that was supposed to hide what the governor`s office, specifically then-deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly actually explicitly ordered to happen on that bridge. Be one thing if it was those two guys. But if it wasn`t just those two guys who cooked it up, if it was a broader, more organized effort to cover up what really happened, then this scandal just got bigger by an order of magnitude. That`s what`s that they say about it not being the crime, it`s the cover-up? That`s what David Wildstein is implying when he says a Port Authority lawyer spent four to five days helping prepare Bill Baroni to give that false testimony and that is what "The Wall Street Journal" has reported today with this scoop. Look at this. "Christie ally prepped official before George Washington Bridge lane closure testimony." Subhead, "Philip Kwon, an attorney at the Port Authority, helped to prepare Bill Baroni." Citing unnamed officials, "The Wall Street Journal" reports that Phil Kwon, who`s also a Christie appointee to the Port Authority, Phil Kwon spent parts of four to five days helping prepare the testimony Bill Baroni gave to the legislature which we know was a false cover story. The Port Authority for their part tonight, they are denying it was five hole days. They`re saying that kind of preparation before testimony is a routine matter and people shouldn`t read anything into it. But you know what? Given that that testimony turned out to be made up, doesn`t that raise real questions about anybody being involved in the preparation of that testimony? Who else helped cook up the cover story besides David Wildstein and Bill Baroni? After the cover story was delivered to the legislature, we know that the feedback from Trenton from the state capital to Bill Baroni on how great he did with the cover story was all positives from somebody named Bridget, somebody named Nicole and somebody named Charlie, presumably Charlie McKenna, Governor Christie`s chief counsel. So, we know that those folks in the state capitol liked how that cover story sounded when it was delivered. But reacting positively to the cover story once you hear it is one thing. Having helped draw it up, having helped concoct it, that is another matter entirely. Huge scoop today from "The Wall Street Journal." Who else was involved in the cover-up? We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: You know, I know Phil, personally. This is not somebody who I found in the lawyer`s diary or a resume that was sent to our office by an interested party. He`s worked for me for the better part of ten years. He`s smart. He`s dedicated. He`s independent. And he`s passionate about public service. Today`s experience I hope will only embolden him to do more for the state, not less. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Kind words from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2012, talking about a man named Phillip Kwon. After Mr. Kwon`s appointment to the state Supreme Court was blocked by the Democratic-led judiciary committee in the New Jersey state senate. Mr. Christie subsequently appointed Phil Kwon to be a lawyer at the Port Authority, where the "Wall Street Journal" reports today that he spent days preparing Bill Baroni for his legislative testimony on the George Washington Bridge lane closures, testimony that is now known to have been untrue and misleading. Joining us now is the co-chair of the New Jersey Assembly Select Committee`s investigation into this matter, Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Mr. Chairman, thanks for being here. STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Rachel, good to be back. MADDOW: Bill Baroni gave you two hours of testimony on the closure of those bridge lanes. I reread all of that testimony today and looked back at some of that tape. He said it was all to do with a traffic study. Is it clear to you that we now know that was inaccurate testimony? WISNIEWSKI: It was inaccurate testimony. There was no traffic study. Pat Foye in his testimony denied the existence of a traffic study. The documents we`ve received from the people we`ve previously submitted show there was no photographic study. It seems to be some type of cover story. MADDOW: If the "Wall Street Journal`s" reporting is accurate, that Phillip Kwon, a lawyer at the Port Authority, a close ally and appointee of the governor`s, was involved in four to five days of preparation of Mr. Baroni for that testimony, which you just said is inaccurate, are -- does that open up a new line of questions for the Port Authority, for the governor, or for Mr. Kwon? WISNIEWSKI: One of the fundamental problems we have with this entire inquiry, every time we learn something we get a whole bunch of new questions that we don`t have answers to. So, I knew Phil Kwon was there when Bill Baroni was testifying, but at that point in time, I had no idea - - MADDOW: He was sitting there in the room. WISNIEWSKI: He was sitting a couple of seats behind Bill Baroni while he testified. As a matter of fact, Mr. Baroni referenced him during his testimony. When I asked him for the documents he was referring to, he said he`d have to run that by counsel. I said, well, he`s a couple rows behind you, you can go talk and we`ll wait. He deferred doing that. But the point is it just seems an unusual amount of time to have somebody spend and prep you for talking about something that is supposed to be factual. I mean, if it`s something that happened, somebody understood and knew and was planning for I`m really mystified at the length of time it was necessary to prepare Bill Baroni for the testimony. MADDOW: I feel like I`m a slow reader and a slow learner and I can buy that it can take a long time to prep for important testimony. Two hours sitting there. You were asking difficult questions. I can tell from the tape I watched today and the transcript. What seems difficult for me to get my head around is the question of who cooked up the cover story. I mean, the cover story, if it was developed in order to hide what really was happening. How will we ever learn who was in on creating it? WISNIEWSKI: Well, that`s what we`re trying to get to the bottom of. There`s an interesting e-mail or text message sometime on the first morning. I think David Wildstein sent to somebody that said, I have an idea to make this better. So, my question is, was that where the thought was hatched about coming up with this cover story? I don`t know. But clearly there was a lot of effort put into it. You`ve seen the e-mails. We`ve all seen e-mails. There was a lot of back and forth about how to spin the press, how to keep conversations to a minimum, how not to respond to people. So, there was really a concerted effort in that first week to not really talk about and then a concerted effort afterwards to come up with an explanation, a rationalization, if you will, as to why this happened. MADDOW: Governor, tonight, in a live radio interview went back to the traffic study idea. Said he doesn`t know if there was a traffic study or if it was a traffic study did it morph into a political vendetta or vice versa. Do you have any reaction to the governor putting it in those terms? WISNIEWSKI: It`s clearly not a traffic study. I think any objective observer who looked at these documents know that it wasn`t. And if it was, then why did Bridget Kelly send an e-mail saying there`s time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee? Clearly, she could have said it`s time to put the traffic study into effect, it`s time to do that bit of analysis we talked about. But that`s not what she said. And so, I think the documents really speak to the fact that there was no traffic study. I think we need to get beyond that. I mean, for whatever reason the governor keeps holding on to that for some reason. I`m not sure it really is an important issue for him to hold on to. We need to know what gave Bridget Kelly the idea that she could send this? Who else in the governor`s office above her, alongside her, gave her the permission to do this? We know she couldn`t have done it on her own. MADDOW: Bridget Kelly tonight invoking the Fifth Amendment, saying she will not comply with your subpoena. What`s your reaction to that? WISNIEWSKI: Well, it makes our job a little more difficult. Obviously not the first time we`ve heard this. The third time essentially. We`re going to consult with counsel for the committee and decide what course the committee should take in response to that. MADDOW: New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, thank you for keeping us apprised. Appreciate it. WISNIEWSKI: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CHRISTIE: So as I said at the time of January 9th, when I did my press conference, I still don`t know whether there was a traffic study that morphed -- RADIO HOST: You still don`t know at this point whether there was a traffic study? CHRISTIE: Well, what I`m saying, Eric, is did this start as a traffic study that then morphed into some political shenanigans, or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey taking questions tonight about the bridge scandal for the first time in more than three weeks, again insisting he had nothing to do with it and, unexpectedly, still sticking with the idea that maybe it was all about some sort of traffic study. The governor`s former deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly tonight asserting her fifth amendment rights, saying she will not comply with the subpoena she`s received from the New Jersey legislature. She is the third official associated with these events in New Jersey to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights. And a fifth person has now left Governor Christie`s orbit since this scandal began. This time it`s Christina Genovese Renna, who reported to Bridget Kelly in the governor`s office. Christina Renna has announced as of this weekend that she has resigned from the governor`s office. All of that, and we have not so much as dipped a toe in the whole other river of news about the Christie administration having to do with this story, specifically related to questions about the way the Christie administration has handled federal disaster money sent to the state after Hurricane Sandy and whether or not the administration divvied that money up fairly or whether there were politics in play. We`re going to be taking a dive into some of those questions tomorrow night on that with our own Steve Kornacki. Steve Kornacki has been reporting on that subject that you will not hear anywhere else. You are not going to want to miss it. That`s tomorrow night right here. But right 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