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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/10/14

Guests: Guest: John Wisniewski, Amy Adams

CHRIS HAYES, "ALL IN" HOST: THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thank you, my friend. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. When you take Amtrak on the northeast corridor, when you`re heading north, the way you know you have reached New Jersey is when you see this sign. "Trenton makes, the world takes." It probably used to say, "The world takes, Trenton makes." But obviously, this version is fairly better. It`s an old Chamber of Commerce slogan designed to market Trenton, New Jersey, as a manufacturing hub with international aspirations. But now when you see that sign, it mostly just means that you have successfully crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania, into New Jersey, especially into Trenton, which is New Jersey`s state capital. The historic state capitol building in Trenton is just a hop, skip and a jump from that "Trenton makes" bridge. It`s also right there on the banks of the Delaware River bordering Pennsylvania. New Jersey`s state capitol is on the Delaware River. Not on the Hudson River. It`s on the other side of the state from New York City. And so, you have to think about your options and think about the weather and think about, say, traffic if you want to get from some place like Trenton, way down on the Pennsylvania border, all the way over and up into Manhattan. It`s a ways. The office of the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, told reporters today that in order to get to the commemorative events at Ground Zero this past September 11th, Governor Christie traveled to Lower Manhattan via Jersey City. He went to Jersey City and from there, he took a ferry into Lower Manhattan. It was 96 degrees that day. So the breeze on the ferry probably felt great on the over, and, of course, helped avoid all that bridge and tunnel traffic into Lower Manhattan. Well, when Governor Christie left the events at Ground Zero on September 11, he did not return by the same route used to get there. Instead of taking the ferry back the way he came, Governor Christie`s office says he flew back to Trenton. He flew back to Trenton by helicopter. So think about the geography here for a second. If the governor traveled the route that his office says he traveled, there`s no legitimate reason why he should have been anywhere near the gridlock that day that was caused by the shutdown of access lanes on to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee. Look at the -- see how much further above ground zero Fort Lee is? Fort Lee is up there. Trenton is down there. So, there`s no reason why you would go past Fort Lee if you were going home to Trenton. This past September 11th was day 3 of the manmade traffic disaster in Fort Lee. The manmade traffic disaster in Fort Lee that appears to have been ordered up by Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff and carried out by David Wildstein at the Port Authority. This is Mr. Wildstein with Governor Christie on that day, on September 11th, on the third day of the manmade traffic jam in Fort Lee. They`re there together at the commemorative events at Ground Zero. Governor Christie`s office said today that although the governor did fly back from ground zero that day through Trenton by helicopter and although he did spend part of the day at Ground Zero with Mr. Wildstein as these photos show, the governor`s office says today that David Wildstein didn`t get on the helicopter, himself, David Wildstein did not accompany Governor Christie on the helicopter ride back to New Jersey, the governor`s office said today, that David Wildstein has never flown on a helicopter with Governor Chris Christie. So, one, is it true? Is it true that Mr. Wildstein did not take that helicopter ride with Governor Christie during the bridge lane shutdown after they spent the day together at the 9/11 event? Number two, whether or not David Wildstein was onboard with Mr. Christie during that helicopter ride, was this the route back to Trenton that the governor took? Was this the as the crow flies logical route that as you can see steers well clear of Fort Lee and the traffic gridlock that had been bestowed on that town on purpose as some sort of as yet unexplained political punishment? We do not yet know. When "The Newark Star Ledger" asked Governor Christie`s office today if the governor`s helicopter flew over the George Washington Bridge on its way back from Lower Manhattan to Trenton, the governor`s office would not comment today, so we don`t know. But we may be about to find out for sure, anyway, because the New Jersey legislative committee investigating the bridge shutdown is tonight sending out 18 new subpoenas and among these 18 new subpoenas is one to the state police aviation unit which oversees Governor Chris Christie`s travel by helicopter. "The New York Post," "The Newark Star Ledger" and "The Bergen Record" all reported today in advance of these subpoenas coming out today that the records of Governor Christie`s helicopter travel would be demanded by the legislature in conjunction with the investigation. We do not exactly know why, but obviously, speculation about the governor potentially doing a fly- by inspection of the traffic gridlock in Fort Lee while it was under way led today to some rather lurid headlines. And to some heated anticipation about who else would be subpoenaed tonight and why. In addition to this state police aviation unit, here`s what we know about the new subpoenas that are going out tonight. So, we`ve got that state police aviation unit, the new subpoenas to the governor`s office, new subpoenas to the governor`s re-election campaign as well. They were subpoenaed before. They`ve got new subpoenas now. There are also four new people inside the governor`s office who are receiving subpoenas tonight for the first time. One is executive assistant to Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor`s deputy chief of staff sent that e- mail that said time for traffic problems in Fort Lee. Bridget Kelly`s executive assistant has now been subpoenaed, so has the director of constituent relations in the governor`s office and also the governor`s office director of operations has been subpoenaed. Regina Egea, who was director of the authorities unit, but who is now the governor`s chief of staff, she has been subpoenaed again. This time, there`s also a subpoena for her senior counsel to the authorities unit. Over at the Port Authority, there are a whole bunch of new subpoenas as well. Bill Baroni, who is now resigned from the Port Authority, he`s been subpoenaed again as have not one, but two of his assistants from the Port Authority. David Wildstein`s special assistant has also been subpoenaed at the Port Authority tonight, as has the chief of staff to the Port Authority executive director. The executive director was, of course, the one from the New York side who called the bridge lane closures off when he found out about them and said they were illegal and outrageous. Also, a deputy director of media relations at the Port Authority has been subpoenaed, a man named Steve Coleman, whose name you might have seen in media reports from the Port Authority. Assistant director at the part of the Port Authority that handles bridges has also been subpoenaed. Also, one of the Port Authority`s commissioners, who Senator Loretta Weinberg wrote to for help right after the bridge closure started. A commissioner named Pat Schuber, he has now been subpoenaed tonight, as has the institution of the Port Authority, itself, in the form of its custodian of records for the agency being subpoenaed tonight. So, that`s 17 new subpoenas being sent out tonight. The last one, number 18, is maybe how we will get to one of the biggest unanswered questions in this whole story and the one that`s received the least press until now. And it`s about this man, Philip Kwon. Philip Kwon was nominated by Governor Chris Christie to serve on the New Jersey state Supreme Court. His nomination for the New Jersey state Supreme Court was rejected by the Democratic-led Senate in New Jersey. Governor Christie excoriated the Democrats in the Senate for rejecting Phil Kwon`s nomination but he installed him at the Port Authority as kind of a really nice consolation prize. Put him in a well-paid job as deputy general counsel of the Port Authority. Now, the Port Authority has a bunch of people who work in the general counsel`s office as deputy general counsels and assistant general counsels. They have a ton of lawyers at the Port Authority, but for whatever reason, it was this one, Phil Kwon, the governor`s Supreme Court nominee, who personally did the prep work for this testimony that you see here. Phil Kwon is sitting there in the right side of the screen, in the green tie. This was late November. This is Bill Baroni who has since resigned from the Port Authority. This is Bill Baroni testifying to the New Jersey legislature as Phil Kwon looks on, testifying to the legislature at length about a supposed traffic study. The traffic study was the cover story that was cooked up to cover up what actually happened to those bridge lanes and this was Bill Baroni delivering that false cover story to the legislature in November, and it was Philip Kwon who the "Wall Street Journal" says spent part of four to five days preparing Bill Baroni to give that ultimately false testimony. The Port Authority for their part, they contest that it was that many days of prep but they do not contest it was Phil Kwon who prepped Bill Baroni for that testimony which we now know to be false. Why did Phil Kwon do that? Why was it him specifically assigned to do it? And did he know it was false testimony that he was preparing Bill Baroni to give to the legislature? Did he know it was a cover story? There`s all this focus nationally on Governor Chris Christie, what this means for his political future, how is he handling the crisis, is he going to run for president and should he step down as head of the Republican Governors Association, and his poll numbers, whatever. Right. Fine. I understand that`s the national interest here, right? But there really is no reason to put the cart before the horse in this story. What remains unexplained here is the really basic stuff. Why did they shut down those bridge lanes and gridlock Fort Lee? It wasn`t a traffic study. That was a cover story. So, one, what was the real reason they did it? Two, who was in on it? And three, who was in on the cover-up? Who knew that the traffic study story was false and pushed it anyway to try to cover up the real reason this happened? The busiest bridge in the world was used as a weapon to hurt one New Jersey town on orders that appeared to have come from the governor`s office. It`s fun to talk about Chris Christie`s poll numbers. What remains between here and there is the central question of who done it and why and who helped them try to get away with it? Do we get closer to answering those questions with this new round of subpoenas tonight? Now, in addition to the 18 new subpoenas sent out by the legislature tonight, the committee investigating the scandal also today voted on how to proceed with regard to the governor`s fired deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his former campaign manager, both of whom have invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and have refused to hand over documents to the legislature and have asked that their subpoenas be revoked. Today, the committee investigating the scandal for the legislature said, no, we will not revoke subpoenas for both Bridget Kelly and Michael Stepien, the committee passed motions today declaring the subpoenas were, quote, "necessary, proper and relevant to the matter under investigation", declaring that Mr. Stepien and Ms. Kelly`s objections to the subpoenas were invalid, and compelling them to turn over those documents that were called for in the subpoenas. If Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly still do not comply, now that the legislature has renewed their call for the documents and said the objections are not valid and they must comply, if Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien do not comply, it is likely that they will be held in contempt and then they will get referred for prosecution. That`s what happened when David Wildstein invoked his Fifth Amendment rights to not testify to the legislature. Mr. Wildstein has been referred for prosecution on contempt charges, as his lawyer continues to seek immunity for him from those and other charges. He says he will sing like a bird if he gets immunity from everyone. But for Chris Christie`s former campaign manager and his former deputy chief of staff, it is not just that they are refusing to testify, like David Wildstein, they are refusing to even hand over documents. Yes, David Wildstein is refusing to talk, but he also handed over 908 pages of documentation to the committee. That`s how anybody knew about Bridget Kelly`s role in this whole thing in the first place. That`s how we knew about the "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail, it was in David Wildstein`s the 900 pages of documents. He`s been happy to turn over documents. He doesn`t want to talk. With Bill Stepien, Bridget Kelly, they don`t want to hand over documents. So, we`ve got the head of the legislative committee who`s running this investigation, the head of the committee who issued the 18 subpoenas tonight. He`s here live next on this show to answer questions. But it seems like there`s two immediately outstanding new issues today. One is what`s going to happen to Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly if they continue to refuse to comply with the subpoenas? What happens next with them? Secondly, a more political matter that`s maybe because it`s political a little more sensitive. And that is this. For the first time today, this investigation into Chris Christie and his administration in New Jersey, the bridge-gate investigation today for the very first time since it started, started to break down along partisan lines. When the assembly voted to continue the investigation, it was a unanimous vote. All the Republicans and all the Democrats voted to continue the investigation. When the joint committee was formed to advance the investigation, the vote to advance the joint investigation was unanimous. Every Democrat and every Republican in the New Jersey legislature voted to continue the investigation. That`s why when guys like Rudy Giuliani were saying this is a partisan witch hunt, it was hard to take seriously given that every Republican in the legislature voted for it. But when these votes happened today, essentially moving toward finding Bridget Kelly and Bill Stepien in contempt if they don`t comply with the subpoenas, when it happened today, it was not unanimous. The vote was eight Democrats voting yes and all the Republicans on the panel not voting. All the Republicans abstained and refused to vote. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) STATE REP. HLLY SCHEPISH (R), NEW JERSEY: With respect to these motions, understand a lot about it. Only receive the motion as we were in the room and still have some questions. Not quite sure. Haven`t had the opportunity to digest a lot of this, and so for the moment, I am abstaining on all six of the motions. STATE REP. GREGORY MCGUCKIN (R), NEW JERSEY: Realistically, in the limited timeframe we`ve had, a very complicated constitutional issues, I`m just not prepared at this point to make that determination, although I may at some point reach it, certainly not in the limited timeframe we`ve had to review this. Again, a very, very complicated constitutional issue and Fifth Amendment privileges. Quite frankly, it reads like a textbook and a very well-done brief, but for those reasons, I must abstain also on each of the six motions. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Assemblyman Carroll? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abstain. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator O`Toole? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Abstain. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: All the Republicans on the New Jersey investigative committee abstained from voting today. Before today, every vote in the legislature on this matter in both houses of the legislature has been 100 percent bipartisan and 100 percent unanimous. If that is now breaking down along partisan lines, if the Republicans are now balking at each new step in the investigation, what happens next? The head of the investigation is here next to tell us. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE SEN. NIA H. GILL (D), NEW JERSEY: Second motion, I move that the objections raised by Bridget Anne Kelly in response to the committee`s January 27th, 204 subpoena, and in response to the modifications to the subpoena of February 4th, 2014, have been considered by the committee and are hereby held to be invalid. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Invalid. The New Jersey legislative committee investigating the bridge scandal in that state today held that Governor Chris Christie`s former deputy chief of staff Bridget Kelly, she of the "time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee" e-mail, essentially cannot cite the Fifth Amendment in order to protect her from the subpoena that she has received that has asked her to give documents over to that legislative investigating committee. Given that those objections that she expressed have been ruled invalid today by the legislature, what happens if Bridget Anne Kelly keeps resisting the subpoena? Same argument holds for governor Christie`s former campaign manager. What happens if they keep saying no? Joining us now is New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski. He`s co- chair of the select committee in the legislature. Mr. Chairman, thank you for being here. STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Rachel, good to be here. Thank you. MADDOW: What is the -- what is the short answer to that long question, I guess? What happens if they continue -- Mr. Stepien and Miss Kelly continue to say, no, they`re not going to hand over documents? WISNIEWSKI: I think there`s legal recourse our counsel will pursue. I think we`re way ahead of that right now. Right now what we`re going to is say, we`ve considered your objections. We`ve taken time. We`ve gone through the analysis. Our counsel has given us an opinion that those objections don`t stand and we expect compliance. Let`s see what happens when they get that message first, and then we`ll take it step by step after that. But clearly there`s a difference. There`s a difference between forcing somebody to speak words that they have not ever spoken before in front of the committee and to provide documents that they previously sent to somebody by hitting a "send" button. Other people that provided us documents, they`ve not interposed a subjection, so the committee considered those objections that they raised but we feel very comfortable in following the advice of counsel and moving the way we have. MADDOW: It was striking today to see all of the Republicans on your committee abstain from voting on those motions. Again, those motions were specific to Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly and their Fifth Amendment claims. Was that a surprise to you? Should we see that as a new partisan divide opening up in what you`re doing? WISNIEWSKI: I certainly hope not. This is a committee that`s looking to get at the facts. Why did Bridget Kelly choose on that August day to send the e-mail so early in the morning that resulted in the lanes ultimately being closed? They`re not Democratic facts. They`re not Republican facts. They`re just the facts. We want answers to questions. All the members of the committee were briefed. They got a full written brief on this issue last week. So, you know, to have the argument being made today that there wasn`t ample time to consider, I don`t get. My hope is this is an aberration that we can all work together and get to the truth because as I said, this just is really about answering questions and there are no partisan taints to the questions. It either is or it isn`t. MADDOW: The other thing that the committee has don`t today, and this is reported in the "Star Ledger," first I know the committee didn`t put out the names of the people you issued new subpoenas to today. But I have to ask if there was a partisan divide on the committee in terms of sending out this new round of subpoenas? WISNIEWSKI: Well, my understanding after we met in executive session, that there was an agreement we would wait until all the members, all the individuals who were named in the new subpoenas had gotten service. We wanted them to find out by receiving service and not from tonight`s newscast. And apparently that didn`t happen. But there wasn`t any strong objections raised about any of the new subpoenas. And there weren`t any strong objections raised about the last set of subpoenas. And so, as I said, this is really about getting answers to questions, really fundamental questions. How did this happen? Who gave Bridget Kelly the authorization? What made her think she could do this? Really simple questions that apparently are becoming a very complicated in answering. MADDOW: In terms of the list of subpoenas, again, reported tonight first by the "Star-Ledger," the state aviation -- the Aviation Authority within the state police which handles the governor`s helicopter travel is a part of this investigation, a part of the potential data universe out there that I`ve never considered before. Can you tell us why they received a subpoena? WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think all of these subpoenas are off-chutes of data that we already had that we continue to analyze and go there, and so, we sent out the subpoenas we did initially based on an initial review, but as you gather more data, other questions become obvious that you need to get answers to. And so what this round of subpoenas simply represent is the next iteration of questions. And every time we uncover something, every time we get an answer to a question, we`ve got five more questions that need to be answered. So the subpoenas that came out today including the one to the aviation unit is really to get answers about who knew what when. Who was in the conversations at what point in time? Who else was with various people when those conversations were had? And sometimes you have to ask questions of a lot of people to get very few answers. So, we`re not going to just start ruling out asking questions before we know what the answers are. MADDOW: It was that particular subpoena today was described in the press as having been -- having sprung from a concern that perhaps the governor did a flyover over the George Washington Bridge during the bridge shutdown on the day of September 11th, 2013. Do you want to comment on that speculation in the press? WISNIEWSKI: I don`t know what the governor did or didn`t do in the helicopter, but I do think that who conversations are had with at particular points in time are just as important to the committee as where the helicopter flew. So, this is part of a larger effort to piece together a puzzle that we`re not seeing entirely clearly, but we do know that there was an abuse of power in an attempt to cover it up. We need to know how far that goes and who else knew it. MADDOW: New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, co-chair of the select committee investigating the bridge lane closures -- I can -- I feel your path narrowing as you step forward here in terms how careful you are in answering these questions. But thank you for being willing to keep the conversations going in explaining this to us. WISNIEWSKI: I`m not sure it`s narrowing all the time. Sometimes I see it narrow. Sometimes it gets wider. Each day, it changes. MADDOW: Yes, one foot in front of the other. Thank you, sir. Appreciate it. WISNIEWSKI: Thank you. MADDOW: I`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I have and will continue to, started yesterday, to once again now have personal one-on-one discussions myself with the remaining members of my senior staff to determine if there`s any other information that I do not know and need to know in order to take appropriate action. I`m going to continue this process. I couldn`t get it all done yesterday. And so what steps we`ll take after that, if there are concrete steps beyond what I`ve done today, then we`ll certainly announce them and talk about them. If, you know, if not, then I`ll just say, listen, I think we`ve gotten to the bottom of this. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last month announcing how he planned to get to the bottom of this whole embarrassing bridge scandal in his state -- personal one-on-one discussions with remaining members of my senior staff. If there are concrete steps beyond what I`ve done today, then we`ll certainly announce them. If not, I`ll say, listen, I think we`ve gotten to the bottom of this. A week after Governor Christie described interviewing his staff, himself personally, his office announced that actually, they were hiring a big law firm to do a formal internal review. Quote, "Governor Christie made clear last week that he will conduct an internal review to uncover the facts surrounding the lane closures at Fort Lee." Governor Christie`s press office today confirmed for us when they say Governor Christie made clear he would conduct that internal review, what they meant was his comments we just played for you here from that January press conference where he said he`d been talking to his staff one-on-one and would continue talking to them. They told us today that that was Governor Christie clearing calling for an internal review. Didn`t much sound like it, but tonight, whatever else this internal review means, we do know now that it is not internal because tonight we can report exclusively that the lawyer hired by Governor Christie to do this internal review, that lawyer has contacted the attorney for the mayor of little Fort Lee, New Jersey, Mayor Mark Sokolich. The mayor`s attorney telling us tonight it was Mayor Sokolich -- the mayor`s telling us tonight that he received that communication from governor Christie`s lawyer. It was Mayor Sokolich`s town, of course, that got turned into a parking lot for four days in September. Governor Christie`s deputy chief of staff apparently ordered up traffic problems for Fort Lee and a Christie ally obliged by shutting down the town`s access lanes to the George Washington Bridge. It was Mayor Sokolich who pleaded for help from Governor Christie`s office during the shutdown. Mayor Sokolich asking what on earth he did to anger someone enough that they would endanger his town by intentionally creating traffic problems in Fort Lee, so much so that ambulances couldn`t get through? In his search for why someone would want to do that to him and Fort Lee, Mayor Sokolich suggested it was perhaps retaliation at him for not endorsing Governor Christie in his re-election campaign. Governor Christie has denied that allegation from the mayor. But tonight, the lawyer for Mayor Sokolich tells us that the attorney that Governor Christie hired to conduct that internal investigation of his own office, that Christie attorney has reached outside the governor`s office to seek an interview with Fort Lee`s mayor. The attorney for Mayor Sokolich says the request came through this weekend. The mayor`s attorney did not answer when we asked tonight about how he responded so far to the request from the Christie lawyer. But that`s not all. There`s more. We can also report tonight exclusively that the Christie attorney conducting this internal review has also written to the town of Fort Lee. Governor Christie`s lawyer filing an open records request today with the mayor`s office in Fort Lee requesting, quote, "any and all correspondence going back to August 1st about those lane closures in September. They`re also requesting any and all documents back to January 1st about access to those lanes including, quote, "communications with the Port Authority." They`re also requesting, quote, "any and all documents having to do with the issue of endorsing Governor Chris Christie for re-election or talking to members of his re-election campaign. The Christie lawyers also requesting any and all documents that the mayor or members of his staff provided to "The New York Times," "The Wall Street Journal" or other local or national, print, Internet or television media since September 1st, more than a week before the traffic jam, quote, "Regarding any of the above subjects." Governor Christie`s lawyer requests that production of responsive documents be made as soon as possible. Signed very truly yours, Randy M. Mastro. New and fascinating news tonight in this New Jersey story, specifically about what Governor Christie`s office thinks is an internal review that suddenly does not look very internal. Yesterday, Shawn Boburg at "The Bergen Record" broke the news that Governor Christie`s lawyers have also written to Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer concerning that mayor`s allegation that Christie administration officials threatened to withhold federal aid money for Sandy relief, unless she supported a private development in Hoboken. That project has ties to the man who Governor Christie appointed to be chairman of the Port Authority. The Christie lawyers asking for documents from Mayor Zimmer, also asking for an interview with her. Look at the quote from the letter. The governor`s office takes the allegations recently made by Hoboken Mayor Zimmer very seriously. For that reason, we have assembled a team here that includes five former prosecutors and are conducting a thorough review of the facts pertinent to Mayor Zimmer`s allegations. And then they request, quote, "complete unredacted documents from the mayor`s office." Signed, respectfully, Randy M. Mastro. This internal review of the governor`s office which has now stretched into the office of the Hoboken mayor appears to not be getting very far yet at least not in Hoboken. Mayor Zimmer`s attorney replying basically, thank you, also no thank you. The response, quote, "We question whether it is appropriate for the governor`s office in essence to be investigating itself, particularly when an investigation of the same subject matter is being conducted by the U.S. attorney`s office. Put another way, we fail to see how the request you`ve made would further your, quote, `mandate` from the governor`s office to facilitate cooperation with the investigation when the mayor and city are already cooperating directly with that investigation." These letters from Governor Christie`s lawyer to these mayors in Fort Lee and Hoboken makes for an unexpected development in a story that is already persistently just plain weird from lots of different answers angles. But this is a really strange part of the story and it`s an unexpected turn in the strange part of the story. Part of the reason this is strange is the way the governor`s office is insisting that he clearly in that press conference, that day back in January, called for an internal review, when he described himself as a sad, angry boss continuing to talk one-on-one with his employees, personally, himself, in order to get to the bottom of this. And yet in that same press conference, the governor said he had not asked his deputy chief of staff why she ordered up traffic problems in Fort Lee. Said he hadn`t asked her about it and didn`t plan to. After Governor Christie announced he hired a lawyer, much of the press was all about the governor bringing in top legal talent to respond to the bridge-gate scandal. "The Asbury Park Press" headlined the governor`s new attorney as a legal alligator who`s reported to have wielded a bat for effect during meetings. Well, now, we have from that same lawyer requests for interview the with two New Jersey mayors who made allegations against Governor Christie, a request in the case of the Hoboken mayor that includes mention of a team of five former federal prosecutors who are taking the Hoboken mayor`s allegations very seriously. How did the governor`s internal investigation get from not even asking Bridget Kelly about why she did what she did, to now mayors around the state who have questioned Governor Christie getting the opportunity to have meetings with five former federal prosecutors at a time? This is a strange turn and a strange part of the story. Where intimidation has been part of the alleged plot from the beginning, right? Is intimidation also part of how this scandal resolves from here on out? Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REV. WILLIAM BARBER, NORTH CAROLINA NAACP PRESIDENT: We say to our governor and every governor and every legislature and every politician, we say this to you in love -- don`t you know if you leave the low ground of extremism and go to the higher ground of justice, if you use your office to help somebody, then you`re living shall not be in vain. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: More than 80,000 people rallied in Raleigh, North Carolina, this weekend, protesting the hard right turn in that state under the Republican legislature and the new Republican Governor Pat McCrory, really kind of a ginormous number of people -- 80,000 to 100,000 people rallying this weekend in North Carolina. But that is not the only complication in Governor Pat McCrory`s life right now. "The Associated Press" got a huge scoop on North Carolina today, and that story is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Way over in the western part of North Carolina, tucked right underneath Tennessee is the lovely city of Asheville. The 11th largest city in the state located roughly at the mouth of the French Broad River and Swannanoa River. Right along Asheville`s stretch of the French Broad River sits a coal fired power plant. The plant is owned by Duke Energy, which is headquartered in North Carolina, the single largest electric power holding company in the country. Early last year an environmental group in that area started looking into this site, specifically looking into the huge amounts of coal ash that are stored at that plant. The group was concerned that the coal ash was contaminating the local groundwater. So, in January of last year, they filed a notice of their intent to sue Duke Energy in federal court. Under the federal Clean Water Act you can do that. Citizen groups can file lawsuits over environmental right violations, but there`s a sort of stray thread, maybe, loose, loophole, maybe, something to worry about. They have to give the state regulators, they have to give regulators in their state 60 days` notice just in case the state wants to take action on its own before the citizens case can move forward. So, this group filed a notice of their intent to sue Duke Energy. And then on the 58th day after the notice went out, the deadline was 60 days. On the 58th day, sure enough, North Carolina`s state environmental agency announced they were going to step in and take action themselves. The state essentially intervened and said to the citizens group -- no, we are the state department for the environment. We have the right to step in here. We`re stepping into your lawsuit and we`re going to become the plaintiff here. State came in at the last minute and supplanted that citizen group`s complaint. Two months later, the same environmental group sent another notice about possible coal ash contamination at a different Duke Energy plant, this one near Charlotte. They filed another intent to sue over the conditions at that plant. Another plant owned by Duke Energy. And on the 60th day, on the very last day before that lawsuit could go forward, state regulators, again, stepped in and intervened. We have the right to step in here, we`re the new plaintiffs here. You`re off the case. Then this past June, the same environmental group sent another notice saying they intended to sue, again, over coal ash, allegedly contaminating a public fishing lake and local drinking water at a Duke Energy plant near Wilmington, North Carolina, and once again, just like before, state regulators stepped in on the very last day before the suit could go forward and say actually, you know what, we got this. We have the right to step in here. We`re the new plaintiffs. You citizens group can no longer sue, we`re taking over your case. After blocking those three potential lawsuits from that environmental group, in the past year, the state announced that their big action, the reason that they decided to step in, block this group from doing it, they were going to do it, was so they could settle. On their own, they decided to settle the matter by assessing a fine against Duke Energy of a grand total of $99,000 -- $99,000 fine for a company that`s valued at nearly $50 billion. Three times environmental groups tried to use the Clean Water Act to see Duke Energy to force them to clean up their coal ash sites in North Carolina and three times the state government has stepped in at the very last minute to stop the lawsuit. Those details came to light in a rather jaw-dropping new report from "The Associated Press." "The A.P." reporting that at the beginning of last year, in January 2013, the North Carolina government started stepping in and blocking these environmental lawsuits against Duke Energy. That same month, January 2013, is when North Carolina got a brand new Republican governor, Republican Pat McCrory, who before he became governor spent 28 years working for Duke Energy. In the year since he has become governor, these environmental groups raised concern after concern about this one company and its coal ash problem and every time they`ve essentially been stymied by the new administration. And then their worst fears were realized. Last week, last Sunday afternoon, up to 82,000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water broke free from a 48-inch storm water pipe that was located at the Dan River power plant in Eden, North Carolina. That retired plant is owned by Duke Energy. The pipe that ruptured spewed thousands of tons of toxic sludge which contains lead and arsenic and mercury and a stew of other toxic chemicals. Enough sludge flowed out of that pipe to fill up 73 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The public was not told about the breach until the day after it happened. The initial reports by both the company responsible, Duke Energy, and the state regulatory agency, did not accurately relay the scale of the leak. This it turns out was the third largest coal ash spill the country has ever seen. The coal ash from this spill kept spewing into the Dan River for almost a week until this Saturday, this weekend when workers were finally able to plug the pipe and stop the flow. Governor Pat McCrory`s first public statement about this huge spill was not until four days after it happened and then finally he showed up at the spill site and pounded his chest and touted his record of being so tough on the energy, crowing that his administration was the first in North Carolina history to take legal action against a company related to coal ash -- right, by stepping in and blocking other lawsuits against the company and settling with the company for basically no money and, importantly, no promise from Duke Energy to actually fix what they were doing wrong. This new reporting from the "Associated Press" about the state`s role in blocking legal action against this industry, against this specific company, this new reporting raises questions about whether the sort of accident could have been prevented. One former regulator at the state`s environmental agency, Amy Adams, a nine-year veteran at the agency resigned in protest this past November over the direction the agency was taking since the new administration had been sworn in, saying she was steered away from issuing violations or fines against polluters once Governor McCrory of Duke Energy took office. Joining us now is Amy Adams. She`s the former regional office supervisor for the division quality at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. She`s currently North Carolina campaign coordinator for an environmental non-profit called Appalachian Voices. Ms. Adams, thank you very much for being with us tonight. AMY ADAMS, APPALACHIAN VOICES: Thank you for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: So we have just received news, just within the last few minutes, received news about the third of those environmental cases that the McCrory administration intervened in. The first two cases where they intervened, they settled with Duke Energy for a total of $99,000 over the two cases. Duke didn`t have to change anything they were doing with regard to coal ash. The third one was pending. We`ve just heard tonight that they are going to delay their own settlement with Duke Energy in the wake of this huge new coal ash disaster in your state. What`s your reaction to that? ADAMS: I think that is the most prudent action that I have seen DENR take since the litigation against these utilities has started. I think this is a progressive step forward that is typically unusual of Diener. MADDOW: Could this leak at the Dan River plant have been prevented? Was it -- was this the sort of thing that was foreseen, that people were worried about with those lawsuits they were filing? ADAMS: Yes. This was absolutely 100 percent preventable, Rachel. What we know is that these coal ash ponds, anytime they`re storing toxic coal ash in an unlined hole in the ground adjacent to our surface waters, that there`s a risk to the public. There`s a risk to our drinking water, the public`s right for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water to utilize for their recreation and for their personal benefit. And even though this spill is the outward sign, we saw the outward sign of the spill in Kingston, Tennessee in 2008, and this is the outward sign of a catastrophic failure here at the Dan River, these plants, all 14 plants in North Carolina are under lawsuit for contaminating groundwater. And that`s what the public doesn`t see, is that this groundwater contamination goes on every single day and while this is new news to your viewers this is not new news to the folks that are advocates trying to address this coal ash pollution that the state is facing. MADDOW: You were involved on the regulatory side of this for nine years before you resigned last year, citing your changed work experience under the McCrory administration. Can you tell us what changed, what had your job been like, what had the regulatory job been like in North Carolina before Governor McCrory, and how has it changed since him? ADAMS: Certainly. Before it has always been the mission of DENR to protect the resources and the public and the public`s right to have clean air, clean water, a swimmable, recreationable, fishable resources in the state. When Pat McCrory took office, the first thing he did was he appointed John Skvarla, and John Skvarla was instrumental in redefining who DENR customer was. The customer to me has always been North Carolina`s resources and its citizens. And he redefined that and said no, from here forward our customer is going to be the regulatory agent -- or the regulatory industry -- or the industries that we regulate. So, we shifted way from protecting the resource and the people from pollution to protecting the polluter and trying to help them protect both their profit and help them meet compliance standards through proper -- excuse me. Through -- MADDOW: Through the way they had to manage their waste and other by- products of what they do. ADAMS: Absolutely. I`m sorry. I lost you there for a second. MADDOW: I got you. I understand. Amy Adams, thank you for being with us. I have a feeling this will not be the last time we talk about this matter. Thank you very much for being here. ADAMS: Absolutely. Thank you so much. MADDOW: Amy Adams is a former office supervisor for the division of water quality at the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. And she left there in protest last year. Again, though, the breaking news tonight is that twice in the last year, the Department of Natural Resources in North Carolina intervened to stop a federal lawsuit against Duke Energy. In those cases, they settled with the company for $99,000 and they didn`t have to make significant changes to the problem they were getting sued over. A third one of these was ready to go. A third one of these cases was ready to go, and a settlement was pending, but in light of the third largest coal ash disaster in our nation`s history, which has happened on the Dan River in North Carolina in the past two weeks, they have put that settlement on hold. That just happened this hour. Stay with us. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today. All right. This is a good one. You are looking at Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri, home of the football team at the University of Missouri. The big letter "M" that you see at the north end of the stadium, that`s the "M" for Missouri and it`s made of individually painted rocks. The whole thing spans nearly 9,000 square feet. According to Missouri lore, the rock M was built by the university`s 1927 freshman class using leftover rocks from the construction of the original memorial stadium. Now, though, as part of tradition every year, incoming freshmen gather at the stadium and they repaint those rocks white. Rock M is an iconic thing in college football. It`s been there for more than 85 years. As a Mizzou football player after your final home game, you`re allowed to take one of the rocks home with you. And this year, Mizzou had one of their best football seasons in their history. They played in the SEC`s championship. They finished the season ranked as the number 5 team in the nation, and they were led by the player who they voted to be their team MVP. He`s a Mizzou senior, voted defensive player of the year in the SEC. He`s a genuine high-ranking NFL prospect now that he has graduated. And you probably heard his name today. His name is Michael Sam. Mr. Sam has come out to the world as gay after coming out to his teammates last year. And since he is such a good player and is undoubtedly heading to the NFL, this has led to lots of prognosticating about to what it`s going to mean for the NFL, what it`s going do mean for men`s sports generally to have such a prominent openly gay professional athlete. And today, with the eyes of the sports world all focused on Michael Sam and his brilliant career at Mizzou, and his uncharted future because of this brave thing he just did, today this was the scene inside Mizzou`s football stadium. See what`s going on there? At the snowy north end of the hollowed Faurot Field where the temperature did not reach 20 degrees today. Today it wasn`t just the rock M anymore. It was the rock S-A-M for Michael Sam. We reached out to the Mizzou athletic department today to confirm the legitimacy of that picture. They confirm to us that that is the real deal. Here`s to Mizzou fans and his teammates knowing and never caring. Here`s to the defying of expectations in a good way. Best new thing in the world today. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END