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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 02/27/14

Guests: Ted Mann, Darryl Isherwood

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home as well for joining us this hour. In the indictment, they show his real name, Tony Mack. Tony Mack which is an awesome New Jersey politics name in his owned right, right? But Tony Mack apparently was not a cool enough name. According to the indictment, at least, his aliases also included Napoleon, the little guy, and Honey Fitz. Honey Fitz was duly elected as a Democratic mayor of Trenton, New Jersey in the year 2010. In the year 2012, the FBI raided his house. The following day the FBI raided offices at Trenton city hall. And in the fall of that year, September 2012, Honey Fitz, aka Napoleon, aka the little guy, aka the mayor, Tony Mack was arrested along with eight other people including the mayor`s own brother and the charge was corruption. The feds posed as developers and they offered the mayor a bribe in exchange for him ok`ing the development of a downtown parking garage in Trenton. There was no actual planned parking garage and they were not real developers. It was a sting. But the mayor said yes to the bribe. And in February, this month, he was convicted of all charges. He is due to be sentence in the May and could get decades in federal prison based on these charges and these convictions. On the day he was convicted on February 7th, the "Associated Press" provided some helpful contacts for understanding how big of a deal it is for the mayor of this New Jersey city to be going to jail on federal corruption charges. And the short answer is, it is not that big a deal at all, not for New Jersey. Since 2000, the mayors of Newark, New Jersey, Camden, New Jersey, Patterson, New Jersey, Perth Amboy, New Jersey, Hoboken, Passaic, Asbury Park, Orange and Hamilton, New Jersey, those mayors have all been convicted of corruption or pled guilty in corruption cases just since the year 2000, all of them. And now, you can add Trenton to the list. You know Cory Booker as a United States senator right now. But before becoming a United States senator, Cory Booker was not just the mayor of Newark, New Jersey, the state`s largest city. Cory Booker was the first mayor of Newark, New Jersey, since 1962 to not be convicted of corruption charges and to go prison. Yes, New Jersey is just astonishing. New jersey is a sewer of public corruption. But since the latest mayor was convicted in New Jersey of corruption charges, since Honey Fitz Tony Mack got convicted three Fridays ago in Trenton, what has been astonishing to watch is that corruption case is that he refuses to leave office. Until yesterday, Trenton had as its mayor, a man who is three weeks earlier had been convicted of federal corruption charges and was refused and to stop being the mayor even though he was convicted. Trenton had somebody ready to replace him. They assumed that once he was found guilty, he would resign but Tony Mack refused to resign. It was not until a superior court judge yesterday ruled he must be stripped of his office that he finally became not the mayor. He was refusing to go. You can`t have a convict as your mayor. You cannot have someone who has just been found guilty of federal corruption charges and is awaiting their time in federal prison serving as your elected leader. This cannot happen. This does not happen. Except actually, this does happen in New Jersey. What just happened in Trenton is not even unprecedented in the state of New Jersey. A lot of the times that Camden, New Jersey mayor went to jail, he too had to forcibly thrown out of office by a judge because he too refused to leave. Refused to stop being mayor even after he was convicted on federal corruption charges. In New Jersey, this kind of thing isn`t even unprecedented. It is just kind of how it goes. Personal point of privilege her for a moment. It is personal aside. My partner Susan is from New Jersey. She is from Perth Amboy, born and to be out of ringed. I was trying to explain to her about the Trenton mayor, the other day trying on explain to her how amazing it was to me that the convicted mayor of Trenton was still the mayor of Trenton even after he had been convicted. And Susan looked at me. She look me right in the eye, just dead eyed and said John Gorka. Which in our family is shorthand for the John Gorka song, I`m from New Jersey which explains this whole thing. (VIDEO CLIP PLAYING) MADDOW: I would adjust if the world ended. God bless you, John Gorka. I`m from New Jersey. I don`t expect too much. New jersey is the place where not only does the mayor of Trenton get convicted. He refuses to leave office after he has been convicted. And before that the other guy who did that was mayor of Camden after he was convicted of corruption. And when that mayor did that in Camden, you know what, he was the third mayor of Camden in 20 years to be indicted on federal corruption charges. New Jersey is the place where the new mayor, the new mayor, the new young fresh face mayor of Hoboken was in office for precisely three weeks before he agreed to take a bribe in an FBI corruption sting operation and he had to go to jail. Plenty of company, when he gets there actually since the previous mayor of Hoboken was in jail at that time as well, also on corruption charges. New Jersey is just a toxic mire of public corruption. And it has been for years. And the people of New Jersey, and particularly the cities of New Jersey, suffer for the sins of its public officials. Parts of Camden, New Jersey, are worse off than any other single place in the United States. I would put parts of Camden up against anywhere else that we`ve got in this country in terms of trouble. And that`s not because New Jersey is a poor state. New jersey is a very well off state. The reason that parts of Camden look like this is because of governance in New Jersey is rotten. It is a place where for generations, the business of New Jersey government has not been governance. It has not been the allocation of public resources to serve the greater good. The business of governance in New Jersey epically and for way too long has been the business of people in government helping themselves. Helping themselves to public resources. People who are in government using the power that government gives them to steal what ought to be public resources to use for their own private ends. And the great political scandal in New Jersey that is afflicting the presidential hopes of that state`s current governor Chris Christie is not entirely about that age old New Jersey problem. The bridge scandal is not (INAUDIBLE) scandal, right? Nobody appears to have walked away with envelopes stuffed full of cash from those closed access lane on to the George Washington bridge. At least we haven`t heard about it yet. The bridge scandal for the Chris Christie administration is about using a public resource. It is about using the world`s busiest bridge as a weapon to apparently inflict some sort of petty political vendetta which still has not been explained, but at least at this point we haven`t seen the profit motive. It is the investigation into that scandal, the thousands of pages of documents that have been handed over and the intense investigative scrutiny in the legislature and from federal prosecutor and especially from the media that has uncovered a newly sordid picture of you how governance works in New Jersey right now. And it is not just in Camden. And it is not just the Trenton. And it is not just in the bald old days in Hoboken. It is in the state. It is in the richest agencies of the state. And yes, going to prison on federal corruption charges is an order of magnitude different than having New jersey newspapers write about your blatant complex of interest while you are serving Chris Christie`s men at the port authority. But the problem of perverted governance in New Jersey is the same. We got newly un-redacted documents today from the New Jersey legislature. These are the same documents that we had earlier. We just have fewer things blacked out with a sharpie marker. One of the lines that used to be blacked out but is not anymore is this one. It is in the middle of a conversation between Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, two port authority officials who have lost their jobs as a result of this bridge scandal already. This conversation that they are having here is after the bridge lane closures, it is in October. They appear to be discussing a newspaper article that had covered the closure of those lanes. A newspaper article that ran in early October. We think it was probably an article from the "Wall Street Journal." That`s what it seems like from the context. And in this conversation, Mr. Baroni says, Comella, meaning Maria Comella, communications staffer for Governor Christie, didn`t think much of the story, meaning nobody is paying attention to the story we`re talking about. Mr. Wildstein responded, Bridget, same. Meaning presumably, Bridget Ann Kelly, the staffer in governor Christie`s office who ordered time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. Bridget also agrees that there`s nothing much to worry about with the press attention to what they did on that bridge. But then we get to the line that was previously redacted, but now has been uncovered. David Wildstein says, so, what does general want? The person who everybody calls general inside the Christie administration an in New Jersey political circles is this man, former attorney general David Samson who Chris Christie appointed to be chairman of the port authority after Mr. Samson was instrumental and he is getting elected to be governor. After Mr. Samson headed up Chris Christie`s transition team when took office. Mr. Samson, General Samson, is also a named partner in a powerful New Jersey law firm call Wolff Samson. A powerful New Jersey law firm that has done really, really well for himself since Governor Christie was elected and gave David Samson that powerful job at that very rich agency. This is reporting from WNYC, the radio station. This plots the lobbying income of David Samson`s law firm over the years. You can see it here for 2007, 2008, 2009. Governor Christie ran to become governor and was elected in 2009. He resumed office in 2010. And yes, look, Wolff Samson starts doing a lot better Once Chris Christie takes over the state government, you know, and then he appoints David Samson to be head of the port authority. David Samson takes up that role as chairman of the port authority in early 2011. And then look, wow, oh, wow, hey. Wolff Samson is doing really, really well once he gets that gig. These are the numbers for 2012 as well. Well, David Samson has been chairman of the port authority. The port authority has repeatedly taken actions that have financially benefited Mr. Samson`s clients at his private law firm. So for example, his law firm had a client that wanted to make more money on its commuter parking lot that it had in New Jersey. A lot of people commute from New Jersey into New York. They park their cars at one of these lots and then they take some sort of transit into the city. One of the commuter parking lots was owned by this agency. that was run by this agency. It was owned by the port authority. So port authority owned the lot and this other agency operated it. The port authority charged rent on that parking lot. They charged about $900,000 a year rent for that company to operate a parking lot. So yes, the entity could make a lot of money off that lot. You charge people $10 a day to park there. And you got all that as revenue, but they also had to pay rent too. They had to pay to the port authority and that reduced their profits, of course. Well, that entity hired David Samson`s law firm to figure out how they could increase their profits on their parking lots. And then David Samson at the port authority voted that the rent for that parking lot should no longer be $900,000 a year. It should be $1 a year. Port authority owns that parking lot. That mean the rent they were getting was going to a public agency which means theoretically that money was supposed to go to the good of the public. Instead though, that money will now be going to David Samson`s clients. And they in turn will pay his firm to thank them for having come one this great arrangement for them that save them a million bucks. So it is a win/win, right, from their perspective at least. The entity that is running the parking lot saves almost a million dollars on rent. David Samson`s law firm gets paid handsomely for having saved their client almost a million dollars a year on the rent. And the only people that lose is everybody else. This public asset have now been redirected for that private purpose. When the "Bergen Record" first reported that story, David Samson was On the Record of having cast a vote in favor of that deal on the parking lot. That deal that so directly benefited his own law firm`s client. After that story was published, David Samson had the port authority retroactively go back in time and recues him from that vote on the parking lot after the fact. David Samson did not even bother to try to retroactively recues himself though on another one of these deals that follows the exact same contours that makes you feel exactly the same way about government in New Jersey. And it concerns the town of Harrison, New Jersey. So Mr. Samson`s law firm has a client that wants to build luxury housing in Harrison, New Jersey. And it would really help to sell luxury apartments in Harrison, New Jersey if there was a nice transit stop nearby where you could quickly and easily and safely get on the train and go to New York City. That would really help the property values for that development, right? But while representing that developer, for whom the profitability of their development totally depends on getting a new train station in Harrison. David Samson as chairman of the port authority voted for a new train station in Harrison. So I guess that`s what public resources should be used to do. They should be used to benefit his clients, in his private practice. And you know, whether or not you want Harrison, New Jersey to have a new train station by all accounts, Harrison needs a new train station. How on earth can you take a vote on that matter when your law firm has a client with a financial stake in the outcome which means you have a financial stake in the outcome? We`re from New Jersey. We don`t expect much. Those are just a couple of the deals that David Samson has been involved with that have turned up since people started looking hard at the Chris Christie Bridgegate scandal. There is also, of course, the Hoboken allegations which are being investigated by several prosecutors in New Jersey where again, David Samson had a client who was working on a big potentially very lucrative billion dollar deal in Hoboken, New Jersey. And the mayor of that town said she came under pressure by members of the Christie administration to green- light that development for the clients. She said they essentially threatened her. that if she did not OK that thing for David Damson`s clients, Hoboken wouldn`t get any relief funds from hurricane Sandy. Those are public funds for the public interest to meet the public need. And the mayor`s allegation which is now being investigated by federal prosecutors in which the Christie administration flatly and staunchly denies is that those funds were essentially being diverted for a private purpose to try to make David Samson`s clients make money. And five people have left or lost their jobs in the bridge lane scandal in New Jersey thus far. The governor`s campaign manager, two people who worked in the governor`s office and two people who worked at the port authority. But do you want to know who still works at the port authority? David Samson. David Samson is still there, still chairman of that agency, still casting votes. And as of last night, someone who has the unquestioning absolute and complete support of New Jersey governor Chris Christie, no questions asked. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your top port authority appointee, David Samson was the target of some criticism director Patrick Foye. Foye was asked for the "New York Daily News" if Samson had the moral authority to leave the agency, and he flat out said no, but then wouldn`t elaborate on it any further. Do you still stand by him? GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Strongly, firmly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie speaking last night, not for the first time. Completely dismissing any suggestion that there might anything wrong, anything to worry about David Samson. The man he was figured out how to convert his public position which was given to him by Chris Christie into a very, very lucrative time in private life -- John Gorka. While Governor Christie was making that appearance last night on New Jersey 101.5, we got word from the legislative committee investigating the bridge scandal that they were releasing un-redacted or at least less redacted versions of the David Wildstein document. And in a bunch of cases, we just get one line. One new line. So it is kind of a subtle change between what we used to have in what we have now. You see the un-redacted version here on the top and the redacted version on the top of the un-redacted version on the bottom. Si this is, again, between Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, we get that new line, what did the general want? Apparently referencing the form he attorney general David Samson. Here again, here`s another one between Bill Baroni and David Wildstein. This is right after Bill Baroni immediately after Bill Baroni gave his false testimony to the legislate you are with that testimony about a traffic study. Right after that, we get this new line today that we didn`t used to have. O`Toole statement ready, That`s apparently a reference to Republican state senator, Kevin O`Toole who did put out a public statement right after Bill Baroni`s false testimony that backed up what Mr. Baroni said after that false testimony. Senator Kevin O`Toole maybe ironically or maybe just weirdly happens to also be the state senator who the Republicans assigned to be on the legislative committee investigating Bridgegate even though he himself is, at least, tangentially involve in the scandal. We had heard before that there was this reference to Senator O`Toole in the documents before, but now we can see it. Even though he is on the committee, the co-chairs of the legislative committee investigating this issue say that Senator O`Toole may actually face questioning on this issue. Which would probably mean that he would have to get up off the dais and then go sit in the witness chair and then come back to the dais later, weird. Or maybe I just talked to himself like this. The one totally new thing we got from the redaction, though, is this. This is what we had before. This is the old thing. At the bottom of this page, this is where we previously had the messages between Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein where talking about people who are being delayed on the bridge because they shut down those lanes to the bridge. And Bridget Kelly saying is it wrong that I`m smiling? That`s pretty much all we had on the page before everything else was blocked out. But now look. Look at the new page. Same page but he have different. What was redacted on the whole rest page is now evident. And bizarrely, yes, that is what you think it is. What was redacted on that page includes a picture of John Boehner, yes. So in this exchange, this part that they`ve un-redacted, David Wildstein and Bridget Kelly, they ban to a little about this rabbi in this photo with John Boehner and what they think of this rabbi. David Wildstein at one point says of the rabbi, he has officially pissed me off. And Bridget Kelly responds we can`t cause traffic problems in front of his house, can we? David Wildstein then says flight to Tel Aviv, mysteriously delayed. Bridget Kelly says, perfect. So, they`re obviously joking around about this. This is six days after Bridget Kelly and David Wildstein has the exchange about the time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee and David Wildstein said, got it. And it is clear in this exchange six days later about the rabbi with John Boehner that they`re referencing that earlier idea about what they would do on the bridge, right? They`re referring to have will ability to cause traffic problems for people who, I them by using public resources to cause those private pains. And also there are things like they`re joking. I mean, there is no evidence that this particular rabbi ever really did have traffic problems at his house, wherever it is nor were flights to Tel Aviv, apparently delayed. But it seems like it is clear that they`re joking. The rabbi, on his part, says he has no idea what did he to get David Wildstein so mad at him that he was cursing about it. He has no idea why he has appeared in these text messages. I personally would love to hear what John Boehner thinks about him turning up in these text messages but so far no one has asked him. And if I was face-to-face with him, I`m not sure I will have the nerve he clearly in h nothing to do with it. This is mostly just we`re and maybe it goes to the color and to the flavor of what it is to work in New Jersey politics which is supposed to be a New Jersey governance. But mostly just seems like it is New Jersey politics. The big effect here of these redactions is that it may just be a lesson to all of us to never try to guess what might be under the black magic marker in redacted documents. I mean, in some ways that has got to be the lesson here. You can`t see under the sharpie. I mean, who would ever guess that under the redactions in the bridge scandal documents was a random picture of a rabbi with John Boehner. You can`t know until you see it. But there is so much we don`t know here. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your top port authority appointee, David Samson was the target of some criticism director Patrick Foye. Foye was asked for the "New York Daily News" if Samson had the moral authority to leave the agency, and he flat out said no, but then wouldn`t elaborate on it any further. Do you still stand by him? CHRISTIE: Strongly, firmly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: New Jersey governor Chris Christie last night saying in no uncertain terms that he has no problems no, concerns about the form he attorney general of New Jersey, who he calls General Samson. David Samson who was the Christie appointed to be chairman of the port authority and who continue in that role today. David Samson surfaces again today in these newly un-redacted documents that have been released by the legislature. He has continued to be the focus some of very critical reporting on his apparent conflicts of interest as chairman of that multi-billion dollar agency where Chris Christie has no issues with his performance. Joining us, Ted Mann. He has been covering the story for "the Wall Street Journal. " Mr. Mann, it is nice to see you again. Thanks for being here. TED MANN, REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Thank you. MADDOW: So chairman Samson at the port authority standing his ground. Governor Christie has repeatedly expressed his steadfast support for him. Is that surprising and how do you expect that to evolve? MANN: I don`t think it is surprising for people who have dealt with David Samson who is competent and throughout this has insisted he knew nothing about what the people beneath him were doing. And certainly even in his public appearance of the most recent port authority board meeting where he said he wasn`t going to be able to talk about this and he apologized on behalf of the port authority for inconvenience. He really made clear he wasn`t planning to go anywhere. MADDOW: Is it within his, is it his decision and Chris Christie`s decision alone as to whether he goes? MANN: It is a really good question. I mean, certainly the expectation within the port authority and I think in the political, you know, capitals of both states is that if Chris Christie wants him gone, he`s gone. But certainly, there`s been no sign from either Christie or Samson that they think he has to go yet. There is a tremendous amount of pressure being applied on the New York side. Obviously, Pat Foye`s public comments are part of that. But again, only Foye`s has had anything publicly about Samson being unfit to lead. MADDOW: Let me ask you about another item that you`ve been writing about, another angle on this that you have been writing about, Ted. And that is, on the day that Bill Baroni delivered his testimony before the legislature about the lane closures, he texted David Wildstein after (INAUDIBLE) feedback and David Wildstein responded, PAPD, said all was fine. Do we know what all was fine? With that, do we know what that means? MANN: We don`t know what PAPD means there. In Baroni`s testimony he made reference to Paul Nunziato who is the head of the police union. He said Nunziato was the first person who had ever mention of traffic lane change to David Wildstein there. This according to the union came as a surprise to Paul Nunziato that he was going to be mentioned in this context. We don`t know there if Wildstein is telling Baroni that the actual head of the police department approved of this testimony. We don`t know why he would have been weighing in. We don`t know if it is a reference to Paul Nunziato. We do know that on the first time through, David Wildstein blacked that out and that is certainly an area for both the legislate and probably the federal prosecutors to try to figure out, you know, what the police involvement was in all this. MADDOW: And now, of course, Mr. Nunziato has stepped down from that role with the police department union. MANN: There are position is that he was handed some day to day operations to a deputy. He is not really going to elaborate on that but he hasn`t stepped down. And that he is continuing in his position and we`re not really clear what any of that means. MADDOW: You know, people think the story has been covered in a saturating way. I have to say there are so many basic questions about this that remain unanswered that had only get fuzzier and fuzzier as we get more. It is fascinating stuff. Ted Mann, a (INAUDIBLE) reporter for the "Wall Street Journal." Thank you very much for being here, Ted. It is good to see you. Thanks. All right, lots to come tonight including the dangers of throwing away evidence in a body of water when your evidence floats. Stay with us. Lots to come tonight. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Note to soon-to-be deposed dictators: as you are being chased out of your country by angry mobs and determined protesters, if you have an instinct to try to destroy evidence of what you have done while you are in power, while you are running away from the mobs and the protesters, try to make sure friendly dictator, try to make sure as you are flinging that evidence off the nearest bridge and into the nearest body of water to destroy it, try to make sure that said evidence does not float. Yes, problems. This is a reservoir near the palace that was abandoned in haste by President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine, when the opposition movement of his country toppled his government last week after months of protests. Floating in the reservoir were thousands of documents. Some of them burned. Some of them partially burned, some of them still tucked safely inside plastic folders. But when the president fled with his entourage and the protesters realize that the presidential house for the first time could literally be opened to the public, they just opened the doors so everybody could walk in and see how he lived, some of the people going through rather ornate grounds noticed that there are all these documents floating in the water. They skimmed some of them out of there, the ones they could reach. And then over the weekend, they had divers go in looking to see if there was more at the bottom of the lake, stuff that had sunk. They pulled up hundreds of files filled with thousands of documents, invoices, contracts, all sorts of stuff. Once the documents were fished out they were separated and laid out to dry. The really lucky documents got laid out to dry in the very nice sauna in the president`s guest house. Now, citizens and journalists are going through the documents one by one to figure out what they`ve got and what these documents can tell them about the government they just toppled. A lot of what they have been able to sort out so far has been about the finances of how the ousted president lived, what he spent, apparently even some public money on at a time when Ukraine`s economy was in shambles. This recovered document, for example, shows that he commissioned a roaring boar decoration for his outdoor shooting range. Apparently, a $93,000 boar decoration; $17,000 for seven table cloths, must be nice table cloths. Another one shows a receipt for $12 million in cash from a presidential representative to some other person. We don`t really know what that`s about. There is also seems to be some evidence of the president monitoring specific journalists and a very personal and very individual level. Well, now, journalists have been sifting through these documents trying to see what it was the president tried to burn and then drown as he was fleeing Kiev. They`ve now launched a Web site called YanukovychLeaks. Basically, a play on WikiLeaks but named for the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych. On the Web site, they`re uploading and cataloguing trying to annotate all these thousands of documents they`ve recovered so the public can scroll through and see with their own eyes what their president did. They`re posting now, they say, as quick as they can. The idea is to post first they say, and then launch investigations later. Almost 1,600 documents have been posted online and more are expected to be coming soon. So, this is far from over. The work continues. Meanwhile, there is a question of whether or not the president who fled the capital and left all this stuff in the moat behind him, whether he is technically out of power and what he`s going to do next. After a few days when nobody said they knew where he was, the president/former president of Ukraine is reportedly safe and sound in Russia. The Russian government said they`ve offered him protection. And from Russia today, Mr. Yanukovych released a statement arguing that he is still the legitimate president of Ukraine. The protesters that filled Ukraine`s capitol last week would disagree with that, as would the Ukrainian parliament which has a new acting president to replace him which is not the sort of thing do you if you think the old guy is still around. In Ukraine`s Black Sea region, though, you can see it there in that peninsula type area adjacent to the Black Sea near Russia, in the Crimea, which has a Russian-speaking majority, masked gunmen there stormed the government buildings in Crimea overnight, barricading themselves inside. And there they`ve raised the Russian flag. Early this morning local police officers sealed off access to government buildings. This was the scene during the day. Protesters there taking down the Ukrainian flag, and hoisting the Russian flag, chanting, "Russia, Russia". They`re basically calling for the division of the country, calling for their Russia-oriented side of Ukraine to be made part of Russia by splitting off from the rest of the country. And this is all happening a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered surprise military exercises for 150,000 troops in Russia, including some bases quite near the Russian/Ukrainian border. These exercises they say are meant to test the combat readiness of Russian troops. They are largest ground exercises the Russians have done in years. But in terms of precedent, you should know that in 2008, Russia launched exercises of just this sort. And that was just a few days before Russia went to war with neighboring Georgia. So, nobody quite knows what will happen here. Nobody quite knows what Russia will do. And it`s not like one thing happens at a time. I mean, right now, just in Ukraine, in the West, where Yanukovych fled, he is wanted for mass murder and they`re touring his house and sorting through documents he tried to hide. In the East, that`s now where there is chaos in the streets. It is an absolutely fluid situation, and a dangerous situation but also a fascinating one. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DAVID WILDSTEIN, FORMER AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: On the advice of my counsel, I assert my right to remain silent under the United States and New Jersey Constitutions. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was former New Jersey Port Authority official, David Wildstein, the guy who created all of the notorious traffic problems in Fort Lee, New Jersey. David Wildstein in January clammed about this whole issue under oath. He invoked the Fifth Amendment. That earned him a misdemeanor contempt rap in New Jersey. And now, he is maybe the central player in this whole thing, who is the most cooperative with the ongoing investigation. That turns out to be a really important combination of events and those details are straight ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today, these new partially redacted documents related to the New Jersey bridge scandal were released to the public. Why did we just get them? We have these documents a few weeks ago. But it`s today that we`re being allowed to see more of what was under the black magic marker lines that X`d out portions of these documents before. On December 6th, David Wildstein announced that he was resigning as the Port Authority`s director of interstate capital projects. Don`t worry that the job title seems meaningless. It is. This was David Wildstein`s sweet job at the Port Authority, which paid him $150,000 a year, but the job had no job description. He had no official responsibilities. A few days after he resigned that sweet job, Mr. Wildstein was subpoenaed by the legislature for documents related to the lane closures on the George Washington Bridge which he had arranged. He was asked to appear before the legislature on January 9th to answer questions and to turn over those documents. Well, he did show up on January 9th. He brought the documents with him. But he wouldn`t answer questions. He invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer anything the committee asked him. He wouldn`t even confirm to the committee that he previously had been employed by the Port Authority. David Wildstein was held in contempt that day for refusing to answer the committee`s questions, but did he hand over about the stuff. He did hand over about 900 pages of documents. Of those 900 pages, about 40 pages were partially or fully redacted with a black magic marker. His lawyer said those redactions were just things that weren`t relevant to what the committee was investigating. But the committee did not want to take their word for it. The committee said they would seek access to the unredacted versions of those documents and they would get them somehow. And here`s where it really gets interesting, because a couple weeks after they held David Wildstein in contempt, which means he`s going to have defend himself now against a criminal prosecution for being in contempt of the legislature, a couple weeks after that contempt ruling, David Wildstein`s former employer, the Port Authority, said they were not going to be paying David Wildstein`s legal bills related to these proceedings. David Wildstein would be on his own. And the only thing I know about David Wildstein`s financial situation is that he`s been getting paid $150,000 a year for a few years, to work in a job that has no job description at the Port Authority. So, it`s not like he is a poorer person. But even if he is very well off, it has to be a little daunting to know you`re not only being blamed for this scandal and the governor you`ve known since you were teenager and whom you`ve served loyally for years is denying he never really knew you. And not only are you being categorized as a rogue operator who did this whole thing yourself and you`ve lost your job because of it, but now, you`re going to handle the legal bills for all of it yourself? It has to be daunting to know that one of the consequences you`re facing here, which no one else is facing, is you potentially being personally bankrupted because of your role in this scheme, which after all you didn`t do alone. Well, after the Port Authority said they were cutting David Wildstein loose and making him pay for his own legal defense, Mr. Wildstein sent a letter to the Port Authority, pleading his case, arguing against their decision to not fund his legal fees. That same letter which was delivered on the Friday before New Jersey hosted the Super Bowl, that same letter was the one that claimed, quote, "evidence exists tying Governor Chris Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures." If there was any George Washington Bridge left to burn between Governor Chris Christie and David Wildstein at that point, I think with that letter, you can consider that bridge burned. And now this -- now these unredacted documents. The unredactions of these documents that David Wildstein had previously carefully censored. What`s going on here? Why now? Earlier this month, David Wildstein`s lawyer met with a special counsel, the former federal prosecutor who is advising the legislature on their investigation. The two of them sat down with David Wildstein`s documents and they negotiated line by line, redaction by redaction, what could legitimately be excluded from the public record because it really wasn`t relevant and what information should be released. They worked together line by line to produce the documents that we got today, including the new information that was previously secret information that they decided together now is relevant to the investigation that we didn`t know before. And that means that David Wildstein is taking at left a baby steps toward assisting the investigation, at least kind of. Two of the other people who lost their jobs in the scandal are doing the opposite. They`re not only not helping, they`re not handing over documents. They`re not only not helping, they`re not handing over documents. They have a court date on March 11th to try to argue to a judge that the Fifth Amendment protects them from having to hand over any documents. But their former colleague, David Wildstein, he`s the one who really got hung out to dry. Not just fired, but blamed and denied and attacked by the governor he was so loyal to, and now potentially bankrupted in the process. David Wildstein obviously knows what happened in this scandal. He organized the lane closures in the first place. He knows what happened. He knows why it happened. And presumably, he knows everyone who knew about it and when they knew. Has David Wildstein now moved from being part of the traffic perpetrator`s defense to being on the other side? To being on the side of the folks who are investigating this bridge scandal? And if he has split from the defense to the other side, what does that mean for the future of this story? Joining us now is Darryl Isherwood. He`s a senior political reporter for the New Jersey news and information Web site, Mr. Isherwood, thank you for being here. DARRYL ISHERWOOD, NJ.COM: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: So David Wildstein and his attorney basically gave themselves up to the special counsel to show all of the unredacted documents and this is the product of it. Will this help him in some way? ISHERWOOD: You know, it might. I think you may have hit it on the head in the opening when you were talking about the legal bills. He may have been forced to turn this stuff over anyway. I mean, eventually, if this committee was going to take him to court to try to get those unredacted documents, some judge was going to do what they did, I assume, go through line by line and see what should remain redacted and what had no bearing or what need to be turned over. I think he just saved himself -- you know, I`m sure you guys went through this as well. I didn`t find anything in there. There`s no smoking gun certainly in what was turned over. It makes David look bad, but David looked bad anyway. You know, this -- the whole, making fun of the rabbi and all that stuff. You know, his reputation is not coming back from this anyway, so I`m not sure that really hurts him. It saves him having to go to court to fight this battle if they try to get these redacted documents turned over. So, I think it`s just easier for him to go through. They turned over, who knows, maybe on the other side of it, there was some gray area and the committee said we can go without that one. You know, who knows what the negotiation looked like? But I think you`re right, I think it probably just saved h him some headaches. Maybe it buys him a little goodwill, maybe it wasn`t. But, you know, it saves him some grief. MADDOW: The reason he seems so important here is that he knows everything. If you had to pick one person who you wanted to get the real story from, this is the guy you would pick. ISHERWOOD: Absolutely. MADDOW: He organized it. He knows what Bridget Kelly was talking about when he says time for traffic problems in Fort Lee. He likely knows everybody who was in on the discussion. You know from going way back in New Jersey journalism and New Jersey politics. If he has been scorned by Chris Christie, scorned by the people who previously, he worked with, and sort of blamed for this thing to, and potentially bankrupted for this thing, is he the kind of guy who would hold a grudge? Who would lash out? ISHERWOOD: I don`t know that side of him, but yes, I think so. And the speculation we`ve all sort of had is when Christie threw him under the bus with the -- I was an athlete and the president of the student class. I don`t know what David was doing in those days. You know, it was like we were at different lunch tables, that had to sting a little bit, considering he was taking the fall for this thing that I`m sure at the time he thought he was doing on behalf of the governor. MADDOW: Right. ISHERWOOD: So I wouldn`t be surprised if that`s part of it. If there`s something going on here where he`s saying I`m not going down alone for this. There were other people out there. MADDOW: And I`m going to go down, then I`m going to make sure that I`m going to make it worth everybody else`s -- ISHERWOOD: Yes, you know, we kind of joke about it. When he first turned over the initial documents, it was like a loaded gun aimed at 10 different people in the city of Trenton. There were random one-offs in there about Mike Drewniak, about Kevin O`Toole, that, you know, maybe they needed to be in there, maybe they didn`t. But they were in there. So -- MADDOW: Yes, he seems like a guy who at least know what is he`s doing, even if we`re not quite sure yet. Darryl Isherwood, senior political reporter for, Darryl -- thank you for being here. Appreciate it. ISHERWOOD: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: All right. Coming up, the Arizona effect in the Deep South of all places. That story is next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. JAN BREWER (R), ARIZONA: Senate Bill 1062 does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona. I have not heard one example in Arizona where a business owner`s religious liberty has been violated. The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences. After weighing all of the arguments I have vetoed Senate Bill 1062 moments ago. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The immediate impact of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer`s decision to veto Arizona Senate Bill 1062 last night was celebrations. Arizona will not have a new business climate where your gay friends and your straight friends may be cannot eat at the same restaurant. And so, people waved flags and people celebrated and the social conservatives on the right got very mad on Twitter. But while that was happening last night concerning Arizona, at almost the exact same time, this was happening in the great state of Georgia. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: Just into our newsroom within the past 15 minutes, after backlash from gay and lesbian groups the so-called "Religious Freedom" bill appears dead for this year`s legislative session. Members and supporters of the gay and lesbian community packed into a hearing this week at the state capitol. A Senate committee has just pulled that bill from the floor. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: As Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was deciding to kill her state`s religious freedom/discrimination bill last night, Georgia Republicans decided to kill theirs as well. And earlier this week, you may remember, we told you about a similar bill that had popped up in Mississippi. That bill was passed unanimously by the state senate in Mississippi and was headed towards the Mississippi House. But then last night, a House subcommittee in Mississippi decided to gut that bill as well. They removed the "you are free to discriminate" parts of it and left only the part of the bill that would put "In God We Trust" into the Mississippi state seal. We`ve now seen similar religious freedom/discrimination bills tabled or vetoed or deferred or withdrawn in Kansas and Tennessee and Ohio and Utah and Idaho and Oklahoma and now Arizona and now Georgia and now Mississippi. Nine states -- nine state governments have been evaluating this type of legislation. And in a number of them, it was racing through Republican- dominated legislatures. But in nine states, all of a sudden, just in the last few days and in some cases just in the last few hours, those states have either decided that it`s playing a little too fast and loose with civil liberties or more likely that they saw the firestorm that was unleashed in Arizona and decided no thanks, we don`t really want to deal with that. It`s never over until it`s over for things like this, for this experiment in conservative governance -- but if these nine states are anything to go by, nine states in a pattern, it is starting to look like this one is over. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Have a good one. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END