The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 03/05/14

Guests: Mark Mazzetti, Steve Strunsky

HAYES: That is ALL IN for this evening. The "RACHEL MADDOW SHOW" starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man. HAYES: You bet. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We have an exclusive story tonight out of Texas. Something that is happening in Texas tonight as we speak. We are reporting this here at this point. Nobody else in the country has this story except us. I`m going to explain that news in just a moment. But it relates in a way to the headlines that you may have already seen today out of Texas. The political news out of Texas today is about the primaries that just happened there. The big national headline out of the Texas primaries is George P. Bush, of course, Jeb Bush`s son and George W. Bush`s nephew. He avoided a runoff and became the Republican nominee for land commissioner in Texas, which is a powerful job in that state. So, hey America, get ready for more Bush family politicians. Also, the two Republican members of Congress who were facing Tea Party challengers in their primaries, Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Pete Sessions. Those veteran Republican legislators both easily fended off their challengers from the Tea Party, and that, of course, must be a relief to them. But Tea Party candidates did do pretty well in some other races against other incumbent Republicans running at the state level in Texas. So that`s what happened on the Republican side yesterday. On the Democratic side, what happened yesterday was really, really interesting. It`s kind of a good news/terrible news kind of day for Democrats in Texas. The good news for Texas Democrats is that it was smooth sailing for Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte who are the Democratic Party`s chosen and solid candidates for governor and lieutenant governor in Texas. That was the good news for Texas Democrats. But then there`s also the terrible news for Texas Democrats. In the United States Senate race, so in the race where Democrats are picking who they`re going to have run against John Cornyn, that is where we get the Texas Democratic Party nightmare news. The relatively low profile but mainstream Democratic front returner for that Senate race is this guy, his name is David Alameel. And David Alameel did not lose the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate race in Texas last night. But David Alameel also did not win. He has now been forced into a runoff in the electoral equivalent of the bar scene from "Star Wars." He can`t just head into the general election and start running against John Cornyn in the fall. Instead, first, he has to go through another election where it is him against a LaRouche. Lyndon LaRouche candidates tend to run as Democrats sometimes but there is nothing about them that has to do with the Democratic Party. They`re more like the Westboro Baptist Church Fred Phelps people than they are like anybody else in electoral politics. You may have seen their "Obama is Hitler" posters and all the rest of the stuff that they do. The whole Lyndon LaRouche cult and conspiracy theory story is a story for another day. But the fact that the Texas Democrats could not get their U.S. Senate candidate over the hump to avoid a runoff with the beyond of a nutball Lyndon LaRouche everyone`s Hitler fringe, that is not a good sign for Texas Democrats. At a time when Texas Democrats are trying to convince everybody that they`re going to be a real force in that state. There are a bunch of states that went all red, that had complete Republican takeovers in the last few years. In the 2010 midterms Republicans, of course, won more seats in state legislatures than at any time since 1928. And that huge Republican tide in 2010, it sealed complete Republican control of the legislature and the governorship in a whole bunch of American states. One of the things that we have covered intensively on this show is what the consequences of that have been specifically for reproductive rights. Social conservative issues are not all alike. The culture war is not just being fought on one big right-wing front. On gay rights, for example, gay rights both in the states and federally, have sort of been on the march these past few years, all across the country. And as gay rights have advanced all across the country it has fractured the Republican Party on that issue along the way. On the issue of abortion, though, it`s been completely the opposite. Republicans have become 100 percent unified against abortion rights, against reproductive rights and access to abortion over the past few years. And since 2010, Republicans have used their control in the states to roll back abortion rights more than at any time since "Roe versus Wade." And that`s true from Virginia to Wisconsin to Ohio to Michigan, to tons of states all over the country. But it is not true of Texas because Texas is not on that same time frame as the rest of the country. Texas went first essentially. Texas did it before everybody else thought it was cool. Republicans didn`t wait until 2010 to take over Texas like they did in all those other states. Republicans took over the Texas state government completely after the 2002 election. And in Texas, like the rest of these states did almost a decade later, once Republicans got control of the state government in Texas, they used that control to immediately start going after reproductive rights and access to abortion. After winning everything in the 2002 election, Republicans got sworn in and took control in 2003. The first Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill was passed in 2003. That bill established a waiting period for Texas women who wanted to get an abortion and also restricted the types of places where abortions could be obtained in the state. So that was 2003, as soon as they got in power, they passed that bill. Then in 2005, Texas Republicans passed another anti-abortion bill. Then in 2007, they tried to pass another anti-abortion bill, interestingly they failed that year. In 2009 they tried again to pass that same anti-abortion bill and failed but it wasn`t for want of trying. In 2011 they finally did pass that bill. That was the forced ultrasound law in Texas. Governor ultrasound, Bob McDonnell of Virginia, now indicted on 14 felony counts of corruption, he is the governor who got famous as "Governor Ultrasound," right? He is the governor who got famous for his forced ultrasound legislation in Virginia but he in Virginia were not the first. First was Texas, in 2011, the Texas legislature meets every two years and basically every two years since Republicans have taken over, they have done what they could to pass new limits on abortion rights in that state. 2003, as soon as they got there, then again 2005, then 2007, then 2009 then 2011, with the ultrasound bill, and then 2013, the most sweeping Omnibus Anti-Abortion Bill in that state yet. The compounding effect of those laws already had been to make abortion very, very difficult to get. And very, very difficult to provide in Texas. The second most populous state in the country. But this most recent law, the law passed by Texas Republicans in 2013, the one that Wendy Davis made her national name for herself, instead of her gubernatorial bid, by opposing with every last breath the bill they passed in 2013 is different that all the rest. Because in Texas, they have now made getting abortion in that state not just hard, but in some places in the state, they have made it basically impossible. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, WHOLE WOMAN`S HEALTH FOUNDER: What you`ve seen with these cumulative restrictions is in 2011 there were 44 facilities in Texas providing abortion. In October of 2013 there were 34. So right there with the sono bill two-day requirement, there was a reduction. Then in November of 2013 when HB-2 was in effect, it went down to 22, right, which is where we`re at right now. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So 44 clinics down to 34 clinics, down to 22 clinics. That was Amy Hagstrom Miller. She has been running a handful of abortion clinics in Texas and started doing so right about the time that Texas Republicans took over and started passing laws to shut down as many clinics as possible. Texas now has many fewer abortion clinics that they used to have before the state government started working so assiduously to shut them down. But the state keeps just piling on new requirements year after year after year, and they`re not just on the clinics, they`re on people who want to obtain that service in Texas. New requirements, new expenses, new hurdles to jump through, new delays, all for women who want to get an abortion in Texas. And they`re having to get them with all of those new hurdles and delays and expenses from fewer and fewer and fewer clinics in the state. And you combine that, and the results have been stark. Their results are predictable. Texas is a state where about 60,000 abortions happened every year. Now that it is becoming increasingly possible to get one legally, to get one within the medical system, women in Texas haven`t just stopped having abortions, women in Texas are now doing them themselves without doctors. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MILLER: We`re also seeing more and more women take matters into their own hands and, you know, this has been well publicized that people go over the border, they get medications to try to self-induce abortion. And so sometimes they`ll come to us afterward for an ultrasound to see if they`re still pregnant. Sometimes they`ll be actively bleeding and so we`ll refer them somewhere where they can get a DNC. So we saw an increase of self-induction in -- you know, in 2012, at the end of 2012, and then we`ve seen an even greater increase right now. You know, with flea markets, crossing the border, and, you know, the sad thing is the misuse of the medication, you know, that -- you know, something that is actually pretty safe, women could do really harm to themselves by not knowing what to do because they`re not getting professional medical advice or care. You know, so, that`s -- it`s heartbreaking I know for some of the physicians I work with, you know, who are highly trained to provide safe care and then their hands are tied now. And it`s almost like difficult for me to talk to. I have, like, compassionate -- compassion for the listener, you know, when I describe some of these stories we`re hearing because I want -- I so want them not to be true. You know, but we have seen women putting things into their vagina, trying to dilate their cervix. We`ve seen people asked their partner to beat them. Just same stories that we heard pre-Roe. We`ve seen people doing douching with Coke or douching with Lysol. We`ve seen people taking a lot of herbs, you know. Different kinds of things they hear. Do this, do that, this will work, this will work, this will work. It`s very much like pre-Roe. And, you know, I think this is the -- this is the conundrum that actually is just maddening for me because the law didn`t do anything to prevent the need for abortion. Right? And so we didn`t change the amount of women in the community who are still going to need the service. We just blocked their access to getting it safely. Right? And so it`s just -- you know, it`s obvious we`re going to have a public health problem on the hands. Right? It`s also obvious to me that there`s going to be some kind of clandestine practice, whether it`s this side of the border or another side of the border to meet the need of the population because the need, it didn`t change. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: This side of the border or another side of the border. When Amy Hagstrom Miller says that, what she`s talking about is the U.S. border with Mexico because she was talking with us from her clinic in McAllen, Texas. McAllen, Texas, is in the Rio Grande Valley. You see it there next to Harlingen and Brownsville, the very bottom of the map there. The Rio Grande Valley is the very southernmost tip of Texas. That part of Texas is so far south that a good number of good sized cities in Mexico like Chihuahua or Nogales or Tijuana are actually north of that part of Texas even though they are in Mexico. For 10 years, Amy Hagstrom Miller has been operating one of only two clinics providing abortion services in the whole Rio Grande Valley. That`s an area the size of Connecticut. It`s got a population of over a million people. The clinic where she`s been operating has been there for decades in the small city of McAllen, Texas. It was the first abortion clinic that opened in the state of Texas after "Roe v. Wade," after the U.S. Supreme Court guaranteed abortion rights in that Supreme Court decision. The clinics are a block away from McAllen, Texas` city hall. Amy Hagstrom Miller bought the clinic from the same doctor who had opened it immediately after the "Roe v. Wade" ruling back in 1973. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. PEDRO KOWALYSZYN, OBSTETRICIAN-GYNECOLOGIST: At the hospital, I was called one day to see a lady who was very sick, because she had termination of pregnancy in Mexico with no relation to doctors. And she became sick with tectonic problem and she died. And then about one week after we have another call for a doctor saying that her secretary which was American, the first one. She was from Mexico. The second one she had the infection in the pelvic area, and then I have to check her, and she was very sick, so we decided to do the termination -- do the whole termination with surgery and so became - - with no chance to have babies after that. But she lives, so I said well, we have to remove from Mexico, they`re doing the abortion, because they was not very good. And then in `73 they opened the chance to do the termination. So I was the only one guy in all the area to do the termination. But I am not able to write it down that I do termination because it would scare some people. But I think that`s the way it started. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: For 30 years, that doctor, Dr. Pedro Kowalyszyn, was one of only two doctors providing abortions in the whole Rio Grande Valley. He started doing it as soon as "Roe v. Wade" said it was legal to do so. The other doctor in the Rio Grande Valley who`s also providing abortions was a doctor who he trained, Dr. Lester Minto, who opened his own clinic about 40 minutes away from McAllen in Harlingen, Texas. As we reported on this show this past Friday, Dr. Minto says he gets so many death threats because of his work that he carries a pistol and he wears a bulletproof vest to work. The latest anti-abortion law passed by Texas Republicans, the one past last year, the one that Wendy Davis stood up and filibustered, that law requires any doctor who wants to do an abortion in Texas to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Well, no hospital has been willing to give Dr. Lester Minto those admitting privileges. And so since Texas` new law took effect in November, he has not been doing abortions in Texas at all. He has only been assisting women who have tried to end their pregnancies themselves. As we reported here exclusively on Friday night, Dr. Lester Minto finally had to give up offering even that last gasp service. Last Friday Dr. Minto closed his clinic forever because he could not afford to keep it going because these new rules from the state of Texas make it impossible for him to keep practicing. Texas lawmakers effectively legislated him out of business. So when we reported that on Friday, the closing of Dr. Minto`s practice, that brought the number of clinics in the entire Rio Grande Valley in Texas down to a single clinic. Down to just one. The last one standing in that whole part of the state is Amy Hagstrom Miller`s clinic in McAllen. That clinic that has been offering care for women since "Roe versus Wade." But that clinic, Whole Woman`s Health in McAllen, has been under the same predicament. Under this new Texas law, the doctors at that clinic, too, at this last remaining clinic in that whole region, those doctors, too, needed to get and sought to get admitting privileges from local hospitals. They asked the local hospitals one by one. In some cases they asked over and over and over again. These are board certified OB-GYN`s with published CVs. These are not fly- by-night doctors. These are doctors where there`s no reason for them to be denied. But they made those requests, letters, phone calls, personal visits, they asked, all the hospitals said no. And so that clinic, the Whole Woman`s clinic in McAllen, has not been able to perform abortions since November, since the law went into effect. They told us they have been seeing multiple patients each week who have tried to end their pregnancies on their own and who need help because of it. Even if they can`t help women have abortions safely and legally under medical supervision anymore, they at least have been able to try to keep providing the rather desperate service of trying to keep women alive and safe after they did it themselves. That desperate service the clinic has still been able to provide. They have been able to provide that service until now. Amy Hagstrom Miller runs five clinics in Texas. Tonight we can report exclusively that she is closing down two of them, one of them is in Coastal Beaumont in southeast Texas. The other is in McAllen, the very last clinic in the whole Rio Grande Valley. That clinic has been the last place for women to turn to in the vast border region and it is shutting down as of tonight. They treated their last patients today, tomorrow they will lock the doors forever. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MILLER: It may have taken me a little too long to accept. You know, I don`t back down easily because the need is still here. That`s what`s so heartbreaking, is that the women are -- still need the care and we`re perfectly able to provide it. UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: So now that the clinic is having to close. You know, this clinic that`s been open since you started it in `73, you know, what does that mean for you? KOWALYSZYN: I think it`s going to be something -- no sense at all because the people who need to do that, they`re going to go into some place where they`re not trained to do the termination and so they will suffer that. I think myself, we don`t force anybody to have a termination in the country. I deliver more babies than terminations I have. But the one who try to take the decision to do that, we need to help her. LUCY CARREON, PATIENT ADVOCATE: Every day that we`re open, Monday through Friday, we see -- we hear -- you know, our phones are ringing off the hook sometimes. And I mean, they`re asking that question, you know, are you guys -- are you still -- are you not offering abortions yet? And it`s heartbreaking, but we just tell them no, we`re not. There used to be eight of us at one point. And now there`s three. We can hear echoes, you know, in the building, and it`s just so quiet and so -- and, you know, I`m working and all of a sudden I just stop what I`m doing and say, we`re about to close. This isn`t -- this isn`t real. I just think it`s unthinkable that a complete stranger, whether it`s an individual or as a group, such as the Supreme Court, you know, they can make such a personal decision for someone that they don`t even know. So I think that`s crazy. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: When you talk to people on the front lines of this story in Texas, you can hear some sadness and sort of wonderment, also some outrage at what is happening. They see what happens to the women caught up in the policy choices made for them by powerful people in the state capitols, in courtrooms hundreds of miles away. In Texas, the policy comes from the state capitol. Hundreds of miles away. The consequences come home in places like the very poor and very medically underserved Rio Grande Valley, which now as of tonight has no clinics serving women`s reproductive health needs, and those consequences have not yet finished rolling in. With these two clinics closing tonight Texas goes from 21 clinics to 19 to serve a population of 26 million people. Another part of that same law that passed -- was passed by Texas Republicans last year, another part of that same law threatens to close 14 of the remaining clinics in the state by September. And we`re going to have more reporting on that in the days ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It has been a rough week for the Central Intelligence Agency. Yesterday it was announced that the House Intelligence Committee is ordering a review of the intelligence analysis leading up to Russia`s actions this week in the Crimean region of Ukraine because essentially the CIA reportedly told members of Congress that Russia wouldn`t invade Crimea the day before Russia invaded Crimea. Senator Dianne Feinstein told today, "It should not be possible for Russia to walk in and take over Crimea, and it`s a done deal by the time we know about it." And Senator Diane Feinstein is the chair of the Intelligence Committee. So, yes, Congress now wants a full review on how that happened, how are Intelligence Committee whiffed so badly on what Russia was about to do imminently. That was the news from late yesterday. Today there is a new and even uglier firestorm. In 2009 the Senate Intelligence Committee started a detailed review into the CIA`s Detention and Interrogation Program under the Bush administration, including the makeshift prisons that the CIA set up and their information extraction techniques, and the results of that program and those techniques. What came from that is a report that`s more than 6,000 pages long took four years to complete. It cost more than $40 million to do this report. The high price tag is reportedly in part because the CIA would only allow staffers and senators doing this investigation to allow classified CIA cables. They would only allow those cables to be reviewed at a secure facility in Virginia. That apparently helped up the cost. Well, that report was finished in 2012. Those who have said it -- who have seen it say that it is damning. According to McClatchy the report details how the CIA misled the Bush administration and Congress about the use of interrogation techniques that many experts consider torture, and also shows how the techniques did not provide the intelligence that led the CIA to the hideout in Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid by Navy SEALs. Of course, we do not know what is in this report because it remains classified even though it was finished in 2012. We may never know what is in this classified report but where it`s held up right now is at the CIA. The report was finished in the Senate it was sent to the CIA for their vetting before it would be publicly, at least partially declassified. But that`s where it stopped. John Brennan, the director of the CIA, responded to the committee`s findings with a 122-page rebuttal where he challenged specific facts from the report. He challenged the committee`s conclusions about the effectiveness of the spy agency`s tactics. But that`s not the explosive stuff that`s just broken about the CIA tonight. According to new reporting from Mark Mazzetti at the "New York Times," the CIA has not merely been reacting to the Senate Intelligence Committee`s reporting. According to this reporting, it`s believed that the CIA may have been spying on Congress, spying on the committee by accessing the computer networks that the CIA themselves provided to the committee to use during their initial investigation. The "New York Times" is reporting that the CIA spied on Congress, that they spied specifically on the Senate Committee that`s supposed to have oversight of the CIA. This is kind of with the information they gave them. This is kind of death of the republic kind of stuff, the whole separation of powers thing almost doesn`t -- almost pales in comparison to the seriousness of the allegation that a nation`s own spy services have been turned against its own government. Particularly where that government is supposed to be overseeing the spy services. This is a claim that appears sort of vague terms in this letter that was send from Senator Mark Udall to President Obama yesterday. Senator Udall says in the letter, quote, "As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the Committee. I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee`s oversight responsibilities and for our democracy." Well, the CIA`s inspector general, sort of the internal watchdog at the CIA, now is investigating these accusations that employees of the CIA were spying -- allegedly spying on members of Congress. For the record CIA Director John Brennan has issued a vehement denial of these allegations late today saying, quote, "I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts. "I`m very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing if any occurred -- where wrongdoing if any occurred was either in the executive branch or the legislative branch. Until then, I would encourage others to refrain from outbursts that do a disservice to the important relationship that needs to be maintained between intelligence officials and congressional overseers." It`s also being reported today by McClatchy that the inspector general at the CIA is not just looking into these matters, but that he may have made a criminal referral on these matters to the Department of Justice, so that these potentially could be prosecuted as criminal acts by employees of the CIA. Joining us now is Mark Mazzetti. He`s the national security correspondent at the "New York Times." He`s the author of "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth." Mr. Mazzetti, thank you very much for being here tonight. Thanks for having me on. MADDOW: I want to get with -- to some of the timeline of these events. But I have to ask you, big picture about the seriousness of these allegations. It seems to me, as a layman observer here, that`s a very unusual thing for members of Congress to allege that an American spy agency has been spying on Congress itself. Is this an unprecedented allegation? MARK MAZZETTI, THE NEW YORK TIMES: It`s been called unprecedented by, you know, members of the Intelligence Committee. I mean, you laid it out well, what you had for several years was this dispute between the CIA and the intelligence committee over basically the history, who writes the history of this extraordinarily controversial program that took place during the Bush administration. But what we`ve seen is, it`s really escalated from there. It has gone to this issue of really separation of powers, congressional oversight, how independent is Congress in overseeing intelligence agencies. And that`s what makes it really a -- a much bigger deal in terms -- certainly in the eyes of Congress where -- you know, they can, you know, conduct to their own oversight independent of the CIA. And there seem to be sort of two issues here. One is the constitutional issue I described, which is -- which is whether Congress can do its work independently, and secondly, was there -- were there any criminal acts here? Did anyone break the law by spying on or monitoring Congress` computers? And that`s -- that`s one of two issues at stake here. MADDOW: From your reporting, is it possible for you to tell if it is technically feasible, this allegation, whether the CIA would have been in a position to monitor computers that were supposedly secure, that were being used by congressional investigators to put together this report? MAZZETTI: You referenced earlier this facility out in Virginia that the committee staff was using to review the documents. And that`s really what the -- the center of this episode, the committee staff was granted access to this facility as a way to pore over millions of classified files. They were given -- new computers and were basically told that they had secure access. It`s our understanding that in recent weeks really or months, the CIA did a search of those computers used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in order to find out who may have gained access to specific files related to the interrogation program. And basically at the heart of it is, the CIA was trying to find out where the Senate got access to a certain -- excuse me, internal review of the CIA by the interrogation program. MADDOW: And we`ve seen some questioning, some pointed questioning between members of the Senate Intelligence Committee and John Brennan and others from the CIA about whether or not there was that internal CIA document that they had never disclosed. Senators seemed to indicate that they knew it existed even though the CIA wasn`t really owning up to it in the terms they`re being questioned about it. If this is the -- if this is the way it happened, if the CIA did without authorization look at those computers to find out information about what Senate investigators were looking for on those computers or what they had access to, is it clear to you that that would be an illegal act by CIA staffers? MAZZETTI: Well, I talked to some law professors today about, you know, where would the criminality be, and what -- it centers around something called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 which in part prohibits government employees from gaining unauthorized access to other government computers. Now the real question, though, and that`s -- really the facts aren`t fully out yet to be able to answer the question is, whose computers were there? Now we think that they were the CIA`s computers, but were they set aside so that the -- that only Congress, only the Senate committee had access to them, and therefore wasn`t inappropriate or even unlawful for the CIA to do the search? So the law professors I spoke to said, basically, until we know more, you really can`t make a determination about whether there was a crime committed. And so that`s what we`re going to have to keep following in the coming days. The separate issue, the constitutional question is already out there, and that`s what I think is going to end up being more significantly, really politically, because it really gets to, you know, the relationship the committee has with the spy agencies and, you know, in a democratic administration, how much a Democratic, you know, controlled committee is going to lean on President Obama to change things, change the way of business of the CIA. MADDOW: Yes, and structurally, regardless of the partisan politics here, is Congress capable of exerting not just oversight but in some ways control over an intelligence agency that by design operates in secrecy with very wide latitude. There has be to some oversight that people can trust. It`s fascinating story. "New York Times" national security correspondent, Mark Mazzetti, the author of "The Way of the Knife: The CIA, a Secret Army and a War at the Ends of the Earth." Mark, thank you very much for helping us understand this tonight. I appreciate your time. MAZZETTI: Sure, thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: And I should let you know that fully half the people watching this program right now believe that Mark Mazzetti was made to cough by the CIA in this segment. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Programming note, I`m going to be on the "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" tonight. Jon asked me to come in and talk about our new documentary that we`re airing here tomorrow night on MSNBC, which is called "WHY WE DID IT." "WHY WE DID IT" is not on a subject matter that is funny. But there is one man in America who has actually found a way to be funny about it, and it`s Jon Stewart. And I`m on with him later tonight on Comedy Central. Keep watching MSNBC, but you can program that on your DVR, OK? OK. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When access lanes on to the world`s busiest bridge were shut down apparently on orders from a staffer in New Jersey Governor Chris Christie`s office in order to act some sort of still unexplained political revenge on a little town called Fort Lee, New Jersey. When that happened this past fall, allies of the governor tried to cover up the fact that they had done it. They concocted a cover story, saying it wasn`t a political vendetta that made them shut down that bridge. They said it was a totally innocent, apolitical traffic study. They did it -- they didn`t do it for some still unexplained political reason, they just did it as a traffic study. It wasn`t a traffic study. But for a long time they tried to get away with saying that it was. Nothing to see here, nothing to see here. By the time Bill Baroni, Governor Chris Christie`s top appointee at the Port Authority, appeared before the New Jersey legislature in November to try to sell the legislature on the idea that it was a traffic study, that whole attempt at a cover-up had already pretty much been debunked by then. It was almost two months before that testimony when the head of the Port Authority was quoted in the media as saying that not only had he never heard of a traffic study, no one else had either. Not local officials. Not local police. The "Wall Street Journal" quoted unnamed sources saying, bluntly there was no study. That was the environment in which Bill Baroni had to convince everybody that there totally was a traffic study. And so when Bill Baroni got pressed at that hearing on who specifically had the idea for this supposed traffic study, he got really specific, he named names. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STATE REP. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY: Why September? What transpired to have somebody say we ought to look at having less lanes for Fort Lee? BILL BARONI, PORT AUTHORITY DEPUTY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: Well, as I said in my opening remarks, at some point in late July, members of the Port Authority Police spoke to David Wildstein, so it was triggered by a conversation in late July. WISNIEWSKI: Who were these police officers that raised the issue that we ought to look at this? BARONI: The leadership of the Port Authority Police. WISNIEWSKI: Names? BARONI: Paul Nunziato, the president of Port Authority, PBA. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Paul Nunziato was the head of the Port Authority Police Officers Union. And after Bill Baroni gave that testimony about the supposed traffic study being the explanation for what happened on the bridge, Mr. Nunziato of the Police Union, he was one of the only people who corroborated Bill Baroni`s bogus story. When New Jersey lawmakers were calling Bill Baroni`s traffic study and explanation that was a fairy tale, it was Paul Nunziato at the Police Union who -- who stuck up for him. He raised his hand, he took credit for that supposed traffic study that led to the lane closures. He said Bill Baroni was right, he was telling the truth, there really was a traffic study. And Paul Nunziato should know since it was all his idea in the first place. When the Port Authority executive director criticized what happened on the bridge, it was Paul Nunziato who stood up and said that that criticism was, quote, "a load of garbage." Paul Nunziato also helped Bill Baroni along with the other part of the traffic -- helped him with the other part of the traffic study cover story, which is that not only was there no political motivation for shutting down those lanes on that bridge, it was really an innocent traffic study. It was an innocent traffic study that caused no harm, there was no danger to public safety, nothing dangerous like ambulances being delayed or police being delayed, nothing bad happened because of that traffic study. Of course now we know that not only was it not a traffic study, but ambulances were delayed, and police were delayed. We know that Pat Foye`s e-mail criticizing the bridge shutdown was not in fact a load of garbage. But what`s more interesting than the fact that Paul Nunziato was wrong when he was trying to advance the cover-up is the fact that he so adamantly and so publicly tried to advance the cover-up. I mean, he took credit for it. Bill Baroni said, hey, it was all that guy`s idea, and Paul Nunziato said, yes, yes, it was all my idea, that was me. On the day that David Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority, David Wildstein, that Chris Christie ally who arranged the bridge lane closures. On the day Mr. Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority, it was Paul Nunziato who defended him. He said at the time, "David Wildstein was working on an issue that I brought to his attention, that was turned into a political game." When people said it couldn`t have been a real traffic study because the Port Authority Traffic Engineers didn`t know about it, it was Paul Nunziato who says who cares about that. he said maybe those engineers didn`t know about it because, quote, "they bleep up everything." It was Paul Nunziato who said that anybody who believed the bridge lane closures were retaliatory in any way is a crazy person. If you believe that, his spokesman said, quote, "then I would suggest that we`re going to find Jimmy Hoffa`s body on the Leona Helmsley property in Fort Lee. In other words, you`re a crazy conspiracy theorist if you believe that this was anything but a traffic study." Paul Nunziato has been the most vociferous and aggressive defender of the cover-up, of the fake story about the fake traffic study. Even when everybody else was saying that there was no traffic study, Paul Nunziato stood up not to just defend that story, but to take credit for it, it was me. Until today. Today Paul Nunziato took it all back. Even though until today, Paul Nunziato was said to be the origin of the whole idea for the supposed traffic study, today his attorney says, actually, no, that was never true. This is amazing. Mr. Nunziato`s attorney has now told the "New York Times" today, quote, "Paul Nunziato has nothing to do with nor knowledge of the planning, implementation or execution of the closing of the access lanes." And about saying it was a load of garbage that anybody would criticize the lane closures, calling anyone who questioned the motives of the traffic study a conspiracy theorist? Mr. Nunziato`s lawyers said today that he was just trying to be loyal to his, quote, "political allies." Mr. Nunziato`s attorney said, quote, "My client was trying to be supportive of people who were supportive of his union." As for all those things that Mr. Nunziato said about the traffic study that he now admits didn`t happen? His lawyer`s statement today says , quote, he never intended to mislead. the new explanation for all that bolstering he did of the bogus cover story was that those were just, quote, "colorful statements to the press." So after sticking by the cover story for months, after saying, this was a traffic study, I`m the guy who came up with the idea, now today his lawyer puts out a statement saying, oh, my god, you guys didn`t really believe that, did you? All this time? There was no traffic study and when he said there was a traffic study, he didn`t really mean it. Those were colorful statements to the press. He was trying to stick up for his friends, he fell in with a bad crowd. You shouldn`t have believed that. Today the cover story fell apart. The cover story advanced by the governor himself, advanced by the governor`s allies, today that cover story finally died, and here`s the most interesting thing. What does it mean now for the investigation? That the most ardent defender of the cover story has changed his tune and now says he`s going to start telling the truth about it. Paul Nunziato, who`s been subpoenaed more than once already on the bridge hate investigation. As far as we know from publicly available document he`s responded so far by saying that he had nothing to turn over that was relevant to the investigation. But in a statement provided to us tonight. Look at this. Mr. Nunziato`s attorney says that Paul Nunziato absolutely now disputes Bill Baroni`s testimony about this supposed traffic study. And in the coming days, he will, quote, "have much more to say." You ever heard people say it`s not the crime that gets you, it`s the cover- up? Well, now, today, the guy at the center of the cover-up has given up the cover-up, has given up the cover story and admitted it`s not true, and he says he`s about to have much more to say in coming days. If he talks, presumably he knows something about who was in on the cover-up. Does he know what they were covering up? Does he also know why the bridge lanes really got shut down and who was in on it? Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I still don`t know whether there was a traffic study that morphed into a -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You still don`t know at this point whether there was a traffic study? CHRISTIE: Well, what I`m say, Eric, is did this start as a traffic study but then morphed into some political shenanigans? Or did it start as political shenanigans that became a traffic study? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know what, today that traffic study nonsense finally died. Once and for all. The cover story in the New Jersey bridge scandal is now dead. Joining us now is Steve Strunsky. He`s a reporter of New Jersey`s "Star Ledger" newspaper. Steve, thank you very much for being with us. STEVE STRUNSKY, NEWARK`S "STAR LEDGER": It`s always great to be here. MADDOW: So Paul Nunziato, the Port Authority political union -- union leader who says that he came up with the traffic study idea in the first place now says, actually, I didn`t. I was saying that to keep my friends happy. It wasn`t true. How important is that? STRUNSKY: It`s important. It does, as you say, it seems to undercut the whole premise of a traffic study, but I think it`s quite a while since anybody thought there was any traffic study to begin with, particularly Mr. Wisniewski or Senator Weinberg who co-chair the investigative committee. Just as a point of clarification, I think what -- if you go back and look, Baroni wanted to intimate that a traffic study was Nunziato`s idea, but I think what Paul, the president of the union, will tell you is that he approached Wildstein with some concerns about traffic, some concerns about whether or not you would improve the flow of the main approach to the bridge if you limited the local access to the bridge from Fort Lee. I don`t know if he would go so far as to say it was his idea to conduct a traffic study. MADDOW: Well, now he says it absolutely wasn`t his idea. STRUNSKY: Right. MADDOW: And any intimations to the contrary were just him using colorful language to the press essentially for political effect. I mean, what seems interesting to me actually about this is that it does feel to me like the cover story is dead, so now we should start talking about what really happened. But also, Mr. Nunziato`s attorney told us today that he expects his client to have much more to say on this matter in coming days and that he will not continue to advance the traffic study idea. Is he somebody who would be in a position to know more about what really happened? STRUNSKY: Paul is in that position, as the head of the police union, you know an awful lot about every aspect of the Port Authority operations, from the crossings to the airports to the ports. Everything. And one reason why it was -- it seem so important for David Wildstein and Bill Baroni and Governor Christie to get on the good side of Paul Nunziato was it when you control the police force of an organization, you have a pretty good hand on that organization from the very bottom up. And you know the guys who carry the guns. MADDOW: I will say that as this new leaf has just opened up in this investigation, Mr. Nunziato, Mr. Nunziato`s attorney, any folks who are now wanting to talk about this who didn`t before, we`d love to have you here, as would Steve Strunsky at Newark`s "Star Ledger" newspaper. Steve, thank you for being here. It`s nice to have you back. STRUNSKY: You`re welcome. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. All right. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Personal question. Do you DVR this show? Do you record it to watch it later? In case you do, I have an important announcement. Tomorrow night we`re premiering our new documentary, "WHY WE DID IT," but if you set up your TV to automatically record the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW every night, there`s a good chance you will not automatically record tomorrow night`s show. There`s a simple fix, go to your TV`s guide menu right now, scroll ahead to tomorrow night and then hit the record button where it says, "WHY WE DID IT" because it might say "WHY WE DID IT" and not the RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. That means you will be able to DVR tomorrow`s show without missing it, accidentally, because you had it set on autoplay, I think.. We hope very much that you are able to join us tomorrow night, our new documentary, 9:00 o`clock Eastern, here on MSNBC. Now it`s time for The Last Word with Lawrence O`Donnell. Good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END