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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 09/18/14

Guests: Dave Helling; Matt Wells, John Wisniewski

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chris. Thanks, man. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. As Chris said all eyes are on Scotland right now. The polls there closed about four hours ago at 10:00 p.m. local time which was 5:00 p.m. on the east coast of the United States. Only the very first returns are in. We don`t know the exactly when a full result will come in but the count is under way right now. It`s expected to go all night overnight in Scotland. We`ll have live coverage from Edinburgh tonight including some of what the coverage looks like on Scottish television tonight which is fascinating. We have got that coming up ahead. We will be updating you on the poll results as they come in from Scotland. So that`s happening. Also, the NBC station here in New York tonight broke some big news about the federal criminal investigation that has dogged New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie for nearly a year now. WNBC`s Jonathan Dienst reporting late tonight that while federal prosecutors in New Jersey continue to investigate the shutdown of lanes onto the George Washington bridge last year, as some still unexplained act of political retribution, federal officials tell WNBC tonight that those investigations thus farce have found no evidence that governor Chris Christie personally had advance knowledge of the shutdown plot nor have they found evidence that he took part in the plot personally. Again, the investigation continues. But that is the first substantive leak from the federal criminal investigation of the bridge shutdown in New Jersey. The U.S. attorney`s office in New Jersey has been incredibly tight-lipped. That`s the first reporting we`ve had from that. We are going to have more that story coming up in just a few minutes including governor Christie`s own reaction to that leak tonight from just a few moments ago. So that`s coming up. There`s also news tonight out of Washington, news that prompted this perfect headline from the Huffington Post late today. Congress ashamed of Congress. Members of Congress willing to go On the Record to "Huffington Post" today about how embarrassed they are by their own institution and what it did today as Congress makes a surprise and sudden decision today to bale, to leave. They decided today to bale on all their remaining workdays between now and mid-November. They just gave themselves every day off work from now until a week after the election. So they made the surprise announcement today they`re canceling all this work for the next seven weeks and then they ran for the exits. While leaving one really important thing undone. President Obama changing up his schedule late tonight to make this statement about Congress on short notice. We`ve got more on that including excerpts from the president`s late address tonight. That`s all ahead on what has been a pretty amazing day in the news today. Any one of those things happening this afternoon and tonight would have made today a really big news day, right? But then not only are all those things happening all at once. In addition to all of them at 6:00 p.m. eastern time tonight, the Supreme Court in the great state of Kansas decided they wanted to make some big national news, as well, news that frankly has turned on its head the national expectations for control of the United States Senate. Now, what`s been going on in the Kansas United States Senate race so far has basically been this big national surprise, right, that in such a deep red state, in the state where Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama by 21 points a state that hasn`t sent anybody other than a Republican to the United States Senate since 1932, it has been a shock to the national Republican party and to a certain extent to the whole political system that an incumbent Republican senator in the state of Kansas has been in trouble this year. Incumbent Republican senator Pat Roberts it turns out is having the race of his life to try and keep his seat in the Senate right now. Pat Roberts is not the most popular Senate in the world. His numbers are not great at home. He did have to fend off a pesky tea party challenge in his primary this year. But up until a couple of weeks ago, it looked like those problems were behind him and he is going to be able to hold on to his seat in the general election mostly because of this, this dynamic. He had the great fortune of running in a three-way race. So people who want to vote for Pat Roberts can vote for Pat Roberts. But people who want to vote against him, they were splitting their vote between the democratic candidate and a well financed pretty popular independent candidate. That dynamic, that vote splitting among opponents is how Pat Roberts was going to limp to reelection in Kansas this year. That`s how they were going to keep that seat in safe Republican hands and help the Republican party on its way to try to take over control of the U.S. Senate this year. That whole thing changed two weeks ago on September 3rd when that three-way race became a two-way race because this guy, the Democratic candidate who had been running, he got persuaded that he should drop out. And if you take away that vote splitting phenomenon, if it turns out there`s only one major candidate in the race against Pat Roberts instead of two, then the polling looks like Pat Roberts is going to lose his seat. Maybe the most Republican state in the country arguably but they`re about to lose their Republican Senate seat. And that was born out in the polling before the democrat actually made the decision to drop out. It has been born out in the polling ever since he dropped out September 3rd and that polling has caused the national Republican party to hit it the panic button on this race. They flew in Washington campaign staff to replace the long-time local staffers for Pat Roberts. They started running ads in the race. They got the NRA roped into the race for the first time. And they started paying very close attention to one weird sort of undercover dynamic in Kansas. So this is the polling that shows Pat Roberts losing to the independent candidate Greg Orman, right? A couple different polls same result in both cases. But what Kansas Republicans started noticing and have now grasped on to with all their might is that even though the democratic candidate has withdrawn, the Democrat is no longer running, if you put his name back on the ballot and make people think that there`s a Democrat still running in the race, well that bamboozles voters enough that maybe Pat Roberts has a chance. And so the day after the Democrat withdrew from the this race and had his name taken off the candidate list, his name taken off the ballot, the following day the Kansas Republican secretary of state, the crusading conservative hero Kris Kobach put the guy`s name back on the ballot. It`s more convenient to have the democrat on there and so the Democrats on there. And that led to today`s ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court at 6:00 p.m. eastern time, 5:00 p.m. local time in Kansas. And what this ruling has set off tonight is kind of crazy. It`s like an outlaw wild west by any means necessary kind of situation right now in Kansas. It`s nuts. It`s like remember the brooks brothers riot in Florida during the 2000 recount? It`s like that except it`s the one guy rioting. It`s just Republican secretary of state Kris Kobach. Look at this. At 5:00 p.m. local time in Kansas, close of business on the deadline, that`s when they handed down the ruling. The reason today was the deadline for the ruling is because tomorrow the ballots have to be printed in Kansas. So says Kris Kobach, so says the Kansas secretary of state, Republican Kris Kobach, he told the court that that`s the deadline. He explained in his court filings by law Kansas`s ballots have to be sent out to members of the armed forces serving overseas. They have to be sent out by Saturday which is the day after tomorrow in order to get them sent out on time by law. That means the ballot has to be finalized by September 18th, 2014. That`s today. Has to have the final list by today because they`ve got to print tomorrow because they got to send them out on Saturday. That`s the law. So says secretary of state Kris Kobach. That`s what he told the court. So when the Supreme Court ruled today, they were right up against that deadline. And what they ruled is that Kris Kobach does have to take that democratic guy`s name off the ballot. That guy properly withdrew from the race no matter how much of Kansas Republicans want there to be a Democrat on the ballot, that guy withdrew properly. Kris Kobach trying to force him to stay on the ballot is not within Kansas law. So ordered by the Supreme Court of that state. Now, of course, Kansas Republicans desperately want there to be a democrat on the ballot, right, to hopefully siphon votes away from the independent guy who is challenging Pat Roberts. That dynamic having three people on the ballot that looks like the only way Roberts could hold on to his seat at this point. But we`re at the deadline. I mean, if the ballots have to be finalizes today because they have to be printed tomorrow, there`s really no chance that that could happen after this ruling today, right? Kris Kobach had been making noise about trying to force the Democrats to put another name on the ballot even if their initial candidate was allowed to withdraw. But if the ballots are being printed tomorrow, there`s no time for that. There is no time for the Democrats to do that. There`s no way that Kris Kobach can force the Democrats to pick somebody overnight? Quick, convene a convention. Because the court ruled today at the close of business at 5:00 p.m., on the deadline. The matter pretty much looks settled. It`s going to be Pat Roberts against the independent guy Greg Orman on the ballot. And just so you know, the polling right now if the election were held today makes it look like Pat Roberts in that dynamic would lose his seat. But after the court handed down this ruling today at 5:00 p.m. local time, 6:00 p.m. east coast time that is when things really got weird because at a press conference following the ruling today, Kris Kobach announced that actually it turns out tomorrow`s not the deadline. Who said it was the deadline? Despite everything he told the court, despite this law that he is citing about when you have to get ballots out to overseas service members, Kris Kobach is now saying the deadlines when I told the court those were the deadlines, he`s now directing the Kansas state Democratic Party that they have to pick another name to put on the ballot so it can go back to being a three-way race. And he has decided to push all the deadlines back. He said he is giving them eight days to make this decision because those old deadlines, I made those up. Now he says he`s not going to print the ballots till the 27th of September and he says that will give them plenty enough time to pick somebody else so this can go back to being a three-way race. Amazing. So what happened to the deadlines that he told the court were so hard and fast and determined by law? I mean on the military ballot`s is he now saying Kansas is going to have people in the military vote on a totally different ballot for a totally different candidates than everybody else is voting on in the state? Really? I mean, is this as desperate as it looks by Kansas Republicans. This really kind of looks like a by any means necessary radical move here. And to that end, what happens if the Democrats just say no here? If they say no, Kris Kobach, we`re not going to pick somebody for that line on the ballot. This is not just a United States Senate race which itself is a big deal. This potentially is the United States Senate race that decides who controls the United States Senate and it`s total chaos right now. It has become the most important Senate race in the country at least right now and it is complete chaos, just insane. Joining us now is Dave Helling political reporter for the "Kansas City Star." He is been following the story right from the start. Dave, every time we talk, I congratulate you how much fun this race has been to cover. And then it gets crazier. DAVE HELLING, POLITICAL REPORTER, KANSAS CITY STAR: Yes. We don`t get any days off covering politics in Kansas unlike Congress, Rachel. MADDOW: The way that -- yes, another seven weeks off at their own discretion. HELLING: You bet. MADDOW: The way I sum this up in terms of the order of those events, the way that Kris Kobach responded to this Supreme Court ruling and the changing of those deadlines an everything, am I summarizing that accurately? HELLING: Well, fairly closely. It`s a federal law that requires there ballot printing Rachel, because the national government has some interest in getting the ballots to the military overseas and Kris Kobach said tonight that he has been given a waiver by the justice department so they can wait another week. Whether that week will change the fundamentals is not clear at all. You talk to Democrats and Republicans. You`re exactly right. It isn`t clear how a, Kris Kobach can order a political party to do anything. He`s just the secretary of state. And b, how they would do it. You know, would they meet in a convention? Would it be just party chairs by county how it would work? It does seem like a pretty desperate move at the end. But you know, he`s not ready to give up yet. He`s very convinced that there needs to be a democrat on the November ballot in Kansas. And so he made the announcement that he did. MADDOW: So two questions following on that. One, is there any indication of what the Kansas Democrats will do? Is there a chance they just won`t go along with this? And two, is some of this still due to be decided in court? Is this going back to the Kansas Supreme Court or going to be litigated in any other way? HELLING: We`ll see. Kobach said this evening that if the Kansas Democrats don`t respond by his deadline, he will examine his legal options. We reached out to the Kansas Democratic Party tonight. They have no intention of nominating anybody. They`re very critical of Kris Kobach. He cannot be trusted they said. You know, Kris Kobach has his own race for secretary of state which is also very close. So I do get the sense that Kris is trying to pursue whatever last-minute options he might have, but I think virtually everyone in Kansas now understands that this race is Greg Orman and Pat Roberts going forward. MADDOW: It`s fascinating. And the fact that Kobach is on the ballot, as well, I mean, I saw recent polling from PPP in Kansas. They were polling obviously on the Senate race. But they also polled on what Kansans think about how Kris Kobach is handling this. And you know, he does have his own race. It`s a really close race. The Democrat has a chance of knocking him off for secretary of state. He`s underwater by tens of points in terms of how people view his handling of this. Is he in a position where he doesn`t care about public opinion? This is so desperate he needs to do it anyway or is he susceptible to that sort of criticism? HELLING: You know, if you know Kris Kobach, he doesn`t -- I mean, he plays to the crowd but he doesn`t always listen to the crowd. I mean, he sort of blazes his own trail. And there is a segment of the Republican party in Kansas and across the country that loves this kind of thing from Kris Kobach. I think that`s why he pursues it to a certain degree. But you didn`t know that -- what you didn`t note in your introduction, but your viewers should know, is that this opinion today from the Kansas Supreme Court was unanimous or at least there were no dissenting opinions filed. It was per curium which Bush versus Gore people will remember of the court. And so even the Republicans on the Supreme Court arguably went along with this decision against Kris Kobach. That`s why I say you get the sense even some Republicans are saying let`s give up, let`s just now focus on the race was Greg Orman and you will find Republicans, Rachel, frankly who say this helps us focus now on Greg Orman. That we can now turn our attention to one candidate to really make him the issue and this decision in some ways clarifies the campaign for the next six weeks. MADDOW: Dave Helling political reporter for the "Kansas City Star." I keep thinking it`s not going to be as exciting the next time we talk but who knows. Looking forward to talking to you next twist. Thanks a lot. HELLING: You bet. MADDOW: All right. As you can tell, there`s a ton of news going on. The world is soon going to find out if Scotland has voted to become an independent country. That`s just one part of it. We are going to have live reports from Edinburgh. There`s major breaking news about Chris Christie and the George Washington bridge scandal. Plus, Congress did something today I`m still choking on. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So hey, as of tomorrow, Congress is going to be doing one thing it is really, really good at, and that is the thing that is not done in Washington anywhere near the capitol. Congress made amazing surprise decision today, one I`m still choking on a little and I don`t feel I`m choking up because it makes me feel emotional. I mean I`m choking on it like I`m gagging. That story is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Between 1814 and 1905, this was Sweden Norway. All one place. Much to the chagrin of Norway it turns out. In 1905, Norway said to heck with that and they seceded from Sweden. And now, instead of being one big Scandinavian country, they are two still sort of big but separate Scandinavian countries. In 1863, similarly, what had been Virginia instead became West Virginia and Virginia. One big thing devolved into two smaller but separate states. In 2006 -- Serbia and Montenegro were like hey, we`re going to drop the and. We`re actually Serbia and Montenegro three different words don`t capitalize the a. We`re two different countries. In 1993, same deal with Slovakia and the Czech Republic when they decided they were each going to go their own way and instead make Czechoslovakia something that people just say all the time now by mistake. Breakups happen. And tonight we`re waiting to see if it`s going to happen to our best and closest ally in the world, the United Kingdom. This is a live shot of ballots being counted tonight in Ingliston, in Scotland which is just outside of Edinburgh, just after 2:20 in the morning there. Voters in Scotland today participated in a countrywide referendum on independence. There`s one very simple on their one beautifully simple ballot. This is the ballot. Look. Should Scotland be an independent country? Yes or No. If the vote is yes, ha means the UK will go from being like this to instead being like this. Losing essentially a third of their land mass and over eight percent of their population and all of their Scotishness (ph). The polls heading into tonight`s vote were too close to call but maybe leaning toward a no vote in the last round of polling. About 97 percent of the electorate registered to voting in this referendum, according to the University of (INAUDIBLE) in Britain, the highest ever turnout in a referendum anywhere in the world when it wasn`t against the law to not vote in the referendum. The highest was when Quebec voted on independence from Canada back in 1995. The Quebec independent vote got over 93 percent turnout in the referendum. So that`s the record that Scotland is trying to beat tonight. They might do it although the early returns suggest probably not. The polls in Scotland were open for 15 hours today from 7:00 in the morning till 10:00 at night. They closed 10:00 local time which is 5:00 p.m. here on the east coast. The votes get counted in each of the 32 local authorities one by one across the country. So there`s a decentralized collection of ballots in Scotland. And that is easy in some places but hard in others. For example, it was apparently a bit of a challenge tonight in places like the Shetland Islands way up there on the top of your screen and also some of the western islands way out there on the west part of your screen. There was heavy fog today. That threatened to disrupt a chartered plane that was supposed to pick up ballots from the western islands and fly them to their local authority counting center in a place called Stornaway (ph). Should the fog be so heavy to disrupt that flight, they made a plan b. They are going to transport the ballots to Stornaway (ph) instead by way of a shellfish boat. The fishing boat is slower than the plane obviously. But there`s also the fact if the mist is really too misty, maybe even the boat would be slowed down by that. So there`s any number of reasons that could have delayed some of the more far flung Scottish votes tonight. In terms of the early returns, the first results so far two out of the 32 local authorities have announced their vote counts, not just their turnout but how people voted. If you add the two of those local authorities together, they`re reporting 42.2 percent in favor of the referendum to secede while 57.8 percent where is voting against. Early returns in at least 13 of the local authorities report the just voter turnout so far. So voter turnout in the mid to upper is sort of within the normal. Just over 90 percent in at least two others. But we`re still awaiting further results. That which meant that there are a lot of folks in Scotland who is not going to be getting very much sleep tonight including lots of local reporters who are hard at work with up to the minute updates throughout the night. They`re saying to expect the results to be announced sometime around breakfast which depending on what time they eat breakfast we`re expecting sometime in the couple of hours after midnight tonight here in New York. Joining us now is Alastair Jamieson and he is a reporter with NBC News. He is in Edinburgh tonight along with the Matt Wells, assistance U.S. editor for "the Guardian" who is here with us in the studio. Thank you both for joining us. Alastair, I want to start with you. Edinburgh right now, if you can give us a sense what it`s been like there tonight and what the early results are telling people about the overall polling. ALASTAIR JAMIESON, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Absolutely. As you said, Rachel, with a turnout that high, it just goes to show the intensity of the debate that`s taken place and the real passion with which Scots have voted for either side. And with opinion polls really suggesting the vote could go either way even at this stage, neither side to really making any confident prediction about how they`re going to perform. Those twos early results, although they`re interesting, don`t really give us a full picture. We`ll have to wait till bigger cities declare their results later on such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Those results expected maybe two or three hours from now. Now, what is clear perhaps, is that the most recent polls of the last couple of days giving a slight edge to the no campaign to keep the United Kingdom but really it`s within the margin of error. So neither side willing yet to jump and say either concede defeat or say they have likely won this. And this is where all the results from around the country are being fed in and there`s a real intense atmosphere here tonight. Really, Britain is really just holding its breath for the outcome of this result because it is entirely possible, entirely possible, even at this late stage, that there could be a vote to split apart from the United Kingdom. And that is such a significant constitutional change for Britain. MADDOW: Alastair in, terms of the sort of late turn toward no that which we saw indicated in some of the very last polls in which people I think anecdotally are starting to use as part of their analysis for what we`ve seen thus far even if it is relatively premature to extrapolate in the two local authorities. But in terms of the late surge on the no side if there`s been one, is that because of new arguments being made or new energy on the no side or is that simply the emergence of people who weren`t very vocal about their preferences deciding to turn out to vote even if they hadn`t been expressing themselves local little about it before doing so? JAMIESON: I think it`s definitely the latter, Rachel. The thing is, if you`re promoting the yes campaign, you have a very positive and exciting message, one of opportunity of what things could be like. And you`re painting a picture of a country that could be liberated from Westminster government and make its own decisions. And that`s a very engaging message and one that found a lot of favor. And it`s been difficult I think for the no campaign the better together pro-UK campaign really to find a message that is exciting and sonorous passion. And really, that hasn`t happened until the last week or so when we found opinion polls that put the sides medication and neck. And I think a lot of people, they woke up to the very real possibility that eight yes vote could win. And that really has got , I think, a lot more people out on streets. And although there really hasn`t been much in the way of new substantial campaign developments in terms of new information or new argument, it certainly has got people energized and has brought more people out. And I think you`ve seen that reflected in the massive, massive turnout. MADDOW: Alastair Jamieson for NBC News in Edinburgh tonight. Alastair, thank you. I appreciate you being there for us. I want to bring in Matt Wells assistant U.S. editor for "the Guardian." Matt, do you agree with Alastair that there`s no reason to extrapolate from those two early results from two local authorities of the 32, that that`s not necessarily indicative of way things are going to go? MATT WELLS, ASSISTANT U.S. EDITOR, THE GUARDIAN: Well, it`s -- those are the compulsory health warning that we put on all these results. But you know, it is all we got to go. So we might, as well do extrapolation. And there are two -- the two results that we`ve got so far, one of them is from (INAUDIBLE) island in the north of Scotland and that went very much as expected very hard in favor of the union. But completely unexpected was Clackmannanshire in the middle of Scotland, very small county, only 9.9 percent of the vote but 54, almost 54 percent for no and just 46 percent for yes. The yes campaign were really hoping to get Clackmannanshire. It was number one on their list of areas they should get if they were going to win the whole country. They didn`t get it. So the no campaign is jubilant and the yes campaign not very happy at this moment. Still early stages. It could go either way yet but it`s not looking good if you add that with the latest polling, you go poll of people who actually voted today, not quite an exit poll but it was a poll of people who went into polling stations and exited. So you could still -- you, very nearly an exit poll, they just went back to their panel of people they have previously polled after they voted and that was 54-46 too so the same as Clackmannanshire. So it really isn`t looking good for the yes campaign as we speak right now. MADDOW: And in terms of the dynamic changing over time, we saw this panic in Westminster, all this panic in the British government in the UK over some polling results that suggested a lot of momentum on the yes side. And eventually, it is essentially it felt like they were blindsided by the fact that yes was doing we after it hadn`t done well leading up to that. Is there anything you can tell us about why the momentum may have shifted back in the no campaign`s direction if in fact it did. WELLS: So that poll that you mentioned two weeks ago for the "Sunday Times" newspaper in London which gave it for 51 percent for the yes campaign -- MADDOW: That is right. WELLS: Yes. That sent London into a total panic. They rounded up all the spare kitchen sinks in London and threw them at Scotland in the past two weeks. They announced that -- Well, the government in London announced that a program of reform and deep further devolution of powers to Scotland would be undertaken immediately after a no vote. So, that is what we will hear tomorrow, Friday, if the results go the way we expect. There is expected to be announcement in London that further powers will be significantly devolved to the Scottish parliament. A consultation will get underway in November. A bill will be published by Burns Night, a national day in Scotland, on the 31st of January. That has got all of England`s MPs into something of a tizzy. Because if you grant more powers to the Scottish parliament, what does that mean for the rest of England? Should it be set up a kind of federal system in Britain? MADDOW: Right. WELLS: So, constitutional catechism and chaos is on the cards whatever happens. MADDOW: Whichever either way, and it defends if the catechism is tonight or the catechism is in January. WELLS: You got them. MADDOW: Fascinating. Matt Wells, Assistant U.S. Editor for "The Guardian." Thanks for helping us understand this tonight. WELLS: My pleasure. MADDOW: This is going to be fun to watch. It is one of those huge news nights that is before we got on the air and is going to keep getting bigger overnight. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: It has been a big news day already on top of everything else. We also have some late breaking news out of New Jersey to bring you. It is a big update of the ongoing investigation of the forced lane closures that happened this time last year on the busiest bridge in the world. And what, if anything, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey had to do with this now very famous e-mail. Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee. There is a big development in that story tonight. That is coming up next with the man who has been leading the investigation since the beginning. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Yes. It is that kind of day. There is yet more breaking news to report tonight. It is just one of those days in the news. And, tonight`s breaking news from New Jersey concerns the ongoing investigation swirling around Republican Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. It was almost one year ago exactly that aides to Governor Christie for reasons still unknown orchestrated a massive traffic disaster at the world`s busiest bridge. Starting the first day of school last September, members of Governor Christie`s inner circle planned and executed a week-long shut down of access lanes heading onto the George Washington Bridge. That shutdown, gridlocked the town of Fort Lee, New Jersey, caused a four-day long traffic nightmare on the New Jersey side of that bridge. Eventually, it launched a blizzard of investigations into who decided to cause that traffic jam and why. The who as far as we know turned out to be a pair of Chris Christie officials, his Deputy Chief of Staff, Bridget Kelly and a Christie appointed Port Authority Official named David Wildstein. Those two at least are known to have conspired to create that traffic jam on purpose. But there have remained a few key questions. Why did they do it? Who else was involved? Who else knew they were doing it? And, did someone above them order it? Because he is the Governor and because this apparently emanated from his office, there is the question of specifically whether Chris Christie knew anything about it, whether he ordered it as some sort of political payback scheme. In this picture, you can see Governor Christie during that shutdown last year, standing and chatting with David Wildstein, one of his aides who ordered the shutdown. Governor Christie as first mocked to the idea that his administration had caused this thing. Then he was forced to acknowledge that, "Yes. They did cause it." Then he apologized for the incident and said he felt betrayed. Then he fired his top aide who was directly involved in it. Since then, since Governor Christie came out and expressed public contrition for the actions of his administration, there have been these ongoing investigations to try to find out if something criminal happened here. One of those investigations has been the inquiry conducted by the New Jersey State legislature, special bipartisan committee tasked with figuring out what happened here and why. That investigation has been going on for months now and it has not yet wrapped up its work. The other investigation that has been on going is the investigation from federal prosecutors and from the U.S. Attorney`s office in the state of New Jersey. The U.S. attorney in New Jersey is a man named Paul Fishman. Paul Fishman`s office has been investigating this bridge scandal since January. And, other than confirming that they are investigating, the U.S. Attorney`s office there has not confirmed much else. They have been really tight-lipped about where that investigation stands. That kind of a no leak office. Earlier this year, we did learn that federal investigators have been taking testimony from top Chris Christie aides including his chief spokesman, but we learned that by staking out the courthouse, right? Local reporters staking out the courthouse really has been the only real means of getting information about what is going on. Tonight, though, the first leak. Tonight, there has been a development in what has been an investigation that before now was essentially leak free for months. The development tonight is that somebody is now leaking. Somebody is leaking the news specifically that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is basically off the hook in federal criminal investigation. Our NBC Affiliate in New York, WNBC broke the news earlier tonight. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED WNBC MALE CORRESPONDENT: Federal sources briefed on the criminal investigation say prosecutors and the FBI have found no evidence Governor Christie knew or had played any role in the plan to shut down traffic lanes approaching the George Washington Bridge. Officials caution the investigation being led by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman is not yet complete, but we are told that the federal investigation on going since January simply put has turned up nothing to indicate the Governor had any involvement in Bridgegate. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, again, federal sources now leaking word that Governor Christie has essentially been cleared of wrongdoing in that investigation. There is no confirmation of that by the U.S. Attorney`s office. Governor Christie`s office is not commenting on it formally, yet. But, federal sources are now putting out word that the Governor, himself, had nothing to do with the bridge scandal, nothing to see here. We spoke with the U.S. Attorney`s Office in New Jersey tonight. They told us in no uncertain terms, quote, "The investigation is not over," end quote. They tend to speak in sentences that short. But, Governor Christie, as he is tried many times in recent months is trying right now to put a book end on this scandal. Earlier today he publicly called out the state legislature for their on going investigation into this matter telling them at a press conference today, quote, "Wrap up your work." And, then tonight, the Governor for the first time in three months appeared on a local radio call-in program in New Jersey, where he was perfectly positioned to comment on this new reporting from WNBC. Governor Christie said tonight on the radio, quote, "This is a report that comes as no shock to me. I am not surprised by it" and then he again criticized the legislative investigation into this incident that is being headed up by Democratic State Assemblyman John Wisniewski. Joining us now is Democratic State Assemblyman, John Wisniewski, the chair of the New Jersey legislative panel that is investigating this. Congressman - Assemblyman Wisniewski, thank you very much for being with us. Appreciate you being here. JOHN WISNIEWSKI, (D) NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Thank you. MADDOW: So, first, your reaction tonight to this reporting from WNBC that federal investigators have so far found no evidence that Governor Christie had any knowledge of or played any role in the bridge shutdown. What do you make of that reporting? WISNIEWSKI: Well, it could be true or it could not be true. We noticed that we have federal investigators saying that but then Mr. Fishman`s office when contacted had no comment. Look, the fact is that this is not an investigation into Chris Christie. This is an investigation into why these lanes were shut down; who authorized the lanes to be shut down, because I do not think anybody believes that Bridget Kelly on her own decided one morning that it would be a fun thing to do to shut these lanes down. So, we need to get answers to some very basic questions. Who gave her the authorization and what did they hope to accomplish? Because only by knowing those answers, we will be able to make sure it cannot happen again. MADDOW: The other key player in all of this implicated thus far is former Port Authority Official David Wildstein. He is alleged in writing through his attorney that in his words, quote, "Evidence exists tying Governor Christie to having knowledge of the lane closures." That has been his contention since he got nailed for his role in this, basically. We reached out to David Wildstein`s attorney tonight to get his reaction. We have not heard back yet. But has your committee been able to essentially substantiate that allegation from David Wildstein? Have you been able to figure out what that evidence might be that he is saying exists? WISNIEWSKI: There is a lot of e-mails out there, Rachel. There are documents that we have not yet gotten from this administration, because they are relying on executive privilege as a basis to not turn them over to the committee. So, it could very well be in documents that they are withholding, that there is more proof that would make some conclusive determinations. We do not know that yet. And, do not forget, we also have this shifting timeline of when the Governor knew what he knew. So we know that on December 13th, he said that he knew nothing about this; but we do know that literally the day before, he had meetings with his senior aides about this very issue. MADDOW: I want to play a clip for you if I can, just because it is specifically about you. WISNIEWSKI: Sure. MADDOW: Governor Christie addressed you personally, went after you personally in a press conference that he held on this matter earlier today about what you have been able to turn up so far in your investigation. Listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Unfortunately, Assemblyman Wisniewski is attempting to just keep his name in the newspaper. We have fully cooperated -- absolutely fully cooperated with him and I am really growing tired of him. You know, I have known all along that this is a partisan pursuit, an absolutely partisan pursuit. And, the leaking that is being done by about the legislative committee is just further evidence of the fact that this is a partisan pursuit. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, Governor Christie saying about you today, "I am really growing tired of him," accusing you of running a partisan pursuit and I guess I got to ask for your response to that. WISNIEWSKI: I am crushed. The reality is, is that this is a legislative inquiry. And, I understand why republicans are unhappy about it. It is embarrassing. It makes the Governor look bad. It makes the Republican Party look bad. So, certainly they are going to try to characterize this as a partisan pursuit. This is an abuse of power that started on his watch. The fact that he is claiming to have been fully cooperative just does not meet with the facts on their relying on executive privilege to withhold documents. I mean, if the Governor truly believes that there is no culpability here and take the Governor at his word, so, what is he afraid of? Why does not he turn all the documents over and stop parsing words and holding back documents? MADDOW: Democratic State Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Chair of the legislative panel looking into Bridgegate in the state legislature there. Thanks for your time tonight, sir. It is nice to see you. WISNIEWSKI: Thank you. MADDOW: All right. Again, the breaking news tonight WNBC in New York reporting that sources say the federal investigation into the Bridgegate scandal in New Jersey has as yet turned up no evidence tying Mr. Christie to -- Governor Christie to knowledge of or playing any role in the bridge shutdown. That is the first leak of really any kind from the federal prosecutors looking into this in New Jersey, as yet unconfirmed by the U.S. Attorney`s office, but that is news. Lots more ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we are looking live at footage from Edinburgh, Scotland right now, where the votes in Scotland`s independence referendum are currently being counted. Polls closed in Scotland at 10:00 P.M. local time, which is about five hours ago, almost five hours ago. Right now, almost 3:00 A.M. local time, we are beginning to get some results. Voters in the Shetland Islands were expected to vote no. They appeared to be doing that by 36 percent yes to 64 percent no. That is the most recent results we have just got in. In the Orkney Islands, way up north, voters again were expected to vote no there. And, they appeared to be doing that by 33 percent yes to 67 percent no. No has a big two to one lead there in the Orkney Island. And, then this was the first local authority to report its results. Clackmannanshire voters there had been expected to vote yes for independence. This had lead to a lot of pessimism on the yes for independence side tonight when this was the first result that came in. Again, it is a small local authority. There are not very many people there. A very small proportion of the population, but this is a place that was expected to vote yes. And, tonight, the no vote there came in ahead, 53 to 46. So, there are 32 local authorities altogether, who are going to report results. Those are the first three out of the 32 that are due to report. They are not the biggest in terms of population by any means. Those are just the first three. Do not extrapolate like you do not in American elections either. But, this is fascinating to watch as this comes in. We will keep you posted as this develops. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. OBAMA: Today, our strikes against these terrorists continue. We are taking out their terrorists. We are destroying their vehicles and equipment and stockpiles, and we salute our dedicated pilots and crews, who are carrying out these missions with great courage and skill. As demander in chief, I could not be more proud of their service. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Obama making a statement just a couple of hours ago, changing up his schedule today to make those remarks, praising U.S. military pilots flying air raids in Iraq, thanking congress as well for passing an amendment today to OK the administration`s plan to arm and train rebels fighting the Syrian government and who hopefully can be persuaded to fight ISIS, too, while they are at it. The senate voted for that by about 78 to 22 today. The house passed the same thing yesterday. And, tonight President Obama said thank you to congress for that. The CIA is already training rebels in Syria, but the expanded effort that congress just approved will start some time in the next three months or so. And, in completely unrelated news, the United States military continues to wage a war against ISIS. Centcom today announced U.S. air strike number 176 against ISIS targets in Iraq. Congress is yet to say anything about that use of force by the U.S. Military in Iraq, let alone the 1,600 American troops who have been deployed back to Iraq to take part in that fight. Congress has not weighed in on that at all. And, then today, they left. The house announced today, surprise, that they are calling in sick for the next two months. They were supposed to be back at work tomorrow, but they canceled that day of work tomorrow. Then they canceled all the rest of their days at work for the rest of this month. Then they canceled all the days they were going to work next month in October. And, now they are not planning on coming back to work until after they run for election in November plus another week after that. To be clear, they just took five weeks off for all of August and the beginning of September. Since their five-week vacation, they have worked a grand total of two four-day weeks. And, now, today they made the surprise announcement that they are giving themselves the next 54 days in a row off work. Because it is not like there is anything going on they ought to be interested in, right? Air strikes started August 8. They have been going on for five weeks now. They are about to extend into Syria. The President announced a 40- nation coalition involved in this effort. He announced tonight that France is going to start dropping bombs in Iraq alongside our pilots who are already doing. There is a war under way already, which congress has not said anything about. And, today, they decided that war will apparently continue for another two months while they go home and take two more months off work. The house announced it first, then the senate followed suit. They are gone. 1,600 U.S. Military families have gotten the call. They have had their loved ones deployed to Iraq. They are flying those missions right now, but congress is heading home for another seven-week break, because they cannot be bothered to think about that right now. They have got more important business to attend to. They have got to get re-elected, because that is the most important thing they do, right? There is a reason the American public finds this congress repellent. There is a reason why this congress has the lowest approval ratings in the history of congress and the spectrum of all major institutions in our country. There is a reason congress -- this congress, repulses the people of the United States. But, a decision like this today stretches the bounds of even the low standards of decency that they have sunk to already. Amazing. That is for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow. Now, it is time for the "Last Word." Ari Melber sitting in for Lawrence tonight. Good evening, Ari. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END