The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/04/15

Guests: Bernie Sanders, John Wisniewski

CHRIS HAYES, ALL IN: That is a very good point. There is a little bit of that probably going on. Michael Steele, Josh Barro, Sam Seder -- well, the race continues. 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. And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve got a big show coming up. Senator Bernie Sanders, now presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, is here tonight for the interview. I have to tell you, though, Bernie Sanders is not the only Sanders who is running for a big high profile political office right now. Bernie Sanders` big brother, Larry, that`s him on the right, is also this week running for a seat in the British parliament. Yes, he lives in England. He`s lived there since the `60s and he`s running as a Green Party candidate for parliament from Oxford. Britain`s having their parliamentary elections this week, in which the country will decide whether or not they`re keeping David Cameron as prime minister. They`re going to be electing, you know -- every seat in parliament is up. Those elections are going to happen on Thursday. But Bernie Sanders` older brother Larry is running for the first time as a Green Party candidate in the in the area near Oxford. Until recently, this was the candidate in a district called Dudley North which is sort of smack dab in the middle of England. His name is Afzal Amin. He was running as a conservative, running as a Tory for a parliamentary seat in that the Dudley District. He`s no longer running for that seat because the Conservative Party yanked him off their roster. After he`d already started running for parliament, they would not allow him to stand. And the reason they yanked him off the roster it turned out was a very strange political scandal that started off as a very weird political scheme. This is the symbol for a far right anti-Muslim group in England called the English Defence League. They`re known for targeting majority Muslim British neighborhoods with big sometimes violent rallies, where they flood the streets and scream about how much they hate the Muslims, and how much they hate Muslim immigration to the U.K. That`s what the English Defence League does. It used to be something called the British National Party back in the `70s, `80s, `90s. The English Defense force has sort of taken up that line in British politics. It turns out, according to the British media, this conservative British politician who was standing for parliament this week, he saw a great electoral opportunity for himself in that weird pseudo-racist dynamic on the far right fringe of British politics. And this candidate allegedly schemed to get the English Defence League, this anti-Muslim group, to say they were going to organize a terrible big provocative rally somewhere in his district. And then when the local community would freak out because they didn`t want the racist violent guys marching through their neighborhood screaming about how much they hated Muslims, that guy as a candidate was going to swoop in and convince the racist violent guys that they should stop their march. And if the racist violent guys agreed to this plan, to fake announce this march and then let this guy be the hero by supposedly talking them out of it, he would then once he got to parliament argue on their behalf. He would be their greatest ally in British politics. So, this guy got caught scheming with the English Defence League to set up a fake racist march in his own district that he would then become the hero of and then he would help the racist group out once he got into parliament. Weird, right? I mean, this is a real scandal in the election this year. That`s how they lost that the parliamentary capped for that district in central England. And we ended up having the bizarre undercover tape to prove that it happened because the head of the English Defence League, the head of this big racist group that does these marches ended up secretly recording the politician as he was trying to hatch this plan. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) AFZAL AMIN: If you were to announce the second march, say early May, that you going to come back and do another march about the mosque, about the planning permission whatever else et cetera. And then we`d have two meetings with the chief of police, members of the Muslim community, we play our roles. They say, no, no, don`t march today. We have a second meeting where things are a bit calmer. Then, the third one, we have a press conference where we say you say we were going to do a march. The chief of police, Afzal Amin, former army officer, members of the Muslim community, have sat together and we`ve had some discussions and we realized that we all want to campaign against these things and we`re going to work closer together in addressing these evils in our society, and we want the rest of the country to pay attention to this model of working to avoid conflict and bloodshed and tension and so on. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: So, let`s fake this scheme. You pretend like you`re going to do your scary thing in my district. I will swoop in and stop you. We`ll all play our roles and -- this actually happened, how this guy got yanked from running for parliament from that seat. And you know you have an ethics issue when the head of the anti- Muslim racist group secretly records you because he alleges you were trying to make him do thing something that he felt was unethical. It`s crazy. So, that`s what it looks like across the pond when people try to take anti-Muslim, anti-Islam bigotry and turn it into their own personal profit. That`s what it looks like over there. Our American version of that dynamic looks a little bit different. This is a Florida pastor named Terry Jones who does not hold any impressive position in any church or organization. He`s never achieved anything or been elected to anything which would give him a national profile. The reason, though, that you have seen before and heard his name is because he is the guy in 2010 who decided to declare "International Burn a Koran Day". Him doing so earned him a personal phone call from the secretary of defense asking him to please not go through with that because him burning Korans would endanger U.S. military personnel around the world in terms of the backlash. President Obama condemned the plan when the man first announced it. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton condemned the plan. The commander of the U.S. war in Afghanistan at the time, General David Petraeus, personally and repeatedly warned this random pastor in Florida, that he should not do this, that it was important that he rethink that plan. That Florida pastor did go ahead with his burn the Koran plan. He went ahead with it in 2011 and in 2012. There were protests in multiple countries around the globe that ended up killing dozens of people. In 2013, he decided he still had not had the desired effect with burning Korans in 2011 and 2012. So, in 2013, he decided to up his game and decided he would not burn a Koran or two. He planned to burn 3,000 Korans all at once. That one ended up not happening though. As you might imagine this pastor is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. And in 2013, when he decided he was going to burn these 3,000 Korans, the he would pile them into a barbecue smoker, soak them in kerosene, put the smoker on a trailer without a license plate that he was dragging behind his pickup truck in Mulberry, Florida, and he got pulled over. Quote, "Deputies seized the 1998 Chevrolet pickup, the smoker and the Korans." The local sheriff later explained he could not allow that particular vehicle to continue down the road because basically, quote, "He was driving a bomb around if he had gotten into a crash." I don`t know what you expect it to look like when a guy plans to burn 3,000 books, but this is basically what you would invent if you were Bart Simpson trying to plot this as a course, right? Look, there`s the truck. There`s the loud speakers there. So, he could entertain everybody in this rally while he did it, and it`s towing on a trailer the barbecue smoker full of Korans. And obviously, those are books made of paper and he`s already soaked them in fuel and is speeding down the highway in the metal smoke with the kerosene soaked paper on the no license play the trailer bouncing around behind the truck. What could possibly go wrong? So, Pastor Terry Jones of Florida, he`s like the low rent simple one guy in a pickup truck version of this phenomenon in politics. It has made him a phenomenon, though. Terry Jones ran for president on the "I`m the crazy Florida pastor who burns Koran" ticket in 2012. "Politico" reported last year that he`s filed the paperwork to run again in 2016 because why not. He`s just one variety of that kind of guy, though. If Terry Jones is not your style, the more upscale model of Terry Jones is this guy who runs an anti-Muslim think tank with the anodyne name the Center for Security Policy. He`s the person who made Hillary Clinton`s top staffer Huma Abedin famous for being something other than Congressman Anthony Weiner`s wife and Hillary Clinton`s top aide. Frank Gaffney cooked up a conspiracy theory on the right which Michele Bachmann and others ran with for years, which claims that Huma Abedin is secretly the vanguard of an undercover Muslim Brotherhood plot to the take over the federal government. That`s Frank Gaffney. He came up with that. You know, Grover Norquist, the anti-tax guy, the small government guy who famously said he wanted to make government small enough to drown it in a bathtub, Frank Gaffney has also crusaded against Grover Norquist, saying that Grover Norquist is also part of the secret Muslim Brotherhood plot to take over the government because his wife is a Muslim and therefore, Grover Norquist cannot be trusted, and therefore, the NRA and American Conservative Union, and all these other organizations that Grover Norquist is part of or is in the board of, they also can`t be trusted. They are also part of the Muslim Brotherhood plot to take over America -- which you wouldn`t expect from the NRA. But that`s how big the plot is. The year that Frank Gaffney and his Center for Security Policy started this bizarre campaign against Huma Abedin and Grover Norquist and all of rest of it, the liberal think thank Center for American Progress did a report trying to figure out where this conspiracy theory was coming from, who was pushing it, why it`s seemed -- for such a crackpot idea, why it seemed like a well-funded, kind of well-orchestrated attack. And in their report, they found that that year alone it, 2013, Frank Gaffney`s organization took in more than $3 million in revenue. Frank Gaffney that year was paid nearly $300,000 to be president of this random anti-Muslim group making wild accusations about Huma Abedin and Grover Norquist. And that is in keeping with this mysteriously well-funded, really fringe but really rich mini-industry of anti-Muslim activism and conspiracy theories. It turns out it is a multi-million funded slice of right wing activism in this country, funded by a small number of mostly family foundations that fund this stuff to the tune of millions of dollars and in some cases tens of millions of dollars per year. It is a weird line of business, but it is a business in American conservative politics. And probably the biggest brand name in that business in the United States is this person. Her name is Pamela Geller. She`s a conservative blogger who writes for "World Net Daily" and the consecutive website called Breitbart. She and a man named Robert Spencer run a whole bunch of anti-Muslim organizations that operate under various names. They run something called the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America. They tried to make that one international. They made one also into Stop Islamization of Nations. That was their effort to take their message international by advocating that all countries around the world should ban Muslims from immigrating into any country that is not already majority Muslim. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer were actually banned from traveling to the U.K. last year where they were going to address a rally held by the English Defence League. The guys who were part of the crazy conspiracy I talked about at the top of the segment. I mean, the Brits do have some respect for free speech rights, but they will also issue an exclusion order to ban you from their country if they believe that you`re coming into their country to incite racial or religious hatred. So, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, not allowed in Britain. But, of course, they are allowed here. They`re the folks who said that building a Muslim community center at a former Burlington coat factory in Lower Manhattan was more than that. It was actual radical Muslim triumphalism over 9/11. They were the ones who called that project the Ground Zero Mosque, and rallied right wing opposition to it around the country. They`ve also had legal fights in lots of different big cities all around the country, about putting up inflammatory ads like this one on city buses and in subway systems. Cities like Philadelphia and New York City have unsuccessfully fought to keep these ads off their subways and buses. They fought it because they thought these ads would provoke violence. The ads have mostly been upheld and been ordered to be put up on free speech grounds, although last week, the New York Transit System announced that rather than put up these ads from this Pamela Geller group, they would rather ban all political advertising of all kind in New York City subways. Because we are a country that reveres the First Amendment, there can sometimes feel like there`s a sort of inherent dignity in being a free speech case study, right, with wanting to engage in speech that is so outrageous people want to ban it -- sort of makes you seem noble in the abstract because we love the First Amendment in this country. But in terms of understanding where they`re coming from, these are also the folks who have advanced in all seriousness their deeply researched, totally not kidding claim that President Obama is the secret love child of Malcolm X. President Obama`s secret dad is Malcolm X. Maybe. Isn`t it obvious? They`ve also advanced the Donald Trump for president platform that President Obama`s birth certificate is a forgery to disguise his true foreignness and his Muslim-ness. They claim not only is President Obama is secretly foreign and secretly Muslim, but they exposed President Obama`s secret Muslim gang salute. This is Pamela Geller writing a few weeks, the press took in this photo of African dignitaries joined Obama in a State Department auditorium for a group photograph. Look at the picture. The one finger display is the distinctive Muslim gang sign. When believers stick their index finger in the air, they demonstrate they are partisans of Muhammad`s God concept with his fourth finger in the air, Obama affirmed his membership in this tribe. Have you ever done this? Pamela Geller believes that you are therefore in the secret Muslim gang. So, obviously, Ronald Reagan, secret Muslim, Bill Clinton, secret Muslim. That`s who these folks are. In January of this year, these folks organized a protest outside a Muslim conference that was being held in Garland, Texas, at a nice conference center building actually owned by the school district. It was essentially an "it`s OK to be Muslim" conference. And because that Muslim conference had been held at that the conference center in Garland, Texas, the Pamela Geller group decided after protesting the pro-Muslim conference there in January that when they wanted to hold their most recent anti-Muslim conference, they should also hold it at that same venue. So, that venue in Garland, Texas, is wherever yesterday, two men opened fire outside that anti-Muslim conference being held by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and their group. The two gunmen injured one Garland school district security officer. He was shot in the ankle. He was treated in the hospital and is released. He`s not considered to have any injuries that are life-threatening. That shooting obviously could have been a lot worse. The two suspects were not just armed. They were apparently wearing body armor but they were shot and killed by police. One of those two, one of those two suspects, Elton Simpson, had been known to the FBI since 2006. He was convicted of lying to federal agents about his plans to travel overseas to engage in violent jihad in Somalia. Two suspects were apparently roommates. They share an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona. It`s unclear at this time how they planned the shooting. It`s now up to law enforcement officials to figure out if they were operationally linked to any larger group or organization, or if this was just their own idea and they engaged in this violence on their own. But meanwhile, in the background of this terrible attack on this conference in which these guys opened fire and were shot themselves, meanwhile, in the background of that understanding what was happening there is Pamela Geller, the organizer of this conference who basically is in business as a professional provocateur and who since the shooting, has been on television all day long arguing how valuable her activism has been, arguing that it shows the true nature of Muslims which she`s been trying to awake America to with her all her anti-Muslim activism over these past years. What happened in Garland, Texas, was a terrible incident on its own terms. That it happened at an event hosted by one of the highest profile players in a highly organized, well-funded industry designed to maximize fear of Muslims in this country gives this a political resonance that it would never have had otherwise beyond its tragedy, beyond its outrage, beyond its existence as a crime and act an of terror. It remains to be seen how exactly the Pamela Gellers of the world will try to capitalize on that political resonance. But it is complicated to imagine now that the provocation of hating Muslims is a business in the American -- in our American system of politics that is well-funded, well- organized and that has been waiting for something like this to happen to them. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, we`ve got lots ahead tonight, including the latest from Baltimore now that the curfew is lifted there and the National Guard is standing down. Also, we`ve got some unexpected news tonight about guns and gun policy. It`s the kind of news you really never hear about guns and gun policy, but it has happened somewhat unexpectedly tonight. And we`ve got Vermont senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders here tonight for the interview. Lots ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Today`s most entertaining presidential announcement kicked off at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit, Michigan. Ticket holders stood in line for a long time to get into the big event. Once inside, they were entertained by a musical rendition of "This Land is Your Land." Then the National Anthem featuring the candidate`s wife, playing along on the violin, which was great. After that, the man himself the main attraction emerged stepped out from behind a red curtain with a spotlight on him, got a bunch applause and then, he sat down. He sat right back down, took a seat in the front row presumably to watch his own presidential announcement. The curtain rose. There was a presentation of colors by the American Legion, a five-man singing group from Nashville, Tennessee, performed. They were very impressive and very sharp suits, but they were not the only choral entertainment. Detroit`s Great Selected of God Choir did their signature song, which is a gospel version of Eminem`s "Lose Yourself." And honestly, that was the best musical anything that has been at a political event in a very long time. But for this most excellent of all campaign announcements, we have to thank Dr. Ben Carson. He`s a super conservative retired neurosurgeon. He did attend and enjoy and he did eventually speak at his declaration of had his candidacy today. But for today, for all the excitement around that very well orchestrated announcement, today was not just Ben Carson`s big day. Today was also the announcement day for the one-time CEO of Hewlett- Packard, who also declared that she`s jumping on the race. Her name is Carly Fiorina. She`s never held public office before. She did run for Senate in the California against Barbara Boxer in the big Republican wave year of 2010 but she still lost to Barbara Boxer by double digits. Carly Fiorina had also been a high profile surrogate for the McCain/Palin presidential ticket in 2008, until she told one interviewer that, yes, she was supporting McCain and Sarah Palin for president and vice president but didn`t believe either one of them would be capable of running a good sized company. She said that publicly about the ticket she was supporting. And then she said it again. And then, a top McCain/Palin staffer told CNN, quote, "Carly will now disappear," and she did. But now, she`s back, on her own terms. This time, she is running for president herself. When asked today by ABC`s George Stephanopoulos what makes her a good candidate, she said, quote, "I understand technology, which is a tool to both reimagine government and to reengage citizens in the process of government." Anybody intrigued enough by that assertion to try to find out more about this tech-savvy Carly Fiorina person might reasonably have gone online today to check out, what would you guess CarlyFiorina.org? Today, CarlyFiorina.org looked like this, Carly Fiorina failed to register this domain so I`m using it to tell you how many people she laid off at Hewlett-Packard. It was this many. And then, see those little sideways unhappy faces? There are 30,000 unhappy faces as you scroll down because she laid off 30,000 people at Hewlett-Packard. It has been said once before in her political career, it will be said again, Carly will now disappear. In addition to Carly Fiorina and Dr. Ben Carson announcing today, former Arkansas governor, former FOX News personality, former weight loss self help guru Mike Huckabee will also announce his candidacy for president tomorrow. We also learned today that former Texas Governor Rick Perry is likely to declare his candidacy on June 1st. Rick Perry was widely anticipated to be a formidable candidate in 2012 until he actually started running. It didn`t go that well. That said, this time, Rick Perry is running while he`s also under criminal indictment back home in Texas. So, that could add a whole layer of excitement to a Rick Perry second chance campaign. But if you add it all up on the Republican side, we`ve now got Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, all in. Then, today, we got Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, that brings us up to five. It will be six when Mike Huckabee gets in tomorrow. It will be seven with Rick Perry next month. All in all, we`re expecting somewhere along the lines of 20 Republican candidates to get in. That`s not counting, you know, crazy protest candidates and stuff. Those are the theoretically at least the contenders, 20 of them or maybe even more. On the Democratic side, there are two. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was first OK. And then Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, independent from Vermont, jumped in last week. And honestly, nobody is giving Senator Sanders great odds of winning the Democratic nomination but he is the only declared candidate for that nomination other than Secretary Clinton. And in the first 24 hours after he announced, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders surprised everybody by raising more than $1.5 million in the first 24 hours after he announces. He raised more than $1.5 million from small donors giving him an average donation of about 40 bucks. Bernie Sanders raised more money for his first presidential campaign in his first 24 hours than Rand Paul did or Marco Rubio did or Ted Cruz did. When he jumped in last week, he told reporters, quote, "Don`t underestimate me." We don`t. We do not. And nobody should. Joining us tonight for the interview is Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. He`s a declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for president. Senator Sanders, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My pleasure. MADDOW: I have a feeling things have gone in this past week, in these last few days since you`ve announced, I have a feeling they have gone better than you expected, or did you see -- did you see that it would go this well? SANDERS: Well, I had the feeling, Rachel, there was a strong undercurrent of support. And when we announced on Thursday, we sent out an e-mail on our Web site, BernieSanders.com. We got 35,000 responses in terms of contributions and 100,000 people indicated on the first day alone that they wanted to sign up and work on the campaign. And those numbers have gone up in the last few days. I feel really good about that. MADDOW: You have 100,000 people who pledged to volunteer on the campaign already? SANDERS: No, actually we have 175,000. MADDOW: What`s your plan for how to put all those people to work? That sounds like you`ll be the head of a pretty big organization. SANDERS: That`s exactly what we are struggling with right now. But I think the main thing, Rachel, is I think we have a message that is resonating across this country. And that is the level of income and wealth inequality in this country is grotesque. Ninety-nine percent of all new income goes to the top. One percent -- the top 1/10 of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and meanwhile the middle class of this country continues to disappear. I think people want a candidate who is prepared to take on the billionaire class and say, you know what? This country belongs to all of us, and not to a handful of billionaire families. MADDOW: The debate season is still a ways off. Obviously, whoever`s a declared candidate on the Democratic side, especially because it`s not probably going to be a gigantic field, is going to be their end of the debates, depending on how many they had. You have started the informal debate process by getting in and declaring and putting yourself out there and declaring what it is that you`re interested in. Are there specific policies that are under consideration federally right now that you think Secretary Clinton ought to be talking about in order to address those kind of concerns? Are there specific things you`d like her to commit to or commit to being against that would make you feel better about her candidacy? SANDERS: Well, it`s not a question of feeling better about her candidacy. But there are huge issues facing this country. We have six major Wall Street financial institutions that have assets of some $10 trillion, write half the mortgages and two-thirds of the credit cards in this country. In my view, if a bank is too big to fail, it`s too big to exist. I am bringing forth legislation which would break up these large financial institutions. That will be a very good thing for our economy. I would appreciate Secretary Clinton`s views on that issue. We have on the floor of the Senate probably later this week the Trans Pacific Partnership. I happen to believe and have voted against all of these trade agreements, NAFTA, CAFTA, permanent normal trade relations with China, which have resulted in the loss of millions of good paying jobs here as corporations have gone to China and other low wage countries. I`m not quite sure that the American people know what the secretary`s position is on TPP. The USA Patriots Act is coming up for reauthorization. I have voted against it in the past and voted against reauthorization. Obviously, we have to be strong in protecting our people from terrorism but I don`t think we have to undermine the Constitution and deny our people basic constitutional rights. That`s an important position. So, you know, in terms of Iraq, I was one of the leaders against going into Iraq. The secretary supported that the war. So, I think there are some strong differences of opinion. MADDOW: Senator Bernie Sanders, independent of Vermont, declared candidate for the Democratic nomination for president -- Senator, it`s always great to have you here. Thanks for being with us. SANDERS: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: It`s interesting, 175,000 people he says signed up and said they wanted to work on the campaign. Running a campaign for president is running a very big organization if you`re a viable candidate, right? It is itself a test of political talent in a way that I think people don`t necessarily get credit for as we`re talking about all these people who are outside the political system potentially running this year. I think Bernie Sanders` candidacy is going to be fascinating watch potentially logistically, but as well as what it means to have somebody pushing hard from the real left on both sides of this campaign. Stay with us. Lots still to come. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So, imagine that you are Preet Bharara. Imagine you`re the U.S. attorney in Manhattan. You particularly enjoy indicting and convicting New York politicians. You have done a lot of that as a prosecutor. Just four months ago, you indicted and arrested the speaker of the House in New York state legislature. Well, now, imagine you`re on the trail of the president of the State Senate. You, Preet Bharara, are reading transcripts of the wiretaps that have been put in place in this investigation as you look into whether or not the Senate president and his son have been running a scheme where companies pay the son cold hard cash and in exchange, they get political favors from dad, the leader of the State Senate. So, you`re Preet Bharara, you`re the prosecutor, you`re reading through the transcripts of phone calls between father and son, and then you get to this. It`s the son, quote, "You can`t talk normally because it`s like F-ing Preet Bharara is listening to every F-ing phone call. It`s just F-ing frustrating." To which the Senate president responds to his son, quote, "It is." Yes, son, yes, it is frustrating that we cannot openly discuss what we`re doing on the phone because the federal prosecutor might overhear us. It is frustrating. The criminal complaint says the Senate president`s son got a second cell phone that he called his burner phone or his safe phone to try to avoid getting caught talking about something he should not be talking about on the phone. The Senate president and his son openly mused whether they were being wiretapped by the federal prosecutor. The son told one staffer that it was, quote, "F-ing frustrating" to not be able to talk to his dad openly on the phone. What was he supposed to do? Quote, "Send smoke signals or a little pigeon with an F-ing note tied to its foot," end quote. But the pigeon plan and burner phone plan did not help and prosecutor Preet Bharara really was listening and those calls really were being transcribed. And so, now, Preet Bharara has been able to announce the indictment and arrest of both of New York`s legislative leaders in a span of four months. The Senate president arrested today is a Republican. The House speaker arrested a few months ago is a Democrat. New York state corruption is nonpartisan at least. And it is profane and it is often dumb. But it is just unbelievably relentless. New York state politics are a sewer. I was going to even saying they`re making New Jersey look good in comparison, but that would be a bridge too far, it turns. That`s next. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This scene has become a pretty familiar scene in the news in recent weeks, specifically this scene. This is a bank of microphones sitting outside the federal courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, in anticipation of a press conference. That spot right there last month was the exact same spot where sitting New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez emerged from the courthouse and announced that he was totally innocent after he pled guilty to a 14-count federal corruption indictment. Bob Menendez came out of the courthouse, walked down those stairs and addressed the media that was gathered outside. Today, the media gathered at that same exact spot. They might, as well just leave the microphones there. The media gathered at the same location to see today if there would be any reaction from today`s visitors to the federal courthouse. Today, it was a pair of former Chris Christie administration officials who are now facing federal charges themselves for their role in creating an intentional and apparently criminal traffic jam at the world`s busiest bridge. On Friday, we got the news that the U.S. attorney in New Jersey was charging three former Christie-administration officials with conspiring to shut down local access lanes onto the world`s busiest bridge in order to punish a Democratic mayor in New Jersey who wouldn`t endorse Governor Christie`s reelection bid that year. One of those former Christie administration officials, David Wildstein, you see on the right there, he pled guilty in federal court to his role in that alleged scheme and he`s now working with federal prosecutors. But the other two officials have maintained their innocence. They say they`ve done nothing wrong. And today, Bridget Kelly, Chris Christie`s former deputy chief of staff, and Bill Baroni, who is a top Chris Christie appointee at the agency that runs the bridge, today they both appeared at federal court in New Jersey and they both pled not guilty to a nine-count federal indictment that was unsealed against the two of them on Friday. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BILL BARONI, FORMER CHRISTIE PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: I would never risk my career, my job, my reputation for something like this. I am an innocent man. And that is why I turned over thousands and thousands of pages of my own documents to both the prosecutors and the legislature. And that is why I will testify on my own behalf as soon the trial begins. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I will testify, as soon as the trial begins. There has been this interesting political question in recent months, right, about the effect of this scandal. Whether this bridge scandal would just result in a few low level guilty pleas and it was just quietly go away, maybe it would cease to have political resonance. Turns out this thing is not quietly going away. With these not guilty pleas today, we are going to trial. The federal judge presiding over this case today set a trial date of July 7th, change your vacation plans. Bill Baroni says he looks forward to testifying at that trial telling his side of the story about the lane closures. David Wildstein, who pled guilty on Friday, says he is eager to testify, as well. His lawyer has also said publicly on more than one occasion that he has evidence that Governor Christie himself was aware of the lane closures while they were happening, even though he has not publicly produced any of that evidence to date. Also, Bridget Kelly, Chris Christie`s former deputy chief of staff says she`s looking forward to testifying at trial, as well. Bridget Kelly`s attorney said in her defense, he`s willing to subpoena any number of her former colleagues in the governor`s office in order to prove Bridget Kelly`s innocence. And that statement today from the lawyer led to this eye popping exchange outside the courthouse. Watch this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: Would you have to subpoena Governor Christie as you mentioned just now? MICHAEL CRITCHLEY, BRIDGET KELLY`S ATTORNEY: I am going to subpoena anybody who I feel necessary to establish my client`s innocence. REPORTER: And that could include the governor? CRITCHLEY: That could include anybody. If I find information about you, I`m subpoenaing you. That includes anyone. REPORTER: David Wildstein said there`s evidence that the governor knew about the lane closures before they happened. Ms. Kelly said that other people in the office knew. Did the governor know while the lane closures took place? CRITCHLEY: We`ll find out. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We`ll find out. The question was, did Governor Christie know of the lane closures while they were under way? The answer, we`ll find out. At trial presumably? Governor Christie has adamantly denied he had any knowledge of these closures before or during. The U.S. attorney says he does not intend to bring any additional charges in this case with the evidence that he has before him now. But now, two former officials in the Christie administration are threatening to drag Governor Christie into this. The trial is now officially set for July 7th. Perhaps we will just plan to leave the microphones there all summer. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The man who literally personally found the smoking gun e- mail that broke open the whole bridgegate scandal is our guest next. And we`ve got some very surprising and late breaking news tonight on guns. It`s the kind of story about guns we almost never get to do but it has happened tonight. That`s ahead. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARONI: I am an innocent man, and that is why I turned over thousands and thousands of pages of my own documents to both the prosecutors and the legislature. And that is why I will testify on my own behalf as soon as the trial begins. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former Chris Christie administration official Bill Baroni today after he pled not guilty to a nine count federal indictment for his alleged role in orchestrating a traffic jam on the George Washington bridge in order to punish a political enemy of Governor Chris Christie. You heard Mr. Baroni say he had turned over thousands of documents to prosecutors and the state legislature. Well, that legislative inquiry is really what crack this had case open. That inquiry led in part by Democratic State Assemblyman John Wisniewski uncovered the smoking gun e- mail that showed that this traffic jam was apparently orchestrated on purpose by members of the Christie administration. Remember the e-mail, quote, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee". That is what eventually set the groundwork for the three federal indictments that were announced this past Friday by the U.S. attorney in New Jersey. Joining us now is New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the New Jersey state assemblyman who has headed up much of the legislative inquiry here. Mr. Wisniewski, thanks for being here. JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Rachel, good to be with you again. MADDOW: The plea agreement was apparently agreed to by David Wildstein in January. He actually entered his plea, pled guilty and we got the unsealing of other indictments yesterday. Do you understand why the timing has gone this way? WISNIEWSKI: No, that`s certainly a mystery to us because the U.S. attorney`s office has been very diligent in keeping a lid on what they`re doing. So, clearly, they had discussions with him before January, probably in November, December to come to that ingredient that he signed in January. But for some reason, they had to wait until now to have the actual plea entered in court. That`s something we`ll learn as the process goes forward. But right now, we don`t have an answer why it took that long. MADDOW: We have a guilty plea from Wildstein. We have not guilty pleas from Mr. Baroni and from Bridget Kelly. WISNIEWSKI: Right. MADDOW: If there is a trial, if July 7th does end up being a trial date, do you expect that we will actually learn more about the factual basis of these claims at the trial? WISNIEWSKI: Well, I hope so. I mean, so far, each time we think we`re going to get closure, we seem to have more questions. So, we were all wondering exactly why this happened. It turned out in the plea that Mr. Wildstein entered that it was for political payback. We all kind of doubted that because it seemed like the consequence of not endorsing was so out of proportion to what they hoped to gain. But it turned at least from Mr. Wildstein`s perspective to be true. But we also have competing narratives now of Bridge Kelly saying on the day that the indictment was announced, that she`s going to talk about other people in the governor`s office that knew about this. Mr. Wildstein`s attorney saying the governor knew contemporaneously and, of course, Bill Baroni is now still sticking to the story that it was a traffic study. So, we have four at different versions of what happened. Hopefully, a trial or trials will help resolve that. MADDOW: In the indictments that were unsealed on Friday, in the sort of narrative that they told, key to that narrative was Bill Baroni lying to you. Again, we don`t -- it`s not been adjudicated. Bill Baroni says he didn`t lie and innocent of all charges. If it is proven he did knowingly lie to your committee about what was going on, will there be some sort of consequence for that, the prosecutor says it`s not a federal matter? WISNIEWSKI: Well, it`s not a federal matter. When he testified in front of the committee, the tradition in New Jersey has long been when you testify in front of a committee, you`re not automatically put under oath. That`s being re-examined now because clearly this has shown us maybe there`s a value in having people under oath. But when he testify, he did not swear to tell the truth. He just started testifying. And that`s been the tradition in the New Jersey legislature. But his story was unbelievable when he told it and then literally two weeks later, Pat Foye, the executive director of the agency, testified and said there was no traffic study. MADDOW: Will you keep investigating and what happens with the course of the case versus the course of your inquiry in the legislature? WISNIEWSKI: Well, we have to be very careful. We don`t want to impact whatever proceedings will happen in court on both indictments. But there are unanswered questions. Remember, what we`re trying to do is very different than what the U.S. attorney is trying to do. They`re prosecuting violations of law. We`re trying to get the facts so we can fix the rules and the Port Authority and the governor`s office so this kind of abuse can`t happen again. We have different missions. The facts overlap with one another. But we need to make sure we don`t unfairly hurt the trial and the ability of the defendants to present their defense and Mr. Fishman to present his prosecution. But we still have a job to do to learn the truth and to make sure we change the rules so it can`t happen again. MADDOW: Right, especially if the basic narrative of what happened is still contested by people who are literally on trial for those. WISNIEWSKI: The facts are still up in the air. MADDOW: Yes, John Wisniewski, New Jersey state assemblyman, New Jersey legislative investigation co-chair -- thank you, sir. This is both exciting and perplexing time in this case. Thanks for being here. WISNIEWSKI: You`re welcome. Thank you. MADDOW: All right. We got lots still ahead including that story on gun news that I never expected to be able to break on this show. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: So recently on the show, we`ve been talking about Oregon a lot, like a lot a lot. Part of that was the alleged corruption scandal involving the former Governor John Kitzhaber and his fiancee, which ultimately caused Governor Kitzhaber to resign. Part of it was our effort to offer a more viscerally alarming owl attack warning sign in Oregon parks to protect local Oregonians from owls that were attacking joggers in one Salem Park. We`ve also been talking about Oregon because the new governor who took over when John Kitzhaber left has been making the most of it. She is Governor Kate Brown. She demanded ethics reform and got it moving in the state house. She bucked the national trend and signed the nation`s first election law that automatically registers people to vote. If the state knows you exist, they pro-actively register you. You have to opt out of voter registration if you don`t want to be registered. And now, Governor Kate Brown has yet another chance to sign major legislation into law. Today, the state legislature passed a bill that would make background checks mandatory for almost all private transfers of guns between unrelated owners. A first time violation would be a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail, a second violation would be a felony with a maximum penalty of a quarter million dollars and 10 years in prison. Every Republican in the legislature voted against the bill. Every single one, but Oregon is a blue state. Democrats control the House and Senate and governorship. And so, there`s about to be background checks for private gun sales in Oregon. "The Oregonian" says Kate Brown is expected to sign the bill. In today`s climate it is almost impossible to pass any kind of gun safety reform, but Oregon and Kate Brown are bucking the national trend on that and other issues. It appears to be well on its way tonight. Surprise, surprise. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". Good evening, Lawrence. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END