tv AC 360 Later CNN January 20, 2014 11:00pm-12:01am PST
good evening and welcome to a special edition of "ac360 later." we are dedicating the hour to chris christie. there is breaking news. you will hear new evidence from a new jersey mayor. she says that it bolsters her claim that the christie administration held sandy recovery money hostage to her action on a real estate development that the cnn favored. you will hear others who say that it doesn't add up and people need to know whether their elected officials are serving the public. you can join the conversation, tweet us or weigh in on our facebook page. we'll show you comments a at the
bottom of the screen. in a moment, dawn zimmer the one leveling the payback allegations, talked to federal investigators about it over the weekend. and now the background from dana bash. >> it's an ultimatum of epic political proportions. chris christie's lieutenant governor says it holy and false. >> being a sandy victim myself makes the mayor's allegations particularly offensive to me. dawn zimmer described a scene right out of a movie saying that lieutenant governor kim guadagno approached her and threatened to withhold money unless the governor backed a project in her town.
>> she said she was with him on friday night and this is was a message to the governor. >> this is a more direct tie to christie in bridgegate. >> mayor zimmer's version of our conversation in may of 2013 is not only false, but is i logical and does not withstand scrutiny when all of the facts are examined. >> reporter: a spokesman said it's clear that partisan politics are at play here and try to it be faces on television. hoboken's mayor had publicly supported her governor in the past. but provided private journal entries to cnn which told a different story. she wrote at the time, i thought
he was something different. this week i found he is cut from the same corrupt cloth i have been fighting for the last four years. sources who attended this weekend say that christie argued the way he handled scandals so far should make them more confident. >> he said if i ever put myself up for national office you and everyone have an absolute right to know how i deal with problems. lightning will strike. >> but he announce head is putting any 2016 race for president on hold for a year. anna navarro attended several events. >> talking to these billionaires, people that christie will need he runs for president what is your sense of how they feel? >> chris christie has taken the initiative. i think this buys some time for
other potential candidates who may be deciding what they do and not be at risk of losing donors and act -- activists. >> mayor zimmer sat down for me for an exclusive interview. >> you sent a letter to governor christie that you provided us. we're showing it on the screen, asking for funding for pumps to help the flooding problem in hoboken. you said to the governor, just as shore towns are not being asked for development in exchange for protecting them from future storms, the solution to hoboken's flooding challenges can not be dependent on future development. as shore towns are not being asked for development in exchange for protecting them from future storms, the solution to hoboken's flooding challenges can not be dependent on future development. this is sent before your meeting with the lieutenant governor. does this mean you felt pressure
already? >> in various meetings i had with their administration i did feel there was a lot of discuss about development. but i will say there -- in those meetings there was not a direct connection made but there was pressure. and so, you know, i do think that while i think what's interesting is about what the lieutenant governor said today is that she said it's illogical what i said. and when you look at the documents, you look at the letters that i've written you can see it wasn't illogical at all. it is a progression leading up to something where they wanted to give me a direct message because they felt i wasn't getting the message clear enough. >> people close to the lieutenant governor, i mean, as you said, the lieutenant governor calls the allegations false. but i want to read what someone said. kim remembers in their conversation that she was talking about redevelopment and making investments in hoboken.
she remembers zimmer pressing kim for money for sandy and kim remembers saying you can't tie the two together and zimmer continuing to press and showing her map of the city and pressing for sandy. she says it was you linking sandy and development. are you saying this letter which is dated before that conversation disproves that? >> right. well that's the first time i'm hearing that. i didn't -- she didn't say that directly today. but yeah, i mean, this letter makes it clear that i was the one, you know, on april 23rd sent them a letter and clearly said you can't connect the two and it's not fair to connect the. two that's part of the conversation that we had. i said you know -- after she said to me, you have to move ahead with the rockefeller project. i said is any other town being asked to do development in exchange for help with the
flooding? and her answer was the shore brings them $38 billion. she was the one -- she very clearly was connecting the development with the sandy aid in our conversation. and it's ironic she is saying that when now i sent a letter on april 23rd saying these two things should not be connected. >> you are saying that in your conversation you point-blank said to her is any other town asked to link development to sandy aid? you made that linkage clear that is your interpretation and she did not dispute it? >> she did not. she said i know it's not fair, they shouldn't be connect bud they are. that is in the journal entry. >> you are saying that the lieutenant governor said these should not be connected but they are. >> that's what i recall and what i wrote at the time. i wrote the journal entry a few days after the meeting with her. >> we are seeing a letter you provided us on may 8th to the
governor saying you are stunned you are not getting the funding request. that's two days before the meeting with the lieutenant governor. what is that second letter. what do you believe it proves? >> back to her statement it is all illogical and when you look at all of the events together you can see it was a progression of pressure and she was, you know, sent in to make that final message to me. on may 8th there was a planning board decision. the planning board voted down the zoning that the rockefeller group wanted for their property. and on may 8th we had severe flooding and the letter i sent to the governor showed pictures of the severe flooding we had in hoboken. and on may 8th i sent a letter saying that we need the funding and that, you know, basically, i had received my office had received notice we would not be receiving funding and i wrote
saying i hope this is not the final decision. we need help. two days later, their office calls friday afternoon and says we want to do a sandy business event on monday at 10:00 in the morning. the timing seemed a bit strange but we were fine with it. we want to welcome the lieutenant governor. she is coming to hoboken. we had already done the opening for shop rite, at least a month before. so certainly wanted to welcome her. >> you believe her coming down was in -- specifically in response to this letter of may 8th? >> i do believe it was related. i think that she, you know, that event was created that she could come and have the opportunity to make a very clear message to me. >> when she said it to you?
what was your immediate initial response and your -- what was going through your mind? >> i couldn't believe it. i couldn't believe that she was saying what she was saying and she very clearly said these things shouldn't be connected but they are. i know they're not right and if you tell anyone i will deny it. >> she said that? >> yes this is not something that you forget when the lieutenant governor tells you if you tell anyone i will deny it. >> my conversation with dawn zimmer. i want to bring in the panel. dana bash, gloria borger, and john wisniewski who is leading the investigation on the bridge investigation. let me ask you first what do you make of what the mayor is saying there? do you believe her?
>> they are very troubling allegations. we have seen the lieutenant governor acknowledged she had a conversation with the mayor. >> but the mayor's perception of the conversation is wrong and offensive. >> that's where we need to get to the bottom of it. there is a dispute as to who said what. >> someone is lying. >> the mayor is making serious allegations. they are very difficult in the light of the redevelopment, the port authority money used for a redevelopment study and the facts those are linked together with the redevelopment and the words that the lieutenant governor is said to have used linking it to the governor. there are a lot of facts we
don't know. and it would be premature to rush to any conclusions. >> obviously, you a supporter of governor christie. do you believe that the lieutenant governor would say that? >> no. simply put these are two former federal prosecutors. they prosecuted hundreds of corrupt politicians. these are the last two people who would get involved in any repugnant activity, conspiracies, conspiracies to do land deals. >> but if she did say that you would say this is inappropriate? >> i don't know about a hypothetical. i can't discuss what would happen if she said it. i don't believe she did. but here's a mayor who says this is corrupt activity. this mayor replaced a corrupt mayor. she knows the u.s. attorneys can investigate this. she could have taken that to the u.s. attorney, worn a wire, gone back. instead she tweeted out months later he is a great governor. if you offered a bribe -- maybe i say nothing about you but i wouldn't put out compliments. that would be troublesome to a jury. >> but she says that she thinks governor christie has done good
things. >> but if it was so upsetting and the person you thought was an idol and is now corrupt, if you put that in front of a jury i'm not sure they buy it. >> do you ask questions about why she didn't come forward? >> there is a lot of questions. and one is the timing. this happened in may. and now in january 2014, a half a year later and now this allegation comes out. it could be what she is saying. but one of the questions out there is the time frame. >> some people are going to say this is how politics is done. you see it on television shows all the time. is this just politics as usual? >> i think in some ways, the idea of a quid pro quo is as old as the beginning of time. it's the way that politics goes. however when you get down to the specifics of this, not so much. i mean, you are talk about -- as you all know more than
anybody -- a very devastating event in new jersey where the people of her city were under water. this is not -- this is not just rewarding a pet project, a bike path. this is something that is critically important to her waters. so the allegation is beyond pal ticks as usual. but is it allegation. >> if it were true and this occurred. you're the lawyer wouldn't this be some form of extortion? you called it corrupt if true. >> this is what the mayor called it. she said she was disappointed that this governor was not corrupt. when you say someone's corrupt, you are unlikely then to compliment that person.
it's one thing to disagree with them. >> you're a democrat in new jersey. from the outside in, it certainly looks like chris christie was so -- and still is -- incredibly popular. it is very difficult for a democrat to say anything bad about him. >> she said -- >> i think he was feared. >> when you are a mayor in new jersey, so much of what makes your town succeed or fail is the money you get from the state of new jersey. you you have to be careful about what you say. you get municipal aid and that can be changed and modified. >> who are we worried about offending? the governor of the state? >> as the mayor? >> you worry about offending the administration. >> the governor. >> the commissioners, all of the people who have some influence on whether your town succeeds or fails. >> what about the fairness of your ask? hoboken was 80% under water and i know there was billions of dollars in requests. >> i saw a press release that says over $70 million has been
approved for hoboken. >> but that a lot has the been from insurance stuff. >> you are taking an allegation from a mayor and it seems to me it has got national attention. this governor has been so popular. let's look at what frank pallone said. there is an investigation into these sandy commercials. it turned out this was just a routine audit. we have to be -- >> it's rare that you have a situation where a mayor and the lieutenant governor, one is lying or deluded. >> and the fact it is so directly linked back to chris christie. we would not be sitting here talking about this -- >> but to have a mayor -- >> and make a specific allegation against the governor and lieutenant governor. >> we're -- >> it's too early to look at whether the committee is going to investigate. we don't have all of the facts. we have a lot of work ahead of us before we can say the committee is going to -- >> we're going to take a quick
welcome back. we are devoted an hour to chris christie, first the bridge scandal and now the allegations that the governor was withholding money for rebuilding hoboken, new jersey. >> when you see the lieutenant governor saying point-blank your memory and recollection of this conversation is offensive, is completely inaccurate and as a victim of sandy she is offended. you are saying she's lying? >> yeah. i'm -- she said she would deny it and she is denying it. and my reaction is you're offended? how do you think i feel and everyone in hoboken feels? we have not been given much sandy funding and have been told there is a connection between
the two and there is a push to get one particular project through. >> you have tweeted positive things about governor christie. why would you do that if you felt he is strong arming you? >> believe me i have felt torn about this. i mean, he has done very good things for hoboken. i mean, i think he's he has done terrific things for the state overall and i do think he has been a great governor. >> but to not mention this sooner and now mention it given his obstacles this smacks of politics. did you not mention it because you thought he did good things? are you concerned? >> i didn't think people would believe me. and i didn't want -- they didn't make their final decisions on hazard mitigation funding until much later. i wanted to keep some chances out there to try to get the
funding for hoboken. if i were to make the acquisitions i -- >> does it worry you now to make these accusations? >> it's a challenge. let's face it. i'm someone who got into politics because i care about my town. i was a stay at home mom before i got into politics. i did this because i cared about bringing a park to my neighborhood which is something we are about to make happen. so for me, i'm out here. i feel like i had to come tonight even though i would rather be home in bed. i need to get my voice out there. i really care about my town. >> is it scary? >> it's hard because i mean, obviously there's powerful people, you know, across the country all giving their opinions on me. >> has anyone pushed you to come forward and talk about this? the dnc?
other democrats? >> i've been considered the -- the democrats are frustrated with me. how could i support the republican governor for four years. i don't have massive connections. i don't know who is head -- >> the dnc has not called you up? >> they have not called me at all. i have no connection to them. >> this pressure from the lieutenant governor on this conversation that's not a run-time thing. you are saying there is a pattern of this. >> i mean, that pressure was continuing until i came forward. i mean -- >> have you heard from the governor's office directly now? >> i haven't talked to them at all. >> this is a dumb question. i assume i know the answer.
i assume you are not going to the inauguration tomorrow? >> i don't think i'm invited. >> we're back with the panel. jeff, what do you think about this? >> i'm underwhelmed by this accusation. he is the governor of the state. a big part of new jersey politics, as well as most states is state aid to municipalities. you give money to a municipality but you are the governor. you want to control how the money is going to be used. and suppose in the sandy situation he said, you know what? we're going to give you this sandy money but only if you do the following environmental things so we don't have this kind of disaster again. >> that's different. >> but it's a matter of degree and once you start getting into what precisely was said between these two people i suspect it's going to get a lot more muddled. >> you are lawyers. do you believe someone is lying? >> the stories aren't the same.
>> lying or -- >> everybody using words like "version," my recollection. there is clearly a mismatch. what we don't know is which set of facts is what happened. >> we lose the big picture though. we have a governor in new jersey who has made historic reforms and then there is a little bit of a -- a big problem at the bridge which john wisniewski found out and every allegation is a national issue. that's my concern. once you take any allegation and blow it up into a case, i have a concern with that as opposed to -- >> do go ahead. >> big picture on the eve of a second inaugural that happens tomorrow. where he won by a landslide of epic proportions with huge democratic support and this is what we're talking about where he is supposed to be having conversations about education reform and things to take on the national stage. >> he had to be tough to make those changes. he had to shake up a system.
when they ran he said we are going to turn this state upside down and they did. and there's no question, you know, it's a bruising sport in jersey. i can understand the reaction. he was ahead in the polls over hillary clinton. it's risky business to get that popular. >> i don't think has anything to do with that. >> would he been a national show if he wasn't so incredibly popular. >> you're right. >> you are making the implication that dawn zimmer did that because chris christie was close to hillary in the polls. >> she is getting the attention because he is national figure. >> when she says the dnc is not behind this. do you buy it? >> i don't know? many people in the dnc. but the chairman started an investigation and i said he did
a good job to turn out information that showed some bad stuff at the bridge. now it's expanding to the point where they've got a criminal prosecutor leading a prosecution out of the legislative branch. you -- >> it's not a prosecution. >> it's an investigation. >> investigation. it's supposed to be policy directed. >> it is. >> but they hired a prosecutor who -- >> the guy who put rod blagojevich in jail. >> we are not supposed to use him because he was once a prosecutor? >> my question is this once you start bringing in thousands of documents. let's assume some is irrelevant it will become a public document as opposed to a prosecutor who can decide which is important to see or not. and people can get hurt who have absolutely -- a collateral interest. >> is that your concern or that things are going to come out that you don't want to come out?
>> and what comes out, comes out. and what you are saying is we ought not continue an investigation because unintended information may come out. -- >> they should let a federal prosecutor take over this matter -- >> what sort of information might come out? don't people have a right to know what the government is up to? >> the government, absolutely. if i send out a subpoena, let's say a report contacted someone at the port authority and that comes out. that's not a part of this investigation. if you had -- >> paul fisherman is construct conducting a grand jury investigation. and no one will ever find out anything that he learned. it seems the legislature is
informing the public and trying to tell people what happened and both of those seem appropriate. but if you leave it all to fishman no one learns anything. >> there was an abuse of power. someone sent an e-mail that they shouldn't. what we in the legislature need to find out is why it happened, who authorized it and most importantly how do we stop it happening in the future. the fact that four people lost their jobs doesn't stop it from happening again. we have a legislative inquiry to stop the problem. >> christie's bully tactics. i'll talk it of with the panel ahead. [ male announcer ] this is george. the day building a play set begins with a surprise twinge of back pain... and a choice. take up to 4 advil in a day or 2 aleve for all day relief. [ male announcer ] that's handy.
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politics ain't bean bag and everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. on the other hand that is very, very different than saying someone's a bully. i think you asked me the question are you willing to change your style in order to appeal to a broader audience and i think i said no. i am who i am but i'm not a bully. >> that was governor christie a week and a half ago addressing allegations that he is a bully. it is a reputation that has dogged him for years. here's tom foreman. >> reporter: born in a state with a long history of heavyweight brawling, chris christie learned that his ways could be costly. in 1995 he tried to win an
assembly seat and was crushed at the polls, leading to quiet work in the political background. yet after being elected in governor in 2009 and reelected in 2013, the tough guy took center stage. >> maybe the people in washington, d.c. should tune in their tvs to see how it is done. >> reporter: he has battered reporters. >> did i stay on topic? next question. >> if what you want to do is put on a show and giggle when i talk i have no interest in answering your question. >> reporter: voters are fair game too. >> don't bother me where i send my kids to school. and after you graduate from law school and conduct yourself like that in a courtroom you this be thrown in jail. >> reporter: and he walks a mr. political tight rope. >> some people don't like his style.
they see him as too tough, too angry, obnoxious. >> reporter: there is a risk in being this brusque and brash about things? >> absolutely. but that's more outweighed by his reputation as a straight talker and straight shooter and in this day and age that is a huge plus. >> i don't hide my emotions from people. >> reporter: so although christie is apologizing over the bridge incident now, sorry is a word that fits him like a bad suit and one that he seldom says, tom foreman, cnn, washington. >> chris christie is not the first to be called brusque or brash. rudy giuliani has never been called a shrinking violet. i asked him about christie. >> i don't see anything in his background that suggests he takes advantage of people or is
nasty to them in terms of his personal contact. i have been with his family many times. but it is a stereo type and unfortunately for crist and is true with me, if something happens that reinforces your stereo type it is a big deal. >> joining me is barbara buono. senator, i appreciate you being with us. you while running against the governor had a commercial calling him a bully prepared to go and didn't run it. do you think he is a bully? >> we had a few commercials and didn't have money to run all of them. but when i was running, people would say you have so much courage running against this guy and i didn't get it.
but what we are seeing now is evidence of the fear of retribution that permeates new jersey politics. >> you believe what the mayor is saying? >> let me say two things. i believe that the u.s. attorney needs to fully investigate it. he spoke to dawn zimmer for several hours yesterday. what do i think? as a former criminal defense attorney, i will tell you that her testimony that i heard have the ring of truth. this is someone who, you know, can put it in writing fairly contemporaneously with this experience. and that gives her additional added credit. why would she come out now and had seen two mayors before her that were subjected to such ridicule. >> it could be a part of piling
on to play the devil's advocate here because she can come out because she has company. >> it gives her courage. is it hard being the only person out there. i was the candidate out there talking about all the sandy relief funds being misused and the unexplained closures of the lanes and people didn't believe me. >> they talk about him being a bully. what he did is changed the landscape in this country. political speak, he changed political speak and it became a straight talking language. that it's why people loved him. it's tough but straight forward. that's why he is so popular. >> i want to bring in kevin madden. for the romney campaign in the book "double down" the list of questions about christie to which the vetters wanted answers
were extensive and troubling, more than once romney admirers reported back that the response was why do we need to give you that information. we have to assume if they are not answering the answer is bad. is it fair to say in your experience that in dealing with governor christie it's his way or the highway? >> no. i think that -- i think that fundamentally he is a strong personality. i think that's what made him a good politician and a good governor. he's a strong executive. you have to have a strong opinion about where you want to take your state or where you want to take your campaign. i think in that sense he was never really going to be a good fit as a vice presidential candidate. when you are measuring the dynamics of the campaign weighed
heavily on their minds when they were looking at him. >> to your point, john, chris christie is known as somebody who uses power effectively. and the truth telling -- >> or misuses. >> but has used his power -- you heard the mayor say that she thinks he is a good governor. she is not his political ally. i think the truth telling -- >> there is a difference between being seen as a tough guy or a bully if you are for the little guy and bullying against the powers that be and trying to transform something. but if you are doing stuff that is bullying that effects the average citizen -- >> it's that the point.
>> but for four years there wasn't any indication of scandal in this administration. some people did some real stupid stuff and all of a sudden this guy who was perfect had problems and at that point it was a national attack. this is in newspapers around the world. >> kevin, how do you see it? >> yeah, i think if you talk to democrat operatives, they will tell you that all throughout '13 they knew they were going to rue the day where they didn't have a chance to define chris christie negatively and ultimately he would built build a political profile that was positive that threatened the national democrats and hillary clinton. the dnc has decided that they're going to negatively frame chris christie as a bully. they are doing it relentlessly. and a large part of the focus is because the democrats are making
up for lost time in 2013. >> let's not get away from the facts here. there is a pattern of bullying that now with respect to dawn zimmer has morphed into influence peddling or a shakedown. and the bullying is more serious when the impact is to hurt people's lives and endanger people's lives like with the bridge closing and hold hostage -- >> there is no evidence he had direct influence on the bridge closing. >> when you need 41 legislators to change the law with respect to pension and health benefits, you have to be real tough. without a really strong hand you can't get it done. >> you have democrats now coming out of the wood work -- >> i think there are democrats
the supporters point to coverage like this. >> he did not get the endorsement of the democratic mayor of ft. lee but then just discovered overnight that ordinary life was suspended in his town. >> who is looking out for people who are killing those people in the traffic situations. >> this is why chris christie is so dangerous. >> but now, no, screw you, jersey city, fend for yourself. >> this morning, a former mississippi governor who served as chairman of the rnc criticized the media. >> the latest suggestion bay local mayor. does it give you more concern about the atmosphere and culture in chris christie's government. >> the news media is willing to leap at any far-fetched story
with the basis in fact unbelievable. >> joining our panel are brian stelton and carl bernstein. carl, there are more liberal channel that have a lot of interest in this story but it seems this is a legitimate story when you is the mayor of hoboken, new jersey coming forward with a story at odds with what the governor has said. >> this is a huge national story and should be. the same way benghazi should have been a huge national story. you have allegations that seem serious that need to be run down about serious abuses of power. there is a golden gate republican leader in the u.s. senate that says what did president nixon know and when did he know it? what did the governor know and when did he know it?
that's part of what he needs to do in investigative reporting, nonpartisan investigation by legitimate committees of the legislature. this is a serious business. >> when you look at the coverage, what do you think? >> this may be showing the value of a liberal media. msnbc is liberal with the exception of "morning joe" the liberal reporters did real reporting and investigating. dawn zimmer cooperated with them providing evidence to get the story into the press. and for the same reason it is great to have consecutive reporters it's important to have liberal reporters. >> the easiest political strategy for any party is to run against the press. so you know, the republicans will say, okay, you know, this is the liberal media and the
democrats are in the same position talking about the consecutive media. >> is this a legitimate story? >> i wouldn't agree it is a legitimate national story. if every abuse of power in the state house is a national story everybody will be really busy. >> but not every governor has the potential to become president of the united states. >> i think there the two real reasons there have been a focus by the national cable networks. as far as resources it's easy to send a satellite truck up i-95 to cover this. and governor christie has a national political profile now. and the dnc and national democrats are going out there and feeding this story, it has become -- >> but you rarely have a story,
i mean, people talk about bare knuckle politics it's rare to have an e-mail chain where an aide to the government says we have to have a traffic problem and the -- is like got it. >> richard nixon tried to make the conduct of the press and the "washington post" the issue in watergate. it's not going to work here any more than it worked there. we have some sets of facts that need to be investigated. both by reporters and by the legislature. let's see where the facts take us. and incidentally i'm not sure that news organizations calling this bridgegate is very fair to govern christie as well. i think we could do with a little less of that also. >> but i think tv likes -- and finds, you know, people find interesting an ongoing story
that is not something that happened in the past. it's like peeling an onion. >> people wonder what the next revelation is. >> and chris christie is a great character. and i have to give him a lot of credit here. this is a man who went out. he had a two-hour press conference determined to answer every question that every reporter wanted to ask of him and he left himself absolutely no wiggle room. now the question is the govern left no wiggle room on this. so now let the journalists have at it, right? >> can we be realistic for a moment? he is one of the five most important politicians in the country. the idea we should not be reporting on this as extensively as we possibly can, the idea that legitimate commentary whether on fox, msnbc, cnn, is not part of the news picture is absurd.
there is a long history in this country of political commentary in all kinds of media. and to have a strategist saying this is out of bounds and haley barbour is my friend. but this is a real story and needs to be investigating and it will be. >> kevin, i want you to respond and we have to go. it's not out of bounds. but there is an overemphasis on this. people in centerville, ohio are not sitting around with a recognition of what is going on at the port authority in new york. the idea this is a national story around the country as it affects them, that's not true. >> i doubt you are right about that. >> they are talking about it now. the larger issue is about the economy and immigration.
>> the -- >> this is exactly the same as watergate. exactly the same. that's absurd. >> it's not. i said the use of the term bridgegate is unfair. i'm saying what is the same is there are been allegations of an abuse of power and they have to look at it seriously and not thrown away. >> thanks very much. we'll be right back.