tv The Rachel Maddow Show MSNBC January 25, 2014 3:00am-4:01am PST
rum. this is what membership is. this is what membership does. let's put up on the map the great state of delaware, now south dakota, now montana, west virginia, put up vermont, wyoming, put up mississippi, new mexico and oklahoma. okay, that's nine states. nine very different states, right? diverse, fairly far flung. the smallest population among these nine states is wyoming, i believe, with about 575,000 people. largest population among these nine states i think is oklahoma with roughly 4 million people. one thing all of these very different nine american states have in common, one thing they all have in common is that they all have a state budget, a total state budget for everything the
state pays for that is smaller than the budget of the port authority of new york and new jersey. that one agency, which is basically responsible for how people get between new york and new jersey has a bigger annual budget than at least nine u.s. states. the very first time we covered the scandal around the george washington bridge in new jersey, which was back in early december, we interviewed the democratic assemblyman who's the head of the transportation -- who's the head of transportation issues in the new jersey assembly. he has since become a very famous guy. his name is john wisniewski. now he's nationally known. he does the sunday network shows, right? he is famous now because he's running the investigation in the legislature into chris christie's administration and what happened on that bridge connecting new york and new jersey, the george washington bridge. looking to the lane shutdowns on that bridge that gridlocked the town of ft. lee and other issues beyond that now. but when we first contacted john wisniewski as a source on this
story, he was very eager for us to understand that trying to oversee the port authority was not like any other little transportation agency anywhere else in the country. finding a scandal at that particular agency is not like, you know, busting up a card game on the corner. it's like busting up las vegas. the port authority is mega. it is rich. and it behaves like it. the port authority has more than 7,000 employees. and the average salary of those more than 7,000 employees, according to john wisniewski is over $140,000. that's the average. and they have got 7,000 people. and when you've got that much money and that many people on that big a payroll, hey, you know what, there's always room for one more, right? the "new yorker" posted an article this week citing a lawsuit brought by a former employee of the port authority who sued over just how many politically connected people were getting stuffed into that
agency, particularly by the chris christie administration in new jersey. according to this lawsuit, in the first two years that chris christie was in office as new jersey governor, he got nearly 50 people hired at the port authority. by the end of 2012, it wasn't 50 people he had shoved onto the port authority payroll, it was more like 80 people. he got 80 people hired as patronage hires. political favors, basically. 80 people at an agency where the average salary is over $140,000 a person. good times, right? one of the people who found themselves comfortably ensconced at the port authority once chris christie got to be governor and once he had the power to ensconce people there, one of the people who found himself at that agency in the era have chris christie as governor of new jersey was david wildstein. he is famous as the man who arranged the shutdown of those access lanes onto the george washington bridge and who gridlocked ft. lee, new jersey. when david wildstein got hired in 2010, a few weeks after chris
christie got sworn in, he was just another guy who the christie people wanted to have a job at the port authority. interestingly, though, they invented the job they hired him for. there had never been a director of interstate capital projects before they created that job and gave it to david wildstein. the newark star ledger said no job description was ever produced for that job that they created for david wildstein. and it doesn't seem like he had to work particularly hard or fight off a lot of competition in order to get that sweet gig. when his personnel records were requested under new jersey open government laws, unlike other people who did, you know, like have to interview or otherwise prove they were qualified for the job against competitors who might also be qualified for the job, david wildstein apparently never even had to submit a resume to the port authority in order to get that $150,000-a-year job. there was nothing in his personnel file. but he did get the job.
they did create it for him and he did get paid $150,000 a year. which according to john wisniewski's account is slightly above average for that mammoth slush fund -- i mean agency. david wildstein had that job from may 2010, when he was first appointed wh chris christie made governor, from may 2010, until this past december 6th when he submitted his resignation saying that h issue of the shutdown of those lanes on the george washington bridge had become a distraction for the christie administration and so he thought he should step down. governor christie's spokesman released a warm statement praising david wildstein on the occasion of his resignation, calling him a, quote, tireless advocate for new jersey's interests and saying, quote, we are grateful for his commitment and his dedication to the important work of the port authority and thank him for his service to the people of new jersey and the region. even as the guy was quitting for causing the traffic jam or at least for being a big
distraction around the issue of the traffic jam, chris christie still had nothing but praise for david wildstein. that was then. this is today. because today the port authority announced that david wildstein is not just no longer with that agency, he has been cut loose in terms of his legal defense. and this is a big deal. the port authority announcing that they will not provide him direct legal assistance or financial help for his own legal assistance as he contends with multiple subpoenas and multiple investigations, including that one that got much more serious this week on the part of the federal prosecutor, the u.s. attorney for the state of new jersey, this is a big deal. i mean the day after the super bowl next weekend, the super bowl is held in new jersey, conveniently enough, the day after the super bowl, so a week from monday, everybody who was subpoenaed by john wisniewski's committee in the legislature is due to hand over all communications of any kind, all correspondence, all notes, all documents, e-mails, text messages, blackberry messenger messages. documents and records of any
kind related to the shutdown of the lanes on that bridge. in some cases, the legislature has demanded documentation going back more than a year from those people and those entities. in the case of guys like david wildstein who are right at the heart of this scandal, in addition to the notes and documents and call records that everybody else is being asked to turn over, that monday, that monday after the super bowl, david wildstein and a few other people on that subpoena list, they have also been told that they need to hand over any cell phone, any smartphone, any blackberry, any tablet, any pda, anything used like that at any time in either business capacity or personal capacity or any other capacity by them, any time since september 1st, 2012. wow. two days after all that stuff has to be handed over to the legislature, all that stuff has been demanded by those subpoenas from the legislature, two days later, everybody is subpoenaed by the u.s. attorney, by the federal prosecutor, also has to hand over what's in those
subpoenas, what "the new york times" describes as a broad range of records relating to the lane closings, e-mail, text messages, calendar entries, spreadsheets, voice mail messages. other than the chris christie re-election campaign and the republican party of new jersey, we don't know exactly who got those grand jury federal subpoenas from federal prosecutors, from the u.s. attorney's office. but again, "the new york times" cites a person, quote, briefed on the matter who says that those federal grand jury subpoenas from the u.s. attorney have also been issued to, quote, some of the 20 people and entities who got subpoenas last week from the legislature as well. and presumably that would mean guys like david wildstein who are right in the middle of this scandal. so think about that. two days apart. two days apart, huge voluminous quantities of information of a very similar description are demanded from two different subpoenaing authorities.
the legislature on monday and then on wednesday federal prosecutors. and we don't exactly know how many people are in that boat, but a lot of people are probably getting in the boat where they're getting subpoenaed by both institutions. and david wildstein among them has just been told, yeah, you're going to have to pay for any help you need with that yourself. what do you think david wildstein has incurred already in legal fees? we know he's got a lawyer. >> could you state and spell your last name for the record. >> david wildstein. w-i-l-d-s-t-e-i-n. >> where do you currently reside? >> new jersey. >> are you currently employed. >> no. >> most recently where were you employed? >> on the advice of my counsel, i respectfully assert my right to remain silent under the united states and new jersey constitutions. >> page 751 contains communications. my question is does page 751
contain communications dated august 5th, 2013? >> on the advice of counsel, i again assert my right to remain silent. on the advice of counsel, i assert my right to remain silent. >> the right to refuse to answer questions to this committee is not permitted under those rules. the committee does have the right to find your client's failure to respond to validly asked questions to be in contempt of this committee's subpoena and to take a vote on that and that matter may be referred to the appropriate law enforcement authorities. you understand that? >> that is understood, sir. if the attorneys general for new jersey, new york and the united states were all to agree to cloak mr. wildstein with immunity, i think you'd find yourselves in a far different position with respect to information he could provide. >> that's your job. we just want answers to questions.
>> understood. i'm suggesting a way you can get there. >> understood. >> david wildstein, who arranged the shutdown of those lanes and gridlocked ft. lee, new jersey, in september apparently on orders from chris christie's deputy chief of staff, he was a guy who was already and understandably getting lots and lots of lawyering, right? we can see that from his appearance thus far before the assembly committee investigating the matter. he's already getting lots of lawyering. and lawyering is never cheap. but as of today, the port authority, his employer when he did all this stuff, says we are not helping with any of that. you are paying for all of that yourself. and the port authority also indicated today that that may also be the fate of bill baroni, the other chris christie ally at the port authority, the deputy director of the agency who was
appointed directly by chris christie and who we now know lied to the state legislature about the fake traffic study cover story for what they did to ft. lee. the port authority also said today that they are just considering, they have not decided, they are considering whether bill baroni will also be cut off and left to fend for himself in the same way they did for david wildstein. no decision yet on that, but watch this space. meanwhile, though, bill baroni was the deputy executive director there. that's a high ranking appointee at this chris christie lavishly appointed agency. deputy executive director. but he was not the highest ranking appointee for chris christie at that agency. the top guy who chris christie appointed there is the chairman of the agency, a former attorney general of the state of new jersey. his name is david sampson. and has david wildstein gets cut loose, as he gets his lifeline hacked off the mother ship and he drifts into space, to not just be blamed for what happened here but to be potentially bankrupted by this disaster that
he had this role in, and as bill baroni twists at the end of his line, not knowing whether he's going to get cut off too but it looks like he's might, he's already been blamed, is he also going to be bankrupted and ruined too? as those guys see their lives destroyed, as those guys not only get blamed for this scandal but potentially destroyed by it, chris christie's other top guy at the agency, his top appointee at the agency, he's apparently still fine. still has his job. he's still running the port authority of new york and new jersey. and its budget that's bigger than nine u.s. states and its 7,000 employees who get paid apparently an average of well into the six figures. david samson is still in charge, but apparently he is worried. over the weekend he hired former homeland security secretary michael chertoff to be his lawyer. on top of that, he's hired a whole additional law firm to also represent him, plus a public relations firm as well. and looking at the known facts of this scandal so far, you can
see why this is a guy who probably is worried about how this is going to work out. on the last day that that bridge was shut down, david wildstein wrote to a staffer in chris christie's office expressing concern that officials on the new york side of the port authority had realized what was going on and had reopened those lanes and essentially come to the rescue of ft. lee. david samson wrote that day, quote, we are appropriately going nuts. samson helping us to retaliate. and then there's samson the next week blasting the official who ordered those lanes to be opened back up. the official who ordered ft. lee to be saved, essentially. there's david samson accusing that official of stirring up trouble saying, quote, he's playing in traffic. he's made a big mistake. and again, this is not one of the guys who's resigned from the port authority over this scandal. this is not one of the guys who has been fired, right? he's still in his job running that agency. and his role in the bridge scandal is not his only problem
in new jersey. this week started with the mayor of hoboken, new jersey, making explosive allegations here on msnbc that the chris christie administration told her that hoboken would get more funding for relief efforts after hurricane sandy if the mayor okayed a private development deal in her town. the christie administration vehemently denies those allegations. we now know that the fbi and prosecutors from the u.s. attorney's office have interviewed not only the mayor and taken documents from her that she says support her claims, but they have also interviewed other people in hoboken who have said that they can corroborate the mayor's side of the story. but whether or not anybody else does corroborate that story. whether or not it can be proven and the prosecutor's and fbi's inquiries go anywhere, whether or not it goes any further than it has already gone, there is, regardless, a real problem for david samson specifically with the hoboken side of this story. that is that hoboken mayor dawn zimmer has produced documents already which have not been contested by anybody involved.
nobody is challenging their authenticity. and she's produced these documents that are about that private development project in hoboken. david samson's law firm represents the developer for that project. david samson is also the chairman of the port authority. and in his capacity as chairman of the port authority, he may have been involved in pressuring hoboken to okay that development. think about those two things at once, right? his law firm is getting paid by the developer, and it appears that his office is using control of the port authority to try to get that developer what they want out of hoboken. and this is not the part of the story that's in dispute. this is not what we're waiting to see if it can be corroborated and hearsay, right? for the record, the developer has not been accused of any wrongdoing. here's the e-mail, though, that is the worry. david samson's law firm telling officials in hoboken, hey, we want to put you on a teleconference with the head of the port authority to talk about that development that we want you to do.
head of the port authority, david samson, also the head of that law firm who represents the developer. here's hoboken's lawyer complaining that he's getting, quote, the full court press from people, including david samson's law firm, that hoboken has to do this development. you can run a multi billion dollar public agency and you can work as a lawyer trying to get people land deals. but if the way you run your public agency is to use it to try to get people land deals, that's the kind of thing for which you end up hiring not just the former homeland security secretary as your lawyer, but maybe some extra lawyers on top of that as well and also a pr firm. wnyc reports today that david samson's business at his law firm has really taken off since he got that port authority gig from chris christie. here's their lobbying business in 2007, 2008, 2009 and then the fourth bar there, the slightly larger one, that is when chris christie gets elected, gets sworn in. the end of 2010 is when chris
christie dominates david samson to be chairman of the port authority. and then look what happens to his law firm's lobbying business once he becomes chairman of the port authority. yeah. 2011 looks great, 2012 still looking pretty good. it will be interesting to see when those numbers come out for 2013. david samson is a former attorney general of the state of new jersey. he is very, very, very well connected in that state. not in a particularly partisan way, none of this story is particularly partisan. there's people from both parties and no parties on all sides of this. by all accounts david samson is well respected in the state. but he is also the top chris christie related official, ally or appointee in this scandal who is most implicated in this bridge disaster and more who has not yet resigned or been fired or been blamed in any way. david samson is cast in the worst light of anyone who is still standing this far into this scandal. and so far new jersey governor chris christie has been totally, almost unusually aggressive in
asserting in unqualified terms that david samson is innocent of everything. in the governor's apologizing for this scandal before he went back to calling anybody who cared about it a partisan, the governor did say that he met directly with two people in his office about this scandal. two people directedly reported to him, his general counsel and chief of staff and he met with them and questioned them about it and he trusts them to have gotten the word out of the rest of the staff. general counsel, chief of staff. beyond that, the other person he talked to correctly about this was david samson who he met with for two hours. he came out of that discussion convinced of david samson's utter and total innocence. david samson himself has put out a statement pro claiming as much, saying he had no prior knowledge of the bridge shutdown before it happened. this week when governor christie was sworn in for his second term, there was obviously no bill baroni there, no david wildsteven there, no bridget anne kelly, no bill stepian who
recently he was calling the greatest political operative in the country, but they're on stage with him as he was being sworn in. and again -- there he is, still in his job as chairman of the port authority is david samson, who chris christie is apparently standing by, even as the other people who are known to be has involved in this not only get fired and blamed, but now they are starting to get cut off from any help. and so how do you think they're going to testify when they testify? as david samson puts on retainer every lawyer in new jersey who's not nailed down, is the port authority going to pay david samson's legal bills too? or is he going to cover that himself? does he just stay in this job indefinitely while responding to all of the subpoenas and all the rest of it? it's one of the weirdest unanswered questions in all of this yet. stay tuned. it made the difference between hearing about my daughter's gym meet, and being there. yeah! nailed it! i got back to doing what i love. that's my daughter. hi sweetie!
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i think we can all agree that 2012's republican presidential primary process was kind of a disaster. it's been almost two years, right? we can all admit that now. do you remember the iowa caucuses? the night of the iowa caucuses we were told by the iowa republican party that mitt romney had won. it was really close, but mitt romney won. then the iowa republican party changed their mind. the chairman said first, okay, mitt romney didn't win, it was a tie. then he said, no -- okay, it wasn't actually a tie, nor did mitt romney win. okay, actually rick santorum won. then by the time the iowa state convention rolled around and they actually had to do the thing that results in helping nominate a presidential candidate, we found out that it wasn't a tie and it wasn't rick santorum and it wasn't mitt romney, it was actually ron paul who won the most delegates in iowa. that was in june, about five months after the caucuses. that was a microcosm of the entire republican primary experience in 2012. you had states like florida moving up their primary trying to be first against the party's wishes and then getting punished for it. you had campaigns that could not get their paperwork together in
order to actually qualify for delegates. you had states that could not figure out how many delegates each candidate should get, even after the votes have been tallied. missouri held an entire primary with results they did not end up using because they decided, maybe we'll hold a caucus as well. and the debates, dear sweet lord do i miss the debates. best reality show that has ever played on american television, even though this one had zero nudity and very little drinking and drug abuse. it took until may for mitt romney to clinch the party's nomination through that process. it took until august for him to officially be named the nominee. well, now the republican party has decided that they do not want to do that again. at least they don't want to do something just like that again. today the republican national committee announced that they are changing the presidential nominating calendar rather dramatically in a way that will certainly avoid at least a structural repeat of 2012. the republican national committee announced today that
they are going to shrinkydink the whole primary process. they are protecting the traditional early states like iowa, new hampshire, south carolina, nevada, boy putting their primaries and caucuses in february, which is later than they have been. they're levying harsh penalties against any state that wants to jump the line and go ahead of them slashing their delegates to nine or one-third their original total, whichever is smaller, which essentially makes your primary irrelevant if you try to hold it any earlier than february. for those states that run them after that first four, anywhere between march 1st and march 15th, their delegates will be awarded proportionally instead of winner takes all. but if you're holding your nominating contest after march 15th, you better get it done fast because the other major change is that republicans are moving their convention from august to june or early july. what? yes. everybody change your vacation plans now. they say that this change is meant to give the eventual candidate, the republican
nominee, an extra month or two of general election fund-raising. so they have shortened it way up. it's going to start way later in the winter and it's going to end at the republican national convention way earlier, in the middle of the summer instead of right up till labor day and beyond where it's been in the past. they have made the republican primary process fairly small. the republican party did suffer through a drawn-out messy process in 2012. they have decided that the way to fix that is to shrink the process this time around. they are closing it at both ends, not allowing it to start earlier on the front end and not allowing it to get later on the general election on the back end. let's try to get this wrapped up real quickly and let's make sure that most americans can't watch it in some way. can we make this 3-d or some other way people don't have on their televisions? is there any other way we can do this in private? it's amazing. i did not see they are going to be doing this. joining us now is nbc news political reporter kasie hunting. she reported on the winter meeting this week in washington. thanks for being here. >> thanks for having me. it's great to be here.
>> the republican primary process is one of my favorite things. getting to cover it is spectacular and it was no secret that the republicans thought that the primary process unfolded in a way that did not make their party look good. am i right to see this as a change that will just make america see less of the republican primary process? >> well, the idea is to make less of the messiness that comprised at least the last election cycle play out in public in such a way that requires whoever the eventual nominee is to spend so much time moving to the right to appeal to the voters that they need to win over, especially in these smaller states, that they're unable to pivot to the general election. >> but isn't that the diagnosis of the entire primary process? i mean democrats -- it's a mirror image on the democratic side. they think they have to get left of each other during the primary process and scoot back to the center for the general. is there anything specific about the primary process that they think is making them look too right wing or just the process itself?
>> well, in the case of 2012, and to a certain extent this is them learning the lessons of 2012. every cycle is different so we're not sure come 2016 these changes will look like a bad idea simply because the circumstances have changed. if you think about the lessons the party learned in 2012, mitt romney was fighting it out with rick santorum through these states that were awarding these delegates proportionally. so santorum was getting a few here and a few there but it kept the race going through april. if you remember in march of that year, sandra fluke -- excuse me, rush limbaugh made some controversial comments about sandra fluke and romney didn't have very much to say, wasn't able to respond. took a lot of criticism from democrats. at the time, there was a lot of suggestion he was running against rick santorum who is a social conservative and he was sort of boxed into what he was able to say because he was so concerned about winning the nomination. so because the party is so fractured right now and even that was on display at this rnc winter meeting on a wide variety
of subjects from the nsa and rand paul wing, abortion, appealing to women, i mean it's very splintered. at this point their focus is on trying to at least project a semblance of unity. this is one way they think they can do it. >> strategically my thought about this in a generic way is that a shortened primary process, a condensed process like this, and even the change around proportional allocation versus winner-take-all will tend to reward whoever looks good before the whole process starts. >> yes. >> there's not going to be -- there's not going to be any dark horse candidate that comes from behind and wins in a shortened primary process. whoever has got it together in the beginning is more likely to be the nominee. >> i think you're right about that point. the one caveat i would say is that we still have these early states stacked up. so you're still going to start in iowa, new hampshire, south carolina. >> ke, key point, yes. >> and so, you know, candidates
with win in iowa if they spend, like rick santorum did, months and months on the ground going to all 99 counties. the other thing that's going to be interesting that we should watch and that conservatives are already starting to discuss is this is going set off a lot of back end sort of back room lobbying by both candidates and states for how to position themselves. so if you think about it, part of awarding these delegates proportionally means that if a candidate goes in and fights a race there, they're not rewarded as much. so for a candidate like rick santorum, they want to see states like mississippi, alabama, louisiana, be winner-take-all states. >> it makes it worth their while to spend time there. >> maybe rick perry would want to see texas move their primary into the winner-take-all period. there's also a waiver for some states so states that are controlled by democrats, for example, new jersey, one of the things they were looking at doing is making sure this waiver went through because there's another rul that requires the delegates to be assigned about a
month before the convention. so he doesn't want new jersey, which could pick chris christie, to loose its clout at the convention. >> it's so great because like what you want is you want these decisions to be made under a veil of ignorance where you're not making any decisions that are going to benefit any candidates because you don't know what's going to happen to them. chris christie might look like the front runner now but might be the bridgegate guy but they're all making these decisions on the basis of their guy, not on what is going to be right in a generic way. i love this stuff. kasie hunt, thank you very much for being here. i love this stuff. all right, we'll be right back. stay with us. oh!
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happy friday. for your friday night pleasure, we've got a friday night horror double feature here on the show. first we've got allegations of on the job drug taking and cheating that could end everything as we know it. and later, three words to ponder before tucking yourself into bed tonight. cannibal, rat, ship.
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it was originally built in the '40s in the midst of the second world war. that's where they made the material for the nuclear bomb that the u.s. dropped on hiroshima in 1945. today, y-12 is still there and they call it the ft. knox of uranium. it's always been seen as a secure storage facility for our nation's enriched uranium nuclear material. but after 9/11, they upgraded y-12 further. they added a whole bunch of new high security features. still, though, in 2012 somebody broke into y-12. it was july 28th, 2012, around 4:00 in the morning. three people hiked through the woods on the outskirts of the y-12 facility. they were carrying only bolt cutters and some other rudimentary hardware. they cut through three separate perimeter fences and they walked right in. they walked up to the interior storage facilities holding the uranium. they got so far inside the complex that they were able to lay hands on the nuclear
material storage facility inside there. and once they were inside, they were there for an hour before anybody came to arrest them. they did not resist. josh harkinson has been doing some great reporting about this at mother jones among other people, but josh wrote about the roots of what specifically happened at y-12, about those roots going back to 1967. apparently the first known use of human blood in an american anti-war protest was in 1967. an anti-vietnam war protest when four men poured some of their own blood on draft files that were at the baltimore customs house. the "washington post" wrote last year about how tom lewis, one of those protesters, before he died in 2008, he asked that some of his blood be removed from his body before he was cremated and he asked that his blood be frozen and saved so that anti-war protesters could use his blood in further anti-war protests the way he had done back in the '60s.
well, when those protesters got into y-12 in the summer of 2012, when they had that hour to kill before anybody came and got them once they were inside the facility, they spent some of that time spray painting anti-war slogans on the uranium storage facility. they also splashed tom lewis's blood there. and then they didn't try to get away, they just waited to be found out and waited to be arrested. eventually they were found out and they were arrested. and what was supposed to be the ft. knox of weapons grade uranium in the united states was there by found to instead be spectacularly permeable. to even a trio of senior citizen anti-war protesters armed with only bolt cutters. the inspector general did a report after the breach. the report describes, quote, troubling displays of ineptitude. described multiple security cameras that just didn't work at the facilities. there were motion sensors
installed, but the guards ignored them because they were set in such a way that animals were tripping them off all the time, setting them off as false alarms. in may those three senior citizens who broke into y-12 and thereby exposed the security flaws, they were convicted. they were convicted of sabotage and of deppridation of government property. on tuesday they're due to be sentenced. the most senior of the senior citizens is this woman, sister meeghan rice, she's a catholic none nun. she was 82 years old when she trudged through the woods in the middle of the night and climbed through those cut fences. she was 82 then. she is 84 right now. and the sentencing guidelines in her case suggest somewhere between 5 1/2 to 7 1/2 years in prison, which might not sound like that much time in prison unless you are already 84 years old when you are starting your 7 1/2 years in prison and you are thinking about what your natural life span might be.
that might be the rest of your life. when the nuclear threat initiative did their most recent ranking of the safe keeping of the world's nuclear material and nuclear weapons, we slipped a bit. the united states slipped a ranking. one of the troubling recent incidents that was cited in the report was the ease with which our supposedly super secure uranium facility in tennessee was broken into by those senior citizens. but that wasn't the only troubling recent incident. nuclear threat niche tooif cited some of the recent trouble at the u.s. military's strategic command, strat-com, the part that the president calls if and when he decides he wants to use a nuclear weapon. they'd be the ones to wage nuclear war. the number two commander in strat-com was hired after alleged to be involved with gambling at casinos with
counterfeit chips. who cares, right? unless you're the number two guy in charge of waging nuclear war on behalf of the united states of america and some enterprising chinese spy has found a way to blackmail you over your counterfeit gambling chips thing. then yes, we all have a very, very big problem. the downgrading of america's nuclear security rating did not even account for what came to light soon thereafter involving the air force general who's in charge of all nuclear missiles. he too was fired recently for in his case, quote, personal misbehavior on an official trip to russia. the report on his incident describes the general in charge of all of america's nuclear missiles going on a four-day drinking binge that started before the air delegation got to moscow. the air force's own investigation said the drunk general spent lots of time with suspicious foreign women who always just seemed to be around, including his long talks about physics with a woman who worked at a cigar store. seriously? yes, cigar store.
all the while publicly boasting about his command over the u.s. nuclear arsenal. and that was him boasting. that was him bragging. but it's also true. in fact he was the air force commander of the 20th division which is responsible for maintaining all the country's nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles. he was in charge when he was drunkenly bragging about it but he's not in charge anymore. that boozy trip was in july. the report came out in december. he was fired in october. and of course all of that precedes the recent reporting, including here on this show, about the wide investigation into alleged drug use by nuclear weapons launch officers in the air force. that probe then widened further into an investigation into nuclear weapons launch officers cheating on their proficiency exams that they have to pass to show that they're still capable of dealing with nuclear weapons. that has led to revelations in the "l.a. times" and "new york times" about how widespread the cheating is on those exams in the air force and apparently has
been so for years. it is against this backdrop now, the drunken trip to russia, the counterfeit gambling trips, the break-ins at y-12, the cheating ring, the alleged drug ring and everything else that happened before that, it's against this backdrop now that two important things are happening. one of them got a lot of press and one of them hasn't. the first thing that didn't get a lot of press is chuck hagel has ordered an immediate independent top-down review of the nation's nuclear weapons forces. the second thing, though, is that congress and the pentagon have started their wrangling over whether we're about to invest in a whole new generation of nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. new ones, a whole new generation of them. because we're doing such a great job with the ones that we have already. joining us now is joe, president of the plow shares fund and author of "nuclear nightmares, securing the world before it is too late." joe, thank you so much for being here. >> my pleasure, rachel.
>> let me ask you first about this review that's been ordered by secretary hagel. you tend to be a clear-eyed not just critic, but a clear-eyed observer of people's actions on policy in this area. do you think this review is important? >> i do, and i commend the secretary for ordering it. the problem, however, is that if it focuses solely as it seems to be on the personnel and the policies and procedures for training these forces, i think it's going to be little more than a band-aid on the problem. it's not the personnel that are the problem here, it's the mission itself. for example, we have 500 highly trained air force officers in the icbm force. we put them in steel cocoons where they work around the clock underground, under the prairies of america, practicing to push a button they know they're never going to push. and if they did push that button, they would be condemning millions of innocent civilians
to a horrible death. what kind of a job is that? what kind of a mission is that? we have a cold war nuclear command with obsolete weapons on a meaningless mission. what do you expect people are going to do? that's the root of the problem. we have an outdated force and we insist on sticking some of our most capable trained officers with this job. >> when we saw secretary hagel pay his recent visits to the missileers on the high plains and dispatch the secretary of the air force to visit those sites, the kinds of comments they make are about morale and incentives. they are personnel that they're discussing. and that seems to be the way that the air force and the military more broadly is defining it. when they do talk about the mission, all they talk about is how important the mission is, how vital it is and how much everybody supports it and how that's not at risk.
what you're talking about is completely the opposite of the way the military seems to be approaching it. >> well, i think they have it wrong, and i understand that when you go to a missile base -- you've dealt with the military and you know the pride they have in their job and they try to demonstrate that job to keep morale going. but even before these recent crises, even during the colder war when this was seen as the leading edge, the front line of defense of america, you know, we counted on our nuclear deterrent, we had scores of accidents that brought us this close to nuclear catastrophe in this country. as the forces dropped after the cold war, the accidents decreased. but now, we still maintain a cold war level. we have 5,000 nuclear weapons, many of them on alert ready launch in 15 minutes. for what? for what mission? you talk to them and they say that after 9/11, they saw that these weapons didn't protect us,
they had no role. they played no role in the hunt for al qaeda or the war in afghanistan or the war in iraq. it's time to get rid of these weapons and focus on the weapons we really need to counter the threats we face. >> you and i have had conversations about this over the years and with each successive incident that has been so scary and so worrying about the nuclear missile and weapons more broadly. i feel like we are getting to the tipping point where the concern and the attention to these issues is going to stop pretending like it's a personnel problem. >> as we approach the decision points as you mentioned in congress, we are going to spend $1 trillion in nuclear weapons over 30 years. $1 trillion. is that where you want your money to go for the cold war weapons that serve no meaningful purpose? >> author of "nuclear
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programming note because tuesday night is state of the union night, you have to spend all day with us here. msnbc is going to have all day coverage on tuesday leading up to the state of the union at 9:00 eastern on tuesday for the special coverage, i will be joined by chris matthews here in new york, chris hayes, al
sharpton, ed schultz reporting live from the capital. the republicans decided to do three competing responses to the president which should be an amazing thing. tuesday, state of the union, which we celebrate like christmas all day long here on msnbc. mark your calendar. we'll be right back. aflac! aflac! got 'em. ♪ yeah, he's clean, boss. now listen to me, duck. i have an associate that met with, uh, an unfortunate accident.
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it is the story of where every great idea begins. and of those who believed they had the power to do more. dell is honored to be part of some of the world's great stories. that began much the same way ours did. in a little dorm room -- 2713. ♪ this magic moment ♪ ♪ this magic moment new business owner, it would be one thing i've learned is my philosophy is real simple american express open forum is an on-line community, that helps our members connect and share ideas to make smart business decisions. if you mess up, fess up. be your partners best partner. we built it for our members, but it's open for everyone. there's not one way to do something. no details too small. american express open forum. this is what membership is. this is what membership does. did you run into traffic? no, just had to stop by the house to grab a few things. you stopped by the house? uh-huh. yea. alright, whenever you get your stuff, run upstairs, get cleaned up for dinner. you leave the house in good shape? yea. yea, of course.
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dominican republic. harsh conditions and high seas, the tow rope snapped. no crew other than the rats picked up on the harbor, middle of winter, already snapped one towline, what do we do? canada lets it go, drifts away and into international waters. no functioning gps locator. if it is still afloat as a delivery device for rats, nobody wants that crashing on the shores because it doesn't give much notice. here is what we are going to do. the cocktail moment is irish whiskey. the place it is likely to land is off the coast of ireland. this is a cheers cocktail moment for luck of the irish. pour irish whiskey in a glass and wish yourself, as an irish island as a place that is not going to see the embarking of a
ghost ship from yough slov ya with a bunch of rats. happy cocktail moment. have a great weekend. going to extremes. expect another brutal week of weather with temperatures falling into the single digits, again. what to expect next. what's up with wall street? stocks take a dive all week. what does it mean for the u.s. economy. the chris christie saga. a poll suggests the toll it's taken on his popularity. big news from netflix. the movie streaming giant makes remarkable leaks. the latest in our headlines. good morning, everyone. welcome to weekends with alex witt. here is what's happening. we are bracing for another